Highlights and tips for a semester in Madrid

James W, Bachelor of Engineering

Polytechnic University of Madrid (Semester 2, 2016)

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

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

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 The bureaucracy, facilities and teaching styles are quite different and seem a bit outdated but actually have a lot of advantages too.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

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

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

Making the most of my time in Vienna

Olivia R, Bachelor of Business/Laws

University of Vienna (Semester 2, 2016)

Travelling to Vienna, Austria, I was overwhelmed with the prospect of studying human rights law in the place so deeply rooted in the fundamentals of legal first principles. As my classes were in English, and many exchange students were not from English-speaking countries, the subjects themselves were quite light on. It was fairly disheartening, though allowed me to realign my future goals. The main building of The University of Vienna is incredible, though only history and English subjects are taught in that building.

The main staircase of The University of Vienna & throwing a cheeky snowball in Stadt Park, Vienna on the first snow day.

Prior to departure, I had been told to budget more than other exchange destinations. Vienna, Austria, is renowned for its extravagant coffee houses, long nights at the State Opera House, and elaborate palaces. While its First District, the Inner Stadt, is notoriously expensive, on par with Sydney or Melbourne, not too many students venture out to the restaurants and hotels in this area. As long as you have a budget figured out, and are pretty good at sticking to it, there’s no reason you can’t occasionally treat yourself to one of those famous coffee houses. Part of my budgeting was to live in student accommodation a bit further out of the city, in order to take advantage of the plethora of Eastern European countries at Austria’s doorstep.

An autumn sunset in Vienna & christmas lights in Vienna’s Inner Stadt

Over my five months in Austria I managed to pack in 11 other countries. A quick 50-minute bus ride east will find you in sweet little Bratislava, Slovakia. A small and relatively quiet capital city usually, Bratislava played host to the international White Night Festival the weekend I was there. I feel that I saw Bratislava at its absolute best—a light, culture and food festival lasting from 6pm-6am, and the Slovakians were out in full force for it!

Looking up to Bratislava Castle.

Next was Ljubljana, Slovenia. As a bit of an underdog city, I had no real idea of what to expect from Ljubljana. I went with two other exchange students. Having no preconception whatsoever of Slovenia, we had an absolutely incredible weekend. Slovenia is certainly an up and coming country, with many local designers and concept stores lining its streets. Ljubljana was awarded the greenest city in Europe for 2016, and no wonder! With cool social enterprise restaurants that charge per minute you’re inside and bikes stationed all over the city. We even made it out to Lake Bled for a chilly afternoon.

While I could write at length about each country and culture I visited, I feel these two places were their own kind of highlight. Were it not for the proximity of these places that Austria facilitated, I may not have ever travelled to these trendy places. These were such memorable destinations purely from the pleasant surprise of how much I enjoyed them, and a kind of opening of my world view when it comes to travel.

At the Vienna State Opera & The 180 Degrees Consulting Team.

Vienna itself provides a multitude of cultural experiences, from the State Opera House, to the extraordinary Albertina Museum and the historical significance embedded in its very identity. Vienna is truly a destination for history buffs, with plaques commemorating World War II significances, infamous psychologists and composers on almost every corner of the Inner Stadt.

While in Vienna, I was privileged to be a part of 180 Degrees Consulting Vienna. I was part of a team advising a firm that established an online job platform for Austrian refugees. For me, this was the definite highlight of my whole trip. We were also awarded the best project for Austria that semester. I met some incredible and impassioned people using social enterprise, who I am sure I will keep in contact with. It has encouraged me to join the 180 Degrees Consulting UQ team.

Canadian Escapade

Helena J, Bachelor of Engineering/Information Technology

University of Waterloo (Semester 2, 2016)

Deciding to go on Exchange in Canada is the best decision I’ve ever made! In Semester 2, 2016, I travelled to Ontario, Canada to study at the University of Waterloo. Waterloo is amazing and highly ranked engineering school located in the suburb of Waterloo. The campus was gorgeous, with many cool, modern and interesting buildings and recreational spaces.

Outside the University of Waterloo sign on the last day with two of my now best friends.

I lived “off-campus” at WCRI which was located across the road from the Uni. It took me 4mins to walk to class everyday – which was great, especially when it got really cold! It was an older styled accommodation which featured 4 buildings. I had my own little room and shared a bathroom with three lovely girls from Canada. We then shared a kitchen and living area with another 16 people! This made for some chaotic but fun times in the kitchen; including setting off the fire alarm with burnt slice, traditional German meals being cooked for us and communal lasagne nights. Coming from living at home to such a shared environment was awesome and gave me many opportunities to make incredible friends from all over the world.

The Canadian University life was fantastic! I got to go see the school play at their Homecoming CFL (Canadian version of NFL), Ice-Hockey, Rugby and even got involved with school sport myself. I joined an Ultimate Frisbee team with some fellow exchange students, joined the Volleyball club and even played some Squash. The amount of school spirit was something I’d never experienced back home in Australia.

Supporting the Waterloo Warriors at the Homecoming Game.

Subjects at the University were quite hard. The atmosphere was quite competitive and scary at times, especially when compared to the more laidback attitude in Australia. Lectures weren’t recorded and notes were written on a blackboard which sometimes made studying quite hard! The other students thought it was crazy that back home at QUT, all my lectures are recorded and done primarily through a computer. So adapting to academic life at Waterloo was a big struggle for me, as I had never experienced anything like it.

I cannot recommend Canada enough to anyone thinking of going on exchange though! Cost of living was on par with Australia – if not cheaper, which was great for the budget! And with the Australian dollar doing so well, I did not lose much while converting my money. Another great thing is that even though majority of Canadians speak English; we got to meet some Québécois who spoke mainly in French! I also got to do stereotypical Canadian activities like eat poutine (so delicious!!!), have an extremely intense snowball fight (at midnight because the snow started bucketing down!) and celebrate Thanksgiving (the Canadian one, not American; don’t get that mixed up!) and Halloween. An added perk to doing Exchange in Canada was the opportunity to travel. With some of the new friends I made we did many cool road trips; numerous national parks, lakes, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Chicago! I also got to travel around the USA at the end of my exchange; going to places like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Alaska!

Having fun with some friends in Chicago at the Cloud Gate.

With some many new and incredible experiences under my belt it is hard to pick a favourite or highlight of my exchange and travels. However, making so many wonderful, hilarious and beautiful friends for life would take the cake if I had to pick one. They 100% made my exchange everything that it was and opened my eyes to different cultures and ways of life. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to everyone I became friends with at the University of Waterloo as we all shared such a wonderful exchange experiences together.

Me standing on Matanuska Glacier in Alaska in -42°C as the last part of my trip after Exchange.

An Engineer Abroad

Jacob W,  Bachelor of Engineering

Exeter University (Semester 2, 2016)

 

A blog for uni, I must write,

as I sit and wait for my flight.

Home, I am bound,

Now I am out of euro & pound.

An adventure I have had,

soon to see friends and family though, I am glad.

It was July I left, travel and study abroad lay ahead,

though now in hindsight I feel I may have been misled.

A semester abroad can be really great,

unfortunately for me it was not to be my fate,

often you will read and hear,

“Embarking on exchange was the best decision I made this year”

“Don’t think, just do it” was something I read,

take heed! think! before dreams fill your head.

Life in Exeter, day to day

very similar to home though in winter, dreary and grey.

I lived with a lovely brother & sister, just out of town,

my expectations for foreign dorm life meant this was a slight let down.

Weekend trips to the English countryside, I thought there would be many,

lots of assignments ensured there were hardly any.

All-nighters in week two, something must be wrong,

Suddenly my time abroad was seeming very long.

Weeks turned to months and I eventually settled in,

I made a lifelong friend, thank god as things were looking a bit grim.

I did have a lot fun, travelling and meeting people along the way,

     seeing the sights and trying new foods, almost every day.

     Beer bike tours and river boat cruises in Budapest,

     these experiences might have been the best.

Though the delicious Polish sausage in Krakow,

    Chargrilled from a food truck, I wish I had one now.

    However, I can’t forget snowboarding in Norway,

      Amazing Berlin Christmas markets and all the Paris Clichés.

    There are many more highlights and stories to tell,

    Though I’ll wrap up this poem before you’re bored as hell.

So my semester abroad is done,

looking back, mostly I remember the fun.

Contemplating exchange? Here’s my final advice,

Dream big, get inspired but also think twice!

If you decide to go, pack light,

double check your passport before every flight.

Try to see everything but also study hard,

Call your parents and send them a post card.

 

Bullet Trains, Godzilla and Temples – The Real Japanese Experience

Elise L, Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Fine Arts

Ritsumeikan University (Semester 2, 2016)

In the Fall Semester of 2016 I studied at Ritsumeikan University in Osaka, Japan. I was part of the short term ‘Study In Kyoto’ program (SKP), but because I study in the Business Track my home campus and life was actually in Osaka.

Ritsumeikan University, Osaka Ibaraki Campus, from the ninth floor

I lived in a studio apartment (in the same building as many other SKPers) about forty minutes by train from uni. OIC campus was only completed in 2015, so dormitories are still under construction. Our apartments were small (22m2) but had everything we needed and I really came to love that little space. Being based in Osaka, we also had places like Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara only an hour away by train! Cost of living in Osaka seems moderate – rent is quite high and travel can be expensive (a ride on the bullet train can cost hundreds of dollars…), but food is very cheap and it is easy to walk to many places.

Home base – Aya Mikuni apartments

SKP students were assigned a Japanese student buddy, and they helped us with the little complexities of day-to-day life – how do you pay your bills when you can’t read them? How do you call the maintenance guy when you don’t speak Japanese and he doesn’t speak English? Our buddies helped us to function as residents rather than tourists, as well as taking us sightseeing and making us feel very welcome.

Shinjuku, Tokyo, feat. Godzilla

I spent more time on campus at Ritsumeikan than I ever have at QUT, and the timetable was more intensive than I’m used to – going from part-time study to 10 x 90 minute classes a week was a bit of a shock to the system! I studied Japanese too, and I’d highly recommend it – the things we learned were very practical for everyday life. There are also many university events to attend – we volunteered in a Haunted House at the Halloween festival, and we supported the university team at their American football games (go Panthers!). I attended the first World Community Power Conference in Fukushima, which was fascinating, and also visited the Toyota factory in Aichi.

My top 3 tips for studying in Japan:
1. Say yes (hai/はい)!
A piece of advice that my Dad gave me when I moved from our small country town to the big city of Brisbane. Whether it’s a student excursion on offer, or grabbing dinner with new people, say yes. If you don’t enjoy it you don’t have to do it again, but at least you tried!

2. Learn the language!
Downloading an app, buying a phrasebook or enrolling in classes like I did – language was the biggest barrier I encountered in Japan. By the time I left, I was able to have very simple conversations, and that felt like a huge achievement when I couldn’t even read my own mail.

3. Get an ICOCA card
A bit like a gocard in Brisbane, except you can’t get a discount as an international student (boo). It streamlines your travel process (no queueing for tickets), works across the whole country, and you can pay for a travel pass –  I had unlimited travel between my university station and the central Osaka station (with my home station being in between) which was worthwhile. Just don’t lose your card!

Japan is an amazing country and I feel like I barely scratched the surface, despite travelling as much as my budget allowed. My exchange actually postponed my graduation by a year, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat – in fact, I’ve already booked my flights to go back!

The famous red tori gates of Fushimi Inari shrine, Kyoto

Welsh Semester Abroad

Morton, G. Bachelor of Business

Cardiff University (Semester 2, 2016)

Student exchange was an eye opening experience for me. I attended Cardiff University in Wales, which encouraged me to travel around Europe 3 months prior to arriving in Cardiff and continue to visit surrounding domestic and international cities during my study. The academic opportunity granted me access to different resources and professors which enhanced my learning skills and made me adapt to new teaching techniques and software programs. I enjoyed experiencing the ways of teaching from another country and seeing what new habits I could use back in Brisbane to help me develop further at QUT. Wales was a brilliant location that allowed me to travel to 40 different cities in close proximity to where I was prepared to live for 4 months. I definitely did not want to take this for granted and so I recommend to save a lot of money and make the most of your time abroad in terms of using it as an opportunity to see the greater world as well. Not only living on the other side of the world, but living out of home as well forced me to manage my money and budget ahead which is a skill that I will constantly work on.I am sure I will return one day to revisit the town I called home and see the friends I made. I found meeting other Australian’s overseas to be such an asset to my travels and there are people that I know I will forever be in contact with. You and likeminded travelers are all there for the same reason and you find that to be such a strong foundation to a guaranteed blossoming friendship. But do not underestimate the great opportunity it is to also meet people who grew up in a different country and culture to you! Now that I have returned home I realise all the small things I took for granted before I travelled. The white sand beaches we have such easy access to, the vibrant sun that we can eat our breakfast underneath every day and the internationally attractive city. The UK has a lot to offer, but darker, colder and shorter days do make you appreciate the pristine summer of Australia.I have no regrets from my exchange and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I am not the same person as I was before I left and I feel as though I have matured and grown completely from the experience. It will be something I never forget and I can’t wait to return one day soon.

Follow in the footsteps of the Beatles… live and study in Liverpool!

University of Liverpool

Location: Liverpool, England

Why Liverpool? Student-friendly city, long history, cost-effective, football, and a rich arts and music scene.

Founded in 1881, The University of Liverpool boasts massive red brick buildings and a long, diverse history, while also being innovative and modern. The university is a leading research institution in the UK.

The University has two on-campus buildings, Melville Grove and Tudor Close, which offer apartment-style accommodation for international and study abroad students. If you wish to live off-campus, given its high student population, Liverpool offers a massive amount of accommodation and a student-tailored lifestyle. The University recommends budgeting around $4000-$5500 (AUD) for a semester, and given its proximity to other European countries, most students will want to budget some more for further travels!

There are plenty of amenities on campus including a fitness centre and sports fields, as well as heaps of things to do off-campus. The city has a great passion for music, art and culture, and plays host to a number of events each year. While you’re here catch a football (soccer) game, or two, at Anfield or Goodison Park.

Meet staff from the University of Liverpool at the QUT Exchange Fair!

 

Clarice’s South Korean Short-Term Exchange Experience

Clarice: Seoul, South Korea – Short Term Program 2016

As a student in Seoul, I find it to be so much cheaper than being a student in Brisbane; especially when it comes to our daily food and caffeine needs. I would barely spend over 10,000won (about AUD11-12) a day while I was studying there and it would cover all my breakfast, lunch and dinner needs. If you’re lazy enough, you could always buy convenience store lunchboxes (which can have things like rice, meat and kimchi) for 3,000-3,800won (AUD4-5) and it is very filling.

Samgyeopsal

And of course, when one is in Seoul, one would need to try the famous “Samgyeopsal” (or “pork belly”) which is the slab of meat in the middle. I find that Korean meats taste vastly different (and honestly, a lot better) from Australian meats. For this meal, we usually barbecue the meats on the plate and accompany it with a few drinks (no guesses as to what those drinks are) and lots of lettuce, to balance the flavour of meat and vegetables. Generally, a meal like this would cost about AUD70, but I had it for about 30,000won (around AUD32) for 3 people.

Painfully cheap….and something I will never get while I’m back in Brisbane.

I would say that Seoul is a wonderful place for an overseas study experience, because it is so different from Australia in terms of culture and student life, and EWHA Woman’s University is an amazing place to find out a lot more about feminist issues (such as the unending justice for the “comfort” women during the Japanese invasion) and that, being feminist does not necessarily mean the Western view of loud and proud feminism, but rather, a social issue that has to be faced with quiet dignity in order to make the world a better place for not only women, but men too.

One of the many delicious lunch that we students would often go out for once morning classes are over.

One of the many delicious lunch that we students would often go out for once morning classes are over.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the male professors and most of the male students who were there for the co-ed summer program were also genuine feminists and supported many social issues that women still face.

My time in EWHA has certainly changed me for the better, and helped me in recognising many aspects of myself as a woman that I never knew existed. I will always fondly remember my time there as a student and if given the chance, would not hesitate to do a longer exchange program next time round. I also highly recommend the EWHA Woman’s University International Co-ed Summer College to anyone interested, because I guarantee you will come away learning so much more than just academically.

Does Clarice’s experience interest you? Find out more about QUT’s Short Term Study Options.

Our wonderful history class, with a few people missing, and Prof Michael in the middle. We’re standing in front of EWHA's very own museum which houses a private collection of art and sculpture pieces donated by the alumni of EWHA.

Our wonderful history class, with a few people missing, and Prof Michael in the middle. We’re standing in front of EWHA’s very own museum which houses a private collection of art and sculpture pieces donated by the alumni of EWHA.

My Time in Mannheim

Caitlin: University of Mannheim, Germany – Semester 2, 2015 & Semester 1, 2016

My name is Caitlin and I set out on my year abroad to Europe in July, 2015. At that time, I had no idea that the next year of my life would be the best year yet!! For the next year, I was undertaking my study year abroad at the University of Mannheim, which is located in the South/West part of Germany. This was a city of approximately 360,000 inhabitants and it was here that I made friends from around the world.

Galata Tower, Turkey

Galata Tower, Turkey

Prior to moving into my apartment in Mannheim, I did a contiki tour solo in Turkey and Greece. It was the summertime and I saw the perfect opportunity to embrace the beautiful weather. I highly recommend doing some travel before you start your exchange semester or year, so that you feel a bit more confident towards travelling solo for when you do arrive in your exchange destination.

Highlights

During my year abroad, I had some amazing experiences and was able to share these experiences with the awesome people I met along the way. My favourite parts of the year abroad were the wine festivals in Germany, of course the beer festivals too: P below is a photo of my friends and I at the Stuttgart Volksfest Beer Festival!

My Brother and I in front of Mannheim

My Brother and I in front of Mannheim

Travelling to Amsterdam was amazing, I loved the city’s atmosphere and would go back again in a heartbeat. I was lucky enough to travel to Norway to spend Christmas with one of my closest friends from exchange and experience a proper Norwegian Christmas. I will never forget it!!! There I am below enjoying the Norwegian snow! I would do this year all over again; it will change your life!

To find out more about QUT Student Exchange, visit our website!

Friends for Life at San Jose State University

Charlie: San Jose State University, California, USA – Semester 1, 2016

Hi! I’m Charlie Shaw-Feather and I am studying a Bachelor of Engineering, majoring in Computer and Software Systems. I studied at San Jose State University (SJSU) for the spring semester, 2016.

As I am writing this I am on my way back to San Jose for a holiday to catch up with the friends that I made and the relationships I hope to last a lifetime.

Whilst on exchange I stayed at SJSU’s International house. This was a college owned house situated just off campus for international students, welcoming students from all countries. This formed an integral foundation for the time that I spent in San Jose. They hosted a plethora of different activities and events to engage students allowing them to get out of their comfort zone. When I stayed there was a little over 60 residents, about 12 of which were from the US.

I set out on exchange to experience as much of American college culture as I could and what better way than to join a fraternity. The colleges orientation week coincides with ‘rush week’ which is the time that fraternities and sororities seek new members. ‘Friends for life’; is one of the mottos that is prevalent throughout the Greek (fraternity/sorority) community and it is most certainly true.

The left picture is Tower Hall, an event building on SJSU’s campus. On the right, is Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.

The left picture is Tower Hall, an event building on SJSU’s campus. On the right, is Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.

 

The whole community is very accepting and it is an extremely rewarding experience. One of the great parts about being in a fraternity is the philanthropic events. For example, Kappa Sigma, the fraternity that I am a member of hosts a series of events each semester to support military veterans.

When planning my finances for my travels I had to not only account for my student exchange but I also had to plan for my short term program before hand as well; I was overseas for 8 months in total. QUT has plenty of different support systems for students including OS-HELP loans and bursaries. Without QUT’s support I would not have been able to experience as much of American culture as I did.

When paying for living expenses one of the reasons that I chose to stay at I-House was that they offered a meal plan. This meal plan was for 7 days a week with extra dining credits to spend on campus restaurants outside of the dining hall. It should be noted that the food was nothing to call home about, other than to complain…

To find out more about QUT Student Exchange Programs, click here!