My Stuttgart Winter University Experience

Gemma. T. Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology

Stuttgart University (Short Term Exchange, 2016)

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.

Study in the heart of Germany

University of Stuttgart

Location: Southern Germany

Why Stuttgart? Southern German hospitality, food, travel opportunities and cars!

The University of Stuttgart is one of the leading technology-oriented universities in Germany, and is located in a region known for its economic strength, cultural integration and innovation. Every semester the University of Stuttgart welcomes exchange students from all over the world. Most courses at the University of Stuttgart are taught in German, however if you’ve previously studied German you can develop your language skills further during your semester aboard! Stuttgart also offer some great language programs that you can undertake during the semester break (for more information, see the QUT Global Portal).  

Stuttgart is located an hour from the picturesque Black Forest, and is the sixth largest city in Germany. The city is known for its beautiful architecture, old castles and churches and vibrant cultural life, and the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums. Stuttgart is situated closely to a number of famous German cities and towns, including picturesque Heidelberg (two hours by train), beer central Munich (two and a half hours by train) and Nuremberg (two and a bit hours by train).

International students are welcomed and looked after by employees from the International Office, and students are able to join the ‘Buddy Program ready, steady, study’. The program offers help for new international students, as well welcome events and activities throughout the semester.

QUT student Gemma and friends on the Stuttgart Winter exchange program.

Come and meet representatives from the University of Stuttgart at the QUT Exchange Fair!

 

Making the most of summer in Germany

Brian: Kassel, Germany – International Summer School Program

After I finished my last exam in Semester 1, I headed off to Kassel, Germany for International Summer School program at Universität Kassel.pic On route to Germany, I stopped over in Singapore for a week to catch up with friends from a previous yearlong exchange program before stopping over in Dubai for 24 hours. I made the most of my stop-over in Dubai by leaving the airport and going out to the desert safari, where I went driving through the sand-dunes, watched fire dancing while eating traditional food in the middle of the desert before catching the sunset.
Upon arriving at Frankfurt Airport, I took a 2-hour train into Kassel where I met my host family for the next month. My host family lived in a village just outside of Kassel called Kaufungen – a nice small community which was beautiful during summer. pic-2Having a host-family was definitely one of the highlights of this program, as it really gave you the opportunity to experience German culture first hand. They provided me with authentic German meals, while also helping me improve my German. At times it was awkward, given that I knew next to no German, while they knew little English – however this was all part of the experience.

Within Kassel, there were a number of museums and castles to visit as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site which was the Hercules Monument.pic-3 This was a must see, especially when they have the water feature and light show running. The great thing about Germany is all the major cities are either a high speed train or a cheap bus ride away. Even going to neighbouring countries like Czech Republic of France, is just a cheap overnight bus ride away – perfect for cheeky weekend trips.

Find out more about QUT’s Short Term Options!

Austria: Centrally Located, Great for Travel

Exchange isn’t only about living in a new city, a long way from home. It’s about seeing as much of the world as you can that is now suddenly at your doorstep.

Vienna has many perks. A historical and cultural hub, a lively city and a wonderful coffee culture. For this post, however, the most important perk is its central location in Europe.

Whilst my classes were on, I have been incredibly lucky to have been able to take five subjects, one pre-semester language course, and still have been able to travel to 12 cities in 9 countries.

Devin Castle

 

Bratislava, Slovakia 

Likely to be the first international trip for many of Vienna’s exchange students,

Bratislava is a mere 45-minute train ride away (literally less time than it takes me to get to uni from home in Brisbane). The city itself is small, but the food is cheap. My tip: take a bus out of town to Devin Castle (pictured). It’s a 6th Century ruin that sits at the fork of two rivers, and it undoubtedly adds to the Bratislava experience.

The Chain Bridge and Parliament

 

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is about 2.5 hours away, and a very historical, interesting city. There’s quite a bit to see and do in Budapest, and a free walking tour is a great way to see a lot of it (they’re great in every city, not just

Budapest!), as well as hear stories about what you’re looking at. I also loved the tranquility of the thermal baths.

Graz, Austria

If you do the pre-semester orientation and cultural program, you’ll go to Graz, but because my friend and I didn’t, we took a spontaneous day-trip instead. Although it’s one of Austria’s largest cities, we managed to see most things, including climbing the hill to the Uhrturm (clock tower) in that time.

Porto, Portugal

Whilst I was on exchange, I was lucky enough to be selected and compete for QUT at

the University of Porto’s International Case Competition. While this involved being locked in a room for 34 hours to solve a case (albeit with 3 fantastic friends), it also involved meeting some amazing people from all over the world, and getting a guided tour by local students around the beautiful city of Porto. The comp was easily one of the highlights of exchange.

Team QUT in front of the Faculty of Economics, University of Porto

 

 

Douro Valley, Portugal

After the competition, QUT and several other teams went on a day trip to the world-renowned Douro Valley.  The valley was absolutely beautiful, and it was very refreshing to see such incredible scenery after Vienna’s relatively low tree-to-building ratio.

 

Inside the Sagrada Familia

Barcelona, Spain

(Unfortunately?) There are no direct flights between Porto and Vienna, so budget airlines tend to stop in Barcelona. We booked a couple of nights there on our way back, and got to experience some Spanish culture via sangrias, several walking tours, tapas, and paella. We were also very lucky to be able to spend time with people we’d met at various competitions (including Porto), and on exchange. Be sure to book online beforehand for Park Guell or the Sagrada Familia if you’d like to enter those, because they often sell out of tickets at the venue!

Berlin, Germany

I’d been interested in travelling to Berlin for a little while, but sadly I did it the disservice of not having enough time to truly explore the city (I would recommend 2-3 nights there, minimum). In the short time that I had there, I saw the East Side Gallery (pictured), the Brandenburg Gate, and visited the museum dedicated to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

The East Side Gallery, a large remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall decorated by street artists from around the world

 

Krakow, Poland

Inside the Basilica of St Mary

 

One year ago, if you were to ask me which countries I imagined myself visiting whilst I was on exchange, Poland probably wouldn’t have made it on my list. Enticed by my friend’s stories, 5 euro bus tickets, and a very large gap in my timetable, I decided to see Krakow for myself, and I was pleasantly surprised. The city has very student-friendly prices, and the old town square is bustling at all times of day. While I was there, I took a guided tour of Auschwitz, which was hauntingly moving.

 

 

Copenhagen, Denmark

I flew from Krakow onto Copenhagen to visit friends and see a beautiful city, and I was not disappointed. We ate authentic

Danish pastries, climbed the spire at the Church of our Saviour to watch a beautiful dusk and wandered through Nyhavn and Paper Island at night. Although Copenhagen is very beautiful, it is also quite expensive, and a surprisingly small city: my tip is that you only really need 2 full days to explore it.

View from the spire of the Church of our Saviour

 

Malmo, Sweden

The main square in old town Malmo

Many of the ‘Things to do in Copenhagen’ lists suggest ‘Take the train to Sweden’ – and

with my friend’s recommendation, I did. For the same price as entry to Copenhagen’s Tivoli you take the train across the bridge (famous in the TV series ‘The Bridge’) to Malmo.   Unfortunately, it was cold, windy and rainy for my daytrip, so most of my sightseeing involved comparing Swedish and Danish aesthetic (a little more colourful, but just as expensive), eating a delicious soup in a café that was also a record store, and eating New York cheesecake (thanks globalisation!).

 

Innsbruck, Austria

This trip was meant to be a trip to Milan with three other people, but ended up as a trip

to Innsbruck with one other person. It also ended up being one of the most beautiful trips I have ever taken.  We stayed at an Airbnb in Innsbruck, and our three days there

were filled with my friend and I turning every corner and gaping at the incredible scenery. One thing we did that I thoroughly recommend to anyone who’s interested in seeing Innsbruck is to not limit yourself to just the town.

View of Innsbruck

We took a “regional” bus, and stayed on until the end (approx. 20 minutes). Because the tickets are day passes, we wandered from one small town to the next (at most it would have been a kilometre between towns), and hopped on and off the bus as we pleased. It allowed us great freedom, and some amazing views (as seen in the photo below).

A stunning panorama outside the tiny town of Rinn

 

Vienna’s location allowed me to easily travel to all of these places with whilst studying. The question isn’t “Why Vienna?” It’s “Why NOT Vienna?”

 

 

 

How was studying at HTW?

Chloe: HTW Berlin, Semester 1, 2016

chloe-mcgovern4

Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)

The university program was very different to what I was used to in Australia. The course had no real structure and the teachers had carte blanche to decide what the content was, what the assessment was and when the assessment occurred. For example, I was doing the same subject as one of my friends and we had completely different content, different assignments and exams and different course time frames. One of my teachers was pregnant so she did the entire course in 6 weeks, so I had already finished one of my classes by mid-May. My friends in the other class had to do the subject for the entire semester with a final exam in July. I found this very strange as the QUT program is so structured and uniform, everyone studies exactly the same thing, does the exact same assessment and all sit the exam simultaneously. No lectures or tutorials in Berlin were recorded, some classes had no lecture slides or overview of content and there were no prescribed textbooks. It was difficult to follow a lot of the content as the teachers had varying levels of English proficiency. Being a native English speaker was a huge advantage, as non-fluent speakers really struggled to understand what was going on. Sometimes it was very difficult to understand what the teacher meant and understand the PowerPoint slides, as a lot of the time it seemed like they had just copied and pasted the German wording into Google Translate and then put it on a lecture slide. This resulted in some very strange sentences and it wasn’t always immediately clear what their point was.

Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)

Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)

The highlights of my experience were being able to travel by myself and see more of Europe, meeting so many incredible people from all over the world along the way. I also

University Building

University Building

enjoyed having so much time to just explore Berlin. I was able to spend an entire day in one museum, perusing slowly and taking everything in, as opposed to rushing through like I had done on the first time I was there. I loved walking around every day in a city filled with so much history and seeing the classic tourist sites like Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall never got old. All in all it was a truly incredible experience and I learnt a lot about myself and how I cope with adversity.

 

My Time in Mannheim

Caitlin: University of Mannheim, Germany – Semester 2, 2015 & Semester 1, 2016

My name is Caitlin and I set out on my year abroad to Europe in July, 2015. At that time, I had no idea that the next year of my life would be the best year yet!! For the next year, I was undertaking my study year abroad at the University of Mannheim, which is located in the South/West part of Germany. This was a city of approximately 360,000 inhabitants and it was here that I made friends from around the world.

Galata Tower, Turkey

Galata Tower, Turkey

Prior to moving into my apartment in Mannheim, I did a contiki tour solo in Turkey and Greece. It was the summertime and I saw the perfect opportunity to embrace the beautiful weather. I highly recommend doing some travel before you start your exchange semester or year, so that you feel a bit more confident towards travelling solo for when you do arrive in your exchange destination.

Highlights

During my year abroad, I had some amazing experiences and was able to share these experiences with the awesome people I met along the way. My favourite parts of the year abroad were the wine festivals in Germany, of course the beer festivals too: P below is a photo of my friends and I at the Stuttgart Volksfest Beer Festival!

My Brother and I in front of Mannheim

My Brother and I in front of Mannheim

Travelling to Amsterdam was amazing, I loved the city’s atmosphere and would go back again in a heartbeat. I was lucky enough to travel to Norway to spend Christmas with one of my closest friends from exchange and experience a proper Norwegian Christmas. I will never forget it!!! There I am below enjoying the Norwegian snow! I would do this year all over again; it will change your life!

To find out more about QUT Student Exchange, visit our website!

Living in Berlin

Chloe: HTW Berlin, Semester 1, 2016

I spent Semester 1 of 2016 on exchange at HTW Berlin, Germany. I chose to study in Berlin because I had visited the city with my family in 2011 and fallen in love with the culture and the historical significance of the city. I did not know anyone else going to Germany, so I was very nervous. I arrived in early March for 3 weeks of orientation before classes began in early April.

chloe-mcgovern1

Reichstag Building (Parliament Dome)

I did not speak any German prior to moving to Berlin and this was a huge challenge throughout the semester. Very few people spoke English and a lot of the administrative information was only provided to us in German. I had to sign a lease in German as well as organise a phone plan, bank account and apply for a Visa extension. Fortunately the exchange office at HTW was very helpful with translation problems and made things a lot easier for us.

Dorm Room

Dorm Room

I was lucky to be allocated to one of the student dormitories, so I was able to make friends very quickly. Living in the same building as so many other exchange students was the best decision I made, as it allowed me to settle in a lot faster. The international dormitory was on the outskirts of the city, so it took around half an hour to get to the university campus and about 45 minutes to get into the city. Being located in the fast East of Berlin was very interesting, as all of the architecture was reminiscent of the Russian presence during the Cold War.

Dorm Kitchen

Dorm Kitchen

Surviving in Berlin

 

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At HTW, With regards to how I funded my time in Berlin, I financed my whole trip from the government bursary, the QUT scholarship and 1,500 of my own savings, so not a huge amount for 6 months in europe. However I found it super easy to live by with my 100 euro a week plan, this left me a little bit to do cheap travel in Europe. I did have my parents help with managing some of my finances but I found most of it was still quite easily manageable and allowed me to have both a lot of fun but also live comfortably in Berlin as it’s such a cheap and accessible city. Berlin as well as being cheap was also quite safe from how I felt, like all big cities pickpocketing is a risk but in Berlin thanks to the 24 hour transport system and nocturnal lifestyle I felt quite safe in most of my time there, only really general city safety precautions required. Culturally the Germans are actually quite welcoming and helpful once you get past the language barrier and the apparent anger (which usually isn’t the case, they just look and sound angry normally sometimes) overall I found the adjustment quite quick due to making friends fast in student accommodation and through the uni’s exchange activities.   One thing I would say you have to bring on exchange though if a good backpack you can travel in but also use at uni my backpack was great for getting around europe and also getting around Berlin and to uni so I never had to leave things like my camera behind if I wanted to bring it. Overall exchange was an amazing experience that gave me such a huge opportunity to grow as a person, become more dependent, and to become more of a global thinker, QUT has given me the skills, exchange gave me some experience and I feel that with these new abilities I could take my education and career anywhere. I would recommend this exchange program as almost a “must do” – the things you learn really cannot be replicated in many other ways, and with QUT’s amazing support system, it really is a great opportunity to see the world and I learn new things from a diverse range of people and places.

Integrating into the Berlin community

Living in Berlin is really easy and accessible, rent in the student accommodation was very cheap and the rooms were a good size and had their own kitchen and bathroom which was super helpful to have in a student place. Water and power was included in rent and I found it very easy to live on 100 euro a week (monthly rent not included) with grocery shopping being easily available and cheap.

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German is not too difficult to pick up and a lot of people in Berlin speak English as well, the adjustment period was daunting at first but I wouldn’t let the language barrier be off putting, it was actually a fun challenge but English was also easy to use if you got stuck. HTW provides a short German course I would also recommend taking up German as a subject while studying at HTW if you can because it’s a great skill to have and well taught. Studying in German was also a difficult but interesting experience, I did not speak any proper German before I left and while HTW was extremely helpful it was also a great incentive to practice more German day to day, but even when I couldn’t understand I was also given information in english which I appreciated greatly. HTW’s fashion design degree and general subject system was slightly different to QUT, I personally found the workload to be not too difficult or time consuming, but challenging enough that I knew I was getting a valuable education experience as well as that extra freedom to engage with Berlin culturally and gain out of uni experience as well.

University Life in Berlin

Going on exchange with QUT is one of the most valuable and amazing experiences you could possibly have while studying, to be able to travel, study and experience so many new and wonderful things is an experience QUT gave me that I will not soon forget. My name is Neneh and i’m currently in my 3rd year of the Bachelor of Design Fashion at QUT and have just returned from 6 months exchange in Berlin Germany with university HTW. For fashion design Berlin couldn’t have been a better place, it was fun, busy, huge and certainly one of the most creative places I’ve ever been, Berlin offered me so much in the way of skills both university related and life skills and it was an experience i’ll be able to draw on for the rest of my life. The university (HTW) was a great place with lots of resources and super helpful teachers who went above and beyond to help us when our German wasn’t very good, the staff are friendly and listened to our concerns as exchange students providing a lot of much needed help with all aspects of a new life in Germany. HTW provided lots of great activities and fun stuff to get to know our fellow exchange students and see Berlin, in particular the university organized Prague trip was such a great opportunity I wouldn’t have gotten without the HTW exchange office’s involvement in student life.Pic1

I was living in the student accommodation the university recommended in Biesdorf on the east of Berlin called Wonheim Victor Jara and for anyone going on exchange to Berlin I would actually really recommend it, most of the exchange students go to live there and it’s a really great way to meet and get to know lots of different people, the area is nice even if it’s a bit of a way out and the house staff are friendly and helpful, I had a lot of fun living there together with most of the other exchange students and made some great friendships.