Making Memories in Milan

Andrew Q. Master of Business
Politecnico Di Milano, Italy (Semester 1, 2016)

Host University

I went on exchange at Politecnico di Milano (Polimi) in Semester 1, 2016 at the Leonardo campus. It is a widely respected university in Europe with a rich history in engineering.

Note in Europe, their semesters are reversed which means our 1st semester is their 2nd. Polimi semesters start around 3 weeks after the QUT equivalent so you might (will) miss the first few weeks of your next semester when you return.

Most units will consist of two 2hr lectures and one final exam during the exam period. You get 2 attempts to pass the exam. This all or nothing final examination approach threw me off compared to how it’s done in QUT, so you’ll need to self-manage your own studies from day one (my lectures were not recorded). If you are going in your first semester (QUT), try extending your stay to include their September exam session which will allow you to have 2 extra attempts to pass the exam as a precaution.

I found an apartment before arriving using a website called Uniplaces. They provide an intermediary in case you find the apartment not to your liking. I paid for a single room in a 2-bedroom apartment which cost me 500euro per month. This is average price you should expect to pay. Luckily, I’ve had no problems with my accommodation (and I’ve heard stories).

Host Country

I enjoyed my time in Italy and you can survive speaking only English but I would definitely recommend learning Italian before and during exchange. It definitely makes the experience so much more rewarding. I had a lot of fun interacting with my fellow international students via Polimi’s free language classes.

Milan is an expensive city to live in compared to Brisbane. Try and buy whatever you need at the street markets scattered throughout the city.

Highlights

  • I’m a football fan and it was great to watch (and attend) quality games within normal hours!
  • The sun doesn’t set until 9pm which allows you to make the most of the day. It’s definitely something I immediately miss upon returning.
  • Joining the ERASMUS group and making new friends. They do plenty of trips and social events. Great fun!
  • Italians have a tradition called Aperitivo. By purchasing a beverage, you have full access to the buffet they set out in the afternoon. It’s a social and financial lifeline for students!

Tips

Before Leaving

  • Apply for a ‘codice fiscale’ (Personal Code) along with your VISA application. You’ll need it as soon as you arrive (for your accommodation contract, phone plan and transport pass).
  • If you’re planning on taking a credit card (recommended) try getting one that gives you complimentary travel insurance if you use the card to pay for your flights or accommodation. I knew a few students who went travelling after the study period.
  • Don’t forget your stationery
  • Pack light, you’ll be bringing back more than you can imagine.
  • A laptop is essential.
  • Try to get as many transfer units as possible. There may be circumstances in which you won’t be able to do some of the units that you applied for. Be prepared to have overlapping units.
  • I used for a Citibank Plus account for cash withdrawals and a 28 Degrees account for credit card purchases and highly recommend both.

During Exchange

  • Apply for an ATM Transport Card. Renew every month for 22euro at the Metro Stations.
  • I signed on to Vodafone prepaid plan as it also allows cheap data roaming in other countries (5euro per day). The other big telecoms Wind and TIM do not provide this.
  • Applying for a Permesso di Sogiorno (Permit to stay) is a very daunting experience. I actually got my card a couple of weeks before I was set to leave!

Taiwan – the First Month

Taipei 101

Even before I started my first day at university, I was certain one of my goals was to study abroad. Now at the beginning of my 3rd year it has finally kicked off; I am spending an entire semester at the National ChengChi University in Taipei, Taiwan. My choice in coming here was supported by the New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant which will greatly enhance my capacity to experience, engage, and enjoy Taiwan to its fullest potential.

I left home on 12 February and began the 20 hours of travel. Yes, the Asia-Pacific region and it still takes that long. Partially because the cheapest flight had a six hour layover in Singapore (Changi is the best airport in the world, so amongst the movies, butterfly gardens, and sunflower gardens I really didn’t mind).   I also didn’t fully realize until I made the trip how far down Australia is and how far up Taiwan is. It was literally the same flight time as for most of the Europeans. However, when it came to jet lag the time difference was only two hours, so that was a piece of cake.

Some of the other international peeps that are here at NCCU on exchange this semester.

While living here I am staying in the International house run by the university. The location is prime, a five-minute walk from university, and we are at the east edge of the city, bordering the scenic rainforest mountains. The river also runs just by the university, its entire stretch has walkways, parks, and basketball courts every 100 metres or so, hence Wednesday night is progressively becoming Basketball night among the I-house residence. It’s also easy access to the city, provided you take the bus heading in the right direction. I confess the whole ‘driving on the right side of the road’ sent me a long way in the wrong direction on my first attempt at going into the city.

 

Yangmingshan – National Park.

My first week here was great.  I spent a lot of time getting my bearings just by exploring the city. On the first Friday we ventured on our first out-of-town trip.  We took the bus to a town called Jiufen, where the entire city is located on the slope of the mountain. Located to the north-east, the town is famous for its scenery. We spend the arvo roaming the markets followed by hiking to the top of Keelung Mountain. Unfortunately, Taiwan’s rapidly changing weather got the better of us and almost just as we arrived at the top it became a total white out. However, if you do find yourself in Taipei this is 10/10 on the must-do list of places to visit.

Chicken Butt. 5 for the equivalent of $2AUD, and despite my concerned face it turned out to be delicious!

My adjustment to the lifestyle here has been an adventure. With no real cooking facilities at I-house eating out is the norm, and as it turns out that is the Taiwan way, for every meal. The idea of buying breakfast every day sounds like a mortgage in Australia but here, not only is it affordable, but it’s such a social way to start my day. I wander down to the place I’ve picked out as ‘my local’ and grab two of the best Taiwanese omelet pancake things with special soy sauce I’ve ever tried. My other food experiences have all been fabulous, not so stinky-stinky tofu, whole fried squid, chicken butt, lots of dumplings, Baozi and bubble tea! Taiwan has such a diverse range of authentic Asian cuisine available there is no shortage of food to try and enjoy. Not all shopping has resulted in such positive results though. The language barrier caused me some confusion; turns out it was not washing liquid that I bought on my first attempt, but bleach.   I’m sticking to my story that my bleach-splattered clothing is an Australian craze…

Lantern Festival with some of my local buddies.

The highlight of week two was having the chance to experience Taipei’s lantern festival.  We traveled to a neighboring town called Pingxi which is where they hold the sky lantern side of the celebrations. We arrived late in the afternoon and already we could see lanterns flying off sporadically all over the place. We explored the town which was completely taken over by markets and festivities. Eventually we found ourselves at the small show grounds where there was a huge stage with live music. Every half-hour there was a coordinated release of lanterns, sending over 100 up into the sky all at once. What a truly magical sight to see!

Sky Lantern Festival in Pingxi

Now we are well and truly in the swing of a daily routine. Classes have begun and for that I spend four days over at the campus. For the remaining three days of the week I now have access to a motorcycle which has opened up a world of opportunities when it comes to accessibility and traveling about the island. The university social clubs have many trips and camps lined up for our opportunity to meet locals and see the sights. I have done so much in the time here already and I have literally only just begun!

My first month as an exchange student at QUT

My name is Shengyi and I’m a sophomore in clinical medicine from Nanjing Medical University. I am undertaking my exchange semester at Queensland University of Technology. I am honored to receive an Endeavour Cheung Kong Student Exchange Program grant from Australian Government, and I appreciate that QUT provided such a precious opportunity for me to learn advanced medical technology.

What Brisbane is like

I arrived in Brisbane on 15th February, and now I have been in Brisbane for nearly a month. My first impression on Brisbane is that everything is in large size. Cars are large, beef burgers are large, and streets are large (wide and spacious). Brisbane is a metropolis. There are many skyscrapers and fancy mansions located near the CBD. Brisbane is scenic city with a landscape of lakes and hills. The ecological environment is fascinating, when I’m walking on the street, I can see Australian egrets and smell the fragrance of sweet-smelling flowers.

The place I live

The campus of QUT is quite close to Brisbane city area. I booked my accommodation months ago and I’m currently living with my friends in Woolloongabba. It is convenient, just a few miles far away from GP and not far to stores.

Orientation week

The first week is the orientation week,during which I participated in a variety of different activities. I took part in Study Abroad and Exchange Student Orientation welcome session and got my student ID card with the friendly assistance from volunteers in the library. During lunchtime, I sat down with my friends on the lawn, enjoying the gentle breeze and the food which only cost two dollars.

At the weekends, I went to the Golden Coast with my friends. I took a lift to the top of Building Q1 (Queensland Number One), which is one of the tallest skyscrapers in the Southern Hemisphere and had a bird’s eye view of Queensland. I was deeply impressed by the Surfers Paradise where there were many tourists and local people surfing in the sea.

Schoolwork

The experience as an exchange student at QUT is splendid. However, I also have to face some challenges in my study. My major at QUT is Biomedical, which means I need to memorize a lot of specialized vocabulary and I have to do preview before each of my classes, otherwise I would have difficulty understanding what the lecture is talking about. As a non-native speaker, I haven’t had a class in English before, so it really takes me some time to adapt to a pure-English environment.

 

 

A road map to my first month as an Exchange Student at City University of Hong Kong

My name is Emma Cockburn and I am a 4th year Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/ Bachelor of Business (Economics) undertaking an exchange semester at City University of Hong Kong.

The first month of my semester exchange at City University of Hong Kong has been one of adventure and learning! I was very fortunate to receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant. The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian Government which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study in the region.

The Montane Mansion Building

Where do you live?
The student residential halls are the ideal form of on-campus accommodation. I am in Sir Gordon and Lady Ivy Wu Hall (Hall 9). My roommate is an exchange student from Sydney and we share a bathroom with two Canadian exchange students from Queens University. There is a gym and canteen within the student residence. If you have space in your suitcase it is a good idea to bring your own bedding. I highly recommend applying for the student residential halls as it is by far the cheapest form of accommodation and provides a great opportunity to meet other students and get involved in Hall activities. The Halls are highly sort after by international and domestic students so I would advise to apply as soon as registration is open!

CityU Student Residential Halls

What should I get involved in?
There are so many opportunities to get involved at CityU. Taking advantage of these opportunities will enrich your exchange experience. To find out what is happening you should check your CityU email, look at the notice boards on campus and ask other students.

Clubs, Societies & Workshops
I was selected in the English-Speaking Debating Team and Business Proposal and Competition Club. I will be representing the university at an international debating competition in Macau next month! The College of Business host a range of free workshops. I have attended three of the Career & Leadership Development Programme sessions. In these sessions, I learnt how to create a powerful CV and cover letter to demonstrate your passion, leadership potential, and key competencies such as teamwork, interpersonal communication, problem solving, and business acumen.

Inter-hall Basketball Competition
I was selected in the inter-hall Women’s Basketball Competition. The team is comprised of local and international students. My team progressed to the semi-finals. We were narrowly defeated by Hall 7 who won the grand final. I really enjoyed participating in the inter-hall basketball competition. Each semester they host different inter-hall competitions, such as table tennis and athletics. I would absolutely recommend trialling for a team!

Inter-hall Basketball Competition

CityU International Case Competition Team
Drawing on the training and my experience competing in the QUT Business School International Case Competitions Team, I have worked collaboratively with the academic advisor and taken an active leadership role in developing students in the recently established CityU International Case Competition Team.

Model United Nations Conference
I attended the CityU Model United Nations conference. This conference hosted international and domestic university students from across Hong Kong. I participated in the Social and Economic Council as the delegate for Russia. In this council, we discussed the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis and political relief. After two days of diplomacy, advocacy and heated debate, we proposed a draft resolution and I was humbled to be awarded Best Delegate.

CityU Model United Nations conference awarded Best Delegate

Where should I eat?
There is a huge variety of food available in Hong Kong. The on-campus canteens provide more affordable options, a meal will cost about $5AUD. Western food tends to be more expensive. Each Hall floor has its own kitchen so you can cook food. I have been making oats and bananas for breakfast and cooking brown rice and broccoli for lunches (luckily my roommate brought a rice cooker). I have been using the free sauces available at the canteens. Things like peanut butter and Nutella are expensive so if you would like to bring some with you I would recommend doing that! There are so many great food options and the local street food is also delicious.   

What else is there to do in and around Hong Kong?
Hiking
There are the most amazing hiking trails in Hong Kong. For example, I have hiked Devil’s Peak, Lion Rock, Ng Tung Chai and the Peak. The scenery ranges from peaks overlooking skyscrapers, incredible sunsets, waterfalls with dense rainforest and beaches. It is truly beautiful.

Sunset Hike at Devil’s Peak

Travel
Hong Kong is a great base to travel around Asia. A lot of exchange students travel to places such as Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Cambodia and Thailand. Luckily, I have classes Tuesday through Thursday so I always have a long weekend. So far, I have travelled to Vietnam and I have a trip planned to go to Shenzhen in China.

Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam

I have been enjoying getting to know the local people and culture. The juxtaposition between the colourful housing estates, mountain peaks and modern skyscrapers is breathtaking. There is never a dull moment in Hong Kong. I look forward to what else is in store!

A video of my first week as an exchange student at City University of Hong Kong

Urban Transformation Study Tour: Arriving in Singapore

To travel to our accommodation, we decided to take the metro. The metro was quite a bit more advanced than the Brisbane metro in a few ways. First off the trains arrive much more frequently than Brisbane metro as wait times were about 2 mins in comparison to every 20 mins to an hour in Brisbane.
When boarding the train there is a specific protocol that needs to be followed. When exiting the train you must exit through the centre of the doors, whereas when boarding you need to line up at the sides of the entrance to enter the train. The protocol ensures efficient use the trains stopping time.
From a brief glance from the train Singapore appears to have a varied range of housing types and styles. These vary from enormous housing apartment blocks to small 2-3 story town houses.


The trains were also easier to navigate as the audio announcements were very clear and there was a stop map on the train that lit up with the stop that it was at and the stops to come.

Upon our arrival at Bugis Station we had to walk 7 mins along brick pathways that had many small stairs. For Singapore, we decided to stay in a pod hotel called the Cube in Kampong Glam, which is an area that is heritage protected due to the beautiful historical architecture and urban structures. We were quite concerned that the pods would be small and claustrophobic, however they were very spacious and used the space well, with similar features to a tiny house design or an origami apartment. Although there were multiple pods in one room there still seemed to be a lot of privacy. I wonder whether pod accommodation could be a preferred option for student accommodation in Australia?

For an early dinner, we went to the Moroccan and Middle Eastern restaurant across from our accommodation. The people were very friendly and a bit cheeky, and there was a bit of banter between the Turkish restaurant across the street.

As one of the QUT guys had been there earlier for a meal they were very happy that he had returned with more customers so they gave us a 20% discount and free ice cream.

After dinner, we wandered around the streets around Kampong Glam and down Haji Street which is known as a trendy place to grab a drink. We stopped at a Mexico style bar/restaurant where a live music was being set up. We ordered beers and cocktails and sang along with the live music. After the drink, we headed back to the accommodation to go to bed.

A World Class Fashion Experience in Paris

Ashleigh Hobbs, Bachelor of Creative Industries

Short-term program: IESEG ‘Fashion Business in Paris 2018’

France (July 2018)

My name is Ashleigh Hobbs, a second-year student at QUT, majoring in fashion and film. In June/July of 2018, I had the opportunity to go on exchange to Paris, France, and study fashion and business at IESEG School of Management.

The institution I studied at, IESEG School of Management, was in La Défense; the business sector of Paris. We had student residency, only a five-minute walk from the school, and this was shared with other students taking our classes. The residency was fantastic, we each had individual apartments containing a fully equipped kitchenette, bathroom, queen sized bed, TV and wardrobe. In addition to this, we had access to complimentary breakfast, including on the weekends.

Life on campus was incredible; because the program is international and immersive, you connect with amazing people from across the globe. Having these friendships made the course even more so engaging and enriching; not only were you immersed in the Parisian fashion culture but also learning about different international cultures and traditions at the same time.

The program allows you to connect with people from across the globe.

The academic structure was incredibly smooth and well organised, making it easy to follow, but nevertheless, there was a high work ethic and heavy participation expected from each student. The opportunities granted to us students were world class. Not only did we receive tours of major fashion exhibits, but we also got a tour the Ecole Lesage – the company whom work with customers such as Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and thus forth. We got to watch the women hand make the tweed samples for the upcoming SS19 Chanel show; it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Louvre.

I had the most positive experience at IESEG and was exposed to so much industry practice thanks to this wonderful school; I could not be more fulfilled or happier with how the program was.

As one can imagine, the French capital is vastly different to Brisbane, and Australia in general. It is always important to remain extremely aware in the streets, and personally, I would always advise being with company when venturing away from the student residency and university. It makes it that little bit less stressful having two pairs of eyes and ears and is far more enjoyable in company. Site seeing in the main tourist areas is perfectly safe in your own, however make sure you know the areas you’re in and always take caution.

The streets of Paris.

Nevertheless, Paris is world renowned, and for great reason. During our stay we were able to visit places such as the Louvre museum, the Chateau of Versailles, the Louis Vuitton foundation, endless fashion exhibits (including Dior, Museum of Saint Laurent, Maison Martin Margiela and Hermes, etc.) Paris itself was everything I dreamed and more. Generally, when it comes to ‘experiencing’ Parisian culture and the city, Paris can be very costly. Despite this, Paris can still be enjoyed on a budget. There are a large array of grocery stores and local markets, and due to having a kitchenette, it is easy to cook your own meals, and the difference in price is huge. You will save a lot of money by doing this, but I still recommend doing some research and choosing some amazing spots to eat out; for the atmosphere if nothing else.

Versailles.

The Eiffel Tower.

When it came to the cultural aspects of living in Paris, I wasn’t affected too much by culture shock. As you are surrounded by friends from all over the world, you are all able to communicate on your experiences and go through the journey together. Out of respect for the country, however, it is nice to learn a few French phrases to get you by (even if it is just: ‘desole, parlez-vous anglais?’ Meaning, ‘sorry, do you speak English?’).

After partaking in the IESEG School of Management Fashion Summer Academy, I feel so inspired, motivated and refreshed to start back at QUT, and understand further the amazing career pathways that can be undertaken in my industry. Choosing to partake in the program not only made me more academically inspired, but made me so much for worldly, and confident in being associated in the international fashion industry. I cannot recommend doing this program, and going on exchange in general, enough.

Living like a Local in Kassel

Xaythavone Phommachanh, Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

Doing exchange abroad is one of my favourite opportunities that I could do while being in university. On July 2018, I took a journey to Germany to participate in an exchange program called International Summer University (ISU)– Kassel. This was my very first trip to Europe and Germany and I was excited and looking forward to it. Eventually the very first day arriving Germany came, it took some time to travel from the Frankfurt airport to the city of Kassel where the exchange program took place.

The city of Kassel is a small city where everything is pretty much easily accessible by trains, trams or foot, for example, stores, cafes, restaurants, museums, parks and so on. The University of Kassel, main campus, is situated not far north from the city centre. There are many tram stops around the university so it is very convenient to travel to study from the city and also outer suburbs. The main campus is large in terms of area. There are many buildings, namely the library, central canteen, study areas, etc. and my most favourite building of them all is, and I think you know what my choice will be, Zentralmensa or Central Canteen. This is because they serve cheap and good food, but you need to know how the Zentralmensa works so that you will get all the benefits.

Cheap and good food on campus

Throughout the program, I found that it was very well organised, educational and enjoyable. Staff and other participants were very kind, caring, cheerful and friendly. The program offered a German language course and a variety of seminars for participants to choose. Along with all those on-campus components of the program, the participants were also offered off-campus and extracurricular opportunities, for example, field trips in order to improve participant understanding about the chosen seminar topics and movie night or BBQ gathering to maximise the cultural experience of all participants. Furthermore, there are also recreational trips like a trip to Berlin, Fritzlar (a small historic town) and hiking trips, to name a few.

Recreational trip to Berlin

The cultural experience of the trip was maximised through extracurricular activities.

As the time of applying for this ISU program in Kassel, there was one aspect of the program that stood out and interested me to participate, and that was the opportunity to stay with a German family, they were really great at helping out with transitioning to the German culture. By spending time with them, I learned a lot about them and also the things that only the locals know best. I have to admit that I did little research about Germany before actually going on exchange, but because of them, I felt that I did not miss many things that are expected to do in Germany. Fun Fact: they like Tim Tams a lot!

I recommend that everyone join this program.

Overall, the program is so good. I recommend everyone to join this program, International Summer University – Kassel. I am sure that you will have a good time here. 😊

Life in Kassel

Tantika Na Nakhon, Master of Engineering Management

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

Hessen International Summer School

My name is Tantika Na Nakhon and I’ve just completed an international summer program at the Universität Kassel (University of Kassel) in Kassel, Germany. It was four-week program and I was studying in the engineering module. I chose environmental engineering and renewable energies and risk management in environmental engineering. The seminars were intensive and lots of excursion. As part of risk management, my class visited Volkswagen, B. Braun Melsungen and Wintershall and we found the risks from the real situations. I would highly recommend enrolling in both courses. Moreover, German class was useful for daily life. There are many activities that you can join such as hiking, movie night, games night and German folk dance.

University Campus

University Campus

University Campus

Life in Germany and Highlights of short term program

Living in Germany was easy. In this program everyone had to stay with host family and it was good to learn their culture and lifestyles. German people were cold at first meeting, but when you get closer to them are friendly and kind. Kassel is located in central Germany. Thus, it would be beneficial to travel to other countries. My favourite trip outside of Germany was to Netherlands with my host family, and within Germany we took a 4 hour drive throughout the country which was also fantastic. The University organised a free trip to Fritzler. It took 35 minutes from Kassel. Fritzler is a small town in the Schwalm-Eder district in northern Hesse. The town has a medieval centre surrounded by a wall with numerous watch towers.

Fritzlar

Netherlands trip with my host family

Overall, I had an awesome experience and I wish I had the chance to do it again. It was good opportunity to explore other countries and I’d encourage every student to consider this program.

University of Kassel: Short Term Exchange – Long Term Memories

Karl Somoray, Bachelor of Engineering/Mathmatics

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

During the Summer of 2018, myself and along with around 15 other QUT students were very fortunate enough to receive a mobility scholarship from the Hessen International Summer Universities. From this, we were able to complete a short course over at the renowned University of Kassel, at Kassel, Germany where I studied Adaptations to Climate Change, Environmental Engineering and Renewable Energies and German (Basic).

The University

Being only experienced to seeing the QUT campuses (and some of the UQ facilities), one of the biggest things that shocked me was the vast difference of facilities that the University of Kassel had compared to QUT. I found that both the buildings and the facilities of the University of Kassel seemed more `aged’ than the QUT campus, but nevertheless was a host to numerous experienced academics in renewable energies and had connections to multiple institutions leading the renewables field.

A trip to the wind farms!

While I’m happy to be back on QUT campus, the one thing I miss is the MENSA! Conversely to the food court we have at either KG or GP (where we have multiple stores in one spot), the cafeteria at Kassel instead has multiple outlets for different types of meals, desserts etc. all cooked by staff at the university. Every day the meals are different, and the best thing about is that it’s very cheap and tasty!

All this for ~$6AUD!

The Country

For my stay, I lived at a quaint little street at the outskirts of Kassel with 3 other ISU students, including my friend from QUT! Fortunately as well, the scholarship paid for our months stay, including meals that our host parent was extremely good at making!

Don’t be alarmed, but this raw pork is awesome.

The relatively small town of Kassel in which the majority of the time we were in, was a refreshing place to live in, outside of the usual bustling city in Brisbane. With my host family as well as the ISU, we explored several spots around Kassel that I wouldn’t have thought to explore.

Fritzlar

Edersea

The Experience

By far the most memorable moments in my trip however were the short excursions to different countries/cities during our free time (enabled by getting a Eurail travel pass beforehand, which was definitely worth the price we paid for it) and hanging out with the ISU students.

ISU Graduation Ceremony

Manarola, Italy

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

So my tip for future students is to make the most out of every day of your trip! Meet new people and explore as much as you can. It’s a short exchange that happens once in a lifetime, so don’t skimp out on time and have fun, because before you know it, you’ll be boarding your plane back home, and you’ll never know what experiences you’ll miss out on!

A Unique Experience in a New City

Dominic Dall’Osto, Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Hessen University ‘Hessen International Summer University – Kassel’

Germany (June/July 2018)

I’ve just returned from a 4 week short-term program in Kassel, Germany – the International Summer University (ISU). I was part of a group of 45 students from all over the world at the ISU. Well, every continent apart from Antarctica. The program consisted of studying German, along with a choice of classes in Environmental Engineering, German Culture, or Nanoscience. We also had a lot of free time to explore the city, as well as travel around Germany.

The best part of the program, though, was the homestay component. I stayed with my host mum, Kristin, and 2 other students from Colombia, in a small farming village in the outskirts of town. It was amazing to wake up every morning, look out over the green fields and see farmers starting their work, but only be a 45 minute train ride away from the city centre. It was also great to live with 2 other students in the program – we shared a lot of new experiences getting to know Kassel, learning German, and cheering for each other’s countries in the World Cup!

The view from my room over our backyard.

My new roommates!

I also spent a lot of time exploring the sights of Kassel. The city’s most famous landmark is the Herkules monument. It is perched 500 metres above the town with a huge complex of water fountains leading down to a castle at the bottom. A castle in Kassel, who’d have thought?! Twice a week the water is turned on and the site fills with tourists following the water down the mountain; through the fountains, down an artificial waterfall, under the Devil’s Bridge, along an aqueduct, and shooting 50 m high into the air at the bottom. All of it is powered only by natural water pressure and has been running for over 300 years!

The beautiful view from the Herkules (ignore the cranes and tourists).

Speaking of powering things with water pressure (smooth segue!) I studied environmental engineering during my time at the University of Kassel. We had guest lectures from experts at the university, and nearby research institutes. But the best bit was going on field trips to see renewable energy technologies in action. We visited a farming village that had built a biogas plant to provide its electricity and heat requirements. We also had the chance to go inside a wind turbine to examine it up close. They’re a lot bigger than they look from a distance! Thanks must also go out to the amazing tutors from the uni who looked after us and kept us entertained throughout the program!

Visiting a wind farm. Fellow students for scale.

A Biogas tank in the village of Jühnde.

Another highlight was the group trip to Berlin during the program. Especially interesting were the stories told by the program director, Jürgen, who had experienced the separation between East and West Germany first hand. Hearing his accounts of waiting for 5 hours at the border while his car was searched were chilling. We also caught Germany’s capital in the grips of World Cup fever, with a huge public viewing at the Brandenburg Gate. Unfortunately, spirits dropped after Germany got knocked out.

Overall, the Kassel ISU program was a great and unique experience: living with a German family, but also spending so much time with the other students that they became like family; exploring a new city; learning a new language; being taught by experts in the field of environmental engineering; and generally enjoying the summer in Germany. I would definitely recommend Kassel’s International Summer University program!