Already 4 years since I moved to Austria and I still remember the day I first came here and the day that pretty much changed my life. As some of you already know, the reason I ended up in Austria was due to a scholarship offered by the Erasmus Mundus Organization to continue master studies in Economics at the University of Johannes Kepler in Linz, Upper Austria. I have met many students during my studies and with some of them we still keep in touch, I gathered a huge luggage of memories and experiences which are a real treasure to me. The first months of the student life were amazing, new places, new university, new people, a different culture. It was overwhelming, but in the same time pleasant and lovely.
During the first year I had a lot of courses at the university and given the fact that we received huge support from the International Office, the student life was easy-ish. I mean beside the sleepless nights because of the presentations, reports or exams, it was pretty much awesome. In the first semester I decided to continue my studies and to finish the degree at the university in Linz. The second semester I presented my documents to the admission office and I got accepted, which was pure joy to me and I started instantly to look for a job, because I knew I can remain only if I have money enough to pay for the living. For the years I was a student I also performed all kind of jobs of which I am so proud right now, because this type of jobs helps you to build a personality, to be more responsible and prepares you for real life, and I totally encourage students to apply for jobs, and see how much fun sometimes can be.
Moving to Austria wasn’t so easy as it may seem at the beginning, and I encountered a lot of challenges while trying to get a job or a place to stay when I moved out from the student dorm, or even on a daily basis I confronted myself with situations that were unknown to me. The biggest and one of my first challenges was to find a place to stay after I decided to leave the student dorm. In the summer of 2013, after I went for a couple of weeks home, my sister said she wants to come with me to Austria. Of course I wanted her to come with me, and I started to make the arrangements, which in the first place was to find an apartment. I found myself a 10 hours a week job at a cafe, and my sister was a baby-sitter to a wonderful baby – girl. The hard part of looking for an apartment is that there are huge additional costs and guarantees, that for us – two young girls with no economies was very hard to get. So we were looking for a small apartment with kitchen and close to public transportation (I had courses in the morning and work after courses). The apartment we found was 36 qm, with one big room, and a separate kitchen with a balcony and the monthly rent was 400 euros, plus the Kaution (insurance fee) which is a guarantee that you must pay and it usually equals to 3 times the monthly rent, additionally you pay a one time contract fee of 150 euros. Talking to the landlords in a broken and poor German, making appointments over the phone, wasn’t so easy.
Another challenge, which costed me literally a lot of money, as I had to pay significant fines, refers to the Law, or even better how much of the Austrian law you should know before moving. I do not mean that now you have to learn by heart all the Austrian law books, I rather recommend to the people who ever consider living/working/studying in Austria to pay more attention to the prerequisites of a deal or arrangement, and always, always check whatever document you decide to put your signature on. There are many laws which we must be aware of them and because of the language it becomes even harder to interpret those rules. I remember while I was working a couple of hours in a restaurant per week, I was looking for a more stable working hours and namely on the weekends (because of my studies). Finally I found something at a hotel. But I still kept my job at the restaurant for 2 more months, at both places I was employed geringfugig (a type of employment contract that allows you to work a maximum of 10 hours per week). At the end of the year, a lot after I quieted the job from the restaurant, I got a fine of more than 300 euros!!!!!!, only because I had 2 geringfugig contracts ongoing in the same time which normally you are not allowed to do that. In this case I learned that before signing a contract of employment to double check and triple check, and this is only for our own good. Nowadays, we can find all the information on internet, unless the information is only available in German and you don’t speak a word in “Deutsch” – than it is tough life.
Lets admit that one of the most often mentioned challenge while moving abroad is the language. In my case I realized that only after I moved out from the student dorm and especially during the time when I was looking for a job or apartment. At the university students and teachers spoke English and I never felt the need to speak German. Nevertheless, I believe that in order to integrate better in a community it requires to speak the language. Which I also have that on my to do list, but at the moment I work in a company where I speak only English all day long, and home I speak Romanian, so it is harder than I thought. Someone can say that these are only motives, still I encourage people to learn the language of the country planning to move to. It shows so much respect and admiration from the locals to those who speak the language.
Living in a foreign country it affects your thinking and shifts your ideas and personal beliefs, even when you think it doesn’t. It takes time to realize and very hard to identify, but the changes are. Despite all the challenges, I managed to overcome all the difficult situations and beside that I also learned new things and succeeded to enjoy life, as hard as it may seem. Thus below I want to share with you several things I realized changed for me since I moved to Austria.
- I became more responsible. Suddenly after a couple of days since I moved here I realized I am a grown up, and everything I do has an impact and there is no one to fix it unless myself. This was a step toward the adulthood, and it was quick, without questions and so on. The next thing I realized I was all by myself in a foreign country far away from my family, so I had to rely on my judgement and to be responsible for things.
- I learned (still learning) to appreciate myself, and to trust my knowledge. The life is always about decisions, we make decisions everyday, I guess thousands of them everyday. Can you imagine that? What to wear, what to eat, which kind of coffee in the morning, what to do next, what to do next again and again, what to write next and a million others each single day. Being confident is a big achievement, and saves time. Prioritizing is as well important not to get lost. My boss always teaches how to prioritize tasks and what to do next, otherwise we are stressed and bewildered.
- Time is money, and I do mean this 🙂 I started to appreciate more my time, to have a to do list, and therefore to appreciate other peoples time as well. At the university we had to go through this every day. We had many courses that involved group work. And imagine getting together 6 students from different countries, with different cultures. It was a disaster. The Austrians taught me how to value the time, and I do believe that not being late it is a way of showing respect.
- I have hobbies. Beside blogging I love to run and this is something I never managed to do when I was home (unfortunately). The Austrians opt for a healthy lifestyle, and it encourages you as well. For almost a year I challenged myself to be a pescetarian and succeeded. Already 2 years I run regularly. Actually, the best part is to go for a long run at Prater, it helps me to relax. In March I was motivated to run the half marathon in Vienna.
Beside the challenges aforementioned, there are even more things I love about Austria. And if you ever ask me if it was worth it all the sacrifices and hard times, I will always say firmly yes. It is entirely true about the Austrian social and medical system being one of the best in Europe, or about the cleanness or tidiness, safety and so on, what I really want to say is that here I always felt encouraged and motivated to do the things I love. Here are some things I love about it:
- Fall in the humble Austria is literally perfect. It is the golden time of the year, everything turns in yellow, and then orange, red, or burgundy, a true festival of colors. The days of fall are so cool, crispy and purely amazing, and the crunch of fallen leaves under your feet is a special joy (you should try this one). Happy Austrian fall everyone!!!
- The mountains and the lakes in Austria are picturesque. The Alps represent a symbol for the country, and boosts the tourism every year. It is not only about skiing and winter sport, but also hiking or how Austrians usually refer to as “wandern” and other healthy activities throughout the year. Do you know how many lakes are in Austria? We talk about more than 300 lakes, some of them huge like Bodensee or Neusiedlersee. They are crucial to the country’s tourism industry and appeal mostly to locals and tourists who come for water sports, hiking and natural beauty.
- The public transport in Austria is simply wow. It takes me 10 min to get to work everyday, and I can sleep till half past 7 and this is a dream for many others. The Austrian public transport is well organized, and easy accessible, and fairly priced. There are many discounts for students, or elder people, and it is so easy to travel from one part of the country to the another. I often go by train (usually use the Westbahn) to Linz and I am very satisfied with the service.
- Weekends and especially Sundays. But at the beginning I was completely shocked that shops, malls are not opened on Sunday (here again a cultural shock). Nevertheless, with time I started to embrace it, and now Sundays are the best days of the week. People spend the Sundays with the family, friends or relatives, somewhere at the lake or hiking in the mountains, walking in a park near the house or swimming at the pool. If you ask an Austrian about the plans for Sunday, 96 % will tell about breakfast or lunch with the family :).
- The rich assortment of healthy food at the markets. If you will spend more time in Austria you will realize how important organic or bio products are for the locals. I also observed a shift in my behavior regarding this. Sometimes I caught myself looking for bio strawberries because they are more sweet, or apricots. And I like that if you look for these products you will for sure find them.
- The possibility to travel around. For Paris it takes on average a flight of 2 hours, to Czech Republic – 4 hours with the bus, the same to Budapest. Bratislava is one hour away from Vienna. It is amazing how close other countries and cities are to Austria, and this combined with many days off per year (I mean the official holidays that counts for 14 days/year) you can easily decide for a weekend escapade in any city in or out Austria.
- Still have time to discover and let you know 🙂
It makes me really happy to celebrate 4 years of hard work, student life, new acquaintances, tough challenges, fast changes, valuable lessons, long-lasting friendships, unforgettable experiences, of an early adulthood, 4 amazing years of Austria.