Sunday, August 25, 2013

Applying to an American University versus an Austrian University: Step by Step

My experience applying to my bachelors degree in the United States:

1. Get good grades in high school. Really, make sure your grades are top.
2. Take an admittance exam. Study in advance for exam. Take it several times if you aren't happy. Pay a lot of money for each exam.
3. Be awesome. Be exceptional. Volunteer, have a job, join several student organizations.
4. Get achievements and awards. Excel.
5. Maybe get letters of recommendation, depending on the college.
6. Send in your application, including transcripts, resume and documents proving the aforementioned qualities and achievements.
7. Pay a fee with your application.
8. Wait.
9. Receive acceptance letter and pay a fee to confirm intent to study.
10. Then pay TONS in tuition.

I haven't applied for a masters program in the US, but I imagine it to be somewhat similar to applying to the application process for a bachelors program.

My experience applying to the masters program at the University of Vienna:
1. Fill out a pre-registration form online with intent to study.
2. Print out form. Sign form.
3. Send form with original apostilled copy of University diploma and transcript.
4. In my case, include a copy of the language exam I took proving my level of German needed for the study program.
5. Send application to university.
6. Wait a few weeks.
7. Receive acceptance email.
8. Go to registrar office personally to declare intent to study. 
9. In my case, pay a small (in comparison to the US) tuition fee, since I am not an EU citizen.
10. Pat yourself on the back for getting accepted into a foreign university and smile because you just saved yourself at least $20,000.


Things are changing, that's for sure.

My flatmates and I bought a new washing machine last week. It was kind of a big deal for us, as we had been avoiding this purchase for a good two years now. Now we can guarantee that our clothes will be dry within 24 hours after washing them. (Our old machine had no spin cycle, and we literally had to wring out our clothing and hang it up to drip in the tub.)

Washing machine aside, the whole fact that I'm going to be doing my masters program beginning in October at the University of Vienna is a HUGE change.

It really sank in a couple of days ago when I went to the university registrar for the first time to officially register myself as a student. As I walked through the building, a huge wave of nostalgia went through me as I thought to myself: I've done this before and I can do it again.

Granted, that was in the United States and I had ample amount of personal assistance and guidance to help keep me on track, pick the appropriate courses, etc. However, having navigated Austrian bureaucracy for four years makes me feel like I can take on any challenge life throws at me. 

Getting a student ID and registering was a simple and painless process, aside from the fact that it was very unclear where the waiting room was for masters studies. Another clueless master student and I buddied up and figured out where to go after sitting for probably fifteen minutes in the wrong room. We both missed our numbers, so we grabbed new ones, and sat down to have a nice chat.

If the other students are as friendly as this chap was, I know it's going to be a great year, even if I end up banging my head on the table months down the road due to lack of personal guidance or confusion over XYZ.

After having received my student ID, I headed to my bank to change from a normal account to a free student account. On top of that, I figured it was a good idea to open up a credit card here to avoid getting charged every time I book a flight on my American card when the purchase is in euros and not dollars. 

Not only is my new student account at the bank free, but so is my credit card, and I get some free travel insurance on top of it. 

So, so so excited for student discounts. 

Officially a Student Again

It's now official: I am a student at the University of Vienna. Take a look at the amazing quality of the paper student IDs where I wrote my name in and the woman glued on my mugshot-like passport picture. 

My roommate assured me that is not true of every German-speaking university. I've been told that Vienna is the second largest German-speaking university in the world, and yet they still use outdated paper student IDs.

Yep, there are going to be a lot of differences between doing a degree in the United States and a degree abroad. I'm strangely looking forward to these differences. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Austria 5.0

It's official: I have been accepted for the masters program I applied to at the University of Vienna! Thankfully they accepted my American bachelor's degree, but I will have to take a few courses in addition to my masters classes in order to make it more like an Austrian bachelor's degree. So that means two to three more years in Austria!

I'm just finishing up my fourth year living abroad here. It's crazy to think that I'm still here and about to commit a few more years. I never would have thought four years ago when I moved to small town Braunau am Inn that Austria would become a second home for me. I mean, I was supposed to go to Germany-- not Austria.

But it's worked out. Somehow.

This past week I was at a beautiful lake in Austria called Attersee for a week. Taking my friends and community out of Vienna and bringing that with me to Attersee and receiving my acceptance email from the University really made things crystal clear: even though I can't explain why or how I got here, it makes sense. Vienna is home. For now. Of course, who knows what the future will bring.

And can I see myself staying here long term?

Not really.

But, beginning a fifth year abroad is starting to approach the idea of "longer term".