Find a real winter in the UK

Tayla B
Bachelor of Creative Industries
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

 

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

It’s colder than you might think!

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

 

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

Making friends while on exchange is the best experience

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

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

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

Snowball fights and study at Simon Fraser University

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Snowboarding while on Exchange

Settling into Thai time

It has almost been two weeks since I first touched down in Thailand. Although I haven’t been here long yet, I have already faced so many challenges and have discovered many fascinating things about life in Thailand.

As this is my first blog post I think I am going to answer one of the most common questions I have been asked “why did you choose to study abroad in Thailand?” as well as how settling in to a new and very different home has been so far.

When I decided I wanted to go on exchange I spent a long time working out where exactly I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to go somewhere very different from Australia. I also knew that I wanted to travel quite a bit while I was away so finding somewhere affordable and close to other countries was also important. The last criteria I had was I wanted to be able to receive credit for core subjects while I was abroad. Out of all the options I was given Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand was able to tick the most boxes. Whilst for me Thailand seemed to be the best option it was quite clear that for most other students at QUT it was not. The lack of previous students having attended Thammasat University made it difficult to talk to someone who knew exactly what life would be like there. Also, due to the language barrier, many aspects of the university website were confusing and unclear. The lack of information about my studies and other things like how easy it would be to make friends and the best places to live was quite frankly a bit terrifying.

Thammasat University uniform

I arrived in Bangkok on the 2nd of January hoping to relieve some of my concerns during orientation week. The first event that I attended was uniform shopping. Yes, that is correct, in Thailand university students generally wear uniforms. I began to get a better picture of how the university and Thai student life worked after speaking to some of the Thai students that helped us buy our uniforms.

  1. The faculty I was in meant that I only had to wear a uniform when I was having mid-semester or final exams.
  2. Out of the 80 odd new exchange students only one other would be up at the Rangsit campus (just north of Bangkok) with me because most of the English programs were at the campus in the city.
  3. Thai people are really friendly and helpful people.

The university also paired me up with a couple of Thai students who studied up on the Rangsit campus. Both girls that I was paired up with were very lovely and helpful. They guided me on everything from how to get around to where to live. Although I was fortunate to have such supportive people helping me out I still struggled with simple things such as reading and signing the lease of the apartment I am living in. It may have been translated into English but the sentences did not make much sense. Since I was no longer in the tourist area asking a taxi or motorbike driver to take me somewhere was very difficult and it helped me realise how important learning some Thai would be for survival while I am studying here.

I have had one week of classes and so far, I have had a mixture of teachers. Some have been extremely charismatic, and good at English. Whereas others have been quite strict or had to ask other students to help translate some sentences into English for me. Either way being in journalism and communication classes have already proved to be a great way to get an inside look at different issues in Thailand and aspects of Thai culture that are not as obvious. I am very interested to see what the rest of the semester holds.

Although I came to Thailand with a bunch of concerns I have been able to work through all of the challenges and so far I am very happy with how everything is going. Being at Rangsit campus has turned out to be a positive. It has helped me to be able to befriend more Thai students than I would have been able to otherwise. I am also really lucky that the other exchange student in my faculty is really awesome and it has been great to have someone to travel to places near our campus and places closer into Bangkok with. I have learnt so much about Thailand and myself already and cannot wait for the next four and a half months here. I am going to try and post as much as I can on Instagram so if you would like to see more of my travels follow gabcarter.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Trying hot pot with a friend from Hong Kong

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

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

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

The time of your life in Trento

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

The major strengths of the university is its exchange student associations that really do go out of their way to include new comers and let them see the fascinating places within and outside of Trento and better yet hold weekly events to ensure that everyone throughout the exchange form a group in a sense and make new connections globally. The university also offers student accommodation which is another huge way for students to connect foreign and domestic. In this regards I was able to meet wonderful people all around the world and from Italy and found new friends that throughout the exchanged helped me and made things bright and very fun for me.

The wonderful people living in student accommodation with me

The floor had a tradition of having a ‘Big Party’ at the beginning of the semester to welcome the new floor mates giving a great opportunity to formally introduce yourself and sensing the atmosphere that will be ever present in the floor. The photo above is everyone on the floor .The students each studied something different which I felt was a strong point as it would intrigue my curiosity in not only what they personally studied but how it worked in their own country and here in Trento.

The accommodation in depth functioned as a floor being a single unit. Each person had their own separate room with bathroom, bed, wardrobe, balcony, study desk and bedside lamp. The floor had a single kitchen and bathroom and balcony in which the cooking area was shared having lockers for each individuals cooking equipment and food and sharing fridges with a certain amount of people.

The view of the mountains from my accommodation

 

Continuing on for what the accommodation had to offer is that there were gyms, sports ground, music area and even a Unibar that was open breakfast to dinner all days. There was even a rock climbing centre around the corner which I personally enjoyed whenever I could go. The student accommodations are located 25minute walk from the city centre however was backed up right next to a train station which was super convenient.

What to expect in Trento, small-town Italy

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

 

My exchange program was placed and set in the northern part of Italy, Trento, a small city town that is located in the gulf between two mountains. Initially I had chosen this partner university by its impressive range of subjects that it offered in the field that interested me, biomedical engineering.

At this point I had no idea how things functioned overseas in a different culture and found myself in a new position of having to adjust myself. First arriving to meet my professors and colleagues I was nervous being relatively young and with the most minimal experience in comparison to those within the laboratory. This led me to the feeling as if I was inadequate to be there among everyone else as, I believed, the skill gap was too big for me.

However the hospitality, warmness and kindness of those within the laboratory aided me into being confident and strengthen myself immensely with how the exchange would progress.

 

The main square ‘duomo’ in which the statue of Poseidon with the trident stands on top of a well

Trento in itself, is a very small town located 100km above Verona (between Venice and Milan) and still holds dear the architecture, customs and style of a town well aged. The noticeable different between QUT and the University of Trento was the campus, unlike QUT where faculties have their respective buildings (P Block – Engineers, D Block – Design, etc) Trento had the faculties located around the town, with the major campus being in the city centre and the others in the surrounding suburbs. The University of Trento is a very beautiful and well-functioning university. The facilities that are offered are extremely well thought out and also aesthetically pleasing bringing a lighter to mood to things.

 

In addition to this, there were cafeterias. This was something totally foreign to me but as I visited it daily, I found myself enjoying it and soon enough become accustomed to it.

New Sights, New Smells – Hong Kong

“Learn a little Cantonese and the locals will bend their backs to help you out”

Arriving in Hong Kong on my first day was both exciting and daunting at the same time – I had only been overseas less than a handful of times, let alone traveling by myself on this occasion. However, upon stepping foot on the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, the crowds, the dazzling LED lights and the new smells were comforting – I knew then that my time in Hong Kong was only going to get better.

If you plan to come to Hong Kong, you may notice (as I did) that Hong Kong locals hold different conceptions of “personal space”. I first noticed this when I boarded the Hong Kong MTR (a feature of Hong Kong which you will become very familiar with and learn to appreciate very much) from the Hong Kong airport to my hotel. Locals were comfortable with standing or sitting close together on trains, buses or public transport in general.

This was interesting as it was a quick introduction to the cultural differences between Hong Kong and Australia. As such, if you do find yourself in the Hong Kong MTR or on a bus and a local sits or stands next to you despite there being an abundance of space or seats available – this is not meant to intrude but rather to save space.

Scenes such as this are not uncommon in Hong Kong – Photo Credit Arnold M

Hong Kong locals are friendly, warm and will do what they can to accommodate your needs. You will often find this when you order food at a restaurant or food stall. Despite the inherent language barriers, locals will find ways to communicate and help you with your order. If you wish, you may reciprocate their kindness by thanking the person who served you in Cantonese – this is very much appreciated. There are an abundance of resources available in YouTube or Google to help you with basic Cantonese.

For those of you who are excited to try the cuisine in Hong Kong, do not fret, I will address the very interesting topic of cuisine in another blog post given its vast and varied nature.

I am currently undertaking my single exchange semester in City University of Hong Kong (CityU). CityU is located in Kowloon Tong and is very accessible by the MTR as the university is connected to the MTR station via a small tunnel. CityU offers a diverse range of courses which range from studies in European and Asian languages to Principles of Nuclear Engineering.

Although the CityU campus is not large, it contains many interesting features of which I highly recommend that you take advantage of to help you make the most of your exchange semester – from swimming pools, restaurants and large canteens, rooftop gardens to barbecue facilities (rest assured I will taking advantage of the latter).

CityU has some very interesting areas where you can relax and escape the heat.

To close, if you do find yourself entertaining the idea of studying abroad for one or two semesters – do not hesitate any longer and visit the STAE office in level 1 of A block in QUT GP campus.

I will be covering more things about Hong Kong, so watch this space再見 (joigin)

A Semester in the True North

Kathryn Frost – Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Ottawa (Semester 1, 2017 Exchange)

I was fortunate enough to spend Semester 1, 2017 completing an exchange at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. Applying for an exchange at the University of Ottawa was definitely the best decision I’ve ever made and my exchange takes the cake as the best six months of my life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studying at Ottawa

I was enrolled in the Faculty of Common Law, but in addition to studying two law subjects, I was also able to study two history subjects within the Faculty of Arts. Whilst the academic system at uOttawa was similar to QUT, I noticed some differences:

  • Class sizes for my law subjects were a lot smaller than at QUT – there were only 20 students in each of my subjects!
  • I had a lot more contact hours at uOttawa than I have had at QUT. As I had to attend two classes per week for each subject, I had classes 5 days per week.
  • Classes aren’t recorded and most professors take attendance, so you really do have to attend classes.

Accommodation

The majority of exchange students that I knew lived in Brooks Residence, which made for a fun living arrangement. I lived in a four-bedroom apartment in Brooks Residence, with an English and Belgian housemate. Some of the highlights of living in residence included many communal dinners, sleepovers and 2am fire evacuations! Living on campus has many benefits, including proximity to university facilities and classes (which is very convenient during winter when you have to trek through very cold and snowy weather on icy footpaths to get to class!) but also the atmosphere and experience of on-campus life is unbeatable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Life & Activities

I attended numerous university events including the annual Capital Hoops basketball game where the uOttawa Gee-Gees face off against the Carleton University Ravens at the Canadian Tire Centre, ice hockey games, as well as the campus Poutine and Snow Festivals and weekly pet therapy sessions! The International Office ran an exchange buddy program, and also organized events for exchange students, including a day trip to Parc Oméga in Quebec, a Canadian-style safari park, and tickets to a NHL game at the Canadian Tire Centre. I attended a weekend trip to Quebec City including a day of dog sledding, snowmobiling and ice fishing, and a 3-day trip to the North of Canada to stay with Indigenous people and learn about their way of life, both of which were organized by the university’s outdoor activities coordinator.

The Weather

One important thing to note about living on the east coast of Canada is the weather! It can get extremely cold in winter. The coldest weather I experienced was -32, with the wind chill factor making it ‘feel like’ -35. Most of the buildings at uOttawa are connected so that students can avoid walking outside on very cold days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Future Students

  • In the semester that I was studying at uOttawa, Law students didn’t have a ‘reading week’ (i.e. mid-semester break), whereas every other faculty did, so keep that in mind when you are making travel plans.
  • I would definitely encourage future students to study a French language subject while at uOttawa. This is something I wish I had done!

 

 

 

 

It is nearly impossible to pick the highlight of my exchange, having experienced so many new and incredible things during my time in Ottawa and throughout my travels. However, the clear winner would have to be the friends I made during my time in Ottawa. I am so lucky to have met so many incredible people from all over the world (including Canada!) who I know will be friends for life. These friends definitely made my exchange experience all that it was and I look forward to meeting up with them again in the future.

 

Norwegian Adventure

Kathleen, O. Bachelor of Business

Norwegian Business School (Semester 2, 2017)

Norway? Why did you pick Norway? – Most common question I received after getting my acceptance letter. Next in line was Australia *shocked face* gosh that must have been a long flight, how long did it take? Really long mostly, but it was definitely worth it.

Snow = Building a Snowman

So why did I pick Norway? Well it was as far away from Australia I could think of, I was getting the opportunity of immersing myself into a different culture (but where they still speak English) and I was guaranteed to see snow. I have seen snow before just FYI but come on its snow, who doesn’t like snow?!Well I got to see snow, sadly only for a couple of weeks but I can now say that I lived somewhere it snowed, so I’m happy.

Host Country:

Norway is a beautiful country with its extremely picturesque mountains and fjords. For my exchange in Norway, I was based in the capital city, Oslo. It was a bit of an adjustment for me because while it’s the capital city, Norway does only have a population of 5.3 million so Oslo wasn’t really a big city.

Christmas markets

It may be a small city but its big at heart, there is always something going on in the city.

 

Like most European countries, transportation in Oslo was great and easy to use, I love ferries and one of my highlights during my stay in Oslo was catching a ferry to the Islands on the fjord, have a picnic, watch the sunset and see some natural wildlife – I was followed around the island by a couple of foxes, so cute. The downside to Oslo and Norway is that the cost of living is high, so be prepared to come home broke like I did. The transportation card for 30 days costs about 70 AUD, rent (I was staying at the student dorms run by the university) including electricity will set you back somewhere around the 600-700AUD a month. I would recommend the student dorms though, because they mostly come fully furnished so you don’t have to buy much.

Host University:

Studying at BI is a bit different to QUT there is a lot more emphasis on independent study. You still have the standard 3-hour contact hours, but instead of a lecture and tutorial, it’s just a 3-hour lecture. Also at least for me my final grade was 100% made of by my final exam or term paper. Which was a bit daunting and I found that it made studying at BI a lot harder than at QUT, as there was no way to assess how I was

Bergen

actually doing with the course content and if I needed to put more study time in. Thankfully, to pass you only require 30%, which was lucky for me as I spend more time travelling then studying.

 

One of the things I really liked abut studying at BI was the events they run throughout the semester focused but not exclusively towards international and exchange students. So there was free weekly coffee days, hiking and activity trips, and free food. Once a month (ish) BI runs a free food night, usually themed, called BI-nner. You have to get in fast though because everyone likes a free feed and tickets sell out in minutes. The University of Oslo also holds free movie nights once a fortnight, in their lecture halls. Its just a 10min train ride to the University from BI, so as ways to save money but hang out with your new found friends, this is a must.

Travel:

While I was living in Norway, I spend some time travelling Norway. I went to Bergen via the train – the worlds best scenic train ride apparently – and they are not wrong.

Northern Lights

Plus side too is that train is a lot cheaper than flying in Norway, downside it takes nearly 3 times as long to get where you are going. I also went to Tromso, saw the northern lights and went dog sledding. As recommendations go, Tromso or the Loften Islands is a must do if you are ever in Norway. I also got to travel around Europe. I went to Amsterdam with the International Student Society at BI. One of my friends and I also spent the weekend in Budapest – such a beautiful city and really cheap. We also spend a week in London after our exams had finished.

View from Buda Castle

We saw the Lion King and Aladdin, saw the sunset over London from the eye and shopped, shopped until our hearts were content.

I could go on about all the amazing things I did and saw while on my exchange but I would be here for ages. So my parting gift – seriously go on an exchange, I can’t recommend it enough! It is worth every dollar of my spend pennies.

Oh Candaaaa!

Rosanna, E. Bachelor of Business and Creative Industries

Ryerson University (Semester 1, 2017)

I experienced my exchange in Toronto, Canada and endured the frigid winter that it put on display. This was the first challenge I faced; the lead up to my exchange was so swift and overwhelmingly busy at times, that I had forgotten to prepare myself for -20 degree days, not including wind chill. I quickly discovered that I am a Queenslander at heart, I became a sun-worshiper and tested my room-mate’s patience with me as I constantly pointed out how cold it was and refused to go outside if it wasn’t a necessity.

Me playing in snow for the first time

I resided in a co-op building which was recommended to all the exchange students who were attending Ryerson University. This was great as it meant practically everyone who was involved in the program also lived, ate and drank together daily. My room-mates quickly became my closest friends which I cherished when battling my homesickness. This was another thing that shocked me and something I really didn’t think I would experience! I hopelessly missed the clear blue skies of Brisbane and the constant stream of vitamin D from the sun; it’s safe to say that I truly experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)! EVERYTHING changed for me though on my mid-semester break, where my French room-mate and I took a spontaneous trip to Mexico. The trip healed my longing for sun while simultaneously changing my perspective on my not-yet enjoyed experience. People who go on exchange do-so for a reason; whether that may be to experience new things, for personal growth, to travel while studying or to drink your way through classes and scrape by with a satisfactory grade. For me, acknowledging that I was homesick and deciding to accept that and embrace the opportunity that I had worked so hard to give myself was the best decision I made.

The Toronto sky line from Toronto Island

I began to embrace the snow and the ice glazed streets and the fact that I could never feel my hands or feet. More importantly though, I embraced the people I was meeting and opened to the idea that my friends back home didn’t have to be my only friends. My greatest joy that the exchange program brought me were the friendships I found. People on exchange generally have this mentality and openness to life that I loved. Everyone is there with the assumption socialising is a priority, thus people had a zest for life and new experiences. It was refreshing and an opportunity to break away from the predispositions I felt held me back in Brisbane and an opportunity for me to become more confident in myself. Exchange gave me the time away from home that gave me the opportunity to be truly isolated from the friends and family that have surrounded me my whole life. I could experience who I was and what I wanted without those external influences and it felt quite liberating!

The Washington sister Women’s March in Toronto

I now have a new fondness and appreciation for home and the people there while also having a lust and excitement for travelling to unfamiliar places. The exchange program created a catalyst for me to be confident in myself and my passions and has enabled me to have a zestiness for life to carry out and achieve big blinding goals that I would never have thought I could achieve before leaving home! I’m very grateful that I took advantage of the opportunity and have signed up for a study tour in Peru at the end of this year to further my personal growth!