Canadian Escapade

Helena J, Bachelor of Engineering/Information Technology

University of Waterloo (Semester 2, 2016)

Deciding to go on Exchange in Canada is the best decision I’ve ever made! In Semester 2, 2016, I travelled to Ontario, Canada to study at the University of Waterloo. Waterloo is amazing and highly ranked engineering school located in the suburb of Waterloo. The campus was gorgeous, with many cool, modern and interesting buildings and recreational spaces.

Outside the University of Waterloo sign on the last day with two of my now best friends.

I lived “off-campus” at WCRI which was located across the road from the Uni. It took me 4mins to walk to class everyday – which was great, especially when it got really cold! It was an older styled accommodation which featured 4 buildings. I had my own little room and shared a bathroom with three lovely girls from Canada. We then shared a kitchen and living area with another 16 people! This made for some chaotic but fun times in the kitchen; including setting off the fire alarm with burnt slice, traditional German meals being cooked for us and communal lasagne nights. Coming from living at home to such a shared environment was awesome and gave me many opportunities to make incredible friends from all over the world.

The Canadian University life was fantastic! I got to go see the school play at their Homecoming CFL (Canadian version of NFL), Ice-Hockey, Rugby and even got involved with school sport myself. I joined an Ultimate Frisbee team with some fellow exchange students, joined the Volleyball club and even played some Squash. The amount of school spirit was something I’d never experienced back home in Australia.

Supporting the Waterloo Warriors at the Homecoming Game.

Subjects at the University were quite hard. The atmosphere was quite competitive and scary at times, especially when compared to the more laidback attitude in Australia. Lectures weren’t recorded and notes were written on a blackboard which sometimes made studying quite hard! The other students thought it was crazy that back home at QUT, all my lectures are recorded and done primarily through a computer. So adapting to academic life at Waterloo was a big struggle for me, as I had never experienced anything like it.

I cannot recommend Canada enough to anyone thinking of going on exchange though! Cost of living was on par with Australia – if not cheaper, which was great for the budget! And with the Australian dollar doing so well, I did not lose much while converting my money. Another great thing is that even though majority of Canadians speak English; we got to meet some Québécois who spoke mainly in French! I also got to do stereotypical Canadian activities like eat poutine (so delicious!!!), have an extremely intense snowball fight (at midnight because the snow started bucketing down!) and celebrate Thanksgiving (the Canadian one, not American; don’t get that mixed up!) and Halloween. An added perk to doing Exchange in Canada was the opportunity to travel. With some of the new friends I made we did many cool road trips; numerous national parks, lakes, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Chicago! I also got to travel around the USA at the end of my exchange; going to places like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Alaska!

Having fun with some friends in Chicago at the Cloud Gate.

With some many new and incredible experiences under my belt it is hard to pick a favourite or highlight of my exchange and travels. However, making so many wonderful, hilarious and beautiful friends for life would take the cake if I had to pick one. They 100% made my exchange everything that it was and opened my eyes to different cultures and ways of life. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to everyone I became friends with at the University of Waterloo as we all shared such a wonderful exchange experiences together.

Me standing on Matanuska Glacier in Alaska in -42°C as the last part of my trip after Exchange.

An Engineer Abroad

Jacob W,  Bachelor of Engineering

Exeter University (Semester 2, 2016)

 

A blog for uni, I must write,

as I sit and wait for my flight.

Home, I am bound,

Now I am out of euro & pound.

An adventure I have had,

soon to see friends and family though, I am glad.

It was July I left, travel and study abroad lay ahead,

though now in hindsight I feel I may have been misled.

A semester abroad can be really great,

unfortunately for me it was not to be my fate,

often you will read and hear,

“Embarking on exchange was the best decision I made this year”

“Don’t think, just do it” was something I read,

take heed! think! before dreams fill your head.

Life in Exeter, day to day

very similar to home though in winter, dreary and grey.

I lived with a lovely brother & sister, just out of town,

my expectations for foreign dorm life meant this was a slight let down.

Weekend trips to the English countryside, I thought there would be many,

lots of assignments ensured there were hardly any.

All-nighters in week two, something must be wrong,

Suddenly my time abroad was seeming very long.

Weeks turned to months and I eventually settled in,

I made a lifelong friend, thank god as things were looking a bit grim.

I did have a lot fun, travelling and meeting people along the way,

     seeing the sights and trying new foods, almost every day.

     Beer bike tours and river boat cruises in Budapest,

     these experiences might have been the best.

Though the delicious Polish sausage in Krakow,

    Chargrilled from a food truck, I wish I had one now.

    However, I can’t forget snowboarding in Norway,

      Amazing Berlin Christmas markets and all the Paris Clichés.

    There are many more highlights and stories to tell,

    Though I’ll wrap up this poem before you’re bored as hell.

So my semester abroad is done,

looking back, mostly I remember the fun.

Contemplating exchange? Here’s my final advice,

Dream big, get inspired but also think twice!

If you decide to go, pack light,

double check your passport before every flight.

Try to see everything but also study hard,

Call your parents and send them a post card.

 

Immersed in Parisian life

Holly T, Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Creative Industries

IESEG School of Management (Semester 2, 2016) 

Returning from exchange, I still have to pinch myself that I spent a semester abroad in Paris (!!!!). It honestly still feels like a dream and was by far the best experience of my life.

Visiting the Eiffel Tower

I attended IESEG School of Management, at their Paris campus. I was the only QUT student to attend this campus (their other being in the north of France in Lille), and when I arrived found out I was also the only Australian at the whole university. Talk about culture shock! There is no sugar-coated way to put it, but at the start of this experience I was extremely overwhelmed. Not only did I underestimate the limited number of people who speak English in France, but also underestimated the cultural difference between my peers and I. I travelled around Europe for a month before arriving in Paris, and thought I had this European thing worked out… however Aussies will always be that little bit different. Fortunately, this grey period only lasted about 2 weeks and after this I felt more at home than ever. Meeting people from all over the world, and having a great group of friends all from the Nordic countries, exchange was nothing like I had ever expected… but even better.

IESEG has a completely different way of functioning to QUT, and I completed 14 subjects over the semester, both masters and bachelor courses, all ranging from 13 weeks to just one week long. It was a SUPER intensive study load, with non-attendance to classes meaning you fail, so the time spent at the campus was quite a lot. That being said, I learnt so much about so many different topics. Doing my QUT electives while I was there meant I had the freedom to pick almost anything from their wide range of courses. My favourites included Parisian contemporary society, retail marketing strategy, online global retail, trends in digital innovation, and market of art. For each class the mark would be based on attendance, an oral presentation and an exam or assignment.

The view from my bedroom window!

IESEG is located at La Defense, in the central business district of Paris, just outside the actual borders. However as the campus accommodation provided was a lot more expensive I sourced my own accommodation through Air BnB. I stayed in an apartment in the 6th arrondissement in Saint Germain that was absolutely incredible and only a 20 minute metro ride to uni. It allowed me to experience a lot more of the culture and environment of Paris, with bakeries on every corner and within walking distance of the Seine river and the Jardin De Luxembourg.  I would highly recommend this option if studying in Paris, as most other students did the same. It was easy to go to each other’s places and also meet up throughout the city. The cost of living in Paris is quite high. Transport with the metro is expensive compared to Australia. There are options for both low and high-priced food… but French food is delicious, and the city is flooding with restaurants and bars, you will eat out a lot more than you think.

La Defense Christmas Markets on Campus – the second-biggest in Paris

 

During my exchange I travelled to many other countries, and having the ability to do so was definitely a highlight of my experience. Meeting with friends on exchange elsewhere in Europe to see their host-cities, and then exploring even more cities together has been the best way to travel for an extended period but also continue my studies. Another highlight of the experience would be exploring France, and seeing the diverse areas of this amazing country. It is by far my favourite place in the world. The people are not what every one says they are – they were friendly and always willing to have a laugh at my poor French or their poor English. The amount of ‘lost in translation’ moments I had were too funny to recount. The cheese and bread is better than what people say, and honestly you will be a foie gras connoisseur in no time at all.

I recommend to everyone to go on exchange. It is quite honestly the best thing I have ever done. Paris is an amazing city, and I felt so at home there.

Merci beaucoup

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.