Welcome to Austria
The Austria Destination Guide will provide a historical overview, scholarship information, health and safety tips, plus identity-specific resources to ensure students feel prepared with insight and resources for their global experience in Austria. The information shared below is a bird eye’s view and meant to provide some country-specific context. We encourage students to conduct further research and chat with relevant points of contact including advisors, program leaders, international student services at the host campus, internship coordinators or peers who have traveled to Austria to gain a greater understanding of their host country and/or city.
Given its geographically central location in Europe, rich history and flourishing arts and music scene, Austria remains one of the top twenty-five most popular destinations for U.S. study abroad students. Today, Austria is mostly an affluent, democratic and liberal country with laws and policies to protect ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, people with disabilities and other groups from discrimination. In recent history, however, minority groups have faced additional hostility.
Annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938, racism, homophobia and other prejudices enforced by Nazism became integral components of Austrian culture. Post WWII, Soviets gained control of German assets in the 1945 Potsdam agreements, and thus control of most of Austria’s primary resources. It wasn’t until the Austrian State Treaty of 1955 that Austria regained complete independence. Although Austria began compensating Nazi victims during the postwar period, it wasn’t until 1994, almost forty years after complete independence, that more serious efforts were made to address racist sentiments and behavior.
Today, while some current extremist political parties are still being accused of anti-racist sentiments, most Austrians view themselves as progressive and openly receive international visitors. Racism and bigotry are shunned and religious freedom, LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights are embraced.
Geographically, Austria is north of Italy and Slovenia and slightly smaller than the state of Maine. The country’s strategic location in the center of Europe, makes travel to most other European countries easy for students. Bordered by the Alps in the west and gently sloping hills in the east, Austria offers visitors beautiful and varied scenery around the country. Despite overarching cultural similarities, differences in cuisine and local dialects are notable.
According to the Institute of International Education (IIE) Open Doors Report 2017, Austria remains one of the top 25 leading destinations with more than 3,216 students from the United States studying abroad in Austria, a roughly 0.2% increase from the previous year recorded .
Cities & Education
Vienna is the capital of Austria. This historical city has a modern feel due to its architecture but Vienna still holds its traditional charm due to the city's many traditional coffee houses, wine taverns and Würstelstand sausage stands.
Taking a 2.5 hour train ride will take you to a land of fantastic wonders, dreamy castles, rosy gardens and sparkling rivers, Salzburg (literally meaning: salt castle). Salzburg is almost fairytale like in a chivalrous manner making it an enchanting study abroad destination. The University of Salzburg is the largest university in Salzburg. The University of Salzburg (also known as Paris London University) consists of four faculties: catholic theology, law, humanities and natural science.
Austria has a free and public school system which includes nine years of mandatory education mandated by the School Act of 1962. After students complete secondary school, they are free to continue their studies at a vocational-technical school or university.
The University of Vienna is regarded as the most prominent university in Austria and is the alma mater of nine Nobel Prize winners therefore it is known for its academic excellence and high international rankings. TU Wien is another prominent university in Vienna and ranks among the top universities in Europe. TU Wien is a technology-focused university and emphasizes research and coursework on sciences and engineering.
One reason why students go to Austria is to study music. Austria’s myriad music universities, academies and conservatories are renowned worldwide. In fact, Austrian student’s actually make less than half of the student population at music schools in Austria. Popular music schools include: the Mozarteum in Salzburg, University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.
Events & Tourism
Austria is home to Classic musicians such as Mozart and Beethoven, so it's a must for any classical music lover. Skiers and snowboarders will want to spend time in the Alps, and any Sound of Music lovers will immediately want to explore the hills and villages featured in the film.
Spend time getting to know the capital city Vienna, which is home to beautiful sites like the Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you're in Austria during the winter, it's a must that you visit places such as Seefeld, Tyrol, which housed the winter Olympics twice! If you love music and performing arts, the Philharmonic Orchestra, the Staatsoper and Vienna Boys’ Choir are all a must see during your time here!
Travelers can explore some of the Best Places to Visit in Austria. Recognized as a World Bank High-Income Country, the average Numbeo Cost of Living in Austria is 12% higher than in the United States (aggregate data for all cities, rent is not taken into account). If you plan on renting, expect monthly costs for a single person to be around 22% lower than the U.S. On the micro level, the average cost for a three-course meal for 2 at a mid-range restaurant is between $47-74USD (about 38-60€ Euros) while a meal at an inexpensive one might cost about $12USD. Travelers should be able to enjoy a movie for around $12USD.
Salzburg is a popular destination for locals and international tourists! Salzburg was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The Salzburg Old town has some of the world’s most well-known baroque architecture. The famous American film Sound of Music was also filmed on Salzburg’s picturesque landscape. The musical’s choice of setting seems extremely befitting considering the fact the enchanting city is also the birthplace of the prestigious musician and composer – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The city’s culture is greatly influenced by Mozart’s fame. Even the traditional treat, Mozartkugeln (a type of chocolate candy), was named after the renowned music genius.The city houses many charms worth exploring. Visit the old Salzburg archbishop summer palace of Schloss Hellbrunn, Shop on the graceful street Getreidegasse, view the breathtaking scene from Hhensalzburg Fortress. Or try your luck at Casino Salzburg, start a match on one of the giant chess boards painted on Salzburg’s grounds, uncover some hidden jewels in a local museum, take a tour in the salt mines or just walk around and soak in the musical atmosphere. No matter what you choose to do, the artistic city will captivate and amaze you with its enchanting beauty.
Salzburg has a continental climate making the summer and fall the preferred time to study. While the summers are pleasantly warm, winters can be cold and snowy. Precipitation is common throughout the year. However, temperature may also range in Salzburg depending on the altitude. The Salzburg music festival hosted in July and August is a famous event that attracts many visitors annually. Other great events Salzburg hosts include Salzburg Easter festival and Europrix multimedia award. Looking for after school entertainment? Salzburg’s local soccer club FC Red Bull Salzburg‘s performances are a great leisure time activity. Bars and clubs may also be found around the city. More information about visiting Salzburg can be found here: https://www.salzburg.info/en
15 Things to Know Before You Go to Vienna, Roads & Kingdoms
Diversity & Inclusion Climate
Population: Language(s): German (official nationwide) 88.6%, Turkish 2.3%, Serbian 2.2%, Croatian (official in Burgenland) 1.6%, other (includes Slovene, official in South Carinthia, and
Hungarian, official in Burgenland) 5.3% (2001 est.)
Religions: Catholic 73.8% (includes Roman Catholic 73.6%, other Catholic 0.2%), Protestant 4.9%, Muslim 4.2%, Orthodox 2.2%, other 0.8% (includes other Christian), none 12%, unspecified 2% (2001 est.)
Ethnic groups: Austrians 91.1%, former Yugoslavs 4% (includes Croatians, Slovenes, Serbs, and Bosniaks), Turks 1.6%, Germans 0.9%, other or unspecified 2.4% (2001 census)
A majority of the population in Austria speaks German, the country's official language. German is the language used in media, in schools, and formal announcements. The variety of German used, Austrian German is partially influenced by Austro-Bavarian and uses many “Germanized” words and expressions deriving from it. Austro-Bavarian is the main native language in Austria used outside of Vorarlberg. Alemannic is the primary language spoken in Vorarlberg. The following minority languages have official status in Austria: Serbian, Turkish, Burgenland Croatian, Hungarina, and Solvene. The diverse ehtnic groups that speak these languages are also recognized and respected as stated in the Austrian Federal Constitution.
In 2016 on average some 1.898 million people (roughly 22.1% of the population) with foreign backgrounds were living in Austria. Of that population, about 483,100 people were descendants of foreign-born parents but born in Austria therefore are considered “second generation”. About 50% of migration comes from EU citizens. The largest subgroup of EU immigration are Romanian citizens, followed by Hungarians and Germans.
“Austrians and foreigners who are Muslim and/or have darker skin do not generally experience the city as particularly “liveable”. It is part of their daily life in Vienna to be subject to racial slurs and Islamophobic comments, restrictions on access to services, feeling unsafe and being harassed by the police.”
-Claire Healy, The Irish Times
The identities of the African diaspora in Vienna are becoming more prominent as a result of community organizations coming together to support Black and African communities in Vienna. Organisations and projects include Pamoja: The Movement of the Young African Diaspora in Austria, the annual African Diaspora Youth Forum in Europe and Fresh Magazine, a publication on Black Austrian lifestyle, bring more light to the diversity of Austria’s people.
More about diversity in Austria:
- Diversity in Austria, Afrowanders YouTube
- Austria Facts & Figures: Population, Austrian Embassy Washington DC
- Vienna is ranked world’s ‘most liveable city,’ but for whom (2018), Claire Healy
A Changing Mood in Austria: ‘They should be sent away,” Info Migrants YouTube
Staying Healthy & Safe in Austria
Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about the recommended vaccines you may need before traveling to
Austria. Review updates regarding current travel risks for Austria via the following sites:
Crime rates in Austria are low and Austria has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. Women are generally safe in public but women of color and Muslim women have experienced acts of racism and discrimation in public.
No matter where you are in the world, whether it is your hometown or a new city, it is important to be alert and practice awareness of your surroundings. Austria is a fairly safe place, however there are a few precautions any traveler should take while navigating a new country. Be cautious in areas that are touristy and may have large crowds as pickpocketing may happen such as the plaza around St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the pedestrian shopping areas in Vienna’s First District and on public transportation.
Here are a few tips:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Leave valuable items at home whenever possible and only travel with your necessities
- Avoid being flashy or careless with valuable items
- Ensure your bags and pockets are tight and completely zipped
- Do not leave personal items unattended
- Have a travel partner when possible
Local emergency assistance numbers in Austria are:
122 Fire brigade
112 General EU emergency number
In the case that you need to contact the U.S. Embassy in Austria, you can refer to their website.
Funding Study Abroad in Austria
There are many scholarships to fund your study abroad experience. Here is a list of Diversity Abroad scholarships available for study in this country:
If you are participating in a study abroad program through a provider, always check if they offer scholarships to students. Some providers that have diversity and/or need based scholarships, for example, CCIS and ISEP, are among some of the providers that offer scholarships. Some providers also provide stipends to students who serve as bloggers or program ambassadors. Don’t miss out on any opportunities to alleviate the cost of your program! Do your research and also talk to your university's study abroad program staff to learn more about potential campus scholarship opportunities!
For more scholarships, visit https://www.diversityabroad.com/scholarships