Jessica - University of Vienna

B Psychological Science (Honours)
Semester 2, 2022
The line between being and doing is a balance and this trip was definitely all about doing, but plenty of time for being once you're back in Brisbane!

Personal Experience

I gained some beautiful friendships from this experience. It's a blessing and a curse to be completely uprooted from your social network, but the odds are in your favour to quickly re-establish some sense of relatedness at a liberal arts university in a major world city. I made friends through the intensive language course, Erasmus events, friends of friends, and a rock-climbing group chat. With them, I went to dance/yoga classes, visited Christmas markets/art galleries/museums, ticked off a cafe bucket-list, day-tripped to Brno, saw music concerts, spent a week in Budapest, and gathered for pizza/movie/games nights. I'd recommend attending ESN events that interest you (I didn't go to a single party because that's not me and I still managed just fine), and finding your sport/hobby in Vienna as soon as your feet hit the ground. Second, I obviously gained some travel experiences, that being the whole raison d'etre of an exchange! The best thing about Uni Wien is that it has a lot of 100% final exams (for lecture courses), meaning that once you've made an appearance at class and done the few pieces of continuous assessment required for seminar courses, you're free to roam the continent. This will look like writing an essay at 4 am after leaving your friends at a bar in Budapest, spending Christmas making a podcast for a Creativity in the Workplace subject, and only leaving your house to buy groceries in the exam month of January, but at least you'll return to Brisbane knowing that you milked that $2000 airfare for all it was worth and ventured a fair radius! I stayed in Vienna during sem because there was so much to do. But I had a few trips further afield as well: to Italy, where I visited some previous host families in Napoli and Como, across Vienna, to Munich, Innsbruck and Salzburg, where I saw some castles, toured a concentration camp, and went on a few alpine hikes, to Biarritz and Bordeaux, where I visited friends, and to Prague, where I ate the best sandwich of my life.Haha did I learn German? Err no... I did the intensive German course (very worthwhile!), but despite my best intentions, that was the point at which my German peaked. The course was super useful because although most Austrians speak English, a few e.g. grocers, don't. It was also really handy for making admin phone calls, thanking my neighbour for holding the door open, and understanding that people weren't yelling at me. The Austrians have a beautiful accent and some fun dialectical differences--if you're interested in learning German it's a great place for it!I think this trip really developed in me a value of cramming as much fun into life as possible. Not a weekend went by when I wasn't travelling or with friends. I was always trying something new, whether it was a dance class, ramen restaurant, standing tickets to an opera, or cycling through sleet (don't recommend this last one). The line between being and doing is a balance and this trip was definitely all about doing, but plenty of time for being once you're back in Brisbane! The other thing it developed in me was an overt friendliness and the idea that people I met in chance interactions might become fast friends. It's so easy back home to keep to yourself and reserve social energy for established friends, but exchange pushes you to engage with strangers and approach everyone with openness. It also gives you an ability to relate to people from all over because you now understand where they're from, what they're proud of, and how they spend their summer holidays.

Academic Experience

Having saved up my undergraduate electives, I got to dabble in everything from Metaethics to East Asian Religions, Neuroeconomics, Creativity in the Workplace, Climate Change, and Animal Ethics. These were great subjects to take, taught by passionate academics, and the class sizes were really small--think Year 12 English as opposed to Abel Smith lecture theatre. The cool thing about Europeans is that they love a good esoteric conversation--I have fond memories of heated arguments about feminism in a Georgian restaurant in Budapest, a conversation about morality over espressos in Cafe Hawelka, and a debate on the pros and cons of oral examinations when out for Japanese one night. The workload was a little easier than at UQ, especially given that completing the intensive language course (4 ECTS) meant I only had to take 26 ECTS during sem. Course sign-on can be a challenge for several reasons: the courses on offer are different to those you found for your study plan, good luck finding enough English equivalents, unlike most UQ subjects, seminars are capped. If you're on a waiting list, email the exchange coordinator and she can give you a letter to present the tutor saying that 10% of places are reserved for exchange students, if you got into a seminar (BUT ALSO if you're on the waiting list), you need to go to the first class of the sem IN PERSON for your enrolment to be recognised/considered, you will want to register for all possible classes and whittle down your enrolments after class allocation because once allocation's come out you can drop classes but can't add them, and the quality of different courses is really variable, but going to the lectures for all the courses initially can help you decide which to continue.

Professional Development

Travelling to so many different places has shown me what I want from a city when considering it for postgrad study/work opportunities. It's common in research for people to move labs semi-frequently and do stints abroad, so knowing what each city feels like beforehand and having seen what makes for a liveable city in Vienna, I feel better prepared for the move. The uni experience probably also improved my verbal communication, as each seminar had presentations followed by discussion, and one of my subjects had an oral exam.


I used Revolut (highly recommend) for my banking and for better or worse it kept a tally of everything I spent during my 6 months abroad. All up, exchange cost $22 266. This includes return flights ($2 780), travel insurance ($1 053 from Cover More) and myriad (non-essential) travel experiences. Per month, I spent $690 on accommodation (this is very cheap for Vienna), $550 on groceries, $200 on restaurants/cafes, and $350 on entertainment. I didn't budget; these are just averages.


I had a $2000 scholarship and $7000 loan which helped to cover the cost of flights, visa fees, transport, and travel insurance. It gave me enough financial security that I didn't need to take a job in Vienna (which would have been tricky given my underwhelming competence in German) and meant I could meet my friends for coffee without having to stress over every last Euro.


I much prefer the cultural experience that comes from living in shared flats to student accommodation, so I used the WG-Gesucht platform (equivalent to our Flatmates) to find accommodation. It was super competitive and difficult to find a place that ticked my boxes, but so worth it in the end. I started off in a temporary sharehouse for 3-weeks which gave me time to go to inspections in person. I then found a great apartment, shared with one other girl, in the second district (Leopoldstadt). This is a bit further out than I wanted initially--I was hoping for Innere Stadt (1st), Neubau (7th), Josefstadt (8th) or Alsergrund (9th)--but it was cheaper, took only 20 mins to reach uni on the metro, and I could go running in the Prater park and along the river. I would live there again to be close to nature, though Neubau is my favourite district; it's Vienna's version of West End.


Going rock climbing with my friends in Sicily was an absolute dream. We rented an RV and drove to a different spot each night for wild camping. When it rained we swam in a natural hot spring. And the rest of the time we climbed crags that overlooked seaside villages or neighboured snow-capped peaks!

I set myself the random challenge of cycling from Vienna to Bratislava and back in a day. It was 130 km and winter but I loved it.

I had a planking competition against a Japanese girl and her grandma in a sleeper carriage en route to Milan. That will probably never happen again...

Advice/Top Tips

  1. Get a bike. Vienna's such a bike-friendly city and it's the best way to learn the lay of the land. You'll want to use Willhaben to buy and sell.
  2. Watch the expiry date on your Wiener Linien ticket. I currently owe the company 300 Euros from one fine which has grown exponentially from its original 100 Euros.
  3. De-register from your Viennese address before coming home. Otherwise they'll track you down with the fine.
  4. The Austrian embassy will not accept your UQ Travel Insurance because the period of cover is renewed annually so doesn't cover the entirety of the trip (for a winter semester anyway).
  5. The uni has SE (seminar) and VO (lecture) courses. SE courses are more involved and require class attendance. I had 2 discipline electives for psychology that were SE courses, but my major was listed as philosophy because I was taking so many electives in that faculty. However, you can only take SE courses in your major, so I needed to drop all the philosophy SEs and change my major to psychology, so that I didn't lose my discipline electives.
  6. You should tip 10% at cafes and restaurants.
  7. Some places only take cash, it can be a good idea to check when ordering.
  8. Eat a croissant at PARÉMI. You're welcome :)
  9. If you're a climber, the best bouldering gym is Blockfabrik.