Experience the Dutch Life

Kellie Amos, Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries
Maastricht University, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2017 Exchange)

Maastricht – birthplace of the European Union
A beautiful medieval city, Maastricht is home to a large international student population – particularly from the neighboring countries Belgium and Germany. People from all over the world come to study at the university and improve their English. Given the large student population there’s rarely a time where something isn’t going on in one of the city squares, the Vrijthof and the Market, especially in the summer. The student organisation
ISN regularly puts on events and trips for exchange students, and you can’t miss their infamous CANTUS nights (think karaoke meets Oktoberfest) or their ‘Discover’ weekend trips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to being such a beautiful place to live, Maastricht is also extremely close to other European countries. I walked and biked to Belgium with my friends on many occasions, and catching trains across the border was just as easy. You can catch trains and buses to Germany, France, and Luxembourg with just as much ease but if you’re traveling via the NS (Netherlands railway company) use Facebook groups to find others so you can buy cheaper tickets for €7 (see links at the end of this document). The closest airport is Eindhoven, which offers really cheap flights, and you can also get some incredibly good value flights from Brussels’ airports.

Dutch Culture and Carnaval!
You get a very authentic taste of Dutch life living in Maastricht. The locals in this region love to drink, sing, and dance – as evidenced by the incredible festival Carnaval (not to be confused with the South American Carnival). Although I could never get any one person to tell me exactly what the festival was for, it essentially started as a tradition in the southern parts of Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany where people would fill the streets in elaborate costumes and drink and eat for 3 days. If you’re planning on going to Maastricht for exchange, you have to go during first semester. Carnaval takes place in March and is truly a sight to behold!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost of Living
For my exchange, I used a Velocity Global Wallet Card, which allows you to load AUD on to it and exchange it into several other currencies, including the Euro and Pound. It works like a normal visa debit card and has no fees for electronic transactions, just a small dollar fee for cash withdrawals. Being a small city, many of the establishments in Maastricht don’t accept traditional credit card providers like visa, so I did have to use cash quite often.

Some Final Advice…
In the span of your lifetime, 6 months might not equate to much, but an exchange feels like you’ve just lived an entire years worth of experiences in half the amount of time. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you can put down roots in another part of the world. I don’t have any regrets about my exchange and I could spend hours telling you more about the things I was able to see, do, and live thanks to this opportunity. Instead, the last piece of advice I give you is to find some way to remember it – whether that’s photos, a journal, a blog, collecting souvenirs, or a combination of all those – I can guarantee you’ll want some kind of physical evidence it wasn’t just a dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exchange isn’t easy, you will have lows along with the highs, but it is so worth your time and effort! Here are some extra links to help —

Facebook group for NS Group Tickets: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1472379199695327/

Facebook group for Second-hand Bikes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/216524551852144/

Facebook group for Bikes and Furniture: https://www.facebook.com/groups/zarurahusam/

A Semester in the True North

Kathryn Frost – Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Ottawa (Semester 1, 2017 Exchange)

I was fortunate enough to spend Semester 1, 2017 completing an exchange at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. Applying for an exchange at the University of Ottawa was definitely the best decision I’ve ever made and my exchange takes the cake as the best six months of my life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studying at Ottawa

I was enrolled in the Faculty of Common Law, but in addition to studying two law subjects, I was also able to study two history subjects within the Faculty of Arts. Whilst the academic system at uOttawa was similar to QUT, I noticed some differences:

  • Class sizes for my law subjects were a lot smaller than at QUT – there were only 20 students in each of my subjects!
  • I had a lot more contact hours at uOttawa than I have had at QUT. As I had to attend two classes per week for each subject, I had classes 5 days per week.
  • Classes aren’t recorded and most professors take attendance, so you really do have to attend classes.

Accommodation

The majority of exchange students that I knew lived in Brooks Residence, which made for a fun living arrangement. I lived in a four-bedroom apartment in Brooks Residence, with an English and Belgian housemate. Some of the highlights of living in residence included many communal dinners, sleepovers and 2am fire evacuations! Living on campus has many benefits, including proximity to university facilities and classes (which is very convenient during winter when you have to trek through very cold and snowy weather on icy footpaths to get to class!) but also the atmosphere and experience of on-campus life is unbeatable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Life & Activities

I attended numerous university events including the annual Capital Hoops basketball game where the uOttawa Gee-Gees face off against the Carleton University Ravens at the Canadian Tire Centre, ice hockey games, as well as the campus Poutine and Snow Festivals and weekly pet therapy sessions! The International Office ran an exchange buddy program, and also organized events for exchange students, including a day trip to Parc Oméga in Quebec, a Canadian-style safari park, and tickets to a NHL game at the Canadian Tire Centre. I attended a weekend trip to Quebec City including a day of dog sledding, snowmobiling and ice fishing, and a 3-day trip to the North of Canada to stay with Indigenous people and learn about their way of life, both of which were organized by the university’s outdoor activities coordinator.

The Weather

One important thing to note about living on the east coast of Canada is the weather! It can get extremely cold in winter. The coldest weather I experienced was -32, with the wind chill factor making it ‘feel like’ -35. Most of the buildings at uOttawa are connected so that students can avoid walking outside on very cold days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Future Students

  • In the semester that I was studying at uOttawa, Law students didn’t have a ‘reading week’ (i.e. mid-semester break), whereas every other faculty did, so keep that in mind when you are making travel plans.
  • I would definitely encourage future students to study a French language subject while at uOttawa. This is something I wish I had done!

 

 

 

 

It is nearly impossible to pick the highlight of my exchange, having experienced so many new and incredible things during my time in Ottawa and throughout my travels. However, the clear winner would have to be the friends I made during my time in Ottawa. I am so lucky to have met so many incredible people from all over the world (including Canada!) who I know will be friends for life. These friends definitely made my exchange experience all that it was and I look forward to meeting up with them again in the future.

 

Norwegian Adventure

Kathleen, O. Bachelor of Business

Norwegian Business School (Semester 2, 2017)

Norway? Why did you pick Norway? – Most common question I received after getting my acceptance letter. Next in line was Australia *shocked face* gosh that must have been a long flight, how long did it take? Really long mostly, but it was definitely worth it.

Snow = Building a Snowman

So why did I pick Norway? Well it was as far away from Australia I could think of, I was getting the opportunity of immersing myself into a different culture (but where they still speak English) and I was guaranteed to see snow. I have seen snow before just FYI but come on its snow, who doesn’t like snow?!Well I got to see snow, sadly only for a couple of weeks but I can now say that I lived somewhere it snowed, so I’m happy.

Host Country:

Norway is a beautiful country with its extremely picturesque mountains and fjords. For my exchange in Norway, I was based in the capital city, Oslo. It was a bit of an adjustment for me because while it’s the capital city, Norway does only have a population of 5.3 million so Oslo wasn’t really a big city.

Christmas markets

It may be a small city but its big at heart, there is always something going on in the city.

 

Like most European countries, transportation in Oslo was great and easy to use, I love ferries and one of my highlights during my stay in Oslo was catching a ferry to the Islands on the fjord, have a picnic, watch the sunset and see some natural wildlife – I was followed around the island by a couple of foxes, so cute. The downside to Oslo and Norway is that the cost of living is high, so be prepared to come home broke like I did. The transportation card for 30 days costs about 70 AUD, rent (I was staying at the student dorms run by the university) including electricity will set you back somewhere around the 600-700AUD a month. I would recommend the student dorms though, because they mostly come fully furnished so you don’t have to buy much.

Host University:

Studying at BI is a bit different to QUT there is a lot more emphasis on independent study. You still have the standard 3-hour contact hours, but instead of a lecture and tutorial, it’s just a 3-hour lecture. Also at least for me my final grade was 100% made of by my final exam or term paper. Which was a bit daunting and I found that it made studying at BI a lot harder than at QUT, as there was no way to assess how I was

Bergen

actually doing with the course content and if I needed to put more study time in. Thankfully, to pass you only require 30%, which was lucky for me as I spend more time travelling then studying.

 

One of the things I really liked abut studying at BI was the events they run throughout the semester focused but not exclusively towards international and exchange students. So there was free weekly coffee days, hiking and activity trips, and free food. Once a month (ish) BI runs a free food night, usually themed, called BI-nner. You have to get in fast though because everyone likes a free feed and tickets sell out in minutes. The University of Oslo also holds free movie nights once a fortnight, in their lecture halls. Its just a 10min train ride to the University from BI, so as ways to save money but hang out with your new found friends, this is a must.

Travel:

While I was living in Norway, I spend some time travelling Norway. I went to Bergen via the train – the worlds best scenic train ride apparently – and they are not wrong.

Northern Lights

Plus side too is that train is a lot cheaper than flying in Norway, downside it takes nearly 3 times as long to get where you are going. I also went to Tromso, saw the northern lights and went dog sledding. As recommendations go, Tromso or the Loften Islands is a must do if you are ever in Norway. I also got to travel around Europe. I went to Amsterdam with the International Student Society at BI. One of my friends and I also spent the weekend in Budapest – such a beautiful city and really cheap. We also spend a week in London after our exams had finished.

View from Buda Castle

We saw the Lion King and Aladdin, saw the sunset over London from the eye and shopped, shopped until our hearts were content.

I could go on about all the amazing things I did and saw while on my exchange but I would be here for ages. So my parting gift – seriously go on an exchange, I can’t recommend it enough! It is worth every dollar of my spend pennies.

Beautiful Italy – Milan Exchange

Catlin, B. Bachelor of Design (Fashion)

Politecnico di Milano (Italy) (Semester 1, 2017)

I completed my exchange semester in Milan at Politecnico di Milano, Bovisa Campus.  Politecnico have two campuses in Milan – Bovisa and Leonardo. In comparison to QUT Politecnico is very, very different.

Avoiding pigeons at Duomo di Milano

The Bovisa campus is considerably smaller with most classes being in one block only, where they have all the design labs; including but not limited to fashion, knitting, prototype, photography, etc.  I found the facilities were quite limited compared to QUT in most aspects, but they also had facilities that QUT does not have – such as a knitting lab.

 

The classes and how they are run is also extremely different to QUT, being very heavily centred around group work.  This may be due to the limited facilities and surplus of students, however I did not like the dynamic of the classes at all. That being said I also completed some masters subjects which were taught in English and they adopted a much more individual centred approach to the assignments. They are also very strict on attendance, it can sometimes be worth up to 30% of your final grade, which I find unnecessary and not conducive to productivity with some classes being up to 9 hours in length.  The general level of academics that was being taught I didn’t find challenged me at all, and was at a much lower standard to that of QUT.  In general I didn’t learn anything really from the actual classes and found them to be extremely easy – another reason I found the attendance rule so frustrating.

Sunrise from our apartment in Montalbino

Accomodation wise, I personally stayed in an AirBnB with another girl from my class at QUT; we originally weren’t going to stay for the whole trip, however, we were finding it very difficult being so far away and being able to find reliable and affordable accomodation so we decided to just book our apartment through AirBnB for the entirety of our semester.

 

This worked well for us but after meeting other exchange students from around Europe we realised we probably could’ve gotten a much better place through sites that they used such as Uniplaces, Easystanza or Erasmus. On the flip side of that, I have also heard that the Politecnico dorms are quite nice as well and they’re a great way to make friends and meet new people, just make sure you apply for them in advance as they do fill up!

Milan in general to live is again very different to Australia.

Lunch break at Polimi 1-2pm

The cost of living was mostly a bit cheaper; groceries, transport, etc were all cheaper (even considering the terrible exchange rate at the time which was 0.66c to our dollar) but rent in Milan can sometimes be quite pricey.  Milan has a great underground Metro system as well as many busses and trams to get you around.  The university will give you information about an ATM (Milan’s equivalent of Translink) travel card, which is like a go card however there is a reduced fee for students which is paid monthly and gets you unlimited travel with all of Milan’s transport systems.

 

The culture is also very different and I found the biggest culture shock for me was getting used to how Italians work – mostly very disorganised.

I also found that there seemed to be (especially at the university) a quite prominent language barrier – not because they couldn’t speak or understand english (because the vast majority of people all across Europe know English to some degree), but because there seemed to be a prejudice towards the exchange students as they did not speak fluent Italian.

Picnic with other exchange students in Parco Sempione

I knew some Italian going over, as did my friend, however a lot of the time we were treated like we didn’t know anything simply because we didn’t speak their language. It was quite a frustrating experience in that sense.

 

The main highlights from my exchange was obviously the ability I had to easily travel around Europe, but also the friends I made from all over the world. At first I was afraid I wouldn’t make any friends, but honestly they were what made it so worthwhile. Looking back there were a LOT of ups and downs but I’m happy that I did it because whilst the university wasn’t what I expected – I gained invaluable life skills, confidence, independence and a new perspective of the world.

My main tips (also known as – the things I wish someone had told me before I went) are these:

  • Italians are some of the most disorganised and frustrating people to deal with – the sooner you know that the better
  • Don’t expect everyone to be as openly friendly as Australians – a lot of the time people aren’t being rude they’re just not used to our vivaciousness

    Navigli canal

  • Don’t choose where you live based on the campus, chose a nice area as you will probably be spending more time at home than you think – places like Isola, Citta Studi, Porta Venezia or around Navigli, Cadorna or most places closer to the centre are pretty safe bets.
  • Speaking of Navilgli – make sure you pop by on the last Sunday of the month, there is an awesome flea market that runs down the whole canal
  • People are generally pretty nice in regards to the language barrier, but please try and give Italian a go – people appreciate the effort and the basics aren’t that hard.
  • Get an Italian SIM as soon as you can – google maps is your saviour
  • Coffee – order espresso, macchiato or cappuccino.  Their cappuccino is basically a latte and if you ask for “latte” you will get milk.
  • Most importantly:
  • Don’t pay more than three euro for a two scoop gelato!

Good luck!

Highlands, Bagpipes and Everything Scottish

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

University of Glasgow (Semester 2, 2016)

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

My first day on campus

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

November Snow!

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

 

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

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

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

My Exchange Experience In France

Rosemary, K. Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Journalism

Catholic University of Lille (Semester 2, 2016)

Enjoying a cheese picnic during Lille’s fleeting summer

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

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

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

Enjoying a day of playing inflatable games organised by the AEU

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

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

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

Exchange students at a Lille soccer game

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

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

True American Experience

Marshall, R. Bachelor of Business

University of South Carolina (Semester 2, 2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cultures of Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Vienna Exchange

Leah, D. Bachelor of Business & Law

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

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

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

Austria:

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

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

Highlights

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

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

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

Fashion in Hong Kong

Nhu, C. Bachelor of Design (Fashion)

Hong Kong Polythechnic University (Semester 2, 2016)

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

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

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

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