Get the Real Experience at SHU

Jake T., Bachelor of Justice
Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2017)

So, if you asked anyone from Australia to pin point exactly where Sheffield is in the United Kingdom, you’d be pretty far stretched to find someone who actually could. Well, I want to put Sheffield on the map. Over the past year, I spent my time studying abroad in the most underrated town and university in the UK. Okay, so maybe I’m a little biased because my girlfriend lives there, but hear me out. Sheffield Hallam University, or SHU as it’s fondly known as, is amazing, not because it’s old or in the top 10 unis in the world, but because it’s real. SHU is the kind of uni actual English people go to, not just exchange students. It’s the real Northern England. I mean come on guys, we go to the ‘Uni of the real world’ and this place is authentic. I love the fact that I never heard another Australian accent once, in fact for the whole year I was at SHU I don’t think there was another Aussie there. Sheffield is also extraordinary, it’s a town specifically built for uni students; there’s heaps of bars, and everywhere you go has student discounts.

The amount of students helps reiterate the fact that Sheffield is one of the safest cities in the UK, and it’s cheap compared to most major cities. Sure it’s not London or Manchester, but hop on a train and you can go anywhere soon enough. I still travelled all of Europe from Sheffield as well (and yes I found a little bit of time to study). SHU is great for another reason too, they have more students coming out the whazoo to come to QUT, so I got to apply late to go, and study abroad at QUT doesn’t usually allow you to stay for two semesters at one UK uni but hey, at SHU you can. Not to mention the staff from SHU helped me out tremendously and I almost received a round of applause for helping an SHU student be able to see the sun in Brisbane. I’m still picking my brain as to why no one wants to go to Sheffield Hallam, it’s awesome and I’ve come back to Australia wishing I was there instead trying to understand the northern accent (don’t try to, just nod and say yes) and eating greasy cheesy chips from a shop with questionable hygiene. Study Abroad for me wasn’t about the class and sophistication Cambridge university, it was about having an authentic and real experience. If you want to pretend you’re a real English student, attend a three letter uni, meet genuine people, go to Sheffield Hallam.

Meet New Friends And Learn Jiu Jitsu

Charlotte A., Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
University of Exeter, England (Semester 1, 2017)

I had a really great time on exchange, just like everyone else who has ever been on exchange. I studied at the University of Exeter for a year and it was amazing. I was able to travel through a lot of Europe, and even got up to Iceland. I made a lot of new friends and learned Jiu Jitsu (I got my green belt)! The worst part of exchange was that the classes were compulsory, so I got an email telling me off for missing them (I thought I was an adult who could choose what would be useful for them??). This felt particularly mean when I had tonsillitis. However, most of my subjects only had three tutorials per semester so it was a pretty manageable workload. Living on campus was great, as I could get to class within five minutes of waking up. Overall, it was great.

Exploring

Having fun with friends

Accommodation

Learn About Other Cultures

Samantha D., Bachelor of Creative Industries
Bath Spa University, England (Semester 2, 2017)

I attended Bath Spa University as an exchange student in September 2017. This experience opened me up to the world and I believe I have grown as a person due to it and my travels before and after.

I lived with other exchange students from around the world in an eight-person female dorm on campus. Living on campus alone was very different from my experiences at QUT as I have lived in private house-shares the whole time I have been at university. Between the eight of us we shared the kitchen and one bathroom, we were unlucky and had just one bathroom rather than the two the other dorms had. The girls I lived with were from Germany, Finland, Spain, China and America, I was the only Australian doing exchange at Bath Spa at the time. It was an amazing way to learn about other cultures.

I was only in Bath for approximately three months rather than the five I had expected when I first applied for exchange. I would recommend to anyone looking at studying in England to go in the Australian Semester One as if you go in the second your exchange will end half way through the semester, right before the Christmas break. I had a difficult time when I arrived as there was an ongoing misunderstanding between institutions and professors about how many units I was meant to do, due to only being there for a half semester. I was also in my final year and ended up doing some very high contact hour final year units which took most of my time, so I couldn’t do as many outside activities as I would have liked.

The grading system in England is vastly different to Australia and took a lot of getting used to. For example adjusting to knowing that a sixty-five is a great result when at home it would be disappointing is an odd feeling and I had to keep that in mind.

A highlight of my exchange was a lifelong friend I made, whilst everyone in our dorm got along I became especially close to one of the girls I lived with. We really clicked, and I ended up going to Finland with her over Christmas to spend Christmas with her family. Meeting her and having such a good friend throughout the exchange experience was absolutely amazing and I’m so privileged to have had that.

Another highlight for me personally was the quality and variety of classes I took. I was able to take classes in subjects which are not taught anywhere I know of in Australia which really enhanced my learning and I feel will benefit me greatly in my future career.

Bath is quite an expensive town in England, so our cost of living was a little higher than expected. We split some grocery costs and bought individual crockery (spoons, plates and cutlery) but split the cost of cookware between everyone in the dorm. The campus was on a farm, so it was really nice to be able to walk over and buy fresh local produce.

As a dorm we wrote down every birthday and important holiday at the beginning of term and celebrated each of them as a group. We also tried to attend things that our roommates were in such as drama or dance performances. Over the course of the 3 months we celebrated multiple birthdays, Thanksgiving, Finnish Independence Day and Chinese National day. On each occasion we tried to eat relevant cultural food. It was amazing to experience how other cultures eat and celebrate and appreciate new things.

Some tips and advice for future exchange students:

I will reiterate, if going to England on your exchange go during Australia’s first semester to get a full experience.

Don’t let your schoolwork build up, whilst it may feel like a holiday it is still university and if you stay on top of your work you will enjoy it more. Try forming study groups to get to know other students in your class and combine study and socialising.

Be a tourist! Some of the most fun I had was exploring my host town. It is a new place and it’s great to get to know it.

It is living in another country and you may be homesick or not 100% all the time, that is okay. It’s all a part of the experience and you can grow from it. Also, your idea of fun doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s, just find people you have similar interests to. Some of my best nights were at home lounging around with my friends or eating together rather than out partying.

The most important thing is to be open to new experiences. An exchange will be great for your confidence and life skills.

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.

The Exchange Timeline: A Comprehensive Guide to What You Will Think and Feel

Claire B., Bachelor of Journalism
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2017)

I wanted to write a blog post that I thought would be helpful for future exchange students to read, but I didn’t want to write a “What I Wish I Knew”, “Highlights Of My Exchange” or “What I Have Learnt” blog, so instead I am going to tell you the cycle of emotions you will feel whilst on exchange.

 

1. “I’m sorry… what? Could you just slow down and write that all down for me because I have no idea what you just said” – when you arrive on exchange people like to bombard you with information (verbal and paper form). They usually speak like you have a mild idea of what you are doing (which you don’t) and deliver all 10 steps to settling in at once, instead of 1 at a time.

2. “Hmmm how do I make friends?” – so you arrive and you are entirely disorientated, confused and tired but you have to make friends otherwise you are going to be alone and miserable for the next 6 months… but you haven’t had to make new friends since starting year 8. It’s okay, take a breath and say hi… and if necessary acting entirely desperate usually gets sympathy invites.

3. Homesickness – for some this may happen earlier than others, its usually worse when special occasions roll around and can even come in waves but it’s important to remember that this is an amazing opportunity and once you get home again, you’ll be asking yourself “why did I want to come back to my boring life where I have no money or job?” So make the most of it!

4. “Assignments? You mean this isn’t a holiday” – it may not affect your GPA but you do still have to do work to pass… shocking right?

5. Everyone in your last week of exchange: “Bet you are looking forward to going home!” You: “I’m happy sad… happy to see everyone back home, but sad to say goodbye to those I have met” – you create a life for yourself on exchange, a mini family and support network. You achieve so much and it seems heartbreaking to leave it all behind, but you know that on the other end of the ridiculously long flight home (because you live in Australia that is basically in the middle of nowhere and near nothing) there are a group of people that love you.

 

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.

Aussie among the Brits: My semester abroad

Sarah K. – Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2016)

I had the time of my life studying at the University of Leeds during Semester 2, 2016.

Leeds is located at the centre of the UK in the Yorkshire region, about 315km North of London. It is an awesome student city which meant cheaper living costs (especially compared to somewhere like London!) and the opportunity to meet heaps of university students.

The University of Leeds was really great, and incidentally while I was there, it was awarded University of the Year 2017. It was my main choice because it provided a lot of subject options which allowed me to match up all of my law and business units. It was also interesting listening to lecturers with English, Irish and Scottish accents. Different to QUT, lectures are compulsory and your timetables are configured for you, there is no option to design your own schedule. The university also offered hundreds of different clubs! I joined a number of societies, notably the ‘Leeds Snowriders’ skiing and snowboarding society. Being a member allowed me to go on the university ski trip to Andorra, located on the border of France and Spain, which was an absolute blast.

In England, after graduating from High School, most students will move cities and live in on-campus student accommodation Halls for their first year of university. During my semester, I opted for catered living in Devonshire Hall, which was only a 15 minute walk from campus and looked a lot like Hogwarts. I cannot recommend student accommodation enough – you’re living with hundreds of other students just like yourself, which makes it so easy to make friends!

Devonshire Hall consists of several houses with both catered and self-catered students. My house had 10 people in it including myself, one other Australian exchange student, one American exchange student and the rest were all English students. Being catered at Devonshire Hall (or ‘Dev’ as it was quickly termed) meant that breakfast and dinner were always social occasions used to catch up with friends and plan weekend adventures. The food was pretty good but prepare yourself…England LOVE potatoes! Dev was also a really social Hall with frequent social events, quiz nights, movie nights, hall sports teams and drama and music groups. University accommodation allows you to meet so many different kinds of people from your home country as well as international students. Besides connecting with a lot of Aussies, some of my closest friends came from various places around England, New Zealand, Iceland, Netherlands, Japan, Denmark and many more.

I chose England for the location of my exchange because of its location within Europe. Other than the friendships I formed, travelling was what I loved most about exchange. I managed to fit in travel before, during and after my semester. I loved the ability to meet people from different countries and experience a variety of cultures. Exchange allowed me to be independent and self-sufficient whilst also completing my studies and it’s something that I think everyone should experience – you won’t regret it.

Tips and Tricks for your Exchange in England!

Kristina Hiratos, Bachelor of Business (Accounting)
Aston University, England (Semester 1, 2017)

Some tips and advice for future students heading on exchange:

  • The biggest tip I can give to any student looking to go overseas on exchange is to just go with the flow, you never know what curveballs are going to be thrown at you and what people you will meet as a lot of plans can and will be made at the very last minute and these will often end up as your favourite memories.
  • If you get the opportunity to connect with other QUT students going to your exchange university then please do as I ended up making the closest friends with my fellow QUTie travelling and going on way too many runs to get noodles!
  • Make sure you keep in contact with friends and family back home! Even though time zones can be a challenge I made sure to keep up with everything that was going on, even being skyped in to sing happy birthday to my cousin and skype calling the whole family after they had midnight mass for Easter while I was travelling Europe which made the exchange not so daunting.
  • Carry a portable charger and actual plugs and cords with you everywhere! You never know when your phone will run out just when you need to take that perfect photo or you are lost in the wilderness of another city in another language.
  • If you have the chance try and stay on campus!!! There are some universities, like Aston, that say they won’t let 6 month exchange students stay on campus which isn’t true, do your research and if you are going into someone like Europe where it is the second half of their academic year some students will be leaving so you can take over their contract. Living on campus makes likes extremely easy in terms of studies and getting to know other students without having to go very far.
  • Make sure you have allowed for recommended amounts of money then some more and a little more than that! You never know what can happen and the travels you will do and things you will buy so it is always good to be prepared; however, if you are on a more strict budget like I was it is very wise to set up a weekly spending amount to make sure you have enough money to buy that snow globe you have always wanted as well as your groceries and pay for your bills.
  • Do your research on clubs and societies as it took me months into my exchange to even find out certain groups exist and I ended up going to one of their balls around half way through the semester which was awesome.
  • Try and make some connections outside of the exchange students through people you may end up doing group assignments with or have classes with as these friendships are invaluable when it comes to getting any sort of help in and out of classes, plus it makes the experience around campus when you have some familiar faces to reach out to and see around
  • Get a sim once you arrive in the country you will be going on exchange to as it will be a lot cheaper and especially in Europe data you get on your sim is now international roaming so being able to keep in contact with anyone and finding your way around foreign places becomes very easy. If you have the chance to get an international sim before you go over it becomes good to use while you transition between countries in airports if you can’t get onto wifi and need to contact anyone.

Luke’s Lancaster Life

Luke Barnes, Bachelor of Business/Laws                                                                  Lancaster University, England (Semester 1, 2017)

Lancaster University is in a beautiful location in the picturesque north of England. It was just a quick 2-hour train trip up from London Euston, a trip I made many times over the 3 months I stayed in Lancaster. It has great facilities, with over 12 different colleges, all which provide living space on campus and of course their own bar. All are perfect for an afternoon game of pool, darts and any other game of your choice. It is a proud university town, even once you get to the train station it loudly proclaims that it is the home of Lancaster University.

The on-campus accommodation was everything you could have asked, however the bathroom was slightly cramped. Despite this, the on-campus facilities were amazing. The University had everything you needed, with two small general stores, and plenty of takeout options. There were also numerous cafes for the coffee starved brain of any student; although just don’t expect it to be quite up to the Australian standard!

The cultural shock of going to England was pretty much non-existent, I think some of the Southern English found it more shocking to be up North than I found it halfway across the world. With the amazing transportation system a train ride could take you  almost anywhere in a short amount of time. Once in London, the tube also takes you wherever you need to be, in a matter of minutes.

Living in England made living away from home very easy. Although there are times you can still become a little home sick, when you think about how far away you are from your family. It also took me a while to adjust to the amount of daylight in the UK. In Summer it is still light until 10pm, and in Winter the sun sets by 4pm, which can be difficult.

Overall, the trip was unforgettable and there were many highlights throughout. On one occasion, my flat mates and I decided to hold a ‘good old Aussie BBQ’. I thought it would be a great idea to show my fellow international residents what it was like. We had one Cypriot, a Bulgarian and two English men along with myself, an Australian. The only thing that we did not consider was the fact that the temperature was only a little over freezing. In the blistering cold conditions, I like to think at least the food was good enough to get across what the essence of an Aussie BBQ is like…

As everyone says, exchange is an incredible experience. If you have the opportunity, grasp it with both hands – you will not regret it.

My London Adventure

Tammica C, Bachelor of Business (Marketing)
Cass Business school – City University of London, UK, (Semester 2, 2017)

My journey started when I first entered QUT and looked into doing an exchange. I gather a little info but enough to tell me I had to wait until my second year to apply. The application process was stressful. Waiting so long to hear back was really hard. I felt like there was no time left to do anything and I hadn’t even found out if I was approved to go overseas! In the end it all worked out okay and I was on a plane to London.

I arrived in London and went to my first apartment (I sorted my own accommodation) which was horrific. Thankfully I had my sister who had been living in London already to stay with. I eventually moved after two weeks into my final house for the 6 months. It was a mission moving two massive suitcases through London in peak hour on the Tube but it was all part of the fun.

After 2 weeks it was time to start university! The campus was old and classic, so different from the modernised campus of QUT. I went to my welcome lecture and met my first friend who was from Spain! As we were leaving to get a coffee a rather tall young man came running over to be and with little breath asked me if I was Australian. And that is how I met Daniel, my best friend from QUT whom I met in London.

The first week was full of crazy activities for the exchange students to experience London. This included experiencing the night life, and bowling. I met some lovely girls in that first week and had some great times even though I skipped out of half of those activities. Class started and I participated in London Performing Arts, Creativity, Innovation & Design, New Venture Thinking, and PR planning and management. I had groups in three of these subjects and met more people from Spain, Canada, and America. My classes consisted of me seeing various plays and playhouse throughout London, facing entrepreneurial problems every week, creating creative work spaces, and analysing recent PR campaigns.

Outside of Uni I spent a lot of time visiting key locations and working. I would do many things with Daniel and a few other girls we had met. We went to the Shard, ate donuts on Primrose Hill, went to Wales, attended a lantern festival, and visited the Camden markets many times for the halloumi fires! I went to concerts and even a boat party organised by Cass. Daniel and I tried to go to as many cafes as possible during our time and spent many hours drinking peanut milkshakes and pancakes. It truly was the best time I have had and I would do it all over again tomorrow.

After Uni had concluded I shipped off and visited many countries throughout Europe. I went to Marrakech and rode camels, Barcelona and sat on the beach ( for the first time in forever!), Paris and Disneyland, Munich and snowboarded, Iceland, Greece, Scotland, Wales, Ireland. I spent 6 weeks travelling and saw so much of the world and loved places I thought I would hate and hated places I thought I would love.

Overall, my exchange was life changing. I made friends, saw places I never thought I would, did things I never thought I would do. I changed for the better and grew up so much. I would never and could never regret my amazing experience on my QUT Student Exchange.