My Exchange in Texas: A&M University

Isaac Farrell, IX30 Bachelor of Business and Mathematics

Host University: A&M University, Texas, USA (Semester 2, 2019)

My exchange was arguably the greatest experience of my life to date. Living in a completely different culture is something that I would recommend everyone to do at some point in their life. It takes you well outside of your comfort zone and makes you grow up fast. In terms of my experience, I found that living in Texas was interesting. The people aren’t all rednecks as many of us believe, but they are some of the nicest people on this Earth.

Texas, USA

Texas A&M University is in a small Christian town called College Station. Its Christian roots are the basis of everybody’s day-to-day life, and it is why they are so kind and caring. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just met someone, you are already friends. An amazing example of their kindness is my friend Mimi’s roommate. Mimi had just moved into the dorm and had known her roommate for 4 days before her birthday came. Not only did her roommate buy her presents, but Mimi’s roommate’s parents also bought her a gift and a surprise birthday cake. Their kindness is unprecedented.

Another amazing part of living and breathing the Texas lifestyle was their love for all thing’s sports. Whether you were interested in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, or anything else, there was always games being played, and always people that wanted to talk with you about it. Their passion for their teams and their university is amazing. If you love sport, you will LOVE Texas A&M.

Football Field, Texas

The last thing I want to reflect on is the country bars. These bars are like the movies. You’ll go out with some of your exchange friends or American pals to these bars multiple times a week. They are the best place to relax and hang out with people. Instead of flashing lights and dance music, Texas opts for a more old-fashioned approach, with country music, line-dancing, and Texas two-stepping flooding out the doors. It is truly an amazing atmosphere to be a part of.

I don’t regret one second of my exchange at Texas A&M and I encourage every single person to go on exchange because (whilst it sounds cliche) it will change your life.

My Thai Experience: Study Abroad Done Right

Elliot B.
Thammasat University, Thailand (Semester 1, 2019)

My last post on QUT Gone Global was back in January, so I apologize for not posting sooner. Back then, I had just settled in and begun my first week of classes at the Rangsit campus.

What I loved about studying at Rangsit was that each time I went into Bangkok, it felt just as exciting as the first time. If I was studying at the city campus, I would get used to living in Bangkok and the excitement would eventually subside. But by only getting to see Bangkok on the weekends, the thrill of driving through the city and walking around the different areas was still there, even near the end of my exchange.

I found university life in Thailand completely different to university in Australia. Thai universities feel a lot like school: you have lots of homework; you are asked to participate in class discussions; and you have the same classes with the same people. Most classes have between 30-50 students, but in one of my classes, Advanced News Reporting, there were only 10 students. This was great because I could really get to know everyone, and could develop a good relationship with my teacher. You also take between 6-7 subjects, so you get to know the other students very quickly because you see them so regularly.

My class for JM310 – Editorial and Article Writing

The highlights of my trip include spending Songkran in Chiang Mai. Songkran is the Thai New Year holiday, famous for water fights that are held all over the country. People of all ages wear colourful Hawaiian shirts, arm themselves with water guns and buckets, and spray water at each other. Chiang Mai is known as having one of the country’s biggest Songkran celebrations.

Drenched on the streets of Chiang Mai

Another highlight was getting to know so many Thai students. I’m a massive food lover, so I found getting along with Thai students super easy. We would talk about food all the time. One friend invited me over to his house to cook with his family and have dinner with them. We cooked up a huge feast of traditional Thai dishes including kai palo (sweet and sour pork soup), red curry of duck, dry-fried prawns in garlic and chili, and the best fried rice ever!

The huge meal we cooked!

One last highlight would have to be a trip with my closest exchange and Thai friends where we took to an island in Southern Thailand called Ko Phi Phi. We spent an incredible day on a boat and visited some beautiful beaches. These are memories I’ll never forget.

My friends and I on a boat somewhere in the Andaman Sea

I feel very fortunate to have had this amazing experience, and implore others to go on exchange. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan. More information available here.

Spain Student Exchange Summary

Quote

Kirra Sodhi

Universidad Carlos III Madrid, Madrid

Host Country

Deciding on a host country was one of the most difficult parts of my application process. I was comparing countries like Ireland to Norway to Singapore. However, I decided to go to Spain for several different reasons. Firstly, I had always wanted to visit the country, I was so intrigued with there fun and chilled out way of life (which eventually became quite annoying as nothing was ever open). Then there was the weather, now I know that we get a lot of sun, but Madrid is always sunny, in fact I could probably count only 5 days during my semester where there was grey skies. The people of Spain are also so welcoming, even if you know nothing about the language. I originally wanted to study in Barcelona because I though it was an amazing city, which was so multicultural and consisted of many aspects including arts, sports and most importantly beautiful beaches. However, as my business program was only offered in Madrid, I ended up going there instead (which was still a win). As the capital of Spain, Madrid was lively at all hours of the day, filled with amazing food, shops, festivals and lots of street performance. I was really into this traditional Spanish city and all its little quirks.

University and Campus

The university I went to was Universidad Carlos III Madrid, which located outside the city a bit, in a suburb called Getafe and took about 20 – 40min by train from Madrid’s central station (Sol). Compared to QUT’s modern facilities, the school seemed surprisingly quite old with chalk boards in the classrooms. I also found the education system to be dysfunctional and very unorganized, which most exchange students I met there agreed with. All the classes were pretty easy to pass, and the assessment pieces were not too hard. Also, I found that group assignments are very popular. All the classes were done in English which was fortunate since I knew zero Spanish.

Accommodation

This was very different to organize and caused myself I lot of stress when preparing for exchange. On campus accommodation was full and honestly, I would not recommend it as it is located in Getafe which is a very small and basic town. Madrid’s student rental services were various and helpful. For me, I often used be roomers, spotahome and uniplaces to search for apartments. The apartment which I lived in was owned by HELP MADRID they offered good accommodation but definitely ripped you off. I was constantly being charged extra for services like water and gas and each month the charges would increase by sometimes 50 euros which blew my budget out. Apart from this I did enjoy the accommodation, I lived with 11 people all exchange students mostly from the USA. Plus the best thing about the apartment was our location, basically in the middle of Sol, the main plaza was right around the corner.

Conclusion

Spain is an amazing place to go on exchange, especially as it is a large and central European city with something to explore every day. Compared to other European countries, I found it to be relatively cheap, which was definitely a big bonus. Having the ability to travel every weekend was amazing and I was able to see so many countries that I could not imagine.

My advice any future global student is that exchange can challenge you in more ways than you would expect, but the great thing is that you will grow as a person, make amazing friends and have the craziest lifelong memories along the way.

 

Stand Out Go North

Nikoletta Spathis

BI Norwegian Business School, Norway

Between its world-class mountain scapes, Northern Lights and ancient history, Norway has become a popular destination, not only for travel but for education and employment. I was fortunate enough to study in its capital, Oslo, a cosmopolitan city set amongst the fjords and forests where breath-taking nature is just one step outside the door.

University Life

BI Norwegian Business School is the largest business school in Norway and the second largest in all of Europe. Located in the urban area of Nydalen, BI can be visually described as a modern architectural masterpiece, with four main buildings connected by a glass pavilion. This design was highly beneficial during the colder seasons as it made it easy for students to move around the buildings without having to embrace the negative twelve or if lucky, negative fifteen temperatures.

BI has a strong focus on keeping close ties with the business world which enables all students to partake in various opportunities. Undertaking the specialization in Shipping Management, I was able to attend a number of industry related excursions and seminars which were extremely insightful and beneficial. In addition, the university ran professional networking events. One such event was ‘Coffee Hour’ where a ‘hot topic’ was discussed by an industry professional (e.g. politicians, CEOs, researchers, etc.). During my exchange, I attended a discussion on gender equality and the economy. This discussion was presented by eminent speakers including former U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The approach to learning at university is somewhat different to what we are used to at QUT. For example, there is no distinction between lectures and tutorials which means classes run for three hour blocks. Although attendance is not compulsory, it is highly recommended as there are no recordings. The workload during the semester is relatively relaxed as there are hardly any assignments! However, it is important to keep studying as most units only have ONE 100 percent end of semester exam. Although the academic structure is different, it is relatively easy to adapt as all the teaching staff are extremely helpful and understanding.

Everyday Life

Norway is a very advanced nation with high wages and living standards which means that everything is expensive, especially for students. The Norwegian currency can be a little confusing at first as they work in large numeric values, for example, AUD$17.00 is equal to NOK100.

Within the first two days of arriving in Oslo a trip to IKEA is a must for all those items that did not fit within the luggage limit from Australia! Located 15 minutes from the city centre, a free IKEA shuttle bus operates daily. There are other homeware stores, like Clas Ohlson and Europris which are relatively inexpensive with stores across the city. On average, grocery shopping can add up pretty quickly, therefore it is wise to look at the weekly promotions of the various supermarkets (e.g. Meny, Coop, Joker, Extra). Unfortunately, it is not economically viable to constantly eat out as it is very expensive. Even fast food chains, like McDonalds, are considerably more expensive when compared to prices in Australia. A must have app to download is ‘TooGood ToGo.’ On this app you purchase a mystery bag, filled with various food items, from your chosen store. For example, I once received two loafs of bread, three sandwiches, two pastries, and a smoothie for only NOK35 – roughly AUD$5.80. The main thing to understand is that Norway is expensive, however, there are ways to minimize costs.

Navigating around Oslo is relatively easy as it has one of the most sophisticated and on-time transport systems in the world. As a student, discounted transport fares apply for all major transport (bus, train and ferry). However, this discount only applies when a 30-day ticket is purchased (around NOK550 which is equal to AUD$90- this may seem expensive, but it works out the cheapest). Even if you are not certain that you will use public transport daily, it is still worth purchasing the 30-day ticket as single tickets are costly.

Travelling is a must both within Norway and beyond. Nature abounds in Norway so making the most of it by travelling to explore the far South to the far North is a must. The only negative about travelling within Norway is the expense. However, planning ahead helps. It is often possible to pick up cheaper flights when you are flexible about your travel plans and staying in an Airbnb are a must. My most memorable visit, within Norway, was to the Telemark region where I was lucky enough to witness nature’s winter magic, the aurora borealis. Once you have explored every inch of Norway, travelling around Europe will seem incredibly inexpensive.

Whether it be for one or two semesters, going abroad may be a daunting thought, however, you will not regret your decision.

Stand out! Take the leap and embrace all the extremes that going North has to offer.

Dreams Come True: My Exchange to Kyoto, Japan at Ritsumeikan University

Chen Lang (Joyce) Yu, Bachelor of Design (Architectural Studies) (Honours) 

Host university: Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan

So it’s a bit of a childhood dream to go on exchange in Japan and study Japanese. Using the elective credits that I had with my architectural course, I was grateful to have been given the opportunity to go to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto is pretty much on every tourist’s list to visit if they came to Japan, the city is scattered with temples, shrines, museums and historical places that reminisce a time when Kyoto was the capital. Living here only served to reinforce that. There are endless little niches of culture, old and new, traditional and modern, living side by side each other and it’s quite incredible.

I applied for Ritsumeikan University for the SKP (Study in Kyoto) program that they offer for international students, specifically the IJL (Intensive Japanese Learning track). Coming here in late March, I was able to catch the cherry blossom season and it was spectacular.

Cherry Blossom in Kyoto

For the semester, I undertook Japanese lessons every day and each week; there would be so much content to be learned – grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc. I must admit, it was somewhat stressful, but at the same time I have learned a lot. From almost no Japanese language experience to being able to hold simple conversation with local Japanese students, the progress was slow but rewarding.

Luckily, Ritsumeikan University offers dormitory housing for international students, which saved me the hassle of looking for my own accommodation. By far the dorm life was one of the most rewarding experiences for me and my stay in Kyoto. I was able to meet and make friends with people from all over the world who also shared my enthusiasm for studying Japanese and learning its culture. These people have become some lifelong friends that I hope to be able to visit them in their part of the world.

Some of the lifelong friends I made in Kyoto

Studying in Milan AKA the fashion capital of the world

My semester at the Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi located in Milan, Italy, was one of the most difficult, yet life-changing, semesters of my university career thus far. I arrived in Milan a few days prior to the start of classes and was immediately thrown into an exciting week of meeting other exchange students and learning my way around the campus. Bocconi’s International Student Desk was immensely helpful at this time, providing tours and networking events throughout the first two weeks. Also, during this time, I engaged in a two-week, Italian language course. I would thoroughly recommend this course to future exchange students at Bocconi. Not only was it helpful in receiving an introduction to the Italian language, but it also allowed me to meet a class full of other exchange students who were keen to make friends. The friends I made during the language course have become some of my greatest friends and, despite all being from different countries, I am confident I will continue to treasure these friendships for the rest of my life.

The Bocconi Erasmus Club was also incredibly helpful at the beginning of my time in Milan, as well as throughout the entire semester. From group dinners to nights out and even sporting competitions, the Erasmus club was an amazing way to make friends and feel fully immersed in the exchange experience. The events hosted by the Erasmus group during my exchange were definitely some of the highlights of my time abroad.

My biggest surprise after first arriving in Milan was how expensive the city was compared to Brisbane, particularly with regards to rent. As one of the most expensive cities to live in Europe, my bank account was in for a shock. I would highly advise future exchange students to do a thorough budget for their time abroad before arriving at their host city.

When classes began at Bocconi I learnt very quickly that academic life would be far more demanding than what I was used to at QUT. Lessons were structured very differently, and far more traditionally, at Bocconi with very little online content and no tutorial style classes. On top of this, majority of students in my classes were Italian and, despite the classes being taught in English, would talk together or clarify information in Italian.

A highlight of my time in Italy was certainly Milan Fashion Week, when the city really came alive with so much to do and see during that time. I was even lucky enough to attend a number of fashion shows, including some at Bocconi University.

My biggest piece of advice for future exchange students is to remember that exchange isn’t going to be amazing all the time and it’s not meant to be. There will be times where you will miss having your family and friends close by or struggle with academics. I can say for certain you will have several near misses when crossing the road on your way to class because Italian drivers are absolutely crazy. There will be days when you just want a cup of coffee without half your order getting lost in translation. I promise you that the times where you think “why on earth am I doing this” are going to be the moments you look back on as the most important and valued times on your exchange.

I cannot put into words how incredible, fun and life-changing my time on exchange was. I believe without a doubt every student should consider an overseas exchange during their time at university. I am so grateful to QUT and Bocconi University for such an invaluable opportunity.