Vienna Exchange

Leah, D. Bachelor of Business & Law

Vienna University of Economics & Business (WU) (Semester 2, 2016)

WU and QUT differ in a number of ways – it’s not a good or bad thing, it’s just different. As WU only recently moved to its current location, every building is modern, inside and out. The highlight is undoubtedly the library: a place where students study in silence – which I will admit, is a little weird after the vibrancy of QUT’s law library. The academics are passionate about what they do, and something that WU does which is really good for class engagement is allocating a lot of marks for active class participation (on average, about 25%) – it creates a much more collaborative learning environment. Something they do which is also quite frustrating is because of this, most classes are quite small: there is only one time for a class, not 4 or 5 as there are at QUT, so if you miss class registration, it can be very difficult to find subjects and create a timetable that doesn’t clash. 

Another thing to be aware of is that the timetables are rarely consistent: whereas you might have Marketing from 10-12 every Wednesday in Z411 at QUT, the classes at WU are at different times every week, in different rooms. A class might go for 2 hours, or it might go for up to 8 if you choose a ‘block course’ – similar to a summer semester here. This inconsistency is both a blessing and a curse as an exchange student – it means you’re not locked into a bad timetable, and are thus able to travel still, but it does mean you never know where or when your class is.

Austria:

The cost of living in Austria is a little less than that of Australia, even with the exchange rate.  You could get lunch from the on-campus grocery store for about €5 or less, ($7AUD); and you could get a decent hot meal for €7 ($10AUD) on-campus, or at local eateries. Although they pride themselves on their coffee, it’s surprisingly expensive compared to other things: a regular melange would cost about €3.50 (~$5). Thankfully, there’s vending machines around campus that have good coffee for 60 cents (80 cents AUD), or €1.20 ($1.7AUD) if you want a larger cup.  Rent through the recommended organisation is quite expensive, but it is the most common option. If you are more adventurous, and are looking to save a couple of hundred Euro a month, looking into alternative accommodation is a good idea.

Austria is very centrally located, and this enables you to travel extensively for relatively cheaply, thanks to budget airlines, cheap buses, and the rail network. Whilst I was on exchange, I managed to travel to 13 countries, including Slovakia, Iceland and Portugal, and over 40 cities. It’s important to not discount travelling within Austria too – I would say that one of my favourite trips was to Innsbruck, in Austria’s west. Culturally, I found Austrians can be a bit standoff-ish. It’s something you adjust to, but it was initially quite jarring to go to the grocery store and not have the cashier talk to you at all.  Austrians living in the suburbs tend not to speak much English. My German skills subsequently developed a lot more than I expected.

Highlights

One of my unfounded worries in moving to Vienna for exchange was that I would struggle to make friends. Not true. Within three days I met people who I was friends with for the rest of exchange, and I’m sure I will stay friends with into the future. ‘Exchange time’ is a weird concept: time is compressed, everything is sped up: where becoming close friends may normally much longer in normal circumstances, it only takes a couple of hours or a day to become very good friends with someone.  At the same time, your time away both lasts and eternity, and is over far too soon.

Another highlight of my trip was seeing huge seasonal changes: when I arrived in September it was about 30 degrees, and then the leaves changed to classic Autumn hues, and then they dropped off, and snow came in: in fact, it was Vienna’s coldest winter in about 30 years. Travelling was also a huge part of exchange, and it was incredible to see how different cultures and foods and languages were geographically so close to each other. Being able to explore such amazing places with new friends cemented our friendships further.

Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Vienna as an exchange destination: there’s so much to explore, and such a rich culture and history in the country, and nearby.

Life of a Travel Blogger

Joel, T. Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design)

Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway (Semester 2, 2016)

Before commencing my venture to Oslo (Norway) I knew a few things, it was expensive, cold and Scandinavian design is what I wanted add to my repertoire. Arriving at Lillestrøm station (10 min train from Oslo central) we were greeted by a young female student how helped us navigate to our Sio accommodation, where we would call home for the next 6 months. The accommodation was basic but what student housing isn’t. I had my own bedroom but shared a kitchen and bathroom with roommate, which just so happened to by my friend and travel partner on this journey.

Tip for future students, be prepared to make a trip to Ikea which is a bit of a trek to get everything. Room has furniture and bed but kitchen literally has nothing except for an oven and cook top. Best preparation would be to try contact residents living there the semester before you go and try and acquire some of their items. This will save a lot of money and time.

Two weeks before classes commenced we explored the city while the summer sun and “warmth” (it was still only 18°C) still filled the air. It was a beautiful day and dockside was a buzz of excitement with cafes and street performers. From here you can also spend the beautiful day, island hopping the little islands situated on the Oslo Fjord – as this is where the ferry leaves. 

Tip for places to visit: North of the Oslo is Holmenkollen, boosting a 60m high ski jump that has hosted ski festivals since 1892.

Norwegians are serious about getting out and enjoying nature, they love nature and hiking mountains. They also love to tell you all about it every minute of every day – just in case you forget *wink wink*. As such the Norwegians love their recently build Opera House where you can actually walk on the roof, via a small hike up the side of the building. I would highly recommend doing so as it has one of the most stunning views of the city and harbour, especially at sunset. 

Uni life….

I studied Product Design during my time at HiOA Kjeller campus. I found it interesting that they only do one subject at a time, it seems a lot less strenuous than QUT. One of the bonuses though was studying at HiOA was the amount of new educational opportunities I received. I learnt how to weld, and also gained numerous skills with ceramics and concrete moulding. Their workshops are first class and even better once you have done a week of inductions, as you are deemed competent to use all the facilities without supervision.

My first group assignment consisted of three girls and one guy. We decided to look into tiny living and the outdoor and active Norwegian culture. We hired a cabin in the middle of the woods with no electricity or running water. It was an hour bus ride and a 6km hike to loose ourselves, but we were alone for miles. We all huddled in a cabin made for two. It was a cosy night, but the experience was a one in a lifetime and a real good look into Norwegian culture.

Highlights …

Travel highlight – Trolltunga, it takes this prestigious role because of how hard I had to work to get there. Five gruelling hours hiking up and five back. Trolltunga aka Trolls Tongue chewed me up and spit me out, but the view from the top was worth it.

HiOA university had many highlights, great people, lifelong friends, workshops. But the ones that stands out is when our concept became a prototype. A finished product made by myself and group, with a lot of the new workshop skills to thank for its polished finish.

This has been a wonderful opportunity for me, I got to travel abroad and this experience has really open mind and broadened my horizons.

Exchange at the University of Mannheim

John, H. Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Creative Industries

University of Mannheim, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

My time living in Germany was absolutely the best experience I’ve ever had. In the beginning the idea of spending 6 months living in a totally new place with a whole new bunch of people was totally daunting, but when my time was up I left practically kicking and screaming. No other experience has seen be grow as much emotionally and socially, and if I could do it all again I would drop everything and go in a heartbeat.

Life at the University of Mannheim

Studying at the University of Mannheim was excellent. The University has such incredibly rich campus culture, and every single day was packed with activities and parties aimed to bring everybody together. While maybe half of these were for all students, there were also events aimed particularly for exchange students, meaning that we all got to meet in the end, all the other exchange students. The university holds a reputation for its parties, its famed “Schneckenhof” party- a weekly event held in the very heart of the campus, attended by vast numbers. As well as this, the organisation called “Visum” (Visa in German) threw parties for the exchange students called “Stammtisch”, also weekly. Visum were the ones responsible for the immersion of exchange students, and it was with them that I got to experience the magnificence of Munich (including Oktoberfest) and Berlin. While its parties may be one of the factors that makes it a really attractive choice, the University of Mannheim also boasts an incredible academic reputation, especially in the field of business. While I was undertaking Law units, for which it is not as renowned, the law faculty’s success in international competitions filled with me with great confidence, and indeed my expectations were met and surpassed. The structure was a little different to what I was used to, in fact the workload was a little less per subject, but most German Students undertake More units than we would in Australia.

Life in Germany and Highlights

I’ve combined this section as one page really isn’t enough to sum up my time, but in short living in Germany was of itself a highlight. Aside from the aforementioned parties, living in Germany was incredibly easy. The people come across as cold at first meeting, but as you get closer to them are incredibly friendly, warm and have a wicked sense of humour. German people are not shy in any regard, and I guess rather stereotypically, are very short in conversation, never exaggerating and often speaking in exact terminology. But they always want to hear more about you, and are so incredibly genuine. Germany is also famous for its music culture, one of the reasons why I chose it as a place, and I was not disappointed. While the average person doesn’t listen to Beethoven or Wagner as their regular taste (nor is that to be expected) almost every German person has an appreciation for the fine arts that many people in Australia lack. The cost of living in Germany is incredibly low, with groceries costing me less than 30 Euro a week, and rent 280 Euro a month.

Germany is super central in Western Europe, and especially the cities of Mannheim and Frankfurt, is a hub for transport. Thus, it would be remiss of me to say that travelling was not a highlight for me. My favourite trip outside of Germany was to Vienna, an 8-hour train journey, though travelling within Germany itself was fantastic. The city of Heidelberg is a must for anyone staying in the region. It’s a gorgeous, untouched medieval city with an incredible castle ruin. The historic City of Strasbourg is also a mere two-hour bus ride away, across the border in France. Other highlights were definitely the aforementioned trips to Munich and Berlin.

My experience in Mannheim is one that I will never forget. If you want any further details, I have a more detailed blog on this link.  https://fergusabroad.wordpress.com/

Fall Semester in Amsterdam City!

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

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

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

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

What about living arrangements?

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

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

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

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

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

Go to Amsterdam.

There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes

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

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

Hillhead campus in November taken from Argyle St

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fashion-forward in Florence

Aimee R, Bachelor of Creative Industries

AIM Overseas: Media & Communication for the Fashion Industry (January 2017)

If you’re going to study Fashion somewhere, you might as well do it right – in one of the biggest fashion capitals in the world, Florence. AIM Overseas provided me (and around 20 other girls from around Australia), the opportunity to study Media and Communication for the Fashion Industry at the European Institute of Design (IED), in January 2017. The three week long program start in early January, meaning us Aussies had to rug up well for our first day.

I wouldn’t describe IED as a campus as much as just a building, camouflaged in the narrow cobble stone streets of Florence. In fact, a few girls walked right past it on their way there the first day. The first thing I noticed was that it was considerably smaller than QUT. A tour of the whole place took less than five minutes, and there definitely wasn’t hundreds of youths running around like you would find back home, in fact there wasn’t even a cafeteria or food court. Luckily enough, the university was situated right in the heart of Florence, about a 20 second walk from the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or as we will come to know it as “The Duomo”.  There’s pizza and pasta and panini’s on every corner and soon enough our diet consisted of 98% carbohydrates, but when in Florence, right? Because our program was only short, our uni schedules were a little full on, we were there basically all-day every day, cramming in as much information as we possibly could.

The highlight of the experience was definitely in the first week, where we were able to not only attend Pitti Uomo (Florence Men’s Fashion Week), but also work backstage at one of the fashion shows. For many of us, this was the first real hands on experience we had in the fashion industry. We worked for the show Concept Korea and spent the day dressing models, getting them ready for their catwalk. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was made possible by our course coordinator at IED. The rest of our days were spent learning about fashion blogging, styling, writing and the history of Italian fashion. The one thing that was a little bit hard to get used to were the fact that our classes were three hours long each! Most tutes at QUT for fashion are only one hour. Lucky for us, the content was interesting enough to help us through those long classes.

Another one of the great opportunities we had whilst at IED was styling and creating a concept for a fashion editorial. We worked in groups to work on a fashion photo shoot and were given models, a makeup artist and one of our teachers, a photographer, helped us photograph the shoot. It was super stressful to get everything to come together in such a short period of time, but it was one of the most rewarding experience and ultimately mirrored a real life situation we might find ourselves in working in the fashion industry in the future.

Florence is 100% one of the most beautiful and picturesque cities in all of Italy and our experience would not have been nearly as enjoyable without this amazing place serving as our backdrop. We spent our afternoons and weekends seeking out the best pizzerias and gelateria’s, hiking up to Piazzale di Michaelangelo for one of the best views of Florence and climbing up the Duomo and bell tower. There aren’t really any trains of easy uses of public transport in Florence but that didn’t matter since basically everywhere is in walking distance. When we weren’t admiring the Ponte Vecchio or walking along the river at sunset or shopping, we were eating. In a little restaurant over the bridge we found the most amazing baked gnocchi with four cheese and truffle oil! We must have gone there about four times in three weeks!

The cost of living on Florence isn’t exactly cheap. The hotel we stayed in didn’t have any kitchen facilities which meant we had to eat out every night and it would always cost us between 12 and 18 euros. Lucky for us, since most of our days were spent at uni, we didn’t really spend much money on anything besides eating. For anyone traveling to Italy or spending some time there studying, my best advice is don’t be afraid to eat pasta for every meal and gelato for dessert everyday. When you have a spare weekend, hop on a train to Milan or Rome or Verona and see the other amazing cities. A plane to Barcelona is only an hour and a half, so take advantage of your central location. And most importantly, learn to just go with the flow. Your lecturer might be 15 minutes late or they might change the class at a moments notice, they might go off topic for half an hour, instead of stressing, appreciate the relax-ness of your class, it’s not going to be the same when you return!

If you are interested in undertaking a short-term program during the QUT semester breaks, check out the QUT Global Portal.

A Munich Experience

Kaydon L, Bachelor of Engineering

Technical University of Munich (Semester 2, 2016)

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

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

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

Student Exchange Buddies

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

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

A beautiful Munich city sunset

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

A visit to Norway

Visiting nearby Switzerland

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

Halstadt, Austria

London Calling

Jessica R, Bachelor of Business/Law

CIS Australia: January in London (January, 2017)

 

Host University

I completed a short-term program at the University of Roehampton, a beautiful parkland university in London. The campus was picturesque, and the facilities were very useful and easily accessible. The accommodation was situated on campus, in a brand new building. The rooms were single and very comfortable, with a double bed, desk, kettle, television, and en suite. Classes were held one level up, and breakfast and dinner were two levels up, so it was very quick and easy to get around!

The program I chose was London’s art, history, and society. Classes were held every day for 2 weeks, but only half of these days were held in a classroom. Every other day was spent on excursions exploring London’s historic sites, including the Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Museum of London, and the British Museum. The excursions were a great way to experience London’s vast history, whilst exploring the theory we had been taught in classes.

Host Country

The UK is similar to Australia in many ways, so culture shock wasn’t as big of an issue there as it might be elsewhere. Although I had often heard that London was very expensive, I didn’t find that to always be the case. Food could be expensive off campus, but with breakfast and dinner provided by the university, and my lunch and weekend meals mainly bought on campus, this wasn’t much of an issue for me.

Public transport in London is great, and it is very easy to get around with an Oyster card. Travelling from place to place throughout the day could get expensive, but there is a daily limit after which transport is free.

Tower Bridge, London

Trip highlights

This program was an unforgettable experience, and I loved every moment of it. The campus and its staff were very welcoming, and I felt comfortable knowing there were always people I could turn to if I needed help with anything. I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and the excursions we went on, and learnt valuable information. Studying at an overseas university is an entirely different experience than holidaying there. In just 2 ½ weeks I established my independence, developed as a person, and made life-long friends. My advice for any student considering exchange is: just go for it! It might seem daunting going to another part of the world on your own, but it is entirely worth it. Put yourself out there, make the most of the time you have, and you will have the experience of a lifetime.

If you are interested in undertaking a short-term program during the QUT semester breaks, check out the QUT Global Portal.

Winter in Stuttgart

Gemma T, Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology

Stuttgart Winter University (January – February, 2017)

If you were to have told me a year ago that I would learn a new language, experience a new culture, make new lifelong friends and gain a new family all within the space of two months I would have never believed you. Well, all this and more will happen when you attend the Stuttgart Winter University program!

On the 28th of December 2016 I departed Australia for the best experience of my 18 years. As soon as I hopped off the plane I was met with the beautiful sight of frozen trees and snow covered houses, a true winter wonderland. For the first two weeks I visited local sites with the friend that I would end up staying with for the next 8 weeks. These two weeks included sledding through the snow covered black forest, day trips to fancy Rothenberg, Heidelberg and lots of integration into the German culture. Living with a German family added an extra layer to the whole experience as I was able to experience the exact ins and out of a Germans life, such as their work schedules, school routines (which are very different) and the general way in which they interact and communicate. The communication was probably the hardest thing to get used to and I am sure that there were many mixed signals sent out as I wasn’t able to speak German, however over time I managed to settle in and by the end it truly did feel like my second home.

After two amazing weeks it was time to join the Winter University. As part of this program I participated in a German language class five times a week and an additional subject course (Cross Cultural Communications). When I departed Australia I didn’t know a word of German, aside from hello, please and thankyou (The bare basics). Now I can string together sentences and hold a basic conversation (much more progress than I expected!). On weekends we had the opportunity to go on excursions to visit some of Germany’s beautiful sights. With the University we travelled to Heidelberg, the Black Forest, Strasburg (an amazing day trip to a town in France) and Ulm where I got to experience an age old tradition Karnival. This karnival involved a parade where people would dress up in scary costumes and crazy masks (see image aside). The whole aim of the celebration was to scare away the winter and the bad spirits and invite in the summer, however nowadays most locals just use it as an excuse to celebrate.


Although the excursions were amazingly fun, I shamefully have to admit that some of my most treasured moments were the trips to the bakery to get my daily coffee fix and delicious German pastries and bread. Unfortunately I can’t say Germany has amazing coffee but their baking more than make up for it! As an added bonus all the food was very cheap, which as students we all appreciate. You could get a decent heart-warming meal for the equivalent of AUS $6. Not to mention the alcohol, a night out on the town could cost you less than a carton of beer! Which made spending time with friends a lot easier and cheaper.

Another thing that I am definitely going to miss is the convenience of German public transport. Although I lived about an hour away from the university, services were regular and always on time in the typical German fashion. It was also an excellent way of discovering new places, especially if you managed to catch the wrong one and ended up in some strange village, however that is a story for another day. Anywhere you wanted to go, there was a train or bus that would get you there. Want to travel up to Berlin for the weekend? No problem there is a fast train for that. My friends and I managed to get a weekend away to Munich during the trip, and all we had to do was get on a train and we were there in a couple of hours.


If anyone is ever considering to go on a short term exchange then I would definitely recommend the Stuttgart Winter exchange program. The organisation was brilliant and the people were the kindest, I had the best time of my life on this exchange.

To find out more about the short-term programs available during the QUT semester breaks, check out the QUT Global Portal.

‘Crisps’ or ‘Chips’?

One of the first things I remember being told about exchange is that assimilating into another culture can be hard. “It’s England,” I thought. “It can’t be that hard.” If I was to study in Italy or France, a country whose first language wasn’t English; that would be hard.  Now I’ll just get this out of the road and say it. I was wrong. It wasn’t ‘hard’ per say, but it was a lot different than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I love England. I love the perpetual cold and rainy days, the history, the Victorian architecture. But there are a few things that confused the hell out of me and here they are.

The people.
I now have many British friends, some of whom are from London. I have no problems getting along with these people – love ‘em to bits. But when I first walked through the streets of London I wasn’t met by friendly smiles, or people willing to help out the lost tourist. Instead they were steely eyed and hell bent on getting from A to B without disruption. At first it made me think ‘Oh god, why did I choose this country’ BUT I got used to it, it’s not bad it’s just different and that’s okay. Besides, now I know my way around I’m just another person on the escalator getting frustrated when some doesn’t stand on the right (this is a must: overtaking on the left, standing on the right).

Food.
You’d think being fairly similar countries the food in England wouldn’t be all too different from the food in Australia. For the most part that’s true but imagine my shock and disgust to open a blue packet of crisps (chips, I mean chips) to find not original, but salt and vinegar and that’s not the half of it. Cinnamon on donuts? Nope, sugar, sugar and more sugar. A bit of chicken salt on my chips? Ha, no. Pasito soft drink? Silly Australian, no again. Okay, I’m probably exaggerating slightly, the food is edible but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down the days until I can buy a pie.

Obvious disapproval of being mislead by the blue packaging.

Language.
Yes we may both speak English but to say I haven’t had a few issues in communicating simply isn’t true. Among the few:
Pants. Get used to asking for ‘trousers’ when shopping or be prepared to have the awkward ‘ah actually I was looking for thermal trousers, not literal heated underwear’ conversation,’ you’ve been warned.
Capsicum.
My first Subway encounter went a little like this: “I’ll have the green capsicum too thanks”

Subway employee,”uh… the what?”

“Capsicum, the green stuff?”

Friend, “Emma. That’s pepper.”

*Sighs internally*

Orange squash.
Sadly I learned the hard way that this is in no way orange juice or at a stretch, soft drink. It’s cordial. It took drinking a full glass of the stuff to realise that. Safe to say the flat mates have no let me live it down.

And of course we have the obvious, thongs.
On multiple occasions I’ve gotten the ‘that’s way too much information Emma’ look when saying, “I’m just going to put my thongs on before we go.”

My point here is that YES England is an English speaking country, YES it’s very similar to home and YES it really doesn’t take that long to settle in. BUT there are some things (plenty more that I haven’t talked about here) that are simply going to confuse the hell out of you or make you feel uncomfortable so don’t be surprised or feel stupid when it happens. It takes a while and debates like ‘crisps’ or ‘chips’ still happen but I’ve finally managed to stop myself before blurting out ‘capsicum’ at Subway. Adapting is key. Enjoy England.