Taco Bell, Country Music and Southern Accents

Dylan, S. Bachelor of Science

University of Wyoming (Semester 1, 2017)

Going on exchange at the University of Wyoming in the USA was far and away the best thing I have ever done in my life. The people I met on exchange will be friends for life and the experience and sights I saw and shared with them I will never forget! From the minute I jumped off the plane over I was a mix of nerves, fear, excitement and Taco Bell and I can honestly say that If you’re not scared it’s not something worth doing.

Wyoming is the state in the US with the smallest population and it is smack bang in the middle of nowhere but it honestly has so much to offer. The national parks are beautiful & there is world class skiing so close as well. If you love hiking and anything outdoors UW has the most insane outdoor program with trips every few weeks and it is so easy to make friends with people who are constantly getting out and doing exciting things.

UW itself is a pretty small school with the best sense of community. It’s in a town called Laramie which has some really cool little food spots and a lot of places that sell camo. Recommendation, I would have try and listen to a little country music before you leave Australia, because you will listen to it a lot and eventually begin to love songs about your tractor and southern girls.

Some of the people in Wyoming can have pretty different values and political beliefs from home and at first that could be hard to swallow for a lot of people but if you have an open mind you will grow to love them.

The best advice I can give you is to get out of your comfort zone and try as many new experiences and meet as many new people as possible. Some of the other highlights of my trip apart from at UW included traveling to New York, New Orleans, road-tripping the west coast and going to Mexico for spring break.

I tried to have a ‘true’ American college experience and lived off campus in a house with people I had never met. This lead to the majority of my friends being Americans and not being other international students. While this may be scary, I went over there wanting an authentic experience and I truly am thankful for getting that. Everyone I met was so open and fun that I wouldn’t change it for the world. If you wanted the more standard exchange experience though UW still has a great international program and they will look after you so well!

I would 100% recommend going to the university of Wyoming and to America on exchange. It is such a great country and you will have memories you will never forget, it was by far the best thing I have done in my life and I want to go back every day!

Going global with QUT was amazing and even though it’s a long application process it is so worth it and the study abroad team is so helpful.

Scottish Exchange

Emily, W. Bachelor of Business and Law

Strathclyde University, Glasgow, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2017)

In Semester 1, 2017 I had the opportunity to study in Glasgow, Scotland for 5 months. Departing sunny Brisbane I landed in the UK to rain, wind and eventually non-stop snow until April. Glasgow is the largest and most vibrant city in Scotland, with approximately 2 million of the friendliest Glaswegians populating arguably the best part of Scotland. I was lucky to be in the busiest and most bustling part of the country, while still in such close proximity to the beautiful highlands that would put our tourism ads to shame!

My time in Glasgow was highlighted by the many friendly faces that were proud to welcome the new kids to their city, the endless pints at the local pubs and the fascination with men in kilts! Walking around the city centre, you were bound to see some funny and interesting sights, something I soon took in my stride and can laugh about now. I am grateful for all the opportunities we had to travel wherever we wanted, with just a quick plane trip taking us to the furthest corners of Europe, or a scenic train ride to explore the expanse of the UK.

While not forgetting the purpose of my trip, studying at the University of Strathclyde with a great mix of local and international students while also consulting with some fast-growing local companies gave me opportunities and experiences that I would never replicate anywhere but Glasgow!

As the Glaswegian’s like to say, the people make Glasgow!!

Matthew, P. Bachelor of Business and Law

Vienna University of Economics and Business (Semester 1, 2017)

Host University

Life at my host university  – WU (Wirtschaftuniversitat Wien) – was great. The campus was located really close to the city centre and transport was so easy. Built in 2013, WU is extremely contemporary and offered many different learning spaces. The library is particularly noteworthy as it was designed by Zaha Hadid, who was arguably the most famous female architect in the world.

In terms of accommodation, there exists no on-campus accommodation but instead, through OeAD there are a number of student residences throughout Vienna. I stayed in Kandlgasse in the 7th District and loved it. It’s about 25 minutes on a tram and a train to uni but is in a really cool part of Vienna, full of nice places to eat and drink; I’d highly recommend this place if you want to go through OeAD. University was structured differently in that there were no 4 set classes and class times for the duration of the semester. Instead, there are a number of ways you can set up your study, for example by doing 2 classes that run for 2 weeks (block classes) and another 3 for a few months. In this sense, it is much more confusing and I prefer the Australian method of organisation. (Don’t let this deter you, it just takes a bit of getting used to).

Host Country

Austria is a fantastic place to live due to its depth and breadth of natural beauty – from huge ski fields and glacial skiing available in winter to warm summer hikes. It is in Central Europe, making travel really easy e.g. a 10 Euro bus to Berlin. Austria is a part of the Germanic region and has a rich imperial history, particularly during the 19th century, where its famous coffeehouses were frequented by characters such as Trotsky, Freud, Hitler and Lenin.

Highlights of Exchange

Being able to travel extensively throughout the entirety of my semester was definitely a highlight. Getting to ski twice, visit Amsterdam and hang out in Nice for a week are all very real possibilities when travel is made so easy.

Unexpected Things

I didn’t anticipate enjoying just hanging around in Vienna as much as I ended up. Forcing yourself to learn a bit of the language will help you (literally) understand the people you interact with and can increase your familiarity with the city. I consider Vienna a second home and would not be against moving back there in the future.

Tips and advice for future students

Just go on exchange with an open mind, don’t be nervous because everyone is in the same position as you and friends are almost too easy to come by. Try and assimilate a little bit and you’ll be surprised by just how comfortable you can feel half way around the world.

 

Final Goodbye to England

I’ve been putting off writing this last entry for a few weeks now. At first I told myself it was because I wanted to relax; get used to being back in the country. Now however, I’ve realised it’s because this is the last chapter in what was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

When I was fourteen I knew without a doubt that I wanted to study overseas. I wanted to travel, experience another culture and make lifelong friends. That is something I can now say I’ve achieved. But with that achievement comes a sense of loss. Because now that I’m home the travel is over, my friends are in another country and the culture I’d come to know and love is a 23-hour plane ride away.

In previous posts I’ve talked about why I chose England, what the differences are, what the university is like and about my travels. What I haven’t mentioned is why England is the number 1 choice for a study abroad experience. So, with my last blog I’ll let you all in on a few things.

My main reason for choosing the United Kingdom was because of the history. I’m a grade A nerd who needed a fix of culture that was over 300 years old (sorry Australia) and that’s exactly what I got. From Westminster palace, to Stonehenge; a Jack the Ripper tour to hundreds of castles. There’s something special about being in a country with so much history. There was always a historical landmark to see or celebration to be a part of. I walked along the same paths as some true historical icons and I’ll always love the UK for giving me that opportunity.

My second reason? It’s. So. Damn. Close. To. Everywhere. I organised a trip to Edinburgh with some friends before I left. These British girls had lived in England their entire life but had never made the 5 hour train trip to Scotland. To an Australian, the concept was ridiculous. A 4 hour plane journey got me to Norway and 5 hours to Greece. As far as a central hub goes, the UK is the perfect place for the prospective travel to base themselves.

Third reason? Weather. Not once did my oh so pale skin fry in the sun in the six months I was living in England. There was rain and clouds for the majority of the time… which is maybe not so great for a gal with frizzy hair, but hey, you get used to it. Even when there was sun and my flatmates were walking around in singlets and shorts (no thongs in sight) I was happily rugged up and exposing none of my pastiness to the sun. PLUS my childhood dream of seeing snow was also fulfilled so really, the UK is a sun/heat averse person’s dream.

The fourth? The people. Yes the brusqueness of Londoners is difficult to adjust to at first but once you get used to it… or move down south like I did, the people of England really are the greatest. Everything is solved by tea (or toaster waffles). Greetings are a ‘you alright?’ and the students are just like being back at home. So, if you want exchange without a huge culture shock… England all the way.

My final reason is purely dedicated to my flatmates. Without them my time in England wouldn’t have been anywhere near as enjoyable. They were there for the fun times and when things got hard. They were there to party or watch a scary movie. They were my second family and without a doubt the number one reason I’ll be returning to the UK as soon as I can. So if your reasons to come to the UK aren’t travel, or weather or history, or even a slightly similar culture – come because I promise the friends you make will be friends you have for a lifetime.

For my final post. Goodbye England.

 

Beautiful Italy – Milan Exchange

Catlin, B. Bachelor of Design (Fashion)

Politecnico di Milano (Italy) (Semester 1, 2017)

I completed my exchange semester in Milan at Politecnico di Milano, Bovisa Campus.  Politecnico have two campuses in Milan – Bovisa and Leonardo. In comparison to QUT Politecnico is very, very different.

Avoiding pigeons at Duomo di Milano

The Bovisa campus is considerably smaller with most classes being in one block only, where they have all the design labs; including but not limited to fashion, knitting, prototype, photography, etc.  I found the facilities were quite limited compared to QUT in most aspects, but they also had facilities that QUT does not have – such as a knitting lab.

 

The classes and how they are run is also extremely different to QUT, being very heavily centred around group work.  This may be due to the limited facilities and surplus of students, however I did not like the dynamic of the classes at all. That being said I also completed some masters subjects which were taught in English and they adopted a much more individual centred approach to the assignments. They are also very strict on attendance, it can sometimes be worth up to 30% of your final grade, which I find unnecessary and not conducive to productivity with some classes being up to 9 hours in length.  The general level of academics that was being taught I didn’t find challenged me at all, and was at a much lower standard to that of QUT.  In general I didn’t learn anything really from the actual classes and found them to be extremely easy – another reason I found the attendance rule so frustrating.

Sunrise from our apartment in Montalbino

Accomodation wise, I personally stayed in an AirBnB with another girl from my class at QUT; we originally weren’t going to stay for the whole trip, however, we were finding it very difficult being so far away and being able to find reliable and affordable accomodation so we decided to just book our apartment through AirBnB for the entirety of our semester.

 

This worked well for us but after meeting other exchange students from around Europe we realised we probably could’ve gotten a much better place through sites that they used such as Uniplaces, Easystanza or Erasmus. On the flip side of that, I have also heard that the Politecnico dorms are quite nice as well and they’re a great way to make friends and meet new people, just make sure you apply for them in advance as they do fill up!

Milan in general to live is again very different to Australia.

Lunch break at Polimi 1-2pm

The cost of living was mostly a bit cheaper; groceries, transport, etc were all cheaper (even considering the terrible exchange rate at the time which was 0.66c to our dollar) but rent in Milan can sometimes be quite pricey.  Milan has a great underground Metro system as well as many busses and trams to get you around.  The university will give you information about an ATM (Milan’s equivalent of Translink) travel card, which is like a go card however there is a reduced fee for students which is paid monthly and gets you unlimited travel with all of Milan’s transport systems.

 

The culture is also very different and I found the biggest culture shock for me was getting used to how Italians work – mostly very disorganised.

I also found that there seemed to be (especially at the university) a quite prominent language barrier – not because they couldn’t speak or understand english (because the vast majority of people all across Europe know English to some degree), but because there seemed to be a prejudice towards the exchange students as they did not speak fluent Italian.

Picnic with other exchange students in Parco Sempione

I knew some Italian going over, as did my friend, however a lot of the time we were treated like we didn’t know anything simply because we didn’t speak their language. It was quite a frustrating experience in that sense.

 

The main highlights from my exchange was obviously the ability I had to easily travel around Europe, but also the friends I made from all over the world. At first I was afraid I wouldn’t make any friends, but honestly they were what made it so worthwhile. Looking back there were a LOT of ups and downs but I’m happy that I did it because whilst the university wasn’t what I expected – I gained invaluable life skills, confidence, independence and a new perspective of the world.

My main tips (also known as – the things I wish someone had told me before I went) are these:

  • Italians are some of the most disorganised and frustrating people to deal with – the sooner you know that the better
  • Don’t expect everyone to be as openly friendly as Australians – a lot of the time people aren’t being rude they’re just not used to our vivaciousness

    Navigli canal

  • Don’t choose where you live based on the campus, chose a nice area as you will probably be spending more time at home than you think – places like Isola, Citta Studi, Porta Venezia or around Navigli, Cadorna or most places closer to the centre are pretty safe bets.
  • Speaking of Navilgli – make sure you pop by on the last Sunday of the month, there is an awesome flea market that runs down the whole canal
  • People are generally pretty nice in regards to the language barrier, but please try and give Italian a go – people appreciate the effort and the basics aren’t that hard.
  • Get an Italian SIM as soon as you can – google maps is your saviour
  • Coffee – order espresso, macchiato or cappuccino.  Their cappuccino is basically a latte and if you ask for “latte” you will get milk.
  • Most importantly:
  • Don’t pay more than three euro for a two scoop gelato!

Good luck!