Make the Leap and Go On Exchange!

Alexandra K., Dual Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and Business
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany (Semester 1, 2018)

Imagine thousands of people sitting by a river, beer in hand, basking in the sunlight or throwing a Frisbee while techno music plays in the background. This is the definition of a Berlin summer. Sadly, my exchange was for the fall semester, where snow and a Glühwein by a fire was more favourable. However, being kept indoors also meant more time to bond with the students who I shared my dormitory with. Students from all backgrounds and languages mingled daily, and there was certainly no shortage of partying. The little things are what makes an exchange so memorable, such as ice skating at the Christmas markets together or using the car seats from an abandoned van in our living room. Some of the people I lived with have made their way into my heart as life-long friends, who I have already visited in their home countries.I attended HWR for one semester with the goal of deepening my knowledge of international management in an international setting. The experiences and lessons I gained from the teachers who are sourced from all round the world were invaluable, and helped to set me apart from the curve. HWR, like most of Germany, is very old-fashioned and traditional in their approach to learning and bureaucracy. No lectures are recorded and you are expected to build a relationship with your teacher. This approach at first seems a bit intrusive or unnecessary, but my teachers were able to connect with me on a personal and professional level. This approach encourages students to develop their own opinion and solutions to issues presented, as opposed to simply memorising content.

Culture shock in Germany was inevitable, but learning the language is the best step towards fitting in and finding your place. Before my exchange, I studied German in Brisbane at the “DerDieDas” school, which was excellent to ensure I was not wasting time on the basics when in Berlin. After my 6 months of exchange, I am currently at a B2 level, and am undertaking an internship in Berlin now. Advice for your exchange I can offer is be prepared to feel lonely, homesick or just displaced. Take the time out of your week to call home, be ready for the shopkeepers to be rude to you, and don’t be afraid to go out alone. One of the highlights of my experience was simply going to a local German-owned café and spending hours preparing for my German exam the next day. This small decision lead to me meeting my now-boyfriend, a Kiwi who lives in Berlin! Just make the leap and go on exchange, but don’t stop there, make the leap and squeeze every last drop out of the experience.

What One Can Do Tomorrow, One Can Do Today

Harry B., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

The task of conveying my experience on exchange feels somewhat futile, for what made the experience unforgettable – the people met, language learnt, and culture lived – cannot, without losing something of its charm, be neatly distilled into a blog post. Can my friends, my parents, really understand just what it was that I underwent, why it was that I relished my time overseas; the experience and memories being so subjectively and personally my own. Perhaps this scepticism is shared by the exchange faculty, who advised in the writing of this post I focus on the university, facilities, costs, campus life and general tips – in short, just the most useful and easily digestible snippets of information addressed to the palate of the reader who is preparing, or contemplating, their own experience, not so much yours. So it is this I have attempted in the following few paragraphs.

The Berlin School of Economics and Law, where I studied, is in German classified a Hochschule – something of a university, but on a smaller scale, with smaller class and campus sizes. My lectures rarely had more than 30 people, my tutorials even less. This is vastly different to QUT and, I discovered, quite to my liking. For it was because of this the students became better friends, and the learning experience more intimate. Downsides do exist, but are not sufficient, surely, to hamper things: the library was to my mind under resourced, having neither enough places to study, nor computers to use. But I am guessing those reading this, if they’re on exchange, will not frequent the library all that often. My chief gripe, which is to the detriment of us internationals, is the absence of a well organised and supported club for exchange students. Although some effort was being made to remedy this towards the end of my stay, this was of no help to me, whose efforts to meet people would have been greatly assisted by an organisation, like QUT Exchange Buddies Club here, which organised bar nights and activities. Again, given the city in which you live, Berlin, is not short of entertainment, you may not find this gripe as deleterious as did I. But certainly one has a far better time gallivanting around with friends, than without, and it is through clubs run for the benefit of exchange students you meet such comrades.

I resided in private accommodation, which was quite expensive. Places in Berlin are becoming dearer and harder to find, so ensure you secure a place to live –using, say, AirBnb or or the fantastic WG-gesucht.com – well, well, in advance. Alternatively, one could through the university apply for a room in a student dorm, run by the organisation Studentenwerk. Though in general further out from the city centre, they are very affordable and populated with students. You will find, I am told, that the commute is not prohibitively long (especially biking to the train station) – at least not so long as to negate the other, sizable benefits of staying there.

Berlin, apart from the sometimes high cost of private accommodation, is affordable. We live in an expensive country, so I suppose wheresoever we go we will be pleasantly surprised, but everything – public transport, food and groceries, alcohol, entertainment, health insurance – is markedly less expensive than Brisbane.

As to the culture of the place, I have been on a previous exchange to Germany, that time to Mannheim, and must say, the feel of Berlin is itself unique; it has no counterpart, I do not think, across country or even Europe. Frankly, I can imagine few places where a student exchange would be more fitting. There is plenty to do and see – which you probably did not require my assurance of. I recommend learning the language: there is an intensive class offered in the month preceding the commencement of classes. It helps to know a few words. Culture shock, to be honest, is not the problem it may have been in other Germany cities and towns. Berlin is extremely cosmopolitan, an unbelievable melting pot, and it is not uncommon to hear many different languages spoken in cafes and trains. To be sure, there are many locals earnestly going about their business, whose sensibilities you ought not to disregard. But on the whole, people tend to coexist in acceptance of and harmony with everyone else.

Tips:

  • Should you have the money, get German health insurance (80 Euro per month) – this will save you some hassle.
  • Ration your money, spent wisely and be resourceful.
  • Without being reckless, take risks: you are, for a short period, incognito.
  • Meet people and make friends as quickly as possible, organise outings.
  • Improve your cooking, stay healthy, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and take vitamin pills.
  • Above all: do not waste what little time you have. You will be on your long haul hour flight back to banal Brisbane before you know it, so hit the ground running, be prepared and make no excuses for yourself. What one can do tomorrow, one can do today.

There is Truly Something for Everyone in Berlin

Ben M., Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)/Bachelor of Information Technology
Technische Universität Berlin, Germany (Semester 1, 2017)

Standing in front of Technische Universitat Berlin

Berlin is the most exciting city I have ever been to, it is so culturally and ethnically diverse and for the last 7 months I’ve been lucky enough to call it my home while I completed an exchange program at the Technische Universität Berlin.

Although I told myself I would do lots of research and find out as much as I could about the city before I left, it became quickly apparent that that was not going to happen. So I landed in Berlin speaking no German, had no idea about the culture or the history surrounding the city.

Was I excited? Scared? Missing home? Lost? To be honest, after over 24 hours in flights and two stop overs, I was tired and couldn’t wait to sleep.

One of the most striking things about being there was, surprisingly, the language barrier. Majority of the population speaks very good English, and 99% of people under 30 will speak perfect English, yet despite this it’s a barrier to work out how to ask someone if they can speak English with you; and it feels somewhat weird to be speaking a Language which is not the main language. Even the little things like buying cheese or milk in a supermarket were made a lot harder by having no idea what was what.

After a couple of days my perspective changed though, with the help of google translate, no more jetlag and lots of hand gestures I started feeling much more comfortable and began to make some friends.

The city has a very dark and interesting past; surviving two world wars, the cold war and from even earlier. This, often incredibly varied history, has created a completely unique cultural blend and sense of freedom through the whole city that I’ve never experienced anywhere else in the world. It feels to a large extent that you can do whatever you would like, however you would like, as long as you don’t hurt other people, or the environment. And that’s how the city lives and the rules its inhabitants respect, which also leads to a complete culture of acceptance of individuality and who people are. In one day you will see goths, businessmen, families and a whole multitude of others, who by normal standards are ‘quirky’ or ‘different’, yet in Berlin no one would blink an eye, everyone and everything is treated as normal.

In central Berlin The Fernsehturm is a must see!

More than that there is truly something for everyone in this city. If you want to experience the worlds best techno clubs (Including places to sleep and buy food inside the clubs) you can, if you want to work for a start up, you can, if you’re interested in business methods, you can learn about that, if you want to do something creative you can do that.

The city and its people are supportive of no matter what you are interested in and no matter who you are, where you come from and what you like to do; which made living there one of the nicest experiences of my life.
That said, the city does definitely has its draw backs, it is an incredibly large and diverse city and its constantly changing which is not for the faint of heart. It is a big challenge to keep up with the city and if you’re not careful you can burn out very easily, which I saw many other exchange students do.

Studying in Germany is also completely different, the education system for University is much more free than in Australia, and for the most part students are given a large range of freedom when choosing subjects and the number of electives they have. This is also reflected in the learning style, which features much more self-directed learning than I was used to. Once I became used to this change it was fantastic, there was significantly less assignments, take home quizzes and some of my units had just one exam at the end of the semester. This did however mean a bit more of a crazy rush at the end of the semester, especially given they have no mid semester breaks.

Riding a bike through Berlin

Most of the universities are also state run and students do not pay for the tuition. This means, usually, less fancy, showy and flashy buildings and technology, but do not let that fool you, the standard of the education is incredible and has some of the best research and professors in the world.

My best takeaway from exchange was to learn German as a second language. Not only is it a great skill to have but it makes life a lot easier. Even the basics of the language instantly meant I could order food, drinks, and go shopping with a lot more ease. Once I began to meet people and have conversations in German a completely new world opened up to me.

Learning the language not only gave me the ability to make new friends but gave me a much greater value and understanding of the cultural norms and differences and allowed me to understand a lot more of the quirks and things that I wasn’t used to.

A great spot to see the Teufelsberg towers

Doing exchange was a fantastic opportunity that I was so fortunate to take, I learnt another language, experienced a city unlike any other and now have friends from all around the world. I can definitely recommend going to a city that is not first language English. Even if you don’t speak the language it will expose you to a completely different culture to what we are used to in Australia and give you many opportunities to learn a lot about your self and other people!

The experiences I had on exchange, and the things I learnt, make me feel like a completely different person. In just 7 months I learnt so much about myself and have memories and life lessons to carry with me for the rest of my life.

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

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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.

 

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.

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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.

My life-changing Berlin experience

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Fashion is a creative industry that is often dismissed as frivolous and vacuous, however this misconception has spurred me to seek success and ingenuity as a young designer, and pushed me to pursue fashion on an international scale. The exchange program at QUT was promoted to me by undergraduate and fashion alumni, and while I was afraid of the challenges that a semester abroad would present, when I found out I was accepted there was no looking back!

I took my exchange at HTW Berlin because students and teachers recommended it as a progressive institution, and the city is somewhere I have wanted to visit for some time. The university and the city itself is a remarkable combination of modernity and antiquity, as Berlin is one of the most historically and culturally rich cities in the world.

The Wilhelminenhof campus is located in an abandoned cable factory, as is the case with many institutions in Berlin. The grunge undertones of the city are reflected in the street art and club scene that creates a tapestry of youth culture.

HTW provided excellent care for their many international students, and gave us options despite the prevalent language barrier. Moreover the students were willing to help us translate classes and support our endeavors at the university and beyond, as they all spoke English well and relished the chance to practice with native English speakers. I had several private lessons to gain a basic understanding of German before my departure, and once in Berlin, HTW provided a compulsory German language intensive, however our language skills were basic and we relied on the generosity of other students to fully understand the given work. While I am thankful that I learnt some German, several of the partnered teachers were understandably confused as to why we did not have an advanced knowledge of the language of instruction. I would recommend all students who are likely to exchange with HTW to try very hard to learn sufficient German.

The facilities at HTW allowed us to learn techniques that could not be feasibly taught in a smaller institution such as print making, knitwear and specialised pattern making. These are the benefits of having a very large student base, however the campus and machines are often crowded during peak assessment season. Other fashion students at HTW were committed and mature in their learning approach, and the workload is vast, demanding and stimulating. Berlin is a cultural hub in which every street can provide hidden inspiration and consequently, the style of fashion taught is less commercial and more Avant-garde. This was a welcome change and provided inspiration and practical work for my portfolio.

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One factor that concerned me while I was applying to the exchange program was my age (18 at the time), and the fact that I have never lived outside of home, not to mention overseas. I decided that the best option for me was to apply with some of my friends from Fine Arts fashion and thankfully, we all were accepted! I lived in a long stay Air Bnb with two girls who are now my closest friends, and our apartment could not have been more central or more appropriate to our needs.

Before our departure I was granted money from QUT, which combined with money I earned, sustained me throughout my trip. We were warned that finding accommodation in Berlin can be difficult but we searched tirelessly through multiple websites to find a place for the three of us. The city is set up with an amazing underground train (U-Bahn) that took us to HTW and all around Berlin easily. One rewarding lesson exchange taught me is that you can fall in love with a city fast and hard, the aspects of which are unexpected and delightful.

I felt completely at home in Berlin, safe on the streets and welcomed by the community. It is important for visitors to be cautious in some areas of the city, but this is the case all over the world. In my six months

I experienced one threatening situation, which was resolved with rational thinking and boldness. Sometimes I had to think on my feet, as I tiptoed the line between ‘local’ and ‘tourist’, but ultimately I learnt independence and self-confidence.

Exchange is what you make of it, and what I made was an opportunity to see the world and improve myself. Making friends was the most special part of my exchange, and the international and local friendships I fostered are ones that I will cherish forever.

When my time in berlin was approaching an end I had to remind myself that exchange was always going to be a short-term experience, and one that could not be repeated- which is what makes it so special!

Before leaving Australia I was nervous that six months was a long time, that I would loose touch with my home, and that I would change too much. But while reflecting on my trip I realized that personal change is just enhancing who you are. I learnt so much about the industry and about myself in such a short space of time that it can be difficult to return to normalcy, but I have gained the understanding and I can travel and live in foreign cities again, and fall in love all over again.