Experience American small-town hospitality; live and study in central Washington

Central Washington University

Location: Ellensburg, Washington State

Why here?: Fun activities available all year round, small American town hospitality and people, small class sizes.

Central Washington University is located just 90 minutes SE from Seattle and spreads over 380 acres of Ellensburg. Ellensburg is perfect for those outdoor explorers with heaps of hiking and biking tracks in the Summer, and some skiing and snowboarding in the Winter. You can enjoy heaps of activities and some of the world’s finest fly-fishing throughout the year, as the area offers great weather. The area also has galleries, museums, bars and pubs to experience. With quaint brick buildings, around 20,000 people and being a stop on the professional rodeo circuit, Ellensburg is a quintessential small American town.

CWU campus in winter

CWU offers a number of distinguished academic programs including music, geology, physics and education. The university offers small class sizes, and with a ratio of 19-to-1, you will be able to make new friends easily, and get to know your professors. The Wildcats, wearing crimson and black, are known for their men’s and women’s rugby teams. Sport is not the only fun activity offered – you can catch a movie, art exhibit, a game or relax in the Japanese Garden.

Go Wildcats!

Take a road trip to Portland over a weekend, or visit Seattle in a break. There are lots of small towns to visit in the nearby area if you want to explore even more of America. If you’re looking for a small town American experience then CWU is the perfect place for you.

Photos from Central Washington University Facebook page.

Experience vibrant city culture and historic architecture in beautiful Scotland

University of Glasgow

Location: The West End, Glasgow, Scotland

Why here?: Ranked in the top 1% of world’s universities, culture, music, entertainment, travel.

The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and is ranked in the top 1% of the world’s universities. Scotland offers a world-renowned education system – there are more world-class universities per head of population than anywhere else in the world! The University of Glasgow’s campus is filled with incredible historic architecture, centred on the landmark neo-Gothic Main Building. You can choose from a variety of different study areas, working alongside other British and International students in lectures, practical workshops and tutorials. The International Office offers support and guidance throughout your exchange, and can help out with finding accommodation for your semester (or two!) abroad.

Glasgow loves its music scene, hosting all the artists you want to hear. Located in The West End, the university is perfectly situated if you love boutique coffee places, bars and shops. The area holds several festivals throughout the year, including an International Comedy Festival. Being a student you might be looking for some cheaper entertainment, and Glasgow has you covered. There are plenty of museums, galleries and parks to explore in the area, free of charge. After hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014, Glasgow is also set with state-of-the-art sporting facilities.

With Glasgow as a base, you’re in an ideal location for exploring the breathtaking scenery and spectacular castles of Scotland. If you’re looking to get out Glasgow for a weekend, Edinburgh is about a 1 hour drive, and the English border only 2 hours away. You can even fly to London in only 4 hours! You can also explore national parks and the Clyde Coast just outside of the city.

Photos from University of Glasgow Facebook page.

Modern but classic – best of both worlds in central Scandinavia!

Malmö University

Location: Malmö, Sweden

Why here?: 7th happiest place to live in Europe, bikes, Scandi lifestyle, food and culture.

Malmö was voted the seventh happiest place to live in Europe in 2016, and has been nominated as the sixth most bicycle-friendly city in the world.  It is Sweden’s third largest city, where modern and dynamic meets classic and traditional.

Malmö is a very bike-friendly city

The International Office offers students a lot of help during the first few weeks of your exchange semester or year. You can study Swedish language in an intensive three week course, and international students are offered the possibility to study Swedish Language, Culture and Society during their first semester abroad. A large number of courses at a bachelor level are taught in English, so you don’t need an expert knowledge of Swedish before you go!  There is also on-campus housing!

On-campus housing means you’re never far from the action

Malmö is connected to mainland Europe and is only 35 minutes away from the Danish capital of Copenhagen.  The city is filled with green spaces and canal streams, and with a short walk you’ll find Malmö’s sandy beach Ribersborg. With more than 300,000 residents from 160 different nations, you’ll be sure to fit in. The city is also known for its café culture, bars, restaurants, music venues, theatres and clubs.

Malmö is two and half hours away by train from Gothenburg, an hour plane journey from Stockholm and Oslo – if you’re passionate about living and studying in Scandinavia, Malmö is the place for you!

Photos from Malmö website and social media.

Country music and ice hockey in beautiful Calgary

University of Calgary

Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Why here?: Close to mountains, beautiful and safe city, great vibe, hockey, country music!

U of C is the second best young university in the world! They are renowned for their high quality research and for playing host to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics (Jamaica we have a bob sled team/Eddie the Eagle…). The main campus, easily accessible by train or bus, includes a world class ice rink, gym, and three main residential buildings for exchange students. Cascade Hall is where most exchange students reside, but Aurora and Yamnuska are also great options for immersing yourself in the U of C culture with Canadian students (I chose Yam).

QUT student Emma enjoying the snow

Speaking from experience, the application process for accommodation and subject selection is quite easy and straight-forward, and the staff are incredibly helpful if you have trouble. Best of all, most other activities and services (such as bus and train fares, and the gym) are included in your application process! This means you will know exactly how much spending money you can put towards travel, food and night life.

Getting into the spirit of things!

With local hockey (go Flames!) and football teams (go Stamps!) and with the U of C Dinos teams, Calgary offers plenty of opportunities to experience the sports Canadians love. Calgary is also the home to the famous Stampede, so expect two-stepping and line dancing at midnight in the country bars around town.

Close to the mountains, an easy trip to go skiing

Study in the heart of Germany

University of Stuttgart

Location: Southern Germany

Why Stuttgart? Southern German hospitality, food, travel opportunities and cars!

The University of Stuttgart is one of the leading technology-oriented universities in Germany, and is located in a region known for its economic strength, cultural integration and innovation. Every semester the University of Stuttgart welcomes exchange students from all over the world. Most courses at the University of Stuttgart are taught in German, however if you’ve previously studied German you can develop your language skills further during your semester aboard! Stuttgart also offer some great language programs that you can undertake during the semester break (for more information, see the QUT Global Portal).  

Stuttgart is located an hour from the picturesque Black Forest, and is the sixth largest city in Germany. The city is known for its beautiful architecture, old castles and churches and vibrant cultural life, and the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums. Stuttgart is situated closely to a number of famous German cities and towns, including picturesque Heidelberg (two hours by train), beer central Munich (two and a half hours by train) and Nuremberg (two and a bit hours by train).

International students are welcomed and looked after by employees from the International Office, and students are able to join the ‘Buddy Program ready, steady, study’. The program offers help for new international students, as well welcome events and activities throughout the semester.

QUT student Gemma and friends on the Stuttgart Winter exchange program.

Come and meet representatives from the University of Stuttgart at the QUT Exchange Fair!

 

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

University of Liverpool

Location: Liverpool, England

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

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

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

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

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

 

Touch Down in Singapore!

Well it has officially been three weeks since I touched down in Singapore! Let me quickly tell you just a bit about myself. The names Dana, I am an avid netball and sports fan, action/comedy movie enthusiast, aspiring traveller and dog lover. I am doing a BS08 Bachelor of Business – International degree with economics major, and am currently 3 weeks into a 15 month adventure in SG! Yes. 15 MONTHS! I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship to work and study in Singapore this year. My program (at the moment) starts with a 6 month internship at PwC Singapore working in their Growth Markets Centre, followed by two semesters of study at Nanyang Technological University.

Strangely enough, I almost feel at home here in Singapore. Adapting to the different country and culture came a lot more naturally then I had anticipated and thankfully this has made for a relatively smooth start to my exchange. Transport here is unfaultable so I am finding my way around easily and food is never hard to locate (or afford if you are at a hawker centre!). The local Chinese family I am bunking with are wonderful and welcoming, and I think they have made leaving my family for the first time much less difficult. My accommodation itself certainly met expectations and is well located in a traditional and local area not too far from the city. Even adapting into the professional workforce for the first time hasn’t been too rough, although my back and neck are protesting a desk life.

Nevertheless, not everything about this exchange has been easy. I’m going to be honest with you – I’m the baby of the family, I’m overprotected, I haven’t travelled much and I have a very strong and close relationship with my family and 4 month old puppy…

Leaving wasn’t easy – it never is.

Saying goodbye to loved ones was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Even just thinking about hugging my puppy for the last time, and waving goodbye to my family as I walked to the airport gate brings tears to my eyes. It’s hard to grasp that you will be leaving for so long, but when you do it is one of the most nerve wracking and sickening feelings.

Rolling on from having to say goodbye – day one was the worst. A 2am flight with a busy day full of visas and bank accounts probably didn’t help, but day one, for me at least, was when everything sunk in. All I did that day was cry. I’ve never felt so lost and alone in my life. I felt isolated and out of my depth.

I made it to perhaps 3pm before I threw myself onto my bed, called my mum and bawled. And that was all I needed. I just needed someone to talk to, to cry to, and to tell me everything was going to be ok. That I had the experience and opportunity of a lifetime ahead of me. That this is what I wanted and I was going to do great. The call lasted an hour, but it fixed everything, and when I woke up the next day I was ready. It was as if day 1 never happened. I felt at home, I felt adventurous, I felt safe, calm and ready to explore. So I did – all weekend, to get used to my new home. Now, 3 weeks in and I haven’t had a bad day again.

There is no denying that shock will hit you. For me it was day 1; for you, it might be a week or even a month in. It will hit, and it will hurt, it will be tough, and you will doubt yourself and want to go home. My advice is to take it as it is. Moving overseas is a new and intense experience, it can’t be flawless. Expect to have bad days, because you will. Just make sure you have someone to call, to tell you everything is ok. That’s all you really need to hear. You realise home, familiarity, normal, is just a phone call away. It’s not as far as you think.

If you are worried about going on exchange – don’t be. Yes, there will be tough times, but I assure you the good times will outweigh the bad a million times over! Going overseas is such an incredible experience and in the technological and integrated world we live in today – home is never far away. Plus, there are so many people who can help you along the way, the QUT international student mobility officers, present and previous exchange students, friends and family – you are never truly alone, there will always be someone to back you.

That’s all from me (for now), but please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding exchange, Singapore, internships, the New Colombo Plan – anything! I’m happy to help! If you’re interested in Singapore or Asia in general, check out my Instagram downunderdana – I am challenging myself to post a different photo every day I am away, so over the 15 months… there’s going to be a lot.

Travel: Before or After?

Whilst semester one at QUT is yet to start, here at The University of Exeter my fifth week has begun. I’ve been abroad for almost 3 months now, so how has this side of the world treated me so far?

Before I arrived in Exeter I spent a month doing the typical Aussie thing and took a Topdeck Tour around Europe, and what do you know?  Around 3/4 of the group were Australian. Doing a tour before or after my exchange was something I mulled over for quite a long time, but from the moment I got on a bus with a group of strangers I knew I’d made the right call doing it beforehand. My tour group became a second family. You can’t spend 18 days in close quarters with the same group of people and not become close. Together we travelled to 8 different countries and saw parts of the world older than Australia itself.

On my travels I saw the Colosseum in Rome, cruised the canals in Venice and reached Jungfrau, the top of Europe, in Switzerland. This tour enabled me to see parts of the world I wouldn’t necessarily have seen by myself. I climbed the never-ending stairs of the Arc De Triumph, ate snails and avoided Haggis like the plague and explored the nightlife in Edinburgh.

Canal Cruise, Venice

 

Hogmanay Torch Procession, Edinburgh

But it wasn’t simply the sights that had me amazed on the trip. My Trip Leader (don’t ever call them a tour guide), somehow had all of Europe’s history stored in his head. So on the long drives between countries he shared his knowledge and I learnt more on those bus trips than 2 years of high school history could ever teach me.

Because of this trip and with a great deal of help from our Trip Leader I learnt how to integrate myself into other cultures. In most countries I was taught the basics, hello, goodbye and thank-you, other than that however I was on my own. It forced me, along with the help of my new-found friends, to figure out our own way home on public transport in Rome or a walking route in Florence. I learnt the awkwardness of a checkout exchange when the only English the server knew was chocolate and I learnt to become more street-wise in Paris. Being forced into these situations made me so much more aware and appreciative of other cultures, which in turn made me more confident in my abilities to travel alone and study abroad.

Navigating the trains in Paris

The streets of Florence, and its beautiful Cathedral

My trip across Europe will definitely be a highlight of my exchange. It enabled me to see the places I wanted to go back to (almost everywhere) and was the perfect way to become accustomed to different cultures before settling down in England. I felt more excited than ever to start my exchange and even made some friends along the way. So if you’re stuck on the before or after question when it comes to travelling, the answer is before. But, who knows, you could end up doing both!

My incredible tour group in Amsterdam

Why study abroad?

Going abroad for a semester has taught me so much about the world and about myself, and I really would recommend it to anyone that has the opportunity. Some of it has been really hard, I will admit. But it has all been worth it.

The biggest problem I had was with my units when I got here. This really stressed me out because I was worried I would lose my scholarships since I would only be enrolled part time at QUT. Another big challenge I had was home sickness; it took about 50 days before I realised I was home sick. Iceland is pretty much exactly on the opposite side of the world from Brisbane, so the time difference was really difficult to deal with, not being able to talk to my friends or family during the day because everyone is asleep. I dealt with it by talking more to my family and friends back home whenever possible. Something else that was really well timed were some road trips I went on with some new friends I’d made here. They really helped remind me why I was here, on the other side of the world; to see this beautiful country.

Lanmannalaugar is in the highlands. I took a Greylines tour (~$300AU) and it was pretty great. The bus drive was about 3 or 4 hours, a lot of this was off road so it was a bit exciting. We stopped every hour or so for food or toilet breaks or to take photos of some beautiful landscapes. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life and I highly recommend going here if you get the chance (they close down the place in winter I believe). When we arrived we took a 2 hour hike through the dried magma fields, then we had a bit of time to go swimming in the geothermal hot springs. It was so beautiful and the land was so diverse and different around every corner. This was one of my favourite places, and my first time outside the city.

Ljotipollur Lake; a lake inside a crater in the highlands

Gljúfrabúi


I also drove the south coast along the ring road with some other exchange students. It only took us a few hours to drive there, not including

all the stops along the way. We saw a lot of breathtaking waterfalls, including Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi, Skógafoss and Svartifoss (Black Waterfall). We also visited the black sand beach and the glacier lagoons. One of the more memorable places we went to on this trip was the first swimming pool in Iceland. We had to hike about 10 minutes to get to a small concrete pool, natural heated by the geothermal hot water, and pitch black with moss. Getting changed into our togs felt like a race against the cold, but you were more concerned about accidental dropping your clothes on the mud covered floor.

The black sand beach, Reynisfjara

 

Svartifoss (Black Waterfall).

Another wonderful road trip was to the north of Iceland, Akureyri. This trip was more about the landscape, and involved a lot more driving but was just as amazing. While in the north I went whale watching, but this was a huge mistake since I didn’t realise how sea sick I would be until we left the harbour. So I spent the next 3 hours with my head between my knees. We also saw more waterfalls and canyons and swam in the “Blue lagoon of the North”.

We ventured a bit out of our way to find the cave where a scene from Game of Thrones was shot

So it’s safe to say I had a few “wow” moments. I just couldn’t believe I was all the way over here in this beautiful country; a year ago I would never have guessed this is where I’d be.

It’s also pretty convenient for other travelling around Europe or America. I went to Copenhagen for a week and the flights were only $200AU. I’ve heard flights to New York are about the same price.

Austria: Centrally Located, Great for Travel

Exchange isn’t only about living in a new city, a long way from home. It’s about seeing as much of the world as you can that is now suddenly at your doorstep.

Vienna has many perks. A historical and cultural hub, a lively city and a wonderful coffee culture. For this post, however, the most important perk is its central location in Europe.

Whilst my classes were on, I have been incredibly lucky to have been able to take five subjects, one pre-semester language course, and still have been able to travel to 12 cities in 9 countries.

Devin Castle

 

Bratislava, Slovakia 

Likely to be the first international trip for many of Vienna’s exchange students,

Bratislava is a mere 45-minute train ride away (literally less time than it takes me to get to uni from home in Brisbane). The city itself is small, but the food is cheap. My tip: take a bus out of town to Devin Castle (pictured). It’s a 6th Century ruin that sits at the fork of two rivers, and it undoubtedly adds to the Bratislava experience.

The Chain Bridge and Parliament

 

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is about 2.5 hours away, and a very historical, interesting city. There’s quite a bit to see and do in Budapest, and a free walking tour is a great way to see a lot of it (they’re great in every city, not just

Budapest!), as well as hear stories about what you’re looking at. I also loved the tranquility of the thermal baths.

Graz, Austria

If you do the pre-semester orientation and cultural program, you’ll go to Graz, but because my friend and I didn’t, we took a spontaneous day-trip instead. Although it’s one of Austria’s largest cities, we managed to see most things, including climbing the hill to the Uhrturm (clock tower) in that time.

Porto, Portugal

Whilst I was on exchange, I was lucky enough to be selected and compete for QUT at

the University of Porto’s International Case Competition. While this involved being locked in a room for 34 hours to solve a case (albeit with 3 fantastic friends), it also involved meeting some amazing people from all over the world, and getting a guided tour by local students around the beautiful city of Porto. The comp was easily one of the highlights of exchange.

Team QUT in front of the Faculty of Economics, University of Porto

 

 

Douro Valley, Portugal

After the competition, QUT and several other teams went on a day trip to the world-renowned Douro Valley.  The valley was absolutely beautiful, and it was very refreshing to see such incredible scenery after Vienna’s relatively low tree-to-building ratio.

 

Inside the Sagrada Familia

Barcelona, Spain

(Unfortunately?) There are no direct flights between Porto and Vienna, so budget airlines tend to stop in Barcelona. We booked a couple of nights there on our way back, and got to experience some Spanish culture via sangrias, several walking tours, tapas, and paella. We were also very lucky to be able to spend time with people we’d met at various competitions (including Porto), and on exchange. Be sure to book online beforehand for Park Guell or the Sagrada Familia if you’d like to enter those, because they often sell out of tickets at the venue!

Berlin, Germany

I’d been interested in travelling to Berlin for a little while, but sadly I did it the disservice of not having enough time to truly explore the city (I would recommend 2-3 nights there, minimum). In the short time that I had there, I saw the East Side Gallery (pictured), the Brandenburg Gate, and visited the museum dedicated to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

The East Side Gallery, a large remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall decorated by street artists from around the world

 

Krakow, Poland

Inside the Basilica of St Mary

 

One year ago, if you were to ask me which countries I imagined myself visiting whilst I was on exchange, Poland probably wouldn’t have made it on my list. Enticed by my friend’s stories, 5 euro bus tickets, and a very large gap in my timetable, I decided to see Krakow for myself, and I was pleasantly surprised. The city has very student-friendly prices, and the old town square is bustling at all times of day. While I was there, I took a guided tour of Auschwitz, which was hauntingly moving.

 

 

Copenhagen, Denmark

I flew from Krakow onto Copenhagen to visit friends and see a beautiful city, and I was not disappointed. We ate authentic

Danish pastries, climbed the spire at the Church of our Saviour to watch a beautiful dusk and wandered through Nyhavn and Paper Island at night. Although Copenhagen is very beautiful, it is also quite expensive, and a surprisingly small city: my tip is that you only really need 2 full days to explore it.

View from the spire of the Church of our Saviour

 

Malmo, Sweden

The main square in old town Malmo

Many of the ‘Things to do in Copenhagen’ lists suggest ‘Take the train to Sweden’ – and

with my friend’s recommendation, I did. For the same price as entry to Copenhagen’s Tivoli you take the train across the bridge (famous in the TV series ‘The Bridge’) to Malmo.   Unfortunately, it was cold, windy and rainy for my daytrip, so most of my sightseeing involved comparing Swedish and Danish aesthetic (a little more colourful, but just as expensive), eating a delicious soup in a café that was also a record store, and eating New York cheesecake (thanks globalisation!).

 

Innsbruck, Austria

This trip was meant to be a trip to Milan with three other people, but ended up as a trip

to Innsbruck with one other person. It also ended up being one of the most beautiful trips I have ever taken.  We stayed at an Airbnb in Innsbruck, and our three days there

were filled with my friend and I turning every corner and gaping at the incredible scenery. One thing we did that I thoroughly recommend to anyone who’s interested in seeing Innsbruck is to not limit yourself to just the town.

View of Innsbruck

We took a “regional” bus, and stayed on until the end (approx. 20 minutes). Because the tickets are day passes, we wandered from one small town to the next (at most it would have been a kilometre between towns), and hopped on and off the bus as we pleased. It allowed us great freedom, and some amazing views (as seen in the photo below).

A stunning panorama outside the tiny town of Rinn

 

Vienna’s location allowed me to easily travel to all of these places with whilst studying. The question isn’t “Why Vienna?” It’s “Why NOT Vienna?”