Taiwan – the First Month

Taipei 101

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

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

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

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

 

Yangmingshan – National Park.

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

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

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

Lantern Festival with some of my local buddies.

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

Sky Lantern Festival in Pingxi

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

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

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

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

The Montane Mansion Building

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

CityU Student Residential Halls

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

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

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

Inter-hall Basketball Competition

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

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

CityU Model United Nations conference awarded Best Delegate

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

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

Sunset Hike at Devil’s Peak

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

Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam

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

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

Re-imagining India: Three Parts Exhilarating, One Part Exhausting

Alicia Shorey, Bachelor of Design

Short-term Program: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program

India (December 2018)

What can I say other than it is an experience of a lifetime. The Re-imagining India program is 3 parts exhilarating and one-part exhausting, but amazing none the less.

Taj Mahal

Over the course of two weeks I was submerged into Indian culture and dipped into a world so full of vibrancy that it allowed me to open my eyes up to so many different ways of thinking. The photos showcase a glimpse of my journey through Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur which consisted of morning yoga and Bollywood classes, industry and NGO visits, cultural sites and beyond.

Vibrant Elephants in India

A highlight of mine was Jaipur Foot which is an organisation which provides free prosthetic limbs to those in need. While there, we were able to see how the organisation operated and see first-hand how this organisation is restoring faith in many people. Being able to watch a limb being fitted and its instant effect on a person’s life was indescribable and something I’ll never forget.

Jaipur Foot

The program overall was jam-packed with a variety of activities to fit all interests. Delicious meals were provided every day and the overall cost of the trip excluding flights is next to nothing. What are you waiting for?

The program had activities to suit all interests

Urban Transformation Study Tour: Arriving in Singapore

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


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

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

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

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

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

Adjusting to Life in Thailand

In Thailand, there’s a phrase called ‘Thai Time’. It applies when Thai people do things in their own time – which I’ve realised happens quite a lot!

The first time I experienced ‘Thai Time’ was waiting for my acceptance letter from Thammasat University. Around one month before my planned departure, the letter finally came through. Phew!

I decided to study in Thailand because I wanted to study journalism in Asia, and Thammasat was one of the few options to do this. I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand anyway – I really love Thai food – so it worked out perfectly.

Fried fish balls with chilli sauce – so good!

I arrived almost two weeks before the semester began to give myself some time to settle in and explore Bangkok. For the first week, I stayed right next to the famous Ratchada Rot Fai Night Market. Almost every night I went to this huge food market and tried something different. My favourite dishes were a spicy mango salad with fried fish, fried fish balls with chilli sauce, and an insanely spicy chicken noodle soup. If you can’t tell; I love spicy food so I’m in heaven here.

First time wearing the uniform!

During the first week, I met my Thai buddy who showed me some of Bangkok’s must-see sights including The Grand Palace and Wat Pho. She also helped me buy my uniform, which I only have to wear for formal occasions like taking exams or going on tours with the university.

The next week I stayed at a hotel right on the bank of the Chao Phraya River, which is the main river in Bangkok. Located across from the Thammasat Tha Prachan campus, it was easy catching a ferry across the river to get to orientation classes. It was also right near a super authentic market called Wang Lang market, which was bustling with activity every day. I was often the only foreign person at the market!

With new friends from America at Wat Pho

Once all the orientation activities were complete, I had to move to the other campus, which is located around 45-minutes north of Bangkok. Most of the new friends I made stayed behind at the Bangkok campus which was tough, but fortunately I’ve become really good friends with the people who also study at the Rangsit campus.

So far, campus life at Rangsit has been really interesting. The Rangsit campus is huge and it has its own transport system to get people from class to class. I’ve had my first week of classes which were mostly just introductions to the courses. Next week, classes fully begin so I’ll let you know what they are like next time!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan. More information available here

Every day was filled with content that provided us with different takes on India!

Sally Boden, Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program

India (December 2018)

The experiences, learnings and connections I made on my trip to India through IndoGenius’s Reimagining India Dec 2018 program will stay with me forever.  Travelling to India to learn from successful entrepreneurs, top universities, locals, politicians and my peers was such an immense privilege and an honour.  The schedule planned by the IndoGenius team was beyond incredible.  Every day was filled with content that provided us with different takes on India.  In addition to outings and activities, we were taught yoga, Bollywood dance, Hindi and Indian cooking which really helped immerse ourselves and engage with Indian culture.  I was privileged to have successfully received the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan funding to participate in this program.

The IndoGenius team who hosted us were inspiring, dedicated and passionate about India. The friendships I made on this trip made such a huge difference to how I was able to enjoy it.  Making friends allowed me to share what I saw and learnt, allowing me to reflect at the time on the over-load of information and experience of India, including experiencing eating curries for two weeks!  The numerous curries and naan’s I tried were delicious, although some curries were very spicy, and my new favourite dessert is ‘gulab jamun’, a heavenly melt-in-your-mouth doughnut ball soaked in syrup!

From Delhi to Jaipur to Mumbai, the learning and immersion was constant.  The first day in Delhi involved the centuries old, Hindu Havan fire ceremony, which was followed throughout the trip by several temple and religious site visits, each one representing a different religion.  When comparing the vivid, monumental and constant celebration of worship in India to Australian’s commitment to worship, there is a striking difference, generally, between our core values, resulting in a fundamentally different lifestyle and a bit of a culture shock for me.  The temples, forts and mosques we visited were breath-taking architectural achievements, my favourites including the Taj Mahal, Lotus Temple and Amer Fort.

The businesses and start-up companies we visited in all three cities widened my views and awareness as to how India will be the next global super power.  From small start-ups to global companies based in India, we witnessed how clever and quickly these companies found solutions to local problems and their passion for helping India move forward, internally and on a global scale, was impressive.  Several Indian companies are now aiming to move towards environmentally friendly solutions.  I was shocked at how bad the pollution levels were in India, to the point of physically feeling the smog in the early morning and at night.  An unexpected highlight of the trip for me was our tour through the Dharavi Slum in Mumbai.  Walking through narrow, odorous, dark and dirty alleyways and peering into resident’s small abodes provided me a true insight into their lifestyle.  Whilst the living conditions were substandard compared to Western living, Dharavi boasted a strong community feel in both the residential and industrial sections of the Slum.  Dharavi receives over 70% of all rubbish in Mumbai and recycles majority of it to reduce the exorbitant amount of waste that is produced in Mumbai.  I have my doubts as to whether many Westerners would be able to work the same 16 hour days in the same conditions as the locals.

This study tour exceeded all my educational expectations.  The personal, academic and professional growth I experienced during my time in India was unlike any other growth I’ve ever experienced in a two-week period.  The benefit of immersion into another culture to gain insight proved wholly engaging and educational.  I would love to travel back to India one day to continue exploring and experiencing India’s incredible landscapes, people, food and culture.

Studying and Travelling in Japan

Hello again,

Instead of discussing general things about Japan this entry I thought I would detail specifically what studying and travelling within Japan is like. So, this entry will be more interesting to those who want to know more about these two aspects of Japan.

I must admit that studying Japanese has been very difficult. It’s a far more complicated language than I first expected. For example: symbols known as ‘kanji’ can have multiple meanings depending upon the context that they are used within and words that are pronounced the same can have different meanings depending on context and intonations. But, as an exchange student, I have found that work loads are not particularly strenuous and I have very few major assessments. However, this does depend on how good you are at Japanese as friends of mine studying at higher levels seem to have quite intense work loads.

Furthermore, a typical university week will generally involve 5 days of classes. You may get lucky and only receive 4 days, but this is a rare occurrence. Also, you must attend the majority of these classes (at least at my university, Ritsumeikan) otherwise you will fail; but don’t worry, you would have to skip a lot of classes for this situation to become a reality.

Unfortunately, as a result of this, opportunities to travel are limited and can often only be done on weekends. This is what I have done through out my stay here and it has worked out fairly well and has undoubtedly been worth the hassle. However, this means that in order to see all the places I wish to see I have to be as economical as possible with my travel and, unfortunately, travelling in Japan can be very expensive. In particular, the Shinkansens (or bullet trains) are outrageously expensive (but I must say, very convenient). So, for travel, I have been taking overnight buses to all locations. Although these are admittedly very uncomfortable they are cheap (the most important factor of all), especially when you buy a Willer Bus Pass, which is available for all foreigners entering Japan. This link provides all the information you need about the pass: willerexpress.com/st/3/en/e3/buspass/.

I hope that this information will prove to be important to those who are considering an exchange to Japan and if anyone who reads this has any questions about studying and travelling in Japan please leave a comment and I’ll answer it as soon as I can.

Till then, Sayoonara.

P.S. make sure you visit Japan in Autumn so that you can see sights such as this:

 

Japan – Settling In

Hello everyone,

I’ve been living in Japan for two months now and I’ve started to settle into a weekly routine. This has proven to be convenient and demonstrates that I have adapted to life here in a somewhat competent manner. Yet, I still miss the excitement of those first few weeks. It has made life here feel slightly more monotonous and the charm of living in a new country seems to have worn off.

I’ve been attempting to offset this feeling by travelling to different places and cities on weekends. For example, the past two weekends I have been to Takayama and Fukuoka. Both of which were interesting cities that contrast greatly with one another; from a quiet city within the Japanese Alps to a sprawling metropolis in the southern sub-tropical island of Kyushu.

(Kamikochi, a valley near Takayama)                                   (Fukuoka)

This travelling has been very rewarding and, come to think of it, the only travelling that I have completely organised by myself. This has been a good learning experience and provides me with a rewarding sense of independence; especially since I have travelled alone on both of these occasions.

I would thoroughly recommend that you work up the courage to travel alone on exchange. I have found that I engage more with my surroundings and have more meaningful experiences. You also learn to think more for yourself and do what you want to do, as opposed to relying on others to make decisions for you or doing things that you yourself find mundane and uninteresting. (Not to mention the amount of difficulties that come with attempting to organise other people)

On the topic of making friends whilst on exchange, it is surprisingly easy. Most people that you will meet on exchange are other international students who are as excited and nervous as you are at the beginning of the semester. As a result, people are, in most cases, more open to socialising in an attempt to off-set those feelings. Currently, I can say that I have met many people from many different places that I will remain in touch with once this exchange ends.

Also, studying in Japan hasn’t proved to be too intensive so far. Coming to Japan, many people would mention the stereotypical notion of Asian study habits and then suggest that this means that Japanese work loads will be ‘extreme’. However, I have found that I do more or less the same amount of work here than I did in Australia. There are more university classes, but this translates to less homework, which I personally find very pleasant.

All in all, life here is great, but inevitably, living overseas loses it’s initial charm after a while. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and if you do experience a similar feeling do not despair. Even the smallest changes can get you out of a rut. I found that travelling got me out of mine, but I could be something as simple as trying new foods. Find the thing that excites you and do it.

Until next time.

 

 

New Colombo Plan Internships in Tokyo and Seoul

 

After completing my language training and study component in Seoul, I began the internship element of my New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship. I undertook internships with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) in Tokyo and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) in Seoul.

I had a short break between the conclusion of my exchange at Korea University and the beginning of my internship with SMBC. I took this opportunity to explore Japan as it was my first time there. I flew straight into Osaka and immediately realised how much my Korean language skills had progressed when I found myself in a country where I struggled to remember basic hello and goodbyes. After a short stop in Osaka I caught a train to Kyoto, which was full of culture and history. It was great to learn about Japan and enjoy Kyoto’s stunning temples and landscape – a little hot though at 41 degrees Celsius with little to no wind!

(Temple in Kyoto)

I then got my first experience with the legendary bullet train from the somewhat sleepy Kyoto to the bustling Tokyo with over 9 million people living in Tokyo’s 23 wards. Despite being packed in tightly, I got to travel around and see some of Tokyo’s best sites, meet up with other NCP scholars and even drive around the streets of Tokyo in a go kart dressed as Mario.

 

(Go karting around Tokyo)

Soon enough, it came time to start my internship at SMBC. As one of Japan’s three largest banks, they were more than accommodating by allowing me to see various legal and financing departments, as well as sit in on conferences and meetings. I had some trepidation surrounding what I would be doing and how the cross-cultural communication would work, but everyone I met, both in and out of the office, was warm and welcoming. It was truly a fantastic experience!

(SMBC headquarters in Tokyo)

I then flew back to Seoul just in time to begin my internship with HSF. I was thoroughly welcomed by everyone at HSF and looked forward to working with them every day. I truly believe that most of the value you get out of an internship correlates to how much you want to put in. At HSF that was certainly the case and the lawyers were always willing to help you and give you interesting and challenging work. I would highly recommend future Korean scholars who are interested in commercial law explore an internship with HSF. Overall, I was very fortunate to have two wonderful internship experiences thanks to the NCP scholarship.

(Herbert Smith Freehills office in Seoul)

Thinking about the New Colombo Plan?

I am a 2018 New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholar who was based in Japan and South Korea. If you are considering applying for the NCP scholarship, I have outlined a few pointers from my time both as an NCP scholar and going through the application process.

1. Make sure that you have a focused proposed program before you write your application

If you have a thoroughly researched proposed program, it shows. A great thing about the NCP scholarship application process is that it makes you truly examine what you want to do and why you want to do it. If you have taken the time to create a well thought out program,  then you will have a much stronger application

2. Seriously consider undertaking a mentorship and a language program

Undertaking a mentorship and a language program will not only help you expand your global network and integrate into the culture, but it will also help you to get the most out of your experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Yonsei University and felt that it helped me settle into my new environment immensely.

3. Don’t limit your options before you are fully informed about all possibilities

The NCP scholarship allows students to study in a wide variety of countries, all of which have varying degrees of popularity, university choices, culture and opportunities. I would recommend that you take a serious look at all countries that the NCP allows students to travel to before narrowing down your options.

4. Reach out to previous NCP scholars

Before I went through the QUT interview stage for my application I reached out to two previous NCP scholars to know more about their program, the opportunities available to them as NCP scholars and any tips on the application process. Both scholars gave me great insight and helped me craft the best proposed program to achieve my goals. NCP scholars have all been through the application process, so I would highly recommend you try and get in contact with one or two.

5. Consider what you want to achieve from the scholarship

I would encourage you to take some time to think about the personal, educational and professional goals you want to achieve through the NCP scholarship and how the fulfillment of these goals will help the government accomplish its goals into the future.

Good luck!

(Attending the Embassy of Australia in Seoul as a 2018 NCP scholar)