A presentation of the « Karl-Franzens » university, by Maria Buchner, who spends six months in France.
P : « Could you please start by introducing yourself ? Where are you from ? Why did you choose to study in France ?
Hi, I’m Maria Buchner, I’m from Austria — more precisely from Upper Austria. I’m studying law in Graz and I’m in the fourth year of my studies right now. When I am back home in Austria I will start with the Bachelor program of translation in English and French, that should be useful to me as an additional qualification for future job-seeking, besides my regular studies.
First, I’ve chosen to study in France for six months to improve my French. In fact, there are lots of law students in Austria, so mastering foreign languages might put you ahead! Before this exchange semester I went to Costa Rica to improve my Spanish level and now I’m working on my French language skills here ! Besides, I’ve always wanted and planned to take part in the Erasmus-program and I’ve decided to go to Strasbourg, because it is at some point, still a place where I could speak German. In addition, it is quite close from my home.town (so it’s within reach for friends and family who like to come to visit) and moreover it is a great opportunity to be plunged into this European atmosphere in the capital of Europe.
P : What are you studying here ?
I’m actually going through European courses (Conventions Européennes, droit comparé des états européens, droit communautaire institutions européennes etc.), International Public Law in French and — as a backup — some German courses at the IEP !
P : What were you used to studying at your university ? What kind of opportunities does your university offer ? How does the assessing system work out ?
I’ve been learning French for two years beside regular studies, which are law studies : I’ve done lectures and seminars in constitutional, penalty, european, international, corporate, adminstrative and tax law. As far as the Austrian way of teaching at my university is concerned, it’s quite different from France : in Austria, law is less strict, requires less « learn by heart » and law students have the possibility to argue in different ways, meaning that teachers express one personal opinion. Moreover, courses look more like a general discussion than a single presentation from the teacher!
As in France, we have written exams that consist in answering different questions through which you’re being asked to follow your own opinion, write down facts, so you’re more or less asked to learn by yourself. In the main subjects, exams last 4-5 hours. In courses 50% of the grade consists within your oral participation. Of course, it puts in question your capacity to write well-structured essays, something that you learn really well in France.
What’s also really interesting to know for future Erasmus students, is that there are lots of English courses (I think Austria is the fourth European country speaking English the most). The cultural and student life is pretty similar to the one in Strasbourg : one can find Buschenschank (regional restaurants offering regional products at student prices), «le quartier de l’université » for clubbing, which is one general clubbing headquarter where all students gather at night so you don’t have to worry about the meeting point in the city. At university, the sport system is as wide as here, cheap and places are not as limited as in SUAPS. Cultural activities like going to the Opera, theater etc…are cheap as well, as they offer special student tariffs.
P : To you, what would be the main advantages of living in Austria and especially in Graz ?
First of all, Austria is a small country which makes it easy to travel all over the country ! If you want to go to Vienna, you can absolutely do this on weekend since it’s only two hours from Graz by train. Moreover, it’s quite cheap to visit other European countries around Austria by train. What I miss the most in France, is Austrian water which is very good everywhere you go and of course, the beer is so much less expensive than here !
P : How does your French integration at university and in general go on ?
I’m really interested by the associations in Sciences Po, thus I got involved in Stras Diplomacy. Students are welcoming and as it is a small institute, it’s so much easier to make and hang out with friends at the cafeteria.
In general, I love the French language, the French elegant way of dressing, the design of public places, French pastry (the food culture is great !) and the small shops in Strasbourg. Whereas in Graz, one can still find regional products in Buschenschank for instance.