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Erasmus life in Vienna as an intern for 4 months (part 1)

Published by Grgo Petrov — 3 years ago

0 Tags: Erasmus experiences Vienna, Vienna, Austria


I have just recently gotten back home after spending about 120 days in Vienna participating as an Erasmus student. I was doing an internship in one design studio which was my first working experience in this profession and in general at all! Besides the working experience I had the opportunity to become more independent living in the apartment with my flatmates, taking care of myself when speaking of food and cooking and developing more social and language skills. (sounds fancy)

Now, I would like to share with you my life in Vienna and my thoughts on the 4 months I spent there. I will try to give some useful comments on different categories such as transport, party, architecture, culture, free time, surviving with not much money etc. I am also going to compare it with Croatian standards just so you can have a better imagine and understand the situation I was in since the standards and perspective are always different depending on your (financial) background. I hope you will find it interesting and useful. Also would be interested to know about your experience so if you feel commenting something, please write it below!

1. First of all, why Vienna? When did you start thinking of going abroad with Erasmus?

I chose Vienna (and Austria) because it was relatively close to Zagreb, because I have already been to Austria and spent a few weeks there 2 years earlier, because I wanted to improve my German skills. Austria is as said pretty close to us and historically we have been part of the same state for a few hundred years thus it was not something new. Though the mentality and organization are a bit different, as well as the standard (more of it later).

And why Vienna precisely?

It is the capital and the capitals should represent the best opportunities to everything (in general), it is practically the center of Central Europe (at least being surrounded with several countries in the area, for example the capital of Slovakia is only an hour away by bus). It is a cultural and social center of Austria and an important center in this part of Europe. It is also very international and more open than the rest of the country. Vienna has been also ranked as the #1 city in Europe to live and work for last couple of years.

Speaking of thinking of going to do an Erasmus exchange abroad the idea existed 2 years earlier. After doing my first Lions Youth Exchange in Austria (symbolically) in summer 2013 I became instantly interested in international and exchange projects. I spent the following 2 years hanging out with Erasmus students in Zagreb, talking to the others on Skype and listening to the others' experience. Then I tried to get more information at my School of Design but noone has done any exchange with Erasmus (precisely) earlier so it was kind of a new thing and maybe a risk. Why a risk? More than a year ago I planned to make a break, a pause for a year after first three years of Bachelor and "to do something smart" before enrolling into Master Program. After having meanwhile 2 more exchanges with Lions Club to Switzerland and Japan (which especially served as a good warming up for Austria) it was time to start seriously organizing and taking steps to go on Erasmus Exchange.

2. Getting into Erasmus slowly. Tactics for the upcoming 12 months

So far my School of Design had no offers for Erasmus so my colleagues and I were not sure if this was going to work or not. But we gave it a try. I tried to get in contact with the others who'd been on similar kind of exchange, mostly doing an internship. And eventually we found out that for my SoD only an internship abroad with Erasmus+ Program was possible. But that was okay. Then it all started pretty turbulent a year ago when we started to gather the papers for erasmus, read lots of information online and sent numerous questions to different instutions. Sometimes it drove us crazy as there were many complications on the way. Not rarely did we not get the needed answers which made us unsure whether we can succeed in this or not.

The problem was that few of us decided to skip the Master and we did not plan to change that. Unlike my colleagues who planned to finish the Bachelor and lose the status of the student until Master (autumn 2016) I had a plan to preserve my student status by not finishing the Bachelor leaving one exam not done. Of course, I was talking to my professors and also at the Student Office about this issue and all of us agreed it should be good and no problems for me. Thus I am still a student (of the 3rd year), preserved my student rights and going to enroll in Summer semester in the following week. :-)

3. Finding my studio. Coming for the visit in June 2015

I found the studio 10 months ago and contacted them (had a help of my German and Austrian colleagues a bit with writing the CV in German and the letter specified for Austrian system as we had not done that back in high school). I visited them in June and had a sort of introduction and interview whereas my colleage made me think a lot about the my choice to come to my studio and made me question all my skills. Luckily, the small fear before the work disappeared once I came to the studio.

I remember the pressure from tons of people who kept me telling from February to April that I should have started looking for my studio much earlier as "they do not reply for weeks or sometimes months... and they probably got someone else already". Luckily for me the studio answered my email and accepted me within... 5 hours. I sent my application for the internship in the afternoon at the Uni, came home, ate dinner, opened the mail and surprise! Then the dancing and calling all the relatives and friends and the celebration with rakija started.

4. Life in the studio in 4 months

I remember the first night before going to the studio, already in my bed and thinking what to expect. I knew things were going to change a lot the next time I open my eyes in the morning and go there.

What to expect? Is it going to be too much for me? Or am I going to adjust quickly to the tempo and the tasks?

It took a little bit to get used to sitting there for 9 or more hours, clicking on the mouse and being surrounded with 2-3 more colleagues. Language actually represented no problem, though I tried first in German it was a bit difficult to talk about quick solutions in Design and use the terminology I never learned. So it was more or less in English.

Apart form working on numerous projects simulatenously I also had to go to the shops and print studio to buy the needed material (for example materials from Gerstäcker, the light bulb in Spar, buying something else in specialized stores)... and what all of us did - picking up lunch at the nearby Japanese or Vietnamese restaurants.

Talking about the atmoshpere in the studio here is what my colleague and mentor told the new intern a week before my departure "Greg was pretty silent in the beginning, you heard no word from him all day... now it is totally opposite and you will hear the stories even if you don't ask for them. " After getting used to each other it was much easier. I did not want to make some mistakes in the beginning and was cautious not wanting to do some problems or look unprofessional. I think that I became very good with everyone, especially with my colleagues in the last 2 months after we spent more of the time and energy together on one important project. Usually we would have time to talk about everything during the lunch break when we sat together. Since our boss was busy and lots of time outside the studio occupied with the meetings I learned the most about the studio from my colleague and mentor who is a little bit older than me.

In the end I got totally used to work there which was very strange in the beginning, I got to learn more about the methods and how things are working in the small studio with up to 3 or 5 people, had a chance to improve my skills in design and learn something new (again thanks to my colleagues who showed me lots of tricks and forced me to watch the tutorials haha) which is in the end the most important thing as that was the goal of the internship. Now I do not have fear from any other job. Everything is always about breaking the ice.

I will write a special article with more details and thoughts on my first internship experience and how does it affect your life there.

5. The first and the last few days in Vienna

I remember I was pretty lost my first two weeks in Vienna. I have been to the city earlier two times, once for Advent in December 2014 and then half of a day in June. What I had already in my head were the Museumsquartier, Pilgramgasse Ubahn, Stephansplatz, Rathaus, Mariahilfsterstrasse and Schönbrunn castle... and that there was this Stadion Center Bus terminal. Everything else was pretty much a mystery.

I had some tasks in the beginning such as delivery of the promo material to several addresses and taking photos of the studio's posters later to be used on the internet. These assignments helped me to go a bit around the first district (primarily) and get to know the area.

I was still confused with the metro lines, I mean, I could not remember all the directions and station. My former flatmate gave me a small info brochure for the metro network and I had to use it all the time and check at every station if it was the right direction. After 2-3 weeks I was getting used to the metro, the bus line and the tram I needed. Since i had to relocate, find the new home, after only 3 weeks of living in the 10th District (Favoriten) I had to get used to the new lines in Josefstadt (8th District).

After 2 months I was more or less used to everything as I have been to many places. I remember everything was pretty automatic when I came to Stadion Center by bus before the New Year and had no problems in Vienna with the lines and orientation. I felt like at home.

It is always in the first and the last days that you "feel" the most where you are. So the last days were pretty precious to me and were flying too fast. I could say I knew everything what I needed, knew the names of the stations, streets etc... had no problems with orientation and everything became just... normal. I was not thinking at all that I was in Vienna, it was a reality and nothing exotic. I tried to explored as much as possible in and around Vienna. I could say I did a lot. But again I could have explored much more and see if I had more time. More free time to be precise. It is just when thinking of the first and the last days in Vienna, huge difference. I guess everyone who had spent some time abroad, more than few weeks, felt the same.

6. Architecture and landscape

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First thing that was obvious when compared to Zagreb is - Vienna is much bigger. At least the buildings seemed to be as twice as tall as in Zagreb (or had a floor or two more actually). Being back in Zagreb last 2 days and in the center, it felt a bit like in Vienna just here it is smaller and we do not have money for renovation. Or unfortunately spend it on unnecessary ____ (insert rude word). Another thing that Vienna has is the big number of parks and lots of them are huge. Perfect for a walk, in every district one at least, and the biggest are ideal places for the sport fans and recreationalists.

Vienna seemed like a labyrinth to me. In the beginning. The center and actually districts around it were pretty geometric. Especially when looking from the Ubahn you could see almost endless streets and blocks of buildings of the residential area stretching far away. When I still had to get used to the streets it really felt like being lost and even if you became lost then you might have felt claustrophobic (not really but if you had no idea where to go and not to waste more time it was not the best feeling). However, I loved to go around spontaneously.

What you see there is of course Austro-Hungarian style. So the similar is to be found in Zagreb (and Varaždin, Karlovac), Budapest, Prague, Bratislava and the rest of the former-best friends from the empire haha.

Around the heart of Vienna

The city itself has the central district (the Ist) being the heart of modern Vienna and few other that go around it in a circle. More or less all the important building, sightseeings are around the border of the first district. Around this so called "Ring Streets". There you can find the City Hall, the University of Vienna, the Parliament. Hofburg (old and new), Museums Quartier with lots of museum of course and Volks Theater. Some of the famous museums here are the Museum of Natural History and on the other side of the square is the Museum of Art. Behind the Museums Quartier is the biggest shopping street - Mariahilfer Street. Following this ring you will come across the Opera house that is near the Karlsplatz and the biggest metro station with 3 lines going over each another. Right there on the other side is also one of the biggest market places and flea markets in Vienna - Naschmarkt. You will also pass by the Secession building and close by is the Academy of Fine Arts (where they refused Hitler, twice, 100 years ago! ). I am telling you the story from Rathaus actually since I lived right behind it so it is easier for me to tell you. On this Ring you will also have the opportunity to walk through the Volks Garden which is especially crowded in summer.

On the other side of it and the Hofburg is the Burg Garden and right behind it is the Museum of Albertina. Which is again close to the Opera House where you have the famous Kärnten Straße with the Hotel Sacher and the Sacher cakes right at the beginning. The street leads to the Stephansplatz with the cathedral.

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Moving further along the ring and you will come to the corner where you can see the Belvedere castle and lots of monuments in direction of south. Walking further you will notice the Ice Skating center which is visited by thousands in winter and right behind is the Stadtpark (the City park). It is another way to escape a bit the city (which is not that noisy actually) and take a walk through the park with the lakes and the river Wien which will later go into the Danube canal. Before entering the park you will notice (next to the Ice Skating center) the Theatre Academy and Viennese Concert Hall.

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The river Wien and the canal it is in slowly grows bigger. At the end of the park the next old building you see is one of the most interesting places I have visited (hehe... ) and it's called MAK - Austrian Museum of Applied Arts and Contemporary Art. I have been I think six times inside and always for free. You want to know more? Click here.

The other side of the Danube canal

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Behind MAK is the University of Applied Arts (and Design). We are now approaching the end of the 1st District and you are going to see the Danube Canal dividing the center from Leopoldstadt. There is also a bridge over the river Wien just before it goes into the Danube canal where you can see the metro when going over the bridge. Another big park in Vienna is the Augarten (garden) which might be about 10-15 minutes walking from the Schottenring.

Of course, this is just one part of everything. The other things worth mentioning right now (and that I can remember or visited personally) are the Schönbrunn Castle and the Park but that is a bit far away and you will likely have to use the metro U4 to reach it. Schönbrunn is located in the South-western part of Vienna. There is also a ZOO but I had not enough money to visit it.

On the other side in Leopoldstadt there are is the famous Prater. At the Praterstern (Prater Star) there is the Austrian Railway Station, trams and buses... and behind it you will se one of the landmarks of Vienna - the Prater Giant Wheel which is right at the entrance into the Prater Amusement Park. And there you will also see the huge long road where you cannot see the end of it, going straight in direction of south east and being surrounded with lots of greenery, lakes, additional roads, playground and forests. It is called Prater Hauptallee and it might be around 5 kilometres long. It is visited by thousands of citizens even in winter who go there running. I believe in summer, when it is warmer and greener, it must be full of Viennese.

What else is there to mention? Ah, the Danube of course.

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Speaking of the Danube there are two things to say. It is for sure very important for the city and has been through the history. However, the main part of the city is not directly on the big river but rather made this artificial canal that divides Brigittenau, Leopoldstadt and Prater from the others. This is when we are talking about the western bank of the big river. Now you have lots of bridges that go to the other side. And to reach the eastern part (what I also call "the continent") you will go across two islands. The first one is pretty narrow and also serves as a place for recreation, sport and festivals later. The second one which you see behind from the western bank mainly thanks to the biggest buildings in Austria (the skyscrapers and the Danube tower) is the Danube island. People live there and it might be as twice as bigger from the 1st District. There are lots of parks, bays, beaches to swim and you are quickly on the other side of Vienna. However, I haven't been there much and do not know a lot ot be honest.

7. Culture and customs? Museums and festivals?

After everything you have read it is not difficult to guess things about the culture, museums and festivals in Vienna. There are numerous museums, galleries and other things to see in Vienna that are worth paying. Here is the list of what I have seen and visited:

  • MAK - Austrian Museum of Applied Arts & Contemporary Art (behind Stadtpark, near Stubentor and Landstrasse Ubahn)
  • MUMOK - Museum of modern Art (Museumsquartier, Volkstheater)
  • Museum of Natural History (Museumsquartier)
  • Academy of Fine Arts (near Karlsplatz)
  • Belvedere Winter Palace (also near Karlsplatz)

Huh, that's all?! :/ I really had no time due to the work and the museums are more or less closed on weekends. Or the prices were too much for me.

There are the famous the House of the Sea and the House of the Music. Near the University of Vienna you can find the house of Sigmund Freud which is now museum. I should have visited it but had problems with a colleague so I did not want to go alone inside. But I heard it is very interesting. Other things worth mentioning (but was not lucky to go) is the Technical Museum near Schönbrun. I have actually entered the Secession building (or the Art Nouveau) but after asking for the price it was just too much and they had no special discount for the poor students. Another thing I just had no time for was the Museum of History of Art which is the opposite building of the Natural History Museum.

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Oh, one thing that you have to see there is one of the coolest buildings in Vienna! It is the Hundertwasser House and is located in the central-eastern part of the city where is also the Kunst Haus Wien. I used the Citybike to go there.

Alright, I stop here...it makes me crazy as I had to miss the opportunity for other free or affordable things. Long story, includes my ex-boss.

8. Partying in Vienna?

Unfortunately, the first that comes to my mind when talking about partying or actually clubs in Vienna is - they are expensive. I have been in total in two clubs. Now, it is not that it is bad but more or less the prices are much much higher than in Croatia and for my standards it meant I would go to one club and then starve to death in the upcoming week. Or... I would find more affordable solutions.

The normal prices of the club entrance or for the parties in general are in range from 6-15 Euros. So, about 9-11 is an average. I remember in the first week or two when my friends and Erasmus students from Zagreb asked me if I knew for the clubs where you pay 5 or less Euros to get in... I was confused and thought that there should be many. But it is not the case.

My first experience was in November with ESN Munich meets ESN Vienna and it was organised in U4 bar close to Schönbrunn. I went there with my friend form Zagreb and... we went because they said the entrance for Erasmus students was only 2 Euros. We were lucky they were not strict with the cards as we had no ESN cards. It was okay and became funny later when it got full of people around 2-3 am. But we had to leave as we were tired from before and I had to work on some project whole Sunday so...

The other club we visited was... cannot remember the name... with my other friends from Zagreb who came to visit me before Christmas. We went with other Austrians (my flatmates and friends) but it was around 1-3 AM and half empty with not the best music. The entrance was 10 Euros. We just tried not to convert it into Croatian Kuna as we would get instantly a headache. It was a bit of disappointment.

Now there are other great places you are going to visit but for me it was just too much and could not afford it. There are cool events not only during the weekends but also on the working days. Which was also kind of a problem if you had to work in the morning and stay in good condition for 9-10 hours.

However, there were things that I would not call party (at least not in this sense) but rather like small food/meetings parties in the bars, restaurants or at the UNI that everyone could attend for free and were pretty cool. More about them soon.

9. No ESN card and semester ticket. Interns - I warn you!

I came there as a student of University of Zagreb and had the papers to prove it. I enrolled again into the 5th semester of the 3rd year in order to keep my student status and help me with discounts. Unfortunately, when I visited the ESN office they told me I cannot get the ESN card as I was not a student at the Uni Wien. Okay, great. But the second thing hit me much harder. I could not get the semester ticket for the students for 150 Euros. That meant I had to spend about 48 Euros each month for the public transport ticket. Thanks a lot!

Thus if you are going to do the internship chances are pretty high that you won't get these two things there. I actually heard few days before going to Zagreb that it was possible to get the ESN Card from one of the ESN staff. But now it was too late.

So, at the same time I was a student and not a student. Luckily I made an ISIC card in Zagreb before going to Vienna so every time I had to prove my student status I just showed this card and no problems.

10. Gastronomy? Where to eat and buy food?

The first thing I have to mention is that I enjoyed seeing tons of international restaurants and world kitchens in every street in Vienna. We do not have it that diverse in Zagreb of course. Just in my street there was the Mexican restaurant (and taco bar), Italian Pizzeria under our apartment (they had to listen to me walking at home in the evening a lot haha), Asian restaurant few meters away, Croatian Dalmatian in the street next to mine along with the Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese... Not to forget the Turkish fast food restaurants and bars at the every corner haha.

I used to go sometimes to pick up the food for me and my colleagues from the studio for lunch at the Japanese restaurant in Gumpendorfer Street (the cheapest one in Vienna) and also my favourite was the Vietnamese restaurant 20 m away from the Japanese one, the Le Pho. I ate there twice per month the M7 Menu for 6, 80 Euros.

Now we came to the prices. The average lunch in Vienna costs about 4-8 Euros. I have never been to student mensa restaurants as 5 euros was still way too much for me. That's why I had to cook practically every day and bring the food to my workplace. Otherwise I would waste the stipend in a week.

There is one legendary place where you will probably end up at least once during your time in Vienna. It is called Der Wiener Deewan and is located less than 10 minutes by foot from the University of Vienna. It is the Pakistani restaurant. But what is the trick? You eat and pay as much as you want. Or actually give what you think should be paid. I used to eat a plate and a half for 4 euros in total which would keep me satisfied until late evening. You can read more about it from my review (maybe I should update it, I have been there few more times after writing this haha).

Save money, avoid the shops for basics ingredients. Go to the marketplaces!

I mentioned one of the biggest marketplaces in Vienna - Naschmarkt. But I did not mention my favourite - Brunnemarkt. What can I say? If you want to save several Euros and tens of them in total do not go to the shops to buy the eggs, potatoes, some fruits and vegetables etc...

I used to go to Brunnenmarkt as it was 15 minutes away from my home by foot. I used to buy there - pay attention now - a pack of 10 eggs for only 1 Euro. And 30 of them for 3 Euros. Crazy right? A kilogram of bananas can be found for 1 Euro. 5 kilograms of potatoes for 2. 5 Euros. There are lots of Turkish vendors and the food is pretty international so you can find anything. And going there is worth seeing the atmosphere, you cannot have it in the ordinary stores.

Oh yeah, try to avoid Billa. It is probably the most expensive choice and you always have a shock when coming to the cashier to pay. The cheapest are Lidl, Penny and Hofer. Spar is a bit more expensive. I used to go to Lidl when it was close to me in my old neighbourhood. But then became loyal buyer at Hofer. Unfortunately, the shop Zielpunkt which was also pretty cheap was closed after the New Year so you will notice the "ghost stores" in the streets. And I really hate Billa.

Every time before shopping I would open the website of the store and check for the new deals, offers, discounts and super prices. Another useful website is the one that searches for the products and shows you the best offers among several shops.

Another thing that might come pretty handy and helpful if you want to visit some fast food are the coupons you get on your home address or from the newspapers. You can find the free newspapers at every Ubahn Station and sometimes near the tram stations. Then check if Burger King, McDonalds, Subway or someone else gave the coupons.

I had been collecting the bills from different shops and of the products I was buying to compare the prices and make the most affordable list for me. I will post an analysis soon.

11. Entertainment? What to do in the free time? Couchsurfing and Meet Up? Erasmus events?

There are really many many events happening in Vienna every week and I guess now in the upcoming summer semester it is going to be even more. Now when talking about having fun it is again a relative thing.

I can share with you what I found to be the best source of fun when having some free time. I started using the website Couchsurfing to find out about the events happening in Vienna. Or to find the locals who were willing to go for a walk or a coffee and show me / tell me more about the city. I did this in the winter of 2015. Since I had mostly free time on weekend I use the opportunity to go out then.

Another great website is Meet Up where I discovered one of the activities that I literally attended till the last day of the stay in Vienna. I found out there about the German Language Cafe that is being organised every Wednesday from 19h till you stay in the Brau Bar right at the Alser Straße Ubahn station. I met there lots of friends fun people I used to hang out outside the bar and I would love to see them again. Actually, this Bar became my Erasmus place since I had not met many Erasmus students and could not attend the events with the others. I came there in the mid November or at the end of the month and had skipped the meetings maybe 2-3 times due to the obligations. And once I decided to go the Salsa Dancing but I was destroyed there by the pros (at least learned some basics... so I do not regret not going back to the Brau Bar instead).

Speaking of Erasmus events, I had been to one ESN Buddy Exchange at the Nachbar (Laudongasse) and met some of the friends I was hanging out even later, once to one Erasmus Christmas Party at the University next to the ESN Office where I also met a smaller group of people. I went once together with 2 more friends from Zagreb to ESN Speedfriending event which was pretty interesting. Few days later on 14th February there was ESN Anti-Valentine's Day at the same place and the last one was in Travel Shack but was talking to non-Erasmus people mostly.

All in all, I think you should visit these meetings to meet the other people. It is always interesting and fun, especially if you are an introvert and want to make friends.

There are really tons of events, festivals, concerts, parties... you just have to choose something. I went once with the Brau Bar friends and colleagues from Zagreb to Ice Skating center near Stadtpark, a few times to the museums and open doors of some faculties, tried to attend the meetings I found interesting from the meet up and couchsurfing sites etc.

What I especially liked to do alone in my free time was to go around the town with the camera walking or on the bike. I used CityBike a lot and it is a great help if you want to explore the city or go around a bit and refresh your head.

More of the public transport, my average day as an intern and a weekend and things I hated about Vienna soon.

Thanks for reading!

Are you intrigued by the idea of becoming an intern abroad? Check our our post about the benefits that internships abroad can give and you will be left with no doubts whether it is wort it!


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