The Perfect Study Abroad City Past Review

By (ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE/LETTERS., Truman State University) - abroad from 02/05/2014 to 07/04/2014 with

ISEP Exchange: Graz - Exchange Program at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Personally, I feel like this program has made me much more independent and a much more confident traveler. I used to be nervous and confused about how to travel, and I would always want to have everything planned out way in advance. Now I'm much more flexible, and I know that things will work out wherever we go. I know how to interact with people from all different cultures now since there are so many international students in Graz. Graz really is the perfect size city to study abroad in because it is big enough to have a lot of things to experience, but also small enough so that it isn't intimidating or overwhelming. Austria is in a great position for traveling and experiencing so many cultures within the surrounding areas. It was definitely worthwhile.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Courses are set up much differently than in the US. I only took one seminar class, but I feel like it was the one I learned the most from. Lecture attendance is optional and the grade is based solely on the test at the end, which makes it easy to fall behind with studying. I definitely recommend the intensive course at the beginning--I feel like I learned a lot.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Christa (KFU's ISEP coordinator) was great!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Through ISEP I was only able to choose whether I wanted a single room or a double room. Nothing else. I ended up in a student apartment about 30 minutes away from campus. It wasn't too bad, and most people I know lived this far away from the campus as well. Definitely invest in either a bike or a public transportation pass. Once you are in the school system you can get a 4, 5, or 6-month student transport pass for a discounted rate (4 months was about 75 euros). I always used a bus to get to school from my apartment on Moserhofgasse. Also, get a single room if you can. Roommates can be hit-or-miss. Also note that they don't really care about gender when doing the housing arrangements. I lived in a flat with all males and I was the only female. It wasn't a big deal, but it was a little bit of a surprise to know I had to share a bathroom and shower with them.

* Food:

ISEP gives a food stipend each month and it was more than enough to cover the cost of food. I cooked for myself a lot, but there are also a lot of great restaurants in Graz that I enjoyed.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

My flatmates were all Austrian, and I got to talk to them a lot about Austrian culture. Through the buddy system I got to know an Austrian and her friends, which was also a good experience.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Each ISEP student is required to purchase GKK health insurance while in Austria. Vaccines aren't required, but a flu shot and a vaccine against lime disease is recommended.

* Safety:

Overall I felt very safe in Graz. I felt comfortable enough to walk 20 minutes from the main city center to my apartment at night and have never had any times where I felt unsafe. I heard about once incident of a girl being followed at night, but she was able to hail a taxi and get out of the situation.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

The stipend ISEP gives is more than enough for food each month. The first month was the most expensive because I had to purchase things for my room, pay the intensive program cost, and all of the incidental things that I didn't really realize. My spring break trip was by far the most expensive part, but that was because I was traveling the whole time for three weeks.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 50-60 euros on regular weeks, more if I traveled.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Travel as much as you can, but take advantage of Graz's location near cheaper countries. Budapest is only 5 hours away, and it was incredibly cheap and really fun. The Balkans are close as well, and they're super cheap and also beautiful. Plus, I feel like they have more to offer than the traditional tourist areas, which are more expensive. To take train trips in Austria, get an OEBB Vorteilscard (19 euros) which will give you a discount on train travel. Look at carpooling websites and plan trips that way (I got back from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Graz for 10 euros, a scenic route, and good company).


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

I feel like my German really did improve through the intensive course, but not through the rest of my courses.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 4 semesters, placed into level A 2.1 (end of the beginning levels)
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? I found myself using the most German when ordering food and in grocery stores. Take advantage of any Austrian roommates or your Austrian buddy and try speaking German with them. The dialect here is really different from high German and it intimidated me from really practicing with people.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Travel opportunities
  • ESN student-sponsored programs
* What could be improved?
  • Housing
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I would have known about the different modes of transport like car sharing to travel places. I didn't find out about it until part of the way through, and I could have saved a lot of money. Other than that, I think people will always go into these types of programs with some degree of unavoidable uncertainty, because that is just the nature of study abroad.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.