Spanish studies in the beautiful Medellin

Rhys P, Bachelor of Engineering

Intern Latin America, Colombia

My experience in Medellin was nothing short of incredible. After travelling through South America in 2015/2016 I had a desire to return and improve my Spanish skills. Thankfully with the QUT short term exchange program this was made possible. I studied at EAFIT for two weeks for an intensive Spanish course. In my beginner’s class there were three students and it is amazing how much we were able to cram into only two weeks.

Our teacher was called Cielo (Sky in English) and like the majority of people from Medellin she was extremely warm and welcoming. Before this I had never attempted to learn a second language however I have learnt that it can be extremely frustrating at times. The quality of not only my teacher, but all of the teachers at EAFIT made the experience much more enjoyable and they were able to remove this frustration and create a great learning environment.

The campus itself was not what I was expecting at all. Due to the much-discussed past of Colombia I was expecting the campus to be slightly run down. It was a pleasant surprise when I arrived on my first day to see an absolutely beautiful campus. The campus is full of trees, nature, wildlife and is an amazing place to study.

As for Colombia itself, it is my favourite country in the world and after I complete my studies at QUT I want to move there. The people made me feel extremely welcome, the food is amazing, it is such a diverse country. It truly is an amazing country and I highly recommend it as an exchange destination.

The highlights of my trip were definitely the amazing places that I travelled to and the friends that I made along the way. The only advice that I have for other students is to pack your bag and go!

Kiwi adventures

Holly, G. Bachelor of Music

CIS Australia: January in Dunedin (Jan – Feb 2017)

My name is Holly Geddes and I’ve just completed a summer semester at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand through QUT’s short-term exchange program. The seven-week program was completed with the help of international exchange centre CISaustralia who organized my enrolment and accommodation, and were basically a helping hand throughout the entire process and trip duration. The element that initially reeled me into applying was the fact that there was a set fee that would be paid at the beginning of the enrolment process, and that after the initial payment I would be in the safe hands of CISaustralia. The entire trip would be covered and planned by an external company, meaning less stress for me! The process was just as easy as CISaustralia and QUT had advertised, and I’m still impressed by how efficiently I was guided by my QUT and CIS respective representatives throughout the process that would have otherwise been very confusing.

The University of Otago Campus & the view of the campus from my classroom!

My host university, the University of Otago, was New Zealand’s first university, founded in the 1860’s so as you can imagine, the architecture was very different to anywhere I’d studied before! As it gets dark at 10pm in Dunedin in Summer, it allowed me to go for evening walks in daylight where I explored different corners of the university each day. On every walk I’d discover a different part of history within the campus – I don’t think I ever quite covered the whole thing! It was hard to get used to the beautiful buildings and on-campus accommodation that had been restored from the 1980’s as well. My accommodation was a share house amongst 4 other students that was in a gated, quiet area, which was much to my relief! Dunedin is actually well-known for its student culture and is particularly renowned for its ‘flat parties’ and street parties. I discovered as new students began to move in after their summer breaks that it was tradition for thousands of students to flood the streets every single night, rain or shine. They gave my perception of street parties an entirely new meaning! It was extremely different to anything I’d experienced in Brisbane, and (despite the noise while trying to study) it was great to be a part of such a tight-knit student culture where everybody was welcoming and open to becoming friends with whoever was willing. Despite these slight cultural differences that I’ve mentioned, however, I didn’t ever experienced culture shock or homesickness simply because I was always surrounded by helpful students and staff members who were very generous in making sure I was comfortable and settled.

A trip we did to Alexandra which is only about 2 hours’ drive from Dunedin.

 

I also made sure I made the most of being in such a great location. As I was only in class twice a week, my days off involved going to museums, taking advantage of the free student gym at the stadium, and going on scenic hikes to lookouts around Dunedin. It is true that Dunedin is a relatively small, quiet town in relation to Brisbane, but I made sure I never got bored and always had something interesting planned to make the most of my time. Another great thing about New Zealand is that wherever you drive, it’s going to be beautiful! Once my studies were over, myself and another QUT student hired a car and took the extremely scenic route to Queenstown. I had done a few road trips before but this was definitely the most breathtaking driving experience I’ve ever had.

Some sights in Dunedin including the Cadbury Factory.

For future students undertaking this course, my advice would be to look forward to a quiet, smaller way of living than what you’re used to in Brisbane. This means that it’s great to explore Dunedin and find your own hidden treasures within the city, because with a curious, open mindset there’s no way you can get bored! Also, if you’re doing an elective, don’t stress about what subject you’re going to choose – I met lots of students who were doing a range of different elective subjects and they all sounded incredibly interesting and specialised – it made me want to go back and learn more. In terms of living expenses, I must warn that New Zealand’s grocery stores do charge a little bit more than Australia’s, so my first big shopping trip was a bit of a shock! Definitely try to save more money than you think you’ll need just in case you decide to go on a spontaneous road trip like I did, or if you’re like me you’ll need to allow some extra cash for those household items you don’t normally think about like paper towels.Overall, I had an awesome, life-changing experience and I wish I had the chance to do it again! QUT’s international short-course opportunities are endless, extremely cost-effective and worth the money, and I’d encourage every student to consider one.

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

The Beginning of an Adventure

Destination: PHILIPPINES!

Two weeks ago now, I left Australia to officially begin the next chapter, the adventure of a lifetime.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m Lauren, 19 years old, travel lover, tea enthusiast and extremely passionate about human rights and international affairs. I’m currently in my third year studying a Bachelor of Justice and I’ve just moved to MANILA in the Philippines!

The view from my apartment

I am incredibly lucky to have been awarded a 2017 New Colombo Plan Scholarship to undertake study and internships across the Indo-Pacific Region for up to 18 months!!

At the moment, my Scholarship starts out in Manila, with a two month internship at The Asia Foundation in their Law and Human Rights team, before I head to Indonesia to begin studying International Relations at Parahyangan Catholic University. I’ll tell you more about that in a later blog.

New Colombo Plan Scholarship Awards Presentation

It’s not all smooth sailing…

Leaving Australia, and in particular, leaving my family was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The reality that I will be away from home for such an extended period of time really hit me hard.

After saying goodbye

As I collected my boarding pass and started walking to the departure gate, I started to realise that leaving on this journey wasn’t just any adventure. This time, I was not going to be coming home in a matter of weeks or months and seeing my family again. Here I was thinking I could be cool, calm and collected, instead in a bawling mess.  All I could think was how lucky I am to have people in my life that make saying goodbye so difficult.

The first few days were a rollercoaster of emotions, an anarchic mix of doubt, angst and euphoria, but mostly, fear of the unknown. At times, I’ve felt alone and so far out of my depth, just wishing I was back at home in my own bed. However, as I’ve started to become acquainted with Manila and explore this unique, beautifully chaotic city I am beginning to feel more and more at home.

So far, my first two weeks have consisted of, settling into my internship at The Asia Foundation, organising my accommodation and urging myself to wander the city.

I’ve found it a little strange adapting to the work environment here in the Philippines. The work is challenging with tough deadlines, and high expectations. Basically, I was thrown in the deep end, right from the day one.

Dinner with the LAHR Team

There’s no denying that taking that first step can be hard, but that first grim instance is so worth every single phenomenal experience you will have.

If I could give you any advice, it would be to just take a risk, and dive right in! Never pass up an opportunity because it’s a little daunting or because you’re scared of the unknown – the challenge part of the adventure!

Until next time, paalam!

Please feel free to connect with me if you have any questions regarding exchange, the Philippines, Indonesia, internships, the New Colombo Plan – anything, I would love to hear from you!

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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.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Miranda E, Bachelor of Fine Arts

Lights, Camera, Action Summer program at Michigan State University (July, 2016)

I remember first hearing about the coordinator from America coming over to our uni to present this course. I’m not really a person that enjoys being away from home but I thought this would be an amazing opportunity as I have always wanted to do study over seas while at university. The course seemed like it would help me as well as network plus the idea of studying film in America excited me. Upon arrival, we were welcomed at the bus stop and shown to our dorms. They made it very welcoming even before we arrived as they set up a Facebook page for us to start meeting people and a Snapchat for everyone to follow.

Michigan University is a massive campus with pretty good facilities. Although the dorms we stayed in weren’t that nice, bit dirty and the water smelt like metal, the overall building was nice with a corner shop on the first floor and a basement at the bottom with a TV, laundry, air con and  a ping pong table. The cafeterias had great food and a wide variety to choose from.

I didn’t feel that welcomed by a particular receptionist at times as I felt like she didn’t care and felt like she was rude and giving me attitude however that could have been cultural differences that caused that. There was plenty of restaurants outside the university within walking distance and a bus that left from the university to take us to handy shops. We each had our own room to ourselves and shared a bathroom with another person which would normally be someone from our home university. The room was a good size which contained draws, a fan, light, desk, bed, pillow and sheets. Pillow covers and sheets you could swap for new ones when you felt like it. However Tuesdays were the preferred day by the workers. The bathroom contained a toilet, sink and shower. There was a laundry downstairs with a number of washing machines and dryers you could use for free 24/7.

I studied ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ which was a really fun and interesting course. We got to make two films and a behind the scenes edition. One of the films we entered into LA comedy festival and the other one I think will be entered into a festival. We studied scriptwriting, camera, editing, sound and making foley noises. It was a very quick course and learnt things pretty quickly but very good for the amount of content we got 🙂 We got tutored by people working in the industry which was amazing and were given their contact details if we wanted them to look over anything in the future.

Michigan University is well known for the home of the spartans and for its green and white colours. You will see heaps of spartan merchandise around even outside of the university. Interesting fact, the closest McDonalds was painted green and white for the colours of the spartan. The university is well organised and has good leaders that showed us around for our first few days and helped us find our way to class. They were very nice and wanted to become friends and learn our Australian culture. There are also many friendly squirrels around campus that came up close to you waiting for food.

I budgeted $7000 for this course however it turned out to be more because I forgot about the conversion rate when sending money over for the $4700 course. But that was pretty good though because the $4700 (AU) covered trips to canada and Chicago as well as our food on campus. We were given a ID card when we got there loaded with money on it (called sparty cash) for food for the three weeks which we could either spend at the cafeteria or shops in and around the university that took the sparty cash. It was about $345 dollars placed on there however we could top up with our own money if we ran out.

I don’t think I experienced culture shock too much as I had already visited America the year before. However to keep safe, I registered for emails and alerts for things that happen around Michigan and in America.

One must have item on the trip is your ID, money and as well as phone. Keeping your phone on you can help in emergency situations while also keeping up with the fb page of the activities that were happing on campus. I advise that people who are going overseas and have got a sim card to make sure its working before getting to America because it didn’t work when I was over there and I had to go searching for a sim card from a shop which was a pain. Also if your luggage gets lost in transit, call up your insurance company soon after so that you can get money to buy clothes and amenities while waiting for it to arrive. I definitely advise of getting travel insurance. I really didn’t think I would need it but I paid for it anyways to be safe and then it turned out I ended up in hospital the night before coming back home. You never know what can happen so its good to be covered in case of an unexpected situation.

This program was an amazing experience to be able to study and live on campus in a different country. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone however more so first and second years because it is more introductory film study (however really good for third years to put on their CV and have films for their portfolio). I think it helped me in a way to not care what people think about myself as well as helped me make new friends. It helped me have something amazing to put on my CV and give me films for my portfolio as well as more experience. It is an amazing way to make new friends, as the group of us that went together from QUT stuck together and now we still collaborate on film at university and outside of university.

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.

A Semester in Tokyo

Chanelle J, Bachelor of Business

Rikkyo University, Japan (Semester 1, 2016)

New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient

My decision to do exchange in Tokyo was influenced by my love of Japanese design and architecture, and also because I was interested to learn more about the culture. I was excited for a challenge to live in a country with a different language and way of life to me. And what a challenge it was, but I loved every minute of it!

n the top of Mt. Fuji with friends from Rikkyo University

Rikkyo university in Ikebukuro is a beautiful campus, though much smaller than QUT. The gym, swimming pool, tennis, basketball facilities are amazing and free for students to use. The orientation process to use these facilities is a bit tedious, especially for non-Japanese speakers, but well worth it!

The university system is very different to what I was used to. Attendance is compulsory and counts towards your final grade. We were required to do a minimum of 7 subjects to be on a student visa. This was a lot more work than I was used to at QUT, however the assessment items were much smaller.

The international office staff were very helpful and organized many free events for exchange students. I always felt like I had somewhere to go for help and someone to talk if I had a problem. Every day would bring new challenges, like receiving mail in the post I couldn’t understand, so it was a lifesaver to be able to take this to the international office for help.

Rikkyo, Ikebukuro Campus in the rain

 

I chose to live in an apartment in Zoshigaya, which is about 15min walk away from Rikkyo. I really enjoyed this location because I didn’t have to rely on the train. I bought a 2nd hand bike to get around the city. I recommend this to everyone!

Renting an apartment by myself was a huge expense at approximately $2000 AUD. It came completely fitted out with everything I needed for my stay, which is very different to the dormitories where you need to buy everything. If I had my time again I would prefer to stay somewhere cheaper.

Exploring Kawagoe, a traditional Japanese town

 

My living expenses (excluding rent) were around $1500 per month. It is really cheap to eat out and drink. There is a very cheap cafeteria style dining hall at university where you could get basic Japanese food for around $4 to $5.

My highlights were climbing Mt. Fuji, Go-Karting around Akihabara and shopping for vintage clothes in Shimokitazawa.

Overall, I loved my experience at Rikkyo and would recommend it to everyone!

‘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.