Greetings from Graz, Austria! Grüß Gott originally means (according to Wikipedia) ”may God greet you”. And they greet you like this everywhere.
I’m Ella, a third-year student at TSE. I’ve been calling Graz home for a month now. I’m here for the summer semester 2015 which started in the beginning of March and ends with exams in the beginning of July. (That’s why it is called summer and not spring semester and that’s the way it works in the most German speaking countries.)
Graz, the capital of Styria, is the perfect combination of small town and a big city. It is the second largest city in Austria. You can climb up to Schlossberg, wander through old town that can be found on the Unesco World Heritage list or drink coffee at one of the many cafés in the city. The location is very nice also for travelling and I’ve already been to Budapest and during our 3 week (yes, 3 !!) holiday I will be visiting Prague and Zagreb. And Vienna is only a two-hour train ride away.
I study BWL (Betriebswirtschaftslehre = Business administration) at Karl-Franzens-Universität. Among other classes I’ve picked two classes of Information Systems Science (also my main subject in Turku) which I study in German. Mostly exchange students study their courses in English and they offer plenty of courses in both English and German which is good! The university also offers German courses on every level (A1.1 to C1) which are very helpful if you are interested in learning German. You must remember though that the real Austrian German is far from the “Hochdeutsch” you learn at school: “auch” becomes only “a”, potatoes are “Erdäpfel” and the bin “Mistkübel”. Even Germans here have trouble understanding the dialect which I find very calming… And Graz is very international so you will survive with English almost anywhere 😉
What helps with learning the language is living with locals. Most students here live in WGs (Wohngemeinschaft = shared flat) either found through a student accommodation service, like me, or through Facebook. Most student houses have a gym (ours has one exercise bike…), laundry room and a party room. Some even have cleaning lady! There is a party in one of the student homes almost every week. In my free time I’ve chosen a few courses from the University Sports Institute and one class costs only 17 euros for the whole summer term. You have to wake up early to sign up for the classes but they offer everything from paragliding and basketball to dance classes. ESN is very active in Graz – I’ve already been to a Buschenschank (a special restaurant serving only locally produced wine and small dishes) and ice skating.
Don’t expect Austria to be like Germany (you know the stereotypes…). I feel Austria is a more chill version of Germany where there is no hurry to do things but still everything works effortlessly. Even though there are lots and lots of incoming exchange students, emails are answered within ours and people are always ready to help you!
Graz may not seem the most hip and cool place to do your exchange but it’s perfect for me! I warmly recommend everyone to consider it for their exchange. The location is perfect and the city has a very nice international flair to it.