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.

“Oh sorry, I don’t speak Danish!”

Savannah H, Bachelor of Business
Aarhus University, Denmark (Semester 1, 2016)

I spent 5 amazing months in Aarhus, Denmark and spent a total of 7 months abroad. As cliché as it sounds, exchange really was the best time of my life.

I studied at the Business and Social Sciences (BSS) faculty at Aarhus University. Aarhus is the second biggest city in Denmark after Copenhagen. Aarhus University was amazing, and BSS was great! BSS ran a really great introduction week, which meant I got to meet a lot of other exchange students in my first week. I lived in one of the furthest accommodations, but it still only took me about 20 minutes on bus to the campus and about 25 minutes to the city centre. The campuses were great (despite the buildings being named/numbered a bit confusingly!) The facilities were great (and it had an excellent canteen). One word I would use to describe Aarhus University and Denmark and my whole time abroad in general is “chill”. Everything was so chill.

Aarhus City Centre

Aarhus University, unlike QUT, only has final exams that count towards your grade. So no mid-sem’s. Which had its benefits and its drawbacks. One benefit being, I was able to travel throughout the semester without having to worry about assessment. The main drawback was I was pretty stressed in the last month with 3 exams all worth 100%, but overall it was fine, and let’s just say, that all you need to do on exchange is pass.

Aarhus BSS

Living in Aarhus was amazing! It is such a student city and due to the amazing introduction week, I was able to meet and constantly catch up with so many friends! I found that cost of living in Aarhus was pretty similar to Australia. I paid about $600 a month for my accommodation (private studio apartment with kitchen and bathroom located about 25 minutes by bus to the city centre). Groceries were comparable to Australia and I got a phone plan for $20 a month!

Kapsejladsen (Northern Europe’s biggest Student Party) held at Aarhus University

I found Denmark to be culturally pretty similar to Australia, but they do drink a lot of beer! People were nice, but sometimes seemed a bit standoffish, but as I learned, they just wanted to give you your own space. However, as soon as you asked for help or said “oh, sorry! I don’t speak Danish”, they couldn’t have helped you faster! I personally didn’t experience any culture shock or homesickness, but I know a few who did, I think to help avoid this, it’s really great if you can find a group of really close friends and try to be really active and see lots of both your host city and do a lot of travel!

Aarhus, a classic Danish scene: grey skies, a bike and colourful houses

I travelled a lot! I mean a lot a lot! Any long weekend I got, I was gone! I ended up visiting 20 countries and 36 cities. Skyscanner and RyanAir were basically my hobbies. The longest flight I took was from Billund (middle of Denmark) to Malta (small island south of Italy), and even this was only about 3 hours and we literally flew north to south over Europe! Flights were so cheap as were buses and trains and hostels! A quick tip: If you want to travel through central Europe (France, Germany, UK, Austria, etc) do so in their Winter, hostels are almost a third cheaper than travelling in their Summer. In Summer, I tried to travel though Eastern Europe where things are generally cheaper anyway. However, I did do Italy and Greece in Summer (bye money, but 100% worth it!).

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

University of Copenhagen: Units, Accommodation and Tips!

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

 

The Units:

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

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

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

 

Accommodation:

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

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

 

Finances:

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

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

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

 

Tips:

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

On exchange at Oxford Brookes University

Joanna G., Bachelor of Design (Honours)
Oxford Brookes University, England (Semester 2, 2018)

I had the opportunity of going on exchange to the small city of Oxford in England. I absolutely loved experiencing and living in Oxford as it is a beautiful city filled with stunning architecture, rich history and is home to the prestigious University of Oxford. I chose to study at a university in England because it has such a strong reputation for being at the forefront of developments in design, fashion and architecture both throughout history and the modern era, so this held a real attraction for me given my field of study.

Traditional Architecture in Oxford

Studying at Oxford Brookes University opened me up to many new experiences, lifelong friends, and was very academically rewarding. The interior course was quite different to the one at QUT. The class size was a lot smaller, only consisting of 14 students, and there was a lot of model making which took a while to get the hang of but taught me so much in the process that I can apply to my interior units back at QUT. One of the highlights of studying interior was the five day field trip to Barcelona, Spain half way through the semester. I got the opportunity to visit iconic architecture and top firms along with the rest of my second-year class and the third-year students, without missing out on any classes.

Student Trip to the Seaside

In terms of accommodation, I stayed at Clive Booth Hall which was only a short 7 minute walk from the main Headington campus! In my flat I lived with 5 other girls who were all lovely. The flats were very basic – I had my own room with a sink but shared a bathroom and kitchen.

My room in Clive Booth Hall

The university offered many extra-curricular activities. On campus they had a sports centre which included a basketball court, gym, rock climbing wall and a sports bar where it was common for students to socialise while grabbing something to eat/drink after class. There are many sporting teams that you are able to try out for. I joined the rowing team which was a new and fun experience, I made many friends while keeping fit at the same time.

John Henry Brookes Building at Headington Campus

Oxford Brookes also offered weekend day trips to other English cities for international students. These trips were quite popular, having to get in quickly to reserve a seat on the bus. They were such an easy and cheap way to be shown around other popular English cities including Brighton, Isle of Wight, Cambridge, Bath, and Liverpool. Furthermore, it was extremely easy to catch a bus to London or to any of the airports in London to go away for weekend trips. I went to Oktoberfest and visited Dublin with a group of flatmates throughout the semester. These weekend trips were some of my favourite highlights.

Traditional Buildings on Campus

Choosing to study in Oxford was one of the best experiences of my life. I was devastated with how quickly the time went and would have loved to stay longer. My advice to other students considering going on exchange is go for it! Travelling to another part of the world on your own may seem scary and intimidating at first, but the experiences, lifelong friends and opportunities are entirely worth it. Challenge and put yourself out there and you will have the best time of your life!

University Church of St Mary, Oxford

 

Rotterdam: The best city you’ve never heard of

Chris, M., Bachelor of Business
Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands  (Semester 1, 2018)

In the last few days of 2017 I embarked on what would be the experience of a lifetime. After saying goodbye with mixed emotions and spending over 24 hours travelling, I finally arrived in the city that would become my home for the next 6 months – Rotterdam. The first thing you notice when you step off a plane on the other side of the world is that the weather is the complete opposite. No matter how prepared I thought I was, coming from 35C summer days in Brisbane to a Dutch winter which hovers just above the 0C mark was a shock. Fortunately, this weather did not last the entire 6 months, and seeing the temperature gradually warm into a Dutch summer was something special.

After settling into my accommodation and making my first few friends there, I already had a foot in the door. Many amazing experiences followed over the next 6 months, but I’ll save you the trouble and just tell you about the things you need to know if you’re thinking that Rotterdam might be the exchange destination for you.

The Netherlands

There’s not many things that the Dutch don’t do better than Australia and the rest of the world. Between public transport that has made me fear my return to Queensland Rail, and a 95% English literacy rate (which is even higher than Canada) that meant most Dutch natives spoke better English than I did, they’re definitely doing something right.

I chose Rotterdam in the first place because I was looking for somewhere that had a culture different from Australia but also spoke English to the degree that I wouldn’t be forced to buy a premium Duolingo subscription. The Netherlands fit this criteria perfectly, and after assessing the possible universities available, I decided that Rotterdam would be the ideal host city. Although it is a modern city with everything you could ask for (being rebuilt after World War 2 makes it quite different to other traditional Dutch cities), it is still small enough that you could travel from one side to the other via bike in half an hour. The city has an arty hipster scene reminiscent of Berlin, but also a thriving business district and extensive shopping areas. It’s a bustling city and there is always something to do.

Even though Dutch culture has many similarities to that of Australia, Dutch people can be quite dry and serious on the surface. However, once you get to know them they’re very friendly. When around other Dutch people they will often speak Dutch, but don’t be alarmed as they quickly switch back to English to speak to those who don’t.

Being a small country, it is quite easy to hop on a train and travel to the next city over (or even next country) for a day trip. You’ll find yourself going to Amsterdam every few weeks, but although it is a nice tourist city, it can’t compare to the livability of Rotterdam. The infrastructure in Rotterdam is amazing, with buses, trams, trains, and a subway (the Metro) to help you get across the city with ease. On top of this, there are dedicated bike lanes all over the city which mean most people opt to ride instead of drive. Unlike Brisbane, there’s no need to fear for your life when riding a bike in the Netherlands! You still need to be careful as a pedestrian to look twice when crossing the street.

University

Sometimes you forget that this is the reason you’re here. Fortunately for me, the quality of Erasmus University Rotterdam matches the quality of the city. The Rotterdam School of Management (the faculty where I completed my studies) is one of the top 10 business schools in Europe.

The structure here is somewhat different to QUT. Each faculty has a different number of blocks (i.e. semesters), lasting different durations. At RSM, we had three 10-week blocks over the year. For me, that meant that my semester 1 was composed of two trimesters over here (January to March and April to June). Due to the academic year starting at a different time, these were their trimesters 2 and 3. The difference in timelines for each faculty can complicate doing units from outside of RSM, but it is still definitely possible if you research the duration and start dates of the units you’re interested in.

Each of the two trimesters I was here, I was enrolled in 3 or 4 RSM units. Each unit had only had one class a week; normally a lecture but sometimes a tutorial instead. This meant I was normally only in for two half days a week, allowing for a lot of free time. Since lectures are usually not recorded like they are at QUT, it was a good idea to go to most of my classes since I had so little contact time (provided I was in the city).

The assessment was comparable to QUT in relevance and difficulty. The exams were often MCQ, and the assignments were heavily team based with almost every unit having a team assignment involved. A grading scale from 1 to 10 is used here, with a 5.5 being a passing grade. The way it was marked meant getting a passing grade was comparable to QUT but achieving a top grade (10) was much harder.

The campus is a relatively large and even has space for on-campus accommodation. It’s 10-15 minutes outside of the city centre by either bike or public transport, meaning it is very accessible. Although there is little activity outside in the cold winter weather, everyone comes outside from the indoor study spaces and university bar to soak up the sun when summer arrives. During summer the campus comes alive, as does the rest of the city. Fun Fact: It took me 3 months before I saw a single pair of shorts being worn in the Netherlands.

An organisation called the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) organises many amazing trips and activities throughout the year. It is mainly focused towards exchange students and is a great way to meet new people and enjoy new experiences. Twice a year they host an ‘Intro Days’ program which I highly recommend. It’s three days full of fun activities and is one of the main ways you’ll meet many of your friends for the 6 months. Some of the highlights from ESN throughout the year include boat rides through the canals of Amsterdam on King’s Day (Dutch national holiday), a week-long trip to Berlin, Day trips to Belgium, and an outdoor cinema by the university lake.

Living

Unfortunately for me I missed out on a spot in the university accommodation on-campus. Although I recommend that everyone should try to get in as early as possible to get a spot on-campus, missing out is not the end of the world. The room I eventually found was on the other side of the city in an area called Schiedam. Fortunately, due to the amazing public transport and the relatively small size of the city, I was able to go door to door from accommodation to class room in 35 minutes despite the distance. When the weather was good I even found myself riding my bike to university, which also took 35-40 minutes. It may sound like the Tour de France, but the ride is relatively easy due to how flat the ground is. The public transport runs until 12:30AM on weekdays and until 1:30AM on Friday and Saturday, which means there’s never any problem getting to and from home if I’m hanging out at campus until late.

The on-campus accommodation is three individual rooms with a shared kitchen and bathroom. The average cost of rent is about 500 Euro ($850 AUD) per month, and ranges from 450-600 Euro depending on size and location. It is important to budget while on exchange. The cost of living is quite similar to Australia, but maybe a little more expensive. Some things are cheaper like alcohol (much cheaper), while others such as public transport can be quite expensive. If you eat in and cook for yourself, you can live off 150 Euro per month for food. However, eating out and enjoying yourself (as you should) quickly changes this.

One of the best parts about the Netherlands being so central in Europe is that you’re able to easily travel to different countries. Budget airlines and an amazing system of trains and busses makes it both cheap and easy to travel to any country across the continent. Booking in advanced (2 months) makes it even more affordable, but even last-minute flights aren’t too bad if they aren’t booked in peak tourist season (May-August).

Challenges

While exchange truly lives up to the high expectations of the amazing stories you hear, it does come with hardship. Although people don’t talk about it very often, going to a completely different country without knowing anyone can be daunting, and when the initial excitement wears off it can be scary. Whether it comes in the form of culture shock or homesickness, everyone experiences it to an extent. Being away from my family and girlfriend for the first time for such a long period was quite difficult, but there were many ways to help me overcome it. Keeping in contact with friends and family back home as well as having a support network in your new home country is key when integrating into a new lifestyle. You’ll find that a lot of other exchange students will be going through the same thing, so don’t be afraid to talk to them about it too. Especially if you’re experiencing culture shock, walking around your local area and seeing something new every day will help you adjust. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling at home!

Having a different time zone to back home can be quite tough but finding regular times to Skype or FaceTime friends and family can make it a little easier. Especially if you have a partner back home, sharing what you’re up to on exchange to make them feel involved and informed is important. But don’t forget that hearing about their day is equally important. If you’re lucky like I was, they might even get a chance to come over and visit you!

Don’t let any of this scare you off though; it’s a completely normal phase of the adjustment process and in the end, it’ll only make your experiences richer!

Overall

Going on exchange is a life-changing opportunity. Although I highly recommend Rotterdam as your university of choice, wherever you end up you shouldn’t be disappointed – it’s the people you meet and the friendships you make as much as the destination. On top of the incredible memories you’ll make, going on exchange also pushes you to grow as a person. Studying in an international environment and creating a global network dramatically increases your employability – it gives you far more experience than a line on your CV can justify. For those of you who are currently working through all the paper work in hopes of making it on exchange, let me tell you that its all worth it. For those who are still considering it, all I can say is to take the leap – you won’t regret it.

Timothy’s Travel Tips – USA, Canada, and Europe

Timothy F., ​Bachelor of Justice / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Wyoming, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

Host University

Campus life within the University of Wyoming was completely different from that within Brisbane. I arrived at the end of Fall and start of Winter so the campus was so beautiful with all the trees changing colour. About two months into the semester we had our first blizzard overnight; in the morning, absolutely everything was covered in snow (about 2 feet) and there was a massive snowplow and bobcat running around campus clearing all the snow.

Classic London

The city, Laramie, each year takes over Antarctica as the coldest place on earth for a short period of time due to the combination of snowstorms and fast winds. This year was no different and it reached below -30 degrees without taking into account wind chill. I joined a Fraternity whilst studying (Sigma Phi Epsilon) and enjoyed every second of it. Only after joining a Fraternity did I realise the extent of the dramatization of Fraternities due to Hollywood; there is so, so much more to a Fraternity/Sorority (female Fraternity) than what is portrayed. Most weeks within the Fraternity involved attending self-improvement seminars, philanthropic events and community service opportunities.

University Life

Host Country and Travels

By the time I arrive home I would have studied for a total of 4 months and lived outside my Host University for a total of 3 months on the road. Luckily for me I had attended International House College within the University of Queensland for two years and thus, made many friends from all over the world. Due to this, I was able to, and currently am, couch surfing all over the world.

I started off my travels with a 10-day road trip around Canada (Toronto > Montreal) then took a Grey Hound bus (as I did everywhere to save money) to Boston. From Boston I traveled the East Coast ending at New York. Each location on the East Coast I stayed with a friend for about 5-8 days total. By the time I started my study in Wyoming (August 28) I had seen over 7 states within the US and 5 cities within Canada. At the moment I am on my post-travel adventures. I finished school on the 18th December and since then I have been snowboarding and hiking all around the Colorado Rockies, backpacking around America, Netherlands and exploring areas of Europe, including London for a period of 13 days. I have payed for accommodation literally once this entire trip, being Amsterdam. It’s all about who you know!

Canals at night

 

Tips and advice for future students

I had one rule when I wanted to travel somewhere: You can never do enough personal research on the destination you are going to and the destinations you want to see! You will never hear the end of this from the Study Abroad Office at QUT. However if you do a superficial job researching your travels, you will have a superficial time and quite potentially run into trouble (for example, I missed a connecting bus time-change from New York > Wyoming which resulted in a 9 hour wait in a very questionable Cincinnati bus stop – do not recommend). I was able to see a total of 14 States within America, travel around the Netherlands and see a lot of England within a total of 3 months without encountering any major issues because I had planned the costs and logistics and foresaw any problems I may face by spending hours brainstorming. It sounds excessive, but there is nothing worse than being alone in a country you know nothing about and having no plan of action.

Planning is key

Leave all your preconceived notions of what it may be like wherever it is you are going and just accept being immersed in the new culture, it’s honestly the best way.

Make lifelong friendships in Canada!

Sarah C., Bachelor of Business (Marketing)/Behavioural Science (Psychology)
University of Waterloo, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

For my semester abroad, I attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and completed subjects for my Bachelor of Psychology. Waterloo is a somewhat small town, largely populated by college students a few hours away from Toronto and Niagara Falls. I lived in an off-campus housing at the WCRI which is located just across the street from the university. Choosing to live at WCRI was the best decision I could have made as this is where I met most of my friends and it was a popular choice among other exchange students. As I was surrounded by other exchange students, there was always someone else who was trying to find the same building as me, wanted to make new friends or wanted to travel around Ontario.

Kayaking with five other exchange students at Algonquin Provincial Park

 

The university provided students with chances to travel around Ontario by making different trips available with the ICSN (International Canadian Student Network); these included trips to see the Toronto Blue Jays versus New York Yankees baseball game, a day at Niagara Falls and a hiking trip to see the leaves changing.

Niagara Falls

 

The cost of living in Waterloo is lower than in Brisbane, with my accommodation being especially cheap considering it was right next to campus as well as bus travel in the Waterloo-Kitchener Region being free for university students. Culturally, I would say that Canada is rather similar to Australia, however, their university culture is quite different from QUT. The University of Waterloo is highly focused on academics, with most students taking 5 or more subjects per semester.  For each of my psychology subjects, there were no assignments, and just 3-4 exams over the semester, which was a lot different than I was used to at QUT.

I would say that my semester on exchange was one of the best times in my life. I met many amazing people from countries all over the world such as Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and of course, Canada. I have learnt things about these countries that I probably would have never known otherwise, and taught them things about living in Australia and Brisbane.

I am so grateful to QUT for the opportunity to go on exchange and I’m very happy with myself that I chose the University of Waterloo. It was a lovely campus with friendly people and I can honestly say that I have made lifelong friends and made memories that I will always value.

Living like a Local in Kassel

Xaythavone Phommachanh, Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

Doing exchange abroad is one of my favourite opportunities that I could do while being in university. On July 2018, I took a journey to Germany to participate in an exchange program called International Summer University (ISU)– Kassel. This was my very first trip to Europe and Germany and I was excited and looking forward to it. Eventually the very first day arriving Germany came, it took some time to travel from the Frankfurt airport to the city of Kassel where the exchange program took place.

The city of Kassel is a small city where everything is pretty much easily accessible by trains, trams or foot, for example, stores, cafes, restaurants, museums, parks and so on. The University of Kassel, main campus, is situated not far north from the city centre. There are many tram stops around the university so it is very convenient to travel to study from the city and also outer suburbs. The main campus is large in terms of area. There are many buildings, namely the library, central canteen, study areas, etc. and my most favourite building of them all is, and I think you know what my choice will be, Zentralmensa or Central Canteen. This is because they serve cheap and good food, but you need to know how the Zentralmensa works so that you will get all the benefits.

Cheap and good food on campus

Throughout the program, I found that it was very well organised, educational and enjoyable. Staff and other participants were very kind, caring, cheerful and friendly. The program offered a German language course and a variety of seminars for participants to choose. Along with all those on-campus components of the program, the participants were also offered off-campus and extracurricular opportunities, for example, field trips in order to improve participant understanding about the chosen seminar topics and movie night or BBQ gathering to maximise the cultural experience of all participants. Furthermore, there are also recreational trips like a trip to Berlin, Fritzlar (a small historic town) and hiking trips, to name a few.

Recreational trip to Berlin

The cultural experience of the trip was maximised through extracurricular activities.

As the time of applying for this ISU program in Kassel, there was one aspect of the program that stood out and interested me to participate, and that was the opportunity to stay with a German family, they were really great at helping out with transitioning to the German culture. By spending time with them, I learned a lot about them and also the things that only the locals know best. I have to admit that I did little research about Germany before actually going on exchange, but because of them, I felt that I did not miss many things that are expected to do in Germany. Fun Fact: they like Tim Tams a lot!

I recommend that everyone join this program.

Overall, the program is so good. I recommend everyone to join this program, International Summer University – Kassel. I am sure that you will have a good time here. 😊

A Summer Spent in the City of Smiles

Madison Brittain, Bachelor of Creative Industries

Short-term program: “Experience Summer at Aarhus University”

Denmark (July 2018)

During July 2018, I participated in a summer semester at Aarhus University in Denmark. Where I studied Social Marketing as an intensive 2-week course. Aarhus is the largest and second oldest university in Denmark, the city is known for its young demographic and happy people. Aarhus, also known as Smilets (City of Smiles), was voted as the European Capital of Culture for 2017 where it’s legacy still lives on.

Aarhus University is a very dispersed university, with many of the classrooms and faculties spread across the city. Many of the buildings are architecturally different from what we see at QUT, the university’s design has followed the same principle since the 1930’s of characteristic yellow-brick buildings. The university is internationally renowned for this design and has received cultural excellence awards for it. The university also boasts the tallest library in all of Denmark!

University buildings displaying the yellow-brick characteristics.

The University boasts the tallest library in Denmark.

My accommodation was on campus and only a five-minute walk from classes. The accommodation was dorm-room style with a bed, night stand, wardrobe, desk, chair, sink and mirror all provided. The kitchen and bathroom were shared with 9 other full-time study students, but they had plenty of facilities so waiting was never an issue.

I was enrolled in a course called Social Marketing where I attended class for 3 hours a day for 2 weeks straight; with 2 assignments and 1 exam as my assessment. The subject was broad but gave an insight into all the workings of social marketing. The class was made up of both local and international students which helped to give a world perspective on ways in which social marketing is used in different countries. The classes are very informal, with students and teachers being of equal ground.

An art installation of a cat pouring water into a bowl on the grounds of the university.

The university offered an amazing social program including activities like canoeing, visit’s to the Old Town, ARoS museum (which is a must), and many more activities. While I was there, the World Cup was being played out in Russia and the local community set up a massive screen by the water front for the locals to come down and watch the games. It was a great atmosphere and a great way to end the day (even If the sun didn’t set until 11pm some days).

Part of the rainbow 360 art feature at the ARoS museum.

A glimpse of the houses along the banks of the river from the canoeing trip.

The cost of living in Denmark is very similar to Australia, with drink and food prices on a similar budget. Some super-markets charge more than what you would find in Coles or Woolworths, but with the variety of supermarkets they offer, it is easy to find a cheaper price. Public transport in Aarhus is quite expensive to, as the Danes are very much a bike culture. Bikes are easy to rent out around Aarhus and a great form of exercise. Taxis are ridiculously expensive in Denmark and cost you approximately $20 to go 750m.

Danes are the nicest people around and are always willing to help you; they aren’t loud or rowdy, they do not litter or act out in public. Aarhus is an incredibly beautiful, small city with friendly locals who can all speak English amazingly. I’m grateful for my time their and would highly recommend it to anyone!

Studying and Travelling in Japan

Hello again,

Instead of discussing general things about Japan this entry I thought I would detail specifically what studying and travelling within Japan is like. So, this entry will be more interesting to those who want to know more about these two aspects of Japan.

I must admit that studying Japanese has been very difficult. It’s a far more complicated language than I first expected. For example: symbols known as ‘kanji’ can have multiple meanings depending upon the context that they are used within and words that are pronounced the same can have different meanings depending on context and intonations. But, as an exchange student, I have found that work loads are not particularly strenuous and I have very few major assessments. However, this does depend on how good you are at Japanese as friends of mine studying at higher levels seem to have quite intense work loads.

Furthermore, a typical university week will generally involve 5 days of classes. You may get lucky and only receive 4 days, but this is a rare occurrence. Also, you must attend the majority of these classes (at least at my university, Ritsumeikan) otherwise you will fail; but don’t worry, you would have to skip a lot of classes for this situation to become a reality.

Unfortunately, as a result of this, opportunities to travel are limited and can often only be done on weekends. This is what I have done through out my stay here and it has worked out fairly well and has undoubtedly been worth the hassle. However, this means that in order to see all the places I wish to see I have to be as economical as possible with my travel and, unfortunately, travelling in Japan can be very expensive. In particular, the Shinkansens (or bullet trains) are outrageously expensive (but I must say, very convenient). So, for travel, I have been taking overnight buses to all locations. Although these are admittedly very uncomfortable they are cheap (the most important factor of all), especially when you buy a Willer Bus Pass, which is available for all foreigners entering Japan. This link provides all the information you need about the pass: willerexpress.com/st/3/en/e3/buspass/.

I hope that this information will prove to be important to those who are considering an exchange to Japan and if anyone who reads this has any questions about studying and travelling in Japan please leave a comment and I’ll answer it as soon as I can.

Till then, Sayoonara.

P.S. make sure you visit Japan in Autumn so that you can see sights such as this: