Austria: Centrally Located, Great for Travel

Exchange isn’t only about living in a new city, a long way from home. It’s about seeing as much of the world as you can that is now suddenly at your doorstep.

Vienna has many perks. A historical and cultural hub, a lively city and a wonderful coffee culture. For this post, however, the most important perk is its central location in Europe.

Whilst my classes were on, I have been incredibly lucky to have been able to take five subjects, one pre-semester language course, and still have been able to travel to 12 cities in 9 countries.

Devin Castle

 

Bratislava, Slovakia 

Likely to be the first international trip for many of Vienna’s exchange students,

Bratislava is a mere 45-minute train ride away (literally less time than it takes me to get to uni from home in Brisbane). The city itself is small, but the food is cheap. My tip: take a bus out of town to Devin Castle (pictured). It’s a 6th Century ruin that sits at the fork of two rivers, and it undoubtedly adds to the Bratislava experience.

The Chain Bridge and Parliament

 

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is about 2.5 hours away, and a very historical, interesting city. There’s quite a bit to see and do in Budapest, and a free walking tour is a great way to see a lot of it (they’re great in every city, not just

Budapest!), as well as hear stories about what you’re looking at. I also loved the tranquility of the thermal baths.

Graz, Austria

If you do the pre-semester orientation and cultural program, you’ll go to Graz, but because my friend and I didn’t, we took a spontaneous day-trip instead. Although it’s one of Austria’s largest cities, we managed to see most things, including climbing the hill to the Uhrturm (clock tower) in that time.

Porto, Portugal

Whilst I was on exchange, I was lucky enough to be selected and compete for QUT at

the University of Porto’s International Case Competition. While this involved being locked in a room for 34 hours to solve a case (albeit with 3 fantastic friends), it also involved meeting some amazing people from all over the world, and getting a guided tour by local students around the beautiful city of Porto. The comp was easily one of the highlights of exchange.

Team QUT in front of the Faculty of Economics, University of Porto

 

 

Douro Valley, Portugal

After the competition, QUT and several other teams went on a day trip to the world-renowned Douro Valley.  The valley was absolutely beautiful, and it was very refreshing to see such incredible scenery after Vienna’s relatively low tree-to-building ratio.

 

Inside the Sagrada Familia

Barcelona, Spain

(Unfortunately?) There are no direct flights between Porto and Vienna, so budget airlines tend to stop in Barcelona. We booked a couple of nights there on our way back, and got to experience some Spanish culture via sangrias, several walking tours, tapas, and paella. We were also very lucky to be able to spend time with people we’d met at various competitions (including Porto), and on exchange. Be sure to book online beforehand for Park Guell or the Sagrada Familia if you’d like to enter those, because they often sell out of tickets at the venue!

Berlin, Germany

I’d been interested in travelling to Berlin for a little while, but sadly I did it the disservice of not having enough time to truly explore the city (I would recommend 2-3 nights there, minimum). In the short time that I had there, I saw the East Side Gallery (pictured), the Brandenburg Gate, and visited the museum dedicated to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

The East Side Gallery, a large remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall decorated by street artists from around the world

 

Krakow, Poland

Inside the Basilica of St Mary

 

One year ago, if you were to ask me which countries I imagined myself visiting whilst I was on exchange, Poland probably wouldn’t have made it on my list. Enticed by my friend’s stories, 5 euro bus tickets, and a very large gap in my timetable, I decided to see Krakow for myself, and I was pleasantly surprised. The city has very student-friendly prices, and the old town square is bustling at all times of day. While I was there, I took a guided tour of Auschwitz, which was hauntingly moving.

 

 

Copenhagen, Denmark

I flew from Krakow onto Copenhagen to visit friends and see a beautiful city, and I was not disappointed. We ate authentic

Danish pastries, climbed the spire at the Church of our Saviour to watch a beautiful dusk and wandered through Nyhavn and Paper Island at night. Although Copenhagen is very beautiful, it is also quite expensive, and a surprisingly small city: my tip is that you only really need 2 full days to explore it.

View from the spire of the Church of our Saviour

 

Malmo, Sweden

The main square in old town Malmo

Many of the ‘Things to do in Copenhagen’ lists suggest ‘Take the train to Sweden’ – and

with my friend’s recommendation, I did. For the same price as entry to Copenhagen’s Tivoli you take the train across the bridge (famous in the TV series ‘The Bridge’) to Malmo.   Unfortunately, it was cold, windy and rainy for my daytrip, so most of my sightseeing involved comparing Swedish and Danish aesthetic (a little more colourful, but just as expensive), eating a delicious soup in a café that was also a record store, and eating New York cheesecake (thanks globalisation!).

 

Innsbruck, Austria

This trip was meant to be a trip to Milan with three other people, but ended up as a trip

to Innsbruck with one other person. It also ended up being one of the most beautiful trips I have ever taken.  We stayed at an Airbnb in Innsbruck, and our three days there

were filled with my friend and I turning every corner and gaping at the incredible scenery. One thing we did that I thoroughly recommend to anyone who’s interested in seeing Innsbruck is to not limit yourself to just the town.

View of Innsbruck

We took a “regional” bus, and stayed on until the end (approx. 20 minutes). Because the tickets are day passes, we wandered from one small town to the next (at most it would have been a kilometre between towns), and hopped on and off the bus as we pleased. It allowed us great freedom, and some amazing views (as seen in the photo below).

A stunning panorama outside the tiny town of Rinn

 

Vienna’s location allowed me to easily travel to all of these places with whilst studying. The question isn’t “Why Vienna?” It’s “Why NOT Vienna?”

 

 

 

First Impressions of Corvinus University of Budapest

I chose to travel to Budapest, the capital in Hungary. One of the main reasons for choosing Budapest was the central location in Europe. Consequently, it was easier to travel to other destinations in Europe, such as Paris in France, Berlin in Germany, Bratislava in Slovakia, Wien in Switzerland, Venezia in Italy or Zagreb in Croatia. I knew that it was located pretty south in Europe, so during both September and October there were mostly sunny days. However, I was also keen to feel the weather change, and really enjoy other seasons compared to what I do in sunny Queensland.pic 4Immediately after landing, I was quick to recognise the welcoming atmosphere and the architecture of the buildings to be an eastern bloc country, with strong linkage to the history from the Hungarian Revolution in. A friend who already studied in Budapest had warned me that the locals could be seen as pretty rude against “tourists”. It might be the fact that I already had been warned about their quick responses and their non-welcoming attitude that I did notice it. However, there were of course exceptions, since I am not talking about the receptionist or the taxi driver, because they were obviously just glad tourists arrived. Another thing I had been warned about was taxi scams, so I had re-assured to get the one number that was the only legit taxi number you could call in Budapest if you wanted avoid scams. It was night, the taxi driver had been driving for 40 minutes, and I was finally at my friend’s apartment in central Budapest. The taxi cost me literally nothing, and I could not understand how cheap this country was. I entered an old, old elevator that was tiny and where you had to close the door yourself, so I stood there and laughed over how eastern bloc this place was.pic 1

Waking up the next morning got me to realize how beautiful this place actually was, as I arrived during nigh time, I had not been able to see that much of the city. The architecture in Budapest is extraordinary. We walked around and I got introduced to the most convenient and cheap transport system they had. The metro or “tram” as they call it was just perfect for a student. We went up to a 360-degree roof top bar, with an amazing view over the city, the best cocktails (less than half the price compared to Australia), and on a sunny day, made me to one happy exchange student.pic 5

My house in Budapest

Accommodation

Finding an accommodation was pretty easy; there are several websites that lists available apartments every week. In addition, there were a lot of real estate firms around in Budapest you could go to, to get help. The rental cost itself was actually not that lower than Brisbane, as you had to sign a contract for only a couple of months, which made the rental a bit higher (since they preferred longer rental contracts). However, you got a lot more for your money, the apartments were really modern and newly renovated. The city is divided into districts, and when you arrive, you will understand which district is the most popular. However, in regards to the distance to the university the location was not an issue, as the transport systems were so convenient. However, district 5 were the most expensive district, as this is most modern and where most of the tourist stay. This was the district I lived in, however, price wise I was really lucky with my apartment, and the owners were really nice and helpful. District 6 and 7, and some parts of 8, are also really nice districts to live in. The further you get out of these districts you will realize that the shops for example would like you to pay with cash, signalling that it is a bit more “shady” in these suburbs.

However, after just a week, you just expect for example that the cashier at the local supermarket will not ask you if you want a bag, and if you need one after you have paid, he/she will most likely look pissed off because you forgot to ask for one in the first place. Saying these things might make you wonder how it is to go out for a couple drinks or to a nightclub. During my months in Budapest, I did not witness any violence or problems at any bars or nightclubs. The crowd in Budapest are so international, and the culture of going out to eat and drink is so good, everyone does it! The atmosphere when you are out dining or drinking is just amazing (and cheap, hehe). They use “Hungarian Forints”, where 1000 HUF is 5 AUD, for 1000 HUF you get easily for example two beers at a bar, not to promote alcohol too much.

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The University

Over to the serious stuff, Corvinus University of Budapest! The campus is made up of old buildings with beautiful architecture, where only the business building is totally new and modern. The campus is located beside “Donau” river, and you have some amazing spots to sit and study/eat there. You can easily walk to the 5th district in 10 minutes, or take the “tram” to the 7th district and be there in 20 minutes. Again, the university is so international, both the students and the tutors! The university is ranked really well among the universities in Eastern/Central Europe, and Corvinus is the best one in Hungary. The good thing about their study program is that it is compulsory to attend all the classes; you can only miss each subject three times, if you miss more than that, you will fail the class. In addition, your attendance and your participation will be marked! In that way, I was able to experience a great learning curve, and earn top grades in each of my subjects. I did Financial Markets, Tourism Marketing, Brand Management, Decision Technques and International Business. The classes were really interactive, and enabled all the students to participate a lot. Through the classes I met a lot of international students who were on exchange, they came from all over the world. We all became good friends and I still have contact with many of them.pic 6

The exchange semester allowed me to get a totally new perspective on how to enjoy life while being able to study well and get the good grades I wanted. I became more open-minded and I started showing sides of my-self that I never thought existed, both socially and with my studies. You understand how to cope with different kinds of people, as I was facing some many different personalities at one time. Grab the chance of doing something else if you can, and enjoy the ride!  Do not stress too much about getting accommodation before you get there, as you have to experience the city yourself, and realize where the best place is for you. Thank you QUT for this opportunity, I would have done it again if I could!pic 8