Casper - University of Vienna

B Commerce/Economics
Semester 1, 2019
If you're considering an exchange in Europe, there is honestly no better place to do it in than Vienna, Austria.

Academic experience

As the oldest university in the German-speaking world, the University of Vienna (otherwise known as ‘Universität Wien’) has a reputation filled with historical significance and prestige. Economics students, for instance, would be particularly interested in knowing that the university counts the world-renowned economist, Friedrich Hayek, as alumnus. Owing to the university’s prestige and the reputation of its alumni, prospective exchange students should expect nothing less than a rich academic experience during their time at Universität Wien. 

When applying for courses to study at Universität Wien, I was restricted to those only offered in English. Fortunately, the economics department of the university still offered a variety of interesting courses in English. Selection, at least in my case, came down to whether or not the course would pose a new academic challenge and/or if the course would involve a Eurocentric approach. UQ also mandates students study a full-time load of 30 ECTS, which corresponds to roughly four or five courses at Universität Wien. I eventually decided on four courses that would fulfil these criteria, namely Game Theory and Decision Making, Digital Economics, Public Economics and Special Topics in International Finance. 

I found that these courses, for the most part, offered exactly what I was after, but I would like to offer a few words of advice and hindsight for economics students based upon my experiences. 

Firstly, I would strongly urge students to apply for Public Economics. This course was enormously beneficial in many different aspects. Critically, it has been the only course that I have ever taken (both at UQ and Universität Wien) that has required me to communicate orally – both to my peers and the lecturer – economic-specific subject matter. The course will not only improve your presentation skills out of sight, but also help you to recognize areas of economic theory that you may be weak in. 

I would also caution students who choose to do Game Theory — please be aware that this course is incredibly demanding at Universität Wien (roughly 60% of course participants ended up failing this course). 

Finally, I would add that the university places particular emphasises on class participation and attendance.

Personal experience

If there was one thing that truly made the exchange a great experience for me, it would have to be the wonderful people that I enjoyed the experience with. It will sound cliché, but after the exchange I fully believe that if I ever find myself in Europe again, I will be able to catch up and have more unforgettable experiences with these people. It is incredibly satisfying to be able to say that. 

I feel like I personally got a lot out of the academic-side of the exchange. The European university system introduced me to an entirely different way of teaching and learning, whereby the system particularly emphasised in-class participation and oral presentations. The different cultural references and the variety of perspectives offered by other students within this system, I believe, helped me to become more knowledgeable and considerate.  

Learning German, albeit relatively introductory German, was another fantastic experience that I benefitted from and would urge other students to have a crack at. I think as native English speakers it is incredibly insightful to experience what it’s like to communicate when the default language is different to your mother tongue…it’s a situation we rarely find ourselves in, but a situation in which a significant portion of the World population find themselves in constantly. 

Another fantastic personal experience for me was the opportunity to do a fair bit of travelling within Europe. Austria’s geographical position, as arguably being the centre of Europe, meant that it was a great base from which to travel to other countries. Over the course of six months, I was able to visit Germany, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden.


I believe the most important criteria when it comes to choosing accommodation in a new city are price, proximity to the city (the closer the better) and finally, the people who you will be living with. 

For the duration of the six-month exchange, I lived off campus in student-accommodation (‘STUWO’, Vorgartenstraße) that was located about 20 minutes, via underground train, from the heart of the city and 20 minutes from the university. The price per month was roughly 420 Euros, which included a decent-sized individual room (sharing a bathroom and shower with a neighbour) and also access to a gym and study room. All in all, I felt that the price was very fair for what I received. 

When it comes to the other students who lived in STUWO, you could not ask for a better group of people to live with. I honestly believe that the exchange would not have been half as memorable without these awesome people who I travelled, partied and cooked with. Within the first few days of arrival, I was welcomed and made to feel at home by the other students who had already been living there for years. These students came from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures: for example, there were many Hungarians, Austrians, Germans, Turks, Canadians, Romanians and Serbs. Friendships with these students grew very quickly to the point where every other day there would be a group of about 8 or 9 of us cooking in the shared kitchen, watching football, partying or just hanging out together.  

For these reasons, I would highly recommend STUWO to any student looking at student accommodation in Vienna.


In general, Vienna is a fair bit more expensive than living in Australia. Thankfully, I was well aware of this fact and had saved up approximately $15,000 before commencing the exchange. 

Essentially, the fixed costs that I encountered included rent (approximately 420 euros/month), a phone data plan (15 euros/month), Wi-Fi (15 euros/month due to sharing with my neighbour) and student semester ticket for all public transport in the city (75 euros/semester). 

Regarding variable costs, I budgeted roughly 30 euros/day to spend inclusively on food and other discretionary items. If I didn't spend it all in a day, then I would put it towards funding travel. This system seemed to work well for me.


The biggest challenge that I faced during the experience would probably have to have been maintaining a healthy balance between fulfilling academic responsibilities, partying/socialising with friends, maintaining a decent level of fitness and managing my expenses. Oftentimes, one of these would supersede the others (particularly academic responsibilities during exam block) which was not ideal and would cause quite a bit of stress. To overcome this, I learnt to be more productive with my time by writing out exactly what I needed to get done each day and once having finished those things, I could use the rest of the time in the day how I wanted guiltfree.

Professional Development

If I had to summarise the skills I developed on exchange that would contribute to professional development, I would say that my interpersonal skills were greatly benefitted (owing to interacting with incredibly diverse cultures and people) and that my oral communication skills within an academic/formal setting improved greatly too.


There were many highlights during the six months that I spent over in Europe. 

To name just a few: enjoying an Italian homestay experience with an Italian friend and her family at a beautiful Italian beach house, spending a week in Norway with one of my best mates during which time we summitted the famous ‘Gaustatoppen’ peak at midnight, and finally celebrating my 21st birthday in Vienna with my closest friends.

Top tips

There is one fundamental piece of advice that I believe all prospective exchange students should consider. 

The major difference between an enjoyable exchange and an ordinary exchange comes down to the people who you experience it with. I feel absolutely blessed to have made fantastic friends overseas— many of whom have completely different backgrounds and personalities, but all of whom made the experience memorable and worth doing. 

It can seem quite daunting at first to be going to a new place alone without knowing any other people. Perhaps it will be the first time in a while that actually necessitated you going out alone and meeting new friends. The language barrier might also discourage you (most European students will speak excellent English though). But it shouldn't be too daunting if you approach this challenge with the right mindset.

'All of your friends were once strangers'

The key to meeting and making friendships with the other European students during your exchange is to put yourself out there. Use every opportunity you can, particularly at university-organized social events and in your student accommodation, to talk to the people around you! Do not put the ‘blinkers’ on, play it safe and wait for other students to approach you. I would not have met half of my friends in Vienna if I had not been the first person to strike up a conversation. You’ll be amazed at how social and approachable the European students will be…most of them would have already travelled extensively and been in your shoes before!

Finally, it is very easy to just be a ‘passenger’ on exchange and let the six months fly by without making the most of the incredible opportunity. This would be a grave mistake. Make sure you are the ‘driver’ of the exchange by committing 100% of yourself to every facet of exchange, each and every day. This is a totally unique experience that you cannot replicate.