Are you unsure whether you should go for an Erasmus+ stay abroad despite COVID-19? I had the same thought and was very worried!
I've been in Finland on Erasmus+ for a month now and I can already say it was the best decision! Life is so much more fun - they do have some measures, but it's not comparable to a lockdown in Austria. I can go for coffee, explore the city and the university courses are online. Because the professors here include the students in all classes and everyone is on a first-name basis, it's very relaxed and fun.
After my arrival, I was in self-isolation for 14 days, during these days the Welcome Week was held online and we received a nice welcome. The exchange coordinators are very helpful in all matters!
I would recommend everyone to move into a large student residence to get to know other Erasmus+ students. This is my second time abroad, the experiences you get are priceless, and you get to know your own cultural background and yourself in a wonderful way.
Sara Haas, Erasmus+ SS 2021, University of Helsinki, Finland
In October 2020 the University of Calgary, a partner university of TU Graz, offered students a great opportunity to “go abroad” while staying at home and working on engaging projects. I had applied and was chosen to be a part of one of the teams in the Global Community Challenge YYC. This was a great experience to be randomly teamed up with people from all over the world and to work under time pressure on the difficult topic of social integration and inclusive philanthropy.
I have gained a lot of insights into subjects and methods different from the material I am learning at university and I am really happy I could make a positive impact on the local society of Calgary despite not leaving Graz.”
Dariia Korotka, participant at the UCalgary Global Community Challenge YYC, WS2020
Together with her team Dariia could win the third price in this challenge. Congratulations! The University of Calgary plans to offer this challenge again in 2021. There will be another call in January 2021!
At the end of March 2020, I was surprised by a phone call from the Japanese embassy in Austria that I have 24 hours to leave Austria and enter Japan. Otherwise, the Japanese government would cancel all foreigner visas. Back at this time, no one knew the extent and consequences of Covid-19. Almost everybody I knew advised me against leaving.
Nevertheless, I decided to go.
A few hours after the phone call, I sat in the airplane to go to Tokyo with barely any things prepared nor packed. The decision to go was probably one of the most impactful decisions in my life! I ended up in a very motivated research team. Due to hard work and the immense support of my supervisors, I won a research prize at an international conference. Also, by the end of my stay, I am going to publish my first paper!
Tobias Kugel, OverSEAs SS 2020 & Research Abroad, WS2021, University of Tokyo, Japan
I planned my exchange term in the shadow of the global pandemic. Currently I am very happy that I eventually made it to Taipei. At the time I applied for a spot at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (ntust.edu.tw) there was no trace of the upcoming global pandemic. Due to this pandemic, it has been very difficult to obtain a visa for Taiwan and most students did not get a visa to enter. Luckily, I figured out a way to get a visa!
The moment I arrived at the Taoyuan Airport in Taipei I found a mail in my inbox: “Cancellation of Exchange Program”. Deeply shocked I called my University If I can still conduct my exchange term. With help of the international office in Graz and my host university we found a way that I can start my exchange term in Taipei, which claims to have total control over the pandemic and no local infections.One of my main goals here in Taipei is to improve my Mandarin to a point where I can make conversation fluently. A lot of students in Taiwan study German so I could easily find language partners.
If you ask yourself „When is the best point in time to conduct an exchange term?” then I can confidently inform you that there is probably no perfect timing. Just apply now if you want to enrich your studies with great experiences abroad.
Raffael Kainersdorfer, OverSEAs, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taiwan, WS 2020
I arrived, settled and prepared the apartment for the coming months. As soon as I felt really comfortable in 'Down Under', I was told by the other side of the world to come home. "No, I'll get through this" were my first thoughts. However, it only took a few days before I experienced consequences in my new favourite city.
Yes, COVID-19 was a real fun spoiler for me and shortened my stay abroad from over five months to just one and a half month. Even though I can live very well with my decision to catch the next possible plane and return to Austria, I often feel sad when I think about how my semester could be if COVID-19 did not happen. The positive thing about this exceptional situation is that I was still able to do my research work as planned. After all, all tutorials at RMIT were conducted online, which for me only meant that my experiment took place at two o'clock in the morning for me. Now I have no choice except for enduring the whole situation until the next opportunity arises to start this adventure again!
Martin Sackl, Research Abroad, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, SS 2020
I chose my program, sent out my application for my stay abroad and made all the necessary preparations. It was all going according to plan. I arrived in Calgary, Canada, on January 2. The lectures were held in quite a similar manner to those here in Graz, so I didn’t really struggle with the Canadian teaching methods that much. I guess so far the experience was pretty much the same for all exchange students in Calgary until news about this „Coronavirus“ broke. What is that? We’re safe here, right? Or so we thought!
The news reports kept coming and coming and all lectures and exams were substituted to be exclusively online faster than you can say „global pandemic“. A week later however we received an e-mail from Residential Services urging all domestic students to leave the residences and return home. This was the point when we knew it was time to go home.
I´m contemplating now, if I would do it all again. All the new friends and experiences that I have made these past three months, I will never forget. I would definitely go on exchange again if I ever have a chance to do so.
Nicklas Gattringer, overSEAs exchange, UCalgary, Canada, SS 2020
I started my semester abroad in Malaysia at UTP in December 2019. At first, we were not very much aware of the upcoming pandemic, although the number of cases in neighbouring Singapore was already increasing. At the beginning of March, the host university also reacted and asked us to avoid travel to high-risk areas such as Singapore.
As sson as the first measures were introduced against COVID-19, I decided to return immediately back home. Fortunately, air traffic was not yet severely restricted and so I was able to get a ticket for a flight for the very next day. The same evening my host university announced that from now on classes would only be continued online. Just as I was sitting in the plane, I read in the news about the upcoming complete lockdown of Malaysia and was glad that I had started my journey back home in time.
At home I could attend the lectures online. The exams were cancelled and replaced by written essays. Despite my early return I was able to gain many new and wonderful experiences, for which I am very grateful.
Luna Lehmann, overSEAs exchange, UTP, Malaysia, SS 2020
I have been in Chile for 10 months now, as I decided to prolong my stay from winter semester to summer semester. At the beginning of March, when the first tightening measures were already taken in Europe, it was still rather quiet in Chile. With the first 100 new infections also the first regulations came into effect: Curfew from 10pm to 5am, wearing a mask, maximum number of people in supermarkets, disinfectant and fever measurement, closed shops, ...
There are only online courses, but they are only occasionally held. Communication and online course registration at USM is difficult in the current situation. I am really happy to live outside of Valparaíso, next to the sea, as it is allowed to go outside and go on some trips. In other regions of Chile there are stricter restrictions to leave the house. Despite this exceptional situation, I am still glad to be able to finish my semester in Chile.
Valerie Hollstein, overSEAs exchange, Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Chile, Academic year 2019/20
I had roughly 2 months left from my stay in New Zealand, when the lockdown due to COVID-19 came into place. Aotearoa - that’s the Maori name for the country and means “land of the long white cloud” - turned out to be a safe haven, only affected very little by the virus. Even though the unexpected turn of events I chose to continue my research in New Zealand. In May, I had a meeting with my supervisor from the University of Auckland via Zoom, to present my current work. I’m now diving deeper into the topic than ever imagined and I could not do this further research to the same extend in Graz. I will soon have the chance to visit an important site and publish an online article, which means I’m actually able to raise awareness on my thesis. Through this, I will certainly be able to finish a master thesis, which is a valuable contribution to my field of expertise, in particular to Architecture.
Laura Feller, Research Abroad, The University of Auckland, New Zealand, SS 2020
My semester abroad started in February. At that time the Corona Virus still seemed to be nothing to worry about. The general opinion was that the virus is going to be condemned and everything is going to be normal soon. In the middle of March after the first cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the area, the public opinion shifted and besides other measures the university closed and education continued online. One week later a lock down for the whole country was proclaimed by the government. One of my main goals for the exchange semester was to study and practice the Russian language but it proved to be impossible due to the social distancing. After my return in Graz I'm still taking part in online lectures at Tomsk Polytechnic University. Although I had to leave early I’m still thinking I’ve learned a lot from the two months I spent in Russia.
Alexander Pamler, overSEAs exchange, Tomsk Polytechnic University, Russia, SS 2020
In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Valencia as a destination for a semester abroad. The registration process and course selection can be very time-consuming, but all this is already forgotten in the first week. Erasmus organisations such as ESN, Happy Erasmus and Erasmus Life offer day trips to nearby places, weekend trips to e.g. Barcelona or Madrid and even longer trips at appropriate times throughout the semester.
I was often asked before this semester why I go to Spain in the winter semester and not in the summer semester and I would like to mention that in my opinion there is no disadvantage in this. In the "colder" time (no comparison to Austria) there is also no reason to feel restricted and both autumn and winter are incredibly beautiful in Spain.
Pfeifer Thomas, Erasmus+ exchange, Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, Spain , WS 2019/20
Montclair is a lovely little town in the state of New Jersey, USA and home to Montclair State University. The university itself is very modern, the courses are instructive and the professors are very helpful, no matter what issues you have. lt was a great opportunity to meet other people, make new friends and get to know other cultures. My classmates were very welcoming which made it a lot easier to settle in. Numerous activities and events were offered at the campus. Applying for a year abroad was one of the best decisions of my life. I made new friends from all over the world, improved my language skills and will definitely benefit from this experience for a lifetime, both personally and academically.
Kevin Karner-Rühl, Montclair State Scholarship, USA, Academic year 2018/19
Starting with the very large, enclosed university campus (including libraries, dormitories, event and sports grounds, parks etc) the different style of lectures, up to the numerous student clubs on campus, which also play an important role here. It has to be pointed out that in Korea everything is done in a very orderly and especially friendly way. Even outside the university this is very noticeable in everyday life and makes it easier to get started. Apart from all the cool people you meet, friendships you make, things you see and experiences you collect together on the way, I personally enjoyed the experience of being away from the familiar surroundings, friends and daily routines. My time abroad has given me a completely different perspective on a lot of things and literally broadened my personal horizon. Daring to spend a semester abroad - especially in a world as different as Korea - is worth every effort.
Stefan Berer, overSEAs exchange, Inha University, South Korea, WS 2019
I have always had a great interest in Finland, partly because of its nature and good educational standards. Before your stay you will be assigned a tutor by the host university to help you with your arrival in Tampere and at the university. How exactly this support looks like depends mainly on the commitment of the tutors. The rest of the information worth knowing is all given by the university before the stay.
On the positive side, it should be pointed out that for most of the courses there are 5 ECTS, but the effort involved is more like a 3 ECTS course at Graz University of Technology. For many courses, the final exam must also be taken as a so-called electronic exam, in special computer rooms at the university, which allows you to schedule your exam date exactly to the hour within a particular period of time.
Tobias Frötscher, Erasmus+ exchange, Tampere University, Finland, SS 2019