Fall Semester in Amsterdam City!

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

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

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

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

What about living arrangements?

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

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

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

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

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

Go to Amsterdam.

There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes

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

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

Hillhead campus in November taken from Argyle St

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fashion-forward in Florence

Aimee R, Bachelor of Creative Industries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Munich Experience

Kaydon L, Bachelor of Engineering

Technical University of Munich (Semester 2, 2016)

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

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

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

Student Exchange Buddies

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

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

A beautiful Munich city sunset

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

A visit to Norway

Visiting nearby Switzerland

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

Halstadt, Austria

London Calling

Jessica R, Bachelor of Business/Law

CIS Australia: January in London (January, 2017)

 

Host University

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

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

Host Country

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

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

Tower Bridge, London

Trip highlights

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

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

Winter in Stuttgart

Gemma T, Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology

Stuttgart Winter University (January – February, 2017)

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

‘Crisps’ or ‘Chips’?

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

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

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

Obvious disapproval of being mislead by the blue packaging.

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

Subway employee,”uh… the what?”

“Capsicum, the green stuff?”

Friend, “Emma. That’s pepper.”

*Sighs internally*

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

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

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

A Polish Experience

Clay A, Master of Business

Warsaw School of Economics (Semester 2, 2016)

I have just completed one semester at Szkoła Główna Handlowa w Warszawie aka the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) in Warsaw, Poland. It was a truly fantastic experience.

SGH Main Building

SGH is a reputable business university in Warsaw located just south of the city centre. The campus itself is spread out over a couple of blocks in various, interesting looking buildings. The university itself is quite old, as are some of the teaching methods (over-head projectors, no lecture recordings, and best of all black boards with chalk) and I enjoyed every second of it. There are also very modern classrooms as shown below.

The main difference I noticed between SGH and QUT is that SGH is far more formal and the students are treated more like young adults. The students at SGH are required to call the lecturers ‘professor’ as opposed to the more casual approach at QUT. This formality is most likely reflective of Polish language and culture as a whole, which seems generally more formal. One thing I have noticed in my time abroad is that Australia is an extremely casual and laid-back country, and that we never get views like this from our classroom.

International Finance Lecture Room

Don’t let the formality of Polish culture put you off, this formality is mainly limited to the older generation. The younger Polish people I met in Warsaw were always very interested to learn that I was from Australia and were eager to practice their English speaking skills on me especially some Australian slang that they had picked up. The general consensus of people I spoke to referred to Australia as a ‘dream country’. Not many people I met had visited Australia but all of them seemed to have a distant relative or friend living in Australia. The cost of travelling to Australia played a major role in deterring people from visiting.

Always snow out of the window

The currency in Poland is the Polish zloty (pronounced zwotie), which equates to about 1/3 of an AU$ which was ideal for me and the other foreigners as the cost of living in Poland is very cheap, especially compared to its neighbouring countries in the EU zone. A 6 month student public transport card for unlimited travel was the equivalent AUD$100. The cost of food in restaurants, even very fancy places, was significantly cheaper than any major city in Australia.

I really enjoyed the Polish cuisine, especially during the colder months. It consisted of lots of different soups, meat (pork knuckles, beef tartar, ribs, duck legs etc), potatoes and cabbage (boiled, stewed, pickled). But the most notable of the Polish cuisines was the pierogi! Pierogi are Polish dumplings, the encasing of which are not too dissimilar from a Chinese dumpling, however the fillings are mainly cabbage, mushroom, beef, pork and are often covered with a bacon/oil sauce. Delicious!

Various styles of Pierogi

There were many international students at SGH, a large portion was from Germany but I also made friends with many Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, South Americans and even Egyptians. Two notable highlights for me in my time abroad was firstly having a Christmas party in my apartment with all my SGH friends, everyone came wearing their ugliest Christmas jumper and bringing with them a native dish from their country. The night ended with karaoke with everyone singing songs in their mother tongue. There was a total of 6 different languages sung, something which is very rare in Australia, but probably far more common in Europe.

The other highlight for me was travelling all over Europe, visiting a total of 16 countries in 5 months. The most memorable was travelling to Italy over the Christmas break, I was lucky enough to be invited for Christmas lunch to a friend’s family home I met at SGH in Treviso, Italy. I had a memorable and very delicious experience which was possible because of Erasmus experience at SGH.

I would highly recommend taking up the challenge/experience of studying abroad.

International Christmas Party

Highlights and tips for a semester in Madrid

James W, Bachelor of Engineering

Polytechnic University of Madrid (Semester 2, 2016)

Madrid is a large, lively, beautiful and friendly city. There are always events and things to do, incredible public transport, a compact city centre and it is really safe! Even though it is a big metropolitan city it still has an interesting and different culture. It´s very refreshing to learn about Spanish history, customs and traditions that continue to influence the country a lot today in spite of globalisation and tourism.

If you ever get bored of the capital, Spain is an incredible country to explore. Every single town and city has its own festival, most of them being week long parties filled with free live music, fireworks, dancing, shows and events. Most of these are around summer but don´t miss out whilst you´re there! I went to: la Tomatina, a festival where everyone throws tomatoes at each other. Semana Grande, a week long festival of free music, theatre, sporting events, fireworks and performances. Las Fallas, a festival where artists spend the entire year creating incredibly tall statues the size of buildings and large trees before burning them all on one spectacular night. San Fermines, a week long festival where every morning they run bulls and people down the middle of the streets! There are many more someone could go to and they´re all very different depending on the local region and culture!

The universities are totally different to ours in Australia which makes for a really interesting and potentially challenging experience as well. The bureaucracy, facilities and teaching styles are quite different and seem a bit outdated but actually have a lot of advantages too. The classes tend to be smaller with attendance often compulsory, which makes it easier to get to know the professors and become more interested in the subjects. There is often less dependence on technology which can help fight against the distractions of the internet and “computer says no” bureaucracy.

Living in Madrid is also great because it´s very cheap! There is accommodation for all budgets to be able to live centrally, I lived in the city centre for less than 110 dollars a week with only a week’s search (although a reasonable understanding of Spanish may be required for this). Unlimited public transport pass is 30 dollars a month for under 26 year olds with most services run from 6am to 2am. There are also 24/7 bus routes connecting to the city centre. The university offers 3 course buffet style meals for $7.5 which are so big I used to split the meals across lunch and dinner. That´s less than $8 for lunch, dinner and dessert – they even wash the dishes for you! Coffee can be bought in cafe´s for as cheap as a dollar as well. Going out is also great as they have an incredible bar and tapas culture as well as a wide variety of clubs although most the music is reggaeton, which you´ll learn to love as well.

So go there, make some great friends, travel the country, go to some festivals and enjoy the great tapas and cheap cañas!

Making the most of my time in Vienna

Olivia R, Bachelor of Business/Laws

University of Vienna (Semester 2, 2016)

Travelling to Vienna, Austria, I was overwhelmed with the prospect of studying human rights law in the place so deeply rooted in the fundamentals of legal first principles. As my classes were in English, and many exchange students were not from English-speaking countries, the subjects themselves were quite light on. It was fairly disheartening, though allowed me to realign my future goals. The main building of The University of Vienna is incredible, though only history and English subjects are taught in that building.

The main staircase of The University of Vienna & throwing a cheeky snowball in Stadt Park, Vienna on the first snow day.

Prior to departure, I had been told to budget more than other exchange destinations. Vienna, Austria, is renowned for its extravagant coffee houses, long nights at the State Opera House, and elaborate palaces. While its First District, the Inner Stadt, is notoriously expensive, on par with Sydney or Melbourne, not too many students venture out to the restaurants and hotels in this area. As long as you have a budget figured out, and are pretty good at sticking to it, there’s no reason you can’t occasionally treat yourself to one of those famous coffee houses. Part of my budgeting was to live in student accommodation a bit further out of the city, in order to take advantage of the plethora of Eastern European countries at Austria’s doorstep.

An autumn sunset in Vienna & christmas lights in Vienna’s Inner Stadt

Over my five months in Austria I managed to pack in 11 other countries. A quick 50-minute bus ride east will find you in sweet little Bratislava, Slovakia. A small and relatively quiet capital city usually, Bratislava played host to the international White Night Festival the weekend I was there. I feel that I saw Bratislava at its absolute best—a light, culture and food festival lasting from 6pm-6am, and the Slovakians were out in full force for it!

Looking up to Bratislava Castle.

Next was Ljubljana, Slovenia. As a bit of an underdog city, I had no real idea of what to expect from Ljubljana. I went with two other exchange students. Having no preconception whatsoever of Slovenia, we had an absolutely incredible weekend. Slovenia is certainly an up and coming country, with many local designers and concept stores lining its streets. Ljubljana was awarded the greenest city in Europe for 2016, and no wonder! With cool social enterprise restaurants that charge per minute you’re inside and bikes stationed all over the city. We even made it out to Lake Bled for a chilly afternoon.

While I could write at length about each country and culture I visited, I feel these two places were their own kind of highlight. Were it not for the proximity of these places that Austria facilitated, I may not have ever travelled to these trendy places. These were such memorable destinations purely from the pleasant surprise of how much I enjoyed them, and a kind of opening of my world view when it comes to travel.

At the Vienna State Opera & The 180 Degrees Consulting Team.

Vienna itself provides a multitude of cultural experiences, from the State Opera House, to the extraordinary Albertina Museum and the historical significance embedded in its very identity. Vienna is truly a destination for history buffs, with plaques commemorating World War II significances, infamous psychologists and composers on almost every corner of the Inner Stadt.

While in Vienna, I was privileged to be a part of 180 Degrees Consulting Vienna. I was part of a team advising a firm that established an online job platform for Austrian refugees. For me, this was the definite highlight of my whole trip. We were also awarded the best project for Austria that semester. I met some incredible and impassioned people using social enterprise, who I am sure I will keep in contact with. It has encouraged me to join the 180 Degrees Consulting UQ team.