Starting university can be quite an overwhelming process for many people, especially when you decide to study abroad. I should know, given that I am going through it as I am writing this. Now when I say overwhelming, I don't necessarily mean bad, it just means that a lot of emotions have to be dealt with and even more information has to be processed. When I decided on a city to study in, I was especially overwhelmed by the numerous dormitories in Graz available for students, by the different studies to choose from, and so much more.
Things get even worse when you are unfortunate enough like me to be a freshman in Austria while COVID-19 is still raging, making things even more complicated. But it has been almost a month now and I would like to believe that I got a hang of it, meaning I am overflowing with information that you guys will most definitely find useful. So without further due, let's get right into it!
What to study?
Choosing a degree should be the first one to check off of your to-do list, however it may be the most difficult one of them all.
Not everybody knows what they want to do since they were a little kid. As a matter of fact, it is a greater proportion of people who make this extremely important decision the summer before university than the ones who knew it all along, so no pressure. When you reach your decision does not matter, it is the decision itself that does. After all, this is the thing you will more or less be doing for the rest of your life, so my advice to you would be:
Also, don't let money influence your decision. Of course, you want to make a good living, but is hating your job really worth those couple k's? I really don't think so.
We live in a time where we have countless opportunities, and this applies to university degrees, too. Some people (me) may be overwhelmed by the number of options because there is always something interesting in pretty much every area of life. Some people (also me), however, appreciate and see it as a privilege, being able to explore pretty much any single thing in this world if you just choose to. Not many people have that opportunity. This also depends on the country, city and university you are applying for.
For an example, Bosnia - my homeland - does not yet have a degree in Biomedical Engineering, which I am currently studying, so once I decided what I wanted to do, I started searching for the best option. I put in a lot of thought in this and finally decided to study abroad in Graz and apply for the University of Technology Graz.
Where to study in Graz?
Once you've chosen your degree, you'll want to find the best place for you to do it at. For me, and thousands of other young people, that was, as I already mentioned, TU Graz.
Graz itself is one big student city and that is only because of the grade A education that you will be getting here, should you choose to come. Whether you are a tech geek, humanities enthusiast or a talented musician, Graz will most definitely have something to offer you, since there are so many universities and colleges to choose from: Medical University, Karl Franzens University, University of Technology, University of Arts, FH Joanneum, FH Campus and University for Teacher Training.
My experience during my study abroad in Graz
Even though I only had the chance to experience one of the universities mentioned above, I have a lot of friends studying at the other ones so I can assure you that I am speaking on behalf of every student here when I say that coming to Graz was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
As you may have already figured out, I am an international student from Bosnia so coming to Graz and studying in another language was definitely not the easiest option for me. I could have just as easily stayed in my country, do a degree in Bosnian and come home every weekend to a home-cooked meal, but since I had already studied abroad before coming to Graz I knew that this was something that I had to do again.
I moved to England when I was 16 to do my A-Levels there and I have to admit that the first few weeks were living hell for me because even though there were people around me, there was nobody who spoke my language and shared my culture, which at that point made me feel so alone.
When I came to Graz a year ago, I felt relieved. It wasn't home but each day I would hear a person speak Bosnian or see something that to me seemed familiar. This goes for pretty much every culture there is. The fact that there are currently around 60 thousand students studying in Graz of which a great proportion is international proves my point even further.
Study abroad in Graz with Erasmus
One of the interesting facts about Graz is that its universities are all part of the Erasmus Programme. This gives everybody a chance to try their luck and go into the unknown in order to study what they love and really just have fun.
If you ask Erasmus students why they decided to take part in an exchange programme, more than half of them will list meeting new people and experiencing a new culture before studying itself, and to be frank there is a good reason for it. I have gained some life-long friendships during my time in England and also here in Graz that I want to cherish for life, plus the parties get ratchet with all those new people coming into the dorm.
This brings me to my next point: DORM LIFE.
Dorm life in Graz
As a person who has lived away from home in a dorm for the past 4 years, I must say that it is one of the best things ever, especially if you find the one that you really like and that suits your needs perfectly.
I was lucky enough to find that in Graz or more specifically here at home4students Neutorgasse. I am obviously living in a home4students dorm that I have chosen among many other dorms in the city. The first reason being its location.
Our dorm is literally in the city center from which anything you may need is either walking distance or a short bike ride. The other reason is the dorm itself and by that I mean the way the common areas and private rooms are furnished.
This was a big deal for me because my living space affects my mood a lot and the high ceilings and huge windows in my room really contribute to the feeling of a comfy safe space (you'll agree if you look at the picture of the corner of my room).
Our dorm also has a well-equipped gym which I am so excited about (who wants to pay extra 20 euros for a gym membership?), two social rooms with billiard, table tennis and tv, and a big party room in which we party pretty much every weekend. Well, we used to before Covid-19. Now with the situation getting worse again our rooms have again become the space we spend most of our time in, especially with the classes still being mainly online, so I am really glad that I chose a dorm in which I actually enjoy living in.
Study. Live. Have Fun.
Once a whole day of hard work is done, you will want to relax a little and actually enjoy the so called „best years of your life“. I say this because there is a fair chance that they actually will be the best ones, but there is also just as big of a chance that they will not. It all depends on how you plan your day and how much you value socializing, which you should, a lot actually.
Going out with friends and relaxing is just as important as putting in all the hard work throughout the whole week. If you get too stressed, which you will, you really need to blow off some steam every once in a while. The more often the better I'd say. In case you find yourself still studying at university on Friday or Saturday late afternoon, that doesn't mean that you missed your chance to go out.
Luckily Uni Viertel is minutes away from every campus so you really don't even have to go home, you can just go straight to a pub with friends and enjoy the well-deserved rest. If you would rather go change and then go out that's no problem either, considering how close the dorm is, especially if you live in Leechgasse , which is another home4students dorm here in Graz. It's literally across the street from Karl Franzens University, right in the center of the Uni Viertel. So yeah, that would be a great option too.
I want to ride my…
One last thing I find crucial about living in Graz is a bicycle. It is a must in a city like Graz to have a bike while you are still in uni and there are multiple reasons for it. First of all, it's cheap.
Once you buy a bike you can forget about relying on tram to get you where you need to be in more time compared to a bike, plus you have to pay 2.50. There are of course some student deals but they don't really pay off that much in my opinion either. A bike is a way to go, trust me. Just invest in a good chain or an insurance even (3 euros per month!) and you're good to go. Second of all, it's faster than using public transportation and it is also kind to our environment! I use my bike on the daily to go to uni (takes me about 7-10 minutes to get to any campus), go grocery shopping or really just enjoy a wonderful day being active and exploring the beautiful nature.
To sum up: Graz is a student city.
It is not too big, but it’s big enough to have everything you may need. Everything is a walking distance away from either one of the dorms here in Graz, home4students Neutorgasse or Leechgasse, from the universities, which is probably the main advantage, because you will be spending a lot of time at one of the campuses. However, this does not by all means mean that your life has to be just studying.
If you wish, you can, as cheesy as it sounds, live the life you've seen in the movies, or at least that's what it feels like for me right now. Although my course is very difficult and I do have to study a great lot pretty much every day, I still find time to enjoy my study abroad in Graz as much as I can because it is the last time I will be this young and more-less carefree before the real adult life comes, to which I am seriously not looking forward to.
Luckily, I'm only freshman and I still have some time until that happens, but until it does, I really want to be enjoying every bit of it: the studying, living alone, hanging out with friends, the whole deal. So if you are reading this and you're still not sure where to go or what to do, I recommend you consider Graz and one of its top-class Universities, because they sure do have a lot to offer, just like this city itself.