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FH Vorarlberg, Austria

I walk into an empty house, up the stairs and unlock the door into an empty room. I’m spending the next 5 months here. With a lingering airplane smell, I proceeded to analyse everything about this space. What kind of people will I meet? Who are my roommates who have stacked up the pantry full of pre-packaged foods, rice and strange grains? Where the hell is everyone?

I won’t exhaust you with as many questions, pondering and possibilities as I had but I assure you that it was exhilarating more than anything. As first few days went by, the world I had entered started to take shape and form. Imagine getting a box of Lego. You’re given all the bricks in the box, but it’s your choice to create whatever you want. The bricks being all the people, places and things that make up the place you stay. I for one, have found myself living with two wonderful Indian guys. Building my relationship with them from scratch. As with 20 other exchange students in my house (whom I eventually met). I’ve wandered around the small town of Dornbirn, asking myself what kind of lifestyle I’d like to have here. One as an introvert or an extrovert? Healthy routines or regular indulgences? Travel wide or bunker down?

Lifestyle is never black or white, it’s more like a grey that changes shade depending on what colour is next to it. Nevertheless, it’s truly your responsibility to decide on what happens in this world you’ve been thrown into. This point, I’ve discovered, is the secret sauce of the exchange experience. You are the ‘Master Builder’ (thanks Lego movie), and nobody gets to tell you how to live here. Only you.

Wow, that was deep. Chill out. Go have a tea to cool down. After a 10 minute break, we’ll reconvene to enter the part you’re interested in about this blog post. The part where I tell you about FH Vorarlberg. The study part of exchange, and the life that comes with it.

I live in Sebastianstrasse, a 10 minute walk from the university and up a small hill (which is mildly inconvenient sometimes). This apartment building, which is more like a house, is a really-really nice place to stay. All of us (24) are like one big exchange family here, with no lack of eating, sharing, laughing and good times. Always in a constant flux of different languages flying around and nagging for English translation. Around the bend and down the hill, the small but well equipped university has proven to me in this short amount of time that I will have a valuable semester abroad. As long as (of course) I allocate effort and energy. Their welcome week was more than I could have asked for, with lots of free food (yeeeeah!) and time spent getting to know the other exchange students. And included sessions at the university, an excursion up a nearby mountain and a party to conclude the week. All good stuff indeed. Minus the boring admin (looking at you – library card and I.T.).

I am studying Intermedia here in their 4th semester, as part of my third year (1st sem) Visual Communications degree back at UTS. Their cohort is really small, approx. thirty all up including us exchange students. This has serious advantages. As I said before, the university is well-equipped, so that means that there is heaps of gear, computers and spaces at your disposal. Which is very important for us designers; To have access to these tools – to execute our ideas. The design briefs in our classes are very open and allow for a creative output that you can build on and tailor to your desire. These are my impressions so far, but are subject to change. As I am writing this only one week into classes.

About the town of Dornbirn itself, I could go on about for a long while. So I’ll limit myself to: it’s awesome. In the traditional sense of the word, it’s truly awe-inspiring. From the beautiful houses to the towering mountains. Even if you don’t go on exchange here, its a place to add to the bucket list.

Good on you for making it this far into this blog post. But try 30 hours of travel time and a small hill with 30kg of luggage. Yeah-nah? Nah-yeah? Yeah?

Kiran Best
Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication
FH Vorarlberg
Austria

For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au

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