My journey began when I first arrived to Vienna International Airport, where I took a train to city of Graz. I was amazed by everything at that time after almost 4 months away from Europe, I was coming back my home town for summer holiday and family visit.
I had some help from local people with some information, and luckily one of them was sitting next to me on the trip to Graz. I could ask him everything that I wondered about Austria and Graz in particular. The trip took me around 3 hours to get to final destination, Graz Hauptbahnhof, the main railway station in city of Graz. It was easy to buy an Austrian phone sim card, so that I could call my tutor, who was helping me picking up my room key and taking me there. I didn’t know that I lived so close to the railway station, just 5 minute walk, which meant I could jump to any tram and explore the city easily as much as I could.
Finally the orientation week came; it was a huge happiness for me to meet some Finnish fellow students from Oulu and another one from Vaasa. We formed a group of 5 and made a lot of new friends from different continents, it took us few days to go through all the registrations and procedures but it was extremely helpful though. The school’s system was quite different from Oulu’s, maybe complicated but necessary.
The first impression on the orientation week was about food, we all agreed that food was delicious, and impressive. Everyone was fully charged for the first tour of the Orientation week – Schloss Eggenberg – World Heritage since 1999 by UNESCO. Surprisingly, the castle was just 15-20 minute walk from FH Joanneum. Everyone was so excited to see it. All i remembered that all of us as exchange students were amazed and stunned by its beauty and majesty. We barely listened to the tour guide, I heard a lot of WOWs and saw people taking photos. We were been leading through all the chambers in the castle, and admired how beautiful the castle was. One thing for sure was everyone was so happy and pleased to be there.
On the next trip, we were all eager to take part in the Zotter chocolate factory trip. Actually, it was a heavy rainy day and we had to cancel another tour to do hiking to the zoo, and we went straight to Zotter chocolate factory. It was about 45 minutes by bus, and we came to the famous chocolate factory not only in Styria but in Austria as well.
All of us were excited and ready to experience and try out some chocolate, but it took a while for the registration and they offered us some chocolate sample and dried grasshoppers. I myself used to try this back then, but for all of other students, they were shocked and surprised to this new thing. It must be a hard memory for them to eat grasshoppers.
We were all allowed to come inside the factory, try some raw cacao beans and not disappointed to find out how chocolate was made from Cacao beans. That was the first time in my life I found out that there were so many kinds of chocolate and I ate so much chocolate for a day, not only me did that though.
Pic 2. Chocolate fountain
The Styrian Armory Museum
The final tour in my orientation week was the Styrian Armoury museum. Located right in the city centre of Graz, the museum is 5 a storey-building, is the world’s largest historic armoury and attracts visitors from all over the world. It holds approximately 32,000 pieces of weaponry, tools, suits of armour for battle and ones for parades.
We all were excited to put on some suits of armour, and eventually the tour guide allowed and encouraged some of us to do so. None of us had seen anything like this before, we all were surprised by what we saw during the tour.
Pic 3. Museum
Eventually, I came to my new school and met new friends. I was nervous, and excited at the same time. I received so much help from all the teachers, and fellow students. It was always the same when you came to another country and people kept asking you same questions like “Why do you come here?” “How much you like Graz/ Austria?” – And I really enjoyed answering all the questions and of course the questions about where I come from, and where I study, about Oulu, Finland…
People were friendly and helpful, but the school was tough though. I was working way harder to catch up with all the knowledge I missed from the previous semester that full-time students were already been taught. Everyone treated me as a full-time student in the school, no exception, no excuses. The good thing was all knowledge I studied back then was really detailed, deep and professional which was useful for my future.
Unfortunately, not all the courses were in English, just a few of them. I only had to go with what they offered; somehow those courses were out of my knowledge and ability. In the beginning, I was expecting some Erasmus students just like me at school, but actually there were only 3 exchange students and I had a common course with a Spanish guy from Valencia who was really nice and encountering exactly the same problems like I was dealing.
View from the school
Explore the city
Unlike Finland, most of the shops will be closed on Sundays in Austria and I was lucky to know about that from a local friend. The good thing living in a shared apartment was you could meet people from different countries, and I was blessed to meet and make friends with wonderful friends from Czech Republic, Croatia, Italia, and Austria.
I had really good time and moments exploring the city with them to such famous places in the city like the Clock tower (Schlossberg), the big church (Mariatrost) or even some students’ parties and events where I found out local people loved to celebrate on Wednesdays as much as on Fridays. I might say I had the best time in my student life back then.
I was so happy that I met nice and good friends in Graz, exchange students and local students as well; we had been around the city experiencing Austrian food, drinks, and culture. I also had a chance to take a trip back to Vienna, the capital, when I had the Christmas holiday. I once again experienced something different; the city is huge, beautiful as I expected. I was like a child in a big city, but it was worthy for all of that after all.
Sharing knowledge and exchanging culture were always the best part of friend making and learning process. Growing up and keeping all the best memory of my journey to Austrian as an exchange student would be unforgettable.
Student Phuong Nguyen, BIT3SN