Looking beyond the edge of one’s plate is even more important today than ever. Experience abroad, international networks and the adjectives “fluent” or even “able to negotiate” in a foreign langauge boost every application and make the graduates sought-after employees. Austrian UASs have always stood behind the concept of borderless knowledge: They support semesters abroad at one of the numerous partner universities all over the world and encourage students to also gain experience in the world economy – for example, through work placements outside of the country.
“We really had unbelievable opportunities”, remembers Paul Bashir, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the FH Wien University of Applied Sciences of WKW in “Finance, Accounting & Taxation” – and is now working as a consultant for Deloitte in the USA. However, Bashir, now 24, was not keen on going abroad at all at the beginning of his studies and had chosen Vienna to study in – the place where he had grown up and completed his schooling. “Going abroad was not at all a consideration until I more or less stumbled into the whole thing”, he describes. But then he did it properly: “When I was given the chance to go abroad during my studies, I thought to myself, if I go somewhere, then it ought to be a place I wouldn’t otherwise normally end up in”, he recalls. This place was Chengdu, a metropolis with 15 million inhabitants, where Bashir not only learned “enough Chinese to get through the day”, but also was extremely taken by the experiences that forced him to leave his comfort zone.
Vienna, Hongkong, Austin
Expand your horizons and be able to fully concentrate on the challenges of a very different life as well as the curriculum of the foreign university without having to worry about finishing your degree. “The UAS was really helpful and tolerant in that respect, for example, in giving credit for courses that naturally dealt with Chinese tax law”, he recalls. At the end of his semester abroad, Bashir went on to do his work placement at an international business – at Deloitte in Vienna, where he worked in the area of mergers and acquisitions. He felt so comfortable there that he “stuck around” for a year after completing his bachelor’s degree. Yet, he always knew he wanted to get his master’s. He also knew that he wanted to go abroad again, which is why he pursued his master’s in “International Management” at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and a “Master of Management Studies in Global Business and Society” in Yale. And even after all this experience abroad, he still has no desire to return home all that quickly: He has been rehired by the company that gave him his work placement back then – Deloitte – this time in Austin, Texas.
But you don’t always have to go to the other end of the world – you can start a great career at a small distance. This is what Sarah Buchner, graduate of the master’s programme “Construction and Completion of Large-scale International Projects” at the FH Campus Vienna, proved so impressively. Today, she works all over Europe as group leader of Digitization / Digital Consultancy for STRABAG and is head of the division for the digitalisation of Southern and Eastern Europe. The civil engineer got her first experience abroad, however, while doing an exchange semester at the University La Sapienza in Rome, which she completed as part of the ERASMUS programme. And she found out what an enrichment this could be: “I think is very important to get experience abroad, because you have to solve problems outside of your own comfort zone that you normally wouldn’t have to”, she summarises. “You learn that you need help and to keep your feet on the ground – no matter how successful you are.”
Next Stop: Stanford
During Buchner’s last semester of her master’s studies, which she completed at the Canadian McGill University, there was one challenge which she didn’t even need to tackle: “I organised the semester there myself, but my UAS was very generous and helped me not only financially but also with staff support”, she reports. For example, through its connections to Canada, her UAS helped get the study fees waived, and she was able to return to Austria early and complete a few courses via Skype. The awarding of credit for her courses was also fully unproblematic. Buchner’s enthusiasm for international learning has still not diminished, which can be seen by the fact that she earned a further certificate at Harvard, where she studied for half a year, as well as by her future plans: “I’m now going to start my MBA studies in Fall 2019 in Stanford”, she tells.
Daily life in Instanbul
The enthusiasm for learning and living abroad was also generated in Verena Elisabeth Lechner during her UAS studies. Lechner, now 29, completed her bachelor’s and master’s in “InterMedia” at the FH Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences from 2009 to 2014 and spent a semester abroad during her bachelor’s. Her choice was the Kültür University Istanbul, “because I wanted to get to know a new culture that is very different from ours”, she reports. “The international office was extremely helpful in organising everything.” Not only were the courses during her semester abroad on the Bosporus interesting, she also got to experience numerous smaller aspects of daily life that are always different from home – and which add a great deal to one’s own personal treasure trove of experience. “If you have the chance, I would recommend going abroad to everyone – the many contacts the UASs have make this easy”, she emphasises. And since then, she has benefited again from these connections: Though various contacts with the University Adger in Kristiansand, Lechner has been able to go to Norway, where she is working on her PhD and has a job for three years.