Servus, and greetings from Austria! What comes to the question in the headline, even a year ago I couldn’t have agreed more with it. I had seen the Alps, heard the music and tasted Red Bull and for a such a small country as Austria is, I basically thought that was it. Well, as I arrived to my current city of Wels in Upper Austria province to study as an exchange student in FH Wels, I immediately realized that I had been wrong; the whole city was flatter than a dead man’s cardiac function curve!
After the initial shock of the lack of mountains and lederhosen, you’ll find Wels a quite charming place. It’s a small city in European scale with roughly 60 000 people, but there’s a small old town, lots of restaurants and shops and some nice parks. During the winter months, the city was dead quiet. Like really, really quiet. That made the studying here more relaxed as you didn’t have much else to do, although the timetables (or the lack of them) give you something to be nervous for. Teaching methods vary a lot from course to course, as does the level of English – from good to adequate at best.
And as with the rest of the Austria, on Sundays everything is closed so you have plenty of time to do your homework. Or explore the surrounding towns and Austria in general, as some of us did…
Wels is a shopping town, there’s no denying that. Also the restaurant scene here is quite good, but you will get a lot more out of Austria if you travel a bit. By train it’s easy , and pretty cheap, to move around. Also by train you can reach Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy… You name it. Traveling around really is easy in Central Europe, and it’s definitely worthy to take some time and see the neighbouring countries.
Living in general in Austria does not differ much from Finland, although as a Catholic country everything closes early. So you can all stop complaining about the alcohol selling ban after 9 p.m in Finland… Country is cheap-ish, but not as much that you would feel like a millionaire here. It’s easy to get along with, except in smaller places some German knowledge is a must as the amount of English-speakers is not that high.
All in all, Wels and Austria in general are really nice places to spend your exchange. School is okay, food is eatable, language might prove useful and the weather is great during summer. But these are not the reason why the country is visited by millions of tourists every year.
The reasons are nature, landscapes and culture. Those are the answer why I came here, and the reason why I most certainly will come again. Tschüs!