Discovering the University of Essex

I went on exchange to the University of Essex in the second semester of 2015. The University of Essex is situated in Colchester which has claimed to be the oldest town in Britain. Colchester is a relatively small, historic town but is fast-growing. When I first arrived, I was surprised to see how small Colchester is compared to Brisbane as I already thought Brisbane was a small town. It is also home to the Colchester Castle. Colchester is only a 45 minute train ride to London and an 1 hour bus ride to Stamford Airport. This makes it easy to take weekend trips to London. Ryanair , a budget airline mainly flies from Stamford Airport to a majority of the European destinations which is very convenient when travelling during the semester.

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The University

The University of Essex is home to 10,500 students coming from 130 different countries. The nationalities are very diverse so you won’t feel as you are the only foreigner. Many facilities available to the students such as a gym, sports centre, theatre, night club, hairdresser, campus store, banks, restaurants, post office, bars and many more. There is also a market day happening every week where people come onto campus and set up stores selling a variety of things such as sushi, flowers, curry, cake, old record CDs, t-shirts and many more as the stores change every week. There are also two lakes right beside the campus if anyone wanted to enjoy a nice day out on the grass.

Accommodation

The dorms are situated in the campus which makes it very convenient to get to class. It usually only took me 2-5mins to get to class from my dorm depending on where the classroom is. I shared my dorm with 6 other people of the same gender where we get our own bathroom and bedroom but share the kitchen. I chose to stay in the Courts as I appreciate having my own bathroom. The room was quite pleasant where a desk, chair, bed and bedside table is provided. However, you will have to provide your own bedding. There are also heaters in every room, even the bathrooms in the United Kingdom, so there is no need to worry about freezing in winter. The kitchen was supplied with a kettle, rice cooker, fridge and cabinets. You will have to buy your own toaster if you wanted toast and any other cooking utensils. The kitchen are cleaned once a week and garbage are emptied every day. However, it is up to you to clean your bathroom and bedroom. The other option is the Towers where rent is a bit cheaper but you share a dorm with 12 people and have no private toilet. However, it allows you to meet more people and there are parties happening every week at the Towers.

Study

I studied law subjects on exchange which were pretty easy to match with the units back at QUT. The University of Essex has three terms instead of two semesters and give different assessments to the exchange students. I was only required to complete one 100% essays for each subject. pic 2The University of Essex also has less students as compared to QUT, thus their classes are smaller as there is usually only about 30 people enrolled in one subject. For each law subject, I only had a 2 hour lectorial. However, it is required of the students to tap into their class every lesson to mark attendance and failure to attend a certain number of class will require an explanation. I recommend booking transport such as buses, trains and flights in advance as they go up in prices as much as 4x if you book last minute. Also be aware of pickpockets in Europe as they are everywhere and are very creative in the way they try distract and steal your things.

Finance

I budgeted around $15,000 for exchange as I travelled before and after the semester. I also travelled to Asia after leaving Europe. The only way budget way to get around town is taking the bus which is more expensive compared to Brisbane. There is no card system such as the oyster card which is used in London and everyone is required to buy paper tickets when they board the bus. There are also no concession fares. Food is around the same cost depending on where you shop and what you are buying. It is a bit cheaper to shop in Aldi then Tesco but it is a bit inconvenient to get to Aldi in Colchester. There is also a shop called Poundland where everything is one pound. You can find a variety of things from pasta sauce to plates, cups and Halloween costumes so it’s highly recommended to go shop there for essentials before you go to Tesco to buy the rest. I used a Citibank debit card because there is no withdrawal fee. I also had a travel card from Commonwealth for back up but I mainly used my Citibank card.

Overall

Going on exchange has given me a valuable experience which I would not be able to gain otherwise. Being able to live in another country for three months was very valuable as it has made me more independent, mature and grown up in many different ways. There were many issues where I had to make my own decisions and figure out how to solve it. Unexpectedly, my biggest dilemma throughout my exchange is what I should cook for my next meal. I also appreciate the opportunity to travel to many different countries I would recommend anyone to go on exchange as it provides a rare opportunity to live in a different country and gives you a chance to explore and visit different countries before you are stuck in a 9-5 full-time job. I had second thoughts before going due to many different issues but decided to go in the end and had no regrets.

 

Life in Canada as an exchange student

I chose my partner institution as I have always wanted to go to Canada and it was a very beautiful campus with a well renowned business school.

My first impressions where that Kingston was very beautiful. The only issue I had was that I arrived two weeks before uni commenced and being a small university town it was quite desolate.

Kingston, Ontario and the whole of Canada are completely picturesque- just like off a post card. Some of the most incredible landscapes and so much water!!!pic1

Queens itself is beautiful the entire campus is old limestone as it is built in the limestone city (Kingston) buildings covered in vines, which change colour with the seasons.

I struggled when I first arrived at queens to find accommodation. I was able to stay in one of the residences before the students moved back in, although it was quite expensive. I ended up staying in another residence for the semester. I somewhat regret this decision as I believe I would have been more immersed in the atmosphere living in the student ghetto- surrounding student houses. Another reason is that being a third year at the time and due to the different semester times I was older then most of the people I was living with. However, my residence was still a lot of fun and very comfortable, I had a double bed, fridge, meal plan, TV and shared bathroom. There was also an eating area right downstairs.

‘Life in Kingston, Ontario’

I studied three business subjects whilst on exchange as I could not match another. I found the workload easily manageable. The lecture style is vastly different in Canada and in some ways I believe better, the lecture sizes are very small and you have a nametag in front of you. The ‘professor’ or ‘prof’ knows all the students names after a few weeks and the lectures become more conversational. If you miss a lecture you miss all the content, as they do not record in any way so you have to make up off a friend. At the start of semester you have to purchase your course materials, unlike, large textbooks they are compiled articles and studies- far more relevant and interesting. Queens Business School is highly renowned and only the best high school students are selected, as it is such a small school. It was very exclusive and I felt lucky to be apart of it. The only downside to this prestige is that the Queens students were highly motivated and serious. I found they did not like exchange students due to a believe we didn’t work as hard. Some would be quite difficult to work with due to the different learning expectations.

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I went far over my exchange budget. I relied on the QUT bursary and OS help which left me with about $10,000. However, I travelled before commencing uni and did not budget for the type of accommodation I ended up getting. With proper budgeting it definitely would have been manageable. I used a travel money card the whole time while I was over there, which I got from my bank.

The only culture shock I experience was in some pronunciation of words that were sensitive and in different cultural norms. I found a prominent issue was perceived far more extremely in Canada then it was in Australia. This was overcome by explaining the way it was in Australia and apologising. I never felt unsafe in Canada in the time that I was there. There were a few times in the states that I was uneasy but never a serious issue.

I went over expecting to be able to travel on weekends and holidays to nearby cities however in reality it was quite difficult when the Canadian/ American friends I had made just wanted to go home to see their families or catch up on work. I did however do a weekend trip to Ottawa solo and it was a lot of fun. My packing advice would be to pack really light, don’t take a hairdryer- not worth it and buy toiletries there.pic3

I travelled solo and I would recommend to anyone considering doing the same to give it a go. As long as you research where you are going and ensure you always have somewhere to sleep you will be fine and you will likely have a better experience. One other thing I would suggest is to try to live with the host students if possible. Immerse yourself in their world as you will get far more opportunities arise from it. You can make Australian friends whenever in Australia- it’s not all the time you can make ones from another country and those relationships allow you networks for future travel.

I would recommend completing a student exchange as it is a once in a lifetime experience and the best time to do it is when you are young and not held down by serious commitments.

Iceland – The land of fire and ice

For some crazy reason I decided to apply to study abroad in Iceland. It’s about as far away from Brisbane as you can get both in distance and differences. Brisbane is sunny, warm and relaxed for most of the year; Reykjavik is cold, overcast and windy. Honestly though, this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

 

First Impressions

I arrived in Reykjavik about a week ago. It took almost two days (and four long flights) to get to the other side of the world, surprisingly. During the cab ride from the airport I could see the famous church, Hallgrímskirkja, in the distance and I knew I was close to my apartment and, more importantly, close to showering for the first time in 40 hours!
My initial impression of the city: I love it. The buildings are the classic European style with the pointy roofs, there are a few churches breaking up the skyline before hitting the city. The weather for the most part has been overcast, grey, cloudy and sometimes windy; personally I love this kind of weather so I know I’ve come to the right place.

The people here are very polite, especially the drivers. Basically everyone speaks English, definitely any shopkeepers or cab drivers, which is a huge relief. I was concerned about the language barrier since I do not speak Icelandic and while I would love to learn it I don’t think I’d even have a chance to make much progress in the short time I’m here. It looks unlike anything I’ve ever seen, not to mention the actual letters I have never seen such as ð, þ and æ.

 

Adjusting to living away from home

I moved out of my parents house over a year ago so I’m used to not seeing my family and friends everyday, but to be in a completely new town, country and hemisphere was something I was worried about. Another concern I had was that obviously I’m going to have to talk to a lot of people, I’m a bit introverted and this is something I’ve freaked out over in the past. Honestly, I’ve been expecting a breakdown. Instead I’ve just been incredibly happy. I feel like this is definitely the the next stage of my life, I know the next few months are going to be a lot of fun.

 

 

The hidden secrets of an exchange to Dublin

For the last half of 2015 I had the most amazing experience studying at Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland. Ireland I can honestly say is one of the friendliest countries you will ever encounter. The people are consciously aware of the fact that their city has an abundance of international residents and go out of their way to help you. They also love having a good time, and in Dublin especially, you can go to any pub and immediately make 5 new lifelong friends over a pint. I loved every second I was there and met some incredible people from all over Europe.

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Trinity College, is in the centre of Dublin so it makes exploring the city easy and means that you become a local very quickly. Trinity itself has a beautiful campus that is made up of a mixture of historical and modern buildings. There are many student services and societies to become a part of and they’re all very involved in the running of the university. Trinity also has cafes and a state of the art gym on campus, which is free to use as a student. The world-renowned Book of Kells, is housed on campus in the Old Library building and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Dublin. This basically leads to 5 to 6 tour groups walking around campus at all times, which can very entertaining.

I chose Trinity because I had travelled to Ireland before and loved the atmosphere as well as its close position to the UK and Europe. I love to travel so this was pic 2definitely a bonus. Trinity is one of the oldest universities in the world and is highly regarded academically. It has a strong focus on student involvement and support and the whole campus is friendly, a definitely selling point for any university. I also loved Dublin and the opportunity to live in the city was not one I was going to pass up.

Accommodation

I worked with a friend from UQ who was also going to study at Trinity, to try and find accommodation. We had a hard time finding a place that would give us a contract for 4 months (a semester) and not 1 year. We eventually were given some useful information from one of the student services at Trinity who recommended a place called the Marino Institute of Education, 15 minutes drive north of the university. The college has an arrangement with Trinity and offers accommodation for Trinity students for a full year or semester. Marino is made up of 6 blocks of apartments. Each block has around 12 – 15 apartments per block, and each apartment has 4 rooms. Our rooms at Marino included our own bathroom, wardrobe and desk. You shared a kitchen and dining room with your flatmates. I personally loved the accommodation; it was clean, in a safe village-like neighbourhood and felt like a little community of international students.

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Subject

I exchanged with the Economics Department in Trinity and was therefore studying economics subjects while there. I enjoyed the lecture content, (as much as you can ‘enjoy’ lecture content) and the lecturers were very interesting to listen to. Each had their own quirky take on their subject and often used some of the strangest examples to make a point. This made lectures a laugh sometimes. The academics, I feel were not as intense as at QUT but they were definitely not a breeze either. Anyone going to Trinity will find that they won’t struggle to keep up with university work and will be able to travel at the same time.

Finance

In terms of money (easily the worst part of exchange), I budgeted around $10,000 for the semester and the few weeks either end. The accommodation was around $2900 (plus a $300ish deposit which you get back at the end of the semester). I then had enough money for day to day spending, weekend trips to London, Amsterdam and Paris, as well as sightseeing in Ireland. Ireland and Dublin especially, is one of the more expensive places in Europe, however, by Australian standards the pricing for most things is reasonable if not cheaper than usual. Be aware of the exchange rate of the Australian dollar to the Euro, I didn’t have the best exchange rate at the time, but it didn’t cripple me financially. I took a travel cash card and a credit card on exchange. The cash card was for day to day use and I used it the most. It was multi-currency, so I could have Euros and Pounds on it at the same time. The credit card I used for big purchases (flights, holiday accommodation etc.) and emergencies (there were none, but just in case). The system I had worked well and I had no hick-ups using my cards all through Europe and the UK.

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Overall Experience and Advice

I have been lucky enough to have travelled a lot before exchange and have gained experience and confidence in travelling alone. I personally didn’t experience culture shock because the Irish culture is very similar to ours here in Australia. There are, admittedly, a few differences but Irish people have a very similar care-free fun-loving attitude that we have here. Dublin is a very safe city, however you should be mindful of pickpockets when living there. More so than in Brisbane, pickpockets a quite common in Dublin and if you’re not careful, your stuff will be taken directly out of your bag. As long as you zip up your bag and keep it in front of you in really dense crowds you’ll be fine though. This goes for all of Europe and the UK. When travelling I’m always fully aware of my surroundings so that I don’t find myself in a dangerous situation. I kept this practice when travelling and made sure I knew exactly where I was going and what I was doing. If you look confident, you are a lot less likely to become a target for people who want to mess with tourists.

All in all, I had a fabulous time in Ireland and would highly recommend the exchange experience to any student in QUT. You see some amazing places and make incredible friends along the way. The time I spent overseas definitely helped me put a few more things in perspective for my future career and made me more independent and confident in unplanned situations. I can also handle the Metro (Paris) and Tube (London) like a boss now, and I’m pretty proud of that!

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If you are thinking of going on exchange I highly recommended doing three things. One, stay in student accommodation. You can make friends, quickly and everyone is in the one location so it’s easy to get together and for nights out. Two, do not be afraid to introduce yourself and do things with people the first week. I cannot emphasise enough how critical the first week is to your continuing friendship with everyone you live and study with. If you get in early and take every opportunity to hang out and go places you all become friends very quickly, and it helps having a little community of people to chill with during busy times in the semester. Three, to aid in the aforementioned process, leave your room door open when you are in, so that people can see you are there and can come say hey. I told everyone when I first met them that if the apartment door was open, I was home and they could totally pop in and have a chat and some tea. Sounds a touch lame writing it down, but hell did it work. I had people coming in all the time and it made my apartment the go to place if anyone needed someone to chill with.

So if you can, go on exchange. It is the best experience you can have as a student and you’ll never regret it. Whether you’ve travelled before or never left the country you’ll benefit immensely from living overseas and will find that you can adapt and be very confident in the most unlikely situations.

 

Discovering the beauty of Portugal

I don’t think I will ever get a chance to experience something as wonderful as my exchange experience. I know it sounds clichéd but I made the most amazing friends that I know will last for years to come. I was so nervous when I first got to Portugal as I have never been the most outgoing person and didn’t speak the language. But it wasn’t anywhere near as terrifying as I thought it would be, within the first week I knew my way around campus, had made great friends, and was becoming familiar with basic phrases.pic 1

First Impressions

My first week in Portugal was their version of O Week for Exchange, or as they call them – Erasmus, students. It helped us learn more about the country and see some of the sights while also getting to know the other Erasmus students.pic9 I don’t think any of us really got a chance to stop in that first week! We went to Obidos Beach and the area of Porto, we went to the Castles at Sintra and got tours of Lisbon. Every night had a different event, whether it was a dance, a dinner, or a city tour they kept us entertained and helped us get to know each other. Catolica School of Business and Economics also did campus tours and welcome sessions which told the Erasmus students about how the university operated, the sights to see, and the cultural differences we may encounter in Portugal. Through this first week I gained a close group of friends who I got closer with throughout my exchange stay. I also got to know my housemate Carla and learned about the country. It was a new and odd experience to have a variety of friends from all over Europe, from Lithuania, to Germany, to Norway; in fact, I was the only native English speaker in my group!

By week two we were settling into classes and starting to experience the Portuguese education system. I quickly learnt that, though there subjects are smaller, doing six pic 2subjects makes it very easy to lose track of assessment and study. I was so used to worrying about four subjects sometimes I forgot to do homework for the other two. The work level was about the same as it is at QUT but like with QUT, if you worked hard you had some time to spare and my friends and I made the most of that time. I got to travel around Portugal, go camping in the mountains, pic 3visit the famous beaches of Algarve and go to traditional street dances! I got to spend a weekend in Barcelona, Christmas is France (which was cool even if it didn’t snow), visit Venice and meet friends in Switzerland. It is amazing to discover that it is so very cheap to travel once you get into Europe.

Accommodation

That was a big difference with Australia, Portugal, by comparison, is very cheap to live in. In fact, the only time I got any type of culture or price shock was when I came back to Australia as I had very quickly adjusted to the lower cost of living in Portugal. I remember on my first day back in Australia I was absolutely shocked that they wanted $4.20 for a bottle of water at the airport when in Portugal the most you would spend on water was €0.80. It was quite enjoyable as it meant the money I had saved for travelling and leisure went further than I thought it would. It was cheaper to buy groceries and pay rent and go to concerts.

Most Memorable Moment

More than anything I think my most memorable experience on Exchange was New Year’s Eve. Most of my friends and I had realised that we wouldn’t have any family, or any of our old friends to celebrate with. So we decided to make our own family night. Every single person made a dish, either mains or dessert, that they loved. We had everything from spicy curry to stew to pizza to apple strudel and quiche. pic20We found who’s apartment had the biggest table and then all 13 of the Erasmus students who spent New Year’s Eve in Portugal sat down together and had dinner. It was such a cheerful atmosphere, there was far too much food, not enough chairs, and everyone was happy. At 23:30 we headed up to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, the highest point in Lisbon, to watch the fireworks. It was already packed with people and everyone was smiling and laughing and having fun. It was such a great night and I never wanted it to end. We stayed out until well into the morning talking and watching the sky lighten, it is a beautiful memory that I will cherish forever

Overall

I am sad it is over but I have learnt so much, become far more confident, I learnt how to travel alone and how to make friends wherever I went. In fact, I lied there, I did have help.pic7 My help came in the shape of a bear, his name? Alfred Albert Bear. This poor bear has been stuffed into cars and bags and suitcases, he has sat in dirt, been rained upon and he is covered in badges. He has gone to hundreds of cities and started hundreds of conversations. He has been my loyal companion and main focus for my camera while I have travelled. I have made friends simply because they wanted to know why I was holding the bear and I will be forever grateful to my scruffy ice-breaker.

Exchange was a whole new experience and I gained new memories as well as a ridiculously large number of pen pals. If I could I would do it again in a heartbeat with my trusty bear in my bag the whole way.pic 4

Tips on preparing for exchange in Colombia

Budget

Obviously this is personal, but here are some common prices of everyday items. (I’ve put it in pesos so you can do your own conversions, it changed so much even during my time that my rent dropped by a $100Aus within the first month!)

Rent at Residencial 10 – 650,000 – 750,000
Rent at private apartment – ~500,000 upwards
Breakfast at a cafe – 5,000
Dinner at a Colombian restaurant – 6,000
Dinner at a fancy int’l restaurant – 20,000

In my experience it was often cheaper to eat out than to cook at home!

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Playa Blanca, Islas del Rosario, off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia

Safety

Colombia doesn’t have a great reputation. If you’ve watched the HBO series Narcos recently, you need to wipe any ideas of Colombia out of your head – they’re way off. That picture of Colombia is 30 years outdated. The reality is that I knew of less friends getting robbed in Bogota than in London when I was there a few years ago for my first exchange, and I never heard of any violence. It always comes down to luck of course, and this is no guarantee that nothing will happen to you, but in my opinion, you shouldn’t be any more worried about safety in Bogota than in any other big city. Use some common sense. Don’t walk home alone at 3 am. The people you move in with will quickly tell you where the red light district is and where else to avoid at night. Taxis are unbelievably cheap and safe – use them! Relax, be aware of your surroundings and your belongings, and 6 months later you’ll be laughing at your parents’ reservations like I am now.

Advice for Female Students

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Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

I was a little apprehensive about male culture towards women in Colombia, but I was totally wrong about this one as well. There is a huge difference between costeños (people that live along the Caribbean coast) and cachacos (people who live in and around Bogota). The former have all the warmth and (depending on your taste) at times overbearing “passion” that Colombians are famous for. Everyone flirts with everyone else in the Caribbean – even somewhat homophobic guys will flirt with other guys – it’s just the way people interact (this is how it was explained to me by a costeño amigo). Cachacos, on the other hand, are much more reserved. They have larger personal bubbles and you might say are a little more European in some ways. If you’re tall and blond you’ll still get a comment on the street here and there, but nothing more than you already do in Brisbane. In clubs, guys are very respectful and pretty quickly take a hint if you’re not interested.

Exchange in the Heart of Colombia

The City

Bogotá is a huge city of 8 million people. There’s a ton of wealth there, but also crazy inequality. The wealth is all concentrated in the north, and the city gets progressively poorer as you move south, in a weirdly perfectly linear fashion. Where you’ll spend most of your time, in the centre, is the perfect ‘not too cold, not too hot’. The centre is chaotic, intelligent and mildly intimidating – the meeting point of student culture from all the universities (the hipster will find home here), homelessness from the south and fancy restaurants and cafes from the north.

pic 1This part of the city is particularly (creepily, at times) well set up for students and foreigners. There are indie film festivals of high quality almost every month, the biggest music festivals in South America and plenty of high quality local music on a regular basis. And of course, there’s the dancing. You can’t escape that. I was not into dancing before I arrived, and here we are six months later, yet another captive of the salsa.

If you’re adventurous and open minded, this huge, at times insane, but incredibly charismatic metropolis is there for the taking.pic 2

Universidad de los Andes

Los Andes is a seriously high quality university – it’s ranked one of the best in South America. (They also claim to have the best wifi in all of South America, which I was not able to disprove after 3 months backpacking.) I had some of the best professors I’ve ever had there. It is easily on par with QUT (possibly better! Depends on the program.) Facilities are great – especially the free gym, which includes a 5th floor pool with one of the best views of the whole city.

Pick your subjects carefully according to your level of spanish/how much you want to study. I took one history course in spanish (I could barely introduce myself when I arrived) that I really struggled with. On the other hand, lecturers (and students) invariably speak perfect English and are very accommodating. My economics professor didn’t mind at all whether I submitted essays and exams in English or Spanish (this is luck of the draw though, some professors will only accept work in Spanish.) There are also a large number of very interesting courses offered in English. In particular there is an International Law subject offered in English and HEAPS of business courses. (There could be in other faculties as well, I don’t know.)

Campus life is also excellent – there is a big society for international students run by local students, who greeted us on the first day with a salsa lesson (you get the idea). Most classes are also fairly informal, discussion/tutorial style, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make friends with other local students.

Language

Don’t be deterred by a lack of Spanish! I had almost no Spanish at all when I arrived, and it was fine. (Just don’t be as ambitious/stupid as me and take ALL you classes in Spanish; make sure you have a couple in English so it’s not a total disaster.) Colombia is arguably the best place in the world to learn Spanish – they’re famous for speaking clearly and slowly, without much slang. I’m basically fluent after 6 months – you’ll be amazed how fast you pick it up.

Universidad de los Andes also offers a free 3 week intensive Spanish course before the semester starts, which I highly recommend!

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Colombia’s most famous author – read Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude

Accommodation

Most domestic students live with their parents so there’s no on-campus accommodation to speak of. I lived at Residencial 10 (you can find them on Facebook). It’s an international student residence with about 45 bedrooms and a serious party culture. There is a casa (house, beautiful old colonial mansion) and the edificio (a building above a bar) that are around the corner from each other, both 5 mins walk from the university. All the partying (and there’s a lot of it) goes on in the edificio, so if you want a huge social life at your fingertips but a little peace and quiet sometimes, go for the casa like I did. The owners are two Colombian guys around 25 or 26, and they run a really cool operation. They make an effort to get a good proportion of spanish speakers (we had a bunch of Peruvians and Mexicans) so you can practise.

If you want something quieter, cheaper and probably better for your spanish, check out private apartments with other students. There are a few websites around, just google ‘apartamentos en Bogota’. The best areas are La Macarena (incredibly beautiful and safe, HEAPS of amazing int’l restaurants and you could walk or cycle to the university) and La Candelaria (the historical district with most hostels. Also beautiful and closer to the university, but slightly less safe because tourists attract pickpockets). Both of these areas are in the “Centro” and are perfectly safe – see the section on Safety, below.

Whichever option you go for, book a hostel for your first week so you can go and check out the places before signing up to anything. Casa Bellavista is a great hostel (or at least was in 2015, very close to Los Andes, Residencial 10 and lots of museums etc.

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The Centro, Bogotá

Surviving in Berlin

 

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At HTW, With regards to how I funded my time in Berlin, I financed my whole trip from the government bursary, the QUT scholarship and 1,500 of my own savings, so not a huge amount for 6 months in europe. However I found it super easy to live by with my 100 euro a week plan, this left me a little bit to do cheap travel in Europe. I did have my parents help with managing some of my finances but I found most of it was still quite easily manageable and allowed me to have both a lot of fun but also live comfortably in Berlin as it’s such a cheap and accessible city. Berlin as well as being cheap was also quite safe from how I felt, like all big cities pickpocketing is a risk but in Berlin thanks to the 24 hour transport system and nocturnal lifestyle I felt quite safe in most of my time there, only really general city safety precautions required. Culturally the Germans are actually quite welcoming and helpful once you get past the language barrier and the apparent anger (which usually isn’t the case, they just look and sound angry normally sometimes) overall I found the adjustment quite quick due to making friends fast in student accommodation and through the uni’s exchange activities.   One thing I would say you have to bring on exchange though if a good backpack you can travel in but also use at uni my backpack was great for getting around europe and also getting around Berlin and to uni so I never had to leave things like my camera behind if I wanted to bring it. Overall exchange was an amazing experience that gave me such a huge opportunity to grow as a person, become more dependent, and to become more of a global thinker, QUT has given me the skills, exchange gave me some experience and I feel that with these new abilities I could take my education and career anywhere. I would recommend this exchange program as almost a “must do” – the things you learn really cannot be replicated in many other ways, and with QUT’s amazing support system, it really is a great opportunity to see the world and I learn new things from a diverse range of people and places.

Integrating into the Berlin community

Living in Berlin is really easy and accessible, rent in the student accommodation was very cheap and the rooms were a good size and had their own kitchen and bathroom which was super helpful to have in a student place. Water and power was included in rent and I found it very easy to live on 100 euro a week (monthly rent not included) with grocery shopping being easily available and cheap.

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German is not too difficult to pick up and a lot of people in Berlin speak English as well, the adjustment period was daunting at first but I wouldn’t let the language barrier be off putting, it was actually a fun challenge but English was also easy to use if you got stuck. HTW provides a short German course I would also recommend taking up German as a subject while studying at HTW if you can because it’s a great skill to have and well taught. Studying in German was also a difficult but interesting experience, I did not speak any proper German before I left and while HTW was extremely helpful it was also a great incentive to practice more German day to day, but even when I couldn’t understand I was also given information in english which I appreciated greatly. HTW’s fashion design degree and general subject system was slightly different to QUT, I personally found the workload to be not too difficult or time consuming, but challenging enough that I knew I was getting a valuable education experience as well as that extra freedom to engage with Berlin culturally and gain out of uni experience as well.

University Life in Berlin

Going on exchange with QUT is one of the most valuable and amazing experiences you could possibly have while studying, to be able to travel, study and experience so many new and wonderful things is an experience QUT gave me that I will not soon forget. My name is Neneh and i’m currently in my 3rd year of the Bachelor of Design Fashion at QUT and have just returned from 6 months exchange in Berlin Germany with university HTW. For fashion design Berlin couldn’t have been a better place, it was fun, busy, huge and certainly one of the most creative places I’ve ever been, Berlin offered me so much in the way of skills both university related and life skills and it was an experience i’ll be able to draw on for the rest of my life. The university (HTW) was a great place with lots of resources and super helpful teachers who went above and beyond to help us when our German wasn’t very good, the staff are friendly and listened to our concerns as exchange students providing a lot of much needed help with all aspects of a new life in Germany. HTW provided lots of great activities and fun stuff to get to know our fellow exchange students and see Berlin, in particular the university organized Prague trip was such a great opportunity I wouldn’t have gotten without the HTW exchange office’s involvement in student life.Pic1

I was living in the student accommodation the university recommended in Biesdorf on the east of Berlin called Wonheim Victor Jara and for anyone going on exchange to Berlin I would actually really recommend it, most of the exchange students go to live there and it’s a really great way to meet and get to know lots of different people, the area is nice even if it’s a bit of a way out and the house staff are friendly and helpful, I had a lot of fun living there together with most of the other exchange students and made some great friendships.