How to attract and keep International Students and Professionals in Upper Austria?

More and more stu­dents and pro­fes­sion­als from all over the world are attract­ed by the rep­u­ta­tion of local uni­ver­si­ties and employ­ers and move to Upper Aus­tria. How­ev­er, as it turns out, most of them leave again after the end of their edu­ca­tion or after a few years on the job, even though ini­tial­ly they had planned to stay longer. Because of this the econ­o­my los­es many much-need­ed spe­cial­ists.

How come and what could be done about it? ACADEMIA SUPERIOR and the Inter­na­tion­al Grad­u­ates Club Linz asked young stu­dents, grad­u­ates, pro­fes­sion­als and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Upper Aus­tri­an insti­tu­tions to find answers to these ques­tions.

Social contacts are key

The most impor­tant find­ing: there is a need for struc­tures, which make it eas­i­er for young inter­na­tion­als to social­ize in Upper Aus­tria. Social embed­ded­ness is an impor­tant fac­tor in the per­son­al deci­sion to set­tle per­ma­nent­ly in a region. Only peo­ple who can make friends will be able to ful­ly inte­grate into soci­ety or to start a fam­i­ly. “Peo­ple here are friend­ly, but also very reserved towards strangers. It’s hard to meet new peo­ple and make friends”, a Latin Amer­i­can stu­dent, who is a Mas­ter stu­dent in Com­put­er Sci­ence at JKU, expressed. He, too, thinks about return­ing to his home coun­try after com­plet­ing his stud­ies.

Pros and cons of the region

Lan­guage bar­ri­ers were named as the num­ber one obsta­cle for inter­na­tion­als in Upper Aus­tria. There is hard­ly any local infor­ma­tion offered in Eng­lish and even if you do speak Ger­man, dialect is a big issue. What would ben­e­fit them is more espe­cial­ly local infor­ma­tion avail­able in Eng­lish and sub­si­dized Ger­man cours­es where also dialect is taught. For many new­com­ers, the short shop-open­ing-hours were also some­thing to get used to and part of what they defined as „cul­tur­al shock“ when arriv­ing at Aus­tria.

The young inter­na­tion­als rat­ed the high qual­i­ty of life, the good health care sys­tem, the qual­i­ty of edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties, pub­lic trans­port and the friend­li­ness of the locals as pos­i­tive assets of Upper Aus­tria.

What to do

To make Upper Aus­tria more inter­na­tion­al, the par­tic­i­pants of the work­shop rec­om­mend­ed to cre­ate more oppor­tu­ni­ties where inter­na­tion­al and local peo­ple can come togeth­er and exchange their ideas. One way would be to pro­mote online plat­forms like Bud­dyMe, pange.at, Inter­Na­tions and KAMA much more with the local and the inter­na­tion­al crowd. In such online net­works, peo­ple who arrive new­ly in Upper Aus­tria and locals can come togeth­er, social­ize and plan joint activ­i­ties.

Further recommendations

More sub­si­dized Ger­man cours­es, which also take the local dialect into account; more Eng­lish infor­ma­tion ser­vices at all lev­els; more Eng­lish sub­ti­tles and orig­i­nal lan­guage offers on tele­vi­sion; the oppor­tu­ni­ty to take your bike with you into trams and bus­es dur­ing off-peak hours; and the estab­lish­ment of an inter­na­tion­al fes­ti­val, were peo­ple, who now live in Upper Aus­tria but come from abroad, show how their artis­tic, culi­nary and cul­tur­al live is an enrich­ment for Upper Aus­tria.

25 peo­ple from 13 dif­fer­ent coun­tries all over the world took place in the work­shop and their rec­om­men­da­tions were met with open ears by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Upper Aus­tri­an admin­is­tra­tion (e.g. Region­al Man­age­ment Upper Aus­tria, Net­work Human Resources, State Office).

The detailed results will be pub­lished in the com­ing weeks. Fur­ther talks – for exam­ple with the ORF Oberöster­re­ich about the con­crete costs of Eng­lish sub­ti­tles for some of the pro­grams – are already set in motion.