Within this review section former exchange students to Vienna share their stories, experiences and opinions with you.
Make sure you read this experience report by this US exchange student from Minnesota before starting your term at WU Vienna!
Please note that this report gives the personal experience of this student when she was in Vienna some time ago. Costs of living, visa regulations, etc. may have changed since then – make sure to double-check before coming to Vienna!
Study Abroad Report
Academic experiences at WU Vienna
General academic structure
The classes were mostly block classes, and didn’t have any kind of consistent schedule (mostly). That is, many times you would have a class for a 4 hour block once a week, but rarely on the same day or at the same time, and often times not in the same classroom. Also, some classes would be 8 or 9 hours a day for 3 days, and that was it. Overall, though, it is largely distance based learning and the amount of time in class is much smaller compared to the amount of time doing out-of-class work.
There is one person who handles all the international students with general questions and whatnot. She sends out things called “infomails” as the semester approaches with things to know about registration, housing, etc. Once there, every school is assigned an advisor, although I never met mine/knew who mine was. I never needed to. In general, though, the head person was quite helpful and handled most questions from many of the exchange students.
Surprises/comparison with academic environment in the U.S
It is much more distance learning. That is, there isn’t much time in class (and there is supposed to be a lot more learning). Also, nothing is done on your own. Everything is group work (and usually large groups, making it difficult to organize everyone’s schedules)
Logistics at WU Vienna
Flew into Vienna airport, and I had signed up for the Buddy program (which is HIGHLY suggested), so she met me at the airport, had already picked up my key from the housing office, and drove me to my place of residence. She then showed me the school and told me how to use the transportation system. That was the extent of my experience with my buddy, but many people I know developed deep friendships with theirs.
I lived in Molkereistrasse 1, a private guesthouse of all the universities. I had a single room and shared a flat with 3 other people. Be warned: its hard to meet people here. Erasmus is the big place to meet other US students, and Panorama is my overall suggestion, as it is very social and there are students from around the world (everyone speaks English, though).
On your own. There is the Mensa at school, which provides overpriced, poor quality food. There are plenty of places around all the school and each residence halls for groceries or for something to eat. All the dorms either have a shared or private kitchen (the shared kitchens usually didn’t have pots or pans, so bring a plate, silverwear, etc. Or you can buy them at Ikea when you’re there and leave them. My residence had a private, fully furnished kitchen).
EXCELLENT public transportation system consisting of subways, railcars, and busses.
Student activity groups
The OeHWU will organize trips and activities for exchange students. I personally enrolled in the dance classes (which were a lot of fun) and went to Budapest with the Buddy Network.
Host Country Culture
Surprises and insights into the culture of the host country
Everything closes at 7 or 8pm, and nothing is open on Sundays. Be prepared for that when you go out there. People are also very stern in appearance, and generally like their privacy and space. However, once you get to know them they are completely different.
Recommendations for ways that other exchange students can learn about and become immersed in the culture
The tandem program pairs you up with a local and you learn each others language and culture. Also, most the classes are made up of local students (not exchange students, though some classes are like that) and so that is a great way to learn more about the people and cultures (most are very eager to speak English and learn from the exchange students).
Did you have the chance to learn a second language?
The chance is there, but I didn’t take it. Be warned: most people speak English there, and are VERY eager to practice their English skills. Thus, it is possible to take business German class, but beyond that you have to be very firm with locals that you want to speak German.
How would you rate your integration with other students from the host university?
They do a good job of trying to integrate, but many times it fails. The programs that the Buddy Network sets up are all exchange students, but there are parties every Monday and Wednesday night at clubs that both locals and exchange students go to, so you meet a lot of locals there. And as I stated earlier, many classes have both exchange and host university students. However, if you want to stick with all exchange students, you can.
How would you rate your integration with other international students?
Very good. It would’ve been better if I had lived at one of the dorms I mentioned earlier (instead of Molkereistrasse), but otherwise good.
What were some of the best ways you found to make friends and meet people at the host university?
Largely it was being in groups with locals for classes. They don’t bite and are used to exchange students (they are, afterall, taking an English course).
What kinds of after-hours and weekend activities would you recommend for other students?
I traveled a lot. I went to the Balkans (Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia) on a 3 week break in classes, but there are plenty of places you can go on the weekends (like Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, Salzburg) if youre looking to travel. Otherwise, there are a lot of places to party, club, relax and hang out. Just ask around- people will point you in the right direction. I personally enjoyed hanging out in parks (like the Prater).
If you traveled with your family, how was their integration into the host community?
My parents both came to visit. My mother has had hip replacements, and that was hard for her since there was a lot of walking. Also, she wasn’t used to the language barrier (as she has never traveled anywhere but English speaking countries). A great place to send them to (if you don’t want to travel with them) is Prague.
Budgeting – How much would you recommend students take with them?
Rent was 350 Euro/month (but other places are usually around 250-280), and in generally be prepared to spend between 50-100 euro/wk that you are there (if you want a healthy social life). Traveling is obviously more expensive. I think (I haven’t crunched numbers yet) I spent around $9,000 not including tuition.
Do you have suggestions on the types of students who would be well suited to this program?
Students who are interested in travel and culture. There isn’t a huge bar scene, but the coffee is amazing. So, if you’re looking for a huge party destination, head to Spain. But if you want a good, central hub for travel in Europe (not just western Europe), Vienna is a great location.
Did you need a visa to enter Austria? How did you apply for one and how long did it take to receive?
Yes, you need to apply through the consulate in Chicago. It is a free visa, but make sure to send all the materials the first time (ie, not just your insurance card, but also the booklet that proves what the insurance covers). Also, they require proof of exit as well. Thus, if you are buying an open ticket, you will need to buy some cheap ticket out of the country or something (I bought an easyjet ticket to London that I never used). It took about 2 weeks for everything to go through, but can take much longer. Get on housing as quick as possible, because they require proof of housing.
What recommendations would you give to other students going on this program?
Personal effects are very expensive (shampoo, body wash, feminine products, etc) so bring those if possible. Also, notebooks and pencils and the like are expensive, so it’s wise to bring those over too.
General recommendations for study abroad
Be ready for big emotional swings. Most people I met in Vienna hated it for the first month (there weren’t any classes) and then by the end, never wanted to leave. Also, being home is rough. You will experience things that your best friends will never be able to relate to, and that can be rough. However, its just a matter of getting used to surroundings. Studying abroad has been the best experience of my life, and wouldn’t trade it for anything. My main recommendation for studying abroad is simply to do it. Where ever you go, you won’t regret it.
What resources did you use to plan your trip or semester travels that you think other students should know about?
I talked to teachers whom I had known to travel to those regions. Otherwise, I just knew that Vienna was the place for me.
Chad from Minnesota, USA