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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jessica R, Bachelor of Business/Law
CIS Australia: January in London (January, 2017)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Katie T: Bachelor of Property Economics
University of Surabaya, Indonesia (Semester 2, 2016)
New Colombo Plan Mobility Student
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
- 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!