Loving Life in Canada

I had wanted to travel to Canada for quite some time, so I was very excited to have the opportunity to do a semester abroad in Quebec as a part of my QUT degree. Exchange afforded me many opportunities to experience the Canadian culture, which was a life-changing experience for me in many ways. I was able to explore Eastern Canada, visiting a number of cities and towns in both Quebec and the neighboring province of Ontario during the semester. My university studies exposed me to another country’s way of approaching psychology, and expanded my understanding of my profession. What I feel was most valuable, however, was the friendships I formed with people from all over the world, including local Quebecers, people from other parts of Canada, and those from Europe and even a few other Aussies. There were countless unforgettable moments of my exchange; these pictures show just a few.

Photo 1: Ice skating with friends in Magog. It was a frozen lake, with a walking track beside it. There was water frozen on the path, so that people could skate there in the winter

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Photo 2: Myself posing with Bonholm, the mascot of the Quebec City Carnival. Every year this carnival is held in Quebec, and it’s about all things wintery! There’s ice sculptures, a bit of Quebec history, and other things you would normally find at a show (like rides, ect.)

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Photo 3: Eating poutine, a national Quebec dish, with friends in Montreal.

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Photo 4: This picture is of many of us who were on exchange at Bishop’s university. I made so many wonderful friends and am so thankful I had the opportunity to get to know these people over the course of the semester. The sense of community we had was very special and I’m going to miss it immensely.

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Super Spain

Why Spain?

Having studied Spanish in 2012, I fell in love with the culture and the language.

I had just got back from a Rotary exchange and knew I needed to do a university exchange. I choose Madrid as it was the only place in Spain I could go, with Portugal second, as I wanted to experience a completely different culture and was never interested in the standard Australian ‘culture’ exchange to London or America.

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First Impressions

Upon arrival, everything seemed very relaxed as it was summer holidays. Finding an apartment was stressful and not at the same time. I arrived not knowing where I would stay, booked a hostel, and 3 days later I was moved in to my new apartment. Finding an apartment in Spain is tricky, because generally if you want the room, you take it, sign a contract and an hour later you’re in. So when you go to inspections you really have to think on your feet quickly and there’s no turning back. I wanted a room, called mum and by the time I came back it was taken. So it’s a lot of pressure!

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Accommodation

I paid 390 euros for a single bed and quite a small room with a desk, but it included heating, and all bills plus it was equivalent Queen St mall location. I would recommend now to live a bit further out like in Malasana or outer suburbs as the train lines are so good, but at the time I didn’t know, so took what was on offer. I was living with 9 other people, which was so much fun but only doable for one semester. We were all living on top of each other with no common room and with many noise complaints, but my favourite memories were from that apartment.

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Study

I studied Consumer Behaviour, Film and Tv Direction, Spanish Language course, and Film Studies. Everything was in English, but we could choose to have it in Spanish. I found the classes a lot more relaxed than QUT, the exams were also very relaxed and people would even talk during exams and have their bags next to them. The University de Carlos III had a really great exchange program for Erasmus where lots of trips were organised and I made a lot of friends through that. However, I did have a hard time getting to know locals, you really have to go out of your comfort zone and make a really big effort with them. I recommend living with Spanish as is the easiest way to get to know them otherwise it’s quite hard.

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Financing

Spain is cheaper than Brisbane, but in saying that because it’s cheaper, you do more and spend more. I travelled to 18 different countries, ate out most nights, and was travelling most weekends and spent $18 000. I used the Citibank card as this had no fees at all and used the current exchange rate. So every time I went to get money out, there were no ATM fees, no transfer fees, and it just used the current spot rate VISA had at the time.

Challenges

Before leaving I was very hesitant about buying a camera or using my phone. At first I opted for my phone but as I really like photography I bought a camera half way through exchange. However, the customer service in Spain is really terrible, so it took me a day to find someone help me choose a camera, and it ended up be 30% more as technology is much more expensive there. I was hesitant as I knew pick pocketing was quite common in Spain.

I was pickpocketed at a festival in Salamanca in the centre of Spain. My phone was in my bag in front of me (a must in Spain) whilst holding my overcoat in front of me, but someone came up to ask for a tissue. When I opened up my bag to look their phone or wallet stolen, so I recommend a really good insurance company as it will happen there no matter how attentive you are!

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Overall Experience

None the less, my exchange to Spain was the best semester of my life. I met so many good friends from all over the world and my eyes were opened to International Business. I realised the importance of languages and how important it is to not be ignorant of another person’s culture. I am now an exchange buddy at QUT and I want to provide the best experience to my buddies possible. I am more driven to perfect my Spanish and am considering moving to Spain to work or moving to Europe where I have made some life-long friendships. I’m not sad after exchange, I’m appreciative of my time in Madrid and being back I realise it was the most beautiful, cultural, incredible place I have ever been. I know I will always go back to Madrid, it’s just a matter of time until I get there.


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Traveling While On Exchange – What to Pack and How to Stay Safe

Must-have Items!

Being overseas for nearly 6 months and travelling most of Europe gave me a very good understanding of travel preparation and what must-have items to carry with me at different times. A universal power plug was a very handy item to have while overseas and travelling. An item that I highly recommend having for your temporary ‘home away from home’ is a power board with at least 3 or 4 ports for all your electric devices. This will allow more than 1 power source while eliminating the need to bring spare plug converters. We all rely on our phones very heavily nowadays and this can mean extra strain on phone batteries, especially while travelling. The number 1 item to bring while travelling is a portable battery pack! They can be kept very easily in a backpack and could be your lifesaver when your phone starts running low on battery and you are not anywhere near your accommodation. The last piece of advice I would give regarding travel is to be prepared. When it comes to travelling, there is no such thing as being over prepared. This means triple checking you have all the items you intend to bring, all of the documents you need, checking the times of your transport and being early to catch your transport. There is nothing worse than being stranded and then having to work out alternatives. This will cost you time as well as more money.

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Tips for Staying Safe

Safety was always one of my top priorities but this was even more the case while I was overseas. To help maintain my safety I made sure I never did anything without doing thorough prior research. I also made use of resources such as International SOS and SmartTraveller to check on the safety warnings they broadcast. No matter what resources I used to plan and prepare myself on trips overseas, the most important thing for my safety was to always be alert and aware of my surroundings. Being in the wrong place will sometimes happen but by being vigilant in these situations, you can avoid getting yourself into any trouble.

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Seven Reasons Why I’m Continuing My Tertiary Studies Overseas

Studying overseas is one of the most beneficial experiences you can have as a university student – something I was quick to learn. Want to know what won me over? Check out seven of the top reasons I decided to study overseas!
  1. It gives me the opportunity to travel. Student exchange will allow me to travel to another country (England) and explore its culture, traditions and beauties in-depth and over an extended period of time. In addition, studying overseas will also mean that I have the opportunity to travel to other nearby countries. This interests me, as I would like to experience the wonders of the world.
  2. It allows me to experience a different style of education. By studying abroad, I will have the opportunity to experience a style of teaching that I would not be privy to in Australia. Furthermore, I believe this will give me the chance to see a different side of my journalism degree.
  3. It allows me to experience a different side of the journalism profession. As noted in the previous point, studying abroad will allow me to experience a different side of my journalism degree. This is especially notable, as journalism has been a profession in England for over 300 years – before Australia was even colonized!
  4. It gives me the opportunity to gain unique experiences. A lot of my Journalism-student peers have taken a gap year (or gap month/s), in which they went overseas. They have interesting stories, experiences and outlooks from that year (or month/s) abroad, and often times, it even resulted in their decision to purse journalism as a career. Student exchange will allow me to undertake a similar experience while allowing me to complete my degree.
  5. It looks good on my resume. This is especially notable if I manage to pick up any placements or internships while overseas.
  6. It gives me the opportunity to make lifelong friends. While studying abroad, I’ll meet students from my host country who have backgrounds unique to Australia. This will benefit me, as I could potentially establish long-lasting relationships with unique persons, who could also be excellent points of network in the future.
  7. It allows me to achieve personal development. Being in a different country will test my ability to function in a variety of new, diverse situations. It will encourage me to be independent, explorative and self-reliant.

The Cons I Had To Consider Before Deciding to Study Abroad

While studying abroad is beneficial, cultural and exciting, there were several things I had to consider before making a definitive decision.
  1. Firstly, studying abroad might cause me to be out of my comfort zone. I know, right. You, out of your comfort zone in an overseas paradise? But think about it. Everyone has an established comfort zone. Everyone has their established friends, activities, hangouts and jobs. And I, like everyone else, am comfortable with the familiarity each of these offer. Breaking out of these familiarities in such a sudden and extreme way might prove to be both scary and uncomfortable. I had to consider if studying abroad is worth this risk and decide whether I could or could not embrace new experiences, cultures and people.
  2. On top of this, studying abroad will probably cause me to feel some semblance of homesickness. It could be for my friends and family, or for Australian comforts, like the sun. But let’s be real – it’s 2016. Social networking sites such as Skype and Facebook make keeping in touch incredibly easy, so I decided the likelihood of this happening would be fairly minimal.
  3. But… studying abroad might cause me to miss important milestones and/or emergencies back home. I would love to be there for all the important milestones and tragedies my family or friends may experience. I’m also the kind of person who prefers to offer support in person, and not through a computer screen or telephone. However, life at home will go on – with or without me. It’s something I had to come to terms with before making my final decision.
  4. And finally, study abroad costs a large amount of money. Like, think-of-a-number-and-double-it large. It was (and still is) my biggest concern about travelling overseas – and it doesn’t help that the United Kingdom has a high cost of student living. Thankfully, though, all that pre-decision research paid off. I found out when to go, where to stay and what to do to limit my costs overseas. And besides which, the money will be more than worth the one in a lifetime experience!

Experiencing university life at the Copenhagen Business School

I chose Copenhagen Business School (CBS) because I knew of two other students who had recently been on exchange there and had nothing but positive things to say about the university, city and people. I always wanted to go somewhere that was a little bit different and not the popular choices like London or somewhere in America. In the end CBS was my one and only choice for my application and I couldn’t have been happier with getting that choice. I had a vague idea of what Copenhagen would look like but was subsequently impressed when I arrived. It is notorious for being cloudy with rain frequently on the forecast, I was however lucky with it being sunny for the first couple weeks towards the end of their summer. This lead to every man, woman and dog being out and about riding their bikes all day, swimming in the lakes or going to the park or beach (yes, Copenhagen actually has a beach). The old gothic architecture took on a summery vibe and the coloured houses in Nyhavn looked extra vibrant. By now I started to realise why the Danes are consistently voted the happiest people in the world. Pic 1Pic 2 Pic3 Pic4 Pic5 Pic6 Pic7 Pic8

The first thing you have to do when arriving in Copenhagen is to invest in a good bike because that will be your vessel in which you live your life for the following months. We rode everywhere, whether going to into CBS (25mins), shops (15mins), other dorms (anywhere from 15-40mins), out for drinks (city 10mins, meat packing district 15mins). The initial investment pays off within a couple weeks as catching the metro sets you back $5 per trip and you’ll never have to catch a bus or get a taxi (don’t even know if they exist there…). Also fyi you don’t have to wear helmuts and there is no law against riding drunk, so it does provide funny/sobering rides home at night! On to the accommodation and where do I start with that, the place I was in and very lucky/fortunate to get into is called Tietgenkollgiet. It has been rated as one of the best student dorms in the world because of its architecture, facilities, events, clubs and students. This dorm is majority Danes (approx. 360) with only 40 exchange students. It makes it so much easy to integrate with Danish students as you are required to attend events, meetings and be involved in your kitchens routine/life. Each kitchen has prime facilities where there would be 10 Danish rooms and 2 exchange rooms joined. These people will become your family as you will cook, clean, eat, drink and party with them. All kitchens are decked out with big speakers and lights and all face to the centre circle of the dorm so come Saturday night it is easy to see which kitchen is throwing a party and where you should start you night at because these kitchen parties are open invite to Tietgen residents.

As for my studies I enrolled into electives for my minor so if I’m honest my workload was pretty light throughout the semester, which I had planned. But in saying that I did attend my classes and the facilities at CBS are world class. It is ranked as one of the best business schools in Europe and the way they teach is much different when compared to QUT. All the classes were in English but rather than have 1 lecture and 1 tute per week the classes are more run as a combination and require a lot of discussion and input from students. Also be prepared to have to do a lot of presentations that aren’t even marked for grades and have 100% final exams for all of your subjects. Generally speaking it is a much better way they teach as they keep it interesting with the discussions and are very engaging. Also the classes aren’t all run from start of semester to final exams, there are 3 class schedules; first half of semester, second half of semester or whole teaching semester.

My life-changing Berlin experience

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Fashion is a creative industry that is often dismissed as frivolous and vacuous, however this misconception has spurred me to seek success and ingenuity as a young designer, and pushed me to pursue fashion on an international scale. The exchange program at QUT was promoted to me by undergraduate and fashion alumni, and while I was afraid of the challenges that a semester abroad would present, when I found out I was accepted there was no looking back!

I took my exchange at HTW Berlin because students and teachers recommended it as a progressive institution, and the city is somewhere I have wanted to visit for some time. The university and the city itself is a remarkable combination of modernity and antiquity, as Berlin is one of the most historically and culturally rich cities in the world.

The Wilhelminenhof campus is located in an abandoned cable factory, as is the case with many institutions in Berlin. The grunge undertones of the city are reflected in the street art and club scene that creates a tapestry of youth culture.

HTW provided excellent care for their many international students, and gave us options despite the prevalent language barrier. Moreover the students were willing to help us translate classes and support our endeavors at the university and beyond, as they all spoke English well and relished the chance to practice with native English speakers. I had several private lessons to gain a basic understanding of German before my departure, and once in Berlin, HTW provided a compulsory German language intensive, however our language skills were basic and we relied on the generosity of other students to fully understand the given work. While I am thankful that I learnt some German, several of the partnered teachers were understandably confused as to why we did not have an advanced knowledge of the language of instruction. I would recommend all students who are likely to exchange with HTW to try very hard to learn sufficient German.

The facilities at HTW allowed us to learn techniques that could not be feasibly taught in a smaller institution such as print making, knitwear and specialised pattern making. These are the benefits of having a very large student base, however the campus and machines are often crowded during peak assessment season. Other fashion students at HTW were committed and mature in their learning approach, and the workload is vast, demanding and stimulating. Berlin is a cultural hub in which every street can provide hidden inspiration and consequently, the style of fashion taught is less commercial and more Avant-garde. This was a welcome change and provided inspiration and practical work for my portfolio.

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One factor that concerned me while I was applying to the exchange program was my age (18 at the time), and the fact that I have never lived outside of home, not to mention overseas. I decided that the best option for me was to apply with some of my friends from Fine Arts fashion and thankfully, we all were accepted! I lived in a long stay Air Bnb with two girls who are now my closest friends, and our apartment could not have been more central or more appropriate to our needs.

Before our departure I was granted money from QUT, which combined with money I earned, sustained me throughout my trip. We were warned that finding accommodation in Berlin can be difficult but we searched tirelessly through multiple websites to find a place for the three of us. The city is set up with an amazing underground train (U-Bahn) that took us to HTW and all around Berlin easily. One rewarding lesson exchange taught me is that you can fall in love with a city fast and hard, the aspects of which are unexpected and delightful.

I felt completely at home in Berlin, safe on the streets and welcomed by the community. It is important for visitors to be cautious in some areas of the city, but this is the case all over the world. In my six months

I experienced one threatening situation, which was resolved with rational thinking and boldness. Sometimes I had to think on my feet, as I tiptoed the line between ‘local’ and ‘tourist’, but ultimately I learnt independence and self-confidence.

Exchange is what you make of it, and what I made was an opportunity to see the world and improve myself. Making friends was the most special part of my exchange, and the international and local friendships I fostered are ones that I will cherish forever.

When my time in berlin was approaching an end I had to remind myself that exchange was always going to be a short-term experience, and one that could not be repeated- which is what makes it so special!

Before leaving Australia I was nervous that six months was a long time, that I would loose touch with my home, and that I would change too much. But while reflecting on my trip I realized that personal change is just enhancing who you are. I learnt so much about the industry and about myself in such a short space of time that it can be difficult to return to normalcy, but I have gained the understanding and I can travel and live in foreign cities again, and fall in love all over again.

Why Dalhousie?

 

I chose Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, for a few reasons. The first being that the Law Faculty recommended this institution, the second being that the I wanted to experience the North American college lifestyle and thirdly, I wanted to go somewhere that I spoke the language. I thought that exchange would be difficult enough without having to learn a new language or assimilate into a new culture.

pic 1Halifax: Halifax, Nova Scotia is a quaint city located east of Toronto. Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia, an island province east of the Canadian mainland. It is a university town with three universities located in the city. This means that during semester, it is buzzing with students. Halifax is an old shipping town, so there are a lot of historical buildings around the city centre. In fact, Dalhousie University was founded in 1818.

 

Dalhousie University is beautiful university. The historical buildings are set amongst large green common areas and more modern buildings. There is a large indoor sports complex there with a full gym and heated pool. The great thing about the sports complex, Dalplex, was that it was free! This was bonus as it meant I could indulge in the fall delights i.e. thanksgiving and pumpkin pie, without stacking on the kilos.

Accommodation: Before I left for exchange, I went to the exchange preparation meetings looked online on the Dalhousie website for accommodation options. Unfortunately as I was only staying for one semester, I could not apply for on campus housing. Luckily, I met another student from QUT, Nick, also studying law who was off to Dal as well. We decided that we would look for a place together and look for a couple of other housemates. The Dal website has a handy link to a roommate finder; you put up a small blurb about yourself and ad what you are looking for accommodation wise and you find other students who are looking for a similar set up. Nick and I also joined the Dal Exchange Facebook group and put up a post searching from roommates.pic 2

We ended up in a five bedroom, three bathroom townhouse with a biology student from France, a psychology student from the UK and an engineering student from Sweden. Our rent was $800 per month, which we found out later, was actually quiet expenses. Our house however was about a 5-minute walk from Campus and 10-minute walk from Dalplex. The only additional expense we had to pay on top of the rent was Internet. This was easy enough to set up. My advice to anyone travelling to Dal is to try to make connections through the Facebook groups or exchange meetings early on. It is so much less daunting moving to another country when you already have friends.

Academics: As I am studying a dual degree Bachelor of Laws (Hons)/ Media and Communications, I was only able to enroll in law electives at Dal. I chose to do four subjects. If I had my time again, I would have only done three so as to maximize fun time in Halifax.

The way the Schulich School of Law and the QUT Law School approach teaching and learning is quite different. You attend to classes for each subject per week; they are either 1.5 or 2-hour classes. At Dal, the Professors (as opposed to being called lectures) were able to present their content in which way they chose. There was a lot of writing on a chalk-board (shock!) or a white board. Only one of my professors used powerpoint and made those slides available. The other three Professors, just spoke for the entirety of the class, without any visual aid. This was quite different from QUT, as our Lecturers provide us with our learning content on blackboard and also have recordings online. The Professors advised us in the first class that there was to be no recording of the lectures. I personally found this very difficult, as I like to go back and listen to lectures when I am studying for exams. For anyone going to Dal to study law, I would advise only doing 3 subjects as I found that study load to be heavier than that at QUT.

All in all I found that subjects offered at Dal very interesting but I found the teaching and learning style difficult to get used to.jpic 7

Strengths: I feel that one of the strengths of Schulich School of Law was that small cohort size. There were only 150-200 students per year as opposed to the 1000 first year students we have at QUT. They also prepared their students for professional life, by organizing summer internship all across Canada. I was also really impressed about the student programs and benefits offered throughout Dal; free public transport, free access to the sports centre and student discounts across Halifax businesses.

Finances: I had saved about $12,000 for exchange and my week in the USA before travelling to Canada and the three weeks travelling around the USA for Christmas and New Years following the end of my exchange. I am happy to say I didn’t run out of money. Rent worked out to be $4000 plus a $440 deposit and aside from that, groceries were my second biggest expense. In Halifax there are three major grocery stores; Walmart, Sobeys and the Atlantic Super Store. Initially my housemates and I would travel out to Walmart on the bus, which took around 30 minutes each way. As the semester wore on, I ended up just going into Sobeys on a Tuesday, which was about a 10 minute. On Tuesdays they run a 10% off promotion for students. This was great.

In regards to getting around Halifax, our house was very central so I only really caught the bus to go out to the malls. As an added bonus, once you have your student card, all public transport is free. Some businesses within Halifax also offer discounts for students. All in all, the living expenses in Halifax are pretty on par with Brisbane. The only thing to remember is the exchange rate.

 Challenges: The biggest challenge for me while on exchange was getting used to the teaching and learning model adopted by the professors. I really enjoy having the open of re-watching lectures and having the lecture notes available per week.

 My Fav Halifax Moments

Tattycat Tower Halloween Party

Keeping with the North American tradition we decided to throw a Halloween party. My housemates are I decided to dress comic book theme.

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Cape Breton Road Trip

Three of my housemates and myself decided to go to on a road trip to the north of Nova Scotia to Cape Breton on a mission to find a moose and see all of what Canada has to offer.

 Tips: My top three tips for anyone going on exchange to Dal is:

  1. Make connections with other students online
  2. Make sure you attend the Student Exchange Meetings and Activities
  3. Get Netflix – I found Netflix to be my savior when I was in Halifax. It is very rainy in Halifax so its nice to stay in and binge watch!

Benefits: My exchange was an amazing experience. I have made friends for life all over the world. I found my exchange experience to be a refreshing change from QUT but I am very glad to be back. I missed the sunshine and heat like crazy.pic 5

 

Living in one of the Prettiest Countries: Exchange in Strathclyde, Scotland

I originally chose to do my year exchange at Strathclyde University because I had never left Australia before and I wanted to go to an English speaking country with a similar culture. The Scot’s are pretty similar to Australian’s, they’re laid back, super friendly, love their beer and footy (well soccer, but that’s not an argument you’ll win over there), and, like us, don’t speak “proper” English. Basically, I felt right at home.

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Glasgow is a perfect city to do exchange if you want to travel. It’s smack bang in the middle of the UK, so you can get anywhere in Britain by bus. Plus, thanks to the beautifully cheap airlines that are Ryanair and EasyJet, flying is crazy. Like I’m talking €10 to pretty much any city in Europe. It’s also a perfect city for students. There are three universities in Glasgow, Strathclyde, Caledonian and the University of Glasgow so there’s a massive student culture. Glasgow is one of Britain’s best cities for night life and live music, and there’s always student discounts and, even though Strathclyde isn’t as pretty or famous as Glasgow Uni, it’s smack bang in the city centre so you don’t have to worry about getting an Uber after a night out or catching transport to go shopping.

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The Uni itself had both good and bad points for me. Firstly, because I was doing a full year, but beginning in their second semester, I had a little trouble with administration. I was unable to register for my second semester there for almost the first 4 weeks which was a massive pain because I missed quite a bit of assessment and they’re not big on extensions over there. Another issues with the Uni, which didn’t have too much affect on me because I wasn’t overly concerned with doing exceedingly well, is that in some subjects don’t have CRA’s for assessment. If you’re going over there to pick up your GPA and do really well, that will be a huge frustration, because it’s not standardised at all. However, if you’re going over for more of the experience, like I did, but also want to do semi-well, the pass rate for subjects is 40% so that’s a huge plus.

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Strathy also has campus residences, so you don’t have to deal with home owners or strict living rules or neighbours. It’s nothing fancy, but definitely more convenient, safe and perfect for making friends quickly. The halls usually have 4-5 people to a flat with a shared kitchen and bathroom. There is 24hr security and maintenance so if anything goes wrong or needs to be replaced it happens pretty quickly. The only thing with campus living, is it’s mainly for first years or internationals. If you’re wanting to meet and properly get to know Scottish people, living on campus isn’t going to help. But, it is so good for making friends from all over the world and perfect for travelling purposes… I didn’t pay for accommodation in Italy or Germany, went to Lithuania for Christmas, and popped into Bali on the way home to visit a friend.

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Financially, although the Australian Dollar to Pound rate is ridiculously crap, living expenses is pretty similar, especially if you shop at Aldi or Tesco. So long as you’ve saved up enough to do everything you want to do, and personally I recommend also getting the HELP loan, you’ll be fine.

My one tip is to come to Europe before your exchange starts or have a few weeks travelling planned after, because it’s too cheap to travel around not to make the most of it. Also, make the most of the day or weekend trips offered by the Uni or societies. It’s an awesome chance to get to know more people and see Scotland or other places without having to be in charge or the schedule.

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Basically just get involved in everything, put yourself out there and go a little crazy, no one knows you, so who cares. I honestly couldn’t recommend exchange, or Scotland, enough. 2015 was the best year of my life!

Heidi’s highlights in Leeds

Last September I embarked on the incredible experience of an exchange semester at Leeds University. I chose this University for a number of reasons: the availability of my Biomedical Science subjects, its high reputation within the UK, for the chance to live in Leeds and be close to the beautiful Lake District, and its prime location between London and old Scotland town, Edinburgh. Leeds exceeded my expectations not only with its beautiful campus but also the city of Leeds was full of great shops, markets and exciting events.

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The highlight of Leeds University is its student Union, which went above and beyond in all areas. The Union housed countless groups and clubs available to join as well as hosting several social events throughout the semester. Inside the union was a multitude of warm cafes and always students/staff to answer all of my questions about accommodation, subjects, timetables and transport around Leeds. At the beginning of semester, there was a program running called “give it a go”. It allowed you to try all sorts of activities in different groups to get a taste of what clubs you might like to join or to just have fun and make friends. It included pillow making, cooking, day trips to other Yorkshire cities, sport games, movie nights, fundraisers, horse riding and heaps more. Get Out Get Active was another fantastic group open to anyone that operated throughout semester. It hosted, hiking, kayaking, orienteering, cycling and climbing trips almost every weekend that you could tag along on.

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I joined the Hiking Committee and saw breathtaking sights around Yorkshire that I would probably never have seen on my own. We travelled to the Lake District for a weekend, and also many day trips to the Yorkshire Dales, Ilkey Moore, and more. The two images below are just a glimpse of these magnificent locations. I always used to think of London exclusively when I thought of England but my study abroad semester there showed me the English countryside and mountains are just as unique and exhilarating.

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I had a blast living at Oxley Residence, which was a dormitory style housing with beautiful buildings and grounds (pictured left). The rooms were single with an en-suite and a large desk, and while I hadn’t had any room in my suitcase for room décor, it soon felt like home. I shared a hallway and kitchen with 4 other exchange students and made life-long friends with them and the other students at Oxley. I personally didn’t experience culture shock, I easily slipped into life at Leeds. The only part I found particularly difficult was the weather. I had packed all my warmest winter clothes but soon learnt Australian winter clothes are not English winter clothes. Walking in the rain when its windy and cold without a proper coat is not fun even in beautiful places. To any students travelling to a European country for semester 2 exchanges, BRING A THICK WINTER COAT. It is a must have and don’t be fooled into thinking the jacket you wear in July in Brisbane is going to last you.

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At the time of my exchange semester, the Australian dollar to the British Pound was not favorable for those transferring to the pound. I saved a few thousand dollars for spending money not including rent since I knew the number would be halved when transferring to the pound. I used a travel card from my Australian bank, which I would recommend to travellers since you can transfer money via Internet banking to any currency (so I still had Euros when I travelled to other countries in Europe). The cost of living in Leeds is not nearly as expensive as in London, but due to the worth of the dollar it was still expensive compared to Brisbane. I recommend to future exchange students to make a budget – factoring in transport, food, any further travel and extras – and be strict on yourself to keep it. Living overseas I found the app International SOS – introduced to us in one of the pre-departure talks at QUT – very helpful. It gave me regular updates on the cities near me as well as serving as a sense of security.

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Study abroad was once in a lifetime experience that I recommend to all QUT students. It helped me grow as an independent person and a proactive student. It did fuel my wanderlust and I am now itching to travel again to more countries. Being a student in another country is so different to simply being a tourist. You have the chance to fully immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle, and are given so many amazing opportunities that you share with people from all walks of life. My study abroad semester is a time I will always cherish; along with the friends I made there whom I cannot wait to meet again is some far off city! I highly, highly recommend exchange to any student with a sense of adventure, a longing for culture and a wish for a life-changing experience.

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