Preparing for a year abroad

Hi! My name is Tara, I’m currently in my second year of a bachelor in business, majoring in International Business & minoring in Japanese. Tomorrow I will land in Tokyo, Japan & will soon begin my exchange at Rikkyo University. As someone who has dreamt of going on exchange to Japan since the 6th grade (I wanted high school exchange at the time but same thing), I can’t believe that tomorrow my studying abroad will begin.

As my first blog post for this journey, I really don’t know where to begin.

I guess I’ll start with the packing aspect of this pre-departure. Preparing myself for a year overseas has proven to be much more of a greater task than I originally anticipated…in terms of a year’s worth of luggage, I’m constantly remembering things I have to buy. Being the paranoid person I am I have been searching “things to take on exchange” to get an idea of what to pack. Video after video, my list gets longer & the slight panic that I may be forgetting something increases. Currently I have two couches and a coffee table piled with ‘necessities’ (necessities plus the many things my mum believes I can’t live without). I’ve got things ranging from vitamins, my favourite snacks & foods (Iranian tea is essential), a mini sowing kid (mum’s doing), clothes, shoes, posters (I don’t think I’ll be allowed to put them up in my dorm but you never know) and printed out photos of my family & friends.

In terms of mentally preparing for this exchange, preparing myself for not seeing my close friends and family for such a long period has been quite alarming. Meeting up with friends has been a high priority the last month or so. The sorrowful tears that were shed as my two best friends and I said our final goodbyes was something I didn’t think would happen, we have gone months without seeing each other but I guess the fact that we won’t be able to meet up whenever we want is an odd feeling.

Despite this, I am so excited for what is to come. I can’t wait to get settled in my dorm, make friends, finish all my orientation sessions and finally start classes. I look forward to walking on campus and embracing it all. By following my host university on social media I have seen some sneak peaks of what my life will be like for the next year. Watching posts from Rikkyo University of their campus has really hyped me up for what is to come.

The thought of living in a completely different country for the span of a year is  somewhat frightening. Although a month ago I confidently said I’m not worried at all, slowly I’m coming to realise that this is a much bigger deal than I originally thought. But truth be told, my sheer excitement by far beats any worries I hold.

Studying a language is one thing but immersing oneself in the culture is an entire experience of its own. I am incredibly excited to see what experiences I will have, what kind of friends I make, how my Japanese (hopefully) improves and the thing I’m most curious about is, what kind of person I will become by the end of this journey.

Hopefully, in my next blog I will be settled down in my dorm & have gotten into a routine with my classes, so until next time..

5 Must-Have Apps When Studying Abroad in South Korea

Travelling to a foreign country for the first time is daunting for anyone. Seoul is a fantastic city that has a lot of delicious food to eat, interesting things to do and beautiful places to visit. However, navigating the city and making plans can be tough, especially if you don’t speak Korean. Luckily, there are several smartphone apps that will make studying and making friends in Korea so much easier.

Here are 5 apps you can download for free that will make your life in Korea infinitely easier!

1. KakaoTalk


This is the number one messaging app in South Korea and it should be one of the first things you download as a newcomer to the country. Everyone and anyone has this app in Korea and trust me, it will become the main way you communicate with your new friends whilst studying abroad.

The app allows you to communicate with other KakaoTalk users through text and call and lets you send photos and videos all free of charge as long as you have an internet connection.

2. Naver Map


Google Maps is virtually inexistent in South Korea – the local version Naver Map is the more reliable and detailed map service to use. This interactive map application also allows you to download the maps beforehand for offline use. It also has a handy feature that lets you save and download locations in Korean which is useful for when you’re lost and want to show the address to a friendly local to get help with directions. The only downside is that you’ll need to be able to read and type in Hangul as the app is only available in Korean.

3. Subway Korea


Korea has one of the most organised and easiest to navigate subway systems in the world. However, the Subway Korea app makes it even easier. This app is available in English and Korean. Download it on your phone to navigate the quickest route to your destination with minimum transfers, receive information on when the next train will arrive, when the first and last trains are for the day, and which carriage you should be on for the quickest transfer. Subway stations in Seoul can be quite crowded and you don’t want to waste time trying to figure out the subway map posters so a few simple clicks are all it takes with the Subway Korea app to get you to where you want to go.

4. KakaoTaxi


Although Korea’s public transportation system is world-class, there will definitely be situations where you won’t be able to use the subway or buses (for example, in the early hours of the morning). KakaoTaxi has you covered for those situations. No matter where you are in Korea, this ride-hailing app is cheap, fast and convenient and will have a taxi dispatched to your location within minutes. The app works similarly to Uber and is a safe alternative option to public transport.

5. Yogiyo


Let’s face it, as an exchange student in Korea there’ll be many times when you find yourself hungry but too lazy to leave your room. Yogiyo lets you easily order anything and have it delivered straight to you – Chinese, pizza, Burger King, and even ice cream and desserts. You can also read recommendations and reviews for restaurants and the app has real food pictures so you can see what you’re ordering.

From towering city streets to ski fields and mountains, cultural and historical experiences, plenty of delicious food to eat there’ll be many amazing memories you’ll make whilst on exchange in South Korea! Just be sure to download these helpful apps to help you make the most of your exchange experience!

My New Home – Hong Kong!

The City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has exceeded my expectations. The view of the high rises from the University excited me so much when I saw them and now they are constant reminder of where I am.

Arriving was daunting as you are constantly asking yourself – will I like it, is it worth it, WILL I MAKE FRIENDS? After the first 48 hours in Hong Kong these worries were put to rest. The University, even now three weeks in, is constantly a-buzz with exchange students planning activities, meals and their next adventures.

It was hugely beneficial to arrive one week prior to the start of semester as every day is needed to start getting your grips on this big crazy city. The University was helpful in getting us settled in with organised trips to IKEA, Campus Tours and Orientation meetings. They even gave every new student a Portable charging pack and a Universal Adapter (very helpful after buying the wrong adapter not once but TWICE).

CityU has around 450 inbound exchange students this semester so there was no shortage of friends to be made. Over the past few weeks there have been huge community beach and park trips which has made everyone grow close.

In only this short time that I have been here I have also fallen in love with Hong Kong itself. There is an abundance of restaurants, cafes, landmarks, locations that will keep me very busy for the next five months. What I have loved most about Hong Kong, so far, is that for such a tiny area (approximately one 8th of the size of Brisbane) there are mountains, quaint fishing villages, parks, sky scrapers, beaches (of a high quality I might add as this is always important to an Australian) and trendy shopping and nightlife areas.

In terms of the more practical aspects of change I think it was a great decision to start on campus. Primarily, it is a hub for meeting people and only a short walk away from Uni. Financially, you are receiving a much better end of the stick. My room is bigger and cleaner than those paying 5 times what I am to live off campus and the fact that Hong Kong is such a small, dense area means that you don’t need to be living ‘in the centre’ to still enjoy all the benefits of city life. You can also more easily take advantage of the cheap cafeterias that that University offers (both western and asian cuisines). I highly recommend!

I have now booked a weekend away in Taiwan and a trip to Cambodia having only been here for three weeks! I cannot wait to see what the next few weeks have in store and will report back!

Jo Kelly-Fenton

Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Bachelor of Mathematics

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan. More information available here

Settling into Thai time

It has almost been two weeks since I first touched down in Thailand. Although I haven’t been here long yet, I have already faced so many challenges and have discovered many fascinating things about life in Thailand.

As this is my first blog post I think I am going to answer one of the most common questions I have been asked “why did you choose to study abroad in Thailand?” as well as how settling in to a new and very different home has been so far.

When I decided I wanted to go on exchange I spent a long time working out where exactly I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to go somewhere very different from Australia. I also knew that I wanted to travel quite a bit while I was away so finding somewhere affordable and close to other countries was also important. The last criteria I had was I wanted to be able to receive credit for core subjects while I was abroad. Out of all the options I was given Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand was able to tick the most boxes. Whilst for me Thailand seemed to be the best option it was quite clear that for most other students at QUT it was not. The lack of previous students having attended Thammasat University made it difficult to talk to someone who knew exactly what life would be like there. Also, due to the language barrier, many aspects of the university website were confusing and unclear. The lack of information about my studies and other things like how easy it would be to make friends and the best places to live was quite frankly a bit terrifying.

Thammasat University uniform

I arrived in Bangkok on the 2nd of January hoping to relieve some of my concerns during orientation week. The first event that I attended was uniform shopping. Yes, that is correct, in Thailand university students generally wear uniforms. I began to get a better picture of how the university and Thai student life worked after speaking to some of the Thai students that helped us buy our uniforms.

  1. The faculty I was in meant that I only had to wear a uniform when I was having mid-semester or final exams.
  2. Out of the 80 odd new exchange students only one other would be up at the Rangsit campus (just north of Bangkok) with me because most of the English programs were at the campus in the city.
  3. Thai people are really friendly and helpful people.

The university also paired me up with a couple of Thai students who studied up on the Rangsit campus. Both girls that I was paired up with were very lovely and helpful. They guided me on everything from how to get around to where to live. Although I was fortunate to have such supportive people helping me out I still struggled with simple things such as reading and signing the lease of the apartment I am living in. It may have been translated into English but the sentences did not make much sense. Since I was no longer in the tourist area asking a taxi or motorbike driver to take me somewhere was very difficult and it helped me realise how important learning some Thai would be for survival while I am studying here.

I have had one week of classes and so far, I have had a mixture of teachers. Some have been extremely charismatic, and good at English. Whereas others have been quite strict or had to ask other students to help translate some sentences into English for me. Either way being in journalism and communication classes have already proved to be a great way to get an inside look at different issues in Thailand and aspects of Thai culture that are not as obvious. I am very interested to see what the rest of the semester holds.

Although I came to Thailand with a bunch of concerns I have been able to work through all of the challenges and so far I am very happy with how everything is going. Being at Rangsit campus has turned out to be a positive. It has helped me to be able to befriend more Thai students than I would have been able to otherwise. I am also really lucky that the other exchange student in my faculty is really awesome and it has been great to have someone to travel to places near our campus and places closer into Bangkok with. I have learnt so much about Thailand and myself already and cannot wait for the next four and a half months here. I am going to try and post as much as I can on Instagram so if you would like to see more of my travels follow gabcarter.

“This exchange to me was a defining moment in my life.”

I will admit that moving to Italy was not an easy challenge personally as I had not had this type of experience before, in addition to the language barrier that I had to face. It was very intimidating. However, in the moment of being overseas and living there for 6 months I knew that everything there was because of me and thus I was responsible for everything that happened next. As a result I took courage and ventured forth to put myself out there, seeking help, making friends, getting as much experience as I could.

Riva del Garda, the biggest river in Italy on a summers day

To go on exchange is not easy, you expose yourself and let the world absorb you and you experience what the world has to offer. I would definitely recommend anyone to go on exchange, I considered myself to be an introvert before the exchange and during this period I had a change of heart to force myself out there and I can really see the benefits. It’s a risk, but the risk is worth if even if there are times were things are lonesome or grim but the fact of the matter is, you’re on exchange, you’re overseas. Make the most of it, pick yourself up and just get moving.

 

This exchange to me was a defining moment in my life.

 

Despite being 6 months, these six months are what made me choose and reaffirm my position not only in this career pathway but the decision for QUT being a university for the real world. I have changed personally, wiser, smarter and generally more open to anything and anyone as to feed my now fond spontaneous nature. Academically, I have had a revelation as to what it is to study, the importance for self-discipline, routine and the need to ask for help when needed. For my thesis work that I had completed, I worked on it alone and to my luck, had someone that worked on a similar material and was able to collaborate and get enough help to push me over the line.

Trying hot pot with a friend from Hong Kong

Working in a lab every week for a long period of time also enabled me to have a sense to how a professional job would feel like, the experience of having meetings, emailing updates, forms, presentations and events. It felt that in the work environment, a laboratory that is close functions well and brings morale high.

This experience is something unlike anything and definitely is my point of reference in my life as to when I changed for the real world. I would strongly recommend anyone to take the chance, take that leap of faith and venture outside the comfort zone and see how it is outside of your own culture and home. To go on exchange is a must at least once during a degree.

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

A Life of Leisure in Vienna

Naomi M, Bachelor of Nutrition Science
Vienna, Semester 1 (2017)

Sleeping in late, lazy weekends, enjoying a melange (Viennese coffee) and apple strudel in Freud’s favourite coffee house, picnics in the park, sunset drinks by the Donaukanal, summer walks through the vineyards, schnitzel, potato salad and a midnight käsekrainer (Viennese sausage with melted cheese in the middle).

These are all what it means to live in Vienna (Wien). No one else lives leisure like the Viennese. Every step outside surrounds you with century old architecture that makes you feel like the royal family will appear at any moment. The city is obsessed with green too. Every corner has a park and there’s no greater place to sit down and read your favourite book or people watch. No one is afraid to express themselves in public. From fashion to loud conversations; There is never a dull moment.

The atmosphere is welcoming and exciting for students in Vienna. There are always events designed to bring everyone together, so making friends was never hard. Although the class structure was different, it was easy enough to find your way through the many campuses spread across the city, thanks to the great public transport. The main campus felt like an Austrian medieval Hogwarts, which is not surprising as it is the oldest German speaking university in the world. Most students lived in private dorms but I shared a room. My roommate could not speak English, so we communicated mostly with embarrassed laughs, hand gestures and Google Translate.

Everywhere you go in Vienna is beautiful. I had the most fun exploring the city with my friends, always an ice cream in hand. One of my favourite past times was catching the tram out of the city to the vineyards and exploring the lusciously green forests that overlooked the city. Other days we would all venture to Prater, a theme park right next to the city, where we would ride old rollercoasters and eat fairy floss on the stick until the sun went down and the park lights lit up and welcomed the night to come. Vienna is located centrally in Europe, so weekend trips to Budapest, Prague, Germany, Poland, Slovenia and Serbia were common for my friends and I. Vienna felt so safe and welcoming; it was always so comforting to arrive back from travel to the beautiful city I had made my home.

 

 

New Sights, New Smells – Hong Kong

“Learn a little Cantonese and the locals will bend their backs to help you out”

Arriving in Hong Kong on my first day was both exciting and daunting at the same time – I had only been overseas less than a handful of times, let alone traveling by myself on this occasion. However, upon stepping foot on the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, the crowds, the dazzling LED lights and the new smells were comforting – I knew then that my time in Hong Kong was only going to get better.

If you plan to come to Hong Kong, you may notice (as I did) that Hong Kong locals hold different conceptions of “personal space”. I first noticed this when I boarded the Hong Kong MTR (a feature of Hong Kong which you will become very familiar with and learn to appreciate very much) from the Hong Kong airport to my hotel. Locals were comfortable with standing or sitting close together on trains, buses or public transport in general.

This was interesting as it was a quick introduction to the cultural differences between Hong Kong and Australia. As such, if you do find yourself in the Hong Kong MTR or on a bus and a local sits or stands next to you despite there being an abundance of space or seats available – this is not meant to intrude but rather to save space.

Scenes such as this are not uncommon in Hong Kong – Photo Credit Arnold M

Hong Kong locals are friendly, warm and will do what they can to accommodate your needs. You will often find this when you order food at a restaurant or food stall. Despite the inherent language barriers, locals will find ways to communicate and help you with your order. If you wish, you may reciprocate their kindness by thanking the person who served you in Cantonese – this is very much appreciated. There are an abundance of resources available in YouTube or Google to help you with basic Cantonese.

For those of you who are excited to try the cuisine in Hong Kong, do not fret, I will address the very interesting topic of cuisine in another blog post given its vast and varied nature.

I am currently undertaking my single exchange semester in City University of Hong Kong (CityU). CityU is located in Kowloon Tong and is very accessible by the MTR as the university is connected to the MTR station via a small tunnel. CityU offers a diverse range of courses which range from studies in European and Asian languages to Principles of Nuclear Engineering.

Although the CityU campus is not large, it contains many interesting features of which I highly recommend that you take advantage of to help you make the most of your exchange semester – from swimming pools, restaurants and large canteens, rooftop gardens to barbecue facilities (rest assured I will taking advantage of the latter).

CityU has some very interesting areas where you can relax and escape the heat.

To close, if you do find yourself entertaining the idea of studying abroad for one or two semesters – do not hesitate any longer and visit the STAE office in level 1 of A block in QUT GP campus.

I will be covering more things about Hong Kong, so watch this space再見 (joigin)

Forever Hungry in Hong Kong

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“You may never go hungry in Hong Kong; however, you will feel the perpetual desire to eat being surrounded by delicious food” 

As a cultural hotpot, Hong Kong boasts a vast array of cuisines and delicacies unlike anything I have previously seen. If you decide to undertake your academic exchange in Hong Kong, you can expect the whole Asian continent on the menu. Restaurants are scattered all around Hong Kong – even in places where you wouldn’t expect a restaurant. Precariously sandwiched between soaring high-rises and glitzy, boutique clothing stores, it seems as though every third shop on Hong Kong island is a restaurant.

During my time in Hong Kong, there were some definite standout dishes. This included Poke, Dim2 Sam1, soup-dumplings, open-air eating and Portuguese egg-tarts.

Poke is a dish which originates from Hawaii and consists of seasoned shashimi grade fish. Customers at Pololi, one of the poke shops in Hong Kong and my favourite Poke shop so far, can choose to pair the fish with rice or salad and top the dish off with a variety of sauces. The result is a creamy, fresh and very filling meal.

A very filling bowl. You can find Pololi here: 35 – 39 Graham Street Central

Dim2 Sam1 has a very long history, dating back to the height of the Silk Route trade. Literally meaning “to touch the heart”, small dishes in Dim2 Sam1 allows diners to enjoy a variety of dishes and flavours. In Hong Kong, you will be spoilt for choice with the innumerable Dim2 Sam1 houses.

For me, Lin Heung tea house was a standout. Established in the 1980’s, Lin Heung is widely known for its traditional style and delicious food. At Lin Heung you are not given a menu sheet. Rather, you must chase after the ladies pushing the carts containing the dishes.

Don’t look for love, look for the cart with the delicious food.
Lin Heung – 162 Wellington St, Sheung Wan

Wrapped within a delicate casing, soup dumplings are a perfect blend of meat and delicate soup. Every bite is almost a complete meal by itself. There are several places where you can find soup-dumplings, you can find a full list here.

The perfect bite everytime. Soup dumplings.

Dai pai dongs are open air food stalls that usually set-up tables and chairs on the street. I’ve often heard that dai pai dongs are becoming increasingly rare due to governmental regulations.

If you are looking for a cheap, no-frills meal, then look no further than the humble dai pai dong. The dai pai dong featured below was located at the corner of Stanley St and Cochrane St in Central Hong Kong. However, there are many more located throughout Hong Kong, you can find a full list here.

In stark contrast to the high-end fashion, the space-aged cars and the suits, dai pai dongs offer a down-to-earth perspective to Hong Kong.

A sweet buicuity base, creamy custard filling and a sticky sugary glaze, each egg tart is a littble bit of happiness. Although this picture was taken in Macau, there are an abundance of places in Hong Kong where you can get your hands on one of these cups of joy.

Baked Happiness.
Portugese egg tarts.

 Tips before eating: 

Money matters: You would not want to be caught having finished a meal and not being able to pay for it, so make sure to always bring sufficient cash with you at all times. Many food stores in Hong Kong only take cash. 

Hygiene: If you choose to eat at a street stall in Hong Kong, a good rule of thumb to follow is to follow the crowd. A crowded stall is usually a good sign as it shows that food will be in constant circulation.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to wash your eating utensils. Restaurants will usually provide you will a large bowl big enough to fit all utensils inside and hot tea. Simply place the utensils in the bowl and wash it with the tea. Please don’t drink the tea afterwards. If you are unable to do so, cleaning your utensils with clean bottled water will also do.

 

Looking for a little adventure? Travel!

Jordan W
(BCI student Majoring in Drama, Minors in Scenography and Literature)
Leeds University, UK

 

It’s been a little over four weeks now since returning from my exchange, and it has given me a lot of time to relish and ponder on the extraordinary opportunity that QUT has provided to students.

I firstly want to say that when people say that a student exchange is a life-changing event –

I want to say it is truly a life-changing event that will hopefully help shape you in years to come.

It really sets the whole motion on how you approach long-distant travel overseas, preparation for a trip, certain requirements that you need to do on your own before leaving your home country and helps you really feel what it is like to be self-sufficient – on your own – progressing into the unknown.

Just some of the friends you will make on exchange

It really is a new chapter in your life. It also helps the students who may not have left the nest yet, to really get a chance to spread their wings and learn how to fly on their own.

I was a person who had already been out of home for quite some time but had never had a travelling to distant sides of the world, jumping head first into the culture of another country, immersing myself for the better part of six months with students that did not know my history, background or culture kind of experience.

By the end, you will wish you could never leave – but that’s okay because at the end you would have made connections and can meet up with those friends again, traveling and searching the world together.

 

 

A Semester in the True North

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studying at Ottawa

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

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

Accommodation

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Life & Activities

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

The Weather

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Future Students

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

 

 

 

 

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