Life in Sweden & at KTH

Peter: Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden, Semester 1, 2016

Through the QUT Exchange program I had the opportunity to spend not one, but two full semesters abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. I had done some backpacking through South East Asia in the past, but I had never left Australia for more than two months and I had never called another country home. Looking back on it now, I didn’t exactly realise the size of the challenge at hand – moving across the planet to a place where I don’t know anyone or understand the language – but that challenge along with every amazing experience has made it the best year of my life. Aside from learning the ins and outs of Stockholm, by the end of my exchange I had the opportunity to visit 17 countries and meet some incredible people.peter_davis1

My host university in Stockholm was Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan. Sound like a mouthful? Thankfully it’s also called the Royal Institute of Technology in English, but let’s just call it KTH. KTH was founded in 1827 and today is one of the largest and most prestigious technical institutions in Scandinavia. Universities work a little differently in Sweden and don’t tend to offer the same courses in competition with each. In Stockholm, Karolinska acts as the main medical school, Stockholm University specialises in subjects like Law and Business, and KTH is full of the country’s brightest engineers, programmers and scientists (among other things).

Europe has a bachelor-master system in which most people complete five years of study. In Sweden, all students are required to study their bachelor’s degree in Swedish, and their two year masters degree in English. Because of this, I was able to study equivalent units for my four year degree in Australia from fourth and fifth year units in Sweden. The KTH Main Campus was built over 100 years ago and is filled with beautiful red brick buildings, with the main courtyard being something akin to Hogwarts.

peter_davis2Our accommodation was organised through KTH and provided by the state-run SSSB (Stockholm student accommodation). Lappkärsberget or ‘Lappis’ as it is so affectionately known isn’t located on the KTH campus, but is a short walk away from the campus of Stockholm University, which is only one subway stop away. The area houses several thousand people, mostly in corridor rooms. My room was spacious and had its own bathroom and a lot of storage, and each corridor has a kitchen and common area shared between 13 people. In true Swedish style, my neighbourhood was not only near a subway stop, but also surrounded by forest and a short walk from the lake.

Discover more about QUT’s Student Exchange Programs here!

Highlights of my Time in Japan

Jackie: Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka, Japan – Semester 1, 2016

At KGU you have three accommodation options; you can apply for a homestay, apply to live in a dorm or you can find your own options. I chose to live in a dorm because I had never lived independently before. I had always wondered what on campus living was like and it was well worth it. I made close friends with the other girls I lived with and it was a nice area to be in. It wasn’t too far from school or a grocery store or the bus.jackie_4

The highlight of exchange in Japan was the amazingly rich and diverse culture. One day I would be in Osaka (which is known in Japan for being the life of the party) exploring all the weird and quirky things. The next day I would be in Kyoto exploring the incredibly significant and important government building, learning about all of Japans history from my friends who are smarter than me and staring in awe at the Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) wondering how a flower could be so beautiful. (Side note: also the food was amazing. My friends and I still message each other about how much we miss Udon and Sashimi).jackie_3

My exchange was amazing and if I could do it again or go back and extend my trip I would. I learnt so much about myself and other cultures, which I would never have known otherwise. I can’t recommend Japan enough as a host country. I feel like I have seen so much of Japan because of my exchange and for that I will be forever grateful.

Interested in going on a QUT Student Exchange? Learn more here. Or drop in and see our exchange ambassadors at Gardens Point in A Block.

Cost of Living in London and Travel

Hannah: City University London, Semester 1, 2016

I did not fully comprehend how much living in London would cost until I got over there, however I had enough savings to not stress about money, live comfortably and enjoy many travel opportunities. This should definitely be communicated to future exchange students, as I met other students who really limited their opportunities until the end before travelling because they were constantly budgeting. Throughout the semester I had time to travel to Iceland, Switzerland, Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Scotland. I did a few trips in England including Nottingham, Peterborough and Cambridge, although I regret not being organised enough to visit some other places.

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The Alps

After my exams finished, my lease also finished and I begin a five-week solo travel experience across Europe. From London I travelled to Norway before visiting Copenhagen, Berlin, Munich, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Venice, Rome, Florence, Milan, Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam. It was such an amazing experience I met lovely people in Hostels along the way and saw beautiful architecture, cities and natural landscapes. Travelling was definitely a highlight of my trip although it was lonely at times I made use of every opportunity and I was able to meet a friend made through the exchange program on my last stop in Amsterdam.

Colosseum

Colosseum

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Travel Pic

City University was different from QUT in terms of diversity of culture; it was so refreshing to be in a country and university, embracing difference and acceptance. London is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, although I felt Australia was quite diverse, London was nowhere I had ever been, it was so exciting to be immersed in culture, language and practices. I was able to develop cultural awareness about different cultures through my classes and interactions with other students. My exchange experience has been a truly rewarding and memorable experience I will always cherish and would recommend it to any student at QUT.

Why I chose China

Roisin: Zhejiang University, China: Semester 1, 2016

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The Great Wall of China

I have returned to Australia this past week after spending 6 months living in Asia. I spent one semester studying Mandarin at one of China’s most prestigious universities, Zhejiang University, and then spent a month working at the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills in Hong Kong. The opportunity to study, work and live in Asia for 6 months was a once in a lifetime experience.

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By the Bund in Shanghai during Australia in China Week

As a law student, I have watched with interest the rapid economic growth of China and the corresponding opportunities that this is creating in the legal market, both domestically and internationally, as well as the increasing expansion of international law firms into the Chinese legal market. This, combined with a longstanding ambition of mine to learn a second language, drove me to embark on an exchange to China to learn Mandarin and immerse myself in Chinese culture.

Click here for more QUT Exchange Information.

My First Month at Queen’s

I’ve reached Week 6, and although I’m swamped with all sorts of assessment and preparation for classes, the fun hasn’t died down! At the end of September, a few other exchange students and myself hired some cars and drove 3 hours north to the beautiful Algonquin Provincial Park. The weather was amazing, but a little chilly, so perfect for walking to a viewing points and having lunch near one of the picturesque lakes. It was a long day but definitely worth it and an amazing sight to see with the trees starting to change colours! 

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Come October 7, Thanksgiving weekend started. My housemate Julia was kind enough to invite me and our other housemate on exchange to head to London, Ontario to spend Thanksgiving with her family! It was so nice to go to a family home and experience a true Canadian Thanksgiving. The whole family were so kind and hospitable and really made us feel at home. They took us to an ice hockey game, apple and pumpkin picking, involved us in cooking dinner and finished the weekend with a trip to the cinema.

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Of course this then leads us to the most recent event… Homecoming! What a crazy, crazy weekend. All Queen’s students fill the streets from early in the morning to start their partying, which continues right on into the night. Queen’s alumni come back to Kingston to celebrate their time at Queen’s and join in on the partying! Everyone is dressed in Queen’s colours – blue, red and yellow if you couldn’t tell from the photos – and Queen’s merchandise! So much fun!

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My time at Queen’s so far has been nothing short of amazing, thanks to my wonderful housemates and new friends! I still have some exciting trips coming up so stay tuned for my next post!

Out & About in Leeds

Elouise: University of Leeds, Semester 1, 2016

From the moment I submitted my exchange application, right up until I hopped off the train at Leeds station I was unsure if I had made the correct decision and picked the right university/ destination. But boy am I glad that I picked Leeds, what a city!!! Although not a top tourist destination for many (even for the British), Leeds is such a liveable city especially for students. Almost everything is catered to students. There are student prices and discounts, student nights, student real estate agents, student everything!

Leeds Corn Exchange - Call Lane

Leeds Corn Exchange – Call Lane

There are so many great little bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants all through Leeds. For

Leeds City Markets - Best for cheap groceries!

Leeds City Markets – Best for cheap groceries!

quirky pubs and bars there is Call Lane which is lined with anything and everything you could want. There are also a lot of places that do live music gigs, one of my personal favourites is Belgrave Beer Hall. They also have some of the best pizza in Leeds!

And of course your time in Leeds would not be complete without experiencing the infamous Otley Run, at least once. This is a pub crawl that runs from Headingly down Otley Road toward the Uni and the city. If you join any clubs, teams or societies you will definitely be dragged along to an Otley run. The university halls also do their own Otley’s throughout the year. But they are a great way to meet people, get to know new friends and also discover the best pubs Leeds has to offer.

 

Australia Day Otley Run

Australia Day Otley Run

I won’t tell you everything, and there is plenty left to discover, but I will say this, Leeds will definitely provide you with the best night out. Leeds also has some fantastic shopping, the city is filled with large shopping centres – the most impressive is Trinity Leeds, which also has a great food hall in it full of street food and food stalls.

 

Learn more about QUT Student Exchange Options.

Reasons to study in Copenhagen

Why Copenhagen? Many have asked me this question, both before I left and whilst in Denmark. Initially it was due to my fascination of all things Scandinavian and the fact I could study my law subjects in English, whilst being immersed in a totally different cultural experience. But as my time in Copenhagen went on, my answer changed dramatically and warped into so much more. Copenhagen is one of the most beautiful, most lively and easiest cities to live in. The lifestyle is great, with working hours less and more of a focus on family, socialising and generally enjoying life. The city is rich in history, with every street, park or lake being unbelievably picturesque. But most importantly, Danes are awesome. They are so warm, fun, easy-going and not to mention, incredibly good-looking.  You will walk down the street and be dumbfounded by the beauty of the Danes. But they aren’t just pretty faces – they are all so switched on, have a great sense of humour, love to have a good time and from my experience, Danes and Australians get on so well.  Not only did I want to get to know Danish culture, but they were just as intrigued with Australia. I made so many lifelong friends from all over the globe, who truly made my experience memorable.

pic 1I went on exchange (Semester 1 & 2 of 2015) for my full 5th year studying dual bachelor of business and law. Whilst in Copenhagen I studied mostly law subjects: Media Law, Health and Human Rights, Refugee law, Psychology for lawyers,  Gender & Legal Culture and one non-law subject of Danish culture. I found the workload a lot easier than QUT, with only one piece of assessment per subject. This is usually either in the form of a take home exam or a 20-minute oral exam with your tutor based on an essay you have written on a chosen topic. Although it initially sounds daunting, it is a lot easier than I expected and the tutors are all so kind and encouraging. It also helped that you only have to pass and the standard is not high at all (when compared to QUT).  Lectures are only a maximum of around 30 students so the learning environment is more intimate and interactive. The lecturers are from all over Europe and highly accredited and qualified and I always found them engaging, interesting and professional. I even had a lecturer who flew in from Belgium every week for our Media Law lecture. One thing about KU though, they are sticklers for rules – so make sure you are 100% on the subjects you have chosen as you are unable to change once semester starts. Also, steer clear of striclty EU law subjects (like European Environmental Law) as it can be a struggle without any background in the EU legal systems. Without the knowledge of the fundamentals of how EU law works, it can leave you at a disadvantage right from the get-go.

Danes speak perfect English (probably better than mine) so you don’t have to worry about whether you can speak the language. You will rarely find a Dane in Copenhagen that can’t speak English, and they will always try and accommodate. However, I found that they do appreciate when you give it a try and know some basics (they love laughing at your expense also). I did the pre-semester Danish course, which I really recommend doing. I met some of my closest friends during those 3 weeks and ended up experiencing the full year with 2 of the girls I met.

As for expenses, you’ve probably heard that it is expensive in Denmark (which it comparatively is to other exchange locations) but so is Australia. The cost of living in Copenhagen is extremely similar to Brisbane (if not less for alcohol and food at supermarkets). Eating out and coffee is pretty expensive but when you do go to restaurants – it’s always a true experience and worth the little splurge. To compensate, Danes usually host dinner parties and get-togethers where you would all cook together, drink together, and spend a ‘hygellig’ night in. There are also great food markets, where you can choose from a huge array of cuisines and enjoy with a beer in the sun or cosy together in the winter. Go to Paperion Island and the Kodbyen food markets in summer.pic 2 I do recommend budgeting and saving as much as possible before you go so you have room to spend. You also don’t have to worry about paying for public transport or taxis as you will ride a bike everywhere. As soon as you get to Copenhagen, get a bike! It is your ticket to getting around Copenhagen and will basically become another appendage of your body. It is so easy to get around the city by bike and some of my fondest memories are of riding around Copenhagen and taking in all its beauty. Once you get a bike, you feel like a true local but always make sure you lock it. Bike theft is a thing!

As for accommodation, I spent my first semester at Tietgenkollegiet which is a dormitory known for its famous architecture and amazing facilities. I lived with predominately Danish people and was the only international student in my shared kitchen of 12. The rooms, common areas and facilities were all perfection and the people I lived with quickly became my family in Copenhagen. There is a real sense of community and always someone there to chat with, cook with or party with. Although, I loved my time in Tietgen, I craved living more centrally (out of Amager) and a true ‘Copenhagen experience’ rather than college dorm life. So for semester 2, I decided to move to shared living in central Copenhagen but this proved to be much more difficult to find than expected. The KU housing foundation is not very helpful and extremely expensive – I would try to find something without them. But if not, they are a good option to rent through. I ended up living in a huge flat with 5 other young roommates from all over Europe in Norrebro and absolutely loved it. Norrebro is a great trendy neighbourhood with lots of cute little cafes, shops, great bars and clubs. If you can, try find a place in Norrebro, Vesterbro, Kobenhavn K or inner Frederiksberg – that’s where most of the life is. But there aren’t many colleges there. Osterbro is beautiful but a bit more for families and professionals. Don’t be disappointed if you aren’t able to get in these locations though – Copenhagen is so compact that you can get everywhere in 15 minutes by bike. When you get to Copenhagen, definitely get your residence permit and CPR number – it means you can get a Danish bank account, gym membership and even free healthcare if anything happens.

pic 3The best decision I made was going on exchange for the full year – I not only got to travel all over Europe but I was able to truly make Copenhagen my home and set down solid roots. I was able to form strong friendships and not miss out on or have to rush through any Danish experiences. I got to travel for 2 months during the summer break where I saw a lot of Southern Europe and even Morocco. During semesters, it is so easy to pop over to another country for an extended weekend, without missing anything at uni. I was lucky enough to visit Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, England, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and even New York. However, if you can only do one semester on exchange, do it during QUT’s semester 1. It was the longest semester and also the best time to be in Copenhagen for the lead up to summer. It went from the colder months of winter, to the longer sunnier days of summer. The change is utterly beautiful and you have a greater appreciation for it. The whole city comes alive and Danes get so excited about the approaching summer – hosting many free events and festivals. You definitely need to go to the free Distortion festival and Roskilde music festival in June – both were absolute highlights.

I cannot recommend Copenhagen enough – the way of life is better, the people are better and it will give you a truly memorable and rewarding experience. I’m already planning my return to the ‘happiest nation on earth!’

Calgary – things to do and know

5 weeDowntown Calgaryks into my exchange at the University of Calgary and I have some updates for you back home.

My last post had lots of information about the university and O Week at U of C. This time I would like to focus more so on Calgary and Alberta. Calgary is the perfect city in size, people and activity. Calgary has about 1.1 million people meaning that it has a lot of great services but isn’t too big.

 

 

 

Firstly – transportation

Calgary has two train lines, the Red and the Blue. While staying at U of C you will likely only use the Red line which travels NE to SW. Although the train isn’t all that quick around Calgary, it is convenient and takes to right into the heart of the downtown area. There is a stop at the university (although it is on the other side of the campus), and stops to all major areas including sporting grounds.

Calgary’s buses are decent. I find them comparable to ones in Brisbane, not super fast, but not horrible either. There are a number of routes traveling from the university to close shopping malls or districts, however, unless going somewhere nearby, the trains are generally easier. The best part of public transit here is that you pay $130 at the beginning of the semester to get a UPass sticker for you university ID, which you then show the drivers, and you don’t have any more to pay.

Taxis are not as expensive here as back home (but you will hear Canadians complain about them). You will be expected to tip though, so keep that in mind and maxis aren’t really a thing. There is sadly no Uber 🙁

 

View from Ha Ling Peak, Canmore

Secondly – activities

There is an abundance of fun activities to do in Calgary and the surrounds. Small concerts are held on the university grounds every so often as well as around the city reasonable frequently. Keep your eyes peeled for posters around campus or the city. If not in Calgary, then artists usually perform in Banff which is a rather short bus trip away.

There are incredible hikes or walks close to the city. I recently hiked Ha Ling Peak in Canmore (about 1 hour drive), which was difficult (partly due to my fitness level, but also due to the thinner air) but definitely worth it for the view. It gets quite cold up the top so bring layers!

 

Radium Hot Springs, BC

Radium Hot Springs, BC

10 friends and I also took a road trip to Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia (BC). The trip was about 3.5 hours (if the van hadn’t broken down) and absolutely worth every penny! As we drove to Radium, every corner brought new mountains and magnificent views, while the town itself was full of awesome walks and, of course, hot springs!

If you are looking for something closer to Calgary I would recommend ice skating or catching a game of Canadian football or ice hockey. You can ice skate on campus at the Olympic Oval for $5 skate and helmet hire. Entry is free. All U of C Dinos games are free and the football games walking distance from campus (the hockey is just a train ride away).

At a Hitmen game

^^This is Josh^^

Calgary Stampeders (football) games are walking distance (McMahon Stadium) and you can get tickets in the nosebleeds for $25 (if you buy a few days early). The Calgary Flames (ice hockey) games are held at the Scotiabank Saddledome a bit more expensive and worse seats but look for deals on StubHub or for student games.

 

Otherwise the Calgary Hitmen, a team in the WHL (so under 23 ice hockey) also play at the Saddledome and tickets will likely be cheaper.  Or if you’re like me, become friends with someone who gets free tickets (thanks Josh)!

 

 

Of course I should mention all of the bars and clubs around the city. Everyone has different tastes so I will let you figure that out for yourself. I will say that The Den (on campus) turns into a conveniently located club on Thursdays, and that Commonwealth is also popular. As far as bars go – Ranchman’s on Saturdays (country), Kilkenny’s (at Brentwood – about 10 minutes on the bus and great for sports) and The Ship & Anchor (17th Ave SW – great for food) are all a bit of fun. It’s a good idea to carry cash out, as some places only take cash at the bar. Ladies also get in cover-free on Wednesdays at Cowboys because it is ladies night. Remember to tip!

Stephen Ave Walk

Stephen Ave Walk

And of course, more known things like the Calgary Tower, Stephen Ave Walk and the path along the river are also great for a free day.

 

 

Finally – weather

Be warned that the weather can change quickly. One day it will be cool, but sunny and the next day will be snowy. Dress in layers!

 

That’s it for now but as usual, if you have specific questions, email me at emma.blatz@ucalgary.ca.

 

My Glasgow Highlights and Advice

Ashleigh: University of Glasgow, Semester 1, 2016

There are so many things I should put in this section, but my top five highlights (in no particular order) would be going to a beach and hot spa in Reykjavik, Iceland in the middle of Winter, the torchlight procession at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, New Year’s Eve from Westminster Bridge, spending my birthday looking over Barcelona and taking a sunset cruise in Santorini!

Looking over Barcelona on my Birthday

Looking over Barcelona on my Birthday

Sunset Cruise in Santorini

Sunset Cruise in Santorini

Tips and Advice

Firstly, budget more than you estimate you’ll need as a contingency and have some Australian currency spare in case your wallet goes missing or you need more changed over quickly. Then, be flexible when you travel so you can spend as little as possible while still getting the most out of it. Most importantly, no matter where you go or how much travel you do, don’t get stuck with people you find from back home. Go out, get involved in the culture and meet people from everywhere! This is a piece of advice I was given on my flight over and something which I will always take with me because if you stick with the same people, you’ll probably keep doing the same thing and won’t really experience the culture as much as you could.

New Years Eve in London

New Years Eve in London

My first time overseas and the Denmark study experience

I ended up at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark for my outbound exchange program in semester 2, 2015. I say ‘ended up’ here because when I first applied to take part in the outbound student exchange program in late 2014, Denmark hadn’t yet crossed my mind as a destination among my choices but I am so glad that’s where I ended up. After being unsuccessful for my top 3 host university choices in the US, Canada and the UK, my partner (who went with me to Aarhus University) and I informed the International Student Mobility Team of our intention to travel together to the same host university, the team was able to round up and offer us choices of host universities that would be able to accommodate both of us. We started the process of choosing our destination at this point by comparing the expected living expenses of each host nation and after some thorough searching, contemplations and discussions; we decided our first option would be a University in Prague. After deciding on Prague however, we were then told that it too was no longer available to us but that our second option in Aarhus, Denmark was.

pic 2Although I had been around to different parts of Australia, prior to my exchange semester, I had never actually been outside of the country. With a 34 hour transfer from Brisbane to Aarhus ahead and never yet going overseas, I had no idea what to expect and was a little nervous to say the least. After arriving in Denmark I was pleasantly surprised to find that every person I met was able to speak English very fluently. During Introduction Week we learnt that English was taught as a language from grade 3 in Denmark and although their preferred speaking language is their native Danish tongue, when prompted to, they are all very good English speakers.

While on exchange, students are generally required to choose courses that must be accepted by course coordinators to replace courses that are part of the planned study within their degrees. With most degrees having elective study included as part of the planned study, as was the case with my degree, I used 4 of my elective spaces to allow myself the opportunity to choose first year subjects at my host institution. The subjects I chose were Financial Accounting, Organisational Behaviour, English Language Business Communication and Aspects of Denmark. By using my electives and choosing first year subjects at my host university, I was able minimise my study load and allow myself the best opportunity to explore and travel throughout the rest of Europe during my time there.

pic 5As I previously mentioned; English is as well-spoken in Denmark as Danish is. This was a major contributor to my positive learning experience at Aarhus University. As a Justice student at QUT, I have the option of studying from home by enrolling into external classes. This type of study is not available to students at Aarhus University. The reason for this is that education, including tertiary education, is free in Denmark. Coupled with the fact that Danish students receive a very healthy student allowance from social welfare, it makes sense that students are expected to attend all their classes. This wasn’t a problem for me because I didn’t have any other commitments as a student overseas but it is interesting to see how a ‘social welfare state’ such as Denmark treats their students.

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.

pic 1Being 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.

Exchange for me was a very eye opening rite of passage. Aside from never having gone overseas, I had also never lived outside of home. My accommodation was organised through the housing department of Aarhus University and I was living in a share-house with other exchange students. This experience was new to me because living with ‘strangers’ was something I had never experienced either until going on exchange. The early stages of my time overseas were filled with learning and realising my day to day responsibilities. After a short time however, it started to become second nature. The experiences I gained in this short period of time was so invaluable to me for a range of different reasons, but the biggest of these reasons would have to be the amount of personal growth and discovery I had by the end of exchange. These are experiences that I will remember and cherish long after I graduate university and if not for any other reason, this one alone is why I recommend going on exchange to any student!