What it is like to start your year abroad during a global pandemic

07 June 2021

In this blog, BSc International Management student Giorgia talks about how the pandemic affected her year abroad plans and how she has learned to embrace change to make the most of her experience in Vienna, Austria.

Growing up in Brussels whilst being French and Italian, I always had an open mind about what the next step of my life would be because I felt like there was no particular place I belonged to. So, after completing my Belgian education, I knew that it was time for me to have a change of scenery whilst also improving my English skills. Out of all the UK universities I was considering, Warwick Business School met all of my requirements, an international campus and cohort with a really good reputation. The BSc International Management course at WBS was the cherry on top as it would allow me to go on a year abroad whilst providing a lot of flexibility throughout the degree.

Now two years after starting my WBS journey, I am finally in the first semester of my year abroad at The Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) and I am planning to go to Stockholm School of Economics for my next semester. However, due to the pandemic, this reality is far from what I had initially planned. After the cancellation of my first placements, IE Madrid and Monash Australia, I had to reconsider my options, which was very frustrating if I’m honest. Thanks to the amazing work of the WBS Undergraduate Year Abroad team I was able to quickly secure alternatives which I was still very excited about.

Despite being in lockdown at the moment, I am having a really good time in Vienna. While it may not be the year abroad experience I had imagined due to the impact of COVID-19, I am making the best out of the current situation. Prior to the lockdown, I spent two months living my life to the fullest. I met a lot of new people from all over Europe, explored Vienna and learned about Austrian culture. With the wonderful friends I made here, I even managed to travel to Prague, Bratislava, Salzburg and Hallstatt. I also got to experience the hot Viennese summer and swims at the Donau, beautiful sunsets with Austrian beer and fun hikes. 

Another big part of the year abroad is of course my academic studies. I had to adapt my studying habits to WU style and teaching format, which are very different from WBS. The workload at WU is more intense than what I was used to. Each class has 4 or 5 different assignments due throughout the semester and an exam. However, whilst it is more demanding, assignments are worth a smaller portion of the course. Also, with less students per course, the size of lectures here corresponds roughly to a seminar group at WBS. Overall, the education is based on the concept of continuous assessment and interactive learning.

In my case and for most of my peers who are currently abroad, this unprecedented year has taught me a lot.  For instance, how to adapt to new and unexpected situations, be open-minded, resourceful and to consistently challenge myself. I believe these are all highly sought after qualities that will definitely benefit me in my future career. 

For anyone considering a year abroad, I would definitely encourage you to go for it. I believe it is a once in a lifetime experience that will allow you to explore the world as well as yourself; both as a person and a student. While you might think that it would be similar to travelling, living and studying in a new country is a completely different experience. It provides you with unique insights and enables you to gain new and valuable perspectives. Although these are uncertain times, I would recommend embracing the opportunity and adopt a mindset of trying to make the most out of it. Even though it might not be what you originally had in mind, your year abroad is about what you make it and how you react to the unexpected. It is primarily the friends, the trips and your approach that make your experience and memories, not just the location and remember, you will have the support from the WBS Year Abroad team throughout, so you won’t feel like you’re facing these changes alone.

Every WBS Undergraduate* has the opportunity to study abroad during their studies, if you would like to find out more about our courses on offer, download our Undergraduate brochure.

*Joint degree’s may differ, please refer to the partner department for study abroad information

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