Elisabeth Salomon studies telematics at TU Graz, Ko Odreitz started with biomedical engineering and changed over to electrical engineering two semesters later. In the face-to-face interview they remember when they themselves started their studies and talk about the big excitements, unsettling obstacles and important help.
News+Stories: What was your first week at TU Graz like?
Elisabeth: I was occupied most of the time trying to find my way around the city and the different campus locations. I was also very excited about the first lecture. I was scared that it would start at a very demanding pace and that I’d miss the beginning. In actual fact introductions to the lectures were held and teaching material recommended. Everything was much more pleasant than I thought.
Ko: I didn’t know anyone and was very nervous. During the Welcome Days, the general introductory event for first semester students, I felt a bit lost on day one, but on day two everything went much better. I can really recommend all newcomers to go there.
What were the biggest obstacles and the most important help at the beginning of your studies?
Elisabeth: The paperwork at the beginning disconcerted me. It was strange to be thrown back on yourself, to have to deal yourself with the study plan and the exams. But you’re not alone. I got to know colleagues very quickly at the tutorial for first semester students. And they continued to help later when I had difficulties studying or doing the exercises. But you have to motivate yourself. And some topics in the study programme are interesting and others not so interesting.
Not only learning problems, but Administrative matters also have to be dealt with. Introductory events such as the Welcome Days or the first semester tutorial can help further.
Ko: Just before I started my studies I had to decide whether to stay in a hall of residence, a shared flat or find my own apartment. And then the next steps: sign a tenancy agreement, deal with the household by myself, calculate the fixed costs of the rent, electricity, heating and living – at “Hotel Mama” you don’t have to do any of this. The family allowance was 220 euros. I calculated 150 to 200 euros per month just for food. And your social life: you can become lonely very quickly in a strange city. That’s why it’s very important to make contacts right at the beginning of your studies. It helps to be able to organise yourself well, to get the best out of the limited funds you have and to use your own initiative.
It was strange to be thrown back on yourself, to have to deal yourself with the study plan and the exams. But you’re not alone.
Where and how do you prefer to study?
Ko: I like studying late at night at home. If I want to study in a group, I use the study centre at the Inffeldgasse Campus. You can meet like-minded people there. What is amazing is that the rooms are open 24/7, even on Sundays.
Elisabeth: I prefer to prepare myself for exams at home in peace. When it comes to learning something, it’s important to know what type of learner your are. If I learn something easiest in a group, do I have to hear it to understand it, or is it enough for me just to read it?
How long did it take you to settle down in Graz?
Elisabeth: I settled down very fast in Graz. The city isn’t too big and has an easy-going flair. I find it great that everything is easily accessible with the bike or public transport.
Ko: At the beginning, I didn’t find the city very inviting, but now I enjoy the many green areas. I like walking along Herrengasse up Sporgasse to the Schloßberg, going past ice-cream parlours... And I was surprised at the variety of people – also at uni. I don’t meet these types of people at home in Veitsch in Upper Styria. (laughs)
What meetings should you not miss? What up to now have been the absolute highlights during your studies or generally in university life?
Elisabeth: That’s a hard question. There are loads of events and parties at the three TU Graz campuses where prices are matched to students’ financial means. One of the biggest parties takes place at the beginning of each winter semester. The TU Fest with free entry for first semester students is definitely worth a visit. If you like trying out new kinds of sports, you should look at the range of offers at the USI (University Sports Institute). They also have affordable courses there in archery and paragliding.
But no matter whether it’s a cool party, a good grade in a difficult subject or a sports adventure that you remember as a highlight, the whole period of study is a special time. Enjoy it with all the highs and lows!
Can you tell me three tips for newcomers when they start their studies?
- “The exam’ll definitely be really hard”: don’t listen to the moaners, but get an idea of it yourself.
- Go to lectures, place value on exercises, and prepare yourself well for exams.
- Even young adults are allowed to ask questions – of their family, of their friends, lecturers and themselves. Many students even change their field of study right at the beginning. There’s no shame in not having found the right study programme for yourself at age 18+ right away.
- Attend the Welcome Days and the tutorial for first semester students.
- Find out the right contact points and don’t be shy to ask – it’s the same for everyone at the beginning (:-).
- Don’t allow yourself to be put off by obstacles – just take a run-up.