London Living

Alexander Aikman., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries

University of Westminster, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2019)

The University of Westminster is located in central London. The campus is compact and modern in its layout. One of the best parts about university life for me was playing rugby for Westminster. Joining a sports team was a great way to connect with people and I would highly recommend it for anyone going on exchange.

As expected, the cost of rent and groceries within London was steep. However, there are a lot of discounts on offer for students. Including a discounted travel card for the tube and bus services. There were also a lot of free attractions to be taken advantage of during my exchange. These included the British Museum, Borough and Camden Markets as well as Hyde Park to name a few.

Another one of London’s perks is the travel. Trains from London go across the UK. Allowing for easy exploration across the country on weekends. Better still were the cheap flights across Europe. I spent much of my free time travelling to other countries. Every holiday and long weekend I would travel somewhere new. Travelling to Norway with friends from Uni and travelling solo across southern Europe were true highlights of my trip. And I would encourage anyone to try travelling both in a group and on your own.

The exchange program is an opportunity to try new experiences. The best advice I can offer is explore as much as you can. Travel to someplace different. Meet new people from other countries and experience their culture. Finally, if you’re going to a big city such as London, then be travel smart. A healthy dose of paranoia and scepticism will save you a lot of grief. But above all, make your exchange memorable.

Hej from Copenhagen!

Margaux O., Bachelor of Biomedical Science / Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (Semester 2, 2017)

Landing in Copenhagen was probably close to the scariest things I’ve ever done. However, I was greeted by a smiling Dane who my host university, Copenhagen Business School, set up for me. It was a scary but exhilarating moment being thrust into a whole new continent, let alone city, to live for the next 5-6 months.

Looking back on my exchange to Copenhagen, I don’t think I would or could change one thing about it. Every day I was out meeting other exchange students while exploring every little thing this amazing city had to offer.

The turning on of the Christmas lights in Stroget

The halls of my accommodation

Copenhagen Business School was incredibly accommodating for every exchange student. They helped exchange students with everything, from subject selection to being a shoulder to cry on for those homesick. The campus, although spread out across Frederiksberg, was beautiful, modern, and old. For me, teaching styles were reasonably similar to QUT, having a tutorial and a lecture for each subject each week. Also the standard of work is very similar to QUT, I did not struggle at all. Although the Danes may seem reasonably held back, they are very approachable and I felt very comfortable attending class every day. Much like QUT, there are many clubs and societies to join, such as the Wine Tasting club, and the Swedish Student Society!

Next to campus: this is the suburb where Copenhagen Business School is in

If you are heading to Denmark (or Scandinavia in general), be prepared for the cost of living. I was lucky enough to live in exchange student accommodation on campus, which was a bit expensive but so worth it. I lived right next to Frederiksberg Gardens (like botanic gardens but with a castle), and the area itself is very pretty and safe. There are so many grocery stores to choose from in Copenhagen, so you will not fail to find the cheaper deals. However, be prepared to spend a fair bit if you want a coffee (average around $6 for a coffee) or to eat dinner out (about $30 for a meal). However, just like home, you won’t fail to find cheaper restaurant alternatives.

I can’t say I really experienced culture shock. I think I was just too excited to be in Denmark. It is an incredibly easy culture to get used to, and most important, everyone speaks English impeccably! There was not one moment where I struggled with the culture or interacting with the Danes. Definitely get used to bicycles everywhere – do not step on the bike track or you WILL get yelled at in Danish. We have all been there, trust me. Besides this, I honestly never felt so safe in a major city – everyone is so nice!

Here are some general tips for Copenhagen:

  • Shop at Netto or Lidl for groceries
  • Buy a Rejsekort for public transport OR a monthly pass (if you are going to use public transport often)
  • OR rent a bike! Copenhagen Business School have a group of students to rent bikes to Exchange students for the semester for about $100
  • Hit up Malmo or Lund in Sweden for lunch
  • Definitely visit Aarhus
  • Norrebro, Vesterbro, Ostebro are all worth visiting
  • If you are doing fall semester – buy a yearly Tivoli pass. Trust me you will want to see it in Halloween and Christmas.
  • Have a picnic on the canals of Copenhagen by renting a Go Boat
  • Hit up Bastard Café – a board game café!
  • Try their delicacies – Smorrebrod, Danish Rye bread, and street vendor hot dogs!

    My bright red bike!

Honestly, it feels like all of exchange was the most memorable experience. Copenhagen was actually my second preference, but I could not be more pleased that I went to Copenhagen. I cannot explain how much I loved the city and how much I want to still be there with every single person I met. Everyone says this, but you do definitely make some life long friends – and lucky for me some of them are Australian!

A friend of mine I met in Copenhagen once emotionally described his exchange experience to us as “a complete dream, like it never actually happened.” Since coming home, I couldn’t agree with him more. A dream too good to be real, but a dream that did actually happen.

Things I did in Madrid!

Olivia H., Bachelor of Mass Communication
University Carlos lll de Madrid, Spain (Semester 2, 2017)

My exchange semester in Madrid was great. Although it had its ups and downs I learnt so much that I will take with me through life. I studied at Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3m) in Getafe.

Most subjects I wanted to do become filled up so I was left with limited study options. The teachers are not very willing to help; however, this is just the Spanish way; they are laid back. Some of the subjects are quite boring and you’re only given one week of classes before you can change/ pull out making it difficult to enjoy the semester. However, the benefits far outweigh these negatives.

It is incredible meeting people from all over the world and learning new things about different countries/ cultures. Exploring Spain and learning about the country and its culture and history is fascinating. I used a group called Smart Insiders who were great with day and weekend trips. They provided fun weekends for really low costs and no hassles.

Now for the practical stuff like budgeting, accommodation, your phone plan and most importantly, language. If you’re concerned about money here is my guide. You could easily do an exchange semester for less than $10 000 if you do not want to travel too much. For the whole semester September through to mid December I was using the QUT bursary and the government loan. With good research on apartments and being good and sometimes frugal with food costs, weekly living costs can be under 50 euros!

I lived in Getafe which although was cheap and convenient to get to uni four days a week, was inconvenient whenever I wanted to go out clubbing or into the city in general. I was paying at least 150 euros per month cheaper than anyone I knew but I either had to ask a friend to stay at theirs or stay out until the trains started again at 5am. When looking for an apartment, make sure all bills are included so you know exactly what you have to pay and can get a better deal. As for a phone sim, I would go into CityLife Madrid or Smart Insiders as they can help you set up with Lyca or Lebara mobile.

You can get by fairly easily without knowing Spanish and you definitely pick it up along the way. However, it is tricky in the first few weeks when you are trying to do things like get your transport card and a phone sim. For the transport card, I would order it a week before you leave for Madrid and deliver it to your accommodation. This is the easiest way and it means you can begin exploring the city right away.

The transport system is very confusing when you first arrive, but you get the hang of it quickly. The main type of transport in the city is the metro. However, to get to places like Getafe (where UC3M is located) you need to get the train, Renfe cercanias. Transport is much cheaper than Brisbane, like anywhere else in the world. Each month you load 20 euro onto your public transport card and it gives you unlimited access to all of the metro, cercanias and bus lines within Madrid.

Finally, travel which is hands down the best part. I went before, after and during my semester and although tiring it is so worth it. I used the semester for travel within Spain and the Summer holidays before and Winter holidays after to explore Europe! Below are some photos of my trip. Thanks for reading!

 

Life in Copenhagen

Victoria K., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (Semester 1, 2016)

Host University    

In 2016 of Semester 1 I went on exchange to the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in Denmark. I chose this uni as it was heavily qualified being the best Business school in Scandinavia and in the top 10 Business schools in Europe. When I first saw the different campuses I was shocked at how much they resembled buildings for small companies rather than a uni!

I took the subjects: Visual Communication, Organising Global Business & Marketing, International Business Law and Marketing: Trend Drivers. I was very impressed to see that all the lecturers had “real world” experience in the subjects that they taught, as they had all held high positions within that area of business. It was this expertise that each lecturer brought to lessons that made my study at CBS very special.

 


 

 

 

 

Social Life
At CBS they have an excellent social package for exchange students which involves a week of activities before semester organised just for exchange students with the main goal of introducing everyone to each other but also Danish culture. The activities included bowling, bingo (sounds boring but they made it a lot of fun!), ice skating and bar/ club nights to name a few. The activity week is optional for exchange students and you have to pay (its quite cheap) but I 100% recommend you go so you can meet as many people as possible.

The social activities were run by current students of CBS so they were all very friendly and approachable. Within the first social event I had already made three or four friends so it was extremely easy to meet people if you attended the social week. CBS also has a buddy system where you are paired up with a CBS student (you can choose the gender). My buddy was amazing, she showed me around the city and introduced me to her Danish friends.

Accommodation
In Denmark it is illegal for a university to own housing but CBS has the rights to quite a few dorms and accommodation. As a result, accommodation spots are very scarce (in very high demand) and it is on a first come first serve basis. Accommodation spots for CBS students become available at a certain date and time. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the time as housing spots will become exhausted within an hr after their release (similar situation to buying Splendour tickets).

Also, make sure you research each dormitory and its situation to CBS. The nicest dormitory in my opinion is Tietgen (mostly Danish dorm) which is a beautiful circular building. The dorm rooms are beautiful and each level has their own communal kitchen where you can socialise with other people. Tietgen also has its own nightclub where it occasionally has small parties and the communal kitchen is also used as a makeshift dancefloor, its great fun! However it is quite far away from CBS (20 mins metro ride + 5 min walk to metro).

Transportation
In my opinion Denmark has the best public transport in the world. They have a metro, train and buses which are always exactly on time, if not 1-3 minutes late (quite rare). Seeing as Copenhagen is quite a small city, the longest it will take you to get anywhere is around 40 mins, but everywhere I went only took me about 10-20 mins.

Everyone bikes in Denmark, there are bike lanes on every road and it is the most popular mode of transport. If you do wish to bike (which is the cheapest form of transport) then you must be mindful of the bike signals (one hand up to signal you slowing down and also to signal when you are turning). There is a Facebook page for the exchange students and many people from the previous semester will be selling a bike so you won’t have to worry about buying one. The prices they are sold for vary from $50-$150 but this will be much more cheaper in the long run; as I’ve said that public transport is very expensive.

Denmark uses a system similar to the ‘go card’ which can be used on all public transport, called the ‘rejsekort’ (pronounced rye-seh-cort). The minimum amount that you can top up is $20 (100 kr) and the lowest amount you can have on it about $12 (60 kr), so this doesn’t get you very far. Going about two stops on the metro (not far) is about $2-3 (10-15 kr) so in a few days you will be needing to top up with $20 to use the card again. I would recommend you buying the rejsekort if you are using a bike as you will need the card to travel longer distances to castles and parks or when you are on your way out clubbing.

If you do not wish to buy a bike you can get something more economically feasible which is the monthly pass. For about $134 (670 kr) you can get a monthly pass to use all modes of transport within a 2 zone area. This is way cheaper than using the rejsekort if you use public transport frequently, which you will if you don’t have a bike!
PLEASE NOTE: Do not chance it by not buying a ticket! The metro do rigorous checks of people on train for tickets, rejsekorts and monthly plans every day. The same is for trains and buses but less intense. The fine is 750 kr ($150) if you are caught so it is definitely not worth it.

Host Country
Denmark is a beautiful country. In winter it can be quite miserable but the spring and summer is well worth the wait! Danish culture is quite similar to Australian in the sense that they love to drink, love their sport and have a great sense of humour. Danish people tend to be quite reserved at first but once you get to know them they are extremely fun and friendly.

As I said summer was the most beautiful season, with longer days and more people getting out and enjoying the sun. There is definitely a more festive and relaxed feel in Copenhagen- some days (at certain hours) it felt as hot as a Brissy day!

Keep in mind though that Denmark has one of the highest standard of living so eating out can be very expensive. An average meal will be between $25-30 (125-150 kr), coffee will be about $7-8.

Highlights
CPH has some amazing sights and places! For food, my friends and I loved going to the Glass markets or the indoor food hall called ‘Paper Island’. On Thursday Paper Island has discounts for students at certain food stalls for certain food items.

A great place to eat which has the lowest prices in CPH is Café Paludan, near Norreport metro station. The portions are really big, the food is delicious and the prices are very cheap for CPH standards. I definitely recommend checking out Ruby, which is among the 50 best bars in the world! The décor is quite decadent and is a very cool and intimate setting with amazing cocktails. CPH is also home to a few Michelin starred restaurants. My friends and I went to the restaurant Relae and had a 5 course meal for only $100.

Bubblin’ Dublin

Renee G., Bachelor of Business International
University College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 2, 2017)


I began the second half of my full year of study abroad at University College Dublin in Dublin, the capital city of Ireland. The first day that I arrived on campus I was very surprised at the size of the university and a bit in shock about how I was going to find my way around as my previous host university was a lot smaller. I found UCD campus to be very clean and well looked after and goes above and beyond to provide numerous facilities for students including multiple food restaurants, cafes, small supermarket, bus stop within campus, free gym, pool and sport facilities, a cinema, uni bar and a bank. The university itself is almost like a small city and this was very handy for us international students. In terms of buildings/classes, each academic school has its own allocated building for classes, for example I was a part of the Quinn School of Business and therefore all my classes were in the Quinn building. This made finding classes a lot easier and saved time if you had classes back to back. Each of these buildings are fitted with numerous study rooms, printing facilities, support staff and lunch areas to make your academic experience great.

Trinity College Dublin

Whilst at UCD I chose to stay in on campus accommodation for security, the proximity to campus was convenient. Although expensive, I also found this to be the best way to meet other international students as there are many rooms allocated to them in a certain area. When it comes to choosing accommodation, there are about 5-6 different options, some catered and others not. There is also a difference in room size, shared or own bathrooms and number of flat mates. In the end I chose Merville Residences as it was one of the cheaper options that provided a sufficient living environment for the four months I would be there. I shared my flat with three other international students, one girl from New Zealand, one guy from Germany and one guy from America. These students turned out to be very good friends and based on their connections with other students from their home universities and countries, making friends and socialising was made easy.

UCD Residences

During orientation week at UCD, the international society puts on a large range of activities for students to participate in if they like as well as the residences hub Reslife who also organise numerous night and day options for students to get to know each other. These events gave me the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and interact with students from around the world. Additionally, through my flatmates friends and connections I could connect with people who I will now consider friends for life and be sure to catch up with in the coming years. I strongly advise to participate in as much as possible so you are never left to do anything alone as that is not always the greatest idea when in a foreign country.

In terms of Dublin City, there will always be something for you to do. It is full of pubs, restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, great nightlife and the people are the friendliest bunch you will ever meet. The Irish culture is one you don’t want to miss out on experiencing if you have the chance. As Dublin is a large city there are numerous forms of public transport, but most popular is the bus system as this is required to get from the UCD campus into town using the student leap card. If you want to explore the rest of Ireland as well, the train/rail system is also a handy way to get somewhere faster than on a bus, but the cost of transport in Ireland is not cheap. This also goes for the cost of living as groceries and accommodation whether it be on and off campus will be higher than you expect. On a more positive note, the city itself and surrounding suburbs I found to be very safe and I was comfortable whilst travelling alone, but of course always use your common sense and be aware of your surroundings.

Dublin City

Now, much like my first exchange in England, the weather in Ireland can be very unpredictable and you can experience all four seasons in one day. Lucky for me, I was fortunate enough to get numerous sunny days during the four months I was there but as expected there were many cloudy, rainy and windy days as well. Despite the weather, Ireland is a beautiful country with a lot to enjoy and with its proximity to Europe you have the chance to travel to numerous beautiful countries as well on the weekends or whenever you please. My advice to everyone is don’t miss out on taking advantage of Ireland’s location and the cultures you could experience that are only an hours flight away. Try not to stress about money and just make the most of it.

I must say the highlight of my exchange was the people I met and friendships I made along the way as without them my experience would have been a lot different. Of course, the academic side is very important as well and UCD is fortunately a lot like QUT and how everything runs so you shouldn’t have too many issues with settling in. I highly recommend UCD as an exchange destination and you’d be crazy not to go if offered the chance. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way and enjoy the time you have because I can assure you it goes quicker than you would think possible.

Ring of Kerry

Going International in Historic Poland

Georgia D., Bachelor of Business
SGH Warsaw School of Economics, Poland (Semester 2, 2018)

 

For a very long time, I was conflicted on where I should travel for my exchange experience. The only thing that I knew for sure was that I wanted to take a hold of this opportunity to make my International Business degree truly “international”. My search led me to look at nearly every university and location on offer, but after attending a presentation from a Polish exchange student at QUT (one of many organised through the Exchange Office), I knew it was the place for me.

Palace of Culture and Science

Arriving in Warsaw, I realised early on just how big of a cultural divide there is between Poland and Australia – and I loved every minute of it. Sure, sorting out some of the initial paperwork with my landlord and government departments was made more difficult due to barriers of language/culture, but once I was settled in the city, I instantly thought of it as a second home.

Łazienki Park

I chose to rent a room on a street between the Ochota and Śródmieście districts – both quite central areas of the city that ended up being a perfect location for me as a student at SGH (Warsaw School of Economics). My experience in renting a room within a private apartment was wonderful, as I shared it with 3 other students, but the university offers dorm accommodation as well (which was also a popular option amongst exchange students). The public transport in Warsaw is great (trams, buses and Metro), and it took me less than 10mins to get to the SGH main building from my apartment using the tram system.

SGH Warsaw School of Economics – Main Building G

SGH provided a very different university experience for me, particularly evident in a reduced use of online systems and technology within lectures. I was enrolled in 7 units (as most units are worth about half the credit points of a QUT unit), and I took the opportunity to study a number of units that related to Poland and Eastern Europe, and its economic/political relations with/within the EU. It was a great opportunity as an Australian student to apply what I’ve learnt within my Business degree to an area of the world that I was quite unfamiliar with.

The campus is split over a couple of buildings, all within walking distance of each other, very close to Central Warsaw and serviced by buses, trams and a Metro line. The main building was quite beautiful, particularly the grand ceiling and university library, and most of my classes took place here. The exchange office ran a buddy program with current Polish students at SGH, which was definitely helpful for me initially, and my “buddy” and I became great friends during my time in Warsaw. She was able to show me a number of great places to eat and hang out close to the university, which was great because whilst living in Poland, that was actually something I could afford as a student.

Cost of living in Warsaw is SUPER affordable, and left room for me to spend more on travel and experiences with friends. A lot of local attractions (particularly museums) are free of charge on certain days of the week too, so I got to see and learn a lot without spending a ton of money. As a student all transport is reduced by 50%, and because this included intercity travel, I took a couple of trips to Krakow during my time here.

The food in Poland is also very good, and especially because I was there over the winter, I took advantage of some of the more ‘hearty’ dishes. In Warsaw, there has been a revival of “bary mlecnze” (milk bars) – cafeteria style eateries that were quite prominent in Poland’s communist era – that serve cheap traditional Polish dishes, and I could always get a full meal for under $5. The nightlife is obviously a little busier during the summer months, but there were still some great areas to explore with friends close to campus and city centre, where prices were also super reasonable.

I also found it very interesting to spend my exchange in a city with such an incredible history, as they really make an effort to preserve the memory of events that shaped the area, particularly within the WW2 era. Whilst I was there the country was celebrating 100 years of independence, and it was awesome to see how much pride the Polish people had for their country and its difficult past. I was constantly discovering new things about the city of Warsaw over the entire time I lived there, and I probably only scraped the surface.

I could talk about the positives of an exchange to Warsaw forever, and that’s something that really surprised me: just how much I loved my time there. Before going along to that presentation, I had not seriously considered Poland because I had never really heard much about it as a travel/study destination, and now I can’t understand why, because it’s brilliant. As a student, Warsaw is: cheap, packed with history, well connected by public transport, culturally rich and located very conveniently for travels within Europe during holidays or weekends. To anyone thinking of an exchange in Poland, I would definitely recommend giving it some serious thought. Whilst it might not be the most popular or conventionally easy, in my opinion it is definitely worth it!! I cannot wait to return to Warsaw again, and explore even more of Poland in the future.

 

 

A Life in Chicago

William N., Bachelor of Design (Honors)
Illinois Institute of Technology, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

The university…

Going on exchange to Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago last semester was an amazing experience, which I already miss and wish I could repeat all over. As an architecture student, IIT was an amazing place to both visit and live. The campus was designed by one of my favourite architects – Mies van der Rohe – who also started the architecture school on campus, and taught there for a period of time. Because of this, the school has a wonderful architecture program, and great resources for architecture students.

Despite being in a somewhat dodgy area, the campus is only a few train stops from downtown, making it really easy to explore the city throughout my exchange. On top of this, during the semester the university gives you a free travel card, giving you unlimited access to the buses and trains throughout the city. The campus is also within walking distance of the lake which is a really nice place to go swimming.

The on-campus accommodation that I chose was really nice, however the other dormitories I visited were not as nice, which I think would influence the quality of exchange perhaps. I had two randomly assigned roommates, who I didn’t become friends with, but it gave me the opportunity to experience living with strangers, and make me a more tolerant person. My apartment had a kitchen so I cooked most meals, however the university requires you also purchase a meal plan at the cafeteria. The food was not very nice though.

Unexpected…

For future exchange students visiting IIT, don’t expect the university to make much of an effort introducing you to other international students, so make sure you make an effort yourself at the start to introduce yourself to others.

Highlights…

For me, the highlight of exchange was the opportunities I got to travel both within and outside the states. During the semester I travelled to New Orleans, Toronto, and New York – and spent a week in Copenhagen during my Thanksgiving break in late November.

The campus life at the university was definitely not what I expected. I was expecting a very traditional university with frat parties, etc. but was surprised how different it was. The university has very little social or party life, making it difficult to make friends with other students. However, I found a group of other exchange students who I became good friends with, so it ended up not being an issue.

Tips/ advice…

Definitely pack or buy a lot of warm clothes, as it gets very freezing, very quickly. When looking at the weather, always pay attention to the “feels like” temperature, as the wind chill is almost always ten degrees colder in the winter. Do a lot of research before choosing your housing. The university give most if not all exchange students $1500 a semester towards housing – however not all options have kitchens, meaning you may pay more on the cafeteria meal plans!

From Australia to Austria

Taylor K., Bachelor of Business
Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, Austria (Semester 2, 2017)

Vienna is a wonderful city. It’s filled with quirky cafes that serve only the best coffee and delicious Sacher Torte. It is home to some of the greatest musicians in history, as well as one of the most renowned psychologists of all time. The city is said to have the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe. And, Austria shares a border with several amazing countries, some of which cost near nothing to visit and are only a short bus ride away. Needless to say, it’s an ideal location for anyone who has an interest in history, loves the Jolly Holidays, is infected with the travel bug and loves coffee (what student doesn’t?).

Wirtschafts Universität (WU), the university I attended in Vienna, is also fantastic. The campus is modern and bustling with tasty food venues. And, of course, the Library Café serves GREAT coffee. At WU I felt very at home, the campus and university life was similar enough to QUT that it was easy to understand and provided a sense of familiarity; but it was also different enough that I always felt like I was exploring somewhere new. The staff was wonderfully helpful and the course load is easy for any student to manage.

The class timetable, however, is very different to that at QUT. I was required to take five units, which seemed a little daunting at the time, but turned out to be easily manageable. Rather than these five units each having a lecture and tutorial each week, there were classes set for all different times and days of the week. Some units had two classes a week that changed days throughout the semester, others skipped weeks, one course was every day for ten days straight and then it was completely finished, and other classes fall on a regular weekly basis. Having to avoid overlaps made figuring out my timetable and what units to apply for a little more difficult, but it also meant that once my semester started I never felt like I was trapped in a boring routine. Everything was always different. It also meant that I occasionally had four or five day weekends, which were fantastic times to travel.

I travelled to many places while on exchange, but I was particularly keen to visit other cities in Austria. I saw Innsbruck, Salzburg, and my personal favourite, Hallstatt. Every one of these cities were beautiful in their own way and I am so glad I took the time to visit them. The easiest way to get around in Austria, and a lot of Europe, is by train. I caught the ÖBB train to each of these cities. They have an online site and mobile app to make purchases and navigating the train stations easier and not one of my trips took longer than 4 hours (no time at all for us Queenslanders).

So far, all of my exchange sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. I had a few issues with my housing (OeAD dorms) and with the registration authorities. A lot of these issues could have been avoided if Vienna and the ways of doing things there wasn’t so traditional. For example, the housing offices are only open from 8am-12pm Monday to Friday, and the registration office will only send documents via post, not email.

The Viennese, like all cultures, have a different way of doing things. The grocery stores don’t open on Sundays and fish costs a fortune because it’s a landlocked country, but don’t worry, it’s compensated by the amazing range of meats and cheeses. Also, it’s common practice to ignore customers in coffee houses and there is only one cinema in the city that plays English movies in English. But all this is part of Vienna’s charm. It’s what gives it character and sets it apart from being just another city with beautiful old buildings and river canals. Just like Australia wouldn’t be the same without deadly animals and bogans; Austria wouldn’t be the same without the blunt customer service and odd business hours.

A Semester Abroad in Calgary

Brendan S., Bachelor of Information Technology
University of Calgary, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)

Last semester I got the great opportunity to spend four months studying at the University of Calgary in Canada. It was an incredible experience, and in this blog I’ll try to give you some insight into what life was like studying in Canada.

The Uni: The University of Calgary campus is a huge place, with some incredible facilities. Beyond the classrooms, just some of the things you’d find on campus at UofC include: a concert venue, basketball courts, swimming pools, gyms, hockey rinks, an Olympic skating rink, rock climbing walls, a pub, a theatre, restaurants, the list goes on.

There was rarely a dull moment being a student at UofC. The uni is big on campus culture, so if you didn’t have work to do (rare) there was always something happening. Sports, live music, carnivals, bingo nights, free art lessons, car smashing (yeah, the Engineering faculty put on a university approved event where you could smash an old car with a baseball bat to de-stress…), movie nights, you name it. On top of this there was on abundance of student clubs, so you could always find people with similar interests.

University of Calgary Campus

I chose to live on campus, in student accommodation, or “residence” as they call it. Staying in residence was the best choice I made on exchange, and I’d recommend anyone else thinking of going to do the same. All the friends I made at UofC were people I met in my building (Cascade Hall) – there’s a really good culture there which encourages everyone to get out of their rooms and get to know each other. The university also places all the exchange students in residence together. I was annoyed about this at first (I wanted to meet Canadians!) but this turned out to be the best thing about living there. Everyone I met was in the same boat as me, and we were all equally keen to travel and engage in campus life.

Moraine Lake

I found the academic standards at UofC to be quite similar to QUT, but where I found the biggest difference was the way classes were structured. Instead of the standard weekly two hour lectures and tutorials we’re used to at QUT, all my lectures and tutorials were only an hour long, but held three times a week. This meant that even though I was only taking three units, I was in class for a few hours five days a week. The one other difference was in the amount of online content delivered. My lecturers were all different, but I had one who refused to upload absolutely anything online (no slides, no unit outline, no practice exams), so if you have to miss a lecture, you’d miss out on that content completely.

 

The Country/City: I found Calgary to have a really similar culture to Brisbane in a lot of ways. They’re both smaller cities (although Calgary is about half the size of Brisbane) and they sit very similar culturally within their countries – Alberta is very much the Queensland of Canada. Everyone  I spoke to was friendly enough, and I never experienced any real form culture shock, which made the adjustment really easy.

University Drive

One thing that was a shock however, was the cold. I arrived at the start of Autumn, where temperatures were slightly colder than our winters (averaging about 10-20°). This gave me a chance to ease into the weather, so by the time it started snowing in September I was a bit more resistant to the cold.

Calgary is an expensive place to live! Although things like fast food were cheap (I miss Tim Hortons so much), I found myself being shocked weekly at how much groceries and fresh food cost over there – especially chicken! It wasn’t all bad though, being a student you pay $150 and they give you a UPass, which gives you unlimited free public transport for the entire semester.

 

Highlights: We had the chance to see a lot of different sports over there, and though basketball and Canadian football (slightly different to American!) were a lot of fun, the obvious highlight was the hockey. Our residence arranged for us to see our first NHL game our the first week there, and after that we were hooked and went to see the Calgary Flames win five more games throughout the semester. Even if you’re not a sports fan I’d recommend going once just to experience the atmosphere!

Go Flames Go!

Calgary is located close to so many incredible natural wonders, and the trips I was able to go on were definitely the highlight of the semester for me. We did many trips to the Rockies – we had the chance to see Lake Moraine, the mountain town of Banff, Peyto Lake, the Icefields Parkway (the most incredible drive you’ll ever go on!) and Jasper National Park. We also decided to hire cars and do a big road trip into the US to see Yellowstone National Park, which was such an incredible experience.

Jasper

Exchange at University of Calgary gave me some of the best experiences of my life. If you’re thinking about choosing Calgary as your location for exchange, I say go for it. It’s a great city to live in, and there’s nothing quite like the culture of North American universities. You’ll have the chance to see some incredible sights, go on some big adventures, and make some great memories with people from around the globe.

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.