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.

Engineering Design Summit in Cambodia

Himanthi M, Bachelor of Engineering

Engineers Without Borders: Cambodia Design Summit (February 2017)

The experiences and opportunities that were on offer were once in a lifetime. The opportunity to live in a remote Cambodian village really opened my eyes to realities of people’s lives around the world. The trip also allowed me to discover Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. This bustling city is a central hub. There are so many great restaurants to try the local cuisine. The program took us to many new places every meal which gave us the chance to discover new parts of the cities we visited.

The weather did get quite warm on some days but most of the time the monsoon rain came in the afternoon which cooled the weather and the nights were comfortable. The accommodation provided by the program was really great and high quality. They were well organised and provided our needs. It was great staying with all the people who were on the summit and it meant that there were always group activities happening. Also activities were included in program cost which included dolphin watching, cultural experiences and historical tours.

The shopping was great in the local markets in Phnom Penh and the provincial towns. The prices were negotiable so don’t be afraid to bargain. The design summit focused on human design. We also had lectures on sustainable design, intercultural skills workshops, communication and the design process. The like-minded people and the contacts developed on the trip were so valuable.  Lifelong friendships were formed.This experience is invaluable and I definitely would recommend the EWB Design Summit for all engineering students.

Tradition and Technology in Japan

Diana O, Bachelor of Creative Industries

Ritsumeikan University Japanese Winter Program (Jan – Feb 2017)

It was at the beginning of summer when I decided I needed a change, so QUT’s short-term mobility program in Japan was the perfect opportunity to do something productive in holidays while continuing my Japanese studies. Ritsumeikan University is located on the north side of Kyoto, close to Kinkakuji Temple; the campus offers a brand new library, computer labs, convenient stores, numerous vending machines, and several co-op restaurants that are cheap and offer delicious food. Generally a lunch at the co-op restaurant is between 5 to 8 AUD.

Ritsumeikan University

As part of the Ritsumeikan Winter Japanese Program, I stayed at Taishogun International Dorm, which belongs to the university. The accommodation is only a 15 minutes walk to Ritsumeikan. The dorm is a modern, close to affordable restaurants, supermarkets, Emmachi Train station and buses. Living in a dorm is an essential part of the experience as you live and share most of your time with the other students. This was a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and meet people from other cultures.

Taishogun International Dorm

When you do an intensive language program there is a lot of content covered in a small period of time. This short-term program runs for 5 weeks, so you need to continuously study throughout the program in order to keep up with the content. Additionally we had Japanese cultural studies, 3 times a week, which were my favorite as we had the opportunity to meet Geiko-san and Maiko-san (Geishas), do pottery, cook Japanese food, play traditional Wadaiko drums and so much more.

Cultural Class: Japanese Cuisine, Geiko san and Maiko San

Living in Kyoto was fantastic. Kyoto is considered Japan’s cultural capital; it has over 2000 shrines and temples plus 17 Unesco world heritage sites. In a magical way the city is able to blend tradition and technology seamlessly, thus making Kyoto one of the most exciting places to visit in Japan. Thanks to the excellent transport system, I was able to take day trips to Osaka, Nara, Kobe, etc. My time in Kyoto gave me the opportunity to take risks, experience another culture, explore new things and make new friends. If given the chance I will do the short-term program again.

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

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.

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.

Surabaya: 5 Foods & What They Say About Indonesia Culture

Katie T: Bachelor of Property Economics
University of Surabaya, Indonesia (Semester 2, 2016)
New Colombo Plan Mobility Student

  1. Nasi Campur (pronounced Nasi champur)
    I’m starting with a dish meaning ‘mixed rice’ as it was one of the first dishes I had during my exchange in Surabaya. It is a dish which you can usually order and add whatever sides you like, be it fried egg, boiled egg, fried boiled egg, tempe or grilled fish – the list goes on. However, the core of the dish is their staple, rice – it wouldn’t be a meal without it according to many Surabayans. Like Nasi Campur itself, Surabaya is a city mixed with different cultures. Many of the students I studied with came to study in Surabaya from the small towns that border it, or from other Indonesian islands. Within the student body there is also a mix of ethnic backgrounds, languages and classes. That said, there staple traits they all share: politeness, hospitality and a willingness to meet new people.

    No spoons or forks for this one! I learned to eat with my hands for some traditional dishes

  2. Sate (pronounced sar-tay)
    To be honest, I’m mostly including sate because it’s delicious. It’s most common as grilled chicken skewers, but I also had goat in Lombok, and got to experience pork sate as cooked by my classmate’s grandmother in her hometown in north Sulawesi. I didn’t try the rabbit one sold just on my street. The first time I had sate was when the girl who lived next to me in the guesthouse suggested we go to the market for dinner. So I hopped on the back of her scooter and headed over to the street stall. Unfortunately, it was also the plan of many others who had ducked out and waited pyjama-clad with their friends on the side of the road. The thirty-minute wait seemed a lot longer with the delicious smell lingering around us! Sate is great as it’s so easy to share with people, which is great in a culture where everyone wants to show off their great food and meet new people.

    An unusual but delicious tucker

  3.  Mi Ayam (pronounced me-ai-yum)
    One of my favourite street stalls was a stroll down the busy street from my apartment. It had a banner as simple as ‘Mi Ayam’ or ‘chicken noodle’. Nothing mysterious about this shop: they sold a pot of Mi Ayam and a side of a sweet drink as protocol. What’s great about this dish is there’s only one type of ‘Mi Ayam’ which is a balance of chicken, soy sauce and a handful of spices. It’s a fair game for restaurants and food stalls that way, a game of who can balance the taste best. There’s no one arguing that the avocado mash a different dish to the smashed Avo on baked sourdough.

    Wet season would sometimes make the walk to the stall quite a challenge

  4. SambalI
    Wouldn’t be doing Indonesia justice if I didn’t mention the thing they do best – sambal. This paste is added to just about every dish and I can tell you it’s a lot more exciting than salt and pepper. In most restaurants in Surabaya, this will be a simple side of freshly ground chilies, shrimp paste and lime. However, as I travelled around Indonesia I learned that the meaning of ‘sambal’ changed. For example, in the island of Sulawesi, the spice was more intense and it had taken on more fresh seafood, which is the main diet in that region. Bali also has its version of sambal, with lemongrass and lime. Across the 17,000 islands of Indonesia, there are many different versions of this paste to check out!

    Glad I could bring myself to try the deep-fried banana with sambal in Manado

  5. Indomie – mi goreng
    We’re all students here – who hasn’t dived into a quick packet of mi goreng and even added and egg as a challenge for your kitchen skills? This meal is included with gratefulness to the Indonesian producer of two-minute noodles. I have had this dish since childhood in Australia, but the very same package can taste different in Indonesia. I had a bowl of mi goreng at the top of a mountain in Batu, sitting on a mat with friends I made during my internship. Music was blasting through speakers in the background and there was a selection of instant coffees hanging from the wall.

    So many more flavours to find in grocery and convenience stores. Try the green (ijo) one while over there!

    There are so many of these little cafes across Indonesia that are, like the dish, so very simple, but it’s the relaxed and friendly people that add to the experience.

    Resting in the mountains before lunch with my new friends in Batu, Malang

A Polish Experience

Clay A, Master of Business

Warsaw School of Economics (Semester 2, 2016)

I have just completed one semester at Szkoła Główna Handlowa w Warszawie aka the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) in Warsaw, Poland. It was a truly fantastic experience.

SGH Main Building

SGH is a reputable business university in Warsaw located just south of the city centre. The campus itself is spread out over a couple of blocks in various, interesting looking buildings. The university itself is quite old, as are some of the teaching methods (over-head projectors, no lecture recordings, and best of all black boards with chalk) and I enjoyed every second of it. There are also very modern classrooms as shown below.

The main difference I noticed between SGH and QUT is that SGH is far more formal and the students are treated more like young adults. The students at SGH are required to call the lecturers ‘professor’ as opposed to the more casual approach at QUT. This formality is most likely reflective of Polish language and culture as a whole, which seems generally more formal. One thing I have noticed in my time abroad is that Australia is an extremely casual and laid-back country, and that we never get views like this from our classroom.

International Finance Lecture Room

Don’t let the formality of Polish culture put you off, this formality is mainly limited to the older generation. The younger Polish people I met in Warsaw were always very interested to learn that I was from Australia and were eager to practice their English speaking skills on me especially some Australian slang that they had picked up. The general consensus of people I spoke to referred to Australia as a ‘dream country’. Not many people I met had visited Australia but all of them seemed to have a distant relative or friend living in Australia. The cost of travelling to Australia played a major role in deterring people from visiting.

Always snow out of the window

The currency in Poland is the Polish zloty (pronounced zwotie), which equates to about 1/3 of an AU$ which was ideal for me and the other foreigners as the cost of living in Poland is very cheap, especially compared to its neighbouring countries in the EU zone. A 6 month student public transport card for unlimited travel was the equivalent AUD$100. The cost of food in restaurants, even very fancy places, was significantly cheaper than any major city in Australia.

I really enjoyed the Polish cuisine, especially during the colder months. It consisted of lots of different soups, meat (pork knuckles, beef tartar, ribs, duck legs etc), potatoes and cabbage (boiled, stewed, pickled). But the most notable of the Polish cuisines was the pierogi! Pierogi are Polish dumplings, the encasing of which are not too dissimilar from a Chinese dumpling, however the fillings are mainly cabbage, mushroom, beef, pork and are often covered with a bacon/oil sauce. Delicious!

Various styles of Pierogi

There were many international students at SGH, a large portion was from Germany but I also made friends with many Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, South Americans and even Egyptians. Two notable highlights for me in my time abroad was firstly having a Christmas party in my apartment with all my SGH friends, everyone came wearing their ugliest Christmas jumper and bringing with them a native dish from their country. The night ended with karaoke with everyone singing songs in their mother tongue. There was a total of 6 different languages sung, something which is very rare in Australia, but probably far more common in Europe.

The other highlight for me was travelling all over Europe, visiting a total of 16 countries in 5 months. The most memorable was travelling to Italy over the Christmas break, I was lucky enough to be invited for Christmas lunch to a friend’s family home I met at SGH in Treviso, Italy. I had a memorable and very delicious experience which was possible because of Erasmus experience at SGH.

I would highly recommend taking up the challenge/experience of studying abroad.

International Christmas Party

Highlights and tips for a semester in Madrid

James W, Bachelor of Engineering

Polytechnic University of Madrid (Semester 2, 2016)

Madrid is a large, lively, beautiful and friendly city. There are always events and things to do, incredible public transport, a compact city centre and it is really safe! Even though it is a big metropolitan city it still has an interesting and different culture. It´s very refreshing to learn about Spanish history, customs and traditions that continue to influence the country a lot today in spite of globalisation and tourism.

If you ever get bored of the capital, Spain is an incredible country to explore. Every single town and city has its own festival, most of them being week long parties filled with free live music, fireworks, dancing, shows and events. Most of these are around summer but don´t miss out whilst you´re there! I went to: la Tomatina, a festival where everyone throws tomatoes at each other. Semana Grande, a week long festival of free music, theatre, sporting events, fireworks and performances. Las Fallas, a festival where artists spend the entire year creating incredibly tall statues the size of buildings and large trees before burning them all on one spectacular night. San Fermines, a week long festival where every morning they run bulls and people down the middle of the streets! There are many more someone could go to and they´re all very different depending on the local region and culture!

The universities are totally different to ours in Australia which makes for a really interesting and potentially challenging experience as well. The bureaucracy, facilities and teaching styles are quite different and seem a bit outdated but actually have a lot of advantages too. The classes tend to be smaller with attendance often compulsory, which makes it easier to get to know the professors and become more interested in the subjects. There is often less dependence on technology which can help fight against the distractions of the internet and “computer says no” bureaucracy.

Living in Madrid is also great because it´s very cheap! There is accommodation for all budgets to be able to live centrally, I lived in the city centre for less than 110 dollars a week with only a week’s search (although a reasonable understanding of Spanish may be required for this). Unlimited public transport pass is 30 dollars a month for under 26 year olds with most services run from 6am to 2am. There are also 24/7 bus routes connecting to the city centre. The university offers 3 course buffet style meals for $7.5 which are so big I used to split the meals across lunch and dinner. That´s less than $8 for lunch, dinner and dessert – they even wash the dishes for you! Coffee can be bought in cafe´s for as cheap as a dollar as well. Going out is also great as they have an incredible bar and tapas culture as well as a wide variety of clubs although most the music is reggaeton, which you´ll learn to love as well.

So go there, make some great friends, travel the country, go to some festivals and enjoy the great tapas and cheap cañas!