A snapshot of my Singapore experience (so far)

Rusil W, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Bachelor of Science

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (Semester 1 & 2, 2018)

In a bit under a week I’ll be flying back to Singapore for my second semester at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). To be honest, I don’t think I’ve really finished processing my first semester. But I’ll do my best to summarise it here.

To start, the first few weeks felt almost surreal. Coming from the very compact Gardens Point Campus, NTU – with ~20 student residential halls, ~15 canteens and 2 supermarkets (just to name a few things) – feels like its own self-contained town. These facilities exist because the majority of NTU students live on campus during the week,which results in a significantly different student life. Dinner at the canteens would be shared with (for less than $5 might I add). The student club culture also seems far more invested because everyone is on campus. In Mid-February, lion dance performances for Chinese New Year could be heard from my room, and in mid-April, cheerleading practice could be heard into the late hours of the night.

The semester started off with a trip with some other exchange students to Pulau Ubin – a small island off Singapore which hasn’t been encroached by the concrete jungle. It acts as a kind of heritage area for the what the main island was like before major urbanization. This provided a great first opportunity to meet other exchange students from across the world – Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, China … too many for me to remember.

 

Most of the other exchange students I met primarily used Singapore as a gateway for travel throughout South-East Asia – using mid-sem break, public holidays, and even time between finals to visit countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Now, while I can’t begin to express my envy as I heard one friend’s plans to visit Vietnam between open book exams, Singapore isn’t just a travel hub. It’s also a cultural one.

People always think of Australia as a cultural mixing pot because of its very immigrant-based history, and Singapore is like that too, in a way. The island has three main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay and Indian. While the Chinese population is clearly dominant, it’s fairly easy to experience all three cultures in various ways. This includes physical places like Chinatown and Little India, celebrations like Chinese New Year, and the food (most importantly).

In fact, Singapore is probably the best place I can think of for an east meets west experience (besides maybe Hong Kong). This lets you sate virtually any cultural desire – which in my case was music. In just one semester, I managed to see two on campus concerts, a Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert (for only $10!!!!) and Fallout Boy – while eyeing performances by MIYAVI (a Japanese rockstar), the St Petersburg Ballet, and a showcase of works by Monet and Renoir.

Before starting exchange, a semester abroad sounds like a lot, but while there the time just flashes past. I’m glad to have another semester to do some things I missed, catch up with some friends, and make even more new ones.

 

Invest in an Italian Experience!

Christen W. Bachelor of Business (Honours)

Short-term program: LUISS ‘Market Regulation and Investments for Growth’

July 2017, Italy

It’s not every day that the chance comes along to attend an exciting, experiential summer school at a top university in Rome, spending two weeks learning from executives at Italy’s major financial institutions – so when the LUISS ‘Market Regulation and Investments for Growth’ program appeared in the short-term exchange portal, I jumped at the chance.

Ready and eager for the program ahead, I arrived in Rome late on a warm July night, my senses immediately enveloped by the soupy summer air, the lively and historical streets, and the rich undertones of the Italian accent resonating around me. I knew I was in the right place.

The LUISS residence that would serve as our accommodation for the next two weeks was renovated in 2016, providing excellent rooms and facilities that you might expect from a high-end hotel. Great views, strong WiFi and lots of space – the dream trio – were all present. The University is only a five minute walk past coffee shops, small European cars and cobbled streets. I quickly grew accustomed to the friendly greeting of ‘Ciao!’ from reception on the way out each morning; I could definitely see myself living in Italy!

Fantastic, modern accommodation

At our lecture in the Bank of Italy

Our program was a fast-paced, content-rich exploration of the various financial institutions of Italy, including those that seek to regulate and ensure level playing fields, such as the Italian Competition Authority and the Bank of Italy, and those that seek to catalyse investment in projects to spur growth, such as the European Investment Bank. Our small group of eight students was fortunate enough to visit and hear from senior figures from several of these organisations, providing us a first-hand glimpse into their operations and role within the larger European framework.

The level of academic rigour and expectations of the class were quite high, but with the enjoyable nature of a summer program; it was easy to be motivated to complete assessments and engage with lectures in such a stimulating environment. Our assessment pieces consisted of an in-class open book exam and two reports to be completed outside class times. Active participation was also encouraged and recorded to be put towards our final result. Being such a small group was a great advantage of this program – we were able to leverage maximum benefit from the classes, business visits, and our Professor, and I now have a network of fantastic friends around the world.

While in Rome, there were many chances to explore the local attractions and history, enjoy the famous cuisine in its home country, and even travel outside of Rome on the weekends. As I held the title of travelling the longest distance to participate in the program, it made sense that I would maximise the spare time on the program. The train network in Rome and Italy, including the Metro, inter-city and regional trains, are highly efficient and affordable, making them a great option for travellers; this is in contrast to the buses and trams of Rome which were often less than reliable (and much maligned by the Roman public).

The Duomo, Florence

The Leaning Tower!

In front of the Trevi Fountain

On the first weekend, I took an early Saturday morning train from Roma Termini to the popular and beautiful city of Florence. The day was full of walking and enjoying most of Florence’s attractions, including the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. Sunset from Piazza Michaelangelo sealed in my mind that Florence is no ordinary destination. After some final sight-seeing on Sunday morning I took the short trip west to Pisa, where I spent Sunday afternoon in Campo dei Miracoli, taking in and climbing the leaning tower, the baptistery, and the nearby museum. It wouldn’t have felt right returning to Rome without this stop!

On the last Saturday I headed east from Rome to the ancient town of Tivoli, which made for a fantastic day covering many kilometres through the highlights of Villa d’Este, Villa Gregoriana and Hadrian’s Ruins. Some of the best places are those that are little known or underrated – discovering them is one of the great joys of travelling.

A small piece of advice is to budget generously for food, as the delicious meals that Italy is famous for do come at a price. Try to occasionally eat in – your bank account will thank you! I would highly encourage anyone interested in this or a similar program to take the plunge; the experience, the international friendships, and the broadening of horizons made it beyond worthwhile. You won’t regret it!

At the Colosseum

The end of a great program!

Salam sejahtera! Snippets from my Surabaya experience.

Scott C, Bachelor of Property Economics
Universitas Surabaya, Indonesia
Semester 1, 2018

First of all, Surabaya has a very culturally rich history and the locals are very proud of this, its best that you at least try to familiarise yourself with some of the historical events and culture customs, as this will help you understand Surabaya’s Identity. You will find most people in Surabaya upon meeting foreign people will be very curious and will ask for pictures and may want to ask you a lot questions, don’t worry or suspect anything, generally this is to do with the fact that they usually don’t get a lot of tourists (especially in the more rural areas), so naturally they are very curious. Sometimes, you can get the reverse because they are shy, this is easy to overcome, a good ice breaker is simply introducing yourself in Indonesian, “Nama Saya *insert your name*”, roughly translates to, “name my”, they most likely will laugh at your terrible attempt and then become more talkative. Try to learn some basic Indonesian, as this will become helpful in negotiations with taxi drivers, store vendors and so on, otherwise you may be given the “tourist prices”, but if you speak a little Indonesian they will likely become a more negotiable.

Photo taken: Borobudur Yogyakarta

Getting started

Getting your phone connected in Indonesia is relatively straight forward, if your accommodation is close to UBAYA (assuming you are on exchange), there is a mall called “Marina Plaza”, this mall mainly sells phones and data sims. Data sims are very widely used in Indonesia, and they are probably the easiest to obtain and recharge. Basically most of the people use Whatsapp to call and text, which the data sim is able to be used for. Regular plans can offer actual calling and texting options, but are very expensive in comparison. $50k Rupiah, should get 5GB of data, which will likely last you over a month. It will allow access to Facebook, YouTube and so on. You are able to recharge the data sims at either alfa-marts or indo-marts, they will require your phone number and clearly state that you are topping up your data, otherwise they might give you a call and text recharge, which is not what you want, most of the time they will understand, but the odd occasion they don’t, just use Google translate, 9 times out of 10 that will solve most miscommunication issues.

On that note, there are also another two apps worth downloading: GoJek and Grab. Grab is a taxi service that is similar to Uber, usually there is a fixed price and this service can be either linked to your debit/credit card or they have a cash option. GoJek is probably one of the most important apps (it will take some time to set this app up properly), as it not only allows you to order taxis (similar process to Grab), but also you can order food. The food options are limitless and cater for most tastes, please note though that there is a delivery charge and also in comparison to local food cost, it is quite expensive.

Photo taken: Heroes Monument

Things to see and do

If you feel like doing some touristy stuff, there is the Heroes Monument and Museum, which celebrates Indonesian independence from colonial rule and the integral part Surabaya played in this war. Ciputra Waterpark and Mount Bromo which isn’t too far from Surabaya are also great attractions. These are the main ones, but there is also a lot more to do and the more locals you meet the more options you will have. There are a lot of old temples and mosques, which date back hundreds of years, that are only minutes outside of the city. It’s suggested that you try to take part in as many events that you get invited to as possible, as it will allow you to mingle with local people and students, which results in invitations to other events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos taken: Borobudar Yogyakarta and Bromo Volcano

Accommodation

In regards to accommodation, here are some points to look out for:

  • Be wary of additional taxes, as these apply to services such as electricity, water and rent, so be polite and ask them to write down or explain the taxes in English and always ask for receipt.
  • You will be required to provide 3-months rent up-front plus bond.
  • Most student accommodation will have a provider for internet, generally it is easier to just go with that option, as the packages are fairly cheap.
  • They do not complete a proper entry report, so make sure and check that everything works.
  • Do not be afraid to ask them to repair pre-existing damages.
  • Not all apartments come with heated water.
  • Not all apartments will have a stove top.
  • Do not expect apartments to have cutlery.
  • There is Wi-Fi in all lobbies.
  • Most staff will speak little English, so Google translate is initially your new best friend until you speak some basics.
  • Water dispensers are a must, not all apartments have them, shouldn’t cost more than $12-$20.
  • Be religiously sensitive, most of the staff and locals in the area are Muslim, so be careful what you say and do, so try to inform yourself about the local customs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo taken: Hand of the Yogyakarta

Top tips for Copenhagen

Yasmine E
Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

 

Need a go-to guide to Copenhagen?

Yassi’s Top CPH tips:

  • Buy a good quality bike
  • Learn the basic phrases
  • Go out and enjoy everything Copenhagen has to offer, trust me there is loads
  • Grocery shop at Lidl and Netto before Fotex
  • When it’s sunny have a day on the Go Boats
  • Eat at Paper Island, Moller and Grod
  • Spend time cycling around the cool little areas like Ostebro, Norrebro and Frederiksberg

  • Use a travel card such as the QANTAS card, it’s the cheapest way to spend money, Copenhagen uses card for everything, very few places will take cash only but many are card only. I would also recommend having multiple cards in different places in cases one is lost or stolen. No need to open a Danish bank account it will be more of a struggle and it’s super easy to just use your Australian bank card it will just charge you a few cents every time you make a purchase.
  • When you arrive in Copenhagen go to Central Station and talk to the people there about what is your best option for a transport card. I personally had 2, one monthly pass that required a passport photo and it would be a once a month payment for unlimited rides on all transport in Zone 1 and 2 but I also had a Rejsekort card which is kind of like a Go Card which I would use if I was going into Zone 3 and 4. Always make sure you pay for transport because the fines are huge!
  • Get a really great everyday backpack
  • Get comfy fashionable sneakers

  • If you are going to make any big purchases make sure they are done within 3 months of leaving Europe to get your tax back at the airport
  • Go for lunch in Sweden… literally it’s like 50 minutes away!
  • Visit other cities in Denmark like Aarhus it’s a really cool town
  • The Danes are not rude just private, don’t be offended if they seem like they are keeping to themselves but if you do need anything they are really lovely.
  • Make your room feel homely, take a trip to IKEA and get little things that will make you feel more at home.
  • PORTABLE CHARGERS!!!! They will save your life! Because it gets so cold your phone will freeze and just shut down so always have a charger with you.

If you would like to know more or have any questions at all no matter how long or small feel free to add me on Facebook and ask away! You are going to have the time of your life, trust me!

Sometimes, you’ve gotta go with the flow on exchange

Yasmine E
Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

 

“You will love Copenhagen”
“Copenhagen is such a great city”
“Everyone in Copenhagen is so good looking”
“You will bike ride everywhere”

These are just a few of the lines I heard over and over again when I told people I was going to Copenhagen on exchange. Of course, this made me overwhelmingly excited! I mean who wouldn’t be right? But there was still this voice in my head saying “how could everyone love one place?” “Can everyone be that good looking” “I never ride a bike at home, I can’t see myself doing it every day there” Boy was I so wrong, so very wrong.

Yeah, so I did end up riding a bike… a lot.

But it wasn’t all roses at the start. Let’s go back to the beginning. I arrive into Copenhagen from travelling around Scotland and England for close to two weeks. I touch down and am instantly blown away by the amount of ridiculously good looking people, I mean everyone everywhere is drop dead gorgeous.

So I continue on in my sheer awe grab my luggage… which I am still feeling smug about getting an extra 7 kgs on for free (winning already) and catch up with my buddy that my uni Copenhagen Business School (CBS) had organised we get chatting and make our way to the Metro, this is by far the most efficient Metro system I have ever seen, there are only 2 lines and they run every 2.5 minutes. So there is no waiting and very little crowding.

We arrive at our stop and walk to the bus located in Copenhagen’s main district Norreport. It is at this point I feel an overload of new information, it is freezing cold, I am looking out for not only cars but pedestrians and now bikes too.

We cross the road and make our way to the bus, which unlike the metro is very busy and only arrives every 15 minutes. We shuffle on with try to find a decent place for all of my luggage without annoying any other commuters. I am in awe of all the buildings. The bus comes to a screeching halt and naturally I fall over all of my luggage, I am shuffling around trying to pick myself up while repeating profusely “undskyld” (pardon me) it is at this point I pull my handbag back to the front of my body and find my zipper open and my wallet was gone… sneaky bugger got me!

Instantly I was devastated and did all the right things like cancelling my cards and going to the police station to report the incident (which was not on the top of my ‘to visit’ list). It took me a few days to settle into Copenhagen after this but once the welcome week festivities began it was like nothing had gone wrong.

Even though it was a rough start, and sometimes things do go wrong, you are going to have the time of your life, trust me!

If you would like to know more or have any questions at all no matter how long or small feel free to add me on Facebook and ask away!

 

Find a real winter in the UK

Tayla B
Bachelor of Creative Industries
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

 

My experience living in England for six months studying at SHU was incredible. I had never been to England or Europe before, but having many friends living there I knew what to expect, but nothing could prepare me for the weather. I arrived in winter to freezing temperatures and I think the thing I struggled with if anything was the lack of sunlight. Once every two weeks during winter you would get a sunny day, which is nothing like I am used to growing up in Australia.

It’s colder than you might think!

Other than the lack of Vitamin D, my experience was one I will never forget. I made such an amazing group of friends, all international students, from countries all over Europe, America, Australia which made for an interesting collection of people. I was living in the city in student accommodation, which made it easy to access everything by walking and was studying in the city so class was only a 10 min walk from my house.

 

The university was super accommodating to international students and had weekly activities for us and organized trips over the country to make sure we had plenty of opportunities to meet new people. This is how I made majority of my friends, and was the best thing the university did for us.

Making friends while on exchange is the best experience

There wasn’t a lot of culture shock as it was an English speaking country, but the Brits have their own slang words that took some time to get used to!

It was a struggle to accommodate to the idea that I wasn’t on holiday the whole time- I was living there- and that it was okay to not be busy the whole time or always doing something.

The main thing that drove me to pick England was the ease of being able to travel all over the country by train and how close it was to be able to go to Europe. I spent my 22nd birthday in Paris and it was the most magical thing I could’ve ever imagined. My exchange experience was the greatest thing I have done with my education and can’t recommend it enough for anyone thinking about it.

Snowball fights and study at Simon Fraser University

Mikaela H
Bachelor of Business (Marketing) / Bachelor of Creative Industries (Fashion Communication)
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

 

In terms of content studied I found SFU’s business units to be on a similar level to QUT’s. However, there were some differences in assessments, grading and how things were taught. For SFU’s business units they are graded on a grading curve, where you marks are determined by how everyone in your class performs too (which can work for or against you). This meant it was quite hard to determine how you were going throughout the semester but worked out for me in the end.

The other thing that was different to QUT for me was class participation marks and the lack of recorded lectures. This meant that class attendance was a must and did mean that I wasn’t able to travel and do as many activities during university as originally planned. Other than this there wasn’t too much of a difference and I really enjoyed studying at SFU.

Well, you just have to get in a snowball fight while in Canada…

Like mentioned earlier my travel was limited due to study but with so many things to do in Vancouver and with Whistler only being 2hrs away I was still able to do a lot of the things I wanted to do. I would however highly recommend having some extra time either before or after study to travel as friends of mine who did not have extra time to travel after study did wish they allowed time to do so. Another tip of mine is take out the extra QUT exchange loan if you feel like you might not have enough money for the trip as it is the worst when you are worried about funds and then are stopping yourself from doing the things you want to be doing.

Overall, I had an amazing exchange, did so many things I’ve never done before like snowboarding as well making some long lasting friendships with people from all over the world as well as Canada.

Snowboarding while on Exchange

Settling in to Simon Fraser, Canada

Mikaela H
Bachelor of Business (Marketing) / Bachelor of Creative Industries (Fashion Communication)
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

 

For semester one of 2017 I partook in an exchange at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada. Doing university at SFU was different from the get go with the semester starting on the 4th of January. For Canada, this was the middle of winter and for Vancouver this usually means a fair bit of rain and snow so make sure you pack your thermals because it gets pretty cold!

It’s cold from the beginning – pack your thermals!

In terms of accommodation I applied for on-campus student accommodation at SFU’s Burnaby campus. The building I stayed in for this consisted of dormitory style buildings in which you had your own room in a hallway of rooms beside each other with a shared bathroom, kitchen and lounge room. If given the chance with exchange anywhere I would highly recommend trying to stay on-campus because I found it a lot easier to make friends as a lot of the people there are in the same boat as you.

The friends I met while staying on campus

 

Overall, I had an amazing exchange, did so many things I’ve never done before like snowboarding as well making some long lasting friendships with people from all over the world as well as Canada.

“This exchange to me was a defining moment in my life.”

I will admit that moving to Italy was not an easy challenge personally as I had not had this type of experience before, in addition to the language barrier that I had to face. It was very intimidating. However, in the moment of being overseas and living there for 6 months I knew that everything there was because of me and thus I was responsible for everything that happened next. As a result I took courage and ventured forth to put myself out there, seeking help, making friends, getting as much experience as I could.

Riva del Garda, the biggest river in Italy on a summers day

To go on exchange is not easy, you expose yourself and let the world absorb you and you experience what the world has to offer. I would definitely recommend anyone to go on exchange, I considered myself to be an introvert before the exchange and during this period I had a change of heart to force myself out there and I can really see the benefits. It’s a risk, but the risk is worth if even if there are times were things are lonesome or grim but the fact of the matter is, you’re on exchange, you’re overseas. Make the most of it, pick yourself up and just get moving.

 

This exchange to me was a defining moment in my life.

 

Despite being 6 months, these six months are what made me choose and reaffirm my position not only in this career pathway but the decision for QUT being a university for the real world. I have changed personally, wiser, smarter and generally more open to anything and anyone as to feed my now fond spontaneous nature. Academically, I have had a revelation as to what it is to study, the importance for self-discipline, routine and the need to ask for help when needed. For my thesis work that I had completed, I worked on it alone and to my luck, had someone that worked on a similar material and was able to collaborate and get enough help to push me over the line.

Trying hot pot with a friend from Hong Kong

Working in a lab every week for a long period of time also enabled me to have a sense to how a professional job would feel like, the experience of having meetings, emailing updates, forms, presentations and events. It felt that in the work environment, a laboratory that is close functions well and brings morale high.

This experience is something unlike anything and definitely is my point of reference in my life as to when I changed for the real world. I would strongly recommend anyone to take the chance, take that leap of faith and venture outside the comfort zone and see how it is outside of your own culture and home. To go on exchange is a must at least once during a degree.

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

From big city Brisbane to small town Trento

The currency in Italy is the Euro which is generally about one third stronger than the Australian dollar. This was a bit of a blow as the money from the scholarship (9.5k) became lesser than anticipated and in this regards the concern of converting it all in one swoop or continuously was a dangerous risk as in some instances (what happened personally) the Australian dollar consistently dropped in strength meaning that when converting you were losing money comparatively if you had converted it all in the beginning.

Compared to Brisbane there prices are rather, odd. Expensive things in Australia would be really cheap in Italy and vice versa. This made a bit of an issue on then seeing the necessity of certain products.

This made having a budget key,

there were three major bills the pay and consider; accommodation rent, phone bill and public transport bill. These monthly would chew a large chunk of your budgeting expenses and didn’t leave much wiggle room, however, after consideration it is reasonably prices putting considerations into effect and made budgeting an easier very serious thing to do.

Personally I used a travel visa card which helped and lessened the need to withdraw money which would have a standard fee to do so and so the travel card was accepted in essentially all cases (besides a flea market).

Trento being a lovely place was easy to settle in and understand how it functioned, it being a small town made it feel safer comparatively to Brisbane big metropolitan city lifestyle. Although I had taken precautionary methods to ensure my safety I found myself being too critical of the locals and the people who were there and decided to present myself to strangers, saying hello, talking, interacting and to my surprise everyone was willing to stop and have a small dialogue.

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy