Stephanie Guinn, BA English student, answers questions about her Erasmus semester at the University of Vienna.
How did you find the application process?
I found the application process quite straightforward. It’s similar to writing a personal statement for your UCAS application. I just thought about why I wanted to go to that country, what I was interested in getting out of the experience and how it might help my studies.
How did you manage your money?
I would recommend saving some extra money before you go, just so that you can make the most out of all the opportunities that might be on offer. The Erasmus grant does help, and I used that for my semester travel card and food shopping mainly. But if you want to do any extras like travelling to nearby cities, or taking part in the events and trips that your Erasmus university might offer, then the extra money definitely helps. I did weekend trips to Prague and Budapest with some of the Erasmus students that I met in Vienna, we went to a Viennese ball, and I got to go skiing for the first time through a trip that the Students’ Union in Vienna offered too. They were so all much fun and definitely added to the whole experience.
What about the language barrier?
In Vienna they offered an Intensive German Language course in the first month prior to starting your university semester, so I would definitely recommend doing something like that if your Erasmus uni offers it too. It was a month-long course with classes 5 days a week, so the workload was intense, but you get refunded a big sum of the money that you paid if you pass the tests at the end of the course. There wasn’t too much of a language barrier in Vienna, I was lucky that most people spoke English, but doing the language course definitely helped my understanding of German whenever I was in a situation where the people I met didn’t speak English. And I think that trying to understand the local language is all part of the experience. I also met some really good friends during the German language course, so it’s a good way to meet other exchange students when you first arrive.
What advice do you have about adjusting to a different culture?
When I first got there, it did take some time to settle in. The weather was really cold, I had to get used to not having any family or friends around, the transport is a bit different, all of the stations were in another language, and a lot of the food in supermarkets was really different to what I was used to back home. But you just have to be really open to embracing a new culture and excited about the new experience. All the Erasmus students are in the same boat as you, so when you start meeting other students it gets a lot more fun and you can start adjusting to this new culture together.
How did your Erasmus semester fit in with your studies?
Time-wise it fit in well with my university studies at Goldsmiths. All of my work for Goldsmiths was due in mid-January, the German language course in Vienna started in February, and I think the university semester in Vienna started in March, so everything was spaced out quite well. The Erasmus semester ended at the end of June, so I had all of the summer to prepare for my final year at Goldsmiths.All in all, it was the best thing I could’ve done. I met so many great people from all over the world that I’m still in contact with now and had so many fun experiences. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.