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 Wisconsin 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!
Overall Student Report
Where to find information about:
Before you leave for Vienna, any information that you will need about the WU can be found on their website (http://www.wu-wien.ac.at), which can be changed to English. You will also receive a packet from the WU upon your acceptance that is really helpful, definitely take the time and read it through completely.
Once you are in Vienna you can attend an orientation session (the OK program), which I highly recommend. There you will receive a lot handouts and other important information. You should also enroll in the Buddy Network. If you choose to do so, you will be given an Austrian buddy that helps you become acquainted with the city and give you a lot of useful everyday information.
Information about social events will also be provided for you during the orientation course, in addition to periodic emails with updates on university events. Before you come, you should read through the buddy network page on the WU website. Sometimes they plan trips and don’t announce them via email. All of the buddy network trips and parties are so much fun and a really good value for the price that you pay.
Information about movies can be found online. There are numerous English theaters around Vienna; the two that I visited were Burg Theater and Haydn Theater. If you Google “movie theaters +Vienna” you will be able to find many more. During the orientation session you will also receive a “survival guide” which lists additional theaters.
Information about shows can be found online as well. You definitely have a lot of options while you are in Vienna! There are operas, operettas, plays, concerts, and plenty more. I would suggest looking on the city of Vienna homepage for an updated list of events and just talking to friends and people at the WU. Word of mouth was my best source of info and I definitely went to my fair share of shows!
You will receive all the maps you need during your orientation session! If you feel you need more, try the Westbahnhof or Sufbahnhof (main train stations), they will have city maps and maps of the public transportation.
You will also receive a lot of tourist info during the orientation session. As I mentioned before, the city of Vienna home page is also a really good resource.
The International office at the WU (aka ZAS office)
The ZAS office is like the undergrad business office and will help you with anything that you need while you are in Vienna.
A majority of the staff members speak English, so you will not have problems with a language barrier. The people themselves are very helpful, but make sure to check the office hours. Opening hours are MUCH more limited in Austria than the US.
Relevant info you don’t receive
The only information that is not provided by the ZAS office is the pre-course work. In many of the courses you will be required to do some work or take an entrance exam before the first class.
1. To find this you should look at the course syllabus, which can also be found on the WU website.
2. Information about books and course materials can be found here too. When purchasing books, you will find them in the OH building, located just outside of the main WU building.
Reception upon arrival
1. At the airport- I signed up to have a buddy (which I also recommend). My buddy picked me up at the airport and a lot of other students had the same arrangement. If you don’t sign up to have a buddy, you can get to your dorm on your own. Directions for getting from the airport to each dorm can be found in the acceptance packet that you will be sent from the WU before your arrival in Vienna.
2. Orientation Activities- The orientation program (OK program), was really helpful and fun. There was about one day of lecturing, but it was really relevant and important. The next two weeks were filled with trips and other activities that help in getting to know other exchange students and familiarizing you with the city/surrounding area. I will say it again, I would definitely suggest enrolling in this course.
This is one area you will never have to worry about. First of all, the university buddy network plans so many trips and parties, which you will be informed about via email. However, most of the social activities I took part in were self-planned, meaning once you meet people, there are always places to go and things to do.
The WU (Wirtschaftsuniversität) is the only business-economics university in Vienna. They offer a lot of English courses, which are attended by both exchange and Austrian students.
1. Many courses in English are block/seminar courses. This means that they meet for a whole or half day about 5 or 6 times. These courses are helpful because they allow more traveling time, but be careful! Madison doesn’t accept a lot of these courses!
2. There are also normal courses that last through out the duration of the semester. These courses usually meet about once a week.
3. When registering for courses (instructions to do this will be emailed to you), make sure that you are ready to log on to the system at the exact time that you are given to register. The courses are very limited and everyone is enrolling at the same time, so be prepared and have second choices.
Professors don’t give as much homework in Vienna as they do in Madison, but courses often require reading cases and selected chapters from textbooks/readers. I wouldn’t recommend buying textbooks, but do buy the readers teachers suggest for the course. Additionally, I had on average one group paper/presentation to complete for each course.
For each course, exams were usually given the last day of the course or sometimes we had a midterm instead. You are given anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour for the exams, which are less formal then in Madison. The content is much more focused on application and essays, rather than raw information/multiple choice.
In Austria, the following grading system is used:
Grade at the WU What it means Grade in Madison
1 – Sehr gut Excellent A
2 – Gut Good AB
3 – Befriedigend Pass B
4 – Genugend Low Pass C
5 – Nicht genugend Fail F
How to find your grades
a. I never saw any of my grades before the end of the semester.
b. To obtain your grade report from the ZAS office at the end of the semester you have to fill in an ‘Application for a Grade Report’, which you will get during the orientation session.
c. You can also view your grades on line at any time, but not until you register at the WU and complete the course.
It sounds confusing but the orientation program will spell it ALL out for you.
The WU campus is much different than the campus in Madison. There is one main building (UZA I) where a majority of courses are held. Some courses may also be held in UZA II, III, of IV. All of the buildings are on the same block, as is the computer lab. You will receive a map when you arrive in Vienna. Depending on which dorm you are living in, travel time to campus will be about 10-25 minutes via public transportation.
I would suggest bringing your own laptop, as there is just one computer lab located on campus. My computer was additionally my TV, radio, and mailbox. I didn’t bring a printer. It wasn’t the most convenient situation, but the computer lab at the university gives exchange students 50 free pages to print per semester. The printing process is a little complicated and it may be best to ask an Austrian student or someone working in the computer lab how to do it.
It’s hard to estimate exact costs, as each person’s traveling decisions differ. I think in total I spent about USD4000-5000 for the whole semester, which included lots of traveling.
Here are some estimations for everyday living costs:
Housing: 250-400 Euro per month
Food, personal expenses: 220-300 Euros per month
Public Transportation: 40 Euro per month
Utilities (cell phone, mail, etc.): 13-30 Euro per month
Entertainment: 50-150 Euro per month
Books: 75-150 Euro per semester
Student Union Fee: 15 Euro per semester
You will need to obtain a Visa from the Austrian consulate (in Chicago) before living in Vienna. Try to send in the application and necessary information to the consulate as soon as you are accepted in to the program at the WU. The process takes quite a bit of time and sometimes things go wrong. The application can be printed from the website of the Austrian Consulate.
These are the necessary documents that you will need to submit to the consulate:
a. Fully completed application form
b. Recent photograph (passport size)
c. Valid Passport
d. Proof of accommodation in Austria
e. Proof of health insurance valid in Austria
f. Proof of financial means to finance stay in Austria (bank statement)
g. Return flight ticket (If available)
The public transportation in Vienna is great and very reliable. You have the U-Bahn (underground metro), the S-Bahn (metro that is above ground), and trams that go around the city beginning at 5:30 am until 12:30 am.
1. There are also night busses that begin running at 1:00 am until 5:30 am.
2. You will buy a student semester card when you are in Vienna for 117 Euro and with that you can use any of the public transportation for the entire semester.
3. If you are planning on traveling a lot by train, I would also suggest buying the Vorteils Card. This card costs about 10 Euro and gives you a 45% discount on train tickets through out the whole country, and 25% discount on tickets purchased to travel outside of Austria.
4. Taxis are always an option; however I rarely used them because they are much more expensive.
You will receive more details about these offerings during the orientation session.
It is very easy to open a bank account as a student. There are representatives in the university all the time recruiting and Bank Austria branches everywhere around the city. I did not open a bank account, it is definitely not necessary. Visa and MasterCard is accepted anywhere that accepts credit cards.
Health and Safety
You will be required to purchase health insurance while you are abroad (CISI), but the Study Abroad Office in Madison will help provide you with all of the necessary information about this.
1. I got sick in Vienna a few times, but never went to the doctor. I really don’t know where I would have gone. Definitely ask someone in the study abroad office about that before leaving.
2. As for OTC medication, you have to get everything at the Pharmacy (Apotheke). I would recommend bringing any prescription medicine with you.
3. If you have contacts, you have to buy the solution at a special optical store. They are not hard to find, but there isn’t anything comparable to Walgreens where you can find everything.
There are a few different options for housing in Vienna. Some of the available dorms are Erasmus, Doebling, Europa, OEAD Guesthouse, and Panorama. When you send in your application for housing you will rank each dorm and then find out shortly after which dorm you have been placed in. Make sure to send in your housing forms early to ensure that you are placed in your first choice.
I lived in Erasmus. You will have many opportunities to meet other exchange students in Erasmus and the location is great. It is about one block from the West Train Station and easy to get anywhere in Vienna, but about 25 minutes to school with the U-bahn. I definitely recommend ranking Erasmus as your first choice.
When you check in to your dorm, make sure you arrive during their office hours or make arrangements with someone in the office to pick up your key.
As I mentioned before, you will have plenty of time to travel. The trips planned by the buddy network are a lot of fun and affordable. It is also very easy to plan trips on your own.
1. By Train- You can purchase tickets buy going to Westbanhof and speaking to the representatives. There are always deals and special offers, so look out for ads and ask about them.
2. By Plane- There are a lot of different airlines that offer really cheap flights around Europe. Some of these airlines include; Ryanair, Sky Europe, Air Berlin, and German Wings. You can find out more about these airlines on their websites.
I purchased a cell phone plan when I was in Vienna. The university gives you a SIM card during the orientation course, but you have to find your own phone. You may be able to find someone who has an old one, or they have used phones at the cell phone shops that are quite cheap. The way the plans work is you buy the phone, put the SIM card that you receive from the university in the phone, and then just buy minutes as you need them. You can reload your minutes buy purchasing “tele-ring twist” cards at any Tobacco shop around Vienna. I don’t think that a cell phone was necessary, but I am glad that I had one. It was much easier to get a hold of friends and group members when working on projects for school.
Each room had a mailbox in Erasmus, but I am not sure about the other dorms.
1. If you are sent packages, you get a notice from the postal service in your mailbox and then you must go to the post office and pick up your package.
2. If you are sending packages or letters, you just have to go to the post office to buy the appropriate packaging and stamps. I found the postal workers to be quite helpful.
It is hard to give specific packing tips, because everyone is different. I would recommend purchasing bedding in Vienna, as there are inexpensive places to shop in the city (IKEA, XXXLUTZ). In Erasmus, the pillow and comforter are provided for you; however, I am not sure about the other dorms. You will also need cooking utensils, plates, cups, and silverware, but would recommend buying it when you arrive. Buy purchasing these things in Vienna; you will save a lot of space in your suitcase for other things.
Hours, days, and times – Most stores are open: Monday-Friday: 8am to 6 or 7pm, Saturdays: 8am to 12pm
Everything is closed on sundays except a grocery store at the train station and some restaurants.
Grocery stores – There are a lot of different options for grocery stores. You have Billa, Merkur, Penny Markt, Zielpunkt, Hofer, and Inter-Spar. All of the prices are around the same. The only reason that I shopped in different stores was because of convenience and location.
Also, don’t forget that you always have to bring your own bag to the grocery stores and insert a 50 cent or 1 Euro coin to use a shopping cart.
Toiletries and House Wares – The best place for toiletries would be BIPA or DM. These places are very much like Walgreens. For house wares Ikea is perfect. There are also smaller shops around the city and near the dorms where you can find house wares.
Methods of payment – Most retail stores around the city accept major credit cards, however, restaurants and grocery stores DO NOT.
Most store owners, professionals, and students can speak and understand English. It is definitely much appreciated if you attempt to use German and even better if you can speak it. Try starting off your conversation by asking “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” (do you speak English?). The Viennese German is much different than the German you learn in school. It takes a while to get used to, but it is understandable.
The social experience of this exchange program was just as significant as the cultural experience. You will have the opportunity to meet and make connections with so many people from all around the world. The program also does a great job in promoting social events and trips as a group. Your social life will definitely not lack while you are studying in Vienna.
I have to say that studying in Vienna was really one of the best decisions I have ever made. I had the opportunity to meet so many great people and the program is really well organized! I didn’t learn as much German as I would have hoped, but if I could afford to stay another semester, I definitely would.
Alicia from Wisconsin, USA