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

The best experience and memories I will never forget in England

Kate Thamm, Bachelor of Laws (honours)/Bachelor of Business, Nottingham Trent University England, Semester 1, 2019

I have always considered myself a friendly person but I struggle initially with large social settings especially when I do not know anyone. From that, it is clear why I was apprehensive as to whether exchange was something that I would enjoy or if I would end up spending 6 months alone on the other side of the world. But  I can jump ahead and say whole heartedly, exchange was the best thing I have ever done.

Before leaving, one of my friends reassured me and asked me if I have ever heard anyone say that they didn’t enjoy exchange? And she was right. I was lucky enough to get a spot in accommodation on campus, having my own small room and a bathroom (more like a caravan bathroom) but hey, it did the job! I lived in a hallway that had 24 rooms, sharing one large kitchen and one common room which had tables, chairs and two small couches. The entire third floor of our accommodation was purely international students which ended up being one of my favourite aspects of my exchange. It took a lot of self-pep-talks to venture out of my room and a few weeks before I found some people I really connected with, but after that the days just got better and better.

I have an extreme love to travel and I managed to find a group of friends who shared this passion – this led to a few amazing opportunities to travel with my new found friends, first to Ireland then to Greece!

Nottingham itself is a small town and feels like it is largely run by the students at the two universities it has. This created a very lively culture and most evening there was a party happening somewhere and the accompanying music could be heard. Basically the clubbing scene in Nottingham is beyond anything I have ever seen. Any day of the week (but Sunday) there is a club you could go to and it will be packed! My personal favourite day was Wednesdays, where all NTU student groups/unions/clubs or any friendship groups picked a theme for the night and committed to that theme, wearing their unified costumes to the clubs. In the six months I was there I saw it all. VS angels, people dressed as vegetables, as thugs (which we did do one of the nights) you name it! It’s a real right of passage for any NTU students and makes you feel like one of them.

Nottingham also has some beautiful parks, Wollaton park being one of them, where you can see real deer and the mansion of Bruce Wayne from the Batman movies! Not to mention the famous Sherwood forest where Robin Hood roamed. Nottingham is a beautiful city and was the perfect location for a 6 month exchange.

The university itself was also amazing. I was lucky enough to have all of my classes at the city campus which meant everything was in walking distance. The Clifton campus is about a 20 minute bus ride and located quite far from the city. From the stories I heard, even if you have classes at Clifton, I would strongly recommend still getting accommodation at the city campus as I know some of the exchange students at Clifton felt isolated – and missed out on the ease of being able to walk anywhere you want.

Day trip to London with my new friends

The statue of Robin Hood

Got to experience an English football match where Nottingham’s team was playing

Trip to Ireland

Some of us went on a day trip to Wales and hiked through Snowdonia – this was an organised trip by a company called CityLife Nottingham. They run a number of day trips/weekend trips/extended trips, open to any students and for a reasonable price! It is a great way to see more of England and the UK in general without the hassle of having to organise transport youself.

I would recommend exchange to anyone I see and could not be more thankful for my experiences abroad. I have made lifelong friends and memories I will never forget.

Top tips about living in the Netherlands

Charlie G., Masters of Sustainable Energy Technology
Inbound student from the Technical University of Delft,
Semester 2, 2019

My name is Charlie Groenewegen and I’m an exchange student from The Netherlands. My home university is The Technical University of Delft. I’m currently doing my Masters in Sustainable Energy Technology, second year. I had the opportunity to do an exchange program with QUT for one semester. In this blog I’ll explain to you how it is to live in the Netherlands, and Delft, socially and money wise. Also, I’ll give recommendations what to do and where to go in my country.

Delft is a pretty small town in comparison to other big cities such as Amsterdam but that does make it a cozy one. Most student activities, such as sports, are hosted at the university and all the parties can be at external locations or at fraternities. Dutch people are quite direct but very fun to be around with. They’re always in to chill, joke around or just go out and do something. The rent in Delft averages from 300-500 euros per month and it comes with a decent amount of space for your room. Finding a room is quite easy by just applying to the Facebook groups or kamernet.nl. You’ll undergo a trial day in which the people who already live in the house will check who you are and whether you fit into the house atmosphere. Most houses are close by the university and pretty much everything else is too, which makes it very convenient. Going to Holland you’ll definitely need a bike to get around and public transportation is pretty easy to figure out. Food is the same price as in Australia, maybe slightly cheaper in the long run. Overall, if you have 1600 AUD per month available you’ll be good to go. You can always go cheaper but you’ll want to do some exploring and hang out with friends/go out etc.

There are a decent amount of international people at the university if you don’t have the chance to socialize with the locals and there are enough gatherings in the beginning of the year so that you can meet new friends. Don’t be afraid to step off to a Dutch person as they might seem quite to themselves or their friends, we’re quite friendly! I would definitely recommend going to a football or hockey game, these the biggest sports in the country and will attract a lot of fun crowds and good moments. Ajax is the biggest football club in the Netherlands and have the best atmospheres in the game. The country is quite small so really get out of the city and explore the country, from Amsterdam to the beach and try to check out Rotterdam.

Absolutely incredible snowy winter in Canada

Rick Somers, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), University of Calgary, Canada, Semester 1, 2019

It is difficult to put words; just how incredible the exchange experience was for me.

How does one begin to summarize the best semester of one’s life?

I went on exchange to the University of Calgary in Canada for the 2019 Winter semester. I’ll start by saying that you haven’t experienced Winter until you’ve been in a Canadian Winter. My definition of ‘cold’ definitely changed. You begin to feel very Canadian when you start to look at -10°C as “not that cold.” One of my most vivid memories of this climate was when Spring finally arrived and the temperature rose to a lovely 10°C. The normal attire across the city quickly became t-shirts and shorts, just like the summer wear of Brisbane.

Of course, there’s snow. Yes, it’s absolutely everywhere. Snow can fall in Calgary for 6 months of the year. Slipping and falling on icy pathways became somewhat of a regularity for me and my uncoordinated self, but this only added to the experience.

As for the Uni, it definitely has a very unique feel, atmosphere and culture. Buildings are connected via tunnels, so you don’t have to go out into the cold between classes. Since lectures aren’t recorded here, people actually show up to classes and the university is bustling with activity because of it. On top of this, there are heaps of awesome facilities on campus that are free to use for students. I made frequent use of the bouldering wall and rock-climbing gym, as well as the ice-skating ring and the gym. Skiing, sporting and other outdoor equipment can be rented for cheap at the uni as well!

The university provided plenty of opportunities to meet with other exchange students and I quickly found myself among a large group of friends from all around the world. Most exchange students stay on-campus in the Cascade hall. All the on-campus housing blocks are right on the university grounds and are connected via tunnels. I decided to stay off-campus, in a share house with some Canadian students.

I would recommend this route, only if you’re within walking distance of the uni; waiting in the freezing cold for public transport really isn’t fun. It was with these Canadian students that I really got to understand what being a Calgarian was all about. Lots of ice hockey was both watched and played, and I gained a real affinity for country music and poutine. Also, with Banff and the Rocky Mountains being an hour drive away, I found Calgary to be perfect for the outdoor loving, adventurous side of me. Nothing compares to the exchange experience, it was absolutely incredible!

London, Tehran, and Back

Holly C., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
A Legal internship at Lawyers Without Borders, United Kingdom, October 2019

 

Hello! I’m Holly, a Law and Business student passionate about advancing human rights.

Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) seemed like the perfect home for my International Legal Placement. Like all other LWOB outlets, the London office is dedicated to protecting marginalised persons across the globe through advocacy and legal aid. LWOB’s purpose is simple: support organisations that provide justice for those who cannot access it.

I joined LWOB on board as a legal researcher; I was promptly tasked with researching and creating a memo for marginalised Iranians who have had their personal property confiscated on account of human rights violations.

Over the course of this internship, I canvassed legal precedent in other Islamic Republics, investigated societal and political constructs that perpetuated such violations, and provided advice as to how non-governmental organisations could assist victims in recovering assets.

Throughout law school, we are constantly asked ‘why’ we do what we do. But we are infrequently asked ‘for whom?’.

This internship was an immense challenge and privilege. I felt honoured to be assisting individuals who had faced adversity that we cannot fathom in the West; yet, I was daunted at the responsibility of playing a part in shaping their future.  The fact that these people had already endured so much only increased the pressure. I was amazed at how the staff at LWOB worked so tirelessly for their clients in a resource-constrained and high-pressure environment.

Amidst a backdrop of a cold, grey and busy London, our decisions at a desktop dictated the outcomes of people’s livelihoods, homes and property on the other side of the world.

In many ways, my days looked like that of any other law student. However, rather than researching contract law precedent, I was scouring cases for rulings on governmental victimisation of LGBTIQ communities; rather than accessing Austlii, I was downloading a VPN to search Iranian, Iraqi and Pakistani legal databases.

This experience no doubt developed fundamental legal research capabilities. More importantly, though, I built a tolerance for risk, learning invaluable problem-solving techniques in situations that were rife with legal uncertainty. I learnt how to make decisions about what course of advice to include in my task memo. This, in turn, fostered my ability to discern reason from irrational fear in high-pressure situations.

More broadly, I was exposed to a novel culture, language and social structure. In this way, I developed an appreciation of the complexities in navigating to cross cultural communication during delicate legal proceedings.

Finally, I learnt the importance of ensuring all material is appropriate for the client in question. The humanitarian and legal aid sector has a reputation in some parts of the world for generating solutions without consulting those who will be most affected – that is, solving the problem from a Western perspective which fails to appreciate local customs and norms. As such, the advice provided for this groups must differ greatly if it is to be effective. Cases such as these demonstrated the crucial importance of always keeping the client front and centre, even when they are more than 5000 kilometres away.

My placement at LWOB in London was formative, both personally and professionally. Yet, development did not come in the way I expected. This internship was a valuable stepping stone towards a career within humanitarian law. Yet, it also illustrated the limitations of providing aid within the legal system. If we are to achieve meaningful improvements in access to justice for marginalised groups, I am now of the firm belief that legal professionals must engage in structural and political reform within the countries from where their clients originate.

My winter experience in Canada

Teagan Braysher, Bachelor of Justice, University of Calgary, Canada, Semester 1, 2019

Hi! I’m Teagan and I went on exchange for semester one this year to the University of Calgary, located in the city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

I lived on campus in the university accommodation, I was staying in a four-bedroom apartment (pictured below) and had three roommates, two were other exchange students and the other was a Canadian student. The campus had a lot of facilities, like a gym that was free for all students, a dining centre, a library, and lots of common spaces for students. The only issue I had with the university itself was the lack of communication from them regarding the important exchange information- e.g. where to go on the first day, what was and was not provided in the accommodation, university cards and expenses.

I found the academics of the university very different to QUT, the biggest difference being that they did not record their lectures or make resources readily available online. Another difference was that their academic semester starts in September, so even though I was doing my first semester of the year as per QUT’s academic calendar, it was semester two at the University of Calgary.

I found Canada to have about the same cost of living as Australia but maybe slightly more expensive for meat and produce, the only real differences being that it is customary to tip and that the sales tax is added on rather than being included in the price.  I feel that culturally Canada was very similar to Australia as well and my biggest shock was the obviously weather difference. The lowest recorded temperature when I was there was -32◦C on February 12th and the highest temperature was 20◦C on May 5th. So it was a little bit colder than Australia.

I was surprised to experience severe home sickness during my time in Canada, while I tried to not let this disturb my experience, being so far away from home was difficult to manage. Luckily, I was able to video chat with my family and friends often and talk about it with other exchange students who were feeling the same. I found that I was also quite anxious about money as I was unable to get a job in Canada due to their rules and the time of year I went.

The best highlights of my exchange were making new friends from around the world and going to live sports- especially seeing hockey games and lacrosse games. Another highlight was when the university organised for the exchange students to go to Banff where we walked across a frozen lake, saw some Canadian wildlife and drove through the Canadian Rockies. I was also able to travel around Canada and see places like Drumheller, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, and how they compared to both Australia and Calgary.

I had a fantastic time on exchange overall, it was well worth the money and time spent and I would definitely recommend going on exchange. I would advise anyone looking to go on exchange to carefully look at the host university to what they offer and possibly try to contact any current students for their opinions and feedback.

My incredible 6 months experience in Paris

Caitlin Watt.,  Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws (Honours)  Paris Dauphine University, France, Semester 1, 2019

I just finished my semester abroad where I studied at Université Paris-Dauphine in Paris! It was an incredible experience to be able to spend 6 months immersing myself in the French culture and I would highly recommend Paris as an exchange destination.

The University

Paris-Dauphine is quite a big university in the 16th arrondissement in Paris. I found it very easy to navigate and the facilities were pretty good (especially the cafeteria). I used my electives while on exchange so I was able to choose a range of subjects which I found it very interesting and I particularly enjoyed Marketing in the Luxury Sector and French. I found that the university was much more disorganized than QUT, which was frustrating at times and the classes were very different. For each subject, there was a 3 hour workshop which is held once a week and most of my classes had final exams which was worth 80-100% which was a little bit stressful.

The City

Paris is a beautiful city, fill with good food and amazing architecture. It is possible to spend hours walking around the city and admiring all of the amazing buildings, parks and the river. There is always something to do in Paris, be it going to a museum, sunbaking in the park with the locals (as soon as the temperature goes below 20 degrees) or enjoying the amazing food and nightlife. A highlight of my commute to uni each day was seeing the beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower as my metro line crossed the river. This is definitely something I have missed since coming home. If you don’t already know some basic French I would definitely recommend learning some before going to Paris, as often Parisian people are not very helpful or accommodating unless you at least try to speak French to them first! Paris is such a great exchange destination as it is amazing to explore but it is also very easy to travel to the rest of Europe and there are always cheap flights/trains from Paris.

Accommodation

I lived in a student residence in the 14th arrondisment while studying in Paris. The 14th is a very quiet arrondisement with a lot of residential buildings and I had a 45 minute commute to uni by 3 different metro lines which was a hassle, but there were other international students in the residence that I became very close with so overall I am very glad I stayed there. Paris is a very expensive city so the student accommodation is a very good option if you don’t want to spend all your money on rent!

A semester at Leeds

It was quite late in my degree by the time I decided to do a student exchange, but I’m so glad I did because it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I chose the University of Leeds due to its academic reputation and atmosphere.

Culture

Before arriving in Leeds, I didn’t think there would be much of a cultural difference between England and Australia. But after living there for six months, and immersing myself in the community, I definitely noticed a few stark cultural differences. From simple things like what’s available at supermarkets, to how the locals interact with you and each other – sometimes their English accents are so difficult to understand it sounds like they’re speaking another language!

The University

Within the university, there was such great community spirit with a seemingly endless number of clubs and societies for literally any activity you could imagine! In terms of study, I found Leeds to have a reasonably similar teaching style to QUT. However, Leeds was very strict and rule-abiding about a lot of things. Attendance for tutorials was compulsory and recorded, so if you missed more than two or three classes you were contacted by the unit coordinator. They also took down lecture attendance! Lectures were sometimes recorded (depending on the subject) but the slides were always available online.

Travel

The UK is a fantastic base for easy and cheap travel throughout Europe. There is a small airport at Leeds but I preferred to use Manchester airport (1 hour train away) because flights from there were usually cheaper and more regular. My main mode of transportation throughout the UK however was buses. Although they do take a bit longer, they’re so much cheaper and I didn’t find them too uncomfortable! Transportation is something to consider early on though, because if you’re planning on catching trains then it’s definitely worth investing in a discounted rail pass from the beginning.

Accommodation

I stayed in student-based accommodation at Mary Morris House – a student apartment block in a nearby suburb of Headingley. There were frequent buses to the city but I usually just walked for 30 mins. Headingley was a lovely suburb to live in though – it mostly consisted of students and the main street was primarily full of pubs and op-shops! In terms of cost of living, it was quite similar to Brisbane, slightly more expensive due to the exchange rate at the time but very doable to stick to a limited budget for day-to-day living.

Leeds

Yorkshire is such a beautiful part of England- from York itself to surrounding towns; the country is full of such rich history. As an architectural design student, I was just in love with the ancient buildings and gorgeous streetscapes as well as the landscape in the nearby moors. Leeds is such a massive student city and has so many international exchange students who are always looking to make friends and have a good time. The city is full of gorgeous old buildings and there are always activities on a daily basis!

Overall, this experience was even better than I’d hoped for! Meeting so many incredible friends and travelling so frequently, I loved every minute of it and would absolutely recommend doing an exchange!

Kassel – a European Experience

Wenona C, Bachelor of Information Technology / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Short-term program: Hessen International Summer University – Kassel
Germany (June/July 2019)

My highly anticipated four-week exchange to Kassel, Germany has greatly impacted my life. I loved my time inside the classroom as I socialised with students from the U.S.A, Russia, China, Italy and Taiwan. I capitalised on the opportunity to mix with students who had different perspectives. This experience has significantly altered my views about different cultures and current world politics.

The International Summer University program at the University of Kassel was taught by leading professionals. I took three classes: German language, Intercultural Communication, and German History and Politics. Outside of the classroom, the program leaders took us on excursions to Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Berlin and Marburg. The scenery was stunning, particularly in Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. This World Heritage site consists of a palace (which doubles as a museum) that displays artworks by Anthony van Dyck and Rubens. The palace is surrounded by acres of gardens and the Hercules monument.

Hercules monument, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe

History came alive through the scenery, palaces and museums. I walked the same steps of previous Kings and Queens, stood on the ground where WWII was fought, and visited a working camp where people were imprisoned. The visual impact and sensory overload of European and German history needs to be experienced in person, and not just by studying the pages of a history book.

The culture and education in Germany were not what I expected. The professors and educational facilities were world class. However, technology wise, I felt like I had taken a step back into the 1990’s. Public transport relies on a cash and paper ticket system. There is limited electronic integration in shopping centres. Germany is in many ways, a contradiction. Germany has the largest economy in Europe and is an international leader in medicine, health, education and car manufacturing. On the other hand, our lecturer’s used butchers paper to write learning materials.

It was daylight in Germany from 5:00am to 9:30pm. This enabled people to partake in activities after work. As well as this, many of the historic sites are close to the city centre. People spent more time outdoors than using technological devices. I could identify how these factors contributed to a healthy lifestyle. Whilst overseas I certainly encountered difficulties. I found it difficult to communicate with my host family who did not speak English. I also struggled with the food provided and the limited portion sizes.

This program has contributed to my understanding of German culture and the importance of Kassel in Germany’s history. I have learnt about racism, discrimination, the European Union and the global impact of refugees on the European economy. I have also been educated about the history surrounding WWII from a German perspective. I have developed strategies to overcome culture shock and have improved my intercultural communication skills. I will undoubtedly use these skills in my future career in a diversified environment.

Going on an exchange was completely outside of my comfort zone. I did not speak German and had never travelled to Europe. I had no family in Europe to rely on for assistance or help me along the way. I have been challenged and at the same time, have discovered a sense of self-reliance and confidence in myself that I did not possess before I embarked on this journey.

I am grateful and appreciative for the opportunity to go on an exchange and improve my university experience. Participating in an exchange has altered my world views and broadened my career possibilities. I will take from this experience wonderful memories and friendships that will impact my academic future, choices and goals. Thank you QUT.

Ljubljana: a City of Rich Culture and Traditions

Aside

Nadia L., Bachelor of Business / Mass Communication

University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (Semester 1, 2019)

 

In early February I left my job, my friends and my family behind to study for a semester in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Known as a ‘student city’ for its young population, lively events and student perks I am so glad for the time that I spent there. I made many lifelong friends from all over the world and was able to become more confident and independent.

Academic Life

When the semester first began, I felt overwhelmed with assessment. While QUT generally requires two or three key assessments per unit, many of my Slovenian subjects involved a presentation or essay each week. Although highly involved, these tasks only accounted for 50% of your grade in total, with a big exam making up the other half at the end. The curriculum had a big focus on group assignments, in-class participation and presentations. However, I quickly learned that despite the extra workload, a less rigorous marking process meant it was much easier to get a good grade. Once I learned this, my exchange became much less stressful and I was able to enjoy time at events and exploring the country with new friends.

Exchange Orientation Day at Faculty of Business and Economics

Leisure

Ljubljana at Sunset

 

Ljubljana is a city of rich culture and traditions. On a sunny day it’s common for people to hike to the Castle for a picnic overlooking the city, or to enjoy drinks and a meal along the river with friends. There were also regular events for exchange students organised by two student associations. These included trips to Prian, Lake Bled, skiing in the mountains, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and more. They also organised a student party every Tuesday and Thursday night – and karaoke Wednesdays. There was definitely never a dull moment!

 

Food

Exploring the City Centre

 

All students in Slovenia are eligible for BONI, a Government subsidy for 2 meals per day, or 30 meals per month. This meant students could get discounted meals from anywhere in the city, ranging from completely free to just 4 euros for an entire meal. Think a burger and chips, or a whole pizza, plus soup and salad! This was many of our exchange student’s favourite part of exchange and it was common for friends to eat out regularly for lunch or dinner.

 

Exercise

With such cheap food many of us were worried about gaining weight. The Faculty of Business and Economics offers a range of free athletic programs that you can join at the start of semester including basketball, boxing, football, volleyball and aerobics. These classes were quite far from my accommodation, so I didn’t end up participating. Instead, I joined a nearby gym.

All gyms in Ljubljana were considerably cheaper than in Brisbane. The two main ones near the business faculty are Alpha gym and Gym24. I went to the latter and would highly recommend it – the classes, equipment and facilities were all great. Free gyms are also available at the dorms.

Hiking mountains near Ljubljana

Travel

Ljubljana is quite small so almost everything is within walking distance. There is also a decent bus system which costs 1.20 euro for a one-way trip. You will need to use a machine to get the equivalent of a go-card first as they don’t accept cash on board. However, myself and many other students opted to purchase a second-hand bike for the duration of our stay. I highly recommend this option. Ljubljana is pretty flat across the whole city and has a great infrastructure for bikes – plus you don’t need to wear a helmet!

Given its central location it was easy to travel to other European countries from Slovenia. Flixbus was the cheapest, easiest and most popular way to travel. I got pretty lucky with my accommodation, which was super close to the central bus stop. From there I was able to travel to cities in Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia with ease. However, if you want to travel a bit further away, flights from the Slovenian airport were quite limited and expensive. In most cases I’d recommend taking a Flixbus to a bigger airport for cheaper flights!

 

My time in Ljubljana was really special. I made so many fun memories and lifelong friends from around the world that are already planning their trips to Australia! Despite the difficulties of being away from home I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I really recommend that everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to study abroad!

 

Ljubljana City Centre

Ljubljana City Centre