Just Do It!

Samantha, C.
San Jose State University (Semester 2, 2016)

I’ve always wondered why birds choose to stay in the same place, when they can fly anywhere on the earth… and then I ask myself the same question.

To put it frankly, if someone had of told me that I would be attending American college at the ripe age of 19, I would have believed it. Why? Because studying abroad was always a dream of mine, and I knew I had to work hard to get there.

San Jose State University

While going on student exchange isn’t just travelling as a tourist, it’s also living in a new country, with a new culture. In order to fit in, I had to immerse myself fully into the American lifestyle, by having day-to-day interactions with the locals, getting accustomed to their habits, traditions and culture, while gaining first-hand judgement and experience, which has and will continue to broaden my horizon for life.

In my opinion, a life of travel is a good thing to have… but the catch is, once you start, there’s no looking back! So where I began, grew and prospered was at San Jose State University (SJSU) in California.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

I chose to study at SJSU because of its fantastic extra-curricular activities for journalism and public relations students, their high graduate employment, and overall student satisfaction. Respected globally for its excellence, diversity, flexibility, range of opportunities and top quality academics, SJSU provides a broad variety of courses and more precisely in the communications area.

I chose to live on campus, in CVB accommodation, and shared an apartment with four other girls, with each having our own single bedroom. I also opted not to have a meal plan, and instead cook for myself! The closest grocery store was about a 10-minute walk, and in turn I dined out a couple times each week with friends. Living on campus, American college style, truly was incredible. As I looked out my bedroom window on the 11th floor, I viewed what could be deemed as college road, where all the fraternities and sororities were located – oh what a sight! Living on campus also allowed me to fully immerse myself into college life, where I was involved in clubs, activities like Victoria’s Secret Zumba night, and mingling with friends either at social events or just hanging out in our dorm rooms. I did however enjoy having my personal bedroom, which gave me a bit of down time and privacy to study and facetime home.

My Dorm Room, San Jose State University

At SJSU, I chose to study an overload of five subjects, and while it was very trying, with the support of my wonderful professors I pulled through and managed to achieve an A+ overall in each unit (equivalent to a high distinction – yay!). Though as you would know if going on exchange, the actual grade isn’t recorded on your QUT transcript, but rather satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

During my time abroad, I made an abundance of new friends both international and American. The support network was fantastic, and never once did I feel lonely or isolated, but rather overwhelmed… in a good way. As an Aussie you’ll feel like a celebrity (totally not kidding!) and you’ll understand this once you’ve been. It was amazing to have other students interested in my home country and where I come from, as was I with their culture too. On my first day, I mingled with all the other international students who I remained close with throughout the first week while I settled into college and met all my American friends. In fact, I miss all these friends so much, that I have just booked another trip to return and catch up in less than two months, with only my flights to book and the accommodation covered. If that’s not enough to convince you to go, let me share with you my account of America.

SF Giants V NY Mets Baseball Game

America was everything I had imagined, but MORE. It is a very upbeat, exciting and spontaneous country! So much to see and do, and the people are extraordinarily friendly. No day was the same, and I always found myself creating lists of things I have to see before my departure date. While I was in the U.S., I was fortunate enough to travel extensively through California, seeing sights like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Yosemite and more. I also travelled through Hawaii, Arizona and Nevada. And yes I did visit the Grand Canyon, Universal Studios/Disneyland and also got to climb Diamond Head in Waikiki.

Diamond Head, Waikiki

I now look back on the breathtaking photos and vision, and It blows my mind that yes that was me standing there. There is still so much to see and explore in this magical country, and many ask what my favourite place was, and I can confidently say it was San Jose State University. Going on student exchange would have to be the best decision I have ever made… and SJSU will forever be my second home. While I spent just one semester in the U.S., the experience I have gained will undoubtedly endure throughout a lifetime. I promise, if you’ve ever had a slight thought of going global with QUT, I say… just do it, you won’t regret it.

Its what you make it

Nicola, B.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Semester 2, 2016)

The biggest shock when arriving at PolyU was that very little was online.  All the students prefer face-to-face contact and therefore no lectures are recorded, all questions are asked in class or you meet up with your lecturer/tutor, all assignments are still printed out and handed in and they are only just starting to build up blackboard. The students were all very motivated, spent so much extra time in the library and all group work was discussed in person. I really enjoyed my time on campus at PolyU.  They had so many events and different activities always happening on campus.  They may not have as many clubs but they put so much energy into the clubs and the different stalls they had set up were just amazing!  Many of my classes were quite interactive with one having 40 students going on a field trip to a company that organises a simulation where you can experience what it is like living in aged care.  This was a lot of fun and certainly an experience.

The halls accommodation was a bit of an adjustment having to life in such small quarters as well as with a roommate.  It was super close to the university, to public transport and to plenty of restaurants which made it worthwhile.  Most nights at about 7pm there would be a message from an international student organising to go for dinner that night so there was always an opportunity to be social.

Hong Kong is a very cheap place, particularly in relation to Australia.  Whilst some things were more expensive than anticipated, travelling around Hong Kong and to other countries close by was very easy and very cheap.  A real shock for me was the amount of people living in Hong Kong.  I knew it was a small country with a large population but I really was not expecting it to be as busy as it was.  Public transport would get so packed and at night  just walking down the sidewalk sometimes would be difficult with all the people around.  In saying that though, it is also a place that has many hiking routes and places to escape.  Many weekends involved exploring a different part and finding those quite places where everything is calm.  I was very lucky that I was put with some truly lovely local students that took me places, made suggestions and gave me any advice I needed.  Before I left for Hong Kong I had a lot of people tell me there was English everywhere and while English was on most signs and most people had broken English, it was not as common as I had anticipated.  This caused some difficulties while I was over there, particularly with some of the local students but for the most part could usually work around the language barrier.

The major highlight of my exchange was simply the friendships I formed while over there.  I certainly miss lots of people but I know have friendships all around the world and there is a certain special feeling in that.  While it was amazing to see the country and experience so many new adventures, it would not have been the same without new friends around me experiencing it too.  I suggest to anyone that is going on an exchange to just say yes to everything and just really make the most of everything that the experience is.  As the popular saying goes “it is what you make it” and I truly felt my exchange experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity with so many lasting memories.

Victoria Bridge, PolyU & Disneyland Hong Kong

Fall Semester in Amsterdam City!

Darcy, C.
Hodgeschool Van Amsterdam (Semester 2, 2016)

The reality of living in Amsterdam city is a true as the picturesque photos. It is all bikes in busy lanes, tourists flooding Dam square, tree lined canals, beautiful cobbled streets and beautiful townhouses to match. What’s more, you’ll see coffee houses beside museums, reflecting the truly unique culture of Amsterdam and it’s people. Unlike the relaxed culture though, the Dutch are very direct – kind but direct.

Living in Amsterdam offers so many options. Not only is it centrally located in Europe, making travelling easy and affordable, but Amsterdam itself is a very small city and very easy to navigate, especially on your bike. It’s perfect for one semester abroad but perhaps too small for two.

I studied at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (also known as the University of Applied Sciences) studying a Minor in Business of Sports and Entertainment. As part of this minor, my class visited London meeting with Ticketmaster UK. While we were based in the classroom as well, half of our assessment was based on our work with a real world client, developing real initiatives and campaigns for implementation. I would highly recommend enrolling in a Minor course, rather than selecting your own individual classes; as you work with the same people every day, four days a week, you develop very strong friendships within the classroom – making it very easy to meet people. My class was a mix of half Dutch and half international students. The assessment was relatively easy in comparison to QUT though (which was a welcomed surprise).

What about living arrangements?

I lived in a private room at the Fraijlemaborg (Fry-lem-a-borg) student dorms. These dorms were home to 170 other international students across 6 floors and literally right next door to the university. All in all, the standard of living was great and much better than I expected. The rooms were quite large and the facilities were ample – the only downside is that our accommodation was quite far from the city centre which made nights out a tactical mission to ensure you are on the last (or first) train home – the centre was too far to cycle most nights.

My favourite Saturday’s were spent at breakfast at CT Coffee & Coconuts and my favourite evenings began at Leed and Webber in Leidesplein and then to the Chicago Social Club in Rembrantplein.

Amsterdam is such a wonderful city that will show you art, culture & all four seasons in four short months. I was surprised to discover that weather in Holland in very similar to England. Typically in cooler months, its windy, drizzles with rain, and is very overcast. I can say that my stay was mostly sunshine… lucky me.

A few Do’s and Don’t’s to living in Amsterdam:

  1. Do buy a bike
    It will save you so much money on public transport and is quintessential to the dutch life. 9makes for a great photo too). You can buy your bike at the second hand flea markets (although the Dutch aren’t fond of these markets whichs ell stolen bikes) or the Amsterdam Bike Marketplace facebook page for cheaper, better and more reliable bikes. Consider investing in two locks, bike theft is notorious (hence the second hand markets) and you’ll want to ensure your bike has gears… one speed is just too slow for the Dutch.
  2. Do arrive on time for Orientation week
  3. It is a week long of socialising – you’ll meet your semester long friends immediately and kick off your new social life. Miss it and you’re off to a wobbly start as events are significantly less after wards.
  4. Do learn please and thank you
    Thank you: Dank je wel (dunk-ya-vell)
    Please: Alstubleift (Alst-oo-bleeft)
  5. Don’t bother asking ‘Do you speak English?’
    Everyone speaks English – probably better than you. You will more often than not be greeted in English and hear it all around – it is considered the business language.
  6. Don’t photograph the ladies of the Red Light District. ‘Do’ and find out what happens…

Go to Amsterdam.

There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes

Thomas, M., Bachelor of Business and Law
University of Glasgow (Semester 1 & 2, 2016)

Study:
The standard and method of study is very similar to QUT. The one big difference however is that most lectures are not recorded. Otherwise the study experience is just like QUT, in that there is a mix of tutorials, seminars, and lectures and there are similar expectations placed on students.

Hillhead campus in November taken from Argyle St

Campus:
The UoG (University of Glasgow) campus at Hillhead is as stunning as the pictures show. Not only is it beautiful but there are plenty of amenities including a gym, two student union complexes, numerous cafes, libraries, and study areas.

Accommodation:
In my first semester I stayed at Firhill student accommodation. Firhill, like Murano, is a long way from campus and is unfortunately not in a vibrant part of the city. It does however offer well-appointed accommodation with (tiny) ensuites however it is quite a distance from West End and campus which becomes annoying especially when the Glasgow weather sets in.

During my second semester I stayed in Kelvinhaugh student accommodation. This is a much better option, although not as modern and without personal bathrooms. Kelvinhaugh is ideally located 10 minutes walk from campus in the suburb of Finneston. Kelvinhaugh Street Student accommodation is surrounded by cafes, bars and Kelvingrove Park, and is a short walk from the city and Byres Road in the West End.

The other accommodation option to consider is Student Apartments. They have the best location as they are located on campus in the heart of West End. However it is highly sought after so you may need get accepted. That being said, everyone I knew that had stayed there loved it.

Costs:
On the whole I found Glasgow to be cheaper than Brisbane, particularly in regards to food (groceries and eating out). I set myself a strict budget of 40 pounds per week (roughly $80 AUD), but this meant that I could travel around Europe on my weekends.

Camping on the Isle of Skye (taken in March): wouldn’t recommend in Winter/Autumn

Travel:
There is plenty to see around Scotland and there are a number of tours set up specifically for exchange students. These are great as an easy way to see the country however it can be better to do some things on your own and at your own pace. If you are old enough renting a car is one of the best ways to see the highlands.

The downside about Glasgow was that its airport is relatively small so there wasn’t a lot of flights going in and out to mainland Europe or the rest of the UK. On the upside there is a bus that travels to the Stansted airport (just outside London) which is super cheap, 5-10 pounds. Added bonus there are heaps of cheap flights to Europe from Stansted airport.
Top Tips:

  • If you can only go for one semester, my recommendation would go in Semester 2 (January – June) more time to travel, plus you get to experience what winter is actually like.
  • Definitely attend all the exchange and introduction events they are a great way to meet people
  • Join clubs and societies, get involved, its a great way to increase your chances of meeting Scottish students
  • See as much of Scotland as possible don’t be put off by the weather (“There is no bad weather, only bad clothes)

I cannot recommend Glasgow enough and if you go you are guaranteed to have a great time!

Oh, What A Feeling

Hey again! It’s me, Izzie – back with my final instalment of my Tokyo diaries. The crew have been back home for a while now, so it’s been nice to reminisce on our trip and all of our incredible experiences. If you haven’t seen my previous posts about Tokyo, feel free to check them out here and here.

One of the activities that our host company, Mitsui & Co. organised for us was a trip to Toyota City and its historical museum just outside of Nagoya, Japan. As expected, we were pretty excited about the opportunity – Toyota is legendary when it comes to manufacturing standards and innovation (BSB115, anyone?)

We boarded our bullet train at around 7:30am, setting in for a scenic trip from Tokyo to Nagoya. Suffice to say, my favourite part of the entire bullet train experience was the presence of the trolley ladies selling a seemingly infinite amount of snacks. You can take the girl out of the Hogwarts Express, but you can’t take the Hogwarts Express out of the girl (or something like that).

After a sneaky bus ride to Toyota City, we’d finally made it for our day trip. And yes, the Toyota headquarters, factories, and plants make up an entire city – it’s insane! We got to have a play with some of the new Toyota and Lexus models coming out soon, and check out some behind the scenes looks at things like motor engines, smart city plans, and more.

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to film or photograph our experience in the Toyota plant, but it was absolutely incredible. The workers and robotics average roughly 10 minutes in time to build a car, with each car having over 30,000 parts. Talk about efficiency! This is where we saw JIT inventory systems come to life, for all of you Management majors out there. It was pretty fascinating stuff, and we had a blast seeing the cars being built on the assembly lines.

We then journeyed to the Toyota Automobile Museum, where we learnt all about the history of Toyota and its supplementary brands. Did you know that Toyota officially started its business in cotton looming? Me neither! Toyota’s journey is one of countless innovation, jumping from one manufacturing industry to another. It was awesome to be able to honour the history of the company and understand its legacy in Japanese culture.

And with that, my posts from Tokyo have come to a close! It’s been a great time blogging about the Mitsui Immersion Program. Thanks for having a read, and I can’t encourage you enough to apply for next year’s program cohort. It’s a once in a lifetime experience! Feel free to hit me up in the comments if you have any questions about Japan, or the program itself.