Hi! I`m Laura and before going to Austria I was studying Product Development and Engineering in Tallinn University of Technology. Studying aboard had always been in my mind, but I always thought about excuses why I should not do that. For instance: how I can manage living aboard alone, being away from parents and friends, is my English good enough etc.In previous years my family took an exchange student to live with us and also I have been in California with work and travel program. These experiences have been really life changing for me and I started to dream bigger and I had new goals and challenges in my mind. I was thinking that if I´m not trying then I do not have a chance at all. So I decided to look for study programmes aboard and started to apply. And here I am right now. Since October 2015 I am doing my master degree in the University of Upper Austria in Innovation and Product Management.
Every new beginning is difficult…
The main difficulties that I have faced here in Austria are finding accommodation, overcoming the language barrier, missing my family and friends – and finally: the school system.
First, when I arrived here I thought that finding an apartment it is not difficult, because I have experience with it in a foreign country and I expected that within 1 week it is possible. However it turned out to be more complicated, but I managed with help of a coordinator from the university. It was difficult to find the suitable option at first because agencies don`t want to rent for a short period of time, they tend not to trust foreign students – especially the ones who don`t speak the local language. Therefore I have learned that the easiest and cheapest way to find accommodation in Upper Austria is to use connections or check the advertisements at the university. The prices here are different than in Estonia. For instance the deposit in Estonia is usually one month of rent, but here it is at least 1000 euros and sometimes you need to pay extra for furniture or for the agency. The minimum rent normally is around 300-400 euros, but as students here are living together and sharing the expenses then it is not so expensive. At first sight food and public transport also seem much more expensive than in Estonia. Luckily over time I have learnt how to get things at a cheaper price.
The language barrier is another challenge I have faced here. At first it was hard to do my documents, because people in the city hall did not speak or were afraid to speak English. And due to the reason that I have not studied German before it was difficult to explain everything. I was using words what I knew and body language to make myself clear. And sometimes when they do reply to me in English, I feel the misunderstandings are easy to come, because the languages are so different as well as we have cultural differences. It is always easier to communicate in the native language – if you have studied one! 🙂
And of course, when being away from home for a longer time, you miss out on family celebrations and are not able to talk with friends all the time. To cope with being homesick is sometimes difficult. At the same time I have learnt how valuable every relationship is and distance can make them stronger. Going home to visit everyone has made me understand how lovely place Estonia is. Even if I am there only for a week, I am appreciating every moment of it!
The differences in the school system have been most confusing and difficult to get used to. The schedule is changing a lot, so days and weeks can be different. Although my flexible study hours prevent from falling into boring routine, it makes it more challenging to find a suitable job. All the subjects here mainly finish with the exam and exams are done during the semester (when you have daily lectures going on). I guess during two semesters I have done more exams than during my Bachelor studies…
And yes, there is ALWAYS a positive side
- First of all, meeting many new people from different nationalities. For instance in my course everyone is from a different country, so it is really mixed nationalities. I have got good friends from countries where I never expected and these contacts will stay forever.
- At lectures we very often have group works. Obviously it is challenging to work with different nationalities and personalities, but this is what is really preparing for real life and future jobs. Also, lectures with professionals from worldwide companies are adding extra value. Hearing about their experience, bringing a lot of examples and sharing practical knowledge has given me possibility to compare it with the companies in Estonia, how different it can be.
- Austria is in middle of Europe and this gives a possibility to travel a lot.
- The nature of Austria is amazing! Even travelling within Austria I have experienced incredible things, for example seen snow even in the summertime (in the mountains), heard how the language can differ so much because of the dialect, tasted the local food, learned about the national clothes etc. It has taught me a lot about the culture and people.
- Finally, I would say that the main benefit what I have got here is to learn about myself and grow as person. Whether I want it or not, I constantly find myself in new situations or in situations that make me uncomfortable. It is totally different if I would be in same situation in Estonia, because in Estonia I know where to get things, how people can react to things and how things are working. But here I am thrown out of my comfort zone and I need to manage everything on my own. This has given me an opportunity to learn about myself, grow as a person and what is even more important: see my future bigger. I cannot wait to see what this experience will offer for me next!
The world is open! Forget your fears and dream bigger!