Studying Content Strategy in Graz: Reflections after the First Semester

Here we are. The first-ever semester break (a well-deserved one!) in my MA in Content Strategy adventure has finally sunk in.

Initially, when I had an idea of writing semester reflections for my portfolio sometime back in December, I thought that the first write-up would be pretty straightforward. I would pen an ode about the merits of marketing and call it a day.

Surely, my mind would be brimming with knowledge about content strategy, which I had diligently acquired since the first asynchronous classes began in September 2023.



Le Nope.

It’s not because I had learned nothing. Why are you like this? Have some faith.

I learned a lot – just different from what I had expected.

I like listicles, so here are 5 things I discovered in the first semester of my MA in Content Strategy at FH Joanneum in Graz.

1. Bildungskarenz is a gift that keeps on giving

The order of the list does not indicate priority, but the topic of Bildungskarenz would be the first to discuss in my reflections one way or another.

When I applied to do this Master’s, I was planning to work part-time and study part-time, which was already demanding. Technically, you are supposed to dedicate 750 hours per semester (30 ECTS credits, with 1 ECTS amounting to about 35 hours). This corresponds to a full-time job.

(Side note: I respect anyone who does this program while working. It’s a lot.)

Through a series of manifested events, I had the opportunity to go into Bildungskarenz for the whole year. I am so glad I can experience the privilege of paid educational leave because the program is intense. It’s challenging in a good way, but you have to hunker down occasionally. I wouldn’t have learned as much without the free time to immerse myself in the topics we discussed in the first semester. And there is a lot I want to explore because…

2. I love learning!

I simply forgot how much I loved learning in a structured environment. I am a big fan of lifelong learning and constantly take classes and online courses. However, nothing compares to the feeling of having a schedule, assignments, group work, readings, and presentations – all laid out in a timeline.

In the first semester, I built a simple HTML and CSS website. I conducted two really comprehensive content audits. I found out about the existence of brand message architecture and how to approach CMS selection.

The professionals we get to learn from have actively been shaping the field of content strategy for years. It’s incredible to ask them questions, hear case studies, and learn how to navigate relationships with coworkers or clients to ensure the content strategy’s success.

I love it. I have the time to do it (see point 1). And I am making the most of this incredible opportunity.

3. Content strategy is not content marketing

Without knowing, I was stumbling in the dark – even during the application process- but my eyes were opened when I started reading about content strategy ahead of the first class. Content strategy is so much more than content marketing. When compared side by side, content marketing has a much narrower focus and primarily deals with the promotional potential of content. Content strategy is the before, during, and after – it’s a framework for treating content as an asset and creating a resilient system to deliver it to users when and how they want it.

Content marketers draw on the wall with magic markers, while content strategists use fine pens.”

How Content Strategy and Content Marketing Are Separate But Connected by Robert Rose

It’s a powerful tool, especially when there is a lot of pressure to keep up – an impossible task when everything constantly changes.

4. You are in charge

This is my first Master’s level degree, and I expected that the vibe would be different than in undergraduate studies. You, indeed, are the one that decides how much you get out of it, how much effort you put in (to an extent – there had to be some form of grading, after all), and what areas you focus on.

In the first semester, I discovered many technical aspects of content strategy, such as intelligent content and information architecture. Neither has been part of my professional work yet. Some areas are still exciting but not something I want to pick up or go back to in my career. The program’s composition makes it easy to try and test a broad spectrum of disciplines that sit within content strategy and choose what interests you.

Then it’s up to you how much you take out of individual courses.

5. Project management will protect your sanity

I have to confess that I had a lot of anxiety waiting for the first semester to kick off. Going back to the university (even though “FH is not a university,” as someone keeps reminding me helpfully) after 11 years had to be tough. Would my memory suck? Is writing papers like riding a bike? Does my hand remember how to hold a pen?

All legit fears.

Completely unfounded, too.

The biggest challenge was tackling the volume of assignments, readings, and lectures. They just wouldn’t let up. In the second week, when Google Calendar alone wasn’t cutting it, I brewed a strong cup of coffee, powered up my laptop, and created a spreadsheet to collect every course teaching plan and map it according to deadlines.

It’s still a lot of work, but without project management, it would be a lot of work AND unnecessary stress. I cannot emphasize how much easier it is to chunk and process the influx of work and learning that comes with this degree when you have a spreadsheet.

The first semester was more than I had hoped for. The classes are exciting and practical. I get to read a lot of books and talk to smart people. 10/10, would recommend.