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Australia to Austria mid-Covid

My name is Mark, I’m on an exchange to Austria, completing a double Masters; Master of Business Administration (MBA, UTS) and a Master’s of Science (Strategy, Innovation, Management and Control (SIMC, WU)).

Australian borders finally opened, needless to say I was very excited yet overwhelmed at the same time.

I arrived in Vienna on a Tuesday, my first day did not go smoothly. I had arrived at Vienna International airport about half past 11 and did not get to the student accommodation a little past noon. After arrival, there was no one at reception, knocked on the door, rang and checked their website and found they were closed for the day. After speaking with passing residents, I found between noon and 2PM some businesses typically close for lunch and reception only available during specific days.

Fortunately for me, there was a hotel nearby, so it was not that big of an issue. Even though I had checked the business hours prior, like everywhere else business hours were adjusted due to COVID. Best to send your place of accommodation some reminders of your arrival day and time (even if you had a contract agreement in place!).

After that minor setback I settled in quite quickly. I then started a two- week pre- German intensive course the following week. It was definitely worth it, and as a complete beginner, it was super useful to take this newfound knowledge to the streets and by no means no-where close to a fluent German speaker. Fortunately, most people I’ve encountered do speak English.

WU so far…

Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU), is closely located to Prater Park. The facilities are very impressive and pleasing to look at. The centre piece is the Library and Learning centre designed by the famed architect Zaha Hadid, did not disappoint 10/10.

I had already completed a semester at WU a year prior to the exchange. My exchange experience began in mid- September 2020 via distance learning. I had taken a full-time study load, classes were synchronous learning, Sydney is about 10 hours ahead, so I was not exciting to attend classes at night and some classes after midnight. Classes were very interactive and rely heavily on theoretical frameworks and discussions, student led learning is very common- I find that the context of the courses are broad so you could choose a specific topic you want to learn to then lead class discussion. So, when I resumed my studies this year, coming into my first classes in-person this was not a surprise.

Weekly lectures and tutorials are non-existent. The classes are structured in block mode (this is usually 3-4 hours give or take) and to accommodate for COVID, a hybrid structure. To attend classes physically, you must be fully vaccinated- Australian International Certificate is fine. I love this class-structure, my academic calendar looks very empty with exception to 3 full weeks over 2 months. I admit being able to travel is probably the number 1 reason for exchange, with Vienna in the centre of Europe, flights in and around are very cheap, some as low as 9 Euro round trip! In the first month of exchange visited some exciting local and historical attractions. Even behind the mask, it was difficult to fight off my smile muscles. More trips to come.

Since I’m the only student representing UTS this semester for exchange, I joined some student society. You make friends easily. I highly recommend joining a student society or similar regardless of you’re the situation, you get to be involved in networking, career workshops and social activities (do go to those events) plus you get to have a buddy or two to roam the streets of Vienna. To attend this type of event in addition to the vaccination certificate, you need to complete a PCR test 2 days prior to an event.

Other tips:

  • Austria is cash oriented, carry some cash with you!
  • Feeling homesick, try Crossfield’s Australian Pub
  • Painkillers are only sold in pharmacies (Apotheke)
  • No need to run for that train, Vienna U-Bahn normally runs every 5 minutes interval, during peak hours some even run every 2 minutes.
  • Join EBN buddy program, they can help you get settled in and accommodation key pick-ups just ask your buddy (I learned this after the setback)! They also run student events.
  • As a non-resident I had to pay $25 euro per PCR test, to avoid paying they have a gargle test (ALLES GURGELT!) for free: register and additional info (information valid as of 23/03/2022)

Overall, great experience so far! You’ll encounter some setbacks, but it’ll be worth it. Enjoy your exchange experience.

Das ist alles, Tschüss.

Mark Malonzo

Master of Business Administration

Global Exchange Student at WU (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien – Vienna University of Economics and Business)

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