By Emily Alff
Countless students go abroad in college, but not many of the choose to study in Vienna, Austria. Although Vienna may fly under the radar for most people, there are many reasons why it is an underrated destination for an exchange program.
1. Vienna has been ranked the city with the highest quality of life in the world
The Mercer Quality of Living Survey has named Vienna the city with the highest standard of living out of over 230 studied cities for eight years in a row. Vienna scores high in categories like healthcare, education and housing. Additionally, Vienna has an excellent public transportation system and some of the lowest crime rates in any European capital.
This is not to mention the culture and history found in Vienna, the former homes of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sigmund Freud and Gustav Klimt that make Vienna great too. Students living in Vienna can learn about the history of the Habsburg family at multiple palaces and museums, attend a Viennese ball, see the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra or the Vienna State Opera perform for only 3 Euros, and enjoy cultural events like the Donauinselfest, claimed to be the biggest open-air music festival in the world. Vienna is also a modern city that is home to the headquarters of OPEC, OSCE and several UN offices. There is never a shortage of places to visit and things to learn in Vienna.
2. It’s very easy to travel around Europe
Traveling within Austria to cities like Salzburg and Innsbruck or taking a day trip to the Austrian Alps is affordable and easy for students based in Vienna. International travel is also possible. Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia) is less than 50 miles from Vienna, and bus tickets are available for as little as 25 cents. Companies like FlixBus and PolskiBus also take students to cities like Budapest, Prague and Kraków with round-trip tickets that cost less than 30 Euros. If you plan to travel to a further destination, Ryanair has very inexpensive flights out of the airport in Bratislava. Austria is tied for fifth place on the list of countries that border the most other nations. With eight neighboring countries, you will never run out of new places to visit.
3. There are great study abroad programs in Vienna
Vienna is home to several universities offering world-class educations. I studied at the Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (Vienna University of Economics and Business), which is the largest university focusing on business and economics in Europe. My courses were challenging and engaging, and I got to take classes not offered at UW-Madison. It is not an issue if you do not know German, as courses can be taken entirely in English.
An advantage of a program that does not send many students from UW-Madison is getting to meet more people from around the world. Even though my classes were in English, I still took courses in which I was the only exchange student, so I got to meet and work with native Austrian students. Living in an international residence hall and participating in an orientation program also helped me find a diverse group of friends. Making international connections is a rewarding experience and a huge benefit to enrolling in such a global program.
Although I encourage you to study abroad anywhere you would like, I could not have been happier with my choice to go to Austria. If you are still deciding where you would like to study for your exchange program, make sure you take Vienna into consideration.