My awesome exchange to BI Norwegian Business School

Hai Ling- Bachelor of Business (International Business Major)

BI Norwegian Business School, Norway (Semester 1, 2019) 

I spent three weeks in the UK prior to going to Oslo, to visit family and reunite with old friends, I spent three weeks trying to prepare myself for the next six months. But how are you supposed to prepare for something like this? How do you ready yourself, physically and mentally for something like this? Even after the exchange I still can’t answer that question, truthfully I don’t think you can, you simply put the pieces together as you go.

Now I’d never lived away from home by myself before, not in another country let alone the other side of the planet, this experience was completely new to me. I knew no one going there and I knew no one when I got there. But the next six months would change me completely, in what was and will always remain the greatest and most beneficial experience in my life so far. I would make lifetime friends from completely different countries, many of whom I would visit and see again after the exchange when I traveled across Europe. I would create memorable experiences with those friends that will stay with me forever, events I will never forget and people I will always miss.

I arrived in Oslo at midday on the 31st of December 2018. It had not yet dawned on me what was to come, I still couldn’t fully grasp the idea that for the next six months I would be living here, sleeping here, studying here, thousands and thousands of kilometers from my home, my family, my friends… and my cat.
Very few times during my trip did I get close to that realisation, I think the whole time I was just too engulfed in the whole experience, so much so that I couldn’t fully understand the extent of what was really going on. Not that it was a bad thing, instead  that it was something new, different and so far out of my comfort zone that it had to be done.

I remember my first time getting to Kringsjå, the suburb and student village where I would live for the next six months, I had met an Aussie by pure chance at the housing registration place in Blindern, and we both made our way up there. Funnily enough we ended up in the same building, three levels apart. It was an impressive place, practically a suburb designed for students, the accommodation there ranged from private individual rooms, shared apartments to family apartments. Of the many towering buildings, mine stood tall close to the front, Building 8, to be my home for the next six months. I had managed to get a room on the 9th floor, at the top of the building, and with it, an amazing view of the mountains and tree lines. At that point they were brown, almost dead, covered with snow, something I found to be truly awesome because that is something you would never see back home in Brisbane. Also something that would provide a base of understanding, because in six months’ time those trees would be bright as day and as colourful as a painters pallet.

BI wasn’t a breeze, it wasn’t incredibly difficult either, but it was by no means easy. trhis wasn’t a university where I could catch up after the lecture or tutorial, you had to go to class and you had to take part. BI only hosts a fraction of the number of students that QUT can boast, something that makes them focus on micro development in ways that QUT can’t. I am in no way saying that QUT is unable to, simply that with increased volume, things begin to get diluted. Professors have much closer relationships with students, classrooms are smaller, and students can engage more. I feel that small scale teaching makes for a more passionate learning environment which I really enjoyed. Something different that you take note of having studied in a huge university like QUT.

I had classes two days a week, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s. Wednesday night was kroa night (the BI uni bar), Friday’s were snowboarding days and weekends tended to be occupied by parties and events that people planned (trips out of the city or hiking, often we would have dinners together too). The nightclub scene in Oslo is unimpressive if you’re used to large city night life like Brisbane or Sydney though. The Norwegian people come off as introverts, they seem wary of outsiders almost, that is until you get them drinking, there’s a funny book on the guide to Norwegian culture. Below is the front page, I can’t even begin to explain how true it is.

I really enjoyed my time at BI, it was an architecturally impressive and aesthetically pleasing campus. A single building dominating the area, the size of a small warehouse with multiple floors above and a floor cut into the ground, designed as a cube almost, it has 4 sections of which it hosts classes, A through to D. In the ground floor, a cafeteria where they cooked new and interesting food each day, that was decently priced for how much you got. I mean simple stuff like rice and stew, but even that is a culinary explosion from the same two minute noodles you’ve been sustaining yourself on for the past semester or two… maybe three. The classrooms are modern, similar to the style of classrooms at QUT, of the four subjects I did, two of them taught in lecture format, two in tutorial. Classes were small, even in lectures, the lecture room looked like it could fit maybe 100 to at best 150 students max. But never full, they were smaller, more intimate, the same goes for the tutorial format classes, these were regular subjects, one class a week sort of thing, not enough students to use a lecture hall, but enough that made the class worthwhile.

My advice to students considering going in exchange, it’s really simply, socialise as much as you can find time for. Meeting new people and making new friends, it sounds simple, but I have never been a super social person, I’ve always been comfortable being around the same few people, so to reach out into new groups was something I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. But I’m glad I did. It’s friends that make the experience so much more worth it, I went on multiple trips to different cities and different country’s with the friends I made there. We would always have parties and look to invite people that we met, I met a really good mate of mine simple because he was going to throw out the rubbish in shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops…. in the middle of winter whilst it was snowing! We were huddled outside the door chatting, and we spoke to him a laughed about it. He came out with us to a pub that night and become very close, we still talk.

I wanted to write for the QUT Global blog after my exchange because I wanted to be able to tell people how amazing my experience has been, but writing this now, I don’t quite know what to say! I could talk about how the food at the cafeteria in BI was actually pretty good, or how we did a bus trip across Sweden for a week, jumped in a frozen lake and saw the most beautiful northern lights all in one night. Hiking for three hours through knee deep snow? How about going snowboarding with my Brazilian mate for every week of the winter season? Having Australia day on a frozen lake, drinking wine and listening to bush music? There is too much to share, too many hilarious stories, truly great moments with great people. The consistent shenanigans that this trip held, the constant laughter, the unforgettable memories.

Rarely in life do you have memories so good that you can revisit them in your mind and every time smile or laugh about it. Many times I’ve had people stare at me like a moron because I’ve done this in public and burst out laughing. They don’t know, they can’t understand. To understand required them to be there and they weren’t, don’t consider going on exchange to be just an opportunity, consider not going to be a missed one.

The best 6 month of my life in Copenhagen, Denmark

Raphael Ebeling, Bachelor of Laws (Honours)

Copenhagen Business School, Semester 1, 2019

For my first semester of 2019, I studied abroad at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. The overall experience was easily the best 6 months of my life. I experienced so many different things you never get the chance to studying in your home country and city. Meeting people from all across the world (and Australia!), making lifelong friends, living in another culture and visiting so many other countries made this all possible. I would highly recommend it to anyone considering studying abroad. Here are some of the key aspects of exchange and my personal opinions for prospective exchange students:

Copenhagen climate

Denmark is quite far north and is accordingly a much colder climate than Brisbane! Be prepared for a fair share of overcast days and a lot of wind. This affects so many aspects of Danish culture and their way of life. They spent a lot more time indoors, but also make up for it by making the most of every nice, warm day they have. I personally like the cold, but if you’re looking to study abroad in a similar climate to Brisbane, Copenhagen may not be for you.

Frederiksberg Gardens on one of Copenhagen’s nicer, summer days

Danish culture and language

The Danes are also more reserved than Australians. They’re definitely not as outgoing and animated as we are. But that’s not because they’re rude or impolite – it’s just a different psyche. Don’t let this put you off trying to make Danish friends! What makes things easier is everyone’s English is almost perfect – you could spend your entire exchange there without speaking a word of Danish. However, I would personally recommend giving the language a try – whether you take the semester-long Danish language subject, the introductory crash course or even just use Duolingo, it’s much more culturally immersing and satisfying to try and pick it up.

Accommodation

I was staying in a dorm with other students, which was organised through my host university. However, there is often not enough space at dorms for all the incoming exchange students, meaning some people end up needing to organise their own accommodation privately. I would definitely recommend trying to get dorm! You’ll meet so many people from around the world and make lifelong friends. It’s be so much easier to spend time with people and plan things to do. If a dorm sounds like it’s for you, make sure you’re on top of application times and deadlines! I missed most of my higher dorm preferences because I jumped on the application 2 minutes late!

Another thing to consider is whether you want to stay with other exchange students or locals. I stayed at a dorm with other exchange students, which has let me build up an international network of friends, as well as some new Australian ones. However, there is 1 dorm (Tietgen Kollegiet) which predominantly houses Danish students. If you’re looking to meet and spend heaps of time with locals, apply for Tietgen, but keep in mind you probably won’t meet many internationals. It just depends on the kind of experience you’re after!

My dorm, Holger Danskes Vej

Leeds: The beating heart of Yorkshire

Paris T. Bachelor of Entertainment Industries.

University of Leeds, United Kingdom (Semester 2, 2019).

 

Leeds. The beating heart of Yorkshire – some things that may spring to mind is Yorkshire pudding, a love of FOOTBALL (or soccer as we Australians call it), its surrounding countryside and fields, its slightly underdog attitude to things and THAT Yorkshire accent (yes we all know it, and despite some hesitancies in ability to understand it – we learn to love it – or like me, immediately fall in love with its character on exposure). This city now holds a very special place in my own beating heart. Sure, in the pool of the many Universities of England there’s quite certainly stiff competition, however, I can truly say without a slither of a doubt that the University of Leeds out-lives them all (emphasis on the live). It truly is a lively student city and University, with an incredibly exciting and infamous nightlife (I really cannot emphasise this enough – a quick google search on it will back me up), with one of the largest student unions in the UK (Leeds University Union); complete with its own nightclub, café, bars and over 300 clubs and societies (with almost everything you can think of – honestly, I challenge you to look at their website and NOT find something of interest), to its impressive intake of international students through its exchange program.

Study

Like QUT, the University of Leeds has an impressive and broad catalogue of disciplines to study. Being a creative industries faculty based student, I decided to study an eclectic mix of electives from science to photography and film. Being at a university such as UOL (University of Leeds) where cross faculty subjects were often allowed was of great benefit to my curiosity to branch out into different fields of interest. Here is what I observed about the study at UOL.

(Please note that this is just what I noticed and may be different depending on what your field of study)

A forest in the countryside on the outside of Leeds in Spring

 

The University of Leeds teaching style wasn’t too dissimilar to that of QUT:

  • Most subjects had at least one seminar/lecture and one tutorial/workshop a week scheduled (give or take)
  • The teaching and faculty staff were very helpful, adequate support facilities were provided to students (especially exchange students through the program)
  • Minerva system almost identical to QUT blackboard (just rebranded in their own format)
  • Most lectures have a recording lesson capture system in place like QUT that is then uploaded to ‘Minerva’ (University of Leeds version of Blackboard)

There were some differences however:

  • Most assessments were more formal/traditional than QUT: either in the form of an exam or essay. Almost all of my assessments on my exchange were either essays or exams. This is unlike QUT who have taken a more inventive and “real world” practical approach to their assessments
  • Not all classes/lectures were recorded and uploaded to Minerva (it was wise to attend all these classes otherwise risk not being up to date)
  • Attendance was MANDATORY (yes, you read that correctly). Most classes took a roll to record attendance. If you missed a certain amount of classes without notifying the University of your absences, you would receive an email to check on your wellbeing and to acknowledge these missed classes – occasionally there are some classes that are more relaxed on attendance, which was the case with some of my peers – but unfortunately not with me
  • Most subjects averaged only two pieces of assessment per semester (usually split 50%/50% or 40%/60%) – unlike QUT’s averaged three pieces of assessment (again, this is in my experience)
  • Pass grade is 40% (YES YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT), however, it is harder to achieve a higher grade due to the starting point for satisfactory being lower (thus adjusting the rest of the scale)

 

University Campus and Accommodation

The UOL Campus is the perfect mix of old and new. The campus is stunning with some beautiful traditional English architecture. True to the English: there’s never a shortage of parks, Hyde Park being a personal favourite among myself and my fellow students. It wasn’t uncommon for students to flock to these parks as soon as a slither of sunshine came out.

Some fellow exchange students and I in Hyde Park after class. As you can tell by the surrounding students, it was quite a popular are to hang out at when it isn’t raining

In terms of accommodation, the University of Leeds provides more than ample options in its student halls; which exchange students are guaranteed a place in if they apply before cut-off dates.

 

Entrance to one of the interestingly beautiful buildings I had a class in

I stayed at the hall of James Baillie Park (JPB!) which I absolutely loved due to its proximity to the popular student housing suburb of Headingly (full of eateries, bars, pubs, places to shop and the home of the popular ‘Otley run’). I also enjoyed it as it wasn’t right on campus but it was close enough to walk to the University each morning through Hyde Park. As well as this, JPB in the year of my application housed a large and friendly exchange student population alongside a large intake of English ‘fresher’ students.

Hyde Park in Winter on a snowy day

What most people come to learn after exchange is that fellow exchange students are the ones who become your family, and those of us at James Baillie really did become one – whether it was to hold pre-events for nights out, borrow some sugar for baking, a study session  or to just go to the park down the road together.

 

 

(ATTENTION future James Baillie kids: the park is called The Ridge and I pass this information onto you in utmost respect that you will hold this place sacred as the many James Baillie kids did before you).

My JBP friends and I all wearing UOL merch at one of our last afternoons at ‘the ridge’

 

Tips for Leeds

I could write a book on my tips for future students studying at the University of Leeds, however to be honest, no one wants to do unnecessary readings. I have included some general tips that come to the top of my head for those of you considering the University of Leeds (honestly, do it, you won’t regret it!)

  • For the love of all things wholesome; attend every social event you can in the first 2 weeks! No matter how awkward it is, in these events you will meet your exchange friends and family (you will also find yourself laughing about these first two weeks later down the line to these people, so don’t worry about being awkward and venturing outside your comfort zone – as cliché as this saying is: EVERYBODY IS IN THE SAME BOAT – you will hear this a million times, trust me)
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you meet – for simple things like grabbing a coffee after class etc, the UOL has such a large exchange program, there is likeminded people for everyone
  • Try to get your assessment done before the breaks or weekends, Leeds is an incredibly vibrant city and the nightlife is unlike anywhere else, so don’t spend it inside studying (Oops, did I say that out-loud? I mean, study hard kids!)
  • While I never ended up joining a LUU society due to all my spare time taken travelling/socialising (I did attend many give-it-a-go sessions) I know many others that did join societies and loved them, I encourage you to take a look at the University of Leeds Union website and trying out a few or joining as this is often where you meet English students aside from classes

 

I can honestly say that some of the best experiences I’ve had were through my exchange at the University of Leeds, and if you have any doubts (perfectly reasonable), take the plunge and apply. I’ve met so many faces and personalities through this exchange, and I’m yet to meet anyone who’s had second thoughts on their choice: you honestly won’t regret it.

The Cherry Blossoms are Inspirational, my Experience in Japan

Li-En Peng, Bachelor of Creative Industries 

Kanda University of International Studies, Semester 1, 2019

The KUIS campus in cherry blossom season was beautiful. The KUIS buildings were a mixture of old and new. The older buildings had a classic feeling to them and the newer buildings were very high-tech and beautiful. I did have a few difficulties with orientation where all the information was spoken in Japanese, however I did manage.

The Blossoms

We QUT students organized a Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) party to get to know the other exchange students.

Our QUT Hanami

Campus food was delicious. It had a very home-style taste to them. Food in Japan was always 10/10. KUIS had a bakery, which was always amazing.

Home Style Chicken Katsu

I joined the soccer club, which promoted interaction with Japanese students. KUIS had many facilities and systems that encouraged language and cultural exchange amongst Japanese and exchange students.

KUIS has an area called the ‘yellow sofa’ where Japanese and exchange students can talk. I made a friend and she let me know of a KUIS event that only the Japanese students were privy to.  Hence, I decided to join that event, being the only exchange student and walked 40km overnight to from Tsudanuma to Narita-san.

Saying goodbye was very sad, but I cherish all the memories I made and still keep in contact with my friends from all different parts of the globe.

A few friends

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