The political engagement at the University of Vienna

“Gegen Rassismus”, “Make Marxism great again” or “Wir reden nicht über links oder rechts, wir reden mit DIR – Jetzt AG wählen!“ These are just some slogans on posters in front of the university – there are many more. When I arrived at the University of Vienna (and it’s important to know that I study in the main building because it is especially intensive there), then it looks like this for example: First, I get a flyer from the green student party, then I get a Fairtrade coffee from an environment organization and then the newspaper “Der Standard”. And that happens almost every day. For me, that was a completely new experience. During my first two weeks in Vienna this was really unfamiliar for me because at the main building in Berne, there is not a spectacle like this. Of course, I never thought that it is bad but at the beginning I thought “is that not too much?” I mean, I get that many flyers, things or information that I never could or would want to read all of them. And often they also want to talk to you and to be honest: Often, I just need to go to study and do not have time for talking. So, at the beginning I just thought that it was a little bit exaggerated and I could not understand why they made such an effort. After a little time, I found out that there will be the ÖH-Wahlen when you can elect your student and university agency. So, all the parties do a lot of advertising, spread out some flyers or they give you pencils or stuff like this for free. You also get a lot of e-mails which ask you to go and vote for your party. A friend of mine also told me that a lot of people who are active in university politics often stay in politics and later, they do professionally. So, a lot of Austrian politician make their first step in the university context. When the election came closer and closer, of course the amount of posters and flyers increase. The whole street in front of the main building was completely full of advertising and there was a huge banner at the facade with the words “Es koat oanfach mehr gwÖHlt” (= people should more vote). For me, such a big political engagement at university was completely new. All students were in voting mood and there were a lot of events like political discussions. I do not know this from the University of Berne and every day, I liked it more. For me, it was so interesting to see how that many students are that active in politics and make that much of an effort for it. Now, I do not find it strange and I do not longer think why they are doing this. I am just overpowered about that big commitment and I like the attitude of the students, meaning that they think they can change things – and try it.

It is important to complete that after the ÖH-election, there are still a lot of people in front of the university who spread out things like for example brochures of Amnesty International or Green Peace. So, even when the election is finished they try to activate a lot of students for doing some political stuff (of course, they also just do advertising and want you to donate some money). All in all, what I first found a little bit strange and unfamiliar becomes familiar and maybe even more of that: I am really a fan of this political engagement and think I will miss it at the University of Berne – not just the coffe for free, also the attitude of the Vienna students.

Eva Lichtsteiner

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