Exchange in Austria

Field of study in Wageningen: Forest and Nature conservation
Study period exchange: 01/02/2019 until 04/07/2019
Country (exchange): Austria
City (exchange): Graz
University (exchange): University of Graz

2. Motivation for exchange

Why did you choose to go on study exchange?

In my bachelor Forest- and Nature Conservation, I learned about the sustainable management of nature and in a broader sense the environment as a whole. I choose this bachelor for different reasons. I value nature on itself, but it is also, in multiple ways, of great value for humanity. For example, it adds to wellbeing and it provides society with essential resources. Now that I am in the last phase of my bachelor, I realised this bachelor has a strong focus on supply. Therefore, I missed a focus on the sustainable management of nature from the viewpoint of demand. Hence, how society and industry approach and use natural resources. For this reason, I decided to deepen my knowledge in the field of Sustainable Business Management as a minor, which was possible at the University of Graz.

Studying abroad would offer me a chance to gain new experiences. By changing my surrounding and by crossing boundaries of my everyday life I wanted to become more independent. I look at is as an amazing opportunity and challenge to learn how to succeed in an unknown environment. Having everyday interactions with locals and by getting accustomed to their traditions and culture I hope to broaden my horizon and gain a more nuanced view on the world.

I greatly enjoyed this semester at the Karl-Franzens-Universität in Graz, and I have decided to stay in Graz for a master Sustainable Development. At the university, I took interesting courses at the Institute of System Sciences, Innovation and Sustainable Research that are in fact part of the Master Sustainable Development. The thought-provoking content of these courses and the positive and professional appearance, quality and atmosphere of the institute are reasons for me to stay. I want to emphasize that I have felt welcome within ‘the community of sustainable development’. The professors are great, and I have made kind, fun and interesting friends among the students with whom I also have a lot of non-university related fun.

Why Graz?

  • First of all, as a Forest- and Nature Conservation Student, Austria appealed to me because of the beautiful and diverse nature with mountains, lakes and meadows.
  • Second, the transition from winter (snow and skiing!) to summer (close to Italy, Croatia and the beach!) appealed to me. The climate in Graz is really nice; it was warm from march onwards, leading to terraces, festivals and wine farms nearby.
  • Third, I wanted to learn a new language and German was a good choice for me from a professional perspective.
  • Fourth, Graz is a good combination of traditional Austrian-vibe and a Mediterranean-vibe.
  • Fifth, Graz is a very international city that attracts a lot of students from Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Servia.
  • Lastly, Graz is a very old and beautiful city, situated next to the Schlossberg (a hill that gives a great view of the city), with a medieval inner city that is on the World Heritage list.
  • Graz is not that big; everything is within walking distance. Also, the city is very green with a lot of parcs.

3. Accessibility to reach destination

Do you have any tips to reach your exchange destination?

Graz can be reached by plane. KLM has daily flights from Amsterdam to Graz and Vienna. If you book early, the tickets are not that expensive. From Vienna you can either take a train or a flixbus to Graz. Both take about two hours. The flixbus prices start at 8,50 and I have never paid more than 16,50 from Vienna Airport to Graz. 

You can also take a Flixbus or a train all the way if flying is not preferred, this takes about 16-24 hours.

4. University and studying

Could you provide some general information about the followed courses?

  • Strategic Sustainability Management (4 ECTS)

This course is about corporate social responsibility. It looks at this concept from two angles:

  1. Inside-out: CSR within the (strategic) management
  2. Outside-in: supply-chain management
    The course also looks how to incorporate or maintain CSR into crises and innovation management.

I picked this course because it provides me with a great foundation of knowledge on how to sustainably manage a business.


The materials provided in the course are extensive. Several theories of different authors are offered for each topic. This is very useful to gain awareness of opinions and discourses that exist around a topic. However, going into depth is hard. I got a bit overwhelmed by all the information.

With regard to the lectures, I like the teaching style. It is very informal, and we were given the opportunity to give comments or opinions. However, 4 hours of lecture in the morning is a bit long.

The examination was through a take-home exam at the beginning of the course and exactly the same one at the end of the course. We were allowed to work together.

  • Sustainability Entrepreneurship (4 ECTS)

This course teaches the students the competences to develop a business plan for a start-up or to innovate products or services of an already existing organization. The students have to analyse and incorporate the aspects of the real-world situation into the business plan.
I picked this course because it aligns with the course Strategic Sustainability Management. In this way, I can apply the knowledge gained in that course into a real-life situation.

Remarks: This course was a little bit vague. The assignment wasn’t clear at the beginning of the course. It was all about how you present an innovative idea in a creative way. How products sell through good marketing. As a consequence, the business plan did not have to be scientific. Unfortunately, we picked an idea that didn’t have that ‘show-factor’ in it… But the professors were enthusiastic, so we continued with this idea. However, when we got closer to the final pitch, we weren’t able to ‘wow’ the professors as our idea wasn’t suitable for a creative way of selling. As a result, I didn’t really enjoy the course, as we weren’t able to fulfil the assignment and thus gain the skills that the course provided.

  • Waste and Recycling (4 ECTS)

Waste management is a task that has to be accomplished by enterprises, both by those who produce waste and those who see to it. This course provides for both sides: giving an overview of different kinds of (solid) wastes that may accrue and the ways firms can deal with them, the legal bases that have to be accounted for (like devising corporate waste management concepts or the regulations on packaging).
I picked this course because waste management is an important factor for sustainable management of businesses. If an enterprise devises proper strategies of waste separation and disposal, this can add to both, environmental protection and enterprise efficiency.


This course turned out to be very different than in its description. We barely talked about how waste management is accomplished by enterprises. However, I really liked the course. It provided an insight in how Austria handles its waste management and how other countries (from the other international students) handled waste management. We also had fun excursions to waste management handling ‘’factories’’. This gave me a whole new viewpoint on how we as a society deal with waste and what we consider as waste.

The examination was an oral exam.

  • Research Project Sustainability Management (6 ECTS)

This course includes an ongoing research project on a hot topic: Smart Home Energy Systems (HEMS). The result is a scientific manuscript that could be submitted to a journal. It is important for consumers to get insights in the cost of such a

HEMS. Thus, the manuscript includes a dynamic investment appraisal on the costs of a smart energy system, including indicators such as profit comparison numbers, average rate of return and the static payback period. Before I started the course, the topic of the research project was unknown, but it turned out great. The topic of HEMS is very interesting and by looking at it from the viewpoint of the consumer, I get an insight in consumer preferences on environmentally friendly products. Which is very helpful for the course Sustainability entrepreneurship.


Great course that served as a preparation for the master thesis. I learned a lot and conducting research suddenly didn’t look that hard anymore as it was presented in small manageable steps.

The topic changes every year.

  • Environmental Decision Making (4 ECTS)

This course addresses decision making in an environmental context. The course will provide an overview on how humans make decisions by taking into account insights behavioural economics instead of neo-classical economics.
Rational choice-models are very popular in neo-classical economics due to their high relevance for policy. But rational Choice models are not sufficient to explain the real world. Humans often don’t make rational decisions.
But how do humans make decisions if it is not based on rationale? And how can we guide these decisions to enable environmentally friendly consumption?
I picked this course because it sounded very interesting. The information/literature provided in the course forms the foundation of the environmental economics.


Great course, great build-up of information. Same professor as Research Project.

I thought the written exam was hard. With this kind of courses in Wageningen I am used to writing essay-like answers to questions, but with a 100-minute exam, I had to answer a bit more to the point and less essay like. This was hard for me.

  • Environmental and Social Consequences of Biofuels (10 ECTS)

This course is an interdisciplinary practicum on biofuels. A big amount of incentives for Austria shall be invested until 2030 for advanced bio-fuels for transport (but without aviation and shipping). In this course we investigate what kind of biofuels exist and which bio-fuel could be a serious option in Austria. We investigate the environmental impacts of bio-fuels; the social impacts of bio-fuels; the feedstocks; the legal basis and the economic implications of bio-fuels.
I picked the course because it is interdisciplinary, and I wanted to incorporate all my new-gained knowledge on economics in a real-life situation. Another reason why I picked this course is the fact that it uses biofuels in Austria as a case study. Which I think is interesting when doing a semester abroad.


This was a very interesting course in which I learned a lot.

Small side-note though, I had no idea about the structure of the course, and I didn’t get the assignment until the last class in the last week. Luckily, we coincidentally did it right and were already done.

I could’ve asked the professors as they are very approachable and then the structure probably would have become more clear (so that’s my own fault).

How is the study formalized?

Graz uses semester courses (courses that continue over the entire semester, so ±16 weeks) and block courses (courses that only last 1-2 week(s)). This was a bit scary to me, as I would have six courses at the same time instead of two (as it is in the Wageningen system). However, this was completely fine. I had a good overview of all the courses and my workload was lower than in Wageningen.

Study forms include a lot of groupwork. Examination in my courses was diverse (oral exam, written exam, business plan, 2 scientific reports and one take-home exam).

What is the culture of the university?

Professors are easily accessible, and the teaching style is informal; there is room to state own opinions and personal anecdotes. The professors are also very aware of student workload and you can go to them if you need some extra time or some extra help.

What does the university offer the student additionally?

The university is situated in an area with a lot of café’s and bars. There is also a cafeteria and ‘’the Mensa’’ (the universities restaurant). In the Mensa the food is good but a bit expensive and there are limited options. I preferred the Mensa at the technical University (one of the other uni’s in Graz).

Sport facilities at the university are often full. For some sport courses, students need to sleep overnight at the university to stand in line early enough. But this is fun, students made a party night out of this and camp overnight with music, drinks and food.

Other facilities are usually included in the student dormitories which are very good (see question 5).

5. Housing-travelling-living

What are the possibilities for housing?

It is easy to find a room in Graz. Either in a private house or in a student dormitory. As an international student I would go with the dormitories, since these are furnished and easy to get in. I want to stress that all the dormitories are clean, have good facilities and have good locations as Graz is small. Nevertheless, some information:
• My favorite dormitory is the one at Neutorgasse from home4homestudents. It has a good location in the town center. Furthermore, the rooms are in 2-4 room apartments in which a bathroom and a toilet is shared. Kitchen is shared with more people. It is also an international dorm. Lastly, good parties are thrown here. This dormitory has studio’s (single rooms with kitchens) but these are hard to get in for international students.
• If you are interested in the parties and a more student-live dormitory, Moserhofgasse WIST is the best option. It is a bit older, but definitely a cool scene. It is a bit far from the center; a 15/20-minute walk.
• The prettiest dormitory I have seen is Münzgrabenstraße Akademikerhilfe Studentenheim. This dormitory has single rooms with kitchens (studio’s) and shared flats for two with kitchen and bathroom. It also has a terrace, with sunbeds and BBQ’s. Small downfall, there are no laundry dryers.

Could you give a general price indication of the place of residence compared to living in Wageningen?

Single rooms are usually around €350.

Double/shared rooms (two beds in one bedroom) are around €150-€250

Could you give some information about public transport infrastructure?

Public transport is easy; there are buses and trams. The central transfer point in Graz is Jakominiplatz all the trams and buses go via this stop. The train station is Graz Hauptbahnhof (5 minutes by tram from Jakomini). Tickets are €2,40 for an hour. There is also a student card, but this one is hardly ever used as most students use a bike or walk. Bikes can be bought at the beginning of the semester (check: Willhaben, the Austrian Marktplaats).

Train tickets for trips can be bought at

6. Free time

What are must-sees in the area? 

Outside Graz:

  • When going to Graz you can plan trips (relatively easy) to the following cities by train or flixbus for the weekend: Ljubljana, Vienna, Prague, Venice, Bologna, Milan, Verona, Munich, Triestre and Florence. Daytrips by train or flixbus include Bratislava, Hallstatt, Salzburg, Frohnleiten and some other Austrian cities or areas you would like to visit.
  • The chocolate factory Zotter is definitely worth a visit. ESN Graz also has a trip here.
  • ESN organizes trips and activities at least once a week. Check the calendar on their website.
  • If you are into skiing or snowboarding, GIGA sport also organizes daytrips and weekend-trips.

In Graz for partying/clubbing:

Sidenote: In Austria it is normal to smoke in bars, café’s and clubs.

  • Check Facebook events; there is something to do in Graz every night.
  • Good clubs: Mausefalle, die Thalia (Favourite), Monkey’s, Postgarage (Favourite 2), PPC, Kotelinsky, Club Orange.
  • Dormitory parties are a lot of fun.
  • There is often life music at Lendplatz
  • Go to ‘’Office Pub’’ on the Erasmus Nights (every Wednesday in the beginning of the semester and once every two weeks in the middle of the semester).


  • Area5 is the student place to go; cheap, good food and a rooftop terrace. I was here almost every week.
  • Liu and KOKO are good Asian place.
  • The best pizza you get at either L’Osteria or Galliano’s. Gluten free pizza at Vaipano’s.
  • Kirby’s has good food as well.
  • The best Kebab is at Dietrichsplatz.
  • Good coffee places: Ducks Café and Tribeka (also great gluten free sandwiches).
  • Propellor has a really nice garden and good food.
  • Glöckl Bräu for Austrian food.
  • My favorite places for drinks and dates: Cohibar, Café Mitte, Keller, Flann O’brians, Miles Jazzbar and Noël.

7. Challenges & best moment abroad

What was a challenge you have experienced? And what was your best memory abroad?

I’ve had a great Erasmus semester and I loved every second of it. However, for this questionnaire, I would just answer something general to these two specific questions. Contact me personally if you want to know more about Graz or my best memories or challenges abroad.

8. Contact details

Annechien Hoeben: