Genevieve Pearce

Date: SP2, 2017
Degree Program: Bachelor of Business (Marketing); Bachelor of Business (Logistics and Supply Chain Management)
Host University: The Vienna School of Business and Economics (WU)
Host Country: Austria

Why did you choose your host university?

As I was already in my third year of study and many of my electives in my double degree had already been filled, it was important for me to find a university that allowed me to do subjects that counted toward my degree. After making a list of suitable universities I was most impressed by the universities facilities and exchange program at Vienna School of Business and Economics. The campus looked incredible, the website was easy to navigate and there was plenty of information available regarding exchange, extracurricular activities and courses in English.

I was also interested in the accommodation options as I was hoping to live in the same building as other students on exchange and WU not only had this facility but a clear and easy website to navigate applying. In addition to the university, I also liked the idea of spending a semester in Vienna. Located in the middle of Europe, it provided plenty of opportunities for travel being within a 3-hour plane ride of most other European cities.

What was the university like?

Genevieve Pearce 1The university learning style was very different to that experienced at UniSA. Most courses were taught intensively meaning that for each course may have only a few contact days. A lot of the courses emphasised group work and in class discussions which was a great way to make friends with other students and an interesting way to hear opinions from students around the world. Most courses in English were filled with only other exchange students, however, in one case, I was the only native English speaker in the class. In both cases, students were very friendly and teachers very attentive and welcoming.

The university also had a lot of professors who were a “guest” at the university meaning that teaching was not their first profession and they also held other jobs as senior business people working within Austria. This provided incredible exposure to business professionals working in Europe and it was often very interesting to listen to their career histories. As there was such a strong emphasis on collaborative learning and in-class discussions, a lot of the work was completed in class leaving little homework – and plenty of time to travel!

What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

Before I left for exchange I heard many people tell me it would “change your life” and I underestimated how right they were. It is difficult to put into words how much exchange does change your perspective but the greatest example I can share is – before exchange I had a crippling fear of flying. Panic attacks and mental breakdowns were normal occurrences and it was rare I survived a flight over 1hr without crying.

By the end of exchange, without a second thought, I boarded my flight home and slept the whole time. I’m not sure whether it was the self-confidence I had developed or just all the fears I had unknowingly conquered but nothing seems to scare me anymore. Exchange helps you put into context what’s important to you, your role in the world and forces you to stop stressing about all the things that are out of your control and don’t matter. The self-growth is inevitable and you always end up stronger for it.

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

The accommodation offered by the University is run through a company called OEAD. Almost all the exchange students you met will also stay with OEAD. OEAD own various apartment buildings across Vienna that are all very centrally located and close to transport. The most popular buildings are called Gasgasse (where I stayed) and Molkestrasse. They are the larger buildings and host many of the exchange student parties. There is a variety of housing configurations available to you. I had two roommates that I shared a kitchen with, but had my own private room and bathroom.

The rooms are quite spacious and there is a complementary cleaner that services the apartment every week or so. I would recommend sharing a room as it slightly more affordable and a great way to make new friends. In saying this, the private rooms are quite nice too. The accommodation is quite expensive compared to other European cities and even in comparison to renting an AirBnB for the semester, however, the buildings are relatively well looked after, safe and a lot of fun to live in.

Pearce 2Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

I was lucky enough to travel both before and after my exchange. At the time, I bought my tickets I always thought I’d end up getting home sick and coming home earlier than planned but I never wanted to leave. I ended up travelling to around 13 countries and multiple cities. I travelled both in organised tours, with friends I had made on exchange, friends visited from Australia and with the WU program EBN. The EBN trips and planned activities are something I would recommend as they are such a once in a life time opportunity.

The EBN is a student ran organisation within WU who host a wide variety of activities for exchange students. The activities range from doing day trips to other Austria towns such as Graz and Linz, ski trips to the Austrian alps, and weekend trips to Poland and Budapest. For most students, the ski trip is one of the highlights of exchange. The EBN team organise for the whole group (usually around to 150-200 students), to go to a small town in the Austrian alps and hire out a ski lodge. In the alps, you learn to ski during the day and then have themed parties each night. The ski trip is held toward the beginning of the semester and an excellent way to make new friends and form strong bonds with your exchange buddies.

Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

Once you are taken out of your home environment it is a lot easily to adjust then you think. WU runs an excellent orientation and culture program that often goes for three weeks before the semester begins and there is a shorter one that lasts one week. The program gives you time to orientate yourself within the city, make new friends, familiarise yourself with the public transport system, visit historical landmarks and important Viennese sites and learn the basic culture.

There is also a language program that runs in this three-week program that provides you the basics to survive Vienna (although the level of English spoken in Austria is very high). Roommates were also a great way to help adjust to life. Coming from a loud family it was nice to have people around and going through similar experiences as you. You will be amazed by how fast it feels like a second home.

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

There are so many benefits from going on exchange during your university career. You gain unteachable international perspective and network with business people from across the world. You also get to work with people from different cultures and work in truly diverse teams – something many employees seek. Exchange also provides you the opportunity to learn and become proficient in another language. However, personally, I believe the biggest asset exchange provides to your career, is the self-growth and confidence that you gain. It impacts your career as impacts your ability to communicate with others, perform in interviews, be a leader and speak in public.

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

Just do it! All the fears and hesitations you have are just fears and hesitations. For every reason you can think of to not go, I can assure you will come back with double to reasons to go. I think it’s important to get everything in order before you go - ensuring all your paperwork is in order. You can also do some research about the country and potentially neighbouring countries you would like to visit before you go, but don’t forget it’s one of the only times as a young adult you have such a great opportunity to explore the world, so be spontaneous, don’t hesitant and just do it.

Top Tips:
Be spontaneous and make the most of every opportunity!

Areas of study and research

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