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Essential German words to know as a student in Austria

Zazie Atkinson
Zazie Atkinson - [email protected]
Essential German words to know as a student in Austria

Even if you think you’ve got the grasp on the German language, coming to study at an Austrian university will introduce you to a number of new words and abbreviations you’ll have to get acquainted with. Here are some of the ones you’ll hear the most.


die WG (Wohngemeinschaft)

Most students in Austria tend not to live in university dorms, instead they will choose to live in a Wohngemeinschaft (residential community), which is essentially a flat share, with other students. 

das Semesterticket

As part of the semester fee you pay upon enrolling at a Austrian university, you receive a Semesterticket, which is a card that is valid on all public transport in your university town (or even the entire state), allowing you to make as many free journeys as you like between your WG, classes and your favourite student cafe.

der Studentenausweis

This is your student ID card that certifies your enrolment at a university, usually valid for one semester, after which it must be renewed or extended. It is essential for getting those student discounts and often has your semester ticket included in it.

der/die Ersti

A diminutive form of Erstsemestrige or Erstsemestler, Ersti refers to students who are in their first semester of studies, similar to Freshers or Freshmen. Ersti-Veranstaltungen are events put on specifically for first years.

der Kommilitone, die Kommilitonin

While it may seem a rather formal term, die Kommilitonen refers to your fellow students. If this is too hard to remember, you can always use the term der/die Studienkollege*in, which is a bit like referring to fellow students as your “studying colleagues”.


die Vorlesung

Like in the famous German novel Der Vorleser (or The Reader) by Bernhard Schlink, Die Vorlesung can mean a reading, but in a university setting the term usually refers to a lecture. At Austrian universities it is common for there to be hundreds of students in a lecture, with a professor leading the class. To attend a lecture translates to eine Vorlesung besuchen.

der/die Dozent*in

A Dozent is a university lecturer but can also be a seminar leader or any other teacher position at the university. A more general, gender-neutral term is die Lehrkraft.

die Hausarbeit

Although directly translating to “homework”, Hausarbeit at university refers to term papers, which are longer form essays that many university modules require you to write. A dissertation at the end of your bachelor's degree, meanwhile, would be your Bachelorarbeit, and your Master's thesis would be your Masterarbeit


das Auslandssemester

Das Auslandssemester is a semester abroad, where students will spend one or two semesters studying at a university outside of Austria. Many students choose to do an Auslandssemester in Austria, while many Austrian students do one elsewhere. A general study period abroad can also be called das Auslandsstudium.

die Fachschaft

Akin to a student council, a Fachschaft at an Austrian university usually consists of all students of an institute or a department. Membership is automatic upon matriculation to the university, and a small fee is usually paid upon enrolment.


das Studentenwerk or das Studierendenwerk

An institution at universities that is responsible for the social support of the students, promoting social and cultural interests of students. Similar to a student’s union, the Studentenwerke are regulated by state laws and are also paid for by students and carry out the operation of the cafeterias, student dormitories and support for foreign students through counselling and cultural offerings.

Did we miss your favourite word or expression? Let us know in the comments below.



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