A guest post by Hanna Bolbat, a Belarusian student studying her bachelor's in Intercultural Management at Carinthia University of Applied Sciences in Austria.
My name is Hanna, and exactly three years ago I set out to radically change my life. I left my home country behind, started from scratch, and began building my life in Austria.
I had just graduated from high school and was eager to study an English-taught program in a foreign country. At the time, there were not so many around. I ended up applying to just one in Austria, in the city of Villach. To be completely honest, I had no idea where it was at first. When I received an acceptance letter, I was so happy about the opportunity that I moved without hesitation.
During the application process, I applied to various universities in Europe and received positive answers in multiple countries. Though at the end of the day, I chose Austria.
Why I chose to study abroad in Austria
Austria is a developed country that invests significant resources into higher education institutions, including in the development of science and technology, university programs, and academies.
With that being said, Austria offers highly diverse and tailored educational opportunities. There is truly a study program for everyone. Mine just so happened to be a tight-knit internationally-oriented group of students in the small southern city of Villach.
I was also drawn by the reputation of Austrian educational programs. An Austrian diploma is in accordance with European and global requirements, so it is essentially recognized throughout the world. This opens up many opportunities afterwards to explore opportunities internationally, which was essential in my decision.
Coming from abroad, of course, finances also played a significant factor. An Austrian education is extremely affordable for international students. You are required to pay a tuition fee and a student union fee every semester, though the exact amount depends on whether you are a student from an EU/EEA country or a third country. Either way, the combined fees typically remain under EUR 1000, oftentimes even under EUR 500.
The admissions process was also very smooth and allowed me to begin my studies immediately after my high school graduation. For my particular country of origin, this was a significant advantage, as many countries would have required me to begin my studies at a university in my home country first. The application process at my university required a personal interview, but not an entrance exam, which worked out perfectly for me. Though the application process differs depending on the program and university.
Different types of schools in Austria
When considering higher education options in Austria, there are some unique considerations that should be taken into account.
First and foremost, there are different types of institutions to choose from. Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences (or Fachhochschule) both award the same degrees, but have fundamentally different approaches to education. Here are just a few notable differences:
1. Educational Focus
Universities of Applied Sciences are practice-oriented at their core and focus on preparing students for the workplace. There are no postgraduate programs at Fachhochschule, as their main focus does not lie in research. Meanwhile, Universities are much more grounded in theory and research-applications.
As a general observation, programs in Fachhochschule have a pre-selected curriculum and time frame. There is not really any freedom to deviate from the program as outlined by the institution and timetables are strictly monitored. On the other hand, Universities may be a bit more flexible in the scheduling of courses, timetables, and course selection.
3. Academic Degree ⠀
The degree obtained in both types of educational institutions, according to the Bologna process, is absolutely equivalent. However, Fachhochschule have fixed schedules and length of study (Bachelor's degree: 3 years/Master's degree: 2 years), meanwhile students at Universities often deviate from this and may take more semesters to complete their studies, though this ultimately depends on many factors.
4. Programs ⠀⠀
In Fachhochschule, programs are aimed at developing in-demand professionals, particularly in the fields of management, business, engineering, IT, and design. At universities, you can find a greater variety of study disciplines, which include classic subjects such as philosophy, sociology, history, and so on.
In both types of universities, professors hold doctorate degrees. Although, due to the nature of the studies, professors at Universities of Applied Sciences must also have at least three years of experience in their field outside of the university system. In my case, all of the professors at my Fachhochschule had significant practical experience and were just as driven by their experiences, organizations, and projects as they were by underlying theory.
Classes in Fachhochschule tend to be a bit more intimate, as classes take place in smaller groups. For example, in my case, my entire program consisted of around 25 students, so there were never more than this amount of students in a single class. The approach to our education was individual and there were plenty of opportunities for participation. You won't find the intimidatingly large lecture halls of Universities here.
In conclusion, I can say that years spent at Fachhochschule Kärnten greatly changed my life. These three years have gone by so fast and I am incredibly grateful for all the amazing moments I’ve had that will forever be kept as unforgettable memories. Finding myself in a foreign country, I have been constantly surrounded by motivated peers, a unique educational program, and beautiful landscapes. Studying in Austria was one of the greatest experiences I've had in my life and has opened up the doors to many new opportunities in the years to come.
About the author
Hanna Bolbat is a Belarusian student doing her bachelor's degree in Intercultural Management at Carinthia University of Applied Sciences in Villach, Austria. Besides her studies, she is a passionate singer and hip hop dancer. Hanna loves exploring the world, meeting new people, and learning about other cultures. She enjoys doing things that get her out of her comfort zone, that is why she decided to come to Austria in the first place. Whenever the opportunity comes Hanna is ready to hit the road with other like-minded people to undiscovered places, breathtaking views, and unforgettable memories. Life is full of opportunities, you just need to see them.