Thinking About Going on Exchange? Do it.

My final exams are over, Bishop’s is closing for the holidays and by now the majority of my wardrobe is purple, so I guess that means my time here as a student is up!

Applying to go on exchange and choosing Bishop’s has been the best decision I’ve ever made. So I want to take a moment to say to anyone who might be considering going on an exchange (or even if you’re not), do it! There are so many amazing places out there, choose somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or somewhere that looks cool to you and just go for it. Get that second job and start saving, work hard for a scholarship that can get you there, plan a budget that works for you, boost your grades and take the time to put together a great application – whatever it is you can do to make it happen, if you can do it, I guarantee it’ll be worth it.

My advice once you get there? Immerse yourself in the university life, embrace the foreign culture, stay in contact with family and friends back home, study (not too much! but enough to pass), make new friends, party, travel and just have fun with it – it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

What I love about the student exchange program is that it’s more than just travelling and more than just studying. I got the chance to live in another country for the first time, have the ‘college experience’, be the ‘foreign exchange student’, and meet people and learn things I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. If you’re experience is anything like mine, you’ll have the time your life.

I also just want to take a second to mention, it’s ‘pass or fail’. Okay, I’ll leave it at that.

So after all this, if you’re wondering why I’m not an absolute mess right now about having to leave, because I’m so in love with this place and the people in it, I’ll be returning for a visit to Bishop’s in January to say my goodbyes before I fly back home to Australia. Until then – I might not be an exchange student anymore but that doesn’t mean the adventure is over yet! I came all this way, so now it’s time to travel!

Changing Expectations

Roisin: Zhejiang University, China: Semester 1, 2016

Whatever expectations or preconceived notions I had about China prior to my exchange, they all went out the window as soon as I arrived on a cold day in February. It is truly unlike any other country I have ever been to. It is a country both rich in history and steeped in tradition, yet moving at a breakneck pace towards the future.

By West Lake in Hangzhou, China (the city I was living in).

By West Lake in Hangzhou, China (the city I was living in).

 

From Hangzhou, the city in which I lived, I travelled to both rural villages, where I watch the workers as they spent hours picking tea leaves in the fields, and to the fast-paced city of Shanghai, where I witnessed hundreds of skyscrapers light up along the river at night-time.

The Chinese language and cultural course taught at Zhejiang University was completely immersive, with classes every day from Monday through to Friday, as well as tests on a weekly basis, which forced us to keep up to speed with the new vocabulary we were learning every day. As a result, I feel like my language levels improved exponentially over the course of the semester.

With Liam (also a QUT Exchange Student) in Shanghai

With Liam (also a QUT Exchange Student) in Shanghai

Additionally, being able to study the language with a cohort of international students from all corners of the globe, such as Morocco, Thailand, Poland, Sudan and Korea, made it a fun and exciting experience and allowed me to make friends with people I would have never otherwise had the chance to.

Find out more about QUT Student Exchange here!

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.

 

Getting Involved at City Uni London

Hannah: City University London, Semester 1, 2016

I learned social sport was a year round activity open to all new students so I joined the hockey team. This was a definite highlight of my university experience as I got the opportunity to be a part of a team and met some amazing individuals. Together we attended training and games each week, sports award dinners and Wednesday nights at city bar where each sport hosted events. Attending city bar provided another opportunity to meet individuals and develop friendships. The campus consisted of a number of connected buildings, specific to different faculties, which were a mixture of modern and older features.

City University London - Women's Hockey Team

City University London – Women’s Hockey Team

Awards Night Dinner

Awards Night Dinner

The Library provided extensive study spaces and resources and the food court was a central and vibrate meeting place. I studied third year criminology units including Youth crime, Gender and crime and policing while completing Indigenous Justice externally at QUT. The classes were quite small, providing an opportunity to ask questions, communicate with other students and actively engage with the learning material. In youth crime each week focused on a different theory and the course structure involved planning a group oral presentation on a specific theory (20%) and at the end of term handing in an essay on the chosen youth crime theory (80%). I had the pleasure of working with two girls on the topic of sexual bullying in schools. The style of assessment was quite different in terms of the weight attributed, and for my other two units I had 100% exams, although I had a month to prepare for the exams it was quite a stressful period. Overall I enjoyed my experience at the university and felt I participated to the best of my ability in social and academic.

Spanish Exchange

Why Spain

I recently returned from my overseas university exchange to Madrid, Spain. I chose Spain because I wanted to try and learn a different language whilst exploring a continent I had yet to visit. When I first arrived in Spain, it was August, meaning it was the middle of August. It was just as hot as Brisbane but not nearly as humid which made for a pleasant environment. I did experience some culture shock having not lived in a country that speaks a different language to English but as the weeks progressed I became more and more comfortable with my surroundings.

Madrid is a city that enjoys its nightlife. There are more bars per capita in Madrid than in any other city in the world, and it was obvious. They range from quaint little tapas bars with delicious food and small beers in which you can enjoy a pleasant afternoon with friends, to world-renowned nightclubs to dance the night away.

The University, Universidad de Carlos III, was somewhat different to QUT. Its facilities, while adequate, were not of the same quality of QUT’s but one must take every experience as it comes.

Accommodation

Accommodation was notoriously difficult to find if left till late. There are an abundance of University students wanting to find accommodation in Madrid’s centre so it’s best to be quick. However, at NO cost should you attempt to acquire accommodation in the small town of Getafe in which the University is located. Although the price might be attractive, there is absolutely nothing to do and the small amount of students I knew that lived in Getafe would constantly travel into the centre of Madrid to be with other exchange students. I lived about 100m north of Puerta Del Sol, which is with out a doubt the main hub of Madrid. It was a splendid location in a third floor apartment overlooking the walking streets. The cost was 440 euros a month plus bill so it was rather expensive but about average for the location. While rooms do fill up quickly, I would highly recommend that students view a few rooms before agreeing on one because the quality differs greatly. I had some friends that lived in surrounding suburbs of Madrid, one in particular called Malasaña, is particularly nice for night life and the price can be cheaper than Sol. Be forewarned, trust your instinct when it comes to dealing with the landlords. If they seem kind of sketchy it may be because they are trying to rip you off. Insist on receiving a copy of the contract in English (although I wouldn’t attach to much legal weight to the contract) and be aware that rent is almost always paid in cash – ask for a receipt or write your own!

 

Subjects

I was rather disappointed with the subject allocation system at Universidad de Carlos III. The system was so that all the Spanish students were able to choose their classes well before the exchange students could. This meant that it made it near impossible to get the classes that you would like to get. Also, being enrolled in Law specifically, I was forced to wait until a day after the other exchange students could enrol into classes meaning I got very few of my class preferences, leaving me with classes that I was not only semi disinterested in, but were barely beneficial to my overall academic career. Also, I chose to do some of my classes in Spanish because I wanted to learn the language. While the University did have some organisations that offered some programs for exchange students, such as group get togethers and weekends away, the University itself was not very well equipped to handle exchange students that wanted to study in Spanish. The Spanish language course that was offered for two weeks preceding the University semester cost 250 euros. Then, throughout the semester, Spanish is not even offered as a language course within the University. You must pay another 250 euros to take the Spanish language as a semester course. Furthermore, it came as a surprise that even after spending 500 euros on two Spanish courses, I was made to print off my own course material each week at my own expense. I question the validity of this system.

Finance

Financially speaking, the entirety of Europe is going to be a budget nightmare. The Australian dollar to the Euro is not a great exchange rate and will lead to an empty wallet if not closely monitored. If you’re after a shoe string exchange, including rent, food, some weekend trips, I would take no less that $10,000. If you would like to experience what Spain, and Europe, have to offer, the budget would be more like $15,000. Food is slightly cheaper in Spain and the quality usually surpasses most things in Brisbane. However, they specialise in their own types of food, processed meats, sausages, some seafood, and to expect exotic cuisine would be naive. I just used a Commonwealth Travel Money card for all my expenses. But be warned, the majority of places will only take cash (including your rent/deposit/bills) because Spain is a country seemingly built on its flippant accounting.

Tips

Safety in Madrid was rarely an issue. However, in saying that, about 50% of the people I knew were pickpocketed. It does happen if you are not careful. Wallet front pocket always for guys, girls, purse/bag under your arm at all times – especially in populated areas.pic 1

In conclusion, I would recommend Spain overall as a country. The diverseness of the cities throughout the country is mesmerising and the food is second to none. Football fans will be in heaven and the slow paced lifestyle will benefit the highly-strung. However, Madrid itself is one for the partygoers. I myself partook in the festivities but I have to be honest when I say I grew tired of the party lifestyle and preferred to travel on my weekends. The University is adequate if you want to study in general courses and in English. If learning Spanish is high on your priority list then it may be wise to consider a different learning environment than Universidad de Carlos III.

Andrew at Hong Kong PolyU

At Hong Kong PolyU I studied four subjects; corporate finance, international finance, marketing decision analysis and marketing research. All the courses were taught in English, and the lecturers were able to communicate their content relatively well, as did the students participating in the class. The Accounting and Finance faculty at PolyU opts for a lectorial style format, with small classes of approximately 30-40 students and a single lecturer who simultaneously presents new content and interacts with the class. These classes ran for about three hours, with one class per subject per week. The lectorials all had participation grades and were not recorded. Fortunately, most of the lecturers were willing to accommodate exchange students who wanted to travel or explore Hong Kong, and would make exceptions to support us. The difficulty of the content was fairly comparable to that of QUT and required about an equal amount of work. The content itself was quite interesting and I found myself enjoying the two finance subjects in particular.

As mentioned earlier, I decided to live at the Hung Hom Student Halls while studying in Hong Kong. They are in close proximity to everything, with a 10 minute walk to the MTR subway system which goes to anywhere in Hong Kong, and 5 minutes further to the University itself. The student halls are also exceptionally affordable, costing about $50 AUD a week. Apic5ll rooms in the halls are shared, and I chose to room with a student from a foreign country, though I was given the option to share with another Australian student or local student. I would definitely recommend this choice; you become close friends with your roommate and they can introduce you to other people from their home country. If you do decide to study at PolyU, I highly recommend taking a sleeping bag for bedding; it is comfortable, reduces washing and is incredibly useful for any travel that you may do.

The Halls are divided by every two levels. Each set of two levels was classed as its own ‘Hall’ with a committee that runs events for students living there. Each ‘Hall’ so has their own common areas and cooking equipment, which was a great space to relax and share meals together with friends. The student accommodation also has some exceptional facilities such as a swimming pool, table-tennis tables, pool tables and a gym. All these facilities are either free or very cheap to use. It also provides useful services such as counselling and tutoring support, though I never used them personally.

The cost of living in Hong Kong is relatively low, so I didn’t struggle too much with budgeting. Full-sized meals at restaurants cost anywhere from $5-10 AUD and going out isn’t too pricey either. pic6There are plenty of free cultural events that you can attend, such as the Chinese National Day fireworks or the Mid-Autumn Festival. I was able to stay on a budget of $400HKD ($80 AUD) a week quite easily. I mostly used an international travel money card, which was useful for managing expenses in that you can load budgeted amounts.

My exchange to Hong Kong will always be one of the most memorable experiences of both my studies and my lifetime. There’s a reason why every student returns from exchange missing the country in which the studied, and the people that they met. It’s because only on exchange are you able to grow and learn more about yourself as a human being, while making friendships that you will cherish forever. I’ve come into my own as an adult in the later stages of my degree, become more independent and have an international network of people who I am sure I will visit at a later stage of my life. For that I am so very grateful to have been able to go on exchange and explore the world. I highly recommend that you do too.

pic7

 

A few PR complications!

I got a taxi to my accommodation and initially was a little disappointed. It was further from the city centre then I had wanted and my flat, shared with five other girls, had a small kitchen and no living area! This was a bit of a dis-advantage as we had nowhere to sit and chill together and would frequently retreat to our rooms away from each other as that was the only place to relax in comfort. However though a living room would have been nice, I got to know most of my housemates (German, English, Chilean and Australian) well by the end and loved living with them.

I studied mainly marketing subjects (and one PR subject). This was a little disappointing as I chose Leeds Beckett because I was advised it was best for PR by QUT and seemed to have a lot of PR subjects. However once I arrived the Uni told me that only one of my many PR subjects I had originally matched to QUT subjects was actually available that semester. This process could definitely improve, the Leeds Beckett exchange office seemed very overwhelmed all the time. I found the quality of the lecturers and the academic intensity of Masters subjects at Leeds Beckett to be slightly less than that at QUT.

I found the teaching methods difficult to adjust to, the lectures and tutorials seemed far less organised and structured. However the assessment itself was quite challenging and not always directly related to what we had spoken about in class. I did like my one PR subject as we got to work with a real client to develop a communications plan for them, which was exciting.

Leeds Beckett seemed to be very good at organising activities for its exchange students; it also had great campuses, one right in the heart of the city and one in a beautiful suburb that was very English. A few more weekend trips would have been nice. The facilities were great and everyone was friendly.

Manga Drawing and Anime Analytical Class?!?

Students at Korea University

Students at Korea University

At the time of my arrival, the Japanese students were still on summer vacation and started class a week after we did. I used up my electives for this semester, though looking back I would’ve tried to save some for a second semester. I did get to immediately start sightseeing however and visited Osaka castle and other sites in and around my area. I took Japanese language classes, a manga drawing class and anime analytical class for a total of 4 classes.

Before my exchange, it seemed unbelievable these were classes, but I took them and had a lot of fun than I could have imagined with them, except for the anime class, which was basically if English class in high school had done anime, albeit you probably wouldn’t watch as much anime in class nor would you probably skip it so much. At the university, the Japanese students and the exchange students usually took different classes, but sometimes Japanese students would take the same classes as us.

The university had a heavy focus on international studies, so it encouraged interactions between exchange and Japanese students. I got to visit Japanese classes, take part in Halloween with everyone else, talked to more Japanese students than I thought I had the courage to and took part in a bunch of events organised by the Japanese students. There was even a room in the building where all the exchange students had their classes where we would wait in until class time or just hang out in and Japanese students would often visit us just to talk (or get us to help with their English homework). From just a conversation, we would go to get lunch at either 1 of the 3 cafeterias or Mcdonalds and from there we’d hang out sometime outside of university.

Tailgating: one of the best cultural experiences

 ASU is well-known for their space science courses offered and also their geology programs. The WP Carey Business School for management majors is also very popular and definitely a strength of the college. Their football and basketball programs are definitely one of the biggest strengths, as they are in the NCAA Division 1 league and their games are often televised on ESPN.  One of the best cultural experiences was going to, “tailgating”, where students turn up at the parking lot opposite the football stadium to socialise before the game. The whole college sports atmosphere was the biggest shock to me as I could not comprehend just how huge the college sports scene is in America. Players who are good in their teams become nationally famous and are often on ESPN, which was very unreal to me because they were only my age.

During the semester I studied Entrepreneurship and Value Creation (MGT360), Sociology, Philosophy and French. The biggest difference with the delivery method was that the subjects you had on Monday, you also had on Wednesday and Friday. The classes you had on Tuesday you also had on Thursday. I was very surprised that most students had class 5 days a week, unlike at my experiences at QUT. Furthermore marks were broken up, therefore it was a lot like high school where I had about 4-5 exams for each class throughout the semester, instead of the traditional 40% midterm and 60% final that I’m used to here.

Tests were mostly multiple-choice and short-answer, so I found the delivery method of assessment to be much easier than at QUT as the marks were broken up over several exams. Therefore there was less content to study and multiple-choice style exams made the exams quite easy. Furthermore, in my philosophy class, the lecturer put all possible exam questions on blackboard a few days prior, therefore all exam questions and answers were already given to students. My entrepreneurial class however was a lot more independently focused, where the teacher gave minimal input and very little help throughout the semester. The teacher explained that was the focus of the class as it concentrated on students being able to turn their ideas into a business plan on their own. Therefore I experienced two extremes of the delivery method, and I found both to be very beneficial ways to learn.

My Chile experience : Academic & finances

Academic

The university offers exchange students two options for subjects, of which you can mix and match. You can take “pregado” courses (regular classes, in Spanish, designed at a level for Chilean students) or “specially designed courses” for exchange students, some of which are taught in Spanish, some of which in English. I took 4 specially designed courses, 3 in English and one Spanish Communication class.

The specially designed courses are significantly easier and more flexible then the “pregado” courses because they understand that exchange students want to travel and don’t have study as their number 1 priority. They focus on Latin American cultural immersion such as Latin American film, politics, economics etc and the assessment can be easily passed. I really enjoyed these classes and they suited me because I didn’t want to study too much. However my Spanish would definitely have benefitted from at least taking some specially designed courses in Spanish, not just English. I wish I had taken 2/2.

The university offers opportunity to volunteer with local organisations. UAI asks that you pay a $100 fee deposit to them to show that you’re serious (to discourage students from signing up and going once and then pulling out), however if you want you can just contact the organisations directly. I volunteered at the Valpo Surf Project and I’d strongly recommend anyone to do the same. The organisation aims to teach leadership, environmental responsibility and give confidence to at-risk kids in Valpo through English classes and surf lessons. Check out their website!

Finances

I’ve always worked throughout university so I had about $7,000 savings before going. I also received a $3000 bursary from QUT and got the $6000 additional HECS loan. This was more than enough and I travelled comfortably throughout semester and did everything I wanted to do.

I just used my regular bank card in ATMS however I would recommend loading money onto a travel card. You don’t need to get a Chilean bank account. It helps to get cards two, and keep one in safe place eg don’t take it out in your bag. Or just leave your cards at home and carry a small amount of cash on you if you go out. I had a backpack stolen with both my credit cards in it in Santiago and it was a BIG PAIN because I was about to go on a trip to Peru and had to get an Australian friend to withdraw a big chunk of cash for me, and I just transferred the money to her account.

Chile is probably the most expensive South American country. Transport, alcohol and food are extremely cheap however items in restaurants, big supermarkets and shopping centres rival Australian prices.