Jo Rattray-Wood shares her experience in starting her study abroad journey.
This semester I am studying abroad in Graz, Austria. I have been here for two weeks and it is already proving to be an amazing experience.
I first heard about the exchange experience very early in my degree, however when I sought some advice about going I was told I probably wouldn’t be able to fit an exchange semester with my double bachelor degree. For a year I gave up on my plans to do a semester abroad. Eventually, the travel bug caught up with me and I decided I had to find a way to go. I rearranged my whole double bachelor to be able to get all my law electives in one semester. I got additional approvals to take subjects differently to my course outline. It took a lot of time for me, even before the actual application process began.
La Trobe University has a huge number of exchange partners, but I wasn’t really interested in most of them. My grandparents were German, so I wanted to go to a Germanic country where I would be able to easily travel and visit distant relatives. We are lucky enough at La Trobe to be partnered with ISEP, which offers a huge number of additional exchange partners at pretty much the same cost. Amazing right? The application process is very similar as it is still coordinated by La Trobe.
Paperwork is never fun but the application process is there for a reason and it works – so definitely don’t be discouraged by due dates and the strict timeline because the study abroad staff are there every step of the way to help. My documents were due a little earlier than most other peoples because I applied with ISEP but that meant I was also the earliest to find out that my exchange semester had been approved and a place granted (yay!).
That brings me to me experience here so far. I am studying at the University of Graz in Austria – also known as Karl-Franzens University. It is the second largest city in Austria, but with only 270,000 people it is tiny in comparison to Melbourne. I am doing a 3-week intensive German course before my subjects begin in March. The first weekend I was very homesick. I spent a few days by myself at a hotel before I could move into my university housing. I was also very sick, so I didn’t get out of the hotel much. This made me pretty miserable. I tried to talk to family and friends when I could, but the time difference made it difficult. Things changed when I started getting better, because I wasn’t sick I could go out and meet people, which really improved my mood.
There are 70,000 students in Austria, which means there are always parties, pub nights and casual get-togethers on. I have met so many incredible people at the orientation days and already have a group trip booked to go to Budapest next week. Graz is really beautiful and I am so excited for everything the next 5 months has to offer! Check out the links below to learn more.
For more information about study abroad: http://www.latrobe.edu.au/students/opportunities/exchange
If you want to check out ISEP (which I highly recommend): https://www.isepstudyabroad.org
Jo Rattray-Wood is a travel enthusiast and a lover of all things dog related. She is currently studying a Double Bachelor of Law/Psychological Science in Austria. You can find photos of her travels (and beautiful Graz) on Instagram @jorattraywood or Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/joannerattraywood.