Highlands, Bagpipes and Everything Scottish

Lateisha, A. Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology)/Bachelor of Justice

University of Glasgow (Semester 2, 2016)

Being able to go abroad and study for a semester in Glasgow, Scotland, has given me the opportunity to learn much more about myself and the world than I thought possible. I would (and plan to) do it all again as it was one of the best experiences and recommend it to everyone that gets the chance. Though being honest it wasn’t all smooth sailing, there were some hiccups along the way, but that was all part of the experience!

My first day on campus

The first problem I encountered was that I missed the registration for events during O-week and fresher week meaning I couldn’t go. This made meeting people and making friends a little tricky as these events were where the majority of people met each other and made friends. The next issue I had was with

November Snow!

my units which was stressful. The units I had initially planned were cancelled and not run during the semester I was there so I had to find new ones last minute. Through the help of the staff at both QUT and UofG I was able to quickly find alternative units. The final challenge I experienced was the weather. The weather in Glasgow is very, very different from Brisbane. It was cold dark and damp for the majority of the time I was there, so after growing up on the Sunshine Coast and coming from Brisbane it took some time before I adjusted and accepted that seeing the sun only happened on rare occasions. Though it did snow one night in November which I was very lucky to witness as it was quite early for snow!

 

I lived in university accommodation, which was dorm style living. I had four other roommates, we each had our own rooms with communal living spaces. The hall was about a 15 minute walk away from campus through Kelvin Grove Park, and around a half hour walk from the city centre. The lectures I had were quite similar in style to those at QUT, however the tutorials and lectorials were generally smaller in size and felt more like large discussions, which I found interesting as that isn’t really something I’ve come across at QUT. The campus itself was absolutely stunning! The architecture of the buildings was amazing, it looked like something plucked straight from the past or out of a movie. I thought parts of the campus looked like something from Harry Potter which to be honest was part of the reason why I chose Glasgow!

Going on exchange allowed me to be 100% independent, which is something I haven’t experienced fully. It was a little daunting to begin with in the sense that I didn’t really have a family member or a friend who I could rely on, it was all up to me. After a while though I got used to it and really enjoyed having to be independent. Exchange in Glasgow also allowed me to travel around Europe and the UK, which is something I’d been wanting to do for a long time. I travelled Europe before my semester began with a tour company, and then towards the end of and after the semester I travelled by myself around the UK, which is something I would never of had the confidence to do without exchange. (I would add some snapshots but I couldn’t choose only a few).

Exchange has enabled me to find myself as a person in a time when I really needed to, as cliché as it sounds. My self-confidence has grown, I’m able to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself, I was able to immerse myself in a culture similar yet also quite different to my own and I made some really good friends.

My Exchange Experience In France

Rosemary, K. Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Journalism

Catholic University of Lille (Semester 2, 2016)

Enjoying a cheese picnic during Lille’s fleeting summer

Lille is a great exchange city. It is small enough that I could walk everywhere. The university is about a twenty-minute walk to the main train station and beautiful old town or there is a very reasonable and user-friendly bus. The university is close to a string of student bars that are so well attended on Thursday evenings that the police close the surrounding streets down. There are also antique markets, the famous La Braderie, streets of gourmet food shops and wonderful fresh food markets in nearby Wazemme. Lille has its own soccer team in the national league, which is fun to spectate, and there is a beautiful opera building that sells cheap tickets to students. There are shopping malls and networks of beautiful little cobbled streets lined with lovely little stores. Being on the border with Belgium means that Lille can offer the best of both countries. Belgium chocolate mixed with French pastries, Belgium fries and French cheese as well as beautiful French wines and famous Belgium beers meant I never came close to hungry.

I studied in the second semester from late August to mid-December. I was concerned about the cold but soon came to love the winter and the lead up to Christmas. Lille (and all of Europe) comes alive at Christmas with markets in the square, mulled wine and a huge Ferris wheel. I had to buy a new wardrobe and my first winter coat but that was a fun novelty in itself.

Lille is well located for travel with Europe’s excellent bus and train network. Cities such as London, Brussels and Paris are each less than two hours away. Amsterdam and Cologne in Germany are easy day trips as are beautiful Ghent, Brugge and Antwerp. Flying out of the Brussels Charleroi airport is very cheap and easy with a Flixbus connecting the airport to the Lille Flanders train station. There is also the Brussels International Airport an hour and a half away on the train. I had the opportunity to take many trips including Edinburgh, Italy, Norway, Ireland and Germany. People in the north of France have a similar reputation to the Australians living in Tasmania but they are open hearted and friendly people who are always willing to help with whatever English they know. They are proud of their country and happy to share it with foreigners, often going out of their way to find someone to translate my questions. Living in a country where you don’t speak the language well can be difficult and it is important to be easy going because things get lost in translation and getting an extra drink or meal or something slightly different to what you ordered can happen so I learnt not to be fussy.

Enjoying a day of playing inflatable games organised by the AEU

Lille is a very affordable city when you are living on an Australian wage. Groceries, rent, meals, movies and clothes were all cheaper than Australia. In fact the only expensive service was trains. I had many concerns about budgeting during my time overseas but the cost of living was so cheap and I kept an eye on my finances so I had no issues. My only qualm with Lille was the lack of decent coffee but my Melbourne friends and I discovered Coffee Makers on Paris Street early in the semester. They have the best beans in Lille and often sell delicious winter salads, curries and homemade tarts alongside their decadent Malteaser coffees.

University in France is a very different experience to university in Australia. Firstly, everybody lives on campus or near campus and nobody lives at home with their parents. I prearranged my accommodation with an organisation run by the university called the AEU. I was placed in a tiny little residence called La Maison de l’étudiant that only had seven rooms and was across the road from the university. The residence was a large apartment on the third floor of a converted French chalet complete with stained glass windows, marble floors and ornate plaster ceilings. All bills, Internet, cleaning and breakfast was included in my very reasonable rent. We also got fresh croissants delivered every week. All my housemates were French and Mauritian students studying their whole degrees in France. They were extremely friendly and welcoming, excited to practice their (very good) English and well and truly made me feel at home, caring for me when I was sick, taking me to the doctors and translating anything I needed. Living in an AEU residence also meant I could participate in their organised sports, attend French zumba, join their gym for 10 euro a month, eat at the outrageously cheap cafeteria (three euro for three courses!) and attend their welcome and Christmas parties. I also had the very unfortunate experience of being robbed and the AEU were able to help me call the police, translate a statement and find a new place to live, all of which would have been extremely difficult on my own.

University is very different to university in Australia but if you embrace change and respect the differences you will learn a lot. For starters, twelve subjects is a normal load. There are subjects offered in many different languages and structures: some are taught in blocks, some are taught weekly and some are taught every couple of weeks. Nothing is recorded and it is necessary to attend all classes, it would be naïve to think you could pass without doing so. Getting together a timetable can be a bit hectic, especially if you study across two faculties but that may be necessary in order to cobble together enough English subjects to satisfy the 30 ECTS requirement. The faculties within the university may as well be totally different: they are manned by different staff, have different rules and sometimes slightly different grading systems. I studied within the ESPOL and FLSH faculties, favouring the latter as ESPOL only started in 2012. I studied a broad range of subjects from sociology in the media to medieval history, European politics, French language and literature and thoroughly enjoyed them all. I think there is a tendency for people to not worry about their subjects and focus on their ‘exchange experience’ but I would advise choosing subjects you like because you will spend a lot of time studying. The university is well respected and France and the curriculum is heavy on rote learning and memorisation (hence why you need to attend class and take good notes) and involves less analytical processes than at QUT. It is a different type of learning, but it is still learning and I felt like I got a lot out of my time in Lille.

Exchange students at a Lille soccer game

The university has a well-established program for international students. They have dedicated staff members and orientation events, buddy programs and parties designed solely for international students. This enabled me to meet so many people from around the world. I made friends with people from Germany, Lithuania, Afghanistan, America, Ireland, Japan, France, Mauritius and even Australia to count a few. Lille is a beautiful little city but it is truly the people I met that made my experience. Sometimes living in a foreign country can be exasperating but having people to share in that exasperation makes it feel a whole lot less stressful.

Overall I had an amazing time on Exchange. I met lifelong friends from all around the world and I am very lucky to have had such an experience. Exchange is the easiest way to live in another country, as there are so many people and services set up to help you. If you are considering taking the leap I cannot encourage you more, it is an amazing opportunity.

True American Experience

Marshall, R. Bachelor of Business

University of South Carolina (Semester 2, 2016)

In the beginning, leaving the comforts of home in Brisbane for a new life in America was extremely daunting. When I applied to University of South Carolina, I didn’t know anyone from the school or anyone going on exchange with me. However, that changed very quickly upon arrival. Since the minute I unpacked my belongings, I began to meet lifelong friends.

I lived in Woodrow College with about 40 other international students as well as domestic freshman students. Woodrow had apartment style rooms which includes a kitchen, so I didn’t get a meal plan whilst undertaking my exchange. This turned out to be a very cost effective way to do my semester abroad as many weekends I was away travelling.

The first few days were filled with exploring the campus and all the facilities that it had on offer. This included over 30 restaurants, two gyms with pools, a rock climbing wall and five squash and basketball courts that are all available to students. After getting my bearings on campus, I began to explore the city of Columbia, where USC is located. Although Columbia is the capital city of South Carolina, it is quite a small city by American standards. This made it geographically manageable since it was walking distance to the restaurant district, the Vista.

In the first two weeks, the school organised many social events to get to know both my domestic and international peers. These events really helped make the transition into college life easier. I wanted to get more involved, so I joined an intramural American football team which was made up of other international students. It was quite a steep learning curve to understand the rules, but we made the grand finals of our pool and it was ultimately a great way to meet people.

Classes were substantially different from those at QUT which forced me to immediately adjust my learning style. The classes met twice a week for 75 minutes in classes of about 40 students and unlike QUT, attendance was mandatory for most classes. Final grades were graded on many smaller assignments along with participation and attendance, so it engaged students a lot more and increased participation.

College football is one of the most important past times to many Americans. Luckily for me, football season occurs in the fall semester, so I was able to experience a completely different environment than the sports we have back home in Australia. Tailgates are lined up for miles while everyone eats in and drinks before cheering on the Gamecocks at Williams Brice Stadium.

There were a lot of opportunities for traveling while I was here which allowed me to explore new cultures of a lot of amazing American cities on weekends and holidays. Throughout the semester I was able to visit Chicago, Athens, Charlotte and Charleston. With Thanksgiving break in November I was invited to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in Philadelphia which was on the highlights of my trip.

Overall, exchange was an unforgettable and life changing experience. While it may seem uncomfortable and scary at first, I urge students to challenge themselves and expand their horizons. The memories, friends, and experiences that exchange gave me are way more valuable than any reservation I had before coming to America. I would highly recommend exchange to every student, especially University of South Carolina. Go cocks.

Cultures of Singapore

Aakanksha, B. Bachelor of Information Technology/Bachelor of Mathematics

Nanyan Technological University (Singapore) (Semester 2, 2016)

In the heart of South-East Asia, Singapore has more to offer than its incredible airport. Spending five months at the Nanyang Technological University as an overseas exchange student, I have learnt an immense amount about Singapore and myself. Singapore has most definitely established itself as being one of the most advanced cities in Asia, if not the world. So much so, it is the preferred location for many leading companies to have their regional APAC headquarters.

If regional culture is what you want to experience, Singapore is where you should end your search. Singapore is home to four main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (which everyone else falls into and is roughly 3.3%). As a result, of these four very different groups, it seems like there is holiday or festival every few weeks. While on exchange, I experienced: Singapore National Day, Diwali and the Hungry Ghost Festival, with each festivity bringing its own traditions. Being originally from India, it was awesome seeing how big a celebration Diwali is outside India. Going to “Little India” on this day, I felt like I was back in any Indian city.

If you are a foodie, or if you just want food that is cheap and tastes good, you can’t go wrong in Singapore. From hawker centres to high end restaurants you will never go hungry. NTU campus had over 19 food courts each having various cuisines. In most cases you may only need to spend $10-$20 a day, even if you are on campus. Cost of living in Singapore can vary. In terms of food and transport, it is significantly cheaper than Australia. The maximum you could pay for a trip would roughly be $4; this would only happen if you go from one end of Singapore to the other (which I had to do when going from NTU all the way to the airport). Transport within Singapore isn’t the only thing that is cheap, even going overseas is. For example, I was able to make a trip to Thailand to see Krabi and the beautiful Phi Phi Islands, which was most definitely a highlight.

Accommodation within Singapore can be very expensive. I was lucky enough to get accommodation on campus and had to pay a full semester rate that was equivalent to that of an apartment for only one month. If you don’t want to stay on campus I strongly recommend finding somewhere close to campus and share an apartment with other exchange students. An advantage of staying on campus is that you save a great deal of time on travel. The NTU campus is located in Jurong, which is located one end of the island. If you want to go the main city, it can take up to an hour by MRT.   

There is one word to describe life on campus at NTU: awesome. As QUT does not offer the choice to live on campus, this was something that I was seriously looking forward to. It is not only the flexibility of being able to walk to class, but the ability to forge friendships with local and international students. With these friends you can go to hall and campus events and even overseas trips. After spending so much time together, you know you have formed friends for a life time.

Saving the serious for last, academics in Singapore is challenging, especially if you are taking core subjects (I was taking four). The thing that is drastically different to QUT is the fact that Singapore grades on a “bell curve”. This means that your grade is scaled according to everybody else’s in the class. I didn’t let this effect me too much and studied hard to ensure I did my best.

If you want to be challenged academically, the opportunity to experience different regional cultures, eat great food, travel within South East Asia at amazingly low fares, Singapore is your place!

 

Vienna Exchange

Leah, D. Bachelor of Business & Law

Vienna University of Economics & Business (WU) (Semester 2, 2016)

WU and QUT differ in a number of ways – it’s not a good or bad thing, it’s just different. As WU only recently moved to its current location, every building is modern, inside and out. The highlight is undoubtedly the library: a place where students study in silence – which I will admit, is a little weird after the vibrancy of QUT’s law library. The academics are passionate about what they do, and something that WU does which is really good for class engagement is allocating a lot of marks for active class participation (on average, about 25%) – it creates a much more collaborative learning environment. Something they do which is also quite frustrating is because of this, most classes are quite small: there is only one time for a class, not 4 or 5 as there are at QUT, so if you miss class registration, it can be very difficult to find subjects and create a timetable that doesn’t clash. 

Another thing to be aware of is that the timetables are rarely consistent: whereas you might have Marketing from 10-12 every Wednesday in Z411 at QUT, the classes at WU are at different times every week, in different rooms. A class might go for 2 hours, or it might go for up to 8 if you choose a ‘block course’ – similar to a summer semester here. This inconsistency is both a blessing and a curse as an exchange student – it means you’re not locked into a bad timetable, and are thus able to travel still, but it does mean you never know where or when your class is.

Austria:

The cost of living in Austria is a little less than that of Australia, even with the exchange rate.  You could get lunch from the on-campus grocery store for about €5 or less, ($7AUD); and you could get a decent hot meal for €7 ($10AUD) on-campus, or at local eateries. Although they pride themselves on their coffee, it’s surprisingly expensive compared to other things: a regular melange would cost about €3.50 (~$5). Thankfully, there’s vending machines around campus that have good coffee for 60 cents (80 cents AUD), or €1.20 ($1.7AUD) if you want a larger cup.  Rent through the recommended organisation is quite expensive, but it is the most common option. If you are more adventurous, and are looking to save a couple of hundred Euro a month, looking into alternative accommodation is a good idea.

Austria is very centrally located, and this enables you to travel extensively for relatively cheaply, thanks to budget airlines, cheap buses, and the rail network. Whilst I was on exchange, I managed to travel to 13 countries, including Slovakia, Iceland and Portugal, and over 40 cities. It’s important to not discount travelling within Austria too – I would say that one of my favourite trips was to Innsbruck, in Austria’s west. Culturally, I found Austrians can be a bit standoff-ish. It’s something you adjust to, but it was initially quite jarring to go to the grocery store and not have the cashier talk to you at all.  Austrians living in the suburbs tend not to speak much English. My German skills subsequently developed a lot more than I expected.

Highlights

One of my unfounded worries in moving to Vienna for exchange was that I would struggle to make friends. Not true. Within three days I met people who I was friends with for the rest of exchange, and I’m sure I will stay friends with into the future. ‘Exchange time’ is a weird concept: time is compressed, everything is sped up: where becoming close friends may normally much longer in normal circumstances, it only takes a couple of hours or a day to become very good friends with someone.  At the same time, your time away both lasts and eternity, and is over far too soon.

Another highlight of my trip was seeing huge seasonal changes: when I arrived in September it was about 30 degrees, and then the leaves changed to classic Autumn hues, and then they dropped off, and snow came in: in fact, it was Vienna’s coldest winter in about 30 years. Travelling was also a huge part of exchange, and it was incredible to see how different cultures and foods and languages were geographically so close to each other. Being able to explore such amazing places with new friends cemented our friendships further.

Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Vienna as an exchange destination: there’s so much to explore, and such a rich culture and history in the country, and nearby.

Ottawa Ontario

Joel, R. Bachelor of Mathematics

University of Ottawa (Semester 2, 2016)

My first night at the University of Ottawa in Canada’s capital city was 30 degrees Celsius and muggy.  Not at all the weather I expected, but perhaps that was simply thanks to my lack of research into my host city.  My housemates were chatting in the lounge as I walked into my new home, a Chilean, Russian and a Belgian rounding out our multicultural apartment, and they made the next 4 months far more welcoming than that first hot night.

Before arriving in Canada I took the opportunity to visit Europe, managing to visit Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna and Munich before finally heading to North America.  I then spent another couple of weeks in Kelowna BC, Canada, a beautiful town which offers a huge amount of outdoor activities and natural beauty.

As the first weeks in Ottawa went by I took the opportunity to explore and meet my neighbours, generally fellow exchange students from places like Ireland, Sweden, England, China, the Netherlands and everywhere in between.  Ottawa is a curious mix between city and town, not as big or busy as Toronto or Montreal, but with just as much history.  Originally a frontier logging town, Ottawa prospered into the home of Canada’s government.  Separated from Quebec and one of its cities, Gatineau, by a large river, Ottawa is a city of beauty and variety as I came to discover during my time there.

Eventually the university semester started and I began my first classes in a new country, an experience that ended up feeling very similar to those I had at home.  Professors used technology to present lectures, answered class questions and gave assignments, just like they do at QUT.  The only major difference was the rack of winter coats hanging at the back of the classroom by the time cold weather came through in about November.  Snow followed soon after, transforming an already beautiful city into a winter wonderland (as corny as that sounds).

My apartment, while not luxurious by any means, was cosy and sufficient enough to keep me alive through the cold weather.  I was relieved to find the cost of living similar enough to Brisbane, with goods roughly the same or cheaper in Ottawa.  My housemates and our neighbours grew accustomed to the idea of spending 15 minutes or more just layering up enough to brave the -25 degree weather to go get some shawarma or poutine from the local store.

Through all the pitfalls of a new country, like dealing with tipping, winter clothes and the rules of hockey, I was lucky to have a tight group of friends to go through the same experiences.  We shared trips to Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls, even managing a week in Cuba, and meeting people like them has been the most important takeaway from my time overseas.  My advice to future exchange students is to focus on that network of friends, push yourself to talk to anyone and everyone.  Any city in the world has things to do, but it’s the people in that city that sets it apart and makes exchange a truly worthwhile experience.

Fashion in Hong Kong

Nhu, C. Bachelor of Design (Fashion)

Hong Kong Polythechnic University (Semester 2, 2016)

I studied fashion design at The Hong Kong Polythechnic University in second semester of my second year. The Institute of Textiles and Clothing in PolyU is significantly different to QUT fashion studios as they have a larger number in students, more facilities however the teaching was not as intimate. The institute offered eye-opening subjects such as knitting, colouration, intimate apparel, shoe design, denim design and so on. The teaching staff were also very experienced and supportive especially the pattern maker, knitting technician, colouration and finishing professor that taught me.

During my semester abroad, I made myself at home at the PolyU student accommodation. I paid approximately $1 600 for the whole semester which was significantly cheaper than living outside of the student dorms. It was one of the best decisions I made over in HK as I built strong friendships with my roommate, other exchange students and the workers within the building. It was also near the university, only taking 10 minutes by foot.  Within the student accommodation it provided functional, studying and leisure facilities including a communal gym, swimming pool, snooker pool room, game room, table tennis, dance room, kitchen, laundry room, study rooms and printers.

The cost of living was not as bad as I was expecting. I roughly spent $8000-9000 during the whole 4months (including flights, flights booked in HK, accommodation). Hong Kong is full of culture, mixing both Western and Eastern qualities. I didn’t experience much of a culture shock as my ethnical background is Chinese and Vietnamese.  Hong Kong was my home, the hustle and bustle of the night life and the sensational scenery as you escape the city will forever keep me wanting more. I met and became close friends with many of the locals and exchange students who’ve broadened my perspective on life and design.

My advice for students who are still undecided whether to go or not, I say go!! It’s true when past exchange students say it’s one of the most memorable and best experience. For the future exchange students, my advice is to learn as much as you can and take advantage of your host university’s curriculum but also don’t forget to make time for exploring your host country, be part of their culture, make both local and exchange friends, visit nearby countries and take up every opportunity!

Just Do It!

Samantha, C.
San Jose State University (Semester 2, 2016)

I’ve always wondered why birds choose to stay in the same place, when they can fly anywhere on the earth… and then I ask myself the same question.

To put it frankly, if someone had of told me that I would be attending American college at the ripe age of 19, I would have believed it. Why? Because studying abroad was always a dream of mine, and I knew I had to work hard to get there.

San Jose State University

While going on student exchange isn’t just travelling as a tourist, it’s also living in a new country, with a new culture. In order to fit in, I had to immerse myself fully into the American lifestyle, by having day-to-day interactions with the locals, getting accustomed to their habits, traditions and culture, while gaining first-hand judgement and experience, which has and will continue to broaden my horizon for life.

In my opinion, a life of travel is a good thing to have… but the catch is, once you start, there’s no looking back! So where I began, grew and prospered was at San Jose State University (SJSU) in California.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

I chose to study at SJSU because of its fantastic extra-curricular activities for journalism and public relations students, their high graduate employment, and overall student satisfaction. Respected globally for its excellence, diversity, flexibility, range of opportunities and top quality academics, SJSU provides a broad variety of courses and more precisely in the communications area.

I chose to live on campus, in CVB accommodation, and shared an apartment with four other girls, with each having our own single bedroom. I also opted not to have a meal plan, and instead cook for myself! The closest grocery store was about a 10-minute walk, and in turn I dined out a couple times each week with friends. Living on campus, American college style, truly was incredible. As I looked out my bedroom window on the 11th floor, I viewed what could be deemed as college road, where all the fraternities and sororities were located – oh what a sight! Living on campus also allowed me to fully immerse myself into college life, where I was involved in clubs, activities like Victoria’s Secret Zumba night, and mingling with friends either at social events or just hanging out in our dorm rooms. I did however enjoy having my personal bedroom, which gave me a bit of down time and privacy to study and facetime home.

My Dorm Room, San Jose State University

At SJSU, I chose to study an overload of five subjects, and while it was very trying, with the support of my wonderful professors I pulled through and managed to achieve an A+ overall in each unit (equivalent to a high distinction – yay!). Though as you would know if going on exchange, the actual grade isn’t recorded on your QUT transcript, but rather satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

During my time abroad, I made an abundance of new friends both international and American. The support network was fantastic, and never once did I feel lonely or isolated, but rather overwhelmed… in a good way. As an Aussie you’ll feel like a celebrity (totally not kidding!) and you’ll understand this once you’ve been. It was amazing to have other students interested in my home country and where I come from, as was I with their culture too. On my first day, I mingled with all the other international students who I remained close with throughout the first week while I settled into college and met all my American friends. In fact, I miss all these friends so much, that I have just booked another trip to return and catch up in less than two months, with only my flights to book and the accommodation covered. If that’s not enough to convince you to go, let me share with you my account of America.

SF Giants V NY Mets Baseball Game

America was everything I had imagined, but MORE. It is a very upbeat, exciting and spontaneous country! So much to see and do, and the people are extraordinarily friendly. No day was the same, and I always found myself creating lists of things I have to see before my departure date. While I was in the U.S., I was fortunate enough to travel extensively through California, seeing sights like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Yosemite and more. I also travelled through Hawaii, Arizona and Nevada. And yes I did visit the Grand Canyon, Universal Studios/Disneyland and also got to climb Diamond Head in Waikiki.

Diamond Head, Waikiki

I now look back on the breathtaking photos and vision, and It blows my mind that yes that was me standing there. There is still so much to see and explore in this magical country, and many ask what my favourite place was, and I can confidently say it was San Jose State University. Going on student exchange would have to be the best decision I have ever made… and SJSU will forever be my second home. While I spent just one semester in the U.S., the experience I have gained will undoubtedly endure throughout a lifetime. I promise, if you’ve ever had a slight thought of going global with QUT, I say… just do it, you won’t regret it.

Japan > Australia*

*in these particular areas.
There is no denying that Japanese culture and Australian culture are poles apart. Where Australia is laid-back and simple, Japan is wonderfully weird and over-the-top. Where Australia is endearingly rough-around-the-edges, Japan is pristine and polished. And while I love Straya, I’m taking the opportunity to outline some key areas where we can probably (definitely) learn (read: copy) a thing or two from our Japanese friends.
Vending machines
They are literally everywhere, and they sell everything, from soft drinks, to both hot and iced coffee, to instant noodles, cigarettes, alcohol, icecream, umbrellas and neckties. It’s revolutionary. There is literally one vending machine per 23 people in Japan! In my 1.1km walk to uni alone, I pass more than 16 vending machines; approximately one every 70 metres.
Convenience stores
7-11 here is like that tent from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; it’s tiny, but it can, and does, hold literally everything you could ever need. Freshly baked breads and home-style meals are delivered each morning, they’re practically a fully-fledged liquor store, and the cheap machine coffee doesn’t even taste like death. You can even pay your bills in store! Plus, again, they’re everywhere.
Transport
It’s totally normal to bike or walk everywhere, and when you do need to use public transport, it’s quick, clean and punctual, the exact anti-thesis of Translink.
Sorting rubbish
Sure, sorting your rubbish into burnables, plastics, PET bottles, cans and glass can be pretty bloody annoying, but it’s fairly easy to do and environmentally friendly so I can get behind that.
Hi-tech toilets
I’ve literally forgotten what a cold toilet seat feels like. Look, are all those extras necessary? Of course not. But they’re convenient.
Harmony between history, nature, and urbanity
I literally walk past a temple everyday on the way to uni. It’s not uncommon to see a small Shinto Shrine on the roof of multi-storey offices, nor is it unusual to see a Buddhist temple’s towering pagoda peeking out from behind tall buildings. Kyoto is home to over 2,000 temples and shrines, as well as 17 UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites, all of which are within about an hour of where I live. I’ve been here 3 months and am still continually astounded by this city’s ability to have its history and culture coexisting so seamlessly and beautifully with its urbanity.
Cool side note story: I had the unreal privilege of dragging myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4am to signal the start of morning prayers by ringing the bell at Nishihonganji Temple, one of the 17 World Heritage sites, a ritual usually only performed by the head monk. A small group of my friends and I were only permitted to do so as a part of celebrations around the passing down of the temple’s custodianship from father to son, an event that only occurs maybe once every 50 years. It was such a serene and awe-inspiring experience, and the most quintessentially Japanese thing I’ve ever done.
It’s so clean*
I never see litter (although I have no idea how, considering it’s near impossible to find a bloody rubbish bin), I’ve forgotten what mud looks like, and I have my suspicions that leaves here spontaneously combust if they’re not swept up within 5 minutes of hitting the ground (though I’m yet to prove this theory, because the leaf sweepers here do a fantastic job).
*This does not apply to my dorm kitchen. A chicken coup is more hygienic.
Amusement parks
Dreamworld is the biggest theme park in Australia, and doesn’t even hold a candle to the kinds of amusement parks they have here. I recently went to Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka, and the attractions there are fully immersive (Harry Potter World and the Hogwarts Castle were UNREAL), and expertly marry production with adrenaline-inducing rides, unlike anything we have in Australia. It was legitimately one of the best days of my life, in no small part because I touched a minion’s butt (it was an accident, but I’m not apologising really).
Mayonnaise
It’s the best. Don’t start me.
Eating out is cheap
I can get an epic bowl of ramen for 800¥, or plethora of ridiculously sized meal sets for under 1000¥, where the same could easily cost me double at home. Ingredients, on the other hand, will cost you an arm and a leg, and quite possibly your soul.
Free WIFI
Again, everywhere. I live for it.
While I do love all of these wacky Japanese things, I am keen to return home to the good-ole Australian sense of humour, Western confectionery (they are OBSESSED with red bean paste here, and anko is one of my least favourite things ever, right up there with manspreading and the shrinking size of Pringles chips), PayPass, non-compulsory class attendance, and of course…
 …sensible smoking legislation.

Sincerely,

Tiffanie.

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.