A 3rd year student of the International Regional Studies programme at the Faculty of International Relations of VSU, Maria Afanasieva, completed a semester at the University of Applied Sciences FH JOANNEUM in Graz, Austria. She attended classes by teachers from Algeria, India, the USA, and other countries, improved her German and met students from all over the world. We asked her to tell us about her experience.
I studied at the University of Applied Sciences FH JOANNEUM in Graz on the programme “Global business” from February to the end of June 2022. I can say that these were some of the most memorable months in my university years.
About the programme
Each course lasted one or two weeks. During this time, we immersed completely in the course, studying interesting cases, making presentations, and organising round table discussions. We could choose from 10 courses, of which I successfully completed 7. They were courses in international management, including “International consumer behaviour”, “Information, global competition, and organisation”, “International strategic management”, “Management of SMEs under deconstructive conditions”, “Strategic innovations in developing markets”, “Cross-cultural management”, and “Cross-cultural negotiations”.
For me personally, it was a great advantage that teachers came from all over the world: Algeria, India, the USA, Turkey, and France. In February I was also lucky to take part in the orientation programme. The staff of the international department spent three weeks to help us prepare all the required documents, choose the insurance, open bank accounts and register with local municipal institutions. I also attended an intensive course in the German language.
In the afternoon we could attend German language classes. The university offered us a wide choice of classes depending on the level and the purpose (e.g. Austrian, German, Business German, German for Presentations, etc.). I completed a course in speaking, listening, grammar, writing, and reading. In June I decided to take an internationally recognised Austrian exam ÖSD for level B1, which I passed successfully. An ÖSD certificate enables you to work for an international company or to obtain Austrian citizenship.
To learn about other cultures I attended four classes on the programme “Cultural meetings”, where international students talked about their traditions, customs, national cuisine, and holidays. If you want to practice German or learn more about the Austrian culture, there is also a tandem programme, which involves watching movies or just hanging out with the locals. I also attended classes on “The variability of cultures”, which promoted being more attentive to the representatives of other nations and religions. There were also guided tours. We had a walking tour of Graz, visited the art museum, the weapons museum, the Zotter chocolate factory, and the Gölles factory of vinegars and spirits.
As to other, non-material, results of my internship, I learned a lot of interesting things about many countries, including Columbia, Austria, Mexico, Peru, Slovenia, France, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Italy, Albania, Namibia, Burkina Faso, Finland, Hungary, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. Hanging out with international students broadened my mind and taught me to seek an individual approach to every culture. I also learned that there are a lot of people all over the world who have similar views. There were only international students on my programme, so I learned a lot about other cultures, languages, countries, and national mentalities.
Travelling in Austria
Travelling was an important part of my internship. I was lucky that when I went to Austria they began lifting the lockdown. However, I still needed a Covid-19 vaccination certificate to travel around Austria. I had had two shots of Sputnik before, so I made the antigen test and ended up having only a booster shot. I visited a lot of cities in Austria: Vienna, Salzburg, Frohnleiten, and Hallstatt. Of course, I walked a lot around Graz. My internship was part of the Erasmus project, and they also organised a lot of events and offered a tandem programme. Thus, I ascended mount Plabutsh at the height of 370 meters above the sea level. I love mountains, and this trip provided me with a lot of emotions and memories. Austria has wonderful nature. I feel that five months was not enough to enjoy the scenery. However, the weather is very changeable. It might snow and rain, and then sun comes out, all in one day.
I can hardly find words to say how grateful I am to the university and to my faculty for such a great opportunity. This is not just about new knowledge. This is about a unique experience which changes your personality, teaches you to be independent, to find solutions in stressful situations, to overcome cultural and language barriers, and to get a different perspective of the world.