Ready, Set, Go

Anna B, Bachelor of Creative Industries

Aalto University, Finland (Semester 2, 2016)

Ten tips for anyone ready to go on the ride.

  1. Consider your options. I wanted to go to Leads England and ended up at Aalto University Finland. A huge blessing
  2. Take risks
  3. The people you meet on exchange will change your life. Make the most of every moment last
  4. Be who you want to be on exchange. You are in a new place you can test a new version of you.
  5. Get dirty. Travel to the small places they are always the best. Be a traveler not tourist. Experience a place don’t just visit it.
  6. Find snow it is great
  7. Take advantage of the experiences this new university offers you. You never know the impact it has on you till when you get back.
  8. Embrace change it’s all part of the ride.
  9. Student discounts are life use it.
  10. The ride will be over before you know it. Enjoy it

Life at University of South Carolina

Aleksa M, Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries

South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2016)

An exchange semester in America had been a goal of mine ever since I started university. When I received my confirmation letter from the University of South Carolina I was ecstatic as I knew this would be the trip of a lifetime. And I wasn’t let down. USC’s beautiful campus gave off the perfect first impression, a lush green campus filled with beautiful gardens and all the amenities one could hope for. Included in these is a world class gym, complete with squash courts and a rock climbing wall. My assigned dorm room was small but relatively modern with a nice kitchen, living area and, of course, great room and floor mates. My first and only real shock came during the first week of classes when it was explained that class attendance is mandatory at all classes. Depending on subjects you get 3-5 absences which are marked and further absences may result in a penalty to your final grades. The subjects at USC were similarly taught to those at QUT however the American units appear to be more exam heavy.

The cost of living in America is fairly similar compared to Australia as far as cost of food and entertainment is concerned. The cost of accommodation was really the only downside of this trip, as it is compulsory for exchange students to stay in American dorms there is no option to seek alternatives. However, the upside to staying in the dorms is meeting other local and international students. In any case the money spent on accommodation and food can be easily re-couped through the money saved on alcohol. America (particularly the south) has some of the cheapest alcohol you will ever see and an incredible variety of craft beer. In Columbia, the first place you will learn about is 5-points. 5-points is a small block of multiple bars many of which serve drinks for $1, beers, spirits you name it. Prices vary but the most you will pay for a drink on any given night will be $3. The true college experience.During my time in America I got to experience a beaming new culture. In particular, a major highlight for me was the football season. In the south, football is a religion. For me, the Saturdays and Sundays spent tailgating were the best part of the trip. I am a huge football fan and the culture of American football fans is unlike no other. The stadium atmosphere is intense and definitely something to experience. The USC stadium was sold out almost every game however all students are more or less guaranteed a ticket through the student lottery system. I also enjoyed the ease of travelling through America through cheap flights and rent-a-cars. Spur of the moment decisions like a weekend road trip to New Orleans or booking a last minute budget flight to San-Francisco are always on the cards. Quite possibly the most beautiful part of America is the distinctive culture and experience each city gives off. It’s almost as though you are entering a new country. My exchange semester in America was the experience of a lifetime. However, the best and integral part of the experience was the amazing people I met, many of whom I’m still in close contact with and will remain friends for life.  In short, I couldn’t have wished for a better way to spend my semester abroad. GO COCKS!!

Canada Eh!

Jessica R, Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries

Queens University (Semester 2, 2016)

My semester on exchange in Kingston, Canada has finished and what an experience it has been!

While my time at Queen’s was nothing short of amazing, it’s also important to remember that there are a lot of differences to QUT. Aside from the obvious difference in the accent (as to be expected, eh), the classroom sizes, teaching methods and workload are quite different to what we’ve experienced at QUT. With smaller classrooms and lessons reflecting what we call tutorials, participation is expected and more often than not your contribution in class is graded. I also found there was more work to complete on a weekly basis, with small assessments due regularly or a weekly quiz. Another major difference is the amount of group work – expect to be working in 4 or 5 groups at a time!

Aside from the differences academically, university life is similar to that in Australia. Small differences such as more of a community feel and the opportunity to live in residence make your exchange experience just that little bit more exciting and different.

While Canada is similar to Australia in a lot of ways, driving on the opposite side of the road was probably the biggest adjustment I had to make – even just crossing the road! The cost of living is similar to that of Australia, just remember taxes are added and tipping is expected in restaurants and for any services. While it’s not overly difficult to travel within Canada, it is expensive. For example, the 2 ½ hour train trip from Kingston to Toronto cost me around $50 each way, although there are options for buses as well. My tip here is to try and book transport in advance if you can, and keep an eye out for specials!

When reflecting back over my time on exchange I had so many good experiences that it’s hard to choose highlights! Perhaps my biggest take away from my time on exchange is the people I’ve met. Queen’s has a great orientation program and a few associations tailored to exchange students, which makes meeting people from all over the world so easy! I also found that because exchange at Queen’s is such a popular thing to do – 80% of third year commerce students go on exchange – the majority of students in my classes were also exchange students. This was comforting in the fact that we were all in the same boat in regards to being new to the system and how things work in Canada. It also meant I got to work in groups with students from all over the world. Perhaps the biggest highlight from my exchange experience was my accommodation. While trying to organise somewhere to live through the internet from the other side of the world was stressful, it couldn’t have worked out any better. I subletted a room in a house with 5 other girls, of which 4 were Canadian students and the other a fellow exchange student from England. I would highly recommend to anyone going on exchange to try and live with some local students if you can! Not only did these 5 girls become my best friends, they also made me feel incredibly welcome into their home and friendship groups – putting right amongst the local student culture!

All in all, my exchange experience in Canada was one of the best things I’ve done in my life so far and I wouldn’t change anything about it. The whole experience, including all the ups and downs, has made me a better person and has contributed to my education more than anything ever could!

 

A Danish Delight

Isabella K, Bachelor of Business

Copenhagen Business School (Semester 2, 2016)

Copenhagen – the home of hygge, indescribable pastries, and Danish design. My four months at Copenhagen Business School (affectionately known as CBS) were filled with cosy nights with friends, a crazy amount of cinnamon buns, and an incredible university campus. The cliché really is true – it was the experience of a lifetime.

Hanging out with my roommate at some Christmas Markets – she fits in with the Danes pretty well!

Denmark is an inimitable part of Scandinavia. The city is warm, with its inhabitants seeming endlessly cool; I’m talking guys wearing Nike sneakers, Adidas trackpants, and a leather jacket cool. Not only that, but almost every Dane is tall, with blue eyes, and bright blonde hair. As someone with brown eyes and brown hair, it’s safe to say I felt a little out of place. But once you get to know the Danes, you start to fall in love with their Northern charm and positive attitude to life. They can be difficult to crack at first – in Denmark, it’s uncommon to ask someone ‘how are you?’ But if you buy them a Carlsberg, they’ll be more than happy to let you in.

The cost of living in Denmark is similar to that in Brisbane – although, don’t expect there to be an equivalent of $16 burgers at Grill’d. Eating out can be pricey, but it’s easy enough to head down to the local Netto or Meny and pull together some ingredients for group dinner parties. In fact, this is a very ‘hygge’ thing to do – hygge meaning the cosy feeling you get when you’re indoors, with great friends, having some awesome food and drink.

Classes at CBS were very similar to back home; however, they don’t record the majority of lectures. Additionally, they won’t have tutorials for all subjects – most of mine consisted of a three-hour lecture that included time for practical activities. Personally, I only took elective subjects, so I can’t say too much about any course work for majors. However, I really enjoyed some of the classes and would recommend Visual Communication (an inimitable class on film studies and visual cognition) and Big Data and AI: Who Owns the Future?

Due to a small mishap with time zones, I ended up missing out on campus dorm accommodation. Instead, a friend and I buddied up and managed to find an Airbnb that would take us for four months. We were in an excellent location (upper Frederiksberg) that was about 20 minutes from the CBS campuses, which suited us very well. If you bought a bike, it was about a seven-minute trip – and almost all of the Danes ride everywhere! My roommate and I loved having the flexibility of having our own apartment and inviting people over for drinks, along with visiting the dorms for different parties and events.

I met this gorgeous creature, Suklaa, in Finland on a Husky Safari!

One of the highlights of the trip was definitely the amount of travel I got to do – Copenhagen is in a great location geographically to zip around from country to country. If you get the chance, I’d definitely recommend booking any of the Erasmus trips. A group of friends and I went to Finland with Erasmus, which was incredible – we stayed in the artic circle! Moreover, London is also only an hour’s plane ride away, and Germany is relatively easy to get to as well.

It’s not an exchange trip without an awesome tourist snap!

I’d most definitely recommend Copenhagen as one of your exchange options. My stay there was definitely a great blend of ‘work hard, play hard’ – with lots of travel thrown into the mix. If you’re going, make sure you hit up my favourite street called Jægersborggade in Nørrebro. If you’re into oatmeal, there’s a place called Grød that does it fantastically, and Meyers Bageri (AKA pastry heaven) is down the other end of the street. There’s an awesome, quirky bookstore called PALERMO Hollywood that has English titles, along with Tricotage, which has some cool Danish fashion pieces. Hit up KAKTUS on your way out to grab some greenery for your dorm room, and then finish up with the Mikkeller and Friends microbrewery around the corner.  Copenhagen is ripe with tourist haunts, but there are some truly Danish gems hidden in every suburb! If you’re going to Copenhagen, or if you’ve been, feel free to let me know where your favourite spots are. And bon voyage!

Study at one of the top Business Schools in Europe

Maastricht University School of Business and Economics, The Netherlands

Location: Maastricht, South Limburg, The Netherlands.

Why study here?: 4th best young university in the world, triple accredited business school, melting pot of European culture, travel opportunities.

Maastricht University School of Business and Economics has been named the 4th best young university in the world, and is one of only 1% of business schools worldwide to be triple-crown accredited (EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA). SBE is home to over 4200 students, and is the most international university in the Netherlands – with half of their students and staff coming from abroad. Most courses are taught in English and SBE are well- known for their Problem-Based Learning system and international orientation. The university offers students guidance and support for international students in regards to visas, accommodation and more, and offers a buddy programme to help you settle in during your semester abroad.

The Maastricht is one of the most visited cities in the Netherlands, due to its vibrancy, culture and internationalisation. Maastricht is known as the birthplace of the European Union and the Schengen Treaty. It is a melting pot of different European cultures, and is filled with historic buildings and cutting-edge modern architecture. The city has quaint cobblestone streets, impressive churches, wonderful city squares, delicious food from neighbouring countries Germany and Belgian, museums, pubs, music venues and shopping. Almost everyone rides a bike in and around Maastricht, and many other famous European cities are close by.

If you want to explore some more of Europe during your exchange, Maastricht is the perfect base. Don’t let the southern location of Maastricht deceive you – Rotterdam and Amsterdam are only 2.5 hours away by car or train, Cologne and Brussels are only 1.5 hours away by car, and Paris is 3.5 hours away by train.

Follow in the footsteps of the Beatles… live and study in Liverpool!

University of Liverpool

Location: Liverpool, England

Why Liverpool? Student-friendly city, long history, cost-effective, football, and a rich arts and music scene.

Founded in 1881, The University of Liverpool boasts massive red brick buildings and a long, diverse history, while also being innovative and modern. The university is a leading research institution in the UK.

The University has two on-campus buildings, Melville Grove and Tudor Close, which offer apartment-style accommodation for international and study abroad students. If you wish to live off-campus, given its high student population, Liverpool offers a massive amount of accommodation and a student-tailored lifestyle. The University recommends budgeting around $4000-$5500 (AUD) for a semester, and given its proximity to other European countries, most students will want to budget some more for further travels!

There are plenty of amenities on campus including a fitness centre and sports fields, as well as heaps of things to do off-campus. The city has a great passion for music, art and culture, and plays host to a number of events each year. While you’re here catch a football (soccer) game, or two, at Anfield or Goodison Park.

Meet staff from the University of Liverpool at the QUT Exchange Fair!

 

Touch Down in Singapore!

Well it has officially been three weeks since I touched down in Singapore! Let me quickly tell you just a bit about myself. The names Dana, I am an avid netball and sports fan, action/comedy movie enthusiast, aspiring traveller and dog lover. I am doing a BS08 Bachelor of Business – International degree with economics major, and am currently 3 weeks into a 15 month adventure in SG! Yes. 15 MONTHS! I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship to work and study in Singapore this year. My program (at the moment) starts with a 6 month internship at PwC Singapore working in their Growth Markets Centre, followed by two semesters of study at Nanyang Technological University.

Strangely enough, I almost feel at home here in Singapore. Adapting to the different country and culture came a lot more naturally then I had anticipated and thankfully this has made for a relatively smooth start to my exchange. Transport here is unfaultable so I am finding my way around easily and food is never hard to locate (or afford if you are at a hawker centre!). The local Chinese family I am bunking with are wonderful and welcoming, and I think they have made leaving my family for the first time much less difficult. My accommodation itself certainly met expectations and is well located in a traditional and local area not too far from the city. Even adapting into the professional workforce for the first time hasn’t been too rough, although my back and neck are protesting a desk life.

Nevertheless, not everything about this exchange has been easy. I’m going to be honest with you – I’m the baby of the family, I’m overprotected, I haven’t travelled much and I have a very strong and close relationship with my family and 4 month old puppy…

Leaving wasn’t easy – it never is.

Saying goodbye to loved ones was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Even just thinking about hugging my puppy for the last time, and waving goodbye to my family as I walked to the airport gate brings tears to my eyes. It’s hard to grasp that you will be leaving for so long, but when you do it is one of the most nerve wracking and sickening feelings.

Rolling on from having to say goodbye – day one was the worst. A 2am flight with a busy day full of visas and bank accounts probably didn’t help, but day one, for me at least, was when everything sunk in. All I did that day was cry. I’ve never felt so lost and alone in my life. I felt isolated and out of my depth.

I made it to perhaps 3pm before I threw myself onto my bed, called my mum and bawled. And that was all I needed. I just needed someone to talk to, to cry to, and to tell me everything was going to be ok. That I had the experience and opportunity of a lifetime ahead of me. That this is what I wanted and I was going to do great. The call lasted an hour, but it fixed everything, and when I woke up the next day I was ready. It was as if day 1 never happened. I felt at home, I felt adventurous, I felt safe, calm and ready to explore. So I did – all weekend, to get used to my new home. Now, 3 weeks in and I haven’t had a bad day again.

There is no denying that shock will hit you. For me it was day 1; for you, it might be a week or even a month in. It will hit, and it will hurt, it will be tough, and you will doubt yourself and want to go home. My advice is to take it as it is. Moving overseas is a new and intense experience, it can’t be flawless. Expect to have bad days, because you will. Just make sure you have someone to call, to tell you everything is ok. That’s all you really need to hear. You realise home, familiarity, normal, is just a phone call away. It’s not as far as you think.

If you are worried about going on exchange – don’t be. Yes, there will be tough times, but I assure you the good times will outweigh the bad a million times over! Going overseas is such an incredible experience and in the technological and integrated world we live in today – home is never far away. Plus, there are so many people who can help you along the way, the QUT international student mobility officers, present and previous exchange students, friends and family – you are never truly alone, there will always be someone to back you.

That’s all from me (for now), but please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding exchange, Singapore, internships, the New Colombo Plan – anything! I’m happy to help! If you’re interested in Singapore or Asia in general, check out my Instagram downunderdana – I am challenging myself to post a different photo every day I am away, so over the 15 months… there’s going to be a lot.

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!

Three months in Tuvalu

Kate Donnelly: New Colombo Plan Scholar interning in Tuvalu

We took our descent into the tiny capital of Tuvalu twice. The flight from Suva passed quickly enough, until the seat belt sign flicked on. The plane began to sink closer and closer to the gun-metal grey surface of the Pacific Ocean, dsc_0001at a rate exactly converse to my panic as I searched below for any sign of land. Seemingly out of nowhere, I caught the first sight of waves breaking. The tip of the islet widened just enough to support a handful of coconut trees, and then some shanty houses, and eventually the central district of a town with barely 200 meters between the lagoon shore and its ocean side.        

Locking eyes with locals who’d come out of their houses to watch the arrival, and bracing myself for our landing (5 seconds, 4, 3, 2…) the plane suddenly veered upwards and away from the runway we’d been so close to hitting. Five confused minutes passed before the pilot’s voice nonchalantly crackled over the speakers: we’d be descending again soon, not to worry, just as soon as air control confirmed that the authorities had successfully run down a pack of dogs that had strayed onto the tarmac. Until then, enjoy the view. With plenty of swearing and full-bellied chuckles from the Tuvaluans on board, we circled back and touched down in the world’s fourth smallest nation.dsc_0003

At this point, you’re probably wondering where on earth this country is. Hop on Google Earth satellite view, and search for Funafuti. I got goosebumps the first time I saw the capital like that – it seemed so vulnerable, a tiny crescent of land built up over millions of years from the broken down coral reefs that rimmed ancient ocean volcanoes – but the birds-eye perspective has nothing on the feeling you get when you first stand at the tip of the islet. On your right, there’s the crystal-blue water of the salt-water lagoon. On your left, the heaving inky waves of the Pacific. It’s unlike anything else. dsc_0015

I spent three months interning with the Tuvalu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO), supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan. In the tiny box of TANGO’s office, I wrote Cabinet Papers and delivered training workshops, developed project management tools, and memorised the words to Tuvalu’s favourite reggae remixes. Timelines were short, plans inevitably fell through or changed at the very last minute, higher decisions didn’t make sense, our internet never worked and my laptop died in the humidity of my second week. Improvisation became my most valuable tool, and relationships my greatest asset. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this country rewrote me.

It might have been the ocean breeze, the mandatory midday siestas to escape thedsc_0023 sluggish heat, or the easy-goes approach of every person I worked with, but somewhere along the way I changed my tune. From the busyness and competition of making every minute a productive one, I slipped into days that moved slowly with the sun. Life became just that again – not endless work, not long commutes nor unshakeable exhaustion. Just life. I swam and listened and made friends and stumbled upon a secret.

Tuvalu is a country whose future is a woven basket of unknowns, made and remade around the changing advice of scientists and foreign diplomats but held together by the stories and pride of generations of island people. When today is what you’ve got, you savour it unapologetically and fight hard so that your kids might do the same.

dsc_0016And that’s just it. From Tuvalu, to me, to you: slow down enough to enjoy what’s precious, then give your best to preserve it. From Australian or atoll shores, I can’t imagine doing life any other way.dsc_0028dsc_0013

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My Time in Mannheim

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

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

Galata Tower, Turkey

Galata Tower, Turkey

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

Highlights

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

My Brother and I in front of Mannheim

My Brother and I in front of Mannheim

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

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