Why Singapore?

Penelope F., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Singapore Management University, Singapore (Semester 1, 2017)

The most common question I’ve been asked over the last few months is, “Why Singapore?’ Why did I choose to spend 6 months studying and undertaking an internship there? I could answer this question in a million different ways but it mostly comes down to these two things:

Singapore is the gateway to Asia, and as an International Business and Law student wanting to pursue a career in International Trade it was the perfect exchange destination for me.  I wanted to go somewhere different and challenging, and Singapore offered all of this and more.

Secondly I was given the amazing opportunity to undertake a 2 month internship at the National Australia Bank (NAB) Singapore, in the Trade and Working Capital Team (TWC). The internship was offered by QUT and the Australian Government New Colombo Plan.

The beginning of my exchange journey started with me completing a semester at Singapore Management University or SMU. SMU is located in the heart of Singapore City (compared to other uni’s which are far away from the city). After what was an incredibly stressful few days of enrolling into classes, I began my journey at SMU studying international business subjects. The teaching methods at SMU were very different to QUT. All my classes had a 3 hour 45 minute tutorial each week, with lots of in class participation. While SMU was stressful at times, I was able to do a lot of travel during the semester to Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia.

After finishing my semester at SMU I then commenced a 2 month internship at NAB Singapore in the TWC Team. I had no idea what to expect of the internship, but it greatly surpassed my expectations. The team were incredibly welcoming and I learnt all about International Trade. I would strongly encourage anyone to apply for the internship, especially if you are interested in International Trade and/or Finance. As NAB has fewer than 100 employees in Singapore, I was able to see what each department did and how all the department’s interacted with TWC. It’s only since coming home that I realised how amazing of an opportunity the internship was. It’s opened so many new doors for me already and given me a great group of networks.

Overall my time in Singapore was one amazing journey. I strongly encourage students to consider Asia as an exchange destination and research the New Colombo Grants offered by QUT.

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.

Tokyo Game Show

Grace G., Bachelor of Engineering (Honors)
International Christian University, Japan (Semester 2, 2016)

As an engineering student at QUT, my primary motivation for studying overseas was to better understand how computer-human interaction differs between cultures. And now, having spent the Autumn trimester at the International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo I can honestly say this experience has impacted more than just my education, it has provided me with the skills and confidence to improve my own life as well. So I’d like to take this opportunity to share my experience and hopefully encourage you, my fellow students, to pursue an exchange period in Tokyo, Japan.

Firstly, let me start off by saying that ICU is an incredible school. The teachers are very knowledgeable and supportive, engaging with students and encouraging us to develop our own ideas and pursue subjects beyond the classroom. ICU differs from QUT in that it’s classes are much smaller, making it easier for teachers to tailor the learning experience to meet the needs of individual students. As far as the facilities go, the campus has a very convenient post office, gym and my dream library alongside a cafeteria, called ガッキ (‘Gakki’), which is a combination of the Japanese word ‘学生’ (‘Gakusei’ or ‘Student’) and the English word ‘Kitchen’. There is also on-campus housing, however there weren’t many rooms available when I applied, so I ended up living in a share house in beautiful Koganei. I consider myself extremely lucky to have lived in such a wonderful place. Koganei was very homely, which made it easier for me to grow an attachment to my new surroundings. However, there is less support available for exchange students living off-campus, which is only a problem when it comes time for ward office registration. Something I would recommend with hindsight is to look up an English translation of the appropriate forms before you go, as there is unlikely to be any English support available to you in your local ward office.

Now since returning home I’ve been asked a few times to choose my favourite memory from studying in Tokyo, and I continuously struggle to answer. I had so many wonderful experiences in Japan and choosing just one is not easy. However I do consider myself exceptionally lucky, that my exchange period just happened to coincide with the Tokyo Game Show. Whenever I think about the day I spent playing demos, admiring VR headsets and listening to presentations made by some of my personal heroes, I feel a surge of gratitude to both QUT and ICU for giving me this opportunity to experience new things and grow in ways I’d never imagined.

It was studying abroad that helped me to realise giving in to my fear of failure only ever guaranteed it, and success is in my power to define. There was a time when I didn’t think I was capable of studying abroad, but with the support of my family, friends and both QUT and ICU I was able to face my fears and enjoy an incredible semester.

So, I’ll leave you with this final piece of advice, if you’re considering going on exchange remember what it is you want from this experience and strive for it! Don’t let fear hold you back from the adventure that awaits you!

頑張れ

Time Of My Life In Nagoya

Christina Z., Bachelor of Creative Industries / Bachelor of Law (Honours)
Meijo University, Japan (Semester 2, 2018)

I never thought in my entire life that I would ever do karaoke. Before my exchange I was quite shy; a little quiet around people I didn’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I love singing, just not in front of other people. I was afraid that people might judge me and that I wasn’t good at it. However in Japan I found my voice, literally and figuratively. If it is one thing that Japanese people do well it is karaoke. It doesn’t matter if you are bad, average, or sound like Whitney Houston. It just matters that you put yourself out there and that you enjoyed the experience.

Meeting new friends!

Life on campus was fairly good for the most part, however being one of three Caucasian students in the whole school definitely made you stand out. It was a bit strange at first but you get used to the staring and such. Meijo University also set me up with a job in an area of the university that they call Global Plaza. This area was where students could come to study English and practice conversation. Through being a conversation partner I was able to make a lot of friends and get more involved with university life. The facilities were quite well kept, there were even tennis courts, a gymnasium and computer labs. Accommodation wise the room I stayed in comes with everything you will need – bathroom, kitchen, mini fridge, desk, and bed and storage space. It was small but honestly you don’t need that much space, and an added benefit was that you got to live alone too. It was great being so close to the university (a three minute walk), the train station, bank, restaurants and convenience stores. The study aspect of my exchange was surprisingly quite simple and definitely not as busy as QUT. I only had to go in once a week for one class and the assessments were generally not stressful.

Nagoya and surrounds

Placing myself in a completely new environment with different customs and a completely different culture was very eye-opening. People would always tell me that going on exchange changed their lives, and I would always nod along even if I didn’t quite believe them. Well, I should have. Now I can truly say that going to Japan and studying abroad has definitely changed me forever. I have met so many different people while I was over there. They came from places such as France, Austria, Turkey, America and even Korea. I have a lot of friends in different places now, and being away from them has taught me about how important making connections is. With them I got to experience the wonders of Japan; from New Year’s shrine visits, autumn leaves and hot springs, all the way to snowboarding, all you can drink izakaya’s, and the infamous 24 hour convenience stores. Japan is very big on their nightlife. Even in Nagoya people stay out quite late to socialise and drink. There is a reason why those convenience stores are open at all hours.

Friends at a local Pub

Another fantastic thing that happened was that I got to see snow for the very first time. I felt like a child when I woke up that morning and looked out my window. I didn’t even take time out to have a shower before I dressed and left my room. I spent two hours outside that day playing in the snow with my friend Stone. We made snowwomen, threw snow balls off the rooftop of our apartment building and overall just had a great time being 5 years old again.

First time seeing snow

Despite the big cultural differences I didn’t have the huge culture shock that everyone was expecting me to when I first arrived. However as I spent more time integrating into the culture there were a few things that surprised me. In my case, Japan had such a lack of cultural diversity that I found it hard to blend in. I would stand out wherever I went and people did treat you differently because they knew you weren’t from there. However that is not always a bad thing. Another thing I did not expect was the separation of sexes at a university level. Usually, that happens in primary school and sometimes high school but it dissipates as you get into university. In Japan, however, there are no co-ed sports teams, friends sit apart in class (boys with boys and girls with girls) and no one really hugs over here. Finally, Christmas is another occasion that has a completely different meaning in Japan than it does in Australia. Everyone still goes to work and school on Christmas Day, in fact, it is seen as a day for couples. However New Years is when everyone has time off and goes to be with their family.

Exploring Nagoya with friends

For anyone looking to go overseas and study, I would say to go without expectations and keep an open mind. That way you can really be involved in things you might not have thought you would be. I loved my life there and I was very sad to leave it behind, but I am so grateful I got to experience Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Japanese language and culture in Tokyo

Joshua C., ​Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments
Meiji University Winter Japanese Language Program (February 2019)

Hi there! My name is Joshua Crowley and I am in my 4th year at QUT Studying a Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments (Design) / Bachelor of Business (Marketing). I decided to undertake a short-term program to make my summer break a little more exciting than usual, and boy was it an adventure!

I decided to have my short-term program in Japan and to participate in the Meiji University Japanese Winter Language Program. I have always been an avid consumer of Japanese media, culture, and the language especially. I had basic knowledge of phrases and can read Hiragana and Katakana, but unfortunately my Kanji is not up to scratch. This program was a great way to get a foothold of how to tackle aspects of learning the language, and to make many friends from all around the world.

Where did I stay?

For this program, I decided to stay with a homestay family to get the full experience of Japanese hospitality, and to see the day to day commute when living outside of central Tokyo. I stayed with two homestay families, as I left Australia a little earlier before the program to visit my previous homestay again in Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a beautiful city, a must see!

My homestay family

My homestay in Tokyo was far from central Tokyo in the Chiba prefecture, which is roughly a 1-hour train ride to Meiji University. Public transport in Japan is very easy, but quite expensive. On average, I spent JP¥2000 per day (around $25) riding various trains, to get to and from my homestay as well as visiting various cities across Tokyo. It is important to budget well prior to departing Australia, and to investigate cheaper options such as the Japan Rail Pass or even regional passes for short term trips. Unfortunately, due to my travel itinerary it was not worth purchasing the pass. On the plus side, I had delicious dinners after a long day at uni, such as hotpot!

I miss hotpot for dinner

 

How was the language program?

On the first day of the program we all had to sit a Japanese language test, which tested our reading, writing and speaking ability. Depending on your performance during the test, you were placed in one of four classes, from introductory up to advanced. The classes themselves were very informative with enthusiastic teachers and student volunteers, eager to help in any way possible. However, the lessons were conducted at a fast pace and fully in Japanese with limited English and it was easy to get confused, so it is highly recommended to brush up on your Japanese before joining the program! These classes took place over a 2 ½ week period, with classes taking place mostly on weekday mornings, leaving the afternoons free for students to explore Tokyo and its surroundings.

My university for the program

We also participated in various cultural activities such as calligraphy classes, tea ceremonies, and dressing ourselves in Kimonos!

The cultural part of the program

Kimonos time!

Learning Japanese is a long process but is highly rewarding once you start to understand the grammatical and character-based systems. At the end of the program, I currently still am not able to hold a full conversation in Japanese but am able to now convey my message across through basic sentences.

Special memories?

Many lifelong friends were made throughout my month across Japan. In my spare time between classes, I took the opportunity to visit Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Yokohama, Sapporo, and various places around Tokyo. One highlight of my trip was experiencing -15°c temperatures whilst taking in the sights and sounds of the Sapporo Snow Festival held in the Hokkaido region. Amazing snow sculptures carved with insane amounts of detail scattered the streets of Sapporo, bringing in tourists from all over the world.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival

From humidity to snow and back again

Final Thoughts

Upon returning to Australia after only just a month, it took some time to readjust back to a humid climate, as well as settling back into a more relaxed Australian lifestyle. For those who have not been to Japan, I cannot recommend it highly enough as an exchange destination due to the amount of amazing people, food, and cultural norms that embodies Japanese society. I hope to undertake a full semester exchange in 2020, as I cannot wait to see what else Japan has in store.

See you soon, Japan!

Pokemon mania

Korean food, culture and winter!

Amanda S., Bachelor of Nutrition Science
Korea University International Winter Campus (December 2018)

Hi, I am Amanda Seek & currently in my 3rd year of Bachelor of Nutrition Science. Going for an exchange program during University days is always on my bucket list and an achievement that I would want to unlock. In 2018, I finally got to go on an short-term program in Korea University. In 2017, which was my first year in QUT, I received an email regarding about the exchange program with Korea University. However, I was not prepared to go on an exchange, but I decided that I have to enrol into a short-term program during my summer break.

Seeing the sights!

 

 

Arrival

South Korea, a country that I have never been… Being in South Korea was relatively foreign to me as the language that is spoken is Korean and my first language is English. Upon arriving in South Korea on 26th December 2018, Korea University provided a free shuttle bus from the airport to our respective dormitory in Korea University which was wonderful. My friend and I went over to the meet up point where we could board the shuttle bus, however we did not see any representatives from Korea University. However, we saw a few groups of students who were at the meeting points. Awhile later, there were a few student leaders who arrived at the meet up point for the free the shuttle bus and organised us together to board the bus.

 

The friends made in Korea

Accommodation

The shuttle bus dropped us to our respective dormitory and we followed the student leader to our dorms. There were student leaders at our dormitory to help us to check into our dorms. My friend and I were really grateful that they placed us in the same room as we chose a 2 shared dormitory, Anam Global Double House. The rooms included a bathroom, a shower, 2 wardr

obes, 2 study table and 1 pillow and bedsheet were provided for each bed. Toiletries were not included. There was a room for laundry, washing and drying of clothes cost about 2,000 won for each. There was a common kitchen that was provided for the residence, there was a microwave and few stoves. I have attached a short video of the room on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3PTEfebnqM.

In the dormitory, elevators are allocated respectively for both men and women, men and women are not allowed to share the elevator which was surprising. There is a gender segregation. Even though the dormitory does not have any curfews, but every visitor who is not a residence in Global House have write down their student number and name. Visitors are only allowed to the lobby and kitchen area, visiting rooms are not allowed. I felt that they were very strict about this, what if our friends from other dorms would like to visit and see how the ot

her dorms look like but they can’t. The dormitory also had rules that do not allow students to eat in their rooms, they can only consume food in the kitchen area. Alcohol is also prohibited in the dorm rooms.

Welcome

We had our orientation on 27th December 2018, we were welcomed by the Dean of Korea University and given welcome packs. Korea University provides 2 sessions for their International Winter Campus and I was enrolled into session 1 which is an academic track, allowing me to transfer credits to QUT. There were over 20 courses that I could choose from and I decid

ed to choose taking up “IWC236 Abnormal Psychology” in Korea University. It was definitely an eye opener course for me as it covers different human behaviours such as schizophrenia, personality disorder and eating disorders which I am really interested in as I am studying Bachelor of Nutrition Science. The differences between Korea University and QUT are the size of lectures being small and some notes were provided by the lecturer. The buildings in Korea University were more compact as compared to QUT as we have 2 campuses, Gardens Point and Kelvin Grove.

Picture taken @ Namsan Tower (N Seoul tower) where every couples lock their lock pad as a sign of being together forever

Friendships that were made

I have met and built many friendships with students who are mostly universities in Australia. There were many students from Australia, such as Griffith University, University of Melbourne and University of Sydney. There were also students from Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) and National University of Singapore (NUS). The students that were there for exchange were outgoing and friendly, everyone will always come together and head out to explore Korea together.

Group outings!

Highlights of the exchange

The highlights of this trip are meeting and building a bond with students from Australia, going to Lotte World (theme park), trying out live octopus at Gwangjang Market, wearing a hanbok and attending my graduation ceremony when the program ended.

Graduation day!

Graduation day!

 

Celebrating my birthday at Jisan Skii Resort and abroad.

Celebrating my birthday at Jisan Skii Resort

Celebrating my birthday abroad with my new friends

Lastly, receiving an excellence award from the Australia Ambassador in Korea University.

Graduation day!

 

What to do and eat!

Wearing a hanbok at Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace is definitely a place worth visiting. Wearing a hanbok cost about 25,000 won which includes a mini hair makeover and a mini bag for you to carry around. Entry is free when you are dressed in a hanbok.

Wearing a hanbok at Gyeongbokgung Palace

Korea serves the best food, I really enjoyed the food in Korea and trying the live octopus was a bucket list achievement as it is an exotic food that not everyone would dare to try.

Trying octopus for the first time

Last meal with friends before leaving for home.

We also made friends with one of the restaurant owner which serves super delicious stir fried chicken and seaweed soup. We took a photo together as it was our last meal in South Korea before all of us depart to our separate ways.An advice for future students who are interested to go on an exchange or short-term program, “be brave and step out of your comfort zone, you will definitely not regret it.” Ask a friend along if you are afraid to go on an exchange alone, especially in a foreign country.

Mountains and the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong

Millie G., Bachelor of Creative Industries
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong (Semester 1, 2017)

Host University

Situated between the mountains behind it and bustling Mong Kok in front of it, HKBU was a wonderful place to undertake my studies in HK. There was such energy about the campus, with market and uni club stalls almost every day of the week, and countless activities to get involved with. The assessment style was quite different to what I was used to doing Creative Industries at QUT. They preferred smaller, cumulative presentations and tutorial involvement to one or two larger pieces of work, and almost all of the presentations and essays were on topics of our own choosing. I was slightly disappointed to find that the units were pretty different to what was described on the syllabus, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

Host Country

I am so incredibly happy with my choice of HK as my exchange destination!!! For such a small place, it’s incredible the variety of things there are to do – from beaches to museums to night clubs to mountain hiking to temples to shopping to amusement parks, there’s something for everyone. Even just walking around and soaking up the atmosphere of the vastly different districts was something I never got tired of. The city never sleeps with malls staying open till 11 and supermarkets and restaurants till the early hours of the morning. I think this is a big reason why I’ve never felt safer out at night before. I could walk back to my apartment at 2am from another district and there’d still be people minding their own business out at bars and restaurants – there were never any strange people wandering the street. Certainly made a change from Brisbane haha.

Being there in the first half of the year was great as I got to experience the more traditional side of HK culture, being right at the front for the Chinese New Year celebrations and Buddha’s Birthday. While people didn’t speak as much English as I expected (particularly in the more traditional Mong Kok district that I stayed in), the locals are incredibly helpful despite the cultural divide. While supermarket and restaurant/bar prices were comparable to Australia, the cost of things like public transport and market stall goods was significantly cheaper – it was less than one Australian dollar to get the subway to university each day! That was another thing that made HK so enjoyable – their public transport system was so amazing. You could get to literally anywhere using the trains and buses, with services coming every couple of minutes. Living off campus, this made exploring and getting around so easy.

Highlights

Man, literally the whole trip was one big high for me. The city, particularly at night, is so aesthetically beautiful. I honestly had the best time just calling the place my home. But if I had to name a few I’d have to say:

  • My exchange group: The guys and girls I met from all around the world who’d come to HKBU were so incredible. We had so many absolutely wild times together – boat parties, hikes, horse races – you name it, we probably did it
  • Disneyland: It’s true what they say – it’s the most magical place on Earth. While there aren’t a lot of thrill rides there, it has such a beautifully nostalgic atmosphere and we easily filled the entire day

The Unexpected

How clean the city was! You’d always see workers sweeping the street and eating on the trains was strictly forbidden. I can’t recall a time I really saw trash in the street. I was also totally surprised at how there wasn’t much of an adjustment period in terms of when I first got there. I began enjoying myself pretty much as soon as I was left to my own devices haha. Similarly, I was surprised that I didn’t find myself counting down the days till I went home the longer I was there. Everyone I talked to on exchange with me felt the same.

Tips & Advice

  1. As soon as you’re accepted by your host university, start doing the housekeeping stuff involved with that university – I missed out on staying on campus as I waited till I’d finished my semester at QUT to start applying
  2. If you’re giving the opportunity/have the funds, I’d actually totally recommend staying off campus. You feel so much more immersed in your country’s lifestyle/culture, there aren’t any restrictions placed upon your stay, and if you’re like me and relish you’re alone time, this will make your time abroad a lot more comfortable. However you have to be a lot more proactive with meeting people and joining in activities
  3. Always keep the QUT exchange office in the loop with what stage you’re at before, during, and after your exchange
  4. Always check your QUT emails while overseas
  5. Keep a record of how much you’re spending on what in the first few weeks and then base your budget on this moving forward
  6. Befriend local students – they know all the places that aren’t in your travel guide
  7. Take any opportunity presented to you!

The Next Instalment – Taiwan

 

Trip to Taipei Prison

I wanted to call this one “Going to Prison on Exchange” but for fears of sounding too much like clickbait (and QUT probably wouldn’t be too much of a fan of the title.) I will just address it first in this next instalment of my Taiwan exchange.

It’s not as dramatic as it sounds but going to Taipei prison was as bizarre for us as it is to see in an exchange blog. Tuesday mornings I have a class called Workshop on Sustainability which primarily teaches Circular Economy and Corporate Social Responsibility. However, being all exchange students, the Professor takes the opportunity to focus and educate us on everything Taiwan. One week, with absolutely no link to course content, he took us to check out Taipei’s operating prison. We met earlier than normal and took a karaoke bus to the southern part of Taipei, in what was still a fairly urban built-up area.  We started off with a debrief from the warden, who spoke about the history and facilities. They have all sorts of prisoners there, staying from a few months up to life; it wasn’t a high security place but neither was it a light one. We were then told to leave all our stuff in the conference room and we began our tour. From inside it was hard to tell it was a prison, it really was designed to reintegrate people into a functioning society.

Workshop on Sustainability Pizza Party

Unless prisoners took school or university classes in the education centre, they worked on site in manufacturing, pottery, arts, or in catering. We even got to try some tea and biscuits you can order in bulk for catering, (and it really was quite good.) It was a rare and random experience to go to Taipei Prison, but that’s why Workshop on Sustainability is fast becoming one of the favourite subjects of my whole degree. Instead of mid-semester exams, we had a guest lecture from the ministry of education which was followed by a pizza party with him. Workshop on Sustainability is full of surprises.

 

Liya Farm, where we got to work planting rice!

NCCU has a heap of programs that aid in exposing exchange students to Taiwan. One of the student clubs called International Youth has hosted a welcome dinner, a day out exploring the Zoo and Gondola near the Uni, and a cooking and arts night. A highlight is a weekend trip to the east coast city, Yilan. Early Saturday morning we boarded the bus and travelled to our first destination, Linmei Shipan Trail, an absolutely stunning waterfall. We visited the National Centre for Traditional Arts before checking into (and completely booking out) the 5 Season Hotel and ate stinky tofu at Luo Tong Night Markets. The next day we had a traditional university student breakfast; Maccas, before heading to a rice farm. We learnt all about the traditional farms and also got to plant some rice in knee-deep mud.

Waiao Beach

We then also made our own lunch “from rice we’d grown earlier” grinding it down, mixing it up, and cooking it into noodles!  Post-lunch we hit up the beach, the light drizzle we’d had the entire day ceased with perfect timing. Waiao Beach is a black sand beach facing the great Pacific Ocean where we enjoyed some Bubble Tea (well the tea part, I’m still warming up to the bubbles.) The weekend was an extraordinary time, seeing awesome things and making a heap of new friends with other Internationals on exchange AND a stack of local students that came along!

 

 

As well as Uni organised sight-seeing, I have been on a few wild adventures of my own on the Brampcycle (that’s the name for my bike.) A weekend arrived that started on a Wednesday (thank you bulk public holidays.) I took this opportunity to take my first little riding trip and it was to a small city call Hualian. Located on the East Coast it was about five and a half hours ride away. I left as soon as class ended on Tuesday; my prediction was an ETA of around 6:30. Still a good hour away from arriving the sun began to set, which should be all well and good except for the fact that my headlights weren’t making any difference to the ever-darkening road. Eventually I pull over to sus things out and sure enough, my lights aren’t actually on at all…because the bulb is blown. Street lights aren’t exactly a thing on this regional mountainous road; in the dying light I have never ridden with so much stress in my life. I make it to the next town using another car’s tail lights to light my way. There I manage to find a workshop that was just closing and two very kind men helped me out and set me on my way. Eventually, I make it to Hualian (a lot later than expected) and check into my accommodation. I spent the next couple of days there seeing some of the most epic scenery so far! Taroko National park…my writing could never do justice to how beautiful and vast this gorge is. I also travelled up to HeHuanShan (Shan = Mountain) where I got to hike to an altitude of 3416m. Don’t be too impressed though – you start at 2900m. This is one of Taiwan’s 100 Great Mountains with a height over 3000m, and luckily for me, it’s the one you can do without the hassle of a permit.

HeHuanShan

Taiwan is so full of natural beauty and I really am so fortunate to be seeing as much as I am! The only downside is that every place I see and learn about comes with a strong recommendation of two more places that I then want to go see. I think the quote from Aristotle can easily also apply to traveling; “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

 

 

 

Cambodia – You are beautiful!

Paula M., Bachelor of Creative Industries
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (Semester 1, 2017)

I was fortunate enough to spend four days in Siem Reap, Cambodia last week. It was a wonderful mix of adventure and R&R, plus I met some great people along the way.

Because Cambodia is so cheap (especially compared to SNG!) I splurged on a 5 star spa resort, which cost me $70 a night, including spa treatments, breakfast and discounts on already cheap cocktails!

Day 1, I arrived in the afternoon so after settling into my room, I went to the cultural dinner and show held by the resort. The traditional Cambodian food was super tasty, and all of the dancers and musicians were really talented. A great night out.

Day 2, I went to the Angkor Archaeological Park to do the Flight of the Gibbon. This was amazing – a must do! I was super lucky because I had three guides with me, so one of them volunteered to be my personal photographer – LEGEND! After zip-lining through the tree tops. I went to a pottery class where I learnt to shape clay. The spinning wheel used was manual, so this surely tested my coordination and leg muscles. From here I took a tuk tuk back to the resort, and sat by the pool with a mojito (or two) while waiting for my full body massage. It’s safe to say, I slept really well that night. Especially considering I am currently sleeping in a single bed on campus, so the king size bed was like a dream.

Day 3, I was up and eagerly ready by 4:30am to start the sunrise bicycle temple tour. This was better than I could ever anticipate. There was almost a universal silence across all the people who came to see the sun appear over Angkor Wat; the sight was absolutely breathtaking. From here we walked through Angkor Wat, then donned our bicycles and rode through the forest to the Bayon and Ta Prohm templates.

 

The last day was spent relaxing around the resort before heading to the airport – Singapore bound. Four days was nowhere near long enough. I really hope I can visit again soon!

 

Be adventurous in Hong Kong!

Julian L., Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
City University of Hong Kong (CityU), England (Semester 1, 2018)

Hi! I’m Julian, a 4th year mechanical engineering student, and I have spent my last year in Hong Kong! I flew into Hong Kong in July 2017, and began a month of intensive Cantonese training under the New Colombo Plan Scholarship. This was an amazing first opportunity to really immerse myself in Hong Kong’s unique culture and learn to do life the local way. I lived with a friend in the district called Jordan (佐敦) for my first month – an older area of Hong Kong that has amazing food and wet markets, and rarely sees tourists stopping by.

In August 2017, I finished up my Cantonese training and started my first semester at the City University of Hong Kong, more colloquially known as CityU or 城大, “seng daai.” Located in Kowloon Tong, despite its name, it’s actually quite far from the Hong Kong city centre, and is close to Hong Kong’s New Territories. It couldn’t have been in a better location though – it was a short walk from the start of the famous Lion’s Rock hike, had easy direct access to the hundreds of mountains for countless amazing weekend hikes, but also had direct access down the train line to Hong Kong Island, where the real hustle-bustle and action happens.

I chose CityU because of its similarity to QUT. CityU also had humble beginnings as a technical college and has a similar age to QUT, and because of these reasons, it was rooted in learning by practice and industry exposure. Unlike most exchange students, learning the subject content meant a great deal to me, as it was a huge opportunity to learn about sustainability and environmental management – a study area that QUT lacks and CityU specialises in. Study at CityU was exactly what I expected and wanted – many of my lecturers were full-time sustainability and environmental consultants, and taught university courses and did research all part-time. This was amazing because it really gave me huge insight into an exciting industry in Hong Kong. Students worked much harder at CityU in my degree than engineering students at QUT, and this is a strong reflection of Hong Kong’s stringent university admissions process.

Living at CityU was an interesting experience. Students are very often paired to share room with either another student from their home university, or from Australia, and therefore both semesters I sadly had Australian roommates, as much as I wanted to have a local student roommate. Student residence is also the cheapest accommodation in Hong Kong, at around AU$1000 for the entire semester, while the cheapest place off-campus you can find is normally around AU$1000-$2000 per month! For this reason, getting into student residence in Hong Kong universities is extremely competitive, and I encourage any students applying to universities in Hong Kong to do their residence application within the first half hour the application opens.

Many exchange students find it extremely difficult to make local friends, and on-campus, there are 4 clear distinctions in social groups: local Hong Kong students, Mainland Chinese students, international full-time students (mostly from other parts of Asia), and exchange students. I spent my first semester in the exchange student bubble, hiking every mountain in Hong Kong and ticking off every possible touristy activity there is. In my second semester, however,I wanted a different experience, and really pushed myself to make friends with my local classmates and this was the best decision I ever made. I was introduced to a side of Hong Kong and a perspective that was in stark contrast to my first semester impression.

Beyond my two semesters at CityU, I am now spending my weekdays still in Hong Kong, but now working full-time at an engineering consultancy, and spending my weekends hiking with friends and eating Hong Kong’s wonderful food.

My biggest piece of advice with going on exchange to Hong Kong is to be adventurous and dare yourself to be uncomfortable. There’s so so much more to exchange than alcohol and partying – dare yourself to gnaw on those chicken feet, dare yourself to haggle for your 10 bok choys in Cantonese and dare yourself to meet those people you never thought you could meet.

I do actually have other clothes, but my QUT instant-dry shirt was perfect for hiking.