Experience for life - part of the package
An old proverb says that you have to have spent at least some time during your life in the shadow of another church steeple. And modern career advisors are in agreement that international experience can really make your curriculum vitae stand out. These important experiences are part of the package from the very beginning for all students of Universities of Applied Sciences in Austria. Whether one chooses to spend a semester abroad at one of the numerous partner institutions all over the world or to do an international work placement, the International Offices on almost every campus are there for their students in word and deed to help them to deal with complicated issues such as credit for ECTS points acquired abroad, joint or double-degree programmes in cooperation with foreign universities, but also everyday questions dealing with their stay abroad.
This support is well received by students who wish to experience new ways of working or simply want to embrace a new mentality “and really understand that things are different elsewhere,” summarises Christina Fink, student of the master’s programme “Informatics” at the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt. The 24-year-old has just completed her semester abroad at the University of Bangkok and not only learned a great deal about her subject but was also able to broaden her horizon, as she explains: “From the very start, I wanted to get to know the Asian – or more specifically, the Thai – approach,” she reports, and she very much succeeded in doing this. From the uniforms that her fellow students wore without question – and without which they would not be allowed to sit an exam – to the relaxed attitude toward life that she would like to hold on to now back at home: “I really try to see things differently,” she reports on her new perspectives. One of the most important souvenirs she brought home with her from Asia is a new, international network of friends and fellow students, who she wants to stay in contact with on social media. And the one or the other who is planning to come to a UAS in Austria on an exchange programme…
Lena Haas was led to the other end of the world – from the European perspective – during her bachelor’s programme “International Management” at the FH Joanneum. The 23-year-old spent her semester abroad at the University of Santiago de Chile. “A semester abroad is compulsory here, but it’s a pleasant requirement,” laughs Haas, “and I got to choose from some really super partner universities.” What helped her in making this tough choice was the presentations held by previous exchange students that are organised by the Office for International Relations at her university every year. “You get a lot of information over the course of two days,” she reports, and not just only about the big, important facts, but also about the little things that are a part of life in the chosen country. “These are such details like the fact that you are not allowed to bring nuts or cheese into the country or also tips about getting a flat when, for example, there are no rooms in a student dormitory.”
Haas was suitably prepared for her time in South America and was able to use her time well to concentrate on her studies and embrace the very different mentality there. “I was really able to learn a lot about the business environment. Especially the public policy lectures about the connections between the state, society and economy were particularly exciting,” she remembers. “And besides that, the biggest personal gain for me was that I could take a bit of the attitude towards life there – ‘It can’t be that bad’ – back home with me,” she laughs. This is an attitude which gave her an advantage when she returned: “The Chilean university took five months to forward our credits, which made a few people here very nervous. But not the students who had been there: We knew that that was completely normal there.”
For Cornelia Neuwirt, however, the language was the deciding factor for choosing her destination: “I was already able to speak English at native-speaker level, so I wanted to use the opportunity to learn a new language,” reports the student of the bachelor’s programme “Marketing & Sales” at the FH Campus 02, “and that’s why I chose Lisbon.” Living there wasn’t hard at all for the 23-year-old, “since southern cultures also fascinated me.” Besides the language, the UAS student learned something completely different during her stay abroad, namely how practice-relevant her education at home had already been. “I worked on a project for Uber Portugal during my studies and was able to apply a communications concept that I had already developed at my home university for a firm in Graz,” she reports. “Everybody there was really impressed, and it was really nice to see that what we learn and do here is actually worthwhile.