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From Bosnia to Austria

Having the right mindset is the key to happiness and success. TU Graz Student Ambassador Dzenana Gazibegovic offers tips to students who are thinking about leaving their home country to study abroad. © Jungwirth – TU Graz

Two and a half years ago I came to Graz where I study at TU Graz. In this time I have learned so much – not only about mechanical engineering but also about the right mindset for this big change. Let me share my Top 5 Tips with you.

I have always known that I will not stay in my home country my whole life. I wasn’t always sure where, when and for how long I was going to go (and still I am not), but I knew that there is more to see and experience in the world than just the things we have in the places where we were born.
The reason why visiting other countries and living there is such a great self-development tool is because it extricates you from the values of your own culture and shows you that another society can live with entirely different values and still function and love each other.
After only two and a half years in Austria, where I study at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz), I have already learned so much and would love to share my Top 5 Tips with you so you can boost your experience here as well:

Don’t listen to what other people tell you

In our lives we have to make decisions on a daily basis. Some of those decisions are really basic like “What am I going to wear today?”, but some of them are of bigger importance like: “Should I move to Austria or not?”, “What should I study?” etc. Big or small, the decisions that we make impact our lives, and if we just blindly follow the advices of the people around us and absorb everything that they say (especially the negative attitudes) we will never be able to make the right choices for ourselves and feel happy about them. Others don’t live your life for you, you do.

Tip 1: Follow your own instincts, no matter if it is for small or big decisions.

Unfortunately, I was also surrounded by people with a negative outlook about life in Austria. But now when I look back I am so happy that I followed my own instincts, which brings me to my next tip:

Nothing is as hard as they say

Yes, of course, moving to a new country is hard, maybe you don’t know anyone, maybe you don’t speak the language, maybe you don’t know where to live, but trust me, there is always a way. Austria is a developed European country where the system actually does work. The biggest pro of being a student here is that the University actually cares about its students and there is always someone you can ask for help if you are not sure about something, especially if you just got here.

Tip 2: There is always someone at the university you can ask for help if you are not sure about something. At TU Graz, for example, you can contact the "International Office – Welcome Center", which offers support for students from abroad who are pursuing a degree programme.

German is NOT that hard

Although TU Graz students in the master’s programmes taught in English are not required to have a proof of German language proficiency I would still highly recommend you to learn some German because you will indeed be living here, not just studying.
If you are a Slavic native speaker just as I am you are really lucky, because you can speak one of the hardest languages to learn in Europe. As a Slavic speaker it will be much easier for you to learn German than it would be for an Austrian to learn Bosnian for example.

Tip 3: Even if it is not required for your studies, I would highly recommend you to learn some German because you will indeed be living here. For more information about German courses, please contact the International Office – Welcome Center.

Since I am studying for a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Business Economics at TU Graz, I had to have a C1 level certificate, so I spent my first semester here in a German course. People told me silly things like “The exam is really hard, you can’t do it in just one semester, they will make you fail on purpose...”. All I can say to that is that I went from A2 level of German to C1 in 4 months. And all I did was do my homework regularly and write my texts.
Don’t let other people’s opinion about themselves influence your perfomance and your beliefs.
P.S.: Even if you sometimes use der or das wrongly, no-one will care

Choose your studies for yourself, not for others

 “A girl, a woman, studying in such a man’s field...” You bet I get that a lot. But I love my studies and I couldn’t have chosen anything better for myself. The math, the physics, the technology, I enjoy it all. Yes, there will definitely be tough times while studying and things that don’t really interest you that much, no matter what you choose, but if you choose your studies for yourself you will have a purpose which will lead you through those times. TU Graz has really great study programmes that allow you to be creative, to explore and to learn from the biggest experts in the field. And if you need help deciding what the best choice for yourself would be, you can always contact our Student Advisory Service. They will be more than happy to help you.

Tip 4: Do not hesitate to choose a field of study in technology or natural science as a woman, if you feel it is the best choice for you. If you need help deciding, contact the Student Advisory Services.

People in Austria are NOT cold

A typical Balkan stereotype about Austria and northern countries in general is that people here are cold. I have heard that many times before and after I moved here, and I can definitely assure you that that’s not the case. Everywhere you go there will be people who fit your personality and those who don’t. That is also true in your home-country. I mean, there are definitely cultural differences, but as long both sides are open-minded and understanding you will not be having any problems. It is also important how you present yourself and what attitude you have. If you come here and only hang out with the people from your home-country you firstly won’t learn anything new and you will miss out on so many opportunities that are available here. If you want to succeed in another country, you have to integrate, because no-one knows all the possibilities offered here better than people who were born and raised in Austria.

Tip 5: Try to integrate – if you only hang out with the people from your home-country you won’t learn anything new.

I personally have been having lovely experiences with the people in Austria. Colleagues and acquaintances became my close friends and I learned that the stereotypes could not have been further from the truth. At the end of the day we are all humans, we can all love, get angry, and we all have the need for food, security and appreciation.
I am very grateful for all the experiences that I’ve had here and for all the experiences that are yet to come, and truly wish for you that your experience in Austria will be as good to you, as mine was for me.

“...Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” (Robert Lee Frost)

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