Dominik - University of Graz

B. Arts / Laws
Semester 2, 2014

Academic experience

First off, the way the University is administered in Graz is completely different compared to UQ. You will find that the general University administration is extremely casual and that even if you miss important deadlines it is often not the end of the world. In particular when registering for courses at the beginning of semester you will find that the sign-on periods are extremely short (~2 days) but if you miss one don't panic. As long as you just talk to the lecturer everything will work out alright. They are usually very accommodating for incoming exchange students. For example if you have to leave early in the semester or have other difficulties you can ask them to move the time for your final exam to better suit you. One thing you might find challenging is forming some kind of cohesive timetable. Although there are a lot of courses available the times are somewhat random and often clash so pay close attention.

I took mostly law courses (all in English) at the University of Graz plus two German language courses. I would highly recommend taking the pre-semester 3-week German intensive course. If you don't know any German from the beginning (like me) it will give you a good basis to get around town. Plus the classes are also full of other exchange students who are in the exact same circumstances as you so it's a great place to make friends. If you are more serious about learning German throughout the semester I would recommend you look outside the University, as the courses available to you at the University only run once a week for 1.5 hours. In particular, there is the Deutsch in Graz institute which runs intensive evening courses through the semester that should not clash with any of your University courses. These courses are external and won't count for any credit at UQ, but they are a great way to leave with a good level of German.

For other classes, I found that, at least for law, they were significantly easier than what I expected. This is largely because the courses that you study in English are designed for people with English as a second language since they make up the vast majority of the participants. As a native speaker you will have a significant advantage in these courses. One thing to be prepared for is the possibility of oral exams. Many lecturers in Austria prefer to give oral exams as opposed to written ones which was somewhat challenging for me since I had never sat one for anything other than a conversational language course. 

My favourite course by far was Law of the European Union. I would highly suggest you take it if you are a law student, the content is interesting and the lecturer is extremely charismatic and delivers the course with a good mix of seriousness and sarcasm.

Personal experience

After just one semester I made friends for life and enjoyed myself so much that I ended up staying for another semester as a Free Mover. We travelled a lot, around Austria and to most neighbouring countries on weekends, went skiing and of course had a lot of parties. The ESN network is great about organising events for students to help you get to know new people and the area better. If you speak another language other than English I can almost guarantee that you will meet someone in Graz amongst the exchange students who can also speak it. There were just over 700 exchange students during my semester from all over the world. 

I learned a lot of German. I thought that honestly, I would not learn much since most of my courses were in English but Graz is a great learning environment. You are surrounded by the language all the time and there will be times when the person you are trying to talk to doesn't know any English and you will have to put your German to the test.

One thing that really stuck out to me is how different people really are. Austria is not much different to Australia when you look at it from the outside. But the longer you stay, the more small differences you notice about the people and culture. Their unwillingness to engage in idle conversation on the bus, their extreme love for their dogs (they take dogs with them everywhere they go, including restaurants and the bus) or the fact that couples are always holding hands when they walk down the street are just a few examples.


Graz is not a massive city. You will be able to get around to most places by foot if you have to or by bus/bike within a few minutes.

During the semester I lived in the WIST dorms on Moserhofgasse. These are somewhat central and consisted of 6 person flats with individual bedrooms. Inside the flat, there were 2 bathrooms and a shared kitchen. It was pretty comfortable and clean but if you have a problem with the noise you should consider private accommodation. Most of the dorms have parties every week that can be extremely loud. These dorms were also fairly cheap considering the other options.

If possible however I would recommend finding private accommodation. There are fairly large rooms available which are very centrally located. Living in a private flat gives you the flexibility of not being bound by the regulations present in many of the dorms. However, this can be quite difficult to arrange before arrival so if you do plan to look for private accommodation make sure to start early. If you are planning to pursue this option make sure to check out the current ESN/Erasmus Facebook page in Graz as it will have people offering rooms for incoming students towards the end of each semester. Outside of that, the WG-gesucht website for Graz and the "Wohnungsbörse Graz - suchen und bieten" Facebook page are good places to look, however, note that these two are in German, but most people advertising will speak English.


Aufsteirern Festival in Graz
Aufsteirern Festival in Graz

You will find that living in Graz is fairly cheap compared to Australia. Rent will cost you between 300-400EUR/month for private and most of the dorms work out to be even cheaper than this. I got by spending ~200 EUR on food per month which included everything, grocery shopping, dining out, drinks in bars and the like and I was not particularly conservative in my spending. Other monthly expenditures will be between 10-20 EUR for your phone and ~80 EUR for a public transport ticket for the whole semester, or you can spend this money on a bike if you'd rather. The city is small enough that you can get everywhere on a bike with no difficulty. Plus you can sell the bike at the end of the semester to get some of the money back.

Your biggest expense will come from travelling. Trains can work out to be cheap but are usually not the best option. Make sure you buy an OeBB card which comes with discounts for under 26-year-olds and will most likely save you more than the cost of the card on your first purchase. This card is valid for the whole year. In general, the trains are cheap when booked in advance. There are bus services like Meinfernbus that can take you around most of Europe for much cheaper than the trains. If you keep an eye out you can snag some cheap tickets like 6 EUR from Vienna to Berlin. 

I would recommend checking out the blablacar website if you really want to save. This is a carpooling service where people offer up spots in their cars when driving longer distances. You usually just pay a few Euros to cover the cost of petrol and a bit extra. If you are feeling brave you can try hitchhiking, some of the other exchange students here had a lot of success with this but I never tried it myself. If you do hitchhike though, make sure you always go with at least another person for safety reasons.

Professional development and employability

This experience will teach you to become independent. You are just dropped in a foreign country, that speaks a foreign language and will have to sort out everything yourself and survive for 6-12 months. I can only imagine this sort of experience having a positive effect on your future.


One of the biggest highlights for me were the uni sports courses. They have every sport under the sun available for you to try out and I would recommend just picking something random and going for it. For me, I picked Salsa having never had any real dance lessons in my life and it was a blast. It's definitely something I will continue within Australia.

Top tips

  • If you are unsure whether or not you want to actually go on exchange. Just apply and go, don't think about it. You only get an opportunity like this once in your life and 30 years down the track you will regret not going when you had the chance, more than you will regret going and having a bad time.
  • There is always a way to make it work. Whether it be issues with money, courses, transport, accommodation or whatever. If you have a problem there is a solution and there are people around who can help (the UQ Abroad team is amazing in this regard).
  • If you are considering going on an exchange anywhere I would say apply for 1 year from the beginning. Extending your stay can be extremely tricky if not impossible but cutting it short is always an option.
  • Go to a country where the native language is not English. You already know English and you only get one shot like this, so you may as well throw yourself into the deep end.
  • Be a yes wo/man. If someone asks you to go on a trip/party/dance/skiing/anything just say yes! You will have a good time.
  • Avoid sticking together with other groups of Australians. There are plenty of them waiting for you when you get back home.
  • Learn some German before you go, it will make it much easier. People generally speak some level of English but not everybody has a high level, particularly the older generation.
  • Everything is closed on Sunday. Buy groceries on Saturday or you will have to get very creative with what's left in your fridge for Sunday meals.
  • Join the ESN/Erasmus Facebook group and sign up with the ESN office, they organise trips and events for exchange students.
  • Do a language tandem. This is where you, wanting to learn German (or any other language) gets paired with someone who wants to learn English (or any other language you are a native speaker of) and you teach each other in a casual setting.
Dominik - University of Graz