Homecoming and my advice for Exchange Students

After many months of up and down moments, I’m finally back home in Australia. I figure I should do one last blog post and try and contribute some tips for others who are considering exchange. Again, as anyone is aware if they’ve read this, they’ve probably realised I didn’t really enjoy my time overseas all that much, however, I don’t want that to be a deterrent for not going, as it was still the best education life could offer me. I went to the United Kingdom and I learnt a great number of lessons. As both a student and a young person, these are invaluable lessons. I’m not even referring to the things I learnt at university (which I’ve probably said before, not much. At this juncture, I’d like to say, don’t go overseas to actually learn anything from the university itself, chances are you won’t be satisfied from the education one way or the other). I’m going to make each of these tips as objective as possible, or at the very least, justify my reasoning behind them, so that everyone can understand what I’m getting at. Some of this advice will be UK specific, whilst other tidbits will be for exchange in general.

1) I think the best place to start is the decision to go on exchange, and the location itself. Going on exchange is a big decision, and I think that whether you enjoy the experience or not, you will learn something, and it does make you a more worldly person. However, I would recommend against exchange if:

a) You are someone who doesn’t make friends very easily – This isn’t myself, but whilst over there, one of the things I missed the most were friends. I can just imagine what it would be like if you didn’t make any, This being said, try to participate in all exchange related activities the institution has on offer, as its the best way to make friends. Remember, all these people had to go through a selection process like you, so you’ll probably that they are well-to-do intelligent people like yourselves. I bring this point up, because whilst I made friends over there, none of them really shared any of my interests like the ones I had back home, so it made it difficult a times to do any social activity other than drink, or talk about something other than current events. Or, find someone willing to go to a music festival with you.

You are not using electives as choices for equivalent subjects – It can be done (and it’s the only way I managed to do go on exchange) however, you will be punished for it in some capacity. One of the major issues with this, is that the units, are rarely, truly equivalent. For example, I studied a unit which was meant to be the replacement for The Global Markets back here, a third/second year unit. What I had studied overseas, whilst sounding on paper like I’d be learning from a marketing perspective (like the QUT unit description back home) It ultimately turned out to just be a clone of BSB119 (probably one of the reasons I did so well on it. Hell, even the textbook had the same author as the BSB119 text). What this ultimately means is that I haven’t really learnt what QUT has wanted me to learn, and that I could be placed at a disadvantage later in my degree because I won’t have the knowledge I’m supposed to from that subject (if you place any stock in the validity of academia at least). Another problem with using units that aren’t electives (and are 2nd/3rd year subjects) is that to use them, you may gave to drastically alter your course structure to use them as equivalents. This is because some classes are only offered once a year at QUT, and some are prerequisites for other classes. It is a great CHALLENGE to actually rearrange your course structure to accommodate exchange. What this means for your time at QUT is that you may be studying some final year units whilst your friends are all still doing core units, or you’ll be stuck doing a really intensive workload by doing a whole heap of prerequisites so that you can take classes the following semester after you get back. I’m currently in this boat. I even have to take SUMMER SEMESTER now because of this course rearranging.

You are unable to live with all the change that will occur back home whilst you’re away – Life will move on in your country without you being there. Your friends will have done all this cool stuff whilst you were away, and you weren’t there. You will see friend’s 21’st birthday parties on Facebook and think, damn, I so should have been there. You will probably get a dozen emails a month from QUT with various work placement offers or amazing job opportunities that you can’t apply for because you’re overseas. If you’re apart of Golden Key, you’ll probably miss out on some really great conferences. Point being, the amount of job offers and really cool opportunities for my future career I missed, as well as other stuff, REALLY got to me whilst I was away from home. Some of those jobs looked sooooo good :'(

b) Location – Now this is a big one. I had my own reasons for going to England, but none of them were honestly related to having a personal interest of the place. I paid DEARLY for this. I will say this as simply as possible, unless you are absolutely obsessed with the place you are going to, know what you want to do whilst over there, and know many many things about it, I do not recommend going. Some of you may say “Ooooh but I like to venture into the unknown”. Yeah, well, if you’re going spend 6 months somewhere, it’s probably for the best you have some idea of what to expect. This is for a number of reasons (because I think we in Australia are a little naive when it comes to other places). For one, if you want to do exciting stuff, depending on the country, you’ll probably need to plan in advance. One of my mistakes with England is that most of the activities were seasonal. I also wrongly assumed I’d love tackling the unknown and going in blind to explore England. Wrong. WRONG! I quickly learnt that there so very little I actually liked about the place, and that the only redeeming qualities it could boast over Australia was history and art. I went to one of the nations of the world that absolutely commercialises the hell out of it’s history and culture HARD to the people. I like history, but I don’t need to go to every castle and decrepit building to feel like I appreciate it, when I can just read about it on the internet and revel in factual knowledge. But that’s just me. Because of this, I felt there was very little in England that I couldn’t ALREADY do at home, and really questioned whether it was worth going or not. In fact, most of the things I like doing, I couldn’t do them in England at all. If you like outdoor activities, and its a big part of your lifestyle, don’t go. You’ll just be miserable. In fact, unless you absolutely love HISTORY and ART, don’t go to England, because seriously, those are the only two things they can offer you that we don’t already have over here. If you go over there, some people will be more jealous of you, and the question you’ll get the most often is “Well why the hell did you come here? Are you insane?”. If I chose a place next time, I’d have gone for somewhere in Asia, because I used to be a total Asian-culture geek (still am to some extent). On this note, my final advice on this matter is that I recommend not choosing a place too similar to your own country, because you’ll just make direct comparisons on judge one nation the victor, where as if you choose a country that is completely different than ones own, you can appreciate them both for being unique (I realise this is a long section, so I hope I made myself clear).

c) What else should you consider. Oh yes, cost. Not just the cost of having gone over, but I guess also consider the cost of living on a country by county basis. England’s cost of living is BRUTAL. They tax you for having regular TV channel’s for goodness sake… Transport, etc. If you don’t feel like spending a lot of dosh, pick a cheaper country. Our exchange rate is good right now.

In terms of ACCOMMODATION, you really need to pick somewhere close to campus, otherwise you’ll be paying through the nose just to get to Uni. It cost me 30 AUD just to get to Uni and back for a single day of the week.

2) Ok, so if you’ve chosen to go on exchange, this the following is worth considering:

a) When to get there – Probably 2 weeks before the course starts is a good rule of thumb. This allows you to familiarise yourself with the location, currency, any concessions you may be eligible for, initial culture shocks, etc. In short, it allows you to adapt a little before your thrown into the deep end. It also gives you time to open a foreign bank account, if you choose to handle your money that way. Of course, this is all dependent upon your visa status and limitations.

b) Access to Money – It may be best to open a foreign bank account and transfer some money to hedge against exchange rate fluctuations and the like. It also means having a cash card that will work in that country. I opened an account with Natwest in England. I think most banks in England will just give you a debit card with restrictions, meaning you can only use it at their ATM’s. Point being, open an account with someone who won’t charge you fee’s, and don’t bother with the gimmicks, you just want something to hold your money, and that you can access. It isn’t worth paying HSBC 8 pounds a month to hold your cash.

c) Travel insurance – Whilst I didn’t have to call upon it, it truly is better to be safe than sorry. There were a large number of times I almost could have used it, if some of the misfortunes I had over there had been a bit more serious. It’s worth pointing out two other exchange students I know of got mugged and robbed, and I myself was assaulted and almost involved in a traffic accident. Yeah, get insurance in case your destination throws crap at you.

d) Keep connected – Seriously, make sure you have eyes and ears back here. This includes checking your QUT emails, talking to friends to let you know anything of interest or of any opportunities you may have waiting for you when you get back. Be aware of the enrolment dates for the following semester, things like that. Oh, and I had to do a postal vote overseas, so yes, if I hadn’t of known that, I’d have paid a fine.

e) Concessions – Find out if students get a concession for anything. For example, if you’re going to England, get a young persons Oyster Card. That particular card is only available however for those in the London city area. Anywhere else, a National Rail Card is your God. You get 1/3rd off all journeys, it pays for itself (it’s a discount card you have to carry with you when your riding on a discounted ticket). England is quite good in that they even offer student discounts when your buying things like clothes.

f) Shopping – Ok, this one is England specific – Poundland, you can get premium branded products (i.e. Heads and Shoulders Shampoo), basically anything you need for the home there for just a Pound. You can also get quite a variety of food there, like canned goods. If your looking for cheap food to cook at home and don’t mind frozen, Iceland is also good.

g) Knowledge – For one reason or another, it’s good to know about your country. People expect you to know everything. You’re going overseas to represent this country, so make us look amazing. Furthermore, knowing about your countries history is a great way to defend yourself in an argument with a proud British nationalist who see’s us all as a bunch of mangy good-for-nothing convicts. Just a thought. On that note, vocabulary is good too, that really screws with their mind if you are more well-spoken than they are. Before I left, I defended our nation from verbal assault from some tool who claimed we were stupid and sucked at sport. I corrected him and made him an embarrassment in front of his fellow countrymen. For that matter, know a lot about the other country as well, it once again, helps.

h) Have an open mind – You’re there to learn about the world, so don’t let a closed mind stop you.

I think this is all I’ve got. I’m sure I’m missing stuff, but QUT offers amazing preparation before going out on what things to consider. These are just things that I have taken particular note of whilst being over in England, for other countries, you may need to think about many other things. Anyway, it’s fantastic being home. Feel a bit disoriented though, every time I see a shadow outside or hear a noise, I think I’m being robbed. Then I realise its just a cat. In England, double glazed windows prevented a lot of noise coming into most places, and the lack of sunlight meant there were no shadows. Speaking of sunlight, I walked into the bathroom on my first day back thinking I’d left the light on. It was just light shining through the curtain. That’s how little sunlight I’ve seen in the last 6 months, that I can’t even tell the difference between natural light and a light bulb D:

Anyway, I learnt HEAPS during my time in England, but I am loving being home. I did so much in my first 12 hours of being home, and I’ve seen heaps of friends already (and this is my 3rd day back). It was a pleasure to blog for you all (When I did actually blog) and apologise for not being more involved in the blogging process, as I didn’t feel it right to blog if I didn’t have anything all that great to report. I’ll be dwelling around QUT starting from Monday this week, so if you recognise me, and actually bother to read this blog and have questions, just stop me and talk to me.

Australia, you stayed classy,

Tom

First Blog in a Gajillion Years + Educational Differences.

I’m pretty sure I did say I was lying when I’d put more effort into blogging. To be honest, I sort of gave up on the idea. As you’re probably all aware (via reading between the lines and the lack of my overall enthusiasm), I no longer have any desire to remain in this country. I’m emotionally done with it. Once I do my exams, I’ve got no qualms rushing home and proceeding to rush outside and sing the national anthem. Unfortunately, I may not get the opportunity to leave as soon as I wish to, nor may I get to go to the music festival I’ve so been looking forward to, because a big something has come up, which is more or less going to dominate the remainder of my time here *cough* legal *cough*. Unfortunately, its not something I can discuss. I’ll say this: I’m probably going to suffer because of another’s actions. Well done for ruining the last amount of tolerance I had. Well done! It’s one thing to ruin my day, but a completely different thing to potentially threaten one of the things I most enjoy in my life, the sound of amazing music. If I am unable to attend Download music festival, the one thing I’ve been holding out for, for 5 months, because as a result of your actions. Ok, vent over.

Now, as I promised last time, I’d like to point out some of the educational differences you should expect if you choose University of Westminster. This is completely objective. I will start off simple.

Assignment Minder – They don’t have that here. Instead, there are three holes in the wall. You must place your assignment in one of them (depending on unit code) before 6 ‘o’ clock on the day it is due. Whilst you may say that doesn’t seem very different, you aren’t notified as to whether or not the right person has received your assignment. Also, the assignments themselves aren’t secure; you don’t hand them in with folders, you have to have a single staple in the corner. This increases the chance of your work being damaged, because its just dumped into a bin with other assignments. No guarantee it’ll make it into that bin either. It’s up to gravity. In short, you don’t have the same security and peace of mind that comes with assignment minder.

Grading scale – 40% over here is a pass mark. a 7 is 70%. Essentially, 70% is apparently very hard to get (I haven’t had this issue yet), and is our equivalent of a 7 (which at QUT is 85%). Basically, you could get a 70% and achieve a High Distinction, but be left wondering what exactly is the remaining 30% of knowledge that you aren’t demonstrating. Because of this scale, it also means even a slight reduction in marks puts you in a lower ranking bracket. Furthermore, I’ve done 15 minute orals in two subjects here. One was worth 10% of my grade, the other was worth 40%. Consistency?

Assessment Load – Generally, the assessment load here is 2 per module a semester. That is generally one assignment, one exam. Sounds easy compared to the standard QUT assessment load yes? Well, I thought so too. It’s not that the work isn’t hard, it’s just there really isn’t enough of it to warrant a challenge (if you’re into that sort of thing). At QUT, especially in business, you’ll have reasons to go to tutorials, because the homework is generally enforced or contributing to your grade, counting as part of your assessment. Over here, for example, lets say one assessment item is an assignment due week 9, and then the final assignment is due in the exam period at some time. Done. You’ve beaten the module, without having to have done any real work at all. You don’t have to demonstrate your knowledge on a weekly basis, the assessment is spread out so spectacularly that you never have any pressure to do anything except for the last moment, and if your fortunate enough to get a module here that’s just two assignments, your basically guaranteed your pass so long as you can just get those two things done in due time. HOWEVER if you have a module with an exam. The weighting of the exam is usually 70% of the grade. You’ll spend the first 8 weeks of the semester writing up this massive report that may only be worth 30% (i.e. 3500 words, that followed on from a 15 minute oral presentation), then wait 2 months for an exam worth 70%. In short, there doesn’t seem to be consistency in assignment policy, but that is of my own opinion. Furthermore, there isn’t much incentive to go to tutorials. I’ve found the tutorials here really baby me too much and don’t invoke independent thought at the end of the day. Still, UoW do their best, and their teaching staff are more than qualified. I’d like to point out, I usually have 4 assessment items per semester for each unit at QUT. Big difference. I’ll say this now, I’ve felt pretty underworked since I’ve been here, and I NEVER thought I’d say that. So far I’ve gotten “British 7’s” across the board too. I won’t lie, I’ve more or less last minute bludged here.

Facilities – Gotta give the award to QUT on this one. If anything, it’s not to difficult to find what you need on campus, from the 15 minute timed computers at S block to handle minor things like printing, or a library full of multiple floors of computers, and various computer labs around. At Marylebone campus at UoW, the library is more or less the only place with PC’s (with the exception of a few computer labs that are underground and seemingly always in use). The issue with this is, if you desperately need to print, you can’t access the printers using your own laptop like you can at QUT. There’s very few places you can charge your laptop on campus, and half the time, people seem to be on Facebook and are reluctant to move in case you need to print something at the last minute. Also, not a lot of room in the library, the building is probably 100 or so years old, and as I may have said before, every building here seems to have the narrowest hallways possible. Also, not a lot of activity on campus (like, fun stuff), but that’s due to lack of room. The only place to get food on campus currently is the coffee shop. No Subway etc. It’s thankfully located close to other food places in London, but you need to swipe in and out of Uni to get anywhere, so good luck dealing with congestion.

Also in regards to facilities, there isn’t really an environment for students to socialise. QUT is spacious and has a number of places you can just relax. Here, compact, all study oriented, and because of refurbishment, you more or less need to leave campus if you want to have a good time between classes. Hopefully this all changes when the renovation is done.

Timetables – Yeah, you don’t have a lot of input over that here due to course structure and your status as an international. You will probably have massive gaps between classes, and one class a day. Have fun being a prisoner of campus for most of the week 😀

Staff – I’d like to stress that the University of Westminster Staff are very good. If you’re going to be worried about inefficiencies, I’d be more concerned with transport. My God, if theirs anything transportation does consistently, it’s sucking.

Other than these things, I can’t think of any more differences that stand out. Campuses are small, contained, and you’ll likely bump into someone multiple times a day. Few vending machines and food options on campus. More or less anything you take for granted at QUT, you’ll miss here. Oh yes. Forgot to mention most lectures are done in rooms the size of our tutorial rooms. Pretty hard to distinguish them from one another sometimes, they sometimes pretty much just follow the same format. They also don’t record lectures. They do put stuff of Blackboard though. Oh yes, did I mention they use Blackboard? FUN FUN FUN! Oh yeah, the Library website is a pain to use. Easier to access databases though. Harvard referencing? Complete joke. QUT APA for the win.

Alright, I think that’s all I have to say. Sorry for the beginning rant. As you can probably tell, I’m a little home sick. One can only take convict jokes, word slurring and other social ills so much. When I get home, feel free to ask me about the state of society and politics here. I could go on for hours! You people back home, you don’t realise how lucky you are to live in Australia. I won’t say its the best country in the world, but we certainly have a lot of advantages. Space, relative stability in politics, and less societal problems than here. If you have time, Google the European Union in relation to England. That’ll give you something to chuckle about.

Alright. Stay Classy Australia,

Tom

Current Happenings

Just an update on what I’ve been doing lately:

  • Submitted a couple of assignments. I’m currently doing well here, scoring the equivalents of QUT 7’s. Sadly, I’m REALLY not being challenged here, perhaps because I’m doing all business subjects, rather than also doing IT (Business can be challenging, don’t get me wrong. I just seem to be doing really easy subjects, either that, or they have lesser expectations).
  • Had altercation with a local psycho.
  • Improving at Gym
  • Have a massively decreasing workload, looking forward to the holidays in 2 weeks
  • My Mother dearest is coming from Australia soon. Maybe then I’ll take an interest in all these 100 year old buildings. Narrow as all hell when you try to walk in them. Good incentive to lose weight, if anyone was so inclined.
  • Horrible weather

I’m not really sure what I had in mind when I wrote this. I’m in a relatively good mood today. I really miss home, because of friends, not being able to do the activities I do in Australia. I’m so going camping when I go back. Prepare the keg of Heineken and the steaks.

I should also explain, learning system is so different here. I might try and write a blog about how it works, and give it a comparative analysis with QUT, so anyone in future knows what they are in for when they come here. Imagine life without assignment minder. Embrace QUT’s convenience in that regard.

Alright, Stay Classy Australia,

Thomas

Bad blogger

I’m a bit like a bad son. I seldom make contact with my parents. I don’t write, I don’t call, and I don’t keep my parents involved in my livelihood whatsoever, due to the daily perils of life, and other priorities. Now I could make time for all these things, but at the end of the day, it just gets shoved down the priority list.

Now take everything I just said, and apply it to the context of blogging. I lied about the bad son part. I’m actually a marvellous son. But what I’m trying to say is, I should do better blogging.

So what I’ll do now is just upload a whole bunch of photos of scenery I’ve taken:

The highlight was probably the DeLorean I saw a week a go. A person in Walmer (which is 10 miles or something from Deal, a place I visit a lot) owns this time machine version of the DeLorean. It was the single most coolest thing I’ve seen here. If you don’t know what this car is, you need to google Back to the Future.

Just joined a gym because I didn’t want to use the cold weather as a reason to avoid exercise anymore. Two assignments left for the semester, then an exam. Hopefully when I go on holidays here, I’ll be more exciting than I currently am. Because I currently know I’m pretty boring. About the only entertainment these blogs bring is the fact I can make you laugh with my words, but achieve nothing in of significance in my real life between blog posts, whilst I’ve been here.

I promise to be a better blogger (maybe).

Stay classy Australia,

Thomas

What I’m Really Getting From This.

As anyone can probably tell, I’ve had a variety of mixed feelings since arriving here. I complain a lot about multiple things and praise the hell out of a few things (snow and the all-day English breakfast to name a couple of objects that attract my praise). You may have also noticed that unlike other bloggers, I don’t have a lot of photos to share or stories to tell relating to my great adventures in London and so forth. There is a pretty simple reason for this: I don’t go on any…

I’m essentially doing the same thing over here, that I would back in Australia as a student. I study, I read, I procrastinate and I waste my spare time on the most menial and non-constructive activities I can possibly find. In fact the only noticeable difference from my student life back in Australia is that I don’t work part-time here, thus giving me more time to socialise, or in most cases, do more course reading :/ . So I’ve asked myself lately, what AM I exactly gaining from this “experience”.

This first thing that comes to mind is that I’ve met every remaining family member (that we know of) of the Jenkinson mob since I’ve been here. As I may have mentioned before, I’m staying with my Great Uncle and Great Aunt. My Grandfather was related to my Great Uncle, and came to Australia after the war, thus my family is only two generations from having been British. Interaction with my family here has definitely given me a new perspective on my roots and where it is that my family came from. It’s also odd being in a room with people who share your last name who aren’t immediate family (Dad only has sisters). I’ve gotten to know each and every family member here and like to think that I’ve become very close to them. Despite being a someone distant relation, they actually feel like family. When I leave England eventually, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I leave with a larger family than what I have previously known, and a number of family bonds that I will continue to preserve throughout my life. Family pride!

Whilst here, I’ve also had the honour of both working and socialising with other exchange students from all around the world. I am learning so much from talking to all of these people from multiple cultures around the world, and clearing up any cultural misconceptions I had about these cultures. I can say that my close interactions with such a diverse range of people has certainly been a great learning experience, and one that should arguably help me when I enter the workforce in the near future. I believe from all these interactions, I’ve gained some great cross-cultural competencies (What I haven’t learnt yet however is tolerance on the morning commute. Perhaps another two months will do it).

Ultimately, being placed in another culture really has appreciate both things back home, and appreciate the nature of culture itself. I believe the greatest gift I shall receive from this experience is to be coming home a new person; wiser, with greater character and a new appreciation for people around the world. Those things, and an amazingly bragworthy piece of text I can add to my resume, also, a deep sense of empathy for international students. When I get back to QUT, I’m going to make a greater effort to introduce myself to any international students I notice in tutorials and try to make them feel as welcome as possible. I consider this my civic/human duty. Also, if anyone is reading this, and actually taking this in, I’d like to point out that nothing makes you feel more unwelcome and more like a minority when being placed in a situation (i.e. an exchange program), where you know few people, have a different cultural background, and are subject to various degrees of racism and culture shock. I’d like to urge anyone reading this, if possible, to make an effort to make any international students back home feel welcome, and show them some Aussie friendliness and compassion. If that happens, I’ll feel more legitimate about representing our nation over here as people who are no longer convicts, but amazing friendly human beings. Seriously, its not an easy battle over here to convince some of the older generations that we too are civilised. I’ve had quite a few people shocked that I’m Australian just because I’m able to say please and thank you. But I digress.

Stay classy Australia, I’ll see you in 4 months,

Tom

Valentines Day Love For Australia

Well, it’s not Valentines Day in Australia right now, but to stay with my tradition on posting during momentous occasions, I thought I’d say Happy Valentines Australia! Who loves you? Tom loves you. All of you!

I have to admit, I’ve been here almost 2 months (about 6 days out), and lately I’ve really started to miss home. To be completely honest, I’m not enjoying this whole exchange thing as much as I thought I would. Most of the time I’m caught up doing Uni work just to make sure I pass, which I suppose is fair enough, but I’m more or less essentially living the same way I would as if I was at home. Possibly even worse when I think about it: I no longer find time for exercise because it isn’t as convenient and it’s cold here; I’m probably not eating enough red meat; I’m definitely not getting enough sleep as I haven’t adjusted to a decent routine yet.

Thankfully I only have University 3 days a week, but to be honest yet again, they are probably the least enjoyable days of my week, simply because I have to leave the comfort of my home. I’ll try to explain as best I can:

In general, I’ve found people in London to be quite cold, with very little regard for other people or the most basic of manners. Sure, this sounds like the beginning of a rant, and is certainly most probably a biased opinion, however, I share this opinion with other exchange students I’ve befriended. Many of us are surprised with how, for lack of a better word, rude, that people in London seem to be. At this juncture however, I would like to point out that the staff at the University of Westminster (the few I’ve had any meaningful interactions with) are very nice, and are probably some of the nicest people I’ve met in this country (with the exception of family and family friends).

Morning commuters have become my pet hate. The majority are rude, and are unwilling to make small sacrifices to ensure everyone is able to get to work in time, namely, the unwillingness to move down the aisles of the train to let people on. If you’re caught behind some of these people, prepare to wait an extra twenty minutes for a train, because someone was too up themselves to be polite. It’s happened to me on two occasions that I can recall, and it’s very hard to contain myself and not swear at the top of my lungs. Ironically, many of these people get off at St Pancras, which is like the London equivalent of Roma Street. Essentially, everyone is getting off at that station to venture onwards using the Tube System. And yet people still insist on protecting their little patch of standing space and not letting other people onto the train (through the doors) just so they can get out 5 seconds earlier than the herd. It’s ridiculous.

In the same vain of thought, I saw an elderly man the other day whom looked like he was about to fall over and have a heart attack. Every single person had walked past this poor person before I had gotten close enough to ask him if he’d needed help. In the populations defence, it was a narrow corridor, but very few people had shown any concern after my initial questioning of whether or not he needed any assistance. Again, this isn’t the first time something similar has happened. In my own, unprofessional and heavily biased opinion, London just seems like a city that just doesn’t care about people, or even human decency. The nicest people I’ve met in London are those like me, foreigners. Never before have I felt closer to minority groups than I have now.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: England, where’s the love? Seriously. At least on today of all days you could cheer up a bit and show compassion for your fellow human? No, well, shame on you.

Also, I’d like to state in advance I’m prepared to take any backlash whatsoever with this blogpost. I had an opinion based on own experiences, and I expressed it, I just hope my own personal experience gets better.

I really miss home, and sometimes question why I even bothered to come here. It’s an experience, sure, but so far, one that leaves me sour and questioning humanity. Perhaps it’s just a phase of cultural shock. Unfortunately, when I’m faced with things such as this, my personality is one that will “break before I bend”.

If there’s anything I will be thankful for coming over here for, it is meeting my English family whom are lovely, and also for more personal reasons which I care not to discuss. Anyone who knows me in a closer capacity will understand what I mean. There you go friends, you get a secret message. Kudos to you.

Miss you all, even those I haven’t met.

Stay class Australia,

Tom

p.s. I know I promised photos of University and friends here, etc, but I’m very busy at the moment. I apologise, and will somehow make this up to anyone who cares to read my sorry excuses for blog posts.

OH! and a HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ASHOKA, One of my closest friends. Turns 21 Today (Australian Time) Getting old champ!

SNOW!

Ok. So like most pure Queenslanders (?) I haven’t seen a lot of snow in my life time. In fact, I’d NEVER seen snow in my lifetime. Until now. Glorious white powder of Sheen proportions that doesn’t cease too amaze! With the first fall of snow, people in Deal were leaving their houses to sled along the roads/hills and throw snowballs at each other. I for one made a snow angel. It was glorious.

Snow in Deal

I also enjoyed jumping in any snow drifts I could find, as Deal has a few places along the shoreline that normally had deep stairways, that became full of snow. Unfortunately, I only had trainers on me at the time, which were completely soaked. I’ll have to remember in future to wear boots.

Uni itself isn’t too bad. One unit in particular is giving me a lot of grief, with such an intense deadline. It hasn’t left me with a lot of time to enjoy sightseeing and such, but hopefully I’ll be up for shenanigans like that soon.

Hope all is well back in Australia.

Stay classy,

Tom

Straya Day!

I know its a bit late, but Happy Australia Day!

I actually counted down the hours until it was midnight in Australia. Unfortunately, I was nowhere near a computer at that point.

The last week or so has been interesting. Unfortunately I think a lot of the stuff being covered in my subjects over here is stuff I’ve already learnt. I probably shouldn’t complain to much about that. I am however learning German. It’s interesting being in a room full of people who are speaking a language you barely remember. That being said, I don’t have a lot of pressure to pass the unit, so I’m not too worried.

One of the highlights of my week was getting an Irish lecturer to publicly admit that Australian’s are no longer all a bunch of convicts. You can all thank me later.

The weather is starting to get cooler, and I’m actually having to do work now. The holiday is over :/. Still, I’m learning a lot about the culture here. Despite how similar Australia and the UK are, it’s quite easy to experience a feeling of culture shock. Small differences really make you appreciate home. As an example, no one will say hello to you or smile at you in the streets of London. Public transport is almost a fight to the death to get on at peak hour; you see old women hitting kneecaps with canes.

In a sense, one major thing I miss about Australia is how friendly everyone is. I think over here, they’d sooner stab you than say hi. Still, it’s a lot of fun. A major thing I miss from Australia is Iced Coffee. It is next to IMPOSSIBLE to get it here, and I mean completely and utterly difficult. I’ve not had a decent Iced Coffee since I’ve got here (nor a decent coffee for that matter) and I feel cravings often. If someone loved me, they would send a crate over? 😛

I heard most of South East Queensland is wet right now. I wish you all the best. And as always,

Stay Classy Australia,

Tom

P.S. I know I haven’t posted a lot of photos, so for my next update, I’m gonna try and get a whole bunch of photos of the friends I’ve made, places I see daily, and some other ones I’ve taken since being here.

Cultural Differences and People Management

Ok, so I’m enrolled in a unit called Cultural Differences and People Management. A lot of the course work revolves around writing about our feelings and such (BSB124 anyone?). It has a lot of self-reflection. I’ve just completed the homework for the first seminar (their version of tutorials). To describe it in a few words, I went from being very reserved in my answers to listing every difference or issue I have noticed/experienced since being here. I think it sums up well the time I’ve spent here so far, and thus I shall replicate it for all of your amusement (?):

“Seminar Week 2 – Cultural Management

1. From French, 2010:45: “How useful is it to view culture in Hofstede’s term as ‘the collective programming of the mind’”? Give examples of such ‘collective programming’ from your own cultures.

By assuming national cultures share common characteristics that are a part of their “programming” it allows managers and business professionals to make realistic assumptions about the people they interact with. It assists in both management of, and interaction with, people from other cultures. It also removes the barrier of cultures and ensures and insures human interactions are unhindered by cultural differences/biases.

What Hofstede provides is a way to examine culture in a general sense. Whilst he notes not all people, within a culture are the same, and that personalities/unique traits have a high variation within a population, he believes that there are certain core elements of a culture that are shared among its populace. As such, to think of it as a collective programming of people’s minds allows people to interact with another culture in an effective (and non-offensive) manner.

Examples of Cultural Programming within our own culture:
• Mateship – Australians are for the most part, all friends with one another, regardless of whether or not we know each other or are strangers. We will greet strangers on the street, ask them about their day, and offer assistance on trivial things if needed.
• Empathy – Australia is a very compassionate nation. In times of crisis, we will go above and beyond to help a fellow man
• Fairness – Australians operate on a fairness basis. To put simply, we believe in “a fair go” and that all people should be given a chance when it is due to them. We believe also in the fair value of things, that is, we believe that in all things there should be an equivalent exchange. For example, the Australian public believes we should not pay more for something if it isn’t worth something, we will pay only if the price is fair. We will complain about the rate of tax if our governments are not providing adequate services for the money we pay. We will voice our objection to any political policies that discriminate against the Australian people, and the concept of “a fair go”. On a side note, most Australians will look down on ANYONE who doesn’t contribute to society in some respect, as it violates this policy of fairness and equivalent exchange. We have a name for these people.
• Respect – We have a deep respect for our history and those who serve the country in some way.

2. What is meant by’ Culture Shock? Can you give any examples of it from your own experience?
Culture shock is the dissonance felt when experiencing a culture that is not one’s own. It manifests in a number of ways, most commonly feelings of anxiety and feelings of alienation within the foreign culture because you are operating within an environment that conflicts with your own perception of what is a “normal” society.

Some examples from my own experience would be some of the etiquette differences between Australia and the UK. Australian people will say hello to people on the street. That does not occur here. Other minor differences that made me feel a little alienated included the rearrangement of goods on supermarket shelves, not seeing familiar brands from back home, being scolded for things that are considered a must over here, but no one cares about in Australia (e.g. Over here it is expected you place a barricade between your food items and someone else’s. In Australia, we rarely use this, as we just leave a space for those behind us. I was scolded because I OFFERED the person behind me the use of the barrier). Other minor differences I’ve noticed include:
• Australians walking up stairs/escalators on a different side than the British
• The amount of foods British people smother with butter
Some minor things that I’ve been annoyed with since being here:
• The assumption that all Australians cannot be well spoken. No offence to any British people reading this, but I’ve seen more Australians that have a higher mastery of the English language than I have within the population of the UK itself, in fact, we butcher the language to a lesser degree than a lot of the locals within this country.
• We do NOT ride kangaroos to school
• We are NOT all uncivilised. Education has gotten better since federation
• We are NOT all convicts. Hell, a vast majority of people who were sent to Australia were jailed for stealing bread to support their families, because lord knows the UK’s economy couldn’t support them at the time.

3. Is ‘Culture Shock’ inevitable when you encounter a new or different culture?

After the above examples, I’d like to say yes to this question, however, just because I have noticed these differences/had these scrutinies, it does not mean I have not been able to cope, and for the most part, get along swimmingly with a lot of people. I have made a vast majority of friends since being here, and my interpersonal skills are just as effective in this country as they are in my own. I’d also like to note the best people I’ve met whilst in the UK, so far, are the French.

4. Describe some strategies that are useful in avoiding or minimising culture shock.
• Cross-cultural training or some program that enforces learning in diversity – To help understand that there are differences among cultures, and to harbor respect for all people
• Living in a multicultural society – Australia being largely multicultural, we don’t have an issue with being surrounded by multiple cultures, in fact as a general rule, we embrace having so much cultural diversity, as it forces us to understand that we are not the greatest culture in the world, nor the worse, and that all cultures should be respected.
• Researching the culture before entering the country – It may not be possible to know ALL the nuances in another country before arriving, but it definitely can assists in avoiding any largely awkward situations.”

I’ll admit it gets a tad whiney at the end. But it felt so good to voice those opinions on paper format. ALL IN ALL though, I am loving my time here. And I’ve made sure to correct many people about any misconceptions they have about Australia.

Stay classy Aus,

Tom

Orientation and other shenanigans

Ok, so it’s been a while since I posted, but I figured I’d accumulate some sort of backlog of events before I posted anything else. The period between new years day and orientation has been for the most part, extremely uneventful. The most exciting thing I did was open up a foreign bank account. Still took them over a week to activate the account, but at least its free. But I digress.

On Monday the 9th of January, I took my first steps into the University of Westminster. I think from this point forward, it will save time and make it easier if I describe what happened in each of three days individually.

Day 1:

I tried to navigate from the Baker Street Tube Station to the Marylebone campus of University of Westminster. Naturally, I’d prepared in advance and looked on Google Maps to find the location. Unfortunately, their is also something really close by known as the Westminster Business School. At first, I thought this was the name Google gave the building, as it is ALSO the name of the University of Westminsters Faculty, however, upon arriving, I realised this was not the case. As it turned out, they are separate, entirely unrelated entities, curse you Google! After walking in various different directions, I found it in the most obvious place imaginable; across the road from the station. Not one of my shining moments. In my defence, the street signage over here is actually rather poor; they don’t use them at smaller intersections, and place them on the side of buildings. There also seems to be a lack of standardization when it comes to indicating which sign belongs to which road. I arrived 15 minutes late to orientation and missed the niceties and getting to know you. Instead, I sat there for 2 hours taking in information that was, at large, already given to us via email. I was definitely off to a great start. Made no friends, went home. On this day I did however get a shock, as the units I was enrolled in at Westminster were not ALL the ones I had wanted. Panic mode was activated. I was informed that Business units at Westminster were almost full and that it was highly unlikely I’d be able to change into them. At that moment, the words “summer school” rung in my head, as without the specific units I wanted (and thought I had a chance of getting), I’d have to do summer school in order to graduate on time. That night, I went into a mad frenzy trying to work out alternatives to see what I could get credit for back at QUT, and researching how much space was left in each unit (and as suspected, each of the units I wanted to enrol in had a limited amount of space left). I was up until 2 am trying to sort these matters.

Day 2:

I woke up feeling like the embodiment of death. I didn’t need to be at Uni as early as the day before, but staying up late is never a good thing when an alarm is involved the next morning. Despite this, the day turned out A LOT better than expected.

Firstly, I had superb luck with public transport. Someone the day before suggested I got off the train at the stop next to the one I normally do. Normally I would get off at St Pancras station, but on this day, I followed the advice and got of at Faringdon station. The reason for this was to reduce the amount of time it took to get on the tube. At St Pancras, there is easily a 250m+ walk to the tube tunnels, whilst navigating a mass of people. By the time you’ve gotten onto the tube, you will have taken 10 mins. This is actually the way Transport For London, Google Maps, and other automatic journey planners suggest. Getting off at Faringdon however, meant there was only a 10 metre walk to the tube train, which arrived almost instantly. I saved 15 minutes on my journey like that. The luck continued however, when I reached the University, and reached the room where enrolment was taking place. My purpose that day was to make sure details were correct for enrolment, adjust any unit choices we wanted and to get ID cards. I arrived the moment the doors were opening, 30 minutes before the advertised time. Despite my initial thoughts about not being able to get my unit choices, it turns out, spaces were still left in ALL of the units I needed. I didn’t even consider the fact that arriving early would be a good thing, it was very much a first come first served basis. Because of my luck with transport, I no longer had an issue with units. I no longer had to do summer school. This was a good day. Made friends with an American guy(Andy) and a French girl (Agathe); met fellow QUT student, Melissa, who is also studying at the University of Westminster this semester.

Day 3:

This day wasn’t truly a day of orientation. This was the day of the amazing River Thames Boat Party. At first I didn’t want to go, but I’d feel bad not going to a boat party that someone had obviously put in a lot of effort to organise + give us free tickets. 45 minutes before boarding the boat I met another Australian. This is a big deal for me, as in the 3 weeks I’ve been here, I’ve been the only Australian I’ve known to this point. Food wasn’t being served on the boat, so my new friends (inclusive of the American I met the previous day) and I had delicious Subway. Fun fact: they only have 4 kinds of sauces, none of which are sweet chilli. They also only possess 2 types of cheese. Amazing how much difference there is between the Subways in nations. When the boat departed, it was straight to the bar. Most expensive drinks I have ever seen. I was particularly impressed when a new French friend (Estelle) ordered the same drink as I did. Seriously, I’ve never met a girl in Australia who doesn’t drink Vodka like it was going out of fashion. We both had whiskey. Classy. The DJ must have felt pretty horrible, because no one was dancing. That being said, the DJ looked old enough to be my Grandfather, so its quite possible he just isn’t in touch with todays generation. The boat cruised around the River Thames for 4 hours. All in all, it was a swell night.

I start actual classes on Monday the 16th (3 days from now). I look forward to studying in this new environment. It’s supposedly going to get colder, yet I’ve been told this for weeks now and I’m still waiting for snow. Until then, I’m still wearing singlets inside.

I hope all of you back in Aus aren’t suffering in the hot temperatures. I do feel sorry for you all, being located in nice 15 degree weather and all.

Stay classy Aus,

Thomas.