My Exchange Adventure

Mackenzie G, Bachelor of Industrial Design
Aston University, Birmingham, England (Semester 1, 2016)

One of the many trips around the UK. This time a weekend in Scotland with people from all around the world.

My Experience
Do you fancy seeing the world? Feel like shaking things up? Want to make uni a lot more fun? If this sounds like you then go sign up for student exchange!
Student exchange is an opportunity to live and study overseas. You get to meet people from all parts of the globe, see places you never would and have the time of your life all while completing your studies.

Earlier this year I flew over to Birmingham, England to complete my first semester of third year industrial design at Aston University. For four months I lived and studied abroad in a country I’ve never been to. There I learnt about product design, made worldwide friends and had an absolutely great time all the while completing my studies.
Aston University was my uni of choice for its industry backed reputation and central location.

Although the content they taught was more on the engineering side, they provided knowledge that I would likely not learn elsewhere. Submitting assignments, sitting exams and general university life was not so different to how we do it here which made adapting to their system a breeze.

Similarly studying in an English speaking country was not a problem at all. The accents and weather were the biggest difference initially but were soon overcome. So no intense culture shock here compared to the more foreign locations available. That said if you want to take it easy, Canada, USA and the UK are more comfortable options should English be your native language.

Life abroad at university is fun. Aston accommodates foreign exchange students very well with regular events and trips around the country. The majority of exchange students hung out together and with people from all over Europe, South America and just about everywhere else we felt a great sense of community exploring and learning together as foreigners.

For me I chose not to work and relied upon loans and savings to keep myself financially supported. So not needing a job meant I had more time to study and even more time to explore the UK and just have fun. With my crew of international students we visited most major UK cities, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and so on. Unique to the English semester is a three week mid semester holiday. Being so close to France and in the middle of winter that meant skiing was up for grabs. So my mid semester break consisted of a week-long ski trip with the uni and two weeks of hot, beautiful sun in the Canary Islands. Luckily for me it wasn’t all about studying. Maybe your university has something similar. You can make your student exchange custom made for whatever interests you! Something not thought about often when considering student exchange.

The Application Process
Getting sorted for a student exchange is no easy task. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back. A lot of research and hard work is required but the effort is worth the reward. A lot of the time my effort was independent simply because there were questions that only I could find the answers to… mostly specific university queries. Although it was difficult my motivation kept the ball rolling, something we tend to forget when going through this process.

The opportunity to work alongside students from different cultures on the other side of the world is worth every ounce of effort.

Finances
A common concern is money and to how fund such an extravagant adventure. Fortunately there are awesome financial assistance options available from QUT. The OS help loan and the mobility grant made my venture possible. Applying for and receiving these are nothing short of easy. With a minimum of $8000 AUD available anything from your own pocket would only be for an extended holiday!
When it comes to budgeting research is key. Finding everyday living costs is essential especially if you’re thinking of living in the UK, Switzerland or any other expensive locations. The small things really add up.

As far as accommodation goes share houses are the best option. Cheap and entertaining they’re nothing short of fun. My house was intensely multicultural which furthered my travel education but also provided another social circle. Comparatively the on campus accommodation at Aston is rather pricey but more student orientated. Again research is key here.

The appropriate visa will make returning to your host country a breeze. This allowed me to skip between the UK and France with ease.

Visas
Before leaving Australia ensure you have the appropriate visa and ensure your passport meets federal requirements. Ensure in advance so you’re not caught rushing around last minute.

The study visa for the UK was a frustratingly slippery slope. Students who have studied there offered mixed advice and the visa website was just as helpful. Trying to save a few hundred dollars by not getting one is risky business but its best to play it safe. Upon entering the country I was told this wasn’t required but soon after relieved by my enrolling member of staff as she reassured me this was a necessary requirement of the university. Nothing too special with passports, just make sure there is plenty of time left on it before it expires.

Customise Your Experience
One aspect not discussed enough is how you can revolve your exchange around what you want to do. My initial idea was basically studying overseas and seeing the sights. However you can leave home well before semester starts and get into some travelling, complete your semester then top it off with a couple more months of travel. Or do like I did and compete in heaps of skateboard races around Europe! It might sound like a holiday but there is a lot to learn when you’re not at uni.

Once the semester concluded I travelled through Europe and attended many skateboard races. A long time dream now accomplished. (I’m in the grey suit).

If I Could Do It Again
I would be extra adventurous. I would try out a non-English speaking country, somewhere that teaches classes in English but with a culture greatly different to Australia. Unknown to me was how much of the European population spoke English. Knowing this I would have jumped in the deep end for a totally foreign experience.

Getting Giddy in Glasgow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waking up to England!

Gina O’Donnell, University of Leeds, England (semester 1 2017)
Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries

Upon my exchange at the University of Leeds, in semester 1 of 2017, I learnt many things about myself and the world surrounding me. Going on exchange with a friend from Queensland University of Technology, I felt at ease having a friendly face with me on this epic journey. But soon learnt that being a duo may have been our downfall as people assumed we did not need to be invited to halls events etc. But I was able to overcome this by putting myself out there, making sure I was out of my comfort zone and made life long memories with amazing people.

A lot of these people however were themselves exchange students, I found myself shocked at the little interest the local people in Leeds had in people from other countries. An interesting prospect considering majority of their population is immigrants. It became more prominent as well after beginning my classes and I started to realise that the classes I did not have my exchange friends with were hard to make friends in. People had already formed their own group of friends and were exceptionally unwelcoming to newcomers. As I had already made my own group of friends this did not worry me, you can’t please them all.

What I did enjoy about my classes was experiencing the different teaching styles offered at the University of Leeds. One lecturer in particular absolutely astounded me going above and beyond any other undergraduate level of teaching I had experienced. This particular lecturer really shone through and definitely made me happy with my choice of host university.

Another great aspect of my exchange experience was staying on campus and in the Halls. Not only could I get up 5 minutes before a lecture and take naps in between classes, but I was also surrounded by interesting people. We did lots together dinners, birthday parties, party, errands and most importantly TRAVEL.

I cannot begin to tell you what it was like to travel to a different country nearly every weekend, other than it’s a worthwhile experience. The reason I chose the University of Leeds is because it had it’s own airport and it was close to pretty well everything in Europe.

Also the town of Leeds itself is BUZZING. A small University town with your rival University being Beckett, but it’s also a lot of fun. They always have something going on in the centre and great student deals pretty much everywhere.

I’m not trying to talk up the University of Leeds, but simply the whole exchange program. You get the proper opportunity to live and study in a different country, with government support. WHY WOULDN’T YOU. Wake up, this may be the best thing you ever do.

On exchange at Oxford Brookes University

Joanna G., Bachelor of Design (Honours)
Oxford Brookes University, England (Semester 2, 2018)

I had the opportunity of going on exchange to the small city of Oxford in England. I absolutely loved experiencing and living in Oxford as it is a beautiful city filled with stunning architecture, rich history and is home to the prestigious University of Oxford. I chose to study at a university in England because it has such a strong reputation for being at the forefront of developments in design, fashion and architecture both throughout history and the modern era, so this held a real attraction for me given my field of study.

Traditional Architecture in Oxford

Studying at Oxford Brookes University opened me up to many new experiences, lifelong friends, and was very academically rewarding. The interior course was quite different to the one at QUT. The class size was a lot smaller, only consisting of 14 students, and there was a lot of model making which took a while to get the hang of but taught me so much in the process that I can apply to my interior units back at QUT. One of the highlights of studying interior was the five day field trip to Barcelona, Spain half way through the semester. I got the opportunity to visit iconic architecture and top firms along with the rest of my second-year class and the third-year students, without missing out on any classes.

Student Trip to the Seaside

In terms of accommodation, I stayed at Clive Booth Hall which was only a short 7 minute walk from the main Headington campus! In my flat I lived with 5 other girls who were all lovely. The flats were very basic – I had my own room with a sink but shared a bathroom and kitchen.

My room in Clive Booth Hall

The university offered many extra-curricular activities. On campus they had a sports centre which included a basketball court, gym, rock climbing wall and a sports bar where it was common for students to socialise while grabbing something to eat/drink after class. There are many sporting teams that you are able to try out for. I joined the rowing team which was a new and fun experience, I made many friends while keeping fit at the same time.

John Henry Brookes Building at Headington Campus

Oxford Brookes also offered weekend day trips to other English cities for international students. These trips were quite popular, having to get in quickly to reserve a seat on the bus. They were such an easy and cheap way to be shown around other popular English cities including Brighton, Isle of Wight, Cambridge, Bath, and Liverpool. Furthermore, it was extremely easy to catch a bus to London or to any of the airports in London to go away for weekend trips. I went to Oktoberfest and visited Dublin with a group of flatmates throughout the semester. These weekend trips were some of my favourite highlights.

Traditional Buildings on Campus

Choosing to study in Oxford was one of the best experiences of my life. I was devastated with how quickly the time went and would have loved to stay longer. My advice to other students considering going on exchange is go for it! Travelling to another part of the world on your own may seem scary and intimidating at first, but the experiences, lifelong friends and opportunities are entirely worth it. Challenge and put yourself out there and you will have the best time of your life!

University Church of St Mary, Oxford