Ashleigh McManus

Date: SP5, 2014
Degree Program: Bachelor of Management (Marketing)
Host University: Vienna University of Economics and Business
Host Country: Austria

Why did you choose your host university?

I chose the Vienna University of Economics and Business because I wanted to go to a country that I had never visited before, and somewhere that didn’t speak English so that I could be taken further out of my comfort zone.

What was the university like?

The campus was only built a little over a year ago, so it’s beautiful and modern, and a pleasure to study on. The classes were fairly easy because they’re designed to be accessible for non-native English speakers because so many students are from elsewhere in Europe on the Erasmum program, but so interesting because in any given class, there are students from around 10-15 different countries. It makes it such an exciting way to learn, because you really come to understand the different cultures and backgrounds from different countries. It’s a truly unique experience.

Student Ashleigh McManus - AustriaWhat did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

I have lived overseas before so I wasn’t sure exactly what I would gain from this experience, I just saw it as an opportunity to really get to know a foreign city and have a good time. But I can’t put into words how much I feel this experience has helped me to grow. Although I had always felt self-sufficient, this experience has made that all the more evident – it has made me feel capable and confident to go into any new situation and be able to navigate my way through it. I have gained an international perspective on business and marketing in a way I don’t think would be possible without being in classrooms with such a diverse mix of students and teachers – I studied International marketing and cross cultural communications in classrooms where students spoke from individual experience about the customs in their home countries, and we were able to compare and contrast all cultural norms and taboos. 

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

The OEAD organises student accommodation in Vienna, and to me it seems like a pretty efficient system. They have dozens of properties all over Vienna to suit all budgets, and most students I met were staying in one of the OEAD residences. I would definitely recommend this because it was easy, and organised before you arrive to Vienna, however there are lots of facebook pages where students advertise rooms in private accommodation if their current flatmates are traveling abroad for a semester. For this I would recommend any of the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) facebook pages. However I loved living in student accommodation, it makes everything so easy when some of your closest friends live just upstairs. 

Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

I travelled quite a bit – to Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, London, Paris, Turkey, Serbia and Hungary, and have further trips planned with a few students I met who aren’t returning to their home countries straight away – notable, Iceland, where we’re hiring a car and driving around the country for 7 days. But my favourite trip thus far has to be a trip to Slovenia. Some students had asked for anyone who was interested in hiring a car from Vienna and driving to Slovenia to spend a night in Ljubljana and a night in Bled, with some hiking and exploring the national parks. It ended up being myself, a French girl, a French Canadian, a Canadian and a Thai girl – we had an amazing time and saw some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever experienced.  

Student Ashleigh McManus - AustriaDescribe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

Facebook was a really great tool for meeting new people here. When the semester first starts lots of people who are looking to meet new people post on the student facebook pages asking whether people want to check out this museum, or try out that restaurant etc. Often individual dorms even have a facebook page you can join to meet people in your own residence. My suggestion would be to say ‘yes’ every time anyone asks to hang out – you honestly never know where you’re going to meet your exchange BFF or your next travel partner. 

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

Definitely. Having the experience of living in another culture and adjusting to life away from home is invaluable, and I think shows real initiative. And, as we were continually reminded on exchange, employers are increasingly looking for employees who would be willing and able to relocate if necessary as globalization continues to expand – having an exchange under your belt shows a willingness to try new things, and more importantly, that you have an experience in cultural sensitivity. 

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

Make friends and travel as much as possible. Ask people for their travel tips. Being able to jump on a bus and be in another country in under 3 hours is surreal (and cheap) – take advantage of it.                              

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Top Tips:
Being in a new city, with unfamiliar faces and/or a different language, it may be overwhelming, daunting and nerve-wrecking. However, that should not stop you from going out there and be open to accepting new experiences and new friendships. Take initiative if you want great things to happen - make friends, go out exploring, meet new people, do as many activities to stay active etc. Always have a positive attitude and don’t be shy to ask for help or talk about the problems you may have. Observe and be aware of surroundings because there are many cultural differences to take note of and be considerate about.

Areas of study and research

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