Emma Farell, Social Work programme, FH Vorarlberg, Austria

In July 2019, I arrived back home in Sweden after doing my fourth semester abroad at the FH (Fachhochschule) Vorarlberg, located in Austria, in a charming, beautiful city called Dornbirn. After the summer I will start the fifth semester of the social work program at Jönköping University.

One of the reasons why I chose Jönköping University was because I had heard about the good exchange possibilities. So, I was sure that I wanted to go abroad even before I started studying. I had worked and travel abroad before, but never studied abroad. That is one of the reasons why I choose to go on an exchange semester. I wanted to live abroad as a student. I studied full time at the FH Vorarlberg, which equals 30 ECTS. I took nine different courses, which all included some sort of examination. Most of the times we wrote essays or did presentations and we had one oral exam. We were quite free in how we wanted to present our work, which opened up for a lot of creativity. My two favorite courses are called Innovative Methods and Gender & Diversity training. During the Innovative Methods course, we learned to work with clay, did a hike in a cave and learned about the rhythm of music whilst playing drums. The course ended with a garden party at our teacher’s house. During the Gender and Diversity training course, we learned to reflect a lot about our own prejudices, the difference between gender and sex and why it’s important to understand these differences. The examination of that course required us students to hold a lesson of 90 minutes, which was challenging, fun and very educational. Other courses I took was Social Justice, European and International Social Policies, Transnational Project Work and Development Cooperation, Intercultural Dialogue, German Culture and Communication, English for Social Work and Social Work as a Human Rights Profession. They all sound pretty interesting, right? They defiantly were. I learned something important from every course. The teaching methods that were used at the FH Vorarlberg were very learning efficient and much more varying than what I have experienced before.

The international office at the FH Vorarlberg are flawless. They were extremely supportive throughout the whole application process and also during and after the exchange semester. Any questions asked by students were responded to within a few hours, sometimes even minutes. If we had any questions whilst living in Dornbirn, we could come to their office at anytime during the opening hours and they would assist us. They also organized a welcome week for the international students, a buddy mingle, excursions and a leaving party. I could not have been happier with the FH Vorarlberg. The school was quite small which only brought us advantages as students; we got closer to the teachers and other students, both internationals and locals. I have friends for life thanks to the FH Vorarlberg.

There are three different student dormitories to choose from in Dornbirn. I lived in the one in Sebastianstraße 15, which I am very pleased with. It is a good location and good standard. I had my own room and shared the kitchen and bathroom with two other students. In total we were 24 international students living together at Sebastianstraße. The other two accommodations both seemed good as well, the difference is that there are not only international students living there and one of the dormitories are located further away. There is also other accommodation options, you can either stay with a host family, in a shared flat or find your own flat. I unfortunately do not know too much about those options. I am happy with my chosen accommodation; it was not too expensive (399 euros per month) and I had a nice view of the hills and mountains. All of us who lived there got very close to each other. We used to hang out every day and it started to feel like we were a family.

It is a little bit cheaper to live in Austria than in Sweden. Food prices in restaurants are pretty much the same as in Sweden, but alcohol is much cheaper and food in grocery stores are slightly cheaper.

One of the best things about living in Austria is that it is such a beautiful country. Dornbirn, the city where I lived, is surrounded by mountains, which I really appreciated. I spent a lot more time outside than what I normally do. We used to go hiking together in groups; during the day, in the evening to watch the sunset or in the middle of the night to watch the sunrise. Austria also has a great train system, so it is both easy and affordable to travel within the country to other cities, for example Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna. It is also convenient to hop on a night train to Budapest or a Flixbus to Italy. I had planned to go travel more than I actually did, and the reason is because I liked it so much in Dornbirn, so I didn’t feel the need to travel. I am forever thankful that I choose Dornbirn. I made so many close friends during my exchange, and I defiantly want to go back to Dornbirn and Austria. Several international students could actually see themselves living there in the future, me included.

It is not a lie that people grow through an exchange experience. I came home with a whole new energy, new perspectives on things and a happier, more confident self. I recommend every student who has the possibility to go abroad, to just, GO! I enjoyed it from day one and onwards. I believe that one of the most difficult things about the semester abroad was to go back to Sweden. That says a lot, right? I give my exchange semester 10/10.

I further recommend you to watch this video made by a very talented Intermedia student who lived in the same accommodation as me. The lyrics are made by other, very talented international students. It is amazing and very inspirational!