Fall Semester in Amsterdam City!

Darcy, C.
Hodgeschool Van Amsterdam (Semester 2, 2016)

The reality of living in Amsterdam city is a true as the picturesque photos. It is all bikes in busy lanes, tourists flooding Dam square, tree lined canals, beautiful cobbled streets and beautiful townhouses to match. What’s more, you’ll see coffee houses beside museums, reflecting the truly unique culture of Amsterdam and it’s people. Unlike the relaxed culture though, the Dutch are very direct – kind but direct.

Living in Amsterdam offers so many options. Not only is it centrally located in Europe, making travelling easy and affordable, but Amsterdam itself is a very small city and very easy to navigate, especially on your bike. It’s perfect for one semester abroad but perhaps too small for two.

I studied at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (also known as the University of Applied Sciences) studying a Minor in Business of Sports and Entertainment. As part of this minor, my class visited London meeting with Ticketmaster UK. While we were based in the classroom as well, half of our assessment was based on our work with a real world client, developing real initiatives and campaigns for implementation. I would highly recommend enrolling in a Minor course, rather than selecting your own individual classes; as you work with the same people every day, four days a week, you develop very strong friendships within the classroom – making it very easy to meet people. My class was a mix of half Dutch and half international students. The assessment was relatively easy in comparison to QUT though (which was a welcomed surprise).

What about living arrangements?

I lived in a private room at the Fraijlemaborg (Fry-lem-a-borg) student dorms. These dorms were home to 170 other international students across 6 floors and literally right next door to the university. All in all, the standard of living was great and much better than I expected. The rooms were quite large and the facilities were ample – the only downside is that our accommodation was quite far from the city centre which made nights out a tactical mission to ensure you are on the last (or first) train home – the centre was too far to cycle most nights.

My favourite Saturday’s were spent at breakfast at CT Coffee & Coconuts and my favourite evenings began at Leed and Webber in Leidesplein and then to the Chicago Social Club in Rembrantplein.

Amsterdam is such a wonderful city that will show you art, culture & all four seasons in four short months. I was surprised to discover that weather in Holland in very similar to England. Typically in cooler months, its windy, drizzles with rain, and is very overcast. I can say that my stay was mostly sunshine… lucky me.

A few Do’s and Don’t’s to living in Amsterdam:

  1. Do buy a bike
    It will save you so much money on public transport and is quintessential to the dutch life. 9makes for a great photo too). You can buy your bike at the second hand flea markets (although the Dutch aren’t fond of these markets whichs ell stolen bikes) or the Amsterdam Bike Marketplace facebook page for cheaper, better and more reliable bikes. Consider investing in two locks, bike theft is notorious (hence the second hand markets) and you’ll want to ensure your bike has gears… one speed is just too slow for the Dutch.
  2. Do arrive on time for Orientation week
  3. It is a week long of socialising – you’ll meet your semester long friends immediately and kick off your new social life. Miss it and you’re off to a wobbly start as events are significantly less after wards.
  4. Do learn please and thank you
    Thank you: Dank je wel (dunk-ya-vell)
    Please: Alstubleift (Alst-oo-bleeft)
  5. Don’t bother asking ‘Do you speak English?’
    Everyone speaks English – probably better than you. You will more often than not be greeted in English and hear it all around – it is considered the business language.
  6. Don’t photograph the ladies of the Red Light District. ‘Do’ and find out what happens…

Go to Amsterdam.

There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes

Thomas, M., Bachelor of Business and Law
University of Glasgow (Semester 1 & 2, 2016)

Study:
The standard and method of study is very similar to QUT. The one big difference however is that most lectures are not recorded. Otherwise the study experience is just like QUT, in that there is a mix of tutorials, seminars, and lectures and there are similar expectations placed on students.

Hillhead campus in November taken from Argyle St

Campus:
The UoG (University of Glasgow) campus at Hillhead is as stunning as the pictures show. Not only is it beautiful but there are plenty of amenities including a gym, two student union complexes, numerous cafes, libraries, and study areas.

Accommodation:
In my first semester I stayed at Firhill student accommodation. Firhill, like Murano, is a long way from campus and is unfortunately not in a vibrant part of the city. It does however offer well-appointed accommodation with (tiny) ensuites however it is quite a distance from West End and campus which becomes annoying especially when the Glasgow weather sets in.

During my second semester I stayed in Kelvinhaugh student accommodation. This is a much better option, although not as modern and without personal bathrooms. Kelvinhaugh is ideally located 10 minutes walk from campus in the suburb of Finneston. Kelvinhaugh Street Student accommodation is surrounded by cafes, bars and Kelvingrove Park, and is a short walk from the city and Byres Road in the West End.

The other accommodation option to consider is Student Apartments. They have the best location as they are located on campus in the heart of West End. However it is highly sought after so you may need get accepted. That being said, everyone I knew that had stayed there loved it.

Costs:
On the whole I found Glasgow to be cheaper than Brisbane, particularly in regards to food (groceries and eating out). I set myself a strict budget of 40 pounds per week (roughly $80 AUD), but this meant that I could travel around Europe on my weekends.

Camping on the Isle of Skye (taken in March): wouldn’t recommend in Winter/Autumn

Travel:
There is plenty to see around Scotland and there are a number of tours set up specifically for exchange students. These are great as an easy way to see the country however it can be better to do some things on your own and at your own pace. If you are old enough renting a car is one of the best ways to see the highlands.

The downside about Glasgow was that its airport is relatively small so there wasn’t a lot of flights going in and out to mainland Europe or the rest of the UK. On the upside there is a bus that travels to the Stansted airport (just outside London) which is super cheap, 5-10 pounds. Added bonus there are heaps of cheap flights to Europe from Stansted airport.
Top Tips:

  • If you can only go for one semester, my recommendation would go in Semester 2 (January – June) more time to travel, plus you get to experience what winter is actually like.
  • Definitely attend all the exchange and introduction events they are a great way to meet people
  • Join clubs and societies, get involved, its a great way to increase your chances of meeting Scottish students
  • See as much of Scotland as possible don’t be put off by the weather (“There is no bad weather, only bad clothes)

I cannot recommend Glasgow enough and if you go you are guaranteed to have a great time!

The Beginning of an Adventure

Destination: PHILIPPINES!

Two weeks ago now, I left Australia to officially begin the next chapter, the adventure of a lifetime.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m Lauren, 19 years old, travel lover, tea enthusiast and extremely passionate about human rights and international affairs. I’m currently in my third year studying a Bachelor of Justice and I’ve just moved to MANILA in the Philippines!

The view from my apartment

I am incredibly lucky to have been awarded a 2017 New Colombo Plan Scholarship to undertake study and internships across the Indo-Pacific Region for up to 18 months!!

At the moment, my Scholarship starts out in Manila, with a two month internship at The Asia Foundation in their Law and Human Rights team, before I head to Indonesia to begin studying International Relations at Parahyangan Catholic University. I’ll tell you more about that in a later blog.

New Colombo Plan Scholarship Awards Presentation

It’s not all smooth sailing…

Leaving Australia, and in particular, leaving my family was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The reality that I will be away from home for such an extended period of time really hit me hard.

After saying goodbye

As I collected my boarding pass and started walking to the departure gate, I started to realise that leaving on this journey wasn’t just any adventure. This time, I was not going to be coming home in a matter of weeks or months and seeing my family again. Here I was thinking I could be cool, calm and collected, instead in a bawling mess.  All I could think was how lucky I am to have people in my life that make saying goodbye so difficult.

The first few days were a rollercoaster of emotions, an anarchic mix of doubt, angst and euphoria, but mostly, fear of the unknown. At times, I’ve felt alone and so far out of my depth, just wishing I was back at home in my own bed. However, as I’ve started to become acquainted with Manila and explore this unique, beautifully chaotic city I am beginning to feel more and more at home.

So far, my first two weeks have consisted of, settling into my internship at The Asia Foundation, organising my accommodation and urging myself to wander the city.

I’ve found it a little strange adapting to the work environment here in the Philippines. The work is challenging with tough deadlines, and high expectations. Basically, I was thrown in the deep end, right from the day one.

Dinner with the LAHR Team

There’s no denying that taking that first step can be hard, but that first grim instance is so worth every single phenomenal experience you will have.

If I could give you any advice, it would be to just take a risk, and dive right in! Never pass up an opportunity because it’s a little daunting or because you’re scared of the unknown – the challenge part of the adventure!

Until next time, paalam!

Please feel free to connect with me if you have any questions regarding exchange, the Philippines, Indonesia, internships, the New Colombo Plan – anything, I would love to hear from you!

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Lights, Camera, Action!

Miranda E, Bachelor of Fine Arts

Lights, Camera, Action Summer program at Michigan State University (July, 2016)

I remember first hearing about the coordinator from America coming over to our uni to present this course. I’m not really a person that enjoys being away from home but I thought this would be an amazing opportunity as I have always wanted to do study over seas while at university. The course seemed like it would help me as well as network plus the idea of studying film in America excited me. Upon arrival, we were welcomed at the bus stop and shown to our dorms. They made it very welcoming even before we arrived as they set up a Facebook page for us to start meeting people and a Snapchat for everyone to follow.

Michigan University is a massive campus with pretty good facilities. Although the dorms we stayed in weren’t that nice, bit dirty and the water smelt like metal, the overall building was nice with a corner shop on the first floor and a basement at the bottom with a TV, laundry, air con and  a ping pong table. The cafeterias had great food and a wide variety to choose from.

I didn’t feel that welcomed by a particular receptionist at times as I felt like she didn’t care and felt like she was rude and giving me attitude however that could have been cultural differences that caused that. There was plenty of restaurants outside the university within walking distance and a bus that left from the university to take us to handy shops. We each had our own room to ourselves and shared a bathroom with another person which would normally be someone from our home university. The room was a good size which contained draws, a fan, light, desk, bed, pillow and sheets. Pillow covers and sheets you could swap for new ones when you felt like it. However Tuesdays were the preferred day by the workers. The bathroom contained a toilet, sink and shower. There was a laundry downstairs with a number of washing machines and dryers you could use for free 24/7.

I studied ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ which was a really fun and interesting course. We got to make two films and a behind the scenes edition. One of the films we entered into LA comedy festival and the other one I think will be entered into a festival. We studied scriptwriting, camera, editing, sound and making foley noises. It was a very quick course and learnt things pretty quickly but very good for the amount of content we got 🙂 We got tutored by people working in the industry which was amazing and were given their contact details if we wanted them to look over anything in the future.

Michigan University is well known for the home of the spartans and for its green and white colours. You will see heaps of spartan merchandise around even outside of the university. Interesting fact, the closest McDonalds was painted green and white for the colours of the spartan. The university is well organised and has good leaders that showed us around for our first few days and helped us find our way to class. They were very nice and wanted to become friends and learn our Australian culture. There are also many friendly squirrels around campus that came up close to you waiting for food.

I budgeted $7000 for this course however it turned out to be more because I forgot about the conversion rate when sending money over for the $4700 course. But that was pretty good though because the $4700 (AU) covered trips to canada and Chicago as well as our food on campus. We were given a ID card when we got there loaded with money on it (called sparty cash) for food for the three weeks which we could either spend at the cafeteria or shops in and around the university that took the sparty cash. It was about $345 dollars placed on there however we could top up with our own money if we ran out.

I don’t think I experienced culture shock too much as I had already visited America the year before. However to keep safe, I registered for emails and alerts for things that happen around Michigan and in America.

One must have item on the trip is your ID, money and as well as phone. Keeping your phone on you can help in emergency situations while also keeping up with the fb page of the activities that were happing on campus. I advise that people who are going overseas and have got a sim card to make sure its working before getting to America because it didn’t work when I was over there and I had to go searching for a sim card from a shop which was a pain. Also if your luggage gets lost in transit, call up your insurance company soon after so that you can get money to buy clothes and amenities while waiting for it to arrive. I definitely advise of getting travel insurance. I really didn’t think I would need it but I paid for it anyways to be safe and then it turned out I ended up in hospital the night before coming back home. You never know what can happen so its good to be covered in case of an unexpected situation.

This program was an amazing experience to be able to study and live on campus in a different country. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone however more so first and second years because it is more introductory film study (however really good for third years to put on their CV and have films for their portfolio). I think it helped me in a way to not care what people think about myself as well as helped me make new friends. It helped me have something amazing to put on my CV and give me films for my portfolio as well as more experience. It is an amazing way to make new friends, as the group of us that went together from QUT stuck together and now we still collaborate on film at university and outside of university.

A Munich Experience

Kaydon L, Bachelor of Engineering

Technical University of Munich (Semester 2, 2016)

“Travel is really about the experiences that you gain on the journey. In the end, it will be those experiences that make up your memories.” (Bram Reusen, Travel Experience Live, 1 November 2012).

I remember some time ago when I read those words and was inspired to travel and tackle the adventure of an international exchange. Reflecting, I can confidently say that each and every experience has been a gift and I’m grateful that I was granted such an opportunity to make so many great memories.

For the past 6 months, I have been fortunate enough to live in the heart of Bavaria and study at the Technical University of Munich. While embracing the icy winter, I found Munich warm and friendly with hearty, welcoming people. As I already spoke a little German, settling in didn’t take too long and becoming accustomed to the language got easier as each day passed.  The German culture is fun, rich with tradition and history ingrained in society. This is such a difference from Australia as we only have history of 200 years in comparison to the Germanic tribes with history as early as 750 BC. This was such an enjoyable change for me as so much of our daily life is influenced by the past.

Student Exchange Buddies

Living in Munich, I stayed in student accommodation which wasn’t flash but very affordable. Living within walking distance of a shopping centre, with university a simple 15-minute train ride, made the location of the apartment block ideal. Settling in was relatively simple and the student services provided a smooth and enjoyable experience. Events and parties were a regular occurrence which provided a great opportunity to interact and meet new people.  In addition, many activities and sporting events were offered through the student union. Excursions such as weekend skiing trips, trips to Berlin are easily possible through this program. For my part, while studying, I joined a sports team and attended weekly games.

The ability to attend the Technical University of Munich for a semester has been invaluable and living amongst a different a culture, while learning, has been an amazing life experience. The topics I studied were vastly different to anything possible back home, and I relished the opportunity to engulf myself in these courses. In comparison to QUT, surprisingly, I found TUM somewhat lacking in certain areas. QUT is more sophisticated in technology and the utilisation of teaching material. For example, QUT offers ample study space, access to new and better facilities and the utilisation of technology for lectures in the form of lecture recordings. TUM does not record any lectures and therefore, it is strongly encouraged for all to attend. Credit must be emphasized on the quality of the lectures however, as the lectures were engaging, personalized and interactive. This provided greater motivation in the courses and I found it a benefit for my studies.

A beautiful Munich city sunset

During the study break and Christmas holidays I received a welcome visit from my family and girlfriend and toured Europe visiting the best that Germany, Norway, Switzerland, France, and Austria, had to offer. These times were truly amazing and being able to experience so many exciting and new things with those close to me is something I will cherish forever.

A visit to Norway

Visiting nearby Switzerland

Personally, it is fantastic not only to travel and study, but to gain a greater understanding of engineering and business at an international level. This exchange enabled me to become more fluent in the German language and to interact with engineering students and staff of TUM. Through this I have made lifelong friends and contacts, important for future careers. I was glad to again represent Australia and QUT at Technical University of Munich (TUM) and would encourage all students to embark on an experience of a lifetime with International Exchange. I thank QUT for the opportunity to travel and experience a successful International Exchange at TUM.

Halstadt, Austria

A Semester in Tokyo

Chanelle J, Bachelor of Business

Rikkyo University, Japan (Semester 1, 2016)

New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient

My decision to do exchange in Tokyo was influenced by my love of Japanese design and architecture, and also because I was interested to learn more about the culture. I was excited for a challenge to live in a country with a different language and way of life to me. And what a challenge it was, but I loved every minute of it!

n the top of Mt. Fuji with friends from Rikkyo University

Rikkyo university in Ikebukuro is a beautiful campus, though much smaller than QUT. The gym, swimming pool, tennis, basketball facilities are amazing and free for students to use. The orientation process to use these facilities is a bit tedious, especially for non-Japanese speakers, but well worth it!

The university system is very different to what I was used to. Attendance is compulsory and counts towards your final grade. We were required to do a minimum of 7 subjects to be on a student visa. This was a lot more work than I was used to at QUT, however the assessment items were much smaller.

The international office staff were very helpful and organized many free events for exchange students. I always felt like I had somewhere to go for help and someone to talk if I had a problem. Every day would bring new challenges, like receiving mail in the post I couldn’t understand, so it was a lifesaver to be able to take this to the international office for help.

Rikkyo, Ikebukuro Campus in the rain

 

I chose to live in an apartment in Zoshigaya, which is about 15min walk away from Rikkyo. I really enjoyed this location because I didn’t have to rely on the train. I bought a 2nd hand bike to get around the city. I recommend this to everyone!

Renting an apartment by myself was a huge expense at approximately $2000 AUD. It came completely fitted out with everything I needed for my stay, which is very different to the dormitories where you need to buy everything. If I had my time again I would prefer to stay somewhere cheaper.

Exploring Kawagoe, a traditional Japanese town

 

My living expenses (excluding rent) were around $1500 per month. It is really cheap to eat out and drink. There is a very cheap cafeteria style dining hall at university where you could get basic Japanese food for around $4 to $5.

My highlights were climbing Mt. Fuji, Go-Karting around Akihabara and shopping for vintage clothes in Shimokitazawa.

Overall, I loved my experience at Rikkyo and would recommend it to everyone!

A Polish Experience

Clay A, Master of Business

Warsaw School of Economics (Semester 2, 2016)

I have just completed one semester at Szkoła Główna Handlowa w Warszawie aka the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) in Warsaw, Poland. It was a truly fantastic experience.

SGH Main Building

SGH is a reputable business university in Warsaw located just south of the city centre. The campus itself is spread out over a couple of blocks in various, interesting looking buildings. The university itself is quite old, as are some of the teaching methods (over-head projectors, no lecture recordings, and best of all black boards with chalk) and I enjoyed every second of it. There are also very modern classrooms as shown below.

The main difference I noticed between SGH and QUT is that SGH is far more formal and the students are treated more like young adults. The students at SGH are required to call the lecturers ‘professor’ as opposed to the more casual approach at QUT. This formality is most likely reflective of Polish language and culture as a whole, which seems generally more formal. One thing I have noticed in my time abroad is that Australia is an extremely casual and laid-back country, and that we never get views like this from our classroom.

International Finance Lecture Room

Don’t let the formality of Polish culture put you off, this formality is mainly limited to the older generation. The younger Polish people I met in Warsaw were always very interested to learn that I was from Australia and were eager to practice their English speaking skills on me especially some Australian slang that they had picked up. The general consensus of people I spoke to referred to Australia as a ‘dream country’. Not many people I met had visited Australia but all of them seemed to have a distant relative or friend living in Australia. The cost of travelling to Australia played a major role in deterring people from visiting.

Always snow out of the window

The currency in Poland is the Polish zloty (pronounced zwotie), which equates to about 1/3 of an AU$ which was ideal for me and the other foreigners as the cost of living in Poland is very cheap, especially compared to its neighbouring countries in the EU zone. A 6 month student public transport card for unlimited travel was the equivalent AUD$100. The cost of food in restaurants, even very fancy places, was significantly cheaper than any major city in Australia.

I really enjoyed the Polish cuisine, especially during the colder months. It consisted of lots of different soups, meat (pork knuckles, beef tartar, ribs, duck legs etc), potatoes and cabbage (boiled, stewed, pickled). But the most notable of the Polish cuisines was the pierogi! Pierogi are Polish dumplings, the encasing of which are not too dissimilar from a Chinese dumpling, however the fillings are mainly cabbage, mushroom, beef, pork and are often covered with a bacon/oil sauce. Delicious!

Various styles of Pierogi

There were many international students at SGH, a large portion was from Germany but I also made friends with many Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, South Americans and even Egyptians. Two notable highlights for me in my time abroad was firstly having a Christmas party in my apartment with all my SGH friends, everyone came wearing their ugliest Christmas jumper and bringing with them a native dish from their country. The night ended with karaoke with everyone singing songs in their mother tongue. There was a total of 6 different languages sung, something which is very rare in Australia, but probably far more common in Europe.

The other highlight for me was travelling all over Europe, visiting a total of 16 countries in 5 months. The most memorable was travelling to Italy over the Christmas break, I was lucky enough to be invited for Christmas lunch to a friend’s family home I met at SGH in Treviso, Italy. I had a memorable and very delicious experience which was possible because of Erasmus experience at SGH.

I would highly recommend taking up the challenge/experience of studying abroad.

International Christmas Party

Highlights and tips for a semester in Madrid

James W, Bachelor of Engineering

Polytechnic University of Madrid (Semester 2, 2016)

Madrid is a large, lively, beautiful and friendly city. There are always events and things to do, incredible public transport, a compact city centre and it is really safe! Even though it is a big metropolitan city it still has an interesting and different culture. It´s very refreshing to learn about Spanish history, customs and traditions that continue to influence the country a lot today in spite of globalisation and tourism.

If you ever get bored of the capital, Spain is an incredible country to explore. Every single town and city has its own festival, most of them being week long parties filled with free live music, fireworks, dancing, shows and events. Most of these are around summer but don´t miss out whilst you´re there! I went to: la Tomatina, a festival where everyone throws tomatoes at each other. Semana Grande, a week long festival of free music, theatre, sporting events, fireworks and performances. Las Fallas, a festival where artists spend the entire year creating incredibly tall statues the size of buildings and large trees before burning them all on one spectacular night. San Fermines, a week long festival where every morning they run bulls and people down the middle of the streets! There are many more someone could go to and they´re all very different depending on the local region and culture!

The universities are totally different to ours in Australia which makes for a really interesting and potentially challenging experience as well. The bureaucracy, facilities and teaching styles are quite different and seem a bit outdated but actually have a lot of advantages too. The classes tend to be smaller with attendance often compulsory, which makes it easier to get to know the professors and become more interested in the subjects. There is often less dependence on technology which can help fight against the distractions of the internet and “computer says no” bureaucracy.

Living in Madrid is also great because it´s very cheap! There is accommodation for all budgets to be able to live centrally, I lived in the city centre for less than 110 dollars a week with only a week’s search (although a reasonable understanding of Spanish may be required for this). Unlimited public transport pass is 30 dollars a month for under 26 year olds with most services run from 6am to 2am. There are also 24/7 bus routes connecting to the city centre. The university offers 3 course buffet style meals for $7.5 which are so big I used to split the meals across lunch and dinner. That´s less than $8 for lunch, dinner and dessert – they even wash the dishes for you! Coffee can be bought in cafe´s for as cheap as a dollar as well. Going out is also great as they have an incredible bar and tapas culture as well as a wide variety of clubs although most the music is reggaeton, which you´ll learn to love as well.

So go there, make some great friends, travel the country, go to some festivals and enjoy the great tapas and cheap cañas!

Making the most of my time in Vienna

Olivia R, Bachelor of Business/Laws

University of Vienna (Semester 2, 2016)

Travelling to Vienna, Austria, I was overwhelmed with the prospect of studying human rights law in the place so deeply rooted in the fundamentals of legal first principles. As my classes were in English, and many exchange students were not from English-speaking countries, the subjects themselves were quite light on. It was fairly disheartening, though allowed me to realign my future goals. The main building of The University of Vienna is incredible, though only history and English subjects are taught in that building.

The main staircase of The University of Vienna & throwing a cheeky snowball in Stadt Park, Vienna on the first snow day.

Prior to departure, I had been told to budget more than other exchange destinations. Vienna, Austria, is renowned for its extravagant coffee houses, long nights at the State Opera House, and elaborate palaces. While its First District, the Inner Stadt, is notoriously expensive, on par with Sydney or Melbourne, not too many students venture out to the restaurants and hotels in this area. As long as you have a budget figured out, and are pretty good at sticking to it, there’s no reason you can’t occasionally treat yourself to one of those famous coffee houses. Part of my budgeting was to live in student accommodation a bit further out of the city, in order to take advantage of the plethora of Eastern European countries at Austria’s doorstep.

An autumn sunset in Vienna & christmas lights in Vienna’s Inner Stadt

Over my five months in Austria I managed to pack in 11 other countries. A quick 50-minute bus ride east will find you in sweet little Bratislava, Slovakia. A small and relatively quiet capital city usually, Bratislava played host to the international White Night Festival the weekend I was there. I feel that I saw Bratislava at its absolute best—a light, culture and food festival lasting from 6pm-6am, and the Slovakians were out in full force for it!

Looking up to Bratislava Castle.

Next was Ljubljana, Slovenia. As a bit of an underdog city, I had no real idea of what to expect from Ljubljana. I went with two other exchange students. Having no preconception whatsoever of Slovenia, we had an absolutely incredible weekend. Slovenia is certainly an up and coming country, with many local designers and concept stores lining its streets. Ljubljana was awarded the greenest city in Europe for 2016, and no wonder! With cool social enterprise restaurants that charge per minute you’re inside and bikes stationed all over the city. We even made it out to Lake Bled for a chilly afternoon.

While I could write at length about each country and culture I visited, I feel these two places were their own kind of highlight. Were it not for the proximity of these places that Austria facilitated, I may not have ever travelled to these trendy places. These were such memorable destinations purely from the pleasant surprise of how much I enjoyed them, and a kind of opening of my world view when it comes to travel.

At the Vienna State Opera & The 180 Degrees Consulting Team.

Vienna itself provides a multitude of cultural experiences, from the State Opera House, to the extraordinary Albertina Museum and the historical significance embedded in its very identity. Vienna is truly a destination for history buffs, with plaques commemorating World War II significances, infamous psychologists and composers on almost every corner of the Inner Stadt.

While in Vienna, I was privileged to be a part of 180 Degrees Consulting Vienna. I was part of a team advising a firm that established an online job platform for Austrian refugees. For me, this was the definite highlight of my whole trip. We were also awarded the best project for Austria that semester. I met some incredible and impassioned people using social enterprise, who I am sure I will keep in contact with. It has encouraged me to join the 180 Degrees Consulting UQ team.

Canadian Escapade

Helena J, Bachelor of Engineering/Information Technology

University of Waterloo (Semester 2, 2016)

Deciding to go on Exchange in Canada is the best decision I’ve ever made! In Semester 2, 2016, I travelled to Ontario, Canada to study at the University of Waterloo. Waterloo is amazing and highly ranked engineering school located in the suburb of Waterloo. The campus was gorgeous, with many cool, modern and interesting buildings and recreational spaces.

Outside the University of Waterloo sign on the last day with two of my now best friends.

I lived “off-campus” at WCRI which was located across the road from the Uni. It took me 4mins to walk to class everyday – which was great, especially when it got really cold! It was an older styled accommodation which featured 4 buildings. I had my own little room and shared a bathroom with three lovely girls from Canada. We then shared a kitchen and living area with another 16 people! This made for some chaotic but fun times in the kitchen; including setting off the fire alarm with burnt slice, traditional German meals being cooked for us and communal lasagne nights. Coming from living at home to such a shared environment was awesome and gave me many opportunities to make incredible friends from all over the world.

The Canadian University life was fantastic! I got to go see the school play at their Homecoming CFL (Canadian version of NFL), Ice-Hockey, Rugby and even got involved with school sport myself. I joined an Ultimate Frisbee team with some fellow exchange students, joined the Volleyball club and even played some Squash. The amount of school spirit was something I’d never experienced back home in Australia.

Supporting the Waterloo Warriors at the Homecoming Game.

Subjects at the University were quite hard. The atmosphere was quite competitive and scary at times, especially when compared to the more laidback attitude in Australia. Lectures weren’t recorded and notes were written on a blackboard which sometimes made studying quite hard! The other students thought it was crazy that back home at QUT, all my lectures are recorded and done primarily through a computer. So adapting to academic life at Waterloo was a big struggle for me, as I had never experienced anything like it.

I cannot recommend Canada enough to anyone thinking of going on exchange though! Cost of living was on par with Australia – if not cheaper, which was great for the budget! And with the Australian dollar doing so well, I did not lose much while converting my money. Another great thing is that even though majority of Canadians speak English; we got to meet some Québécois who spoke mainly in French! I also got to do stereotypical Canadian activities like eat poutine (so delicious!!!), have an extremely intense snowball fight (at midnight because the snow started bucketing down!) and celebrate Thanksgiving (the Canadian one, not American; don’t get that mixed up!) and Halloween. An added perk to doing Exchange in Canada was the opportunity to travel. With some of the new friends I made we did many cool road trips; numerous national parks, lakes, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Chicago! I also got to travel around the USA at the end of my exchange; going to places like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Alaska!

Having fun with some friends in Chicago at the Cloud Gate.

With some many new and incredible experiences under my belt it is hard to pick a favourite or highlight of my exchange and travels. However, making so many wonderful, hilarious and beautiful friends for life would take the cake if I had to pick one. They 100% made my exchange everything that it was and opened my eyes to different cultures and ways of life. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to everyone I became friends with at the University of Waterloo as we all shared such a wonderful exchange experiences together.

Me standing on Matanuska Glacier in Alaska in -42°C as the last part of my trip after Exchange.