So I’ve been asked to write this blog

Hi guys, well my name’s Andrew, I’m 19 and I study a Bachelor of Business at QUT. This year, in second semester I’m spending five months on exchange, and I’ve been asked to write about it.

The main reason I think is because going on exchange is a really big decision. It’s expensive, and means leaving everything back home – but that’s the beauty of it. My five months are going to be spent in the Netherlands, in a town called Maastricht. It’s quite small, just over 120,000 people (when university is in), and really different. The city looks nothing like Brisbane (see below), most locals speak about 4 or 5 languages (thankfully one of them is English) and it’s on other-side of the world. It’s so different to back home, and that’s why I chose it.


Hopefully what I write over the next few months will help inspire more people to go on exchange, because for some reason not many people from QUT do it. I’ve been here for a couple of weeks now and I can say without a doubt it will be the best thing I’ll do for a very long time. The people I’ve met so far (locals and other exchangers) are so friendly, I’ve visited some really awesome places (London, Dublin and Amsterdam to name a few) and there are heaps more planned (thanks to Ryanair). Before I left I had heaps of concerns, I mean getting on exchange was hard enough! – but now that I’m here I know I made the right decision.

I’ve got to play catch-up a little with my next few posts, writing about the first few weeks after the first few weeks haha, so please excuse the time-line but hopefully by the end it’ll give an accurate depiction of what exchange is like, and why you should do it!

Talk soon!

Andrew

Warsaw!!

So its totally not what I expected… I was all prepared with my full on winter coat… got off the plane… and it’s like 20 something degrees… haha!! not that I’m complaining!! It’s totally awesome! I still get a few more weeks of sunshine!!

I am staying in the Old Town area of Warsaw till I have to go into uni on Tuesday. I am getting used to the city before I have to study… And I love it!!

I have found that it’s a little bit of everything… its like Venice because there are loads of pigeons! Then like Paris because it has the coffee shops with umbrellas out the front. Also like Brugge because all the buildings are pretty and clumped together… totally awesome! Most people here know pretty decent English!! so my terrible Polish skills are not needed… amazingly even the zebra crossings are like pianos!! I’ll add a picture when I find a zebra crossing that doesnt have people or cars over it… There are like a million brides walking round the city with their entire bridal party, taking pictures at every corner!! Ice creams that are on cones, but like 5 inches tall! delicious cakes, the most beautiful and historic buildings ever! AND taxis that take ‘dropping you off at your doorstep’ very seriously, as they literally drive onto the pathway where people are walking to let you out of the cab!!

Warsaw is certainly a city to visit! And probably the best place for me to have come on my exchange!!

This is going to be awesome!!

EUROPE!!!

Europe has to be the most facinating place in the world!! It is light, like all day, from about 4am (not that i am up that early, but i just know) till about 10:30 at night!! crazy! however it means you get a longer day, more time to sightsee!! yay!

So I just arrived back into London after traveling around europe for a month and a half, it was so totally awesome!! Started in Brugge (Belguim), which is this beautiful, tiny little town in the country known best for its chocolates!! the buildings were the best part, they have these cool roofs which look like steps, and stick out (the photo explains it better)

so you see, awesome! only problem with the city is that there isnt much to do there… so i recomend only spending a few days there.

We then went off to Paris, which is pretty much what you expect. When in the very center of the city, totally beutiful, but as soon as you go outside, very dismal… but still, amazing! We pretty much managed to fit in all our sightseeing into one day! We did this by going on a hop-on-hop-off bus… sooo worth the money! It took you all around the main sights, with tour guides on the bus and everything.

We also got to spend a day at Disneyland Paris, which was sooo cool!! though the lines for the rides were HUGE!

From Paris we started our busabout trip. And went to switzerland! best place ever! it was so pretty!!! you literally walk out of your room at the camping ground and see a waterfall off a cliff (photo below)

Its was very peaceful, met some cool people and just hung out… there were many walking tracks (which i didnt do…) and waterfalls to see (which i did do)… so all together, totally awesome! The people in switzerland are amazing, they know perfect english and plenty of other languages!!

Then we went to munich, beer capital of the world! We stayed in Wombats hostel, which was so well organised and really nice. Lots of placed to go at night time, where pretty much everyone was! We did the walking tour in the morning, then went to the Dachau Concentration Camp the next day, was very scary and sad to think about.

Next was Innsbruck, which was also very pretty, but rained most of the time i was there. Still amazing, lots of shops, also went to the crystal musium, which was beautiful! only spent 2 nights in innsbruck, dont reqally need much longer. You can however, in winter, go bobsleding!! how cool is that! unfortunately it was too “warm” so we couldnt do it…

From there we went onto Venice, which was soooo hot and stinky! but lots and lots of shopping to be done, which was awesome! Though i got bored of shopping towards the end of our stay in venice, which is very unlike me!! lots of masks and glass to buy! Venice is an Island… i didnt know that… loads of tiny bridges!

Next stop was ROME! I was so looking forward to it and wasnt dissapointed! It was amazing and you can totally tell that rome wasnt built in a day! the history was everywhere, its just sad that all the gold and riches were taken from the ruins!

Next was Florrence, on the way we stopped off at a small tuscan village, it was beautiful. But florrence, wasnt anything like it… as i was expecting… It was much more like a normal Italian city. We hired bikes to get around, which was a mistake, as i am very clumbsy and fell off… not fun! Awesome markets though so i got lots of stuff!!

Almost over now, from florrence we headed to nice, but on the way stopped of in Pisa, which was awesome! We got to take lots of photos!!

So nice, it was very pretty, and different to where we had been so far. Its on the french coast line, so we had the ocean for once! Only problem  is that instead of sand at the beach there were big, sharp, pebbles!! so it wasnt exactly the place for sunbathing!

Last stop was dublin, we flew there from nice . Pretty cool city, though a bit too much like england for my taste. Awesome pub lunches though and lots of guinness! We got to do the guinness factory which was sweet! The founder signed a contract to have the property for 9000 years! smart man!

So now back in England and heading into poland soon!!!

Big trip, awesome fun, cant wait to do it again!!!

Busabout

I just got back to London from my big trip around europe! A post is coming detailing that trip, but i wanted to mention busabout.

If anyone is going to europe for a holiday and want to do lots of places, please look into doing busabout! Its the best way and i totally recomend it to anyone going to europe. Its just like Contiki and Top Deck, without all the stupid parts. Like it picks you up at the most popular hostel in the city, then just drops you off in the next one. No worries trying to find the station! They have break points in between, mostly just at service stations, but sometimes at places like Pisa and the sleeping beauty castle.

There is a website that you book everything through, your seats on the bus, your accomodation. Everything.

Just check it out! i believe it only goes in summer. But there are loads of options, all around europe, Italian adventure, Greek Island hopper!!! so cool!!!

This is the Website! http://www.busabout.com/Explorer

Hong Kong: Everyone is rushing to get where they are going.

You’re on the plane. The headphones and blankets are coming around.

You’ve been talking about it for months, the planning is done.

No more talking.

No more planning

You’re doing it

You’ve left

You’re going on exchange.

I arrive at the gate, the cleanest and most efficient airport you’ve ever seen – a highspeed MTR wizzes me to the terminal.

Everyone is rushing to get where they are going.

Could be an allegory about the whole city.

The City

Hong Kong is really about success – make money and go where you are going. Everything is flashy, everything is about showing what you have. Nothing is preserved, it just about building and buying bigger and better. So the skyline is impressive and brands are everywhere.

But it can sometimes feel a bit cold and soulless. You’re surrounded by people, but yet you are a bit alone.

The defining feature of HK is its compactness.  The size of central brisbane; but home to 7 million people.  It’s all about packing everything tightly, making more with less.

This centrality gives a critical mass of people to create an incredible infrastructure – the best transport I’ve experienced; and (rightly or wrongly) an underclass of people who keep it meticulously clean.

The Study

Hong Kong IS business. A massive port, banking skyscrapers – if you’re into finance, trade and economics come here.

But even if you’re not, come here.

The flexibility of exchange presents an opportunity to do things that you might not be able to do otherwise.

I’m here finishing the last few parts of my Business (economics) degree, while gaining some perspectives on my law degree. Whilst that means I’m exploring the wild thrills of econometrics and micro-economics; I’ve also had the chance to indulge in my love for development and aid, Asian relations, security and Chinese law.

Whilst the easy marks sometimes offer the temptation to ignore study – it also presents an opportunity to engage with the subject on your own terms.

The inability to work and minimum accountability to anyone by myself presents the chance to really take stock of what I’m learning.

Looking beyond the obvious. Reading past what is asked. Instead of “getting through this assessment” and “just ticking the boxes” – it’s a chance to open my mind to some of real issues and expand my passions. The work is not longer about marks, but about learning for me.

Mngoy..

A sire of British order, and Chinese hierarchy and harmonization – Hong Kong is about process; a city run by bureaucrats. It certainly needs to be – in order to manage 7 million in a tight spot, HK requires following of rules. I found myself, surrounded by signs instructing my behaviour (no littering or sleeping in trees – noted), and red-tape blocking my way.

While success in Australian culture is defined by your ability to speak informally to authority, cut through bureaucracy and charm your way through inflexibility; I found I needed to adapt quickly to Hong Kong’s ways. Patience through the process

HK’s tight space also means that it imports pretty much all its food. While Australia has some of the best produce in the world; fresh vegetables, cheap meat – expect to pay through the nose for it here. And it won’t be much good. Eating healthily requires some clever thinking and patience.

And don’t expect much in the way of good coffee.

That doesn’t mean you can’t find amazing and delicious food. Seafood galore (I can’t go past pavement satay squid), a brunch of dim sum (yum cha dumplings and chicken feet) to the positively novel – snake soup (I thought the snake blood was a bit depraved) and chicken testacies.

Savior of bars falling down bars, the world over.

It’s a cliché, but Hong Kong never sleeps.

Well, it does, but just not at western times. It’s not surprising to find that shops don’t open to 11am-ish (emphasis on the ‘ish’). However, everything will be open until 11pm at least, and it’s not surprising to find people walking around a shopping centre until after midnight.

Of course, this has the unfortunate effect of shifting your sleeping patterns from 11am – 3am each day. For my own mental health and productivity I’ve attempted to maintain a certain level of normal routine and functionality. But, when in Rome….

People who know me well, wouldn’t be surprised to know I’m never far from holding up a bar.

Nightclubs here are a myriad of live music, tiny haunts, high-class skyscraper bars and (what I suspect are) triad-fronts. Whatever you want, they’ve got; with the emphasis on showy and ostentatious.

The best fun I’ve had though, was kareoke! The locals absolutely love it, what better opportunity to sing canto-pop at top volume!

The bar district Lang Kwai Fong in central Hong Kong, remains a popular centre for local yuppies, ex-pats and Australians who should know better.

I don’t know if it’s the humidity, but I always wake up with an awful headache.