An Overview of Vienna
Here is the start of my Exchange Story. It is a brief overview, but I will expand on the topics in future posts. Whether you are planning to go on exchange, are already on exchange, or just curious about Vienna and my experiences, I hope this blog will be of some use / interest / entertainment, even if just for a short moment.
I was on exchange at the Univeristy of Vienna (UW) for the Spring semester of 2017, and it was one of the loveliest and most enriching experiences of my life. I applied and was nominated for the exchange by my home university in February 2016, so I had a year to prepare for it. The international office at the UW was also in touch with me quite early on, providing information and contact details for housing, courses etc. Their website is extremely useful and well organised, and I recommend checking it out when you have any questions.
There are no Uni Wien dorms, but there are private dorms, for example OEAD and Homes4Students. I found my room in a shared apartment through a facebook group (‘Vienna Living’) and had a great experience, having Austrian, German, Spanish, Australian and Hungarian flatmates coming through. Sub-renting was great, because the room and kitchen were fully equipped so I didn’t have to spend money on buying stuff for only a few months, which many of my friends staying in the dorms had to do. I also had more space and privacy than in a dorm room. My room was 25m2 which is double the size of my room in Finland! (And there was a double bed, a couch and a BEAN BAG!) However, finding a room in a dorm might be way easier, especially when you are looking for specific dates, and it is safer. There are many fake advertisements out there! Never pay for something you haven’t seen yet.
The spring semester in Austria only starts in March, but I went at the beginning of February and did a a three-week German course “Februar Intensivkurs” at the Sprachenzentrum, the university’s language center. The course was three hours a day Monday to Friday, leaving plenty of time to explore and get used to the city and university. I was blessed to have most of my language course also be 20-something exchange students, new to the city and eager to explore. By the time the rest of the exchange students arrived at the beginning of March, we were basically locals. Another plus for the February (or September) German courses is, that as an incoming exchange student, you get most of the price refunded (I paid 380€ and got 280€ back “upon successfully completing the course”). The language courses during the term are quite expensive, although exchange students get a 10-20% discount from those too. Normal courses at the university were free, there was only a 20€ student union fee.
Uni Wien’s orientation consisted of only a one hour presentation (which was compulsory to attend, but there were many times to choose from) and otherwise we were left to figure out everything by ourselves, via the website and emails. There were no tutors or small groups, which was surprising, and made me doubly glad for my German course group. There was an option to sign up for a ‘Buddy’ but I had missed that somewhere along the way. However, the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) proved to be the most useful thing ever. Throughout the term, they organised events, a weekly ‘Stammtisch’, (standing table) where you meet local and Erasmus students, and tours of the campus and libraries, as well as going together to cultural events like festivals, museums, the parliament, and trips to nearby cities / countries.
You have to register at a Magistrate upon arrival, and the Meldezettel you get from here is also necessary for getting the Semesterkart for the public transport. On the Wien Magistrar website you can check in real time which office has the shortest lines, the earlier you go, the better. You also have to deregister at the end of the term. For both of these you only need ID and to fill in the Meldezettel form which you get from the office.
Finding courses on the website U:Find was a bit confusing, and parts of the website aren’t available in English, but once I found the courses I wanted to do, the departmental coordinator registered me into them. I found that the level of the courses, and the strictness in marking really depended on the faculty as well as the professor. Some culture shocks were how the professors hardly ever arrived on time to the class, but the students would not go into a classroom until the professor was in there. In Vienna, students knock on the tables at the end of every lecture, which is their version of clapping. I got such a fright the first time!
The courses I took also varied in assessment methods, some only had readings and a final exam (these were ‘Vorlesungen’ lectures) while one had readings, a presentation, an exam and a final paper (this was a Seminar). When you send your learning plan to the departmental coordinator they will advise you whether it looks like you have too much work. I had 20 ECTS worth of courses and still had plenty of free time to explore Vienna and travel to other places. As I am a Literature student, I took most of my studying outdoors and read novels in the beautiful parks around Vienna.
Something I really recommend is getting a bike! I used the CitiBikes, the stops are everywhere around the central districts, and it cost only 1€ to register. You can use them for free for up to an hour, and after a 15 minute break your free hour starts again. I also bought a Semesterkart for all the public transport. If you register Vienna as your Hauptwohnsitz (main residence) you get it for 75€ and it is valid February through June.
Also, as a seasoned traveller along the Wien – Salzburg commute, I can tell you that the Westbahn train is the cheapest way to get there. If you’re traveling on Friday or Sunday, buy your ticket online the day before. If you’re traveling on a weekday, you can also buy it from a Tabak and get a student discount.
I will try add more about social life and traveling soon, but if you have any questions on anything remotely related to the above, please leave a comment below!
And check out my other blog -> Sudden Insight