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10 Reasons to Study Abroad in Austria

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By Jenny Scott Russell

In September 2015 I, somewhat unexpectedly, found myself in Austria at the beginning of a six-month Erasmus exchange program. I say somewhat unexpectedly because before applying to university I hadn’t considered studying abroad, let alone in Austria. But what a great last-minute decision it turned out to be. Austria was an amazing country to spend a semester in, and I look back on studying abroad as the highlight of my university experience.

Four years on and I’m still recommending Austria to everyone, be it for a city break in Vienna or skiing trip to Innsbruck. However, Austria is also an unrivaled location for students seeking new and exciting experiences. Read on for my top 10 reasons you should consider studying abroad in Austria…

1. It’s in the center of Europe

Austria train travel

You don’t get a more conveniently located country to explore central and eastern Europe from. Eight different countries share Austria’s border and thanks to the efficient and well-connected rail network, they are all incredibly easy to get to. Bus travel is also an option for those budget conscious students among us, with companies like Flixbus getting people from Vienna to Berlin from around €22. I actually managed to get from Munich, to Berlin, to Cologne and back for under €30! I also took full advantage of the opportunity to visit Budapest and Prague, with both cities reachable in under four hours from Vienna by train.

2. Education is inexpensive and (reasonably!) relaxed

Now, let me explain myself. I’m not saying you won’t have to do any work while studying abroad. That is completely your choice! However, a benefit of studying in Austria is the relaxed mentality Austrians have towards university. Generally, degree programs take from three to five years to complete but technically there’s no limit to how long you can take to finish studying. This means students in Austria are considerably less stressed than students in the UK, which is where I studied the majority of my undergraduate degree. In addition to this, course fees at universities in Austria are miniscule, especially if you come from an EU country. Plus, you can apply for Erasmus funding to help out while you’re there. This takes the pressure off financially, making for an all-round chilled out experience.

3. The alpine scenery is beautiful all year round

Innsbruck

Mountains, lakes and forests are hard to avoid in Austria. Even if you’re studying in central Vienna, mother nature is on your doorstep. And thanks to the previously mentioned approach to studying, you’ll find yourself with plenty of time to explore and make the most of the stunning Austrian landscape. In the summer, you can swim in the picturesque lakes or spend your weekends like I did, hiking in the Alps. If you find yourself in Austria during the winter, you could learn to ski alongside your studies. With second-hand ski gear, it’s possible to do this even on a student budget.

4. You get the chance to learn German

Admittedly, German is not the most widely spoken language in the world. However, when it comes to finding a job, having German in your back pocket is only going to help. Especially those of you in the mechanical, engineering, automotive, financial and textile industries. It opens up the opportunity of working in Austria and Germany and makes you more attractive to employers from your home country. Most universities in Austria will expect you to take a German class as part of your semester credits which makes the language even easier to pick up.

5. …But many courses are taught in English

Thank goodness, right? I wanted to take advantage of the chance to learn German, but having all my lectures in a foreign language might have been a step too far. International students make up a huge percentage of those enrolled at universities in Austria, especially in comparison to other European countries. So, it makes sense for the universities to teach in English and it’s even more common at masters level.   

6. Vienna has the highest quality of living in Europe

Vienna

For the 10th year running Vienna took the top spot in Mercer’s Quality of Living survey. They consider a variety of factors including standards of schools, crime levels, recreation options and climate! All of potential importance when picking a city to study abroad in. There are also over 130,000 students in Vienna, making it an amazing place to study and live, and it came 11th in the most recent QS Best Student Cities index. However, the rest of Austria is great for students too. I can personally vouch for Salzburg being an incredible place to live as a student! The universities there hosted a variety of educational and recreational events all semester which made meeting people really easy.

7. The variety of local and international food on offer will keep you happy

No, this doesn’t just mean schnitzel and apple strudel. Although both are delicious (vegetarian/vegan schnitzel is also an option!). The International Food Festival in Vienna’s Der Garten is a great example of how popular and available all cuisines are in the country. I challenged myself to test as many new cuisines as possible while in the capital and Salzburg wasn’t bad for variety either. Syrian and Lebanese were two of my favorites. Of course, the traditional Austrian cuisine is also a draw especially as it modernises and adapts to suit all dietary requirements. As a foodie, Austria was the perfect place for me to explore!

8. Architecture, art, music and literature – what more could you want?

Salzburg Old Town

Before Salzburg I had never been to the opera but I took full advantage of cheap student tickets when I was there! And what an incredible experience it was, to enjoy Bizet and Mozart in the Felsenreitschule (AKA the theater from The Sound of Music). I ended up in classical music recitals and countless galleries, and marveled at the impressive Baroque cathedrals. The Old Town in Salzburg is a UNESCO World Heritage site and I actually lived there! Viennese architecture was equally as impressive and since finishing my studies I have been back multiple times to enjoy it. Surrounding yourself in such a rich and historical culture is an education in itself.

9. The cost of living is surprisingly cheap

Saving money during my semester studying abroad in Austria came as a surprise. But lucky for me, the rent was cheaper there despite living in the most expensive city in the country. My bills were included and public transport was next to nothing. I got a bike a few weeks into my stay, which is the norm in Salzburg, saving myself even more money. Food and alcohol were also much cheaper than I expected. It was great, the cost of being a student in the UK suffering in comparison. And considering Austria is one of the nicest countries to live in central Europe, I really had nothing to complain about!

10. Austrian beer festivals and Christmas markets are amazing

Salzburg Christmas Market

I was spoilt for choice when it came to Christmas markets in Salzburg, with more than six to explore. I collected the mulled wine mugs unique to each market I visited, including the ones in Vienna and Innsbruck. This meant a lot of mulled wine drinking and inevitably lots of amazing festive memories made with my friends! You can’t beat the vibe in the markets, people are jolly and extra social. Likewise, with beer festivals. They were highlights of my Erasmus in Austria. Wearing dirndls (I now own three) and spending whole days in the sunshine, eating and drinking. The entire experience was perfect!

Jenny Scott Russell Jenny Scott Russell

The author of London-based travel blog LocalLeo.co.uk, Jenny travels the world while working full time in the UK fashion industry. She has a passion for vegan street food and outdoor sports and in 2015 moved to Austria on an Erasmus exchange. She has since graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Textile Design and has visited over 25 different countries.

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