Having lived in Kosovo her whole life, moving to Austria to study at TU Graz was life changing for Fjolla Hasani. She writes about overcoming the challenges of moving abroad and making friends, e.g. at social events.
Arriving in Graz as international student
Moving abroad and starting a new life where you do not know anyone seems exciting but it is also daunting. I remember arriving in Graz on a sunny September day, ready to take on whatever challenges life threw at me. But I definitely was not ready for the loneliness and culture shock of those first weeks. What I did not know then: Over the next months I would meet a lot of people, many of whom have now become really good friends.
I remember arriving in Graz on a sunny September day, ready to take on whatever challenges life threw at me.
Forming social connections as International
“It is better to have a friend than a farm” is an old Albanian saying. True to that saying, I believe having good friends in our lives is indispensable for us as human beings. With that in mind, I made it a point to socialise with people everywhere I went: in the dorm, at campus, TU Graz game evenings, Erasmus Student Network (ESN) events, or even TU Graz events. Moreover, I would also highly recommend the following activities:
Welcome Center of TU Graz
The first events I attended were the “International Welcome Days”, where I met many international people, who were doing their master's, PhD or Erasmus exchange. They were organised by the Welcome Center of Graz University of Technology (TU Graz). We had numerous workshops and activities that would help ease our integration in the TU Graz community. At these events I found wonderful friends with whom I still keep in touch. Sadly, most of them have left Graz because they were Erasmus students. Nevertheless, I subscribed to the Welcome Center emails and continued to join in with their enjoyable events throughout the year.
The first events I attended were the “International Welcome Days”, where I met many international people, who were doing their master's, PhD or Erasmus exchange. They were organised by the Welcome Center of Graz University of Technology (TU Graz).
University and University Sports Institute (USI)
In your university courses you can meet people with whom you will also be working in projects. Initially, it may seem easier to make friends with international people because most of the locals already have their groups of close friends. However, later on, you realize most Austrians are really friendly, albeit a bit shy starting conversations.
During a stressful semester, you can also do sports at the University Sports Institute. It offers hundreds of types of sports, ranging from aerobics to paragliding, so it has something for everyone, even for non-sporty people like me.
International students can also easily make contacts in sports. TU Graz student Fjolla Hasani tried archery.
NGOs and Clubs
Another way to meet new people and have fun is to join one of the different student teams at TU Graz. Depending on what your interests are, there are many options to choose from. My choice was BEST Graz (https://bestgraz.org/). I had always wanted to learn how an organisation operates. I learned a lot about management, NGO structures and organizing events like courses, job fairs or parties. But best of all, I found people who are like my second family now.
The experience of moving abroad is challenging and unique for everyone. Therefore, you can use all the suggestions above to meet and connect with like-minded people. No matter what, keep an open mind about trying new things, even if it sounds odd. It may turn out to be a good thing or an experience to learn from. In the end, not everyone will be your friend but the right ones will be. Amongst the difficulties and mixed emotions, you may realise it was all worth it, when you finally settle into your new home.