Step out of your comfort zone
Jafari Haider Ghani from Pakistan is studying the Global Business Program at FH JOANNEUM. Photo: Private

Step out of your comfort zone


Welcoming international students and supporting them during their stay in Austria is always a priority for FH JOANNEUM. Even during the global pandemic, we are glad to help our international students to feel like home. Our student Jafari Haider Ghani from Pakistan, who is studying the Global Business Program, shares his unique experience of being an exchange student during this challenging time.

How and why did you decide to take an exchange semester?

First of all, I have a couple of alumni friends who had been to Austria already. So, I have heard from their experiences. I remember how excited they were while sharing all their memories from here. Also, my home university has a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with FH JOANNEUM. It is a big thing for us to get a fully funded European exchange, especially because I am from a non-European country. So, it is something that I have always been interested in, and also because I wanted to travel all by myself. I really believe once you are in a foreign environment and without your parents, you step out of your comfort zone and that is when you grow the most. I wanted to challenge myself and experience a new and foreign environment. That is why I have chosen this exchange.

What do you enjoy about studying at FH JOANNEUM?

My first point would be the diversity! Here is so much cultural diversity! If you name a country, you will have someone from that country here. It is so fun getting to know about different cultures, about their ethnicities and their backgrounds. The entire experience of getting to meet such a diverse pool of people is the best part of studying here. Secondly, I also feel like the modular system at FH JOANNEUM and the way how it is managed is very comfortable for students. They can study and enjoy the culture of Austria at the same time. I feel like I can maintain the balance between those two. That is why I do not miss home at all. I study but I also make friends, I socialize and enjoy Austria.

What were your biggest challenges and obstacles during your time abroad?

We were three people from Pakistan who got grants for doing an exchange semester to Austria. Right from the beginning, when we had to apply for the visa, it was so uncertain for us because of COVID-19. But I am so grateful to the University and to the Minister of Education! They were extremely supportive and extremely kind to us with responding to all my queries. University staff and all involved people have been extremely supportive to get us through this process. Even now, when we are finally here and study online, I think that everyone copes with these challenges very well.

What are your biggest learnings during your time abroad?

I think the biggest learning would be not to feel insecure about myself. In one of our projects, I got to work with people from Austria and I felt like I had a lot of responsibilities because I was the minority in that group, and they were the majority. I also had to present our work in front of many people. So, I had the responsibility to present myself, make my space and establish my boundaries. I think that being confident and not being insecure are a few skills that I have learnt here. So, I would say I have learnt a lot about self-confidence, about interpersonal communication skills and interacting with different kinds of people with different backgrounds. That is something I have enjoyed the most.

Could you please tell three words you associate with the students here?

They are extremely friendly; they are extremely fun! I feel like Austrians are very warm in their nature and very supportive.

Could you please tell three words you associate with the lecturers here?

Being very interactive, lots of learning. And the third association would be ¬- because the courses go by very fast - something along the line how quickly you have to bound with the professors but then you also have to say goodbye to them.

Could you please describe your exchange semester in three words?

Adventure, making dozens of new friends, exploring myself.

What would you tell students who want to go abroad for an exchange semester?

I think that this exchange semester is not just one semester, it is a life. A wise man once told me that there are two ways you learn: either by books or by travelling. Do not be afraid to travel because you should know that you are learning from it. If you really want to grow and explore yourself, you have to step out of your comfort zone, you have to leave your country and only then you can be able to understand who you really are. That would be my advice for future exchange students.


More about the study program here.