Austria Exchange Student exchange Study Tips for surviving uni Travel Vienna

Vienna waits for you

Valerie – Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) – Vienna

Semester 2, 2023

Bachelor of Laws

You know how when a friend comes back from a big European holiday or when someone tells you about their exchange and they go on and on about these crazy stories and fun times and how life changing they are? And as much as it sounds fun, you still mentally roll your eyes or have some small doubt about whether all of that is true and surely some of it is exaggerated? Well, unfortunately, this will be one of those blog posts because my exchange abroad in Vienna was life changing, and it was crazy, and it certainly was fun.

I knew I would meet new people and make new friends, but never could I have imagined the level of friendships and the deep connections I ended up having. When you’re on exchange, you’re in a weird bubble where you see the same people every single day and make very close connections and friendships with people in a very short amount of time. We all cried when it was time to say good-bye at the end of the semester and it was weird to imagine going back to life without these people despite only knowing them for four months!

If you have the opportunity to do an exchange, I cannot stress enough to take it! And if you’re mulling over a location, Vienna is perfect because it is full of history and beautiful architecture, English is spoken by most and is so centrally located in Europe (perfect for travel!).

Pre-departure and pre-semester travels

Before starting the semester, I travelled around Europe for six weeks which I also recommend doing if you haven’t been to Europe before and if budget allows. Solo travel might not be for everyone but it really allowed me to slow down, enjoy the sights of the countries I went to, be comfortable in my own company and meet new people doing the same!

I will note that this pre-departure semester caused some issues with my visa and some stress before leaving. Just make sure you have all the required documentation (and extra) for the visa you are applying for to avoid being sent away or rejected (it took me three attempts!!) i.e. insurance for the whole time you are away, proof of accommodation for the entire period etc.

University life

WU offers a two-week Orientation and Cultural Program before the semester starts and if you’re going to take anything away from this post, please let it be to sign up for this program!! It’s a bit on the costly side, but it is so so worth it. Along with day trips to other cities in Austria and tour guides in various monuments and museums in Vienna, this is the time that allowed me to meet and connect with other exchange students. There was something planned for every weekday and more often than not, you would go off with different groups afterwards and start to develop your friend group or meet new people. When the semester started, I would cross at least three people I met during this program every time I went on campus which makes you feel less like a foreigner in a different country and more like a local with lots of friends!

During the semester, the student association and the Erasmus Buddy Network organises tons of events and parties. Definitely sign up for these, most of them are very budget friendly!! I would recommend the Spritzerstands (open air bar on campus serving spritzers during the warmer months with music and good vibes) and the Zell em See ski trip (ski resort passes for three days plus three nights of being silly).


The architecture in Vienna is probably the biggest highlight and the sheer number of beautiful monuments and buildings around never ceases to be amazing. I was also there during September – February which meant swims in the Donau, biergartens until late as well as LOTS OF SNOW, gluhwein and wholesome Christmas markets.

If you want to travel, Vienna is so well located within the EU, you can take an hour train ride to Bratislava, 24-euro flights to Italy, 4-hour bus to Prague or overnight trains to pretty much anywhere in Europe. It’s the perfect base for travelling throughout the semester and on weekends.


I utilised my uni-wide electives which made it easier to sign up for classes at WU. Classes at WU are very different from QUT! There are no tutorials or lectures but rather a combination of both. Class attendance and participation are more often than not graded. Class schedules vary week to week, one week a class will go for two hours and the next week, the same class might go for five. Some units were intensive where the classes are every day and go for eight hours (yes, you read that right) but are complete within a week.

In terms of assessment, the units I undertook had group work, presentations and exams. To be completely honest, the assessments were relatively easy if you understood the content and it is very hard to fail. Of course, this is dependent on the actual units chosen, as a law student, I cannot speak for any of the accounting or statistics classes which some of my friends took and struggled with. But in general, a local WU student told me that the English-spoken classes at WU are normally easy as these are mostly undertaken by non-English native speakers, so some leeway is given.

Advice / take-aways

  • Sign up for the pre-semester Orientation program. I already went on about this above.
  • Say yes to what you can. Subject to your mental health, capacity and university load of course! Try and do as much as you can while you’re there – if someone asks if you want to join on a spontaneous trip to another city, do it! Go study in a cafe with your friends all day, go to that festival, whatever it is, you’re in Austria! Take advantage of that.
  • Be considerate in your communication. You will be surrounded by non-English native speakers and Aussies tend to speak fast as well as have an accent that can be hard to understand. Slow down when you talk, don’t be annoyed if someone doesn’t understand you straight away or asks you to repeat yourself multiple times. Sometimes people won’t get your jokes because of the language barrier or you might be sitting with a group that will speak a different language amongst themselves. Just remember that people are speaking their second, sometimes third language to talk to you and be considerate. Imagine you had to talk to everyone in the language you learned in high school!
  • Save a lot before leaving! Do not rely on the OS-Help loan. Save as much as you can before your trip because if you’re anything like me, once you’re overseas, the budget mentality is basically non-existent. The exchange rate is not in your favour and prices of most things (especially coffee!!) will gobsmack you so make sure you’re ready for that. (Un)Fortunately the only things good for your wallet are not good for your health (alcohol and Döners).
  • Try to be extraverted. Obviously this is easier for some than others and it’s a muscle that needs to be exercised but be open to talking to strangers. Especially at the start of the semester or during orientation, remember everyone is exactly in the same boat as you, most people know no one coming into the exchange and everyone wants to make new friends. You might not connect with everyone but you will meet people that you do. I was allocated a seat on a bus on the way from Prague to Vienna and ended up being good friends with the person I had to sit next to because I started a conversation with them. Random people in pubs or outside bars, even out on streets, people love a good yarn so don’t be afraid to yap!

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

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