My Exchange Adventure

Mackenzie G, Bachelor of Industrial Design
Aston University, Birmingham, England (Semester 1, 2016)

One of the many trips around the UK. This time a weekend in Scotland with people from all around the world.

My Experience
Do you fancy seeing the world? Feel like shaking things up? Want to make uni a lot more fun? If this sounds like you then go sign up for student exchange!
Student exchange is an opportunity to live and study overseas. You get to meet people from all parts of the globe, see places you never would and have the time of your life all while completing your studies.

Earlier this year I flew over to Birmingham, England to complete my first semester of third year industrial design at Aston University. For four months I lived and studied abroad in a country I’ve never been to. There I learnt about product design, made worldwide friends and had an absolutely great time all the while completing my studies.
Aston University was my uni of choice for its industry backed reputation and central location.

Although the content they taught was more on the engineering side, they provided knowledge that I would likely not learn elsewhere. Submitting assignments, sitting exams and general university life was not so different to how we do it here which made adapting to their system a breeze.

Similarly studying in an English speaking country was not a problem at all. The accents and weather were the biggest difference initially but were soon overcome. So no intense culture shock here compared to the more foreign locations available. That said if you want to take it easy, Canada, USA and the UK are more comfortable options should English be your native language.

Life abroad at university is fun. Aston accommodates foreign exchange students very well with regular events and trips around the country. The majority of exchange students hung out together and with people from all over Europe, South America and just about everywhere else we felt a great sense of community exploring and learning together as foreigners.

For me I chose not to work and relied upon loans and savings to keep myself financially supported. So not needing a job meant I had more time to study and even more time to explore the UK and just have fun. With my crew of international students we visited most major UK cities, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and so on. Unique to the English semester is a three week mid semester holiday. Being so close to France and in the middle of winter that meant skiing was up for grabs. So my mid semester break consisted of a week-long ski trip with the uni and two weeks of hot, beautiful sun in the Canary Islands. Luckily for me it wasn’t all about studying. Maybe your university has something similar. You can make your student exchange custom made for whatever interests you! Something not thought about often when considering student exchange.

The Application Process
Getting sorted for a student exchange is no easy task. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back. A lot of research and hard work is required but the effort is worth the reward. A lot of the time my effort was independent simply because there were questions that only I could find the answers to… mostly specific university queries. Although it was difficult my motivation kept the ball rolling, something we tend to forget when going through this process.

The opportunity to work alongside students from different cultures on the other side of the world is worth every ounce of effort.

Finances
A common concern is money and to how fund such an extravagant adventure. Fortunately there are awesome financial assistance options available from QUT. The OS help loan and the mobility grant made my venture possible. Applying for and receiving these are nothing short of easy. With a minimum of $8000 AUD available anything from your own pocket would only be for an extended holiday!
When it comes to budgeting research is key. Finding everyday living costs is essential especially if you’re thinking of living in the UK, Switzerland or any other expensive locations. The small things really add up.

As far as accommodation goes share houses are the best option. Cheap and entertaining they’re nothing short of fun. My house was intensely multicultural which furthered my travel education but also provided another social circle. Comparatively the on campus accommodation at Aston is rather pricey but more student orientated. Again research is key here.

The appropriate visa will make returning to your host country a breeze. This allowed me to skip between the UK and France with ease.

Visas
Before leaving Australia ensure you have the appropriate visa and ensure your passport meets federal requirements. Ensure in advance so you’re not caught rushing around last minute.

The study visa for the UK was a frustratingly slippery slope. Students who have studied there offered mixed advice and the visa website was just as helpful. Trying to save a few hundred dollars by not getting one is risky business but its best to play it safe. Upon entering the country I was told this wasn’t required but soon after relieved by my enrolling member of staff as she reassured me this was a necessary requirement of the university. Nothing too special with passports, just make sure there is plenty of time left on it before it expires.

Customise Your Experience
One aspect not discussed enough is how you can revolve your exchange around what you want to do. My initial idea was basically studying overseas and seeing the sights. However you can leave home well before semester starts and get into some travelling, complete your semester then top it off with a couple more months of travel. Or do like I did and compete in heaps of skateboard races around Europe! It might sound like a holiday but there is a lot to learn when you’re not at uni.

Once the semester concluded I travelled through Europe and attended many skateboard races. A long time dream now accomplished. (I’m in the grey suit).

If I Could Do It Again
I would be extra adventurous. I would try out a non-English speaking country, somewhere that teaches classes in English but with a culture greatly different to Australia. Unknown to me was how much of the European population spoke English. Knowing this I would have jumped in the deep end for a totally foreign experience.

What One Can Do Tomorrow, One Can Do Today

Harry B., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

The task of conveying my experience on exchange feels somewhat futile, for what made the experience unforgettable – the people met, language learnt, and culture lived – cannot, without losing something of its charm, be neatly distilled into a blog post. Can my friends, my parents, really understand just what it was that I underwent, why it was that I relished my time overseas; the experience and memories being so subjectively and personally my own. Perhaps this scepticism is shared by the exchange faculty, who advised in the writing of this post I focus on the university, facilities, costs, campus life and general tips – in short, just the most useful and easily digestible snippets of information addressed to the palate of the reader who is preparing, or contemplating, their own experience, not so much yours. So it is this I have attempted in the following few paragraphs.

The Berlin School of Economics and Law, where I studied, is in German classified a Hochschule – something of a university, but on a smaller scale, with smaller class and campus sizes. My lectures rarely had more than 30 people, my tutorials even less. This is vastly different to QUT and, I discovered, quite to my liking. For it was because of this the students became better friends, and the learning experience more intimate. Downsides do exist, but are not sufficient, surely, to hamper things: the library was to my mind under resourced, having neither enough places to study, nor computers to use. But I am guessing those reading this, if they’re on exchange, will not frequent the library all that often. My chief gripe, which is to the detriment of us internationals, is the absence of a well organised and supported club for exchange students. Although some effort was being made to remedy this towards the end of my stay, this was of no help to me, whose efforts to meet people would have been greatly assisted by an organisation, like QUT Exchange Buddies Club here, which organised bar nights and activities. Again, given the city in which you live, Berlin, is not short of entertainment, you may not find this gripe as deleterious as did I. But certainly one has a far better time gallivanting around with friends, than without, and it is through clubs run for the benefit of exchange students you meet such comrades.

I resided in private accommodation, which was quite expensive. Places in Berlin are becoming dearer and harder to find, so ensure you secure a place to live –using, say, AirBnb or or the fantastic WG-gesucht.com – well, well, in advance. Alternatively, one could through the university apply for a room in a student dorm, run by the organisation Studentenwerk. Though in general further out from the city centre, they are very affordable and populated with students. You will find, I am told, that the commute is not prohibitively long (especially biking to the train station) – at least not so long as to negate the other, sizable benefits of staying there.

Berlin, apart from the sometimes high cost of private accommodation, is affordable. We live in an expensive country, so I suppose wheresoever we go we will be pleasantly surprised, but everything – public transport, food and groceries, alcohol, entertainment, health insurance – is markedly less expensive than Brisbane.

As to the culture of the place, I have been on a previous exchange to Germany, that time to Mannheim, and must say, the feel of Berlin is itself unique; it has no counterpart, I do not think, across country or even Europe. Frankly, I can imagine few places where a student exchange would be more fitting. There is plenty to do and see – which you probably did not require my assurance of. I recommend learning the language: there is an intensive class offered in the month preceding the commencement of classes. It helps to know a few words. Culture shock, to be honest, is not the problem it may have been in other Germany cities and towns. Berlin is extremely cosmopolitan, an unbelievable melting pot, and it is not uncommon to hear many different languages spoken in cafes and trains. To be sure, there are many locals earnestly going about their business, whose sensibilities you ought not to disregard. But on the whole, people tend to coexist in acceptance of and harmony with everyone else.

Tips:

  • Should you have the money, get German health insurance (80 Euro per month) – this will save you some hassle.
  • Ration your money, spent wisely and be resourceful.
  • Without being reckless, take risks: you are, for a short period, incognito.
  • Meet people and make friends as quickly as possible, organise outings.
  • Improve your cooking, stay healthy, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and take vitamin pills.
  • Above all: do not waste what little time you have. You will be on your long haul hour flight back to banal Brisbane before you know it, so hit the ground running, be prepared and make no excuses for yourself. What one can do tomorrow, one can do today.

Time on Exchange in South Carolina

James H., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws
University of South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2018)

I picked the University of South Carolina as my exchange destination, mostly based on reports from previous exchange students and because it was a place I had never dreamed of going to in America. It ended up being a life changing experience that I will never forget.

When I first got to USC next to none of the domestic students had arrived on campus, so we took a few days to explore and get to know where we would be living for the next semester. The campus itself is incredibly picturesque, especially the ‘Horseshoe’ with its huge oak trees, lush green grass and all the classic American college buildings surrounding it. The facilities on campus were incredible with two huge fitness centres (pools, gyms, basketball and squash courts, a sauna, a rock climbing wall all inside) that are accessible for all students. Notably, the football stadium (Williams-Brice Stadium) can fit over 80,000 attendees and every game that I went to attempted to fill all of the seats with an atmosphere that was next to none – especially with the school song ‘Darude – Sandstorm’ playing at every point scored accompanied by fireworks.

On Campus Gardens

I lived in Cliff Apartments which was apartment style living shared between 4 students. We were all exchange students and I shared a room with a student from the Netherlands with whom I quickly became lifelong friends. Although we had a kitchen with a stove, oven and fridge I utilised the college meal plan, mostly because of the ease of just heading to the diner for any meal of the day, although you do end up missing a home cooked meal! The campus does have countless restaurants to eat at, although we were regulars at ‘Bates Diner’ as it was a 5-minute walk from our accommodation.

I think one of the biggest highlights from my college experience was definitely the football games. The atmosphere at the games has no rival and I particularly loved the passion that all the Americans have for the game and their team. It was always amazing to see the lengths that the school goes to show their support including the mascot (Cocky), the band and cheer-squad. It was particularly beneficial for students as we got free tickets based on a points system – the more school support you showed the better seats you got – that meant attending all the other sporting events like soccer and volleyball and really getting into the school spirit. The tailgating of the games was another highlight as it was such a great opportunity to explore the social side of campus and meet lots of students outside of college life.

Unreal Atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium

America was great to travel to as there are so many further travel opportunities to explore while you are there. I highly recommend budgeting some extra money to explore some places nearby, for example I traveled to Connecticut, Colorado, New York, Texas and did a bus tour through all of the Southwest States at the end of my trip. There are so many opportunities you wouldn’t want to miss while you are over there, and I definitely recommend saying yes to them all!

Overall, exchange was undoubtedly an unforgettable experience and I could not recommend it enough. I met so many lifelong friends and really got out of my comfort zone which seems daunting at first but ends up being incredibly rewarding. I can’t wait to go back and visit the friends I made. Go Cocks!!!

Learning Japanese language and culture in Tokyo

Joshua C., ​Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments
Meiji University Winter Japanese Language Program (February 2019)

Hi there! My name is Joshua Crowley and I am in my 4th year at QUT Studying a Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments (Design) / Bachelor of Business (Marketing). I decided to undertake a short-term program to make my summer break a little more exciting than usual, and boy was it an adventure!

I decided to have my short-term program in Japan and to participate in the Meiji University Japanese Winter Language Program. I have always been an avid consumer of Japanese media, culture, and the language especially. I had basic knowledge of phrases and can read Hiragana and Katakana, but unfortunately my Kanji is not up to scratch. This program was a great way to get a foothold of how to tackle aspects of learning the language, and to make many friends from all around the world.

Where did I stay?

For this program, I decided to stay with a homestay family to get the full experience of Japanese hospitality, and to see the day to day commute when living outside of central Tokyo. I stayed with two homestay families, as I left Australia a little earlier before the program to visit my previous homestay again in Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a beautiful city, a must see!

My homestay family

My homestay in Tokyo was far from central Tokyo in the Chiba prefecture, which is roughly a 1-hour train ride to Meiji University. Public transport in Japan is very easy, but quite expensive. On average, I spent JP¥2000 per day (around $25) riding various trains, to get to and from my homestay as well as visiting various cities across Tokyo. It is important to budget well prior to departing Australia, and to investigate cheaper options such as the Japan Rail Pass or even regional passes for short term trips. Unfortunately, due to my travel itinerary it was not worth purchasing the pass. On the plus side, I had delicious dinners after a long day at uni, such as hotpot!

I miss hotpot for dinner

 

How was the language program?

On the first day of the program we all had to sit a Japanese language test, which tested our reading, writing and speaking ability. Depending on your performance during the test, you were placed in one of four classes, from introductory up to advanced. The classes themselves were very informative with enthusiastic teachers and student volunteers, eager to help in any way possible. However, the lessons were conducted at a fast pace and fully in Japanese with limited English and it was easy to get confused, so it is highly recommended to brush up on your Japanese before joining the program! These classes took place over a 2 ½ week period, with classes taking place mostly on weekday mornings, leaving the afternoons free for students to explore Tokyo and its surroundings.

My university for the program

We also participated in various cultural activities such as calligraphy classes, tea ceremonies, and dressing ourselves in Kimonos!

The cultural part of the program

Kimonos time!

Learning Japanese is a long process but is highly rewarding once you start to understand the grammatical and character-based systems. At the end of the program, I currently still am not able to hold a full conversation in Japanese but am able to now convey my message across through basic sentences.

Special memories?

Many lifelong friends were made throughout my month across Japan. In my spare time between classes, I took the opportunity to visit Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Yokohama, Sapporo, and various places around Tokyo. One highlight of my trip was experiencing -15°c temperatures whilst taking in the sights and sounds of the Sapporo Snow Festival held in the Hokkaido region. Amazing snow sculptures carved with insane amounts of detail scattered the streets of Sapporo, bringing in tourists from all over the world.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival

From humidity to snow and back again

Final Thoughts

Upon returning to Australia after only just a month, it took some time to readjust back to a humid climate, as well as settling back into a more relaxed Australian lifestyle. For those who have not been to Japan, I cannot recommend it highly enough as an exchange destination due to the amount of amazing people, food, and cultural norms that embodies Japanese society. I hope to undertake a full semester exchange in 2020, as I cannot wait to see what else Japan has in store.

See you soon, Japan!

Pokemon mania

Experiencing Danish ‘Hygge’

Tayen L. Bachelor of Business
University of Aarhus, Denmark (Semester 1, 2018)

International Dinner in Our Backyard

Exchange feedback… Wow! Where do I even begin? First of all, for my exchange experience, I chose to go to Aarhus university in Denmark and I’m so glad that I chose it, as I have met some amazing people and had some really life changing experiences! In my opinion, Aarhus does not get talked about enough! It is essentially a student city where everyone is so welcoming. There are always events happening, so you don’t really have a lot of time to be homesick.

The accommodation

For my student accommodation, I was able to choose what kind of accommodation I wanted to live in. There was a choice between dormitories, apartment styles or living in a house. I remember this being quite a hard choice to make, but because I have lived out of home for many years, I decided on choosing the house option because I didn’t think I would like to live with as many people as dormitory style living offered. I assumed I’d be living with 4 or 5 others in a cute little Danish house. Boy, was I wrong! When I received my housing offer, I was granted my first choice of a Danish house… but there were going to be 12 others living in the same house! Safe to say I was a little shocked that a house could fit 13 people in it and then immediately became concerned as this was essentially what I was trying to avoid when I made my decision.

Lucky for me though, living in a house with 12 others actually turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I have left Denmark, not just having some cool housemates, but with a global family! Everyone was so welcoming and we all soon became very close. Our house was the place to be! We would constantly have people who were living in dorms or in apartments tell us that our place was so much fun and that they were jealous of the close friendships we had all formed as housemates and that they were struggling to ‘mesh’ with their dorm or apartment mates. To any future students, I would HIGHLY recommend choosing the housing option, because the experience is amazing, and it gives you the ability to form friendships like no other! Plus, the house was a 30 minute walk to the business school or a 9 minute ride. And Danes ride their bikes everywhere, so you’ll want to be like the locals and get yourself your own bike! (You won’t regret it!).

My House

The weather

Going to Denmark in the Spring semester was incredible because I not only got to see the entire university covered in snow, but I also got to see it bloom with flowers. Two very different experiences, going from all white to all green! Although it was very cold in the winter, Danes would still get out and do things and go to bars with candles and eat nice food. All of this was a very ‘Hygge’ experience, which is the feeling of cosiness, being with good friends and can only be felt but not really explained. In the Spring, when the sun finally came out, we’d often spend our time down at the beach or going for coastal rides!

The grading system

The university system is so different to Australia, because instead of having assessments due every 6 weeks which are worth a certain percentage of your grade, they have one assignment or exam which is due at the end of the semester and is worth the entire grade. So, if you don’t pass your last assessment, then you don’t pass the entire class! I found this a little bit hard to deal with and ended up failing one of my classes I took while over there, as I’m used to the Australian system where if I don’t do quite as well in one assignment, I have a chance to make up the marks in other assessments. So that was a different experience for me! Having said that, it did allow me to really engage with the culture and enjoy the experience. The mentor program for business students was significantly better than other faculties. We had so many introduction week events and meet ups that made my experience even better!

Campus Grounds

Living in Denmark is fairly expensive, but I did find a lot of things to actually be quite similar to Australia and some things which were considerably cheaper.

TIPS:

Learn some basic Danish

Practice a little bit of Danish with Duolingo or another app that makes it easy & convenient. I can almost guarantee you won’t feel confident in speaking the language, but you will feel less overwhelmed when you walk into a supermarket for the first time as you’ll have a basic ability to read Danish (and Duolingo covers some food and basic greetings which is VERY helpful in your first and future Danish supermarket experiences!) Also, I would recommend not greeting people with “hi” as the Danish greeting is “hej” and it sounds very similar so they will assume you are Danish and speak Danish to you. This leaves the both of you feeling embarrassed when you have to tell them you only speak English! Also not learning the language is totally fine as well, as every Dane speaks perfect English, you just may have to tell them that you don’t understand Danish! So don’t stress if you don’t get a chance to learn it, you’ll pick it up as you go!

Get a bike

Seriously. Danes bike everywhere and you’ll soon learn that your fellow international classmates will always bike everywhere too because it’s easier. You don’t want to feel left out or be the only one not going somewhere because you don’t have a bike. You could always bus but this is expensive and it’s significantly faster to actually just bike to places! Also, be warned that your jeans will eventually give in and rip on the inner leg area from your constant bike rides!

Danish Houses and their Bikes

See the City

Try to get out and see more of Denmark than just the city if you can. Denmark is a really beautiful country and surprisingly has some amazing cliffs and sand dunes (despite the fact that everyone says it is a flat country with no mountains). Hire a car if possible. (Note if you do this, it is significantly more expensive if you tell them you are a temporary resident and have a CPR number, you’re much better off booking the car from your home countries website for Denmark and then applying a student discount- this will allow you to get unlimited mileage when you hire a car and will be MUCH cheaper.

Aarhus Cathedral

Embrace the Hygge

Embrace the feeling of Hygge and you’ll really get to experience what Danish culture is about. It’s a feeling that is hard to explain, but you’ll know it when you feel it. It’s cosiness. It’s friendship. It’s love & warmth. It’s hot chocolates. It’s togetherness and it is just something so hard to explain

Go to international nights & other events

They are a lot of fun and a GREAT way to form some lifelong friendships. Danes can be a little reserved and respect personal space, so going to these events is a great way to mingle with some Danes and learn about their culture first hand

Road trip to the Danish Mon Klints with my exchange friends

Go to the eat street markets

If you go to Aarhus university, Eat Street markets will become one of your go to places for meeting groups of people and enjoying great food together!

Aarhus City Centre

Aussie among the Brits: My semester abroad

Sarah K. – Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2016)

I had the time of my life studying at the University of Leeds during Semester 2, 2016.

Leeds is located at the centre of the UK in the Yorkshire region, about 315km North of London. It is an awesome student city which meant cheaper living costs (especially compared to somewhere like London!) and the opportunity to meet heaps of university students.

The University of Leeds was really great, and incidentally while I was there, it was awarded University of the Year 2017. It was my main choice because it provided a lot of subject options which allowed me to match up all of my law and business units. It was also interesting listening to lecturers with English, Irish and Scottish accents. Different to QUT, lectures are compulsory and your timetables are configured for you, there is no option to design your own schedule. The university also offered hundreds of different clubs! I joined a number of societies, notably the ‘Leeds Snowriders’ skiing and snowboarding society. Being a member allowed me to go on the university ski trip to Andorra, located on the border of France and Spain, which was an absolute blast.

In England, after graduating from High School, most students will move cities and live in on-campus student accommodation Halls for their first year of university. During my semester, I opted for catered living in Devonshire Hall, which was only a 15 minute walk from campus and looked a lot like Hogwarts. I cannot recommend student accommodation enough – you’re living with hundreds of other students just like yourself, which makes it so easy to make friends!

Devonshire Hall consists of several houses with both catered and self-catered students. My house had 10 people in it including myself, one other Australian exchange student, one American exchange student and the rest were all English students. Being catered at Devonshire Hall (or ‘Dev’ as it was quickly termed) meant that breakfast and dinner were always social occasions used to catch up with friends and plan weekend adventures. The food was pretty good but prepare yourself…England LOVE potatoes! Dev was also a really social Hall with frequent social events, quiz nights, movie nights, hall sports teams and drama and music groups. University accommodation allows you to meet so many different kinds of people from your home country as well as international students. Besides connecting with a lot of Aussies, some of my closest friends came from various places around England, New Zealand, Iceland, Netherlands, Japan, Denmark and many more.

I chose England for the location of my exchange because of its location within Europe. Other than the friendships I formed, travelling was what I loved most about exchange. I managed to fit in travel before, during and after my semester. I loved the ability to meet people from different countries and experience a variety of cultures. Exchange allowed me to be independent and self-sufficient whilst also completing my studies and it’s something that I think everyone should experience – you won’t regret it.

Mountains and the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong

Millie G., Bachelor of Creative Industries
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong (Semester 1, 2017)

Host University

Situated between the mountains behind it and bustling Mong Kok in front of it, HKBU was a wonderful place to undertake my studies in HK. There was such energy about the campus, with market and uni club stalls almost every day of the week, and countless activities to get involved with. The assessment style was quite different to what I was used to doing Creative Industries at QUT. They preferred smaller, cumulative presentations and tutorial involvement to one or two larger pieces of work, and almost all of the presentations and essays were on topics of our own choosing. I was slightly disappointed to find that the units were pretty different to what was described on the syllabus, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

Host Country

I am so incredibly happy with my choice of HK as my exchange destination!!! For such a small place, it’s incredible the variety of things there are to do – from beaches to museums to night clubs to mountain hiking to temples to shopping to amusement parks, there’s something for everyone. Even just walking around and soaking up the atmosphere of the vastly different districts was something I never got tired of. The city never sleeps with malls staying open till 11 and supermarkets and restaurants till the early hours of the morning. I think this is a big reason why I’ve never felt safer out at night before. I could walk back to my apartment at 2am from another district and there’d still be people minding their own business out at bars and restaurants – there were never any strange people wandering the street. Certainly made a change from Brisbane haha.

Being there in the first half of the year was great as I got to experience the more traditional side of HK culture, being right at the front for the Chinese New Year celebrations and Buddha’s Birthday. While people didn’t speak as much English as I expected (particularly in the more traditional Mong Kok district that I stayed in), the locals are incredibly helpful despite the cultural divide. While supermarket and restaurant/bar prices were comparable to Australia, the cost of things like public transport and market stall goods was significantly cheaper – it was less than one Australian dollar to get the subway to university each day! That was another thing that made HK so enjoyable – their public transport system was so amazing. You could get to literally anywhere using the trains and buses, with services coming every couple of minutes. Living off campus, this made exploring and getting around so easy.

Highlights

Man, literally the whole trip was one big high for me. The city, particularly at night, is so aesthetically beautiful. I honestly had the best time just calling the place my home. But if I had to name a few I’d have to say:

  • My exchange group: The guys and girls I met from all around the world who’d come to HKBU were so incredible. We had so many absolutely wild times together – boat parties, hikes, horse races – you name it, we probably did it
  • Disneyland: It’s true what they say – it’s the most magical place on Earth. While there aren’t a lot of thrill rides there, it has such a beautifully nostalgic atmosphere and we easily filled the entire day

The Unexpected

How clean the city was! You’d always see workers sweeping the street and eating on the trains was strictly forbidden. I can’t recall a time I really saw trash in the street. I was also totally surprised at how there wasn’t much of an adjustment period in terms of when I first got there. I began enjoying myself pretty much as soon as I was left to my own devices haha. Similarly, I was surprised that I didn’t find myself counting down the days till I went home the longer I was there. Everyone I talked to on exchange with me felt the same.

Tips & Advice

  1. As soon as you’re accepted by your host university, start doing the housekeeping stuff involved with that university – I missed out on staying on campus as I waited till I’d finished my semester at QUT to start applying
  2. If you’re giving the opportunity/have the funds, I’d actually totally recommend staying off campus. You feel so much more immersed in your country’s lifestyle/culture, there aren’t any restrictions placed upon your stay, and if you’re like me and relish you’re alone time, this will make your time abroad a lot more comfortable. However you have to be a lot more proactive with meeting people and joining in activities
  3. Always keep the QUT exchange office in the loop with what stage you’re at before, during, and after your exchange
  4. Always check your QUT emails while overseas
  5. Keep a record of how much you’re spending on what in the first few weeks and then base your budget on this moving forward
  6. Befriend local students – they know all the places that aren’t in your travel guide
  7. Take any opportunity presented to you!

Exchange at Cardiff University

Jasmin C., Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Creative Industries
Cardiff University, United Kingdom (Semester 2, 2017)

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is a beautiful, old, tiny city with the friendliest people. In the middle of the city centre sits the medieval Cardiff Castle, one of the first things I saw upon arriving. I was so amazed by this castle, sitting right in the town centre amongst the modern shops. Little did I know it would be the first of MANY castles I would see during my time in the UK. Just across from the castle, my favourite store in the entire city; the Welsh cake shop. Absolutely scrumptious. As well as this, the shops in the city are great, lots of art, vintage and old record stores.

Just a few minutes walk from the city centre is Cardiff University. Unlike QUT, Cardiff University does not really have a campus. The buildings are spread out around the city, which wasn’t really a problem because the city is so small anyway. The tutorial and lecture situation was pretty similar to QUT, however most of my lectures were not recorded (yikes) and powerpoint slides were not always uploaded onto blackboard, which meant attendance was pretty crucial. As well as this, unlike QUT where most of my subjects required multiple assessments, all of my Cardiff University subjects had huge (5000 words) 100% assignments due at the end of the semester.

There are many student accommodations around the city. The one I stayed in was called Talybont South, located 20 mins away from the city centre and within proximity to the university buildings. Luckily for me most of my classes were held in the building that was only a 5 minute walk away, however the furtherest buildings were a 20-30 minute walk away. Talybont South was known for being the nosiest of all the student accommodations, it didn’t bother me much but if you’re a light sleeper I would suggest trying for one of the other student accommodations.

I stayed in an ensuite dorm with a kitchen I shared with 7 other people. My roommates were made up of 6 UK locals (4 Welsh, 2 English) and one other exchange student from the USA. Within 24 hours of living together we all became the best of friends. It was great being able to live with locals as I definitely would not have been able to learn and do as much as I did without them. One highlight was being able to spend New Years Eve with one of my roommates and her family in her home in Swansea. In fact, the highlight of my entire exchange was just being able to get to know and hang out with incredible people I never would have been able to meet if it was not for this experience.

There are lots of things to in Cardiff. As I mentioned before, the castle and the shops are great. As well as this there is Cardiff Bay, National Museum Cardiff, and lots of parks and gorgeous greenery, just to name a few. However if you’re wanting to leave the city there are so many places you can go. In Wales you have Swansea, which is only a 40 minute train ride away and lots of tiny, adorable Welsh towns to explore, my favourite being Laugharne (pronounced Larn). Bristol and Bath are only 1 hour away and if you want to go to bigger cities London and Birmingham are only 2 hours away on the train.

Tips and advice! Tip number 1: $$$!! You’ll have to buy a lot of things upon arrival, pillows, sheets, duvet, cutlery, plates etc. Definitely budget each week, you don’t want to have to miss out on doing anything or travelling somewhere due to lack of funds. Cost of living in Cardiff was pretty similar to Brisbane. Other advice would just be to try and stay as calm and positive as possible. You will definitely have a few struggles. Fortunately for me, my only struggles were that the classes I had planned on taking were unavailable which led me having to find other classes to take and the process took a while so I ended up being a few weeks behind in my classes. However, the tutors were very helpful in helping me catch up and it all turned out fine. As well as this, I was lucky that I got along with my roommates and they really made me feel at home, and so I didn’t get homesick at all. Finally, make the most of your time!!! I couldn’t believe how fast the time went. My only regret was that I only stayed a semester and not a whole year!

University of Copenhagen: Units, Accommodation and Tips!

Elizabeth.K, Bachelor of Law (Honours) and Bachelor of Psychology
University of Copenhagen, Denmark (Semester 1, 2016)

 

The Units:

I chose to study at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark because it had the best options for law electives.

I studied International Diplomatic Law and DCC Danish Culture. The subjects were all taught in English and the teachers had a great awareness that a lot of us were exchange students, so they were willing to accommodate us really well. For the law unit we met twice a week for 2 hrs and 3 hours for lectorials. Often I’d have an informal group presentation to do for the lessons that the teacher would email to our group a couple days beforehand. There was only one piece of assessment, which for me was a 3-day take-home exam. I think this method worked really well for me, and as long as you’re prepared it’s not difficult to have 100% assignments.

I also did the pre-semester Danish course which I highly recommend, it’s where I met most of my friends and we stayed together for the whole semester -we even went overseas as a group a few times. Learning Danish was really interesting too, but quite difficult because it’s an oddly complex language.

 

Accommodation:

I stayed in Bikuben Kollegiet on my university’s south campus. There were pros/cons to it but I really loved it. It was really close to my classes, the apartment was gorgeous, and the residents on my floor all did dinner together twice a week so it was easy to socialize with them. One kind-of con was that I was the only international student on my floor, the rest were all Danish.

They were incredibly friendly and open to me and they all spoke fantastic English, but sometimes it was difficult not being able to speak the main language when you’re in a group setting. Also, most of the other international students I knew were at campus a little further away from me. All in all, it was a fantastic way to immerse yourself into the Danish student life.

 

Finances:

Budgeting for this kind of adventure can be insanely stressful. Accommodation was quite expensive for me, it was around $8,000 for 7 months excluding the deposit. Food prices and etc were not that different compared to Australia, and I easily kept up a under $200/fortnight budget. Takeout is really rare in Copenhagen when you’re a student so it’s a lot of buying and cooking, but there’s really good budget stores like Netto to get food at.

Transport can be a bit pricey because they don’t have student discounts. I’d recommend getting a bike, it’s the cheapest and easiest way to get around!

Most of the people I know didn’t get a Danish bank account because we didn’t feel it was really necessary. I used my ING bank card for the whole trip because it had really good exchange rates.

 

Tips:

The best tip I have for you is to get yourself out there when you’re on exchange. Say hi to the person sitting next to you because making friends with other students at the university is easy – you’re all basically in the same boat. I even joined an international choir while I was in Copenhagen and met some amazing people (we even traveled to Vienna together). It’s an excellent way to embrace this adventure!

A Semester Abroad in Leeds

Kate M., Bachelor of Creative Industries/Laws
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2018)

 

When I embarked on my 7 month long exchange adventure, I was nervous, teary eyed (from saying goodbye to the family), anxious but so damn excited! Ever since high school, I knew I wanted to do an exchange program at University. When the opportunity arose in the second semester of my fourth year, I took it!

I was on my way to North England, to the University of Leeds. My original plans to head to Berlin didn’t quite work out for me but I had heard incredible things about the student lifestyle in Leeds. I left a month early, dropped my suitcase off at a friend’s house in London and went on a month long summer trip around Portugal, Spain and Italy. I had never been to Europe or England so travel was my goal – I wanted to see as much as I could!

Abseiling in Ilkley Moore

After a month in the sun, I headed up to Leeds to begin my semester abroad. Unfortunately, I was not given the accommodation I applied for so I was hesitant upon arrival. However, I was thrown into two weeks of Freshers! It was a wild, exhausting and great two weeks and it really helped me kick start my friendships with my new flatmates.

The Parkinson Building – Leeds

After two weeks of partying, it was time to hit the books. I had chosen to study two languages and some other elective subjects… so to be fair, I didn’t have to hit the books too hard. Classes were really interesting and it was great exploring the amazing campus of Leeds. The university environment is very welcoming and it is easy to feel comfortable all around the campus.

The city of Leeds is quite small but there is so much to see in Yorkshire. I went on many weekday and weekend trips to nearby castles and abbeys, other cities and also did many hikes! I would definitely recommend getting out and seeing the region you choose to stay in because, lets be real… study can wait!

Kirkstall Abbey

After a few weeks settling into Leeds, making new friends, partying and exploring, I was getting restless and decided to book a last minute bus to Edinburgh. I spent the weekend sightseeing and meeting even more people. As soon as I got back to Leeds, I scheduled two more trips within the semester – one to Ireland and a week trip to France. I loved living in Leeds because it was a good cheap base and there are so many easy travel options nearby ie. Leeds Airport, Manchester Airport or London.

The main reason I went on exchange was to travel and so I made sure I planned my trips strategically so I didn’t skip too many classes. After classes for the semester ended, my boyfriend flew over and we travelled for a month around mainland Europe and Eastern Europe and also made it to the Ukraine (which I highly recommend). I popped back up to Leeds for exams and travelled again for another month before flying home.

Streets of Leeds

My biggest advice for exchange is make sure you save up some money so you can enjoy, have a good time and travel to new places! Also, be confident, put yourself out there and say yes to new experiences! As long as you have your wits about you and stay safe, you will have some life changing experiences and it will open your eyes to a whole new world. You should probably do a little study while you’re over there too!