The Best Student City In The World: Experiencing Montreal

Sneha M, Bachelor of Business and Laws (Honours)
HEC Montreal, Semester 2 2017

When I realised I was going on exchange I was a whole lot of excited and a little bit of nervous!

I had never lived overseas before for starters, and cooking skills were limited to toast. My partner institution was HEC (Hautes Ecoles Commerciales) in Montreal, Canada. While my classes were in English, French is the main language spoken in Montreal. Equipped with about three Duolingo lessons I packed my one suitcase and off I went! Luckily however, nearly everyone in Montreal speaks English. In fact, they want to practice English so much you may not always get to try out your French!

Getting There

My experience did not start off on the best note. My flight from Brisbane was delayed by four hours, which meant I missed both of my connecting flights. When I arrived in LAX for a stopover my phone stopped working and my next flight was delayed. On my final leg from Toronto to Montreal, the passenger behind me was severely sick and had to get medical treatment before we could fly out! I ended up arriving in Montreal with no one to pick me up at 4am, a day later than expected. This also meant I spent the first and only day before orientation week getting my phone fixed, getting some warm clothes (as it was -14 degrees) and grocery shopping. The next day Orientation Week began and it was jam packed full of activities including going to an outdoor spa in the snow, laser tag, snow tubing, pub crawls, hikes, ice skating, parties and much more. Needless to say it was really fun, but so exhausting I caught the flu. I think experiencing challenges so early in my exchange made me take initiative and get organised really quickly which made the rest of the trip so much easier.

My home for the semester!

Accommodation and Travelling 

I was really lucky my roommates were also attending HEC. This made the whole experience better because we had similar schedules and could travel together. I definitely recommend going to Montreal if you want to travel. It’s only a short bus ride to New York and Boston and a few hours further to Washington DC. I also got the chance to visit the Rocky Mountains on the West Coast of Canada which was simply breathtaking and even visited Iceland during spring break!

Blue lagoon in Iceland!

Death Valley, USA

The Student Life

Montreal was voted the number one student city in the world for good reasons! It has plenty to do and a great atmosphere. While on exchange I went to Igloofest, a music festival with intricately carved bonfires and great music. It started snowing halfway through the night, which just meant everyone had to dance harder.

A word of caution though, HEC has a very good reputation, but that also means the courses are quite difficult. Instead of using electives, I was able to complete compulsory finance subjects. The format is quite different with no online lectures and three hour classes that combine work as lectures and tutorials together. Take advantage of the consultations and make sure to study throughout the semester as most exams are worth 60%! One elective class I took however was Social Innovation in the International Area. This subject requires us to work with a Social Innovation group or project in Montreal to meet specific aims. It was amazing to see the social enterprises people from across the globe are involved in.

The Weather

It can sometimes be difficult in winter where some days it was -19. It’s really important to layer, because underground and inside it can get really warm with central heating. Montreal has an extensive underground metro system as well as shopping centers and an underground mini city! Good shoes are also a must as you can be trekking through deep snow just to get to class! Canadians are tough and class is hardly ever cancelled unless there is a major snowstorm.

Snow storm!

Notre Dame de Basilica, Montreal

 

The friends, skills and memories I have gained from Montreal and my time at HEC was invaluable. I am so grateful and humbled by exchange experience. I can’t wait to visit again!

Meet New Friends And Learn Jiu Jitsu

Charlotte A., Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
University of Exeter, England (Semester 1, 2017)

I had a really great time on exchange, just like everyone else who has ever been on exchange. I studied at the University of Exeter for a year and it was amazing. I was able to travel through a lot of Europe, and even got up to Iceland. I made a lot of new friends and learned Jiu Jitsu (I got my green belt)! The worst part of exchange was that the classes were compulsory, so I got an email telling me off for missing them (I thought I was an adult who could choose what would be useful for them??). This felt particularly mean when I had tonsillitis. However, most of my subjects only had three tutorials per semester so it was a pretty manageable workload. Living on campus was great, as I could get to class within five minutes of waking up. Overall, it was great.

Exploring

Having fun with friends

Accommodation

Welcome to Hullywood – University of Hull

Clare S., Bachelor of Business / Creative Industries 
University of Hull, UK (Semester 2, 2017)

Host University

Arriving/Campus Life

Arriving in Hull was so easy. The university organised a pickup service from Manchester airport and most of the international students used this. So I got to meet so many people before the semester even started. I flew in from Amsterdam and actually met one of my flatmates who was from the Netherlands on my flight. The university also organised welcome events for international students which was a great way to meet people.

The campus life in the UK is so different than Australia because everyone moves away for university so everyone is open to meeting new people and everyone is super involved in campus life. Hull was also a student city which was awesome as most places had student deals. I was told before I went to the UK that I had to join a Uni sports team and this was the best decision I made. I joined Netball Squad and this was one of my highlights. We played together three times a week but the best part was Wednesday night themed socials. During this every sports team on campus would dress up in the weeks theme and go drinking in a local pub and then head to the nightclub that was on campus. This is where I made most of my closest friends at Hull.

Accommodation

I stayed at The Lawns whilst at Hull which was a short bus ride to Uni. At the Lawns, we got a free meal everyday (expect a lot of potatoes) and a free bus pass. There is also a gym, laundry facilities and kitchens. The rooms and bathrooms were basically what you expect, small but had everything you needed in it. I had just come off three months of staying in hostels so to me it was amazing. The halls I lived in were a mix of international and domestic students, so I lived with Canadians, Americans, Germans (so many Germans), Dutch and Danish people. I was the only Australian at the university which I liked because I know other people who have gone on exchange and only made friends with other Australians.

Academics

The academics were somewhat different, classes are compulsory and they hold your hand a lot more than they do at QUT which I didn’t like. It was a lot of small group assignments and then massive 70% exams in the end. I didn’t go on exchange for the academic aspect so overall, I found it fine.

Host Country

Cost of living

Hull is located really north in England so everything was relatively cheap. Drinks at most clubs are 3 or 4 pounds and basics on Piper Mondays are 1.5 pounds. Food from the shops is also cheap but eating out after the conversion rate is about the same. My biggest expense was trains, they are ridiculously expensive. I caught trains to London and to the closest airports when I was travelling throughout the semester. I 100% recommend buying a rail pass, it makes the trips a lot cheaper.

Travel

I traveled around Europe for 3 months before the semester with other friends that were going on exchange to America. This was another highlight of the trip. We got to go to a music festival in Budapest, go to the Italian Rivera, ride camels through the Sahara Desert and more. I also traveled throughout the semester but how far you can go is is really dependent on your Uni timetable. During the semester I went on multiple trips to London and got to tick going to Iceland off my bucket list. All the flights are so cheap. I paid return to Iceland $80AUD which is cheaper than going to Sydney.

No Worries In Washington!

Julia S, Bachelor of Creative Industries/ Business
University of Central Washington, USA (Semester 2 2017)

It all started on the 31st of July. I left for Italy to meet my friend Clare who was also studying abroad. We planned to travel Europe together for a month before attending our respective Universities. After 31 days of travelling around Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and Germany to name a few, I boarded a plane once again; but this time to the United States. My semester of exchange was to take place at Central Washington University. A small University with a student population of almost 11,000, CWU is in a small town named Ellensburg, just two hours from Seattle.

A few facts about Central Washington:

  • Founded in 1891
  • School Mascot: The Wildcat
  • School Colours: Red and Black
  • Average Class size: 25
  • Homecoming speaker: Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec)

After a two-hour bus ride from Seattle, I arrived at what would be my home for the next 12 weeks, Wendall Hall. I had purposely chosen to live in a suite during my stay. By living in a suite, I was guaranteed three American roommates while also having my own mini room.

What started as a scary, whirlwind three days during commencement and meeting my roommates quickly turned into one of the best times of my life.  My roommates and I were all extremely different – but in the best way possible. Often, we would liken ourselves to the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants; all having our own personalities and interests but able to come together to create amazing memories.

Studying Public Relations overseas allowed for incredible opportunities. One of my teachers (who forced us to create a LinkedIn profile) was former Senior Vice President of A & R Edelman. Edelman is known for handling the communications of top organizations within the U.S, such as Dove. In addition to this, I attended a meeting at WE Communications with CWU’s Public Relations society. WE Communications represents Microsoft.

Leaving exchange was extremely hard. There are many nights where I think back to driving with friends to Seattle just to have a day in the city. I often remember driving through the notorious “pass.” The pass is a long stretch of road through the mountains of Washington. In winter, it is covered with snow and ice and makes for a perfectly nostalgic backdrop for my exchange memories.

Although difficult, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I am confident that the friends and connections I have made overseas will last a life time. This experience has allowed me to see that meeting people from all over the world and learning others’ cultures cannot be undervalued. I now see myself as capable and ready to enter my final year of University; paired with a gained knowledge and a new outlook on my studies.

How to Survive in Canadian College

Reeve D., Bachelor of Business
Bishops University, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

  1. Frosh week / O week

Frosh week started off with team selection day, where you would go around to every team (consisting of older students) and learn a bit about them. There were heaps of teams for people with different interests, with some stressing the fact they love to party and others – being all girl’s teams – centred around making friends. Every team had their own house, which was your meeting point for weekly activities. During frosh week, your aim is to complete challenges to get your team points. One of the challenges I completed was to wear a shower cap of shaving cream on my head for a night, one guy shaved his head and another guy was painted green for the week. However, you definitely aren’t forced into any challenges you don’t want to complete. There were a couple of concerts held in the quad during frosh week and a swamp day where you had to get as messy as possible being covered in gross foods. The week was amazing and was great with helping me make friends instantly. With the week ending with a team performance and football game.

  1. Halloweekend

I definitely consider Halloweekend one of the best events from my time at Bishops. Its three nights of different Halloween parties, all with different themes. The first night consist of everyone going to either the school bar, residence parties or different house parties. Night two was held at Animal House (probably the biggest party house of the university) and night three was the official event held by The Gait (on campus bar).

  1. Residence/Where To Live

I can’t stress enough how important it is to live in Lennoxville. So many exchange students (including myself) originally made the mistake of living a bus ride away from the university in Sherbrooke. Living in Lennoxville is extremely social and convenient. It’s also extremely rare that students don’t live near the university. Bishops campus is practically all of Lennoxville, so even if you are unable to get a spot in residence, living in one of the many party houses or in your own apartment is a great way to still get that real college experience. Join the Bishops housing page and find a couple of other exchange students looking for housing and contact Carl, who is the land lord of all the apartments in Little Forks (circled- I can provide Carls phone number if requested).

  1. Classes

Classes are typically small and don’t consist of a regular lecture and tutorial, instead it’s more like two tutorials a week (this was the case for my business/criminology subjects). I found the work to be much easier than QUT and more interactive, however more class time was required.

  1. Social
    1. The Gait is the student run school bar which host regular happy hours and themed events.
    2. The Lion is a bar (kind of like a pub) off campus in Lennoxville. The lion is super fun and has acoustic Tuesdays where there’s a live band.
    3. House parties: As you can see on the map above each house in Lennoxville has its own name, with the majority of parties being at Animal House, Football House, Haunted or along Reed street. There’s also a huge party at Cool Ranch (which was my frosh house) every year called Luda Christmas, where the whole school is invited.
    4. There are also so many social events for those students not into the party scene such as plays, organised weekend trips to Montreal and Quebec City, talent shows, fashion shows, football games, hockey games, guest speakers, movie nights and many clubs.
  1. Dining Hall / Food

The dining hall at Bishops is called Dewhurst Dining Hall or Dewies for short, and has a great variety of foods available. It has a grill bar where you can order fries/burgers/hotdogs, salad bar, pasta station and many other great foods. Even if you don’t live in residence you can still get a Dewies pass, and it’s definitely worth it!

  1. Travel

I found traveling around Canada easy and relatively cheap. During the semester, I was able to go on a weekend trip to Toronto which was amazing. After the semester finished is when I completed the majority of my travel. I went to Vancouver, Whistler, Ottawa, Montreal, Chicago and New York. Due to the university being in a small town I was able to budget my money super well during the semester, enabling me to have the best time at the end of my exchange. I definitely recommend Vancouver and Whistler, as I was able to experience a non-French side of Canada.

Taiwan, A Country of Warmth

Yuheng L., Bachelor of Business (Dean’s Honours)
Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan (Semester 2, 2017)

I have always imagined Taiwan to be a warm little country which is often neglected by the international society. Due to political reasons, Taiwan is isolated internationally. It is not part of the UN and has only 20 countries of diplomatic relations (FYI: China has 175). However, Taiwan is not an underdeveloped country of any sort. Taipei has a well-built metro system and there is a High-Speed Rail throughout the west coast of Taiwan. By car, it takes 4 hours to get from Taipei to Kaohsiung but it only takes an hour and a half on the HSR. It is very convenient to travel around Taiwan where many people travel around the island as a challenge (mostly on a bicycle) every year. For me personally, one of the places I loved the most was Tainan (South Taiwan). It is an amazing city with great food and a lot of historical sites, mostly from the era when they were ruled under the Japanese Empire. It has a lot of cultural characteristics unique from other cities.

Taiwan also has a comparatively low cost of living. Dining out can be very cheap (it can be very expensive too, if you choose to do so), where a meal could be around AUD $3-4. Their wages, however, is much lower than Australian standards. Their minimum legal hourly wage is roughly $6, which makes things much cheaper than Australia. I lived in the campus dormitory for the entire semester and it only cost me around AUD $380.

It was not long until I faced difficulties. Immediately on the day after my arrival, a lady shop owner began speaking Taiwanese Hokkien to me. Luckily, I was with my exchange buddy (whom FJU has arranged before my arrival) at that time and he was able to communicate with the owner on my behalf. I am very grateful for my exchange buddies and my dorm roommates who helped me out a lot upon my arrival. I immediately felt the warmth and helpfulness of the Taiwanese people on my first couple of days. Listening to my roommates’ stories was very interesting as they all came from different backgrounds, one being in the army for 5 years after high school, another being a Bruneian of Taiwanese descent. Having chats and laughter, with the occasional disagreement, every night was definitely a memorable experience – something that I won’t experience at home.

One of the things that I really enjoyed is joining the basketball team of my faculty. There are yearly tournaments between faculties and between departments. Our team trained regularly and apart from having fun, I believe it is a great way to develop relationships. It shows that the university culture there is quite different too. Sports and other club activities are a vital part of their university life, where people gather together. I could see evidence of a more collectivistic society based on their university culture. Apart from that, the close relationship between classmates is something special. It feels exactly like high school where classes are held in small classrooms rather than large lecture halls. The teachers know every student, therefore, as soon as she saw my unfamiliar face I was immediately asked to introduce myself. They welcomed me and invited me to have lunch together on the first day of class. I felt like I could blend in to their culture instantly with their friendliness.

There is no way I could talk about Taiwan without mentioning food. There is so much food around campus to the point I could even get hot food at midnight. The entire campus is approximately the size of the Kelvin Grove campus, however, there are 5 different blocks of canteens! Plus, with the number of restaurants outside of campus, there is absolutely no need to worry about what you need to bring for lunch.

Taiwan is a country with a lot of warmth. There is a common saying of ‘The Most Beautiful Scenery in Taiwan is its People.”, and I recognized that it is true throughout my journey. I have made great friends during these past few months and I surely miss the moments I had with them. If you are looking at going to the Asia-Pacific region, or if you would love to pick up the Chinese language, I would surely recommend Taiwan as an exchange destination.

Fall in Love with Copenhagen

Vicky Z., Bachelor of Creative Industries
Danish School of Media & Journalism, Denmark (Semester 2, 2017)

Host University

The Danish School of Media & Journalism (DMJX) is seriously a great school, and SO different from QUT. It’s academically intense and the students are older (23-30, since most have already completed a past degree in design) and very talented and serious, yet the classroom had a relaxed and family-like vibe. The school is really hard to get into and its students are sought-after in the design industry!

DMJX

I had class Monday to Friday, from 9am to about 1pm, although in busier times we’d all stay until 4pm or even 10pm, working. The class had 23 students, and we were in the same room every day. The best parts were that we each had a desk and Mac (like a studio!), and the canteen was amazing and affordable.

We would have the same teacher for 2-6 weeks, and guest lectures/presentations/briefs from small and large companies all the time. We had Volvo, DR (Denmark’s largest TV Radio Media company like the ABC), Bennybox (an animation company in Copenhagen), and many more. A lot of time was self-directed learning and working on assignments, with lectures being casual.

DMJX

We only worked on one assignment at a time, which I really liked. At the end of each task, there was no criteria sheet or marking. Instead, we’d give a short presentation to the class, and receive feedback from the teacher, guest, and each other. It was inspiring and I learned a lot from seeing other students’ work.

Accommodation

I applied for housing through DMJX, and they offered me a room at Hjortespringkollegiet in Herlev. It was a 30 minute bike ride from school and about an hour from the city center, which was a little far, but bearable. My room was huge by dorm standards; I had my own bathroom and balcony, and shared a clean, large kitchen with 10 others. Around 1 in 12 students are exchange students; the rest are Danish. I recommend living here — I really loved it and made many friends. The dorm bar was open once or twice a week; it’s easy to meet people and make friends there.

Accommodation

Accommodation

Accommodation

Host Country

Denmark is such a wonderful country. The cost of living is similar or a little higher than Brisbane. Public transport and eating out are expensive, but if you ride your bike and cook more at home, it’s not too bad. Copenhagen is hip and I loved the fashion, jewelry, art, and Scandinavian style.

Denmark

Danish people are really easy to get along with. They’re really friendly, although some may warm up to you a bit more slowly. And there are almost no language barriers as they are all very good at English (even grannies speak fluently).

Denmark

Some differences I noticed were that when people get off the bus, they don’t say ‘thank you’, and paying at supermarkets is a very fast, impersonal, brisk process. No small talk. They scan your items ridiculously fast, you kind of just get out as soon as possible. But in smaller shops and boutiques, they’re super friendly.

Denmark

On almost every street you will find a plant shop (flowers, succulents and whatnot), a pay-by-weight candy store, a hairdresser, kebab store, and bakery!

Highlights of exchange

Meeting so many people was amazing, and seeing so many cities was wonderful. I loved that I could call Copenhagen my home for five months, and become familiar with all the stores, brands, suburbs, streets, and the city as a whole.

Denmark

Denmark

Things You Didn’t Expect

Everyone’s naked in the communal showers and change rooms.

When I went on the school camp, and to a public swimming pool, the girls’ showers had no cubicles! It was just one big room with shower heads in a row. At first I was very reluctant, but then I decided to just suck it up and embrace the Danish way of life. I highly recommend this experience. It’s only awkward if you make it awkward.

Another thing I didn’t expect was how depressing and energy-sucking the cold darkness can be. In January, the sun rose at 8.30 and set at 4pm. The short, cold days and lack of sunshine made me feel tired and a lot drearier than in summer. I wish I could’ve been more positive and taken initiative to do fun things and socialized and continued exploring the city, but honestly I just wanted to crawl into a hole and lie there most days. In Summertime the sun sets at 9pm though, and it’s the bomb dot com.

Danish Food!

Tips & Advice for Future Students

  • You must get a bike. It’s the easiest, cheapest, most fun way to get around. Make sure you lock it every time though. Biking around the city and surrounding suburbs is super easy and so beautiful, especially during summer.
  • If you try to learn Danish, make sure you practice speaking early on! Danes love helping and correcting you and teaching you phrases.
  • Get a Citibank no fee debit card. The exchange rate is good and there are no fees. I used this card for all my travels and time in Denmark.
  • Try the ‘ristet pølse med det hele’ from the hotdog stand behind the Vesterbro train station. It’s a hotdog with mustard, ketchup, remoulade, raw onions, fried crispy onions and pickles.
  • Zaggi’s cafe near Nørreport does 15kr (3 aud) coffees and cakes!
  • Many of the museums and galleries are free on certain days of the week, be sure to visit them because they are all very cool! Especially the National Gallery of Denmark.
  • Try to visit Dyrehaven — this park used to be the royal hunting grounds and now it’s where adorable deer roam free!
  • Not to be mixed up with the park, Cafe Dyrehaven does excellent smørrebrød for ~$10 aud each. The chicken one and potato one are nice.
  • If you visit Malmo (the Swedish city across the bridge from Copenhagen), try to take a daytrip to Lund as well. It’s a small, cute town.
  • Shop at Flying Tiger and Søstrene Grene for cute, cheap homewares when you first move in. They’re a bit like Kmart.
  • Do lots of outdoor stuff in summer! Fælledparken (park), Superkilen (park), the lakes, Dyrehaven, paddleboating, the beach, botanic gardens, FLEAMARKETS, Kongens Have (the King’s Park)… there is so much to do and it is so so so beautiful.
  • Fall in love with Copenhagen and go back one day :’)

What One Can Do Tomorrow, One Can Do Today

Harry B., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

The task of conveying my experience on exchange feels somewhat futile, for what made the experience unforgettable – the people met, language learnt, and culture lived – cannot, without losing something of its charm, be neatly distilled into a blog post. Can my friends, my parents, really understand just what it was that I underwent, why it was that I relished my time overseas; the experience and memories being so subjectively and personally my own. Perhaps this scepticism is shared by the exchange faculty, who advised in the writing of this post I focus on the university, facilities, costs, campus life and general tips – in short, just the most useful and easily digestible snippets of information addressed to the palate of the reader who is preparing, or contemplating, their own experience, not so much yours. So it is this I have attempted in the following few paragraphs.

The Berlin School of Economics and Law, where I studied, is in German classified a Hochschule – something of a university, but on a smaller scale, with smaller class and campus sizes. My lectures rarely had more than 30 people, my tutorials even less. This is vastly different to QUT and, I discovered, quite to my liking. For it was because of this the students became better friends, and the learning experience more intimate. Downsides do exist, but are not sufficient, surely, to hamper things: the library was to my mind under resourced, having neither enough places to study, nor computers to use. But I am guessing those reading this, if they’re on exchange, will not frequent the library all that often. My chief gripe, which is to the detriment of us internationals, is the absence of a well organised and supported club for exchange students. Although some effort was being made to remedy this towards the end of my stay, this was of no help to me, whose efforts to meet people would have been greatly assisted by an organisation, like QUT Exchange Buddies Club here, which organised bar nights and activities. Again, given the city in which you live, Berlin, is not short of entertainment, you may not find this gripe as deleterious as did I. But certainly one has a far better time gallivanting around with friends, than without, and it is through clubs run for the benefit of exchange students you meet such comrades.

I resided in private accommodation, which was quite expensive. Places in Berlin are becoming dearer and harder to find, so ensure you secure a place to live –using, say, AirBnb or or the fantastic WG-gesucht.com – well, well, in advance. Alternatively, one could through the university apply for a room in a student dorm, run by the organisation Studentenwerk. Though in general further out from the city centre, they are very affordable and populated with students. You will find, I am told, that the commute is not prohibitively long (especially biking to the train station) – at least not so long as to negate the other, sizable benefits of staying there.

Berlin, apart from the sometimes high cost of private accommodation, is affordable. We live in an expensive country, so I suppose wheresoever we go we will be pleasantly surprised, but everything – public transport, food and groceries, alcohol, entertainment, health insurance – is markedly less expensive than Brisbane.

As to the culture of the place, I have been on a previous exchange to Germany, that time to Mannheim, and must say, the feel of Berlin is itself unique; it has no counterpart, I do not think, across country or even Europe. Frankly, I can imagine few places where a student exchange would be more fitting. There is plenty to do and see – which you probably did not require my assurance of. I recommend learning the language: there is an intensive class offered in the month preceding the commencement of classes. It helps to know a few words. Culture shock, to be honest, is not the problem it may have been in other Germany cities and towns. Berlin is extremely cosmopolitan, an unbelievable melting pot, and it is not uncommon to hear many different languages spoken in cafes and trains. To be sure, there are many locals earnestly going about their business, whose sensibilities you ought not to disregard. But on the whole, people tend to coexist in acceptance of and harmony with everyone else.

Tips:

  • Should you have the money, get German health insurance (80 Euro per month) – this will save you some hassle.
  • Ration your money, spent wisely and be resourceful.
  • Without being reckless, take risks: you are, for a short period, incognito.
  • Meet people and make friends as quickly as possible, organise outings.
  • Improve your cooking, stay healthy, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and take vitamin pills.
  • Above all: do not waste what little time you have. You will be on your long haul hour flight back to banal Brisbane before you know it, so hit the ground running, be prepared and make no excuses for yourself. What one can do tomorrow, one can do today.

Getting Giddy in Glasgow

Liam M., Bachelor of Journalism / Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
University of Glasgow, Scotland (Semester 2, 2016)

There is a saying in french: Il n’y a d’homme plus complet que celui qui a beaucoup voyage, qui a change vingt fois la forme de sa pensée et de sa vie, which means that there is no man more complete than he who has travelled a lot, who has changed the shape of his thoughts and his life twenty times. And to be frank, I think this sums up my exchange experience beautifully.

For me the whole idea of embarking on an exchange program was to broaden my mind and my life through another culture or cultures so that upon my return I could come back enriched with life experience, great memories and stories that I will remember forever. I have been fortunate throughout my life to have travelled with my family, but there is nothing quite like moving overseas by yourself for the very first time. This was my reality on the 23rd of August 2016 as I ventured on a 26 hour flight to Paris, and then eventually over to the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Words couldn’t describe the emotions that I was feeling after spending over a week in Paris, five days in London and then finally arriving in Glasgow. As I hopped out of Glasgow Central train station I arrived in what could be described as typical Scottish summer weather, 13 degrees and raining. However, I couldn’t be more excited to move into my student flat.

Over the coming days and weeks everything seemed to move very fast. From moving in, to making new friends and countless orientation activities and to the infamous “freshers week” everything was great. I couldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world. However, nothing will challenge you more on exchange than being essentially alone, and sick overseas. Halfway through freshers week, I had contracted tonsillitis for the very first time, and it was a very trying time as I attempted to take care of myself, while extremely sick. This is probably one thing you cannot prepare for before going on exchange, as no one can predict how healthy you’re going to be while overseas. However, it taught me that you really have to look after yourself no matter how much fun you’re having, eat good food, get enough sleep and in Scotland, wear the appropriate warm clothes so you don’t get sick. The University of Glasgow had made every exchange student feel extremely welcome by throwing all sorts of events throughout the coming weeks. One particular favourite was the Ceilidh, a Scottish party where traditional dances take place.

Throughout the semester I took three subjects, equivalent to QUT’s four. I probably didn’t enjoy them as much as I should have, but learning about a different country’s legal system was interesting albeit challenging at the same time. I made a lot of friends at GU, who weren’t just exchange students. This is because I joined the legal society and GUSWPC, which is Glasgow Uni’s swimming and water-polo club. This was probably the highlight of my time abroad because I made many local Scottish and English friends that will be in my life for many, many years. This would be my main recommendation to anyone going on exchange and wanting to immerse themselves in their host universities life: join a club or society that you’re interested in, as it is the easiest way to make local friends and to really have a good time. I was lucky enough to be selected on the men’s water-polo and men’s swimming teams. With swimming, I was able to compete at the British National University Championships, local club meets, inter-university league matches and the Scottish National Swimming Championships. I even took part in a swimming camp in the Canary Islands after my exchange had finished, which was the best way to say goodbye to my Scottish friends.

I also got a job while in Glasgow, and this showed me a very different side to Scottish culture and allowed me to experience different things while abroad. I was also able to spend my hard earned Scottish pounds. I made the most of days off uni and weekends when I wasn’t working by travelling around Scotland and England as much as I could. From St. Andrews, to Edinburgh, to the Scottish Highlands and the different Lochs and Isles. Scotland was more beautiful than I imagined. Though, throughout all this travelling I still had to keep up with my studies, and before I knew it, Christmas exams were around the corner and it dawned on me that the end of my time in Glasgow was almost here. I tried to extend my exchange for another semester, but subject approvals let me down. Nevertheless I couldn’t have been happier with how my time in Scotland went.

However, even though my exchange at Glasgow was up, my real travelling time was just beginning. From the beginning of January to the end of February I visited 14 countries throughout Europe and the middle-east, I made lots of friends, had many sleepless nights, ate delicious different foods, got food poisoning, went skiing in the Austrian Alps, visited eastern Europe and made many memories that will be with me forever. I really couldn’t have asked for a better exchange experience, because everything I did, I loved, and I wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe applying for a year exchange instead of 6 months 😛 ). However, I have come back a more mature, sophisticated, well travelled boy who can now share my stories in the hopes that many other future QUT students use their abilities to embark on what really is a once in a life time opportunity to study abroad. Thank you Study Abroad QUT for giving me this opportunity. I couldn’t be more grateful.

The Exchange Timeline: A Comprehensive Guide to What You Will Think and Feel

Claire B., Bachelor of Journalism
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2017)

I wanted to write a blog post that I thought would be helpful for future exchange students to read, but I didn’t want to write a “What I Wish I Knew”, “Highlights Of My Exchange” or “What I Have Learnt” blog, so instead I am going to tell you the cycle of emotions you will feel whilst on exchange.

 

1. “I’m sorry… what? Could you just slow down and write that all down for me because I have no idea what you just said” – when you arrive on exchange people like to bombard you with information (verbal and paper form). They usually speak like you have a mild idea of what you are doing (which you don’t) and deliver all 10 steps to settling in at once, instead of 1 at a time.

2. “Hmmm how do I make friends?” – so you arrive and you are entirely disorientated, confused and tired but you have to make friends otherwise you are going to be alone and miserable for the next 6 months… but you haven’t had to make new friends since starting year 8. It’s okay, take a breath and say hi… and if necessary acting entirely desperate usually gets sympathy invites.

3. Homesickness – for some this may happen earlier than others, its usually worse when special occasions roll around and can even come in waves but it’s important to remember that this is an amazing opportunity and once you get home again, you’ll be asking yourself “why did I want to come back to my boring life where I have no money or job?” So make the most of it!

4. “Assignments? You mean this isn’t a holiday” – it may not affect your GPA but you do still have to do work to pass… shocking right?

5. Everyone in your last week of exchange: “Bet you are looking forward to going home!” You: “I’m happy sad… happy to see everyone back home, but sad to say goodbye to those I have met” – you create a life for yourself on exchange, a mini family and support network. You achieve so much and it seems heartbreaking to leave it all behind, but you know that on the other end of the ridiculously long flight home (because you live in Australia that is basically in the middle of nowhere and near nothing) there are a group of people that love you.