The Things I Learned My First Weeks in Graz, Austria

I recommend the program in Graz with Binghamton University! I am so glad that I was given this opportunity and I had a lot of great help along the way. Both Carson Downs at Binghamton University and Christa Grassauer at Karl Franz University were extremely helpful during my time here. I am excited to say I extended my stay from one semester to a full year. Here is some insider knowledge that I wish someone had told me before I left for Graz:

  1. Classes:
  • The classes here only meet once a week so it’s important to pay attention to everything that the professor is saying.
  • Some classes, under the VO (lecture) category, don’t require attendance because the only grade in the class is the final exam.
  • At the end of every class students knock on the desk as a way of “thanking” the professor for the lecture. This one shocked me the most because I had never seen students clap or knock on the desk after the lecture was over.
  • Grading is very different as well. Instead of “85-90%” or “B+” sort of grading system, many Europeans use the 1-5 numbering system. But that’s not the weirdest part. The weirdest part is that the number 1 is the best and the number 5 is failing. It’s another strange factor that I couldn’t wrap my head around for a while.
  • You don’t really need to buy textbooks because the textbooks are reserved in the library, so you can read the chapters there or photocopy them. It’s actually something I really appreciated being here in Graz. There aren’t usually a lot of required texts but just recommended readings which are reserved in the library. But make sure the first day of class you have at least 3-5 euros for the course syllabus, which will usually have a lot of what you need to know for the course. But some professors also include readings inside these syllabus packets.
  1. Store/Library hours
  • Now this one shocked me the most. Many stores and libraries close between 4-6 and aren’t open at all on Sundays. This is something that I still struggle with. You have to prepare for your midnight cravings long before midnight hits. You can’t spend all night in the library even if your flat mate is partying all night regardless of those 10pm quiet hours.
  • Austrian holidays impact the store and tram hours a lot, so if you come to Graz be sure to plan ahead.
  1. City Life:
  • Graz is a really small but gentle city. Everyone is super nice and usually really helpful. The majority of the people speak English, so it made adjusting here a lot easier.
  • The rules of crossing the street are a lot stricter and you will often see the majority of the people following the traffic lights for crossing the street. Jaywalking is not something taken lightly here.
  • Don’t ride your bike on the side walk! I made that mistake once and got scolded harshly by someone in German (I still don’t actually know what they said).
  • Graz is small so sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what you want to buy unless you travel around 30-40 minutes to a closer shopping center.
  • Getting a tram ticket for a month or longer, especially during the colder months saved me. It was about 25 minutes for me to walk to campus, so I would often take the tram which took about 15 minutes. It’s the easiest, warmest, and cheapest option here!

  1. Food:
  • Food here is something I really love. I have a minor milk allergy and I was worried about studying abroad with this. However, in Europe their menus show allergy information with each dish! I have attached a picture from one of my favorite Chinese take-out places near my dorm! Now you can see next to “Bier” (Beer) is the letter A, which stands for “Gluthaltiges Getreide” (containing Gluten). So, for me I just had to make sure there was no G (Milk or Lactose) next to the item and I could eat it! This was very convenient and perhaps one of my favorite things about Europe. Being a vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, milk-free, or any kind of special diet is extremely easy here.
  • Don’t forget to try schnitzel!


Ciara Cuesta, a Linguistics major, is currently studying this academic year 2018/19 at the University of Graz in Austria.

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