As I promise in my previous blog entry, today I will tell more specifically about my semester abroad which is any important part of any degree programme. My learning agreement included courses from the International Marketing and Sales Management department that made up 27,5 ECTS (1 ECTS is approximately 27 hours of contact lectures, distance learning, self-studying and group work), and that was sufficient to complete my Erasmus program. As there was a lack of lectures held in English, I was given an opportunity to study with master students. More or less most of my courses were focused on entering foreign markets and sales management, so I could consolidate my knowledge of this subject as each teacher had his/her own teaching methods and materials.
Campus 02 – the place to study
The level of education at Campus 02 is high, and teachers have truly good English skills. For example, our teacher of the Sales Negotiation Practise course lived in Australia, and the Personal Selling lecturer was a native speaker. So, it goes without saying that I had a great chance to improve my English skills. As for German, I took two language courses at FH Joanneum. The Grammar course was paid by the host university, and the other one (listening comprehension and speaking) by my own funds. Most of the lectures were educational, instructive and humorous at the same time, so there was a truly supportive atmosphere to gain knowledge, improve language skills and get closer to classmates by working on the same projects in teams.
The one who will always help you
From the moment I was informed that my exchange studies would take place in Graz, Mag. Barbara Schantl from the International office of Campus 02 was the one answering all the questions, taking care of incoming students, getting us to know the university, its system and personnel, the town itself, local culture, etc. All the problems could be discussed with her, and she helped us find proper solutions. Each time we went on trips, events or excursions with her, they were great and full of fun. I’m really thankful that she was so kind to us!
The fact that Campus 02 had only 7 incoming students truly disappointed me, as I expected to meet a lot of new people from different parts of the world and share my Erasmus life with them. However, I got 43 classmates, and all of them were from Austria. Believe me, it was frustrating and challenging to enter the community that was built 1,5 years ago, and be the only person who had a different mother tongue and culture.
To my surprise, my classmates were really nice and helped me adapt to the local educational system, get acquainted with others by going out together and participating in different events. For example, the biggest in Europe student party called USI-fest is held in Graz every year. More than 3000 students (me and my classmates as well) went there in 2013, and it was a day to remeber!
I’m glad that things turned out differently, and I spent most of my time with my darling Austrian friends who made me feel like I was home. I can say for sure that Austrian people are open-minded, easy-going and willing to help, and most of them can manage English. However, I tried to improve my German skills all the time. By the way, the difference between Austrian and German languages was not that noticeable and challenging for me back then.
Student accommodation in Graz
As for accommodation, I lived in the student dorm (Steyrergasse 3-5) owned by the OEAD company. I had an apartment with three rooms and a kitchen, and a cleaning lady came to us once in a week. I had a single room as well as another Russian girl from my home university, and the third room was shared by 2 girls from Mexico and Porte-Rico. We were provided with everything that you may need to live comfortable. There were pillows, blankets and even bed-linen, standard furniture and TV. In the kitchen we had different gadgets (kettle, microwave, oven and electric cooker) and cooking stuff+ many different plates, glasses, cups, pans, folks, knives, etc.
We got also lucky with the location, as it took only 7-10 minutes to walk to the nearest bus and tram station from where I could get anywhere I needed easily. The city center was 15-20 minutes away by foot. As for the shops, we had Lidl, Billa and Spar very close to the dorm (5-15 minutes to walk).
Life expenses in Graz
As for the life expenses, I can’t say exactly that it was cheaper or more expensive to live in Austria rather than Finland or vice versa. My accommodation expenses were less in Finland, but I spent more money on food and services there. As for the public transport, I got a ticket for four months at the price of 100 euros (student discount included), so I could use all the trams and buses unlimited. What is more, I got a gym membership 24/7 (MC fit), and each month I paid a fee of 25 euros only. In my opinion, prices were reasonable for the good quality service provided.
The nature in Austria is breathtaking and charming. Mountains surround Graz, and anywhere you go, they are there. In the past, I preferred an ocean to the mountains, but now I can say that I fell in love with them forever. In Graz you can go uphill to the special place called Schloßberg where you can have a marvelous view over the whole city! I have also been to other Austrian towns such as Vienna, Salzburg and Leoben. The most remarkable day of my life in Austria was when I visited Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße that goes to the highest peak of the Austrian Alps. I was 2571 km above the sea level, and I can say that I saw the winter in the middle of the summer, as snow was still there in the end of June.
Lakes are also truly thrilling in Austria. As snow melts on the top and pours down, it forms lakes in the hollows, and the water in them is clean and cold. I should say that Leopoldsteinersee (a mountain lake 628 km above the sea level) is the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen!
Travelling and friendship
The exchange semester is also considered as the time for travelling. During the Easter holiday, I went to visit my friend in Milan, and later we flew together to France! This trip was a fairy-tale that finally came true! Back in 2012, thanks to Erasmus program, I made a good friend. This French guy was on exchange at LUT, and we got to know each other in Lappeenranta. And when we were planning our holiday in Paris, we asked him for some advice regarding sightseeings, museums and hotels with a nice location to stay.
We were truly surprised when he kindly asked us to stay in his house with his family! Together with Charles we saw the most beautiful places of Paris, visited museums and got acquainted with the local history and culture. We had such an increadible time there! Remember, no one can be a better guide than a local person who loves the city with all his or her heart. So, there is one more good point about studies abroad – meeting new people and sharing impressions!
To sum up, I’d like to say that I’m really glad that universities provide such a great opportunity to live in another country for a while. It gives you a chance to grow, gain new knowledge, make precious connections, learn more about different cultures and just have an amazing time that you will never forget!