Chi - The University of Vienna (Universität Wien)

B. Arts / Laws
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

I studied the Arts component of my degree at Uni Wien, taking subjects for both my History and German majors. Make sure you choose your subjects wisely because they are structured very differently. For example, Vorlesungen (VO), i.e. lectures, have no mandatory attendance but do have a 100% exam at the end of the semester. It gets quite stressful if you have seven 100% exams all in one week. Seminars (SE) generally have no exams, but you do have to complete a big research essay. I ended up taking a mixture of Übungen (UE), i.e. tutorials, and Guided Readings (GR), which were great, but I ended up having mandatory attendance for six out of my seven classes plus weekly homework submissions. I emailed UQ Abroad about reducing my courseload from #8 to #6 units and they were really nice about it. Don’t be afraid to drop a subject or two if you find the workload overwhelming, and better sooner rather than later!

Personal experience

Being immersed 24/7 in a different language/culture, you can't help but soak it up! My German was the one thing that I found improved immeasurably. I would strongly recommend learning German while you’re there. Uni Wien offers discounts for exchange students on their intensive German courses, but if that’s not really for you there’s always the language learning app Duolingo! Speaking German lets you communicate better with the locals and, like in every non-English speaking country, they really appreciate the effort.

I've never really been by myself before; I've neither lived alone nor travelled solo. You learn so much about yourself; you discover strengths you never realised you had and are forced to work on your weaknesses. Living overseas opens up your mind and exposes you to different ways of living and different kinds of people!


I stayed in a student dorm with Home4Students and paid 323 Euro a month for a shared room. My roommate was really lovely and I have no complaints, though I'd recommend looking for a shared apartment instead since student dorms aren't the most social or comfortable places, and you don't get as much freedom to do what you want. In terms of location I found you could really stay anywhere since Vienna is so well-connected by public transport; just look for a place close to a metro line.


I spent around 800-1000 Euro a month, including rent, which seems pretty standard based on what others have told me. The more expensive months were the ones where I travelled a lot but living in Vienna itself isn't too pricy. To save money I cooked at home most days because groceries are quite cheap (particularly at Hofer - get their amazing SIM card for 10 Euro a month, you get 3GB of data and unlimited texts/calls) but I didn't really have to budget very intensely.

Professional development and employability

Living overseas and speaking a different language definitely contributed to my professional development, as well as establishing contacts overseas, talking to professors and fellow students, being immersed in a wholly different university system and studying European history under European professors using European texts! I feel like I got a completely fresh perspective on topics such as nationalism and nation-building.


Catching up with an old friend
Catching up with an old friend

The highlight of my exchange was definitely attending a Viennese ball in the Hofburg, or Imperial Palace. It was a spontaneous decision (I'd just been invited the day before by some Austrian students whom I'd met) and the stress of looking for a dress last minute was definitely worth it because it was one of the most magical and surreal nights of my life. It was like stepping back into the past; they are super traditional about it and all Austrians learn to ballroom dance in high school. Also, it was just a really unique cultural experience. They have balls every winter and at the beginning of summer, so make sure to brush up on your waltzing skills beforehand!

Top tips

  • If you're feeling down, get back into nature! Vienna is a very green city and to unwind, I like exploring its many parks. A few of my favourites are the Stadtpark, Türkenschanzpark, Burggarten (with its butterfly house) and the Lainzer Tiergarten. Being outside does wonders for your mood.
  • Exercise is so good for you, mentally and physically! It’s really important when you’re on exchange because it helps to ground and de-stress, even when everything feels overwhelming. Start a running club with friends – not only is it social but it’s a great way of seeing more of Vienna. There’s also a bunch of Facebook pages offering weekly outdoor yoga classes for a small donation, which is awesome. Finally, Uni Wien itself offers a huge array of semester-long sports classes for reasonable prices.
  • Visit the suburbs on the outskirts of Vienna, for example Nuβdorf, Grinzing and Klosterneuburg. They’re all very quiet and charming and in the summer, when the vineyards start to bloom, you can go to traditional Viennese wine taverns (‘Heuriger’) for a glass of really good wine in a cosy atmosphere.
  • Go to Der Wiener Deewan for an all-you-can-eat, pay-as-you-want student feast. (Bonus: it’s vegetarian Pakistani cuisine)
  • Don’t miss the Sommernachtskonzert (Summer Night Concert) at Schloss Schönbrunn in June!
  • Go for a dip or a BBQ on the Donauinsel in summer; I can’t think of anything more relaxing.
  • Lastly, don't be afraid to do things by yourself. If you really want to travel to this particular country and you don't have a travel buddy, go by yourself. You'll grow so much as a person, see so much more and meet people you would never have if you'd gone with a friend!
Chi - The University of Vienna (Universität Wien)