Arizona: a great cultural experience

The location of Arizona provided for a great cultural experience, as I was able to travel a few hours up north with my friends and be on the beaches in California, or travel an hour up the mountains nearby to watch it snow. The extremes of the climate were unbelievable, and were a lot of fun to experience as I have never seen snow before. I didn’t think I’d see snow in Arizona for my first time. It was still warm enough to be in the pool in December (middle of winter), and I had the opportunity to make many new friends through the many pool parties which were held at the apartment complex. Through the new friends I made, I was also able to experience the professional sports leagues, where I was able to attend NBA and MLB games, which is my favourite aspect of American Culture therefore was truly an amazing experience.

The biggest expense incurred was rent for accommodation, which ended up being around $800 a month for 5 months. This was definitely more than expected, however the convenience of its location was well worth it. Other expenses included general expenses such as food and utilities and internet costs which were very cheap. If I was looking to travel anywhere out of walking distance, I was required to take a taxi as I did not own a car in the USA and the public transport system was very basic, therefore did not cater to locations other than the campus. I believe that was the issue I disliked the most, and recommend future students to make friends with students who have cars so they can avoid that cost.

Food in supermarkets were a lot cheaper than Australia – almost half the price. Take-away was significantly cheaper than Australia too therefore I was able to live very comfortably. Season tickets for football and basketball were $150, and something I recommend strongly because it was such a unique experience. I spent more money than I expected as I had the opportunity to travel frequently and experience much of the American Culture I love. I recommend students set aside money for music and sports tickets, and even entertainment events such as going to the movies was almost a third of the price as Australia where adult tickets were seven dollars. The scholarship I received from QUT helped out significantly as it helped to pay for accommodation and also the school textbooks I was required to buy.

Life In London

‘Ello from London Town! Welcome and thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy reading my posts and pick up a few tips that may encourage you to apply for exchange wherever that may be. I am currently in my second year of a Bachelor of Business majoring in Accountancy and I am on exchange for one semester; second semester back home and the Autumn Term here. When I was deciding on where to go on exchange, I put London as my first option as it’s the ‘financial centre of Europe’ and also for it’s close proximity to the rest of Europe for travelling. The university I am on exchange at is called Cass Business School which offers courses in both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. The School is part of City University, which is where all of my classes are held.

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First day of school

The classes that I am enrolled in are a mixture of first, second and third year classes. I am doing two BSB equivalent classes here, an entrepreneurship class and an exchange class called ‘Historic London’. For this particular class, we meet up each week at a different location in London and we essentially go on a tour. So far we have visited: The Monument, Tower of London, Southwark, Westminster Abbey, Imperial War Museum, British Museum and a few other places I can’t recall off the top of my head. The class is a great way to learn about the history of London and how it has become the city it is today. London today as we know it has a ‘City of London’ inside it, which has a separate Lord Major, flag and authorities from the rest of London. It is the area that was known as Londinium, the original London when it was part of the Roman Empire.

Here are a few photos of my time here in London:

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Watching the sunset behind Big Ben.

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Staple afternoon tea: scones with clotted cream and jam!

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Natural History Museum

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The most photographed phone booth in London

Thanks for reading, until next time!

Tailgating: one of the best cultural experiences

 ASU is well-known for their space science courses offered and also their geology programs. The WP Carey Business School for management majors is also very popular and definitely a strength of the college. Their football and basketball programs are definitely one of the biggest strengths, as they are in the NCAA Division 1 league and their games are often televised on ESPN.  One of the best cultural experiences was going to, “tailgating”, where students turn up at the parking lot opposite the football stadium to socialise before the game. The whole college sports atmosphere was the biggest shock to me as I could not comprehend just how huge the college sports scene is in America. Players who are good in their teams become nationally famous and are often on ESPN, which was very unreal to me because they were only my age.

During the semester I studied Entrepreneurship and Value Creation (MGT360), Sociology, Philosophy and French. The biggest difference with the delivery method was that the subjects you had on Monday, you also had on Wednesday and Friday. The classes you had on Tuesday you also had on Thursday. I was very surprised that most students had class 5 days a week, unlike at my experiences at QUT. Furthermore marks were broken up, therefore it was a lot like high school where I had about 4-5 exams for each class throughout the semester, instead of the traditional 40% midterm and 60% final that I’m used to here.

Tests were mostly multiple-choice and short-answer, so I found the delivery method of assessment to be much easier than at QUT as the marks were broken up over several exams. Therefore there was less content to study and multiple-choice style exams made the exams quite easy. Furthermore, in my philosophy class, the lecturer put all possible exam questions on blackboard a few days prior, therefore all exam questions and answers were already given to students. My entrepreneurial class however was a lot more independently focused, where the teacher gave minimal input and very little help throughout the semester. The teacher explained that was the focus of the class as it concentrated on students being able to turn their ideas into a business plan on their own. Therefore I experienced two extremes of the delivery method, and I found both to be very beneficial ways to learn.

An American semester at Arizona State University

I had the pleasure of attending Arizona State University, where all my classes were on the Tempe Campus. With close to 70,000 students attending that campus, meant that the University there was magnificent and very beautiful. My impressions of the campus were just like the movies. Students rode long-boards to school and wore clothes showing school spirit for “The Sun Devils”. My impressions of the university were that it was prestigious and classically an, “American College”, where students were there for socialising with one another just as much as they were there to study. This school spirit and socialising aspect was something very different to my experiences at QUT. I joined a fraternity for a short period of time, and found it to be an invaluable experience where I made many new friends.

Students at Arizona State University came from all over the country, and most of my new friends were not close to home. A large percentage of them came from the east coast or mid-west, and came to Arizona as they wanted to be far away from what they were used to. This was a huge shock to me as many of the QUT students live in Brisbane, and do not come from the other side of Australia just to attend university.

The campus was magnificent. It was massive with beautiful gardens and water features spread out. Buildings went by subjects so it was easy to navigate throughout the college and despite it being in Arizona, the campus was very green. The accommodation was a 5 minute walk to the campus, and was only accommodated by students of the college, therefore I was always living near my new friends. The surrounding area is perfect for students as shopping malls are a 10 minute walk away, and the light rail stop (public transportation) is right outside many of the student apartments, and the bars and clubs are right next to the college.

Settling in Sheffield, England

I opted to live in University Halls of Residence so I would have a guaranteed flat ready for me the day I arrived, so bills were inclusive and so I could easily meet fellow students. I would recommend this as a preferred option over private housing as not only are the halls usually located closer to the University (all are within 30 minutes walking distance) and other facilities such as supermarkets, public transport and pharmacies, but there are so many extra-circular activities you can get involved in which makes meeting people so much easier. Sheffield Hallam has a great website which lists all the student halls available (there are around 30) and what facilities and amenities they include. The application process was then simply completed through this website, and all international students are guaranteed a room.

The cost of living in England is also very similar to Australia (inter-city and travel to Europe is extremely cheap however), but I would advise potential students to consider the exchange rate whilst budgeting. Once the exchange rate is considered, a student can easily compare the cost of living in England to Brisbane, with the extra money due to it being slightly cheaper being put towards travelling! Llyods bank in England offer short term bank accounts which are ideal for international students. I used both this account as well as a multicurrency cash passport to transfer my finances. Another strength of Sheffield Hallam is that they offer support for setting up a bank account for all International students.

On the whole, studying in England is extremely similar to Australia and QUT. It is a great option for those who want to travel and experience living abroad, yet don’t feel comfortable in being immersed in a new culture and language. It is undoubtable that I gained valuable skills through completing the exchange such as confidence, self-reliance, cultural sensitivity, resilience, flexibility, enthusiasm, initiative, determination and the ability to take risks and work under pressure; as well as international travel experience. I also joined the Sheffield Hallam University Architecture Society independent of my study requirements where I conversed with likeminded Architecture students and professionals at corporate events, networking functions and guest lectures. Therefore, exchange not only gave me the opportunity to gain personal skills but professional and academic alike.

If I wasn’t in the last six months of my degree I would have done a yearlong exchange!

Sheffield Hallam University = Similar to QUT

Arriving to this at Sheffield Hallam University

Arriving to this at Sheffield Hallam University

I arrived in Sheffield two weeks prior to commencing university so I could explore my surrounds, do a few sightseeing trips (ie. to London, Leeds, Manchester etc) and attend my pre-enrolment sessions. It was great to have time to settle in and see a bit of England before university pressures surmounted, and the latter was simple yet informative and helpful in my transition to Sheffield Hallam. The International Staff at Sheffield Hallam are incredibly helpful, as are the general English student body I found. This was a first impression which carried through the entire semester.

During my semester abroad I studied four units, which only had one assessment piece (100%) each which was a much easier work load than the usual three assessments items per subject at QUT! Despite the smaller workload, the subjects I studied at Sheffield Hallam were extremely similar to those at QUT both in delivery and content. The majority of English universities use BlackBoard and other administrative processes and teaching methods, such as assignment hand in procedures, CRA sheets and lecture and tutorial sign on, were also similar to QUT. This aided immensely in the transition to university abroad, and the smaller workload gave me extra time to travel.

Sheffield Hallam consists of two campuses, both within 30 minutes’ walk of each other; however, all my classes were located at the city campus. The city campus is ideally located right in the middle of the city centre, surrounded by shops, eateries, the train and bus station and student accommodation. Additionally, both campuses have a range of facilities such as computer labs, libraries, printing and copying services, resource rooms, eateries, sports venues, gyms, etc.

Hostel life in Singapore

Singapore is the 2nd safest city in the world (2015). Singapore Management University and its’ students are of a high standard on a global level. English makes Singapore attractive to many Westerners –but you’ll still be one of a minority; to my knowledge I was the only Australian at SMU (though there were two Singaporean students whom went to Australia to complete degrees, only to return as exchange students to their home country!).

Many exchange students elected to stay at the SMU-contracted hostel. I chose not to as I was concerned about the number of rules, and the signing of a semester-long contract. Also, the hostel was not exactly close to SMU. I stayed in a filthy yet homely ‘backpacker hostel’ in Singapore’s red-light district –Geylang (only 4km away from the city and SMU). I picked the hostel purely by chance from browsing the net and seeing the attractive price (SGD $22 a night, then later SGD $500 month). I lived there the whole time, and next-to-no tourists stayed there (the Trip Advisor reviews repelled most!). I enjoyed staying there as it had a family-feel to it with a dozen Singaporean resident ‘uncles’ calling it home (they were mostly poor, or people who chose a simple, communal lifestyle, or whom simply needed a bed -given most worked 6-7 days a week, doing 9 or 12 hour shifts). I think the communal living and daily chatter was the only sense of sanity for many of these very hard working men –many complained, and, also mentioned the luckiness of Australian society and work culture.

Before departing Australia, I started networking with several people living in Singapore via LinkedIn.com. I successfully arranged to hang out with a consulting professional a number of occasions and ended up becoming good friends discussing many topics about Singapore. I also arranged an internship with a company. Although it fell through, by chance, one of my Singaporean uncles at the hostel told me about his daughter working at an events and team building company, so I managed to work a few events and make some money too which was interesting and fun!