International student studying Business in Graz, Austria

Host country: Austria
Host city: Graz
Home country: Mexico
Department/faculty: Business
Program type: Exchange semester
Level of degree: Master
Program length: 4 months
Program finished: 2015-12-01

Personal challenges

I think the principal challenge for me was to adapt to the city of Marseille. Coming from Graz, Austria, where my home university is located, I was surprised by the vast differences. It would have been absolutely fine for a holiday, but I found it hard to live in Marseille: beautiful beaches, bays, landscapes and historical old town, but at the same time way too dirty and below my safety standards. I was living right in the center, smelling the old port everyday and had experience with muggers. This stressful atmosphere made my study abroad experience rather unpleasant – and I know for a fact that many of my international peers would say the same. Also, the cost of living in Marseille was much higher than in Graz, that felt a bit unjustified. It was painful to pay more to maintain a lower standard of living than I got accustomed to.

Personal takeaways

Choosing a host country and host city is difficult and it is often driven by many factors, like current opportunities and desires. Individual experience is subjective by nature, so I must mention that some international students enjoyed Marseille a lot more, because they were less bothered by the dirt or unsafe conditions, and found the good in the city. I know there are people looking for „adventure”, well, they will most certainly find it in Marseille (both good and bad). I would recommend future international students to make a thoughtful decision when deciding on where to live abroad. 1. Always do a cost of living analysis of the city you are interested in 2. Check the type of housing and area where you are going to live at. Normally, host universities can provide valuable information regarding housing issues, as well as give instructions on how to avoid unsafe districts or housing agency scams.

Academic challenges

Over the period of my 4 months long exchange I registered for 6 courses, but only 2 of them were actually held in a proper way. Even though I chose a well-reputed host institution, I was a bit disappointed. When the courses did take place, another issue arised, namely that professors could barely speak English. It was a little embarrasing to sit on my classes, wanting to learn something new, but the professors were unable to share their thoughts in English (I took all courses in English).

Academic takeaways

I suggest that as a future international student you should explore your academic options in advance, with special regard to the course selection and available professors. You are using your time and money to complete a course, so it is important to allocate these resources in a responsible way. Accordingly, try to take the courses with the best-rated professors in order to gain more – ask local students or check online professor rating tables. Also it is a good idea to stay in close touch with the international office and faculty head office at the host university, because that way you can collect valuble information about changes or upcoming events much faster. Last but not least, don’t forget to provide some feedback for the international office, especially if they ask for it. I think it is nice to help them with constructive criticism, so they can constantly improve the quality of their services.

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