Nicholas Treat firstname.lastname@example.org 612-616-1090 Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration (WU) Fall (Winter) Semester 2007 Academic Experience WU Wien General Academic Structure: In addition to German language courses, WU offers a variety of courses in English. Most students in the English courses are exchange students, although some Austrians take them as well. In general, there are two types of class structures at WU. The first type is similar to Carlson, where classes are held several hours each week throughout the semester. The second type is block scheduling, where classes are held 7-8 hours per day over four days. It seemed to me that the English courses were divided roughly equally between these two types. Like most exchange students, I took 30 ECTS, which is equivalent to 15 credits at Carlson. I found the workload to be reasonable, and it allowed plenty of time for travel. The courses at WU are divided into three levels: regular undergraduate, advanced undergraduate, and graduate. All of my courses were at the regular undergraduate level, but I wouldn’t hesitate about taking an advanced undergrad or graduate level course, especially if it’s in your major. Unless you are already fluent in the language, I would advise against taking courses in German. One recommendation I have related to registration is to be sure to log on immediately at the beginning of the registration period. In my experience, English language classes filled up quickly, although I think additional sections were opened up later for the most popular classes. Classes Taken: I took the following five classes (each of them was 6 ECTS). European Law and Economics: This was a block-style course that met 4 times, with the first two sessions taking place on consecutive days and the last two taking place two weeks later. Most of the class time was devoted to lecture, with some time for student presentations and discussion. I would recommend this class if you are interested in public policy and in learning about the history and functions of the EU. The workload was relatively light and involved writing a case study report on a ruling of the European Court of Justice, as well as preparation for the final, which was somewhat challenging. Current Issues in Nonprofit Management: This was also a block course, with the first two sessions taking place early in the semester and the last two taking place about 6 weeks later. The class was taught by two instructors and involved a good mix of lecture, class discussion, and small-group work. The workload was somewhat higher and consisted primarily of a group project that students completed during the 6 weeks between the first and second parts of the class. My group’s project was a case study of two grassroots organizations and a 30 page research paper about our findings. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if this class is offered on a regular basis. International Strategic Management: This course met once a week throughout the semester, and at the end there was a seminar held in the Alps. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it due to a class conflict, but I think it basically involved presentations and discussion of the case studies. I would recommend having taken MGMT 3001 prior to taking this class. As far as I know, this class is offered every semester. International Financial Markets: This class met weekly throughout the semester. Most of the time was spent on exchange rates and various models of exchange rate determination. I would definitely recommend having already taken FINA 3001, but I don’t think any other finance classes are necessary as prerequisites. There was one group project in this class, which involved analyzing an academic journal article and giving a class presentation. Portfolio Management, CAPM, and Cost of Capital: This class was held over four sessions, each of them five hours long. While the five hour sessions do get really long, I would definitely recommend this class, at least if you’re a finance major. The organization of the class was excellent. All class materials were available for purchase in the office of the Corporate Finance Department (I think the cost was about 14 euros). The class overlapped with concepts covered in FINA 3001 but in much greater detail. The workload consisted mostly of weekly assignments and a case study during the last session. Advising: Every student is assigned a faculty advisor based on their home university. The problem is that you are not told your advisor until after you arrive, which is long after you have registered for classes. This means that any questions you have about registration or classes would have to be directed to the ZAS (International Studies Center). I did not end up needing any advising after arrival, so I really can’t say how helpful the advisors are. Surprises/Comparison with Academic Environment in the US: The biggest difference between academics at WU and Carlson is that at WU students tend to spend much less time in cla ss. In my nonprofit management class, for example, the time required outside of class to conduct the case study and write the paper was considerable, and definitely much greater than the time spent in class. The advantage is that your schedule is more flexible, which definitely makes traveling easier. Another difference is that most class materials are available from the department office for a relatively small fee. As a result, I did not need to buy any textbooks during my semester, although this is something that depends on the classes you take. In my portfolio management class, for example, the instructor relied mostly on materials and exercises that he had written himself. Even if the course syllabus lists a textbook, I would ask the instructor whether it will really be necessary. (Textbooks there seemed to be just as expensive as they are here.) Compared to Carlson, the class sizes seemed to be similar. Seminar classes tended to be a little smaller (e.g. European Law and Economics had about 10-12 students). Professors usually have weekly office hours, although they were usually more limited than they are at Carlson. Logistics at WU: Orientation/Arrival: My buddy met me at the airport and gave me a ride to my dorm, which was a big help. Otherwise, you would need to take a taxi (probably costs between 30-40 euros). There is also the City-Airport train that runs frequently between the airport and one of the main subway stations (Landstrasse-Wien Mitte). I rode this to and from the airport when I flew to Krakow and found it to be cheap and convenient. However, I definitely would not recommend it for your first arrival in Vienna, since you’re not going to know how to get to your dorm. I participated in the Orientation and Culture Program (OK program) and would definitely recommend it. It’s a great way to meet people, since it takes place during the two weeks prior to the start of classes. It mostly involves visiting various places around Vienna, like Schoenbrunn Palace and the Austrian Parliament, along with day trips to Graz and the Melk monastery. I also took the two-week intensive language course as a refresher, because I hadn’t taken German since high school. I found it somewhat helpful, but if you’ve been taking German at the U I’d probably skip it. I would also recommend participating in the “buddy network,” which is a program that pairs up exchange students with Austrian students at WU. My buddy was very helpful in answering all kinds of questions and we became good friends. It’s also a good way of meeting Austrian students at WU. The orientation meeting before the semester started was pretty helpful. After the meeting you’re going to want to get your student ID and activate it. Activation requires paying a fee (I think 15 euros) using an Austrian bank card. Since few exchange students have a bank card at this point, most people had their buddy pay with their card and then repaid them with cash. Housing: Most exchange students at WU stay in one of several dorms around the city. I stayed at Haus Doebling, although I would definitely not recommend it since there are much nicer options available at around the same price. I think either Haus Erasmus or Haus Panorama is the best place to stay. Most people in Haus Erasmus are exchange students, and I think several floors at Haus Panorama are devoted to exchange students as well. Haus Panorama is close to the university campus. Haus Erasmus is a little farther from campus but is closer to the city center. I’d strongly advise against staying in Haus Europa, since it’s a very long ways from the campus and city center. In order to maximize the chances of getting you’re first choice, make sure to submit the housing application early. Meals: I cooked most of my meals in my dorm kitchen (there aren’t cafeterias in the dorms). On campus there is a cafeteria, called the Mensa, where I ate lunch sometimes, although it is a little pricey. Usually if I was on campus I bought a sandwich at the Anker Bakery near the main building. There are also several kebab stands around campus that are relatively cheap. Transportation: The public transportation system in Vienna is really top-notch. You’re best option is to buy the semester card at one of the main subway or train stations. This card is good on all subways, trams, buses, and express trains (S-Bahns) for the entire semester. While the card is expensive (128 euros during fall 2007), it is definitely worthwhile. The subways run very frequently so you’ll rarely need to wait more than a few minutes. Trams and buses are also very convenient, and using a combination of the above you can get virtually anywhere in the city. If you plan on traveling anywhere by train, you’re probably going to want to buy the 20 euro “Vorteilskarte”. I think they’re available at any of the train stations (I bought mine at the West Bahnhof). The card gets you substantial discounts on train tickets in Austria. If you’re thinking of traveling elsewhere in Europe I’d recommend looking into some of the discount airlines. Sky Europe seems to be one of the major ones flying out of Vienna, and I used them to fly to Krakow, Poland for only 35 euro roundtrip. Student Activity Groups: The buddy network at WU holds a number of events throughout the semester, such as evenings at a heuriger, a traditional Viennese restaurant. The buddy network (which is part of the ÖH, or student union) also organizes several trips during the semester to various destinations in that part of Europe. In fall/winter semester there are usually trips to Munich for Oktoberfest, Budapest, Prague, and a ski trip to the Alps. During the spring/summer semester I think there are trips to Venice, Krakow, Prague and a ski trip (not quite sure since I was there in the fall). The trip signups take place in the ÖH building on campus. If you are considering going on a trip, it’s a good idea to signup when the registration first opens, since some trips fill up fast. There is a cancellation period during which you can get your deposit back if you decide not to go. Host Country Culture: Surpises/Insights: Having previously visited Vienna several years ago, there weren’t any major surprises for me regarding Austrian culture. One obvious difference from the U.S. is that business hours are much shorter. (Apparently, Austria’s laws regarding store opening hours are some of the most restrictive in Europe.) Banks close for a while during the lunch hour and generally close for the day around 3 pm. Grocery stores are open longer, usually until 6 or 7 pm on weekdays and a little earlier on Saturdays; they’re closed on Sundays. This isn’t a big deal; it just takes some getting used to. Another very minor but interesting cultural difference is that the Viennese rarely jaywalk. If the crosswalk light is red, people won’t cross, even if there isn’t any traffic in sight and it’s not a major street. It’s funny to watch a whole crowd of people standing around until eventually someone rebellious crosses and suddenly everyone follows. What are your recommendations for ways that other exchange students can learn about and become immersed in the culture? I agree with some of the previous participants who said that with all of the other exchange students around it can be hard getting to know Austrian students. For me, the best way to meet Austrians was by participating in the buddy network. I became friends with several Austrians after being introduced to them by my buddy. I was also lucky enough to end up with Austrians in most of my classes and was able to work with some of them on group projects. Did you have the chance to learn a second language? Why or why not? My German definitely improved over the semester, but I agree with some of the previous participants that it can be somewhat challenging to develop your language skills if you’re not already fluent. Many of the other exchange students, most are from elsewhere in Europe, speak little or no German. This means that English is the most commonly used language for exchange students. I participated in the two-week intensive course that took place before the semester started. On the first day you will take a placement exam. The classes meet for three hours a day over the two weeks. Another option is the tandem learning program, where students are paired with a native speaker of the target language (probably German, but I think there were opportunities for several other languages as well). I did not participate, but it sounded like it would be a good way to improve you language skills. Social Life: How would you rate your integration with other students from the host university? While you’ll probably have to make more of an effort to get to know Austrian students, I found that I was able to become friends with several of them through participating in the buddy network and talking to Austrians in my classes. How would you rate your integration with other international students? I’d say my integration with other international students was excellent. Whether it was in the dorms, the orientation program, classes, or one of the buddy network trips, it was very easy to get to know other exchange students. Talking to people from all over Europe, as well as from many other parts of the world, was a great experience. As exchange students, everyone is in a new and unfamiliar situation, so people are very open and friendly. In many ways, it’s like being a freshman all over again. What were some of the best ways you found to make friends and meet people at the host university? There’s certainly no shortage of ways to meet people at WU. Beginning with the orientation and culture program and the language course, I met many people before the semester even started. Classes are another place where you’re definitely going to meet lots of people. Other good ways were to take part in one or more of the Buddy Network trips and the events the Buddy Network holds throughout the semester, such as the outings to traditional Viennese restaurants. What kinds of after-hours and weekend activities would you recommend for other students? Vienna seems to have something for everybody. There are all kinds of interesting museums, concerts, theater performances, and Opera. The ÖH holds WU nights at the Kaiko Club near campus every Monday, which is also a good way to meet people. I’d suggest thinking about what places in Austria and in nearby countries you’d like to visit. There are countless places in the region that make great weekend trips (Innsbruck, Salzburg, Budapest, and Prague to name just a few). It’s easy to talk to people and get a small group together to check out one of these places. Like I mentioned above, if you are traveling by train it’s a good idea to buy a Vorteilskarte to get big discounts on tickets. Other: Budgeting: how much would you recommend students take with them? How much would you say would be the monthly living expenses in the city you lived in including rent/food/misc. expenses? Unfortunately, the unfavorable exchange rate will really eat into your budget. While I was in Vienna, during fall 2007, the exchange rate hovered at well over $1.45 to the euro. Nevertheless, it’s possible to create a budget and keep the trip affordable. Fixed costs like housing are obviously easier to incorporate into a budget. My dorm rent was 250 euro per month, so my housing costs were 1,250 euro plus an administrative fee paid on moving out. Travel expenses will vary depending on where and how much you travel. I would recommend budgeting a minimum of 2,000 euro for travel. For transportation in Vienna, I probably spent about 150 euro total (128 for the semester card plus some for transportation tickets prior to the start of the semester). Groceries were roughly 40 per week. Entertainment and going out is highly variable, but I’d figure roughly 200 per month, although this may be higher depending on how much you eat out. There are also a number of miscellaneous expenses such as laundry, toiletries and a variety of other things that come up, so maybe figure 50 euro per month for that. While on the topic of money, one thing to watch is the fee your bank will charge you to make foreign atm withdrawals. Before you leave for Europe, call your bank and find out how much they charge. Many exchange students decided to open a bank account in Vienna in order to avoid these charges. I didn’t do this, but it might be a good idea since the bank fees really add up. Do you have suggestions on the types of students who would be well suited to this program? Having at least some knowledge of the German language is a plus, but it’s definitely not essential. Really, I’d say anyone interested in studying abroad in Europe would be well-suited to this program. Vienna is a great city, and its location makes it ideal for anyone wanting to travel in Central or Eastern Europe. There seem to be a wide array of courses available in English, so I think someone of any major could work it into their program. Did you need a visa to enter the country? If so, how did you apply for one and how long did it take to receive? You will need a visa to spend a semester in Austria. This is fairly easy to obtain from the Austrian consulate in Chicago (you do not need to apply in person). When I called the consulate to ask some questions (312-222-1515), I found them to be very friendly and helpful. After sending in the application and supporting documents, along with my passport, I received the visa in about one week. The visa was free (I think this is the case for all U.S. citizens). The website for the Austrian consulate in Chicago is www.austria-chicago.org. What recommendations would you give to other CSOM students going on this program (to bring, to wear, etc.)? Vienna has a more moderate climate than Minnesota, but you’re still going to want to bring warm clothes if you’re there in winter. Summers are similar to Minnesota, meaning it can get very hot. In general, I would bring casual clothing; I did not ever need to dress formally for presentations, like you might at Carlson. If you’re taking finance, accounting or any kind of quantitative courses, definitely bring a calculator--they’re quite expensive over there. General recommendations for study abroad: My biggest recommendation for study abroad would be to not hesitate about doing it, whether in Vienna or elsewhere. It’s unlikely you’ll have this kind of opportunity again, so take advantage of it while you can! I’d also recommend using the experience as an opportunity to travel. Trust me, it’s money well spent. What resources did you use to plan your trip or semester travels that you think other students should know about? I used www.skyeurope.com to check into discount flights out of Vienna. There are other discount carriers available, but Sky Europe seemed to be the biggest in Vienna. If you want some general information about the city, http://info.wien.at is a pretty good website geared towards tourists. For airline tickets from the US to Vienna, you should visit STA Travel at Coffman. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 612-616-1090. I highly recommend this program, and I’d be happy to talk to anyone that wants more information.
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