Austria Exchange Student exchange Vienna

“Strangers Are Just Friends You Don’t Know Yet” – Vienna, Austria

Ethan – Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration – Australia

Semester 1, 2023

Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws

Before leaving I was extremely nervous. I had spent countless hours on Duolingo to know very little about the language. I knew no one there and was worried about not being able to make friends. I knew there was a very high chance I would get lost and need to ask for directions. And most of all, I was concerned that I would I come back home with no stories.

I now realise that these were things I should not have worried about. I should have worried about reserving my train seat from Salzburg to Vienna to save my poor backside from an overcrowded train floor.


Making friends in Vienna

My time in Vienna holds some of the greatest and most memorable moments in my life. I created life-long friends with strangers from around the globe. I am looking forward to seeing them again in 2025 for our planned reunion. They all shared a different perspective on life and university that has given me a deeper appreciation for my life at home. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been in an environment that allowed me to meet them and remind me that making friends with strangers is not as hard as it seems. I boarded the plan to Brisbane with countless friends across the globe and lounges to sleep on in four different continents.


The Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration was a great university, with a large student atmosphere and focus on networking it was very easy as an exchange student to mingle with other students. Thankfully, there were countless people with an extremely high English proficiency. Arguably, this became difficult when I was looking forward to conversing in German with locals as they would switch to English as soon as they would detect I was a foreigner. However, I learnt, shots are shots no matter the language. My greatest achievement before leaving Vienna, was being able to order drinks throughout a night consistently in German without the bartender correcting me.


Learn how to talk to strangers

The fact is, I did get lost. A lot. I got stuck on countless trains to unintended destinations. I almost missed my stop on my train to Copenhagen if a stranger had not kindly pointed out the current train station was mine. On my arrival to Paris, I walked in circles for half an hour at midnight looking for my hostel, till I found a fellow backpacker going to the same hostel. We both became lost. I wandered around Istanbul in search of my hostel yet again, however, with better luck. I became so good at getting lost, I got great at asking for directions. It became so easy and natural to ask for directions, that coming home to Brisbane I forget how I could ever have become so lost. Yet, it is possible, I would still be wandering around fields in the Netherlands or lost in Bucharest, if it were not for the kindness of strangers.

Exchange has taught me many things but ultimately, it is okay to get lost, it is okay to ask for directions. Before exchange I did not enjoy interactions with strangers. I no longer have such a phobia. Exchange was beautiful in placing me in situations where I had no choice but to interact with strangers. Whether it be other strangers coming up to me for directions, a role reversal, or sitting in a cafe with a curious waiter in southern France. These situations are very special moments which made me speak to strangers, and I cherish them.

I will be forever grateful for my opportunity QUT gave me. I can and could not recommend it more to any current or potential student. I reflect now and realise there were no reasons for me to stress before leaving, it all worked out. Finally, passing on wisdom from the Irish pub owner in Salzburg, “strangers are just friends you don’t know yet.”


Find out how you can apply for exchange via the QUT Student Exchange website.

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