Austria: For Posterity

*DISCLAIMER*

The following is not an account of my adventures here in Europe, but a practical guide to navigating things here at Alpen Adria Universität (from here on AAU).  It can be rather complicated, and as the first ever Ole Miss student to come here, I thought it wise to give some advice and go through the steps in getting things settled here.

As a student enrolled though “Joint-Study”, you have to do everything yourself.  The international office wasn’t too clear on exactly what to do.  They provide a “checklist”, but it doesn’t give much in the way of logistics and doesn’t provide information on things like getting your visa , getting a gym membership (both covered again in another one of my blog entries), or navigating the public transportation.

In case anyone is totally new to studying abroad, I’ll just start from the very beginning to be sure I have all my bases covered.

APPLYING

  1. Apply for the program as early as possible.  The deadlines are super flexible, but it is always better to get things done as far ahead of time.
  2. Once you apply through study abroad, you have to make the initial application to the program.  Study abroad should be able to direct you to this application.
  3. After that, study abroad has to “nominate” you for the program.  Once that is done, AAU will send you the info and you will set up an official account.  There are some questions you have to answer and you have to upload official transcripts, your high school diploma, and your passport.
  4. Once all of that is finished and you submit your application, the international office at AAU will review your materials and tell you whether or not anything is wrong/missing.  If not, you’re good to go.

CLASSES

  1. Get your class approval written up and, well, approved as soon as possible.
  2. The class listings don’t show up for the semester until maybe a month or two before the semester even starts and most of them never even list the course descriptions, so getting this turned in in a timely manner is rather difficult.  My advice would be to have in mind what classes you need/want to take and write them down.  Then, once the classes are posted, see which ones match.  In regards to the class descriptions, sometimes you can look at the same class from past semesters and find a description there.
  3. IMPORTANT: you CANNOT register for classes until you are PHYSICALLY PRESENT on campus.  This was stressful, but luckily none of my classes were anywhere near close to full.  However, my advice is to get as many classes approved as possible in case something does fill up.  If you get 10 classes approved it doesn’t mean you have to take 10 classes of course, but it’s better to be safe and know that you will get credit for the class you are taking in case another one becomes unavailable.  I’ll mention this process in more detail later, since it really comes a bit later in the timeline.

HOUSING

  1. Since all of my stuff sort of got finished last minute, I decided to go through the housing company and works with the school (OeAD).
  2. If you go the same route I did, you will probably be asked if you want to arrange accommodation through OeAD.  Their site is here
  3. They are super easy to work with and very nice.  This however ties into getting an Austrian bank account, which I highly recommend.
  4. Before you leave however, you have to wire them a deposit from the US.  They will give you more details once you have everything set up.
  5. If housing is available, you can stay as long as you want/can.  I HIGHLY suggest getting to campus 2 weeks to a month early if you can because the registration process is long and can be stressful.  International students of course have some extra steps to go through and the paperwork and processing takes awhile.
  6. You can pre-order bedding, which I recommend, because the room does not come with any.  It is €36 which you can pay once you arrive.  You will be put in contact with the “landlord.”  It is very important that you tell them what day and time you plan on arriving as soon as you know, even if it is within their normal business hours.  You will receive information periodically up until close to when school starts.  Also, you will need to buy/bring all kitchen things.  NOTHING is made available to you so you MUST have your own.  You can make a trip to IKEA near the airport OR you can purchase some overpriced used stuff from STUDIS4STUDIES on Facebook. I went ahead and got the overpriced used junk because going to IKEA is a pain.  There is some stuff you can get at the City Arkaden in the Innenstadt like Tupperware, garbage bags, brooms etc.
  7. You will have to pay OeAD a €90 booking fee, which you will have to transfer.
  8. I suggest opening an Austrian bank account since OeAD only accepts bank transfers as payment.  Also, if you get the Joint-Study scholarship like I did, you will have to open a bank account anyway.
  9. There are three buildings that I am familiar with that the OeAD works with here in Klagenfurt: Nautilusweg 1 (the “9-month dorm”), Nautilusweg 2 (the “12-month dorm and where I stay), and Concordia.
    1. Nautilusweg 1 and 2 and directly across from the university.  The room layouts vary.  Mine, for example, is two separate bedrooms attached by a very small common area with a refrigerator and storage.  Off this common area are two small rooms: one containing a sink and a shower and the other containing the toilet.  You share a large kitchen with 1/4 of the entire floor (there are 4 kitchens).  The other layout I’ve seen is three bedrooms attached by a common area with the same bathroom/shower room setup.  Nautilusweg 1 is a shared bedroom/bathroom.
    2. Concordia is about a half hour walk from campus.  From what I understand, all the rooms are singles.  They are one large room with a stove and storage with a very tiny bathroom/shower near the door.  This dorm has a common area on each floor and a music room with a piano.

REGISTRATION

  1. As soon as you arrive on campus, you’ll need to go to the international office and fill out some paperwork.  Here you will also have to fill out a Meldezettel which will be sent by the international office to the local government so they know you are here and are therefore registered with the city. Once it is approved you’ll receive an official document confirming that you are here legally.  Hold onto it.  I haven’t had to do anything with mine yet but I was told to keep it safe.
  2. After that you will need to go to the main office and get your student card made.  If possible do this ASAP.  The main office has the weirdest operating hours so sometimes this is difficult.

 

STUDENT UNION FEE

In order to get officially registered and be able to apply for classes, take your German placement test, and get a gym membership, you HAVE to pay your STUDENT UNION FEE.  It is only about €20,- but sometimes it can take awhile to post to your account.  I suggest doing this early in the process so you can sign up for all the aforementioned stuff before they fill up.  German classes and sports classes fill up FAST and there is an extremely limited number of gym memberships (I believe less than 150 if you get fully registered fast.  If not and the deadline passes, there are only 20 spots available to international students) . The sooner you get that fee paid, the less you’ll have to stress.

APPLYING FOR CLASSES

  1. Registering for classes is pretty straightforward.  You can do it all on the Campus System.  You can begin registering as soon as your bank transfer posts.
  2. Simply apply for the classes.  However, be sure to email the professors of the classes to be sure they can add you and know that you are a joint-study student.

SCHOLARHIPS

  1. You should be notified by the interanational office here at AAU of a scholarship opportunity.  It’s not a big scholarship, but it paid for most of my housing for the semester. They require the following:
    1. One letter of recommendation from a professor.
    2. A one-page personal statement in German or English.
  2. Once you arrive you will receive a letter stating the terms of the scholarship and once you have a bank account you give your information to the international office and they will automatically transfer the money into that account.

GETTING AN AUSTRIAN BANK ACCOUNT

  1.  This is also super easy.  Just go to the Sparkasse in building K and tell them you are a student and wish to open a bank account there.  Be sure to have your student ID with you as well as your passport. Bring as many forms of identification as you can.  Students get a free account (you have to verify that you’re a student every three months… they just email you about it and you send them a pic of your ID).
  2. You will receive everything you need to set up your online account as well and it only takes a few days for your debit card to come in.
  3. *RANDOM NOTE* the laundry machines in Nautilusweg 2 can only be used with debit cards that have the touch scan ability.  You have to buy something with the card using the PIN once before you can use it in this capacity. Your Sparkasse debit card has this.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

  1. Klagenfurt is an extremely small city.  Therefore, it is pretty easy to get acquainted with the public transport system.  Pretty much all the buses end up at Heiligengeistplatz at some point, which, once you get here, is a nice place to remember for navigation purposes.  However, they usually only run about every 30 minutes so good planning is essential.
  2. The bus that goes from the University to Innenstadt is bus #60.  Depending on its exact route it could get you from Uni to Innenstadt in a direct way or a longer round-about way.  The night bus is 90 or 92.  You can download a bus schedule here 

VISA

Once you have done everything else, you need to get your visa.  You can get one from the Austrian embassy in D.C., but for me it was just easier to get one once I was already here.  The closest Austrian embassy to Klagenfurt is in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  The university organized a trip with the University of Graz and ESN (Erasmus Student Network) that I went on which I will describe in more detail in a separate entry.  But if that is for some reason not possible, it’s pretty easy just to take a few days and stay in a cheap hostel in Ljubljana and get your visa.

 

So this is the order in which I would do things:

  1. MOVE IN
  2. GO TO INTERNATIONAL OFFICE AND DO PAPERWORK.
  3. GO TO THE MAIN OFFICE AND GET YOUR STUDENT ID MADE.
  4. MAKE A BANK TRANSFER TO THE STUDENT UNION SO YOU CAN REGISTER FOR CLASSES, GET A GYM MEMBERSHIP, REGESITER FOR THE GERMAN LANGAUGE PLACEMENT TEST ETC. (if you don’t have an official bank account with them, Sparkasse will make a transfer for a fee.  I would recommend doing steps 4 and 5 simultaneously, because if your account is pending they won’t charge you for the transfer.)
  5. MAKE AN AUSTRIAN BANK ACCOUNT. THE KÄRTNER SPARKASSE IS LOCATED IN THE BOTTOM FLOOR OF BUILDING K.
  6. ONCE THE TRANSFER POSTS, IT WILL SHOW UP ON YOUR CAMPUS SYSTEM SITE UNDER VIESENKARTEN.  THEN YOU MAY REGISTER FOR CLASSSES THROUGH THE CAMPUS SYSTEM AND REGISTER FOR A GYM MEMBERSHIP AND/OR ATHLETICS CLASSES THROUGH THE CAMPUS ATHLETICS SITE.
  7. THERES A WEIRD LITTLE MACHINE OUTSIDE THE MAIN OFFICE, IT STAMPS YOUR CARD.  ONCE YOUR STUDENT UNION FEE POSTS YOU CAN GO GET IT STAMPED
  8. GET YOUR VISA (IF YOU DIDN’T GET IT IN THE STATES)
  9. ENJOY YOUR SEMESTER!

 

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