Katherine - University of Graz

B. Arts / Laws
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I studied the following courses:
- 207.200 European Private International Law 
- 216.935 The Rights of Minorities & Indigenous Peoples
- 217.021 International Law & the Internet
- 217.044 International Migration Law & Human Rights 
- 224.210 The Law of the EU
- 232.402 Principles & Practice of Professional Legal Communications 

I liked that the workload was a lot less than at UQ. Expectations were a lot lower, which reduced everyone's stress levels substantially compared to those at their home institutions. It was also a natural (arguably unfair) advantage that English is my mother tongue. This was not the case for the majority of students. I also liked having smaller classes, and that participation was often graded. This meant there was an extra incentive to participate, and it wasn't the same people participating all the time (like at UQ mostly).

UQ Law is extremely difficult, standards are high, and requirements are strict. However, you can familiarise yourself with the administrative system and learn what is required of you. In Austria, I found the system to be much more disorganised. Lecturers had much more independence in setting deadlines/sessions etc, and this meant that things would often change/be cancelled at short notice, deadlines would be extended, and communication was not always clear/present. Therefore, I found it difficult to know what was required from me due to the disorganisation - other international peers found the same. Despite having virtually no study-related stress all semester, it was stressful to have three final exams in 24 hours (one was 100%, the other two 60%+), and also a 4,000-word essay due on New Year's Eve. Nonetheless, this is a price I happily paid for the overall fairytale lifestyle that exchange offers.

Personal experience

Anyone who's been on exchange can tell you this: the benefits of exchange are immeasurable. I've never heard of anyone having an overall negative experience, and it's much more common for people to say it was the best time of their life to date. This was my second exchange (I also went to the University of North Carolina in 2014 for Arts). The fact I was willing to go through the paperwork hurdles again shows you how much I loved the first time.


I lived off-campus. There's not really an on-campus option at Uni Graz. I lived in Ghegagasse and had a roommate and housemates. I chose the cheapest option to save money. 

I had a great roommate - we were a similar age and got along really well. My other housemates were Austrian, which I thought would be a good opportunity to practise German, but unfortunately, they were not overly interested in talking/being friendly. Don't be disheartened - this was not always the case. However, it was an important lesson in cultural differences: Central European cultures are a lot more reserved (bluntly: closed off/direct) than Australians/English-speakers in general. This was okay, I made friends in other places!

Also, if you're interested in saving money and travelling lots, Ghegagasse is a great option! It's a 5-minute walk from a few supermarkets, a gym, and the main train station where all trains/buses to Eastern Europe (and elsewhere) depart. Also, it's only a 15-20 min bike ride to uni, with bike paths almost the entire way! People say it's the dodgy side of the river, but it's really not (yes, I'm biased). I'd recommend Ghegagasse.


Rent - See above. Ghegagasse is the cheapest if you can handle a roommate and want to travel. Further, Uni Graz amazingly gives you €400 towards accommodation as a UQ student just for coming! This covered nearly half the accommodation costs (deposit not included).

Food - Groceries are cheaper than in Australia. Try to shop at Hofer (Austria's Aldi) and Penny Markt. Spar and Billa are a little more expensive but still cheaper than Australia. Also, if you're at Ghegagasse, get fruit & veg at Lendplatz! It's a very ethnic area and you can find some incredibly cheap produce. You might be the only non-Turkish-speaker, but don't fall prey to stereotypes - people are lovely. Plus you save heaps. Eating out can be comparable depending where you go, but generally still cheaper.

Transport - There is a highly inter-connected tram and bus system in Graz, but I only ever bought one ticket upon arrival with luggage. My tip: get a bike. Graz is extremely bikable, you can almost always resell it at the end. Look on FB groups for second-hand ones. Buy it early. Graz is also very walkable. Have a play with Google Maps and see what the distances are in Graz. Plus, walking and biking are excellent ways of combating those unwelcome exchange kilos. Best part: walking and biking (post initial cost) are free.

Entertainment - This will vary person to person. Overall though, the cost of living in Graz is cheaper than in Australia, cheaper than many cities in Western Europe, but more expensive than everywhere in Eastern Europe. 

Travel - Again, it depends person-to-person. I am a keen budgeter and I know I spent a little over half of the total costs of exchange (including everything) on travel outside of Austria. I'd say $12,000 AUD is a good starting figure. If you want to travel, make it $15,000 AUD+. I could afford to do so much travel for a cheap price because of the places I went (more East than West). Keep that in mind.

Professional development and employability

Academic development - I really enjoyed having the opportunity to take law subjects with an overall international and human rights focus. These are the areas that interest me the most, and until now, I hadn't had the chance to study these areas. It was also great to be in a different kind of classroom environment with students from (mainly) all over Europe. The perspectives they offered were fascinating and enriched my educational experience.

Personal development - Here come all the #journey #life hashtags etc, but that's exactly what it is. You learn so much about the world, about others, and about yourself, simply by virtue of existing in a different location than the one you're familiar with. This is an invaluable experience.

Language skills - I improved my German and Spanish.

General knowledge - This might be something overlooked, but when you travel, your knowledge of other cultures and history enhances your general knowledge. I loved going to each new country to discover a new piece of the puzzle.


First snow of the season
First snow of the season
  • I made heaps of friends from all over the world.
  • I went to 14 new countries, mainly in Eastern Europe (and revisited numerous others).
  • I improved my German - although my subjects were in English I tried to engage with Austrians as much as possible (though it wasn't always easy). I even learned some Austrianisms, Steirisch dialect, and to tone down my German German... 
  • I improved my Spanish - although I learned it in Latin America, there were lots of Spaniards doing ERASMUS, so when I heard them, I always introduced myself and made friends out of it! It was good practice to get used to the Spanish Spanish accent. 
  • I studied subjects that were super interesting - mainly about international law, EU law, migration law, and indigenous peoples - topics I'd be interested in pursuing career-wise.
  • I went snowboarding multiple times (in both Austria and Slovakia) and so improved my boarding skills (even if hardly!).
  • In my travels, I stuck mainly to Eastern Europe (Balkans, Baltics, and places in between). It was gorgeous, fascinating, and challenging. I learned a huge amount of history, picked up some of the basics of Serbo-Croatian/Slovak languages, and ate ridiculously delicious food. I travelled mostly alone and thus was afforded the opportunity to meet some amazing people. I'd highly recommend Eastern Europe generally - and especially if you're on a budget!

Top tips

  • BUY A BIKE. I got this advice when I read these testimonials before my exchange, the best nugget of wisdom I got!
  •  Sign up for the buddy program. Uni Graz offers a buddy program. I got about as lucky as I could with my buddy, though overall most other people also had great experiences. My buddy helped me with EVERYTHING. She picked me up in Graz on arrival, took me to my apartment, bought me some food, took me to all my settling-in errands... and that was just the first few hours! She also lent me lots of things throughout my time - a bike, crockery (you have to buy it for most accommodation), linen, ski gear, corporate wear, and much more! This saved me hundreds of euros, no exaggeration. She became a close friend and the person I spoke the most German with (and from whom I learned the most German). I even went to rural Austria to visit her family for a weekend, and now she's coming to Australia to meet me! I had the best possible experience out of the buddy program, so make sure you sign up.
  • Buy an ÖBB card early if you plan to travel a lot. It saves money on train travel within Austria.
  • Shop at Hofer and Lendplatz for cheap groceries. 
  • Join ESN activities/day trips (especially the ski trip!). It's an awesome way to meet friends and see Austria.
  • Wednesdays are generally a good night in the Univiertel (the area close to uni) if you want some mid-week fun.
  • Travel Eastern Europe. It's so close, so cheap, and completely amazing. Go to Western Europe when you're a lawyer and can afford it.
  • This is a classic trap as an exchange student: Don't just talk to the fellow Commonwealthers. Try to meet people from other parts of the world. Even better, try to meet locals! You'll have to make an effort!
  • Learn a little German - It sounds obvious, but there will be many people at the end of exchange who still can't say a basic "bitte" and "danke". As with almost every new language in a new country, the locals love it if you give it a red hot go.
  • Overall: just do it.