Ein Mann hält ein Papierflugzeug aus einer Weltkarte in die Höhe

... in Vienna, Austria

Aleksandra in the Library and Learning Center

Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria

Aleksandra Shalakitskaia was an incoming double degree student from Russia (St. Petersburg University) who spend the academic year 2019/20 at WU in the Strategy, Innovation and Management Control Master’s program. She talks about the challenges of distance learning, her exploration of the city, and what it was like being in Vienna during the lockdown.

Why did you choose WU and Vienna for your double degree?

Firstly, one of the main reasons was the fact that the double degree program at WU lasts for a whole academic year — twice as long compared to an ordinary exchange. I really wanted to use the chance and spend more time studying abroad. Secondly, before this year, I had already been to Vienna once and have fallen in love with this city. It neatly combines historical and cultural heritage together with great modern infrastructure and amenities for living. Moreover, when I saw the WU campus, I immediately wished to come and study there. For me it is some kind of a place from the future where you can be today.

What is it like to live and study in a different country for a whole year?

I spent the first few months getting used to it: to a new country, new city, new style of living. It felt like quite a long adaptation journey. But, at some point, sometime in winter, I suddenly finally felt like at home. I think this is the key difference between an exchange semester and a year of studying abroad. For me, the former is mostly about new and crazy experiences, while the latter made me feel like a true local resident.

How did COVID-19 affect your studies at WU?

I only managed to attend two classes in the spring semester before everything moved online. At first, it felt strange not to meet other students and professors in person and not to go to university. But I easily adapted because it was organized quickly and conveniently. The one thing I missed the most was studying in the spaceship library. When the restrictions started loosening in May, I began going outside to study somewhere in the park. It was a very unusual and memorable experience for me.

What are you taking away academically from your exchange stay at WU? What were your social/cultural experiences in Vienna?

The main takeaway for me has been the experience of working in international teams. It was a little more difficult than I had expected. And it was not about the language, but about connection between the team members, about understanding and accepting very different points of view. Beyond that, I learned in practice how useful different cultural and professional backgrounds could be for achieving a common project goal. As for the cultural experience in Vienna, I would mention city bikes. All over the center, you can take a bike and ride around. My favorite route has been around the Ring, where you can observer the city’s main attractions.

Do you have the feeling that this experience will help you in your future career and why?

I believe it certainly will, as it has taught me to live on my own in another country. And I really enjoyed that! I hope that this experience will help me understand better where I would like to live in the future and how I can apply the knowledge I have gained.

What positive experiences will you look back on?

This may sound strange, but I will remember the quarantine times with warmth in my heart. I am glad that I spent it in Vienna and not somewhere else. The quarantine actually helped me explore the city in and out without crowds of tourists around. I believe it was a one-time opportunity.

"This may sound strange, but I will remember the quarantine times with warmth in my heart. I am glad that I spent it in Vienna and not somewhere else."

Content by Aleksandra Shalakitskaia. Thank you!

WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business)

  • Location: Vienna, Austria

  • Population of Vienna: ca. 1.897.491

  • Number of students: ca. 22.016

  • Accreditations: AACSB, AMBA, EQUIS

  • Exchange level: Bachelor, Master, Doctorate