Month 1 – Done and Dusted!

Even though I’ve hit my one month mark, I still struggle to believe I’m living in what has got to be one of the world’s most incredible cities. I feel as though my life has been flipped upside down a little, and in the midst of the excitement I’m sadly realizing my time here is going to absolutely fly by. In saying that, my settling-in experience hasn’t been totally flawless, so for those considering jetting-off to Shanghai Jiao Tong, I hope the information contained in this blog update ensures your transition is a little smoother than mine.

 

First point I want to make, all those stories you hear of pollution being terrible here? They’re not exaggerating. Initially, it will almost feel like you’re walking through a physical substance, and participating in any sort of sporting activity will leave you out of breath way faster than normal. The ever-present cigarette smoke doesn’t help much either. Secondly, before arriving I was always told how Shanghai is the Chinese city where East meets West. Traditional Chinese-style houses neighbor with those of a more classical French-style, and it’s just as easy to find a crepe as it is a dumpling. Whilst there is definitely some truth in this, the largest misconception I gained from these tales was that English was pretty commonly spoken across the city. This is definitely NOT the case, so if you’re arriving with little-to-no Mandarin skills, download Duolingo and brush up on those key phrases. You’ll need them. If nothing else, my pro-tip would to be print out your arrival address in Chinese to give to your driver. They will really appreciate it, and it’ll make your life just that bit easier.

 

On the topic of transport, taxi’s here are SUPER cheap, as is the metro. You’ll definitely benefit from a metro card so make that a number one priority when you arrive. The metro system here is also really easy to navigate, so don’t worry about getting lost. However, be warned that trains here, like Brisbane, don’t run all night. So, on those nights when you’re exploring the cities unbelievably amazing nightlife (make Bar Rouge your first stop!), and want to head home before 6am, take a MARKED taxi. Unmarked taxis are a massive scam here so be vigilant. Also, never catch a taxi from directly outside a club or bar. They’re generally about 4 times the price, so it’s worth your while to walk five minutes down the road. Another important note for when you’re out and about, always always always have a copy of your passport/visa on you. Whether it be a photo on your phone, a print out of a scan or the real thing (which I don’t recommend as pickpocketing is an issue here). Police officers here have the right to ask to see a copy at any time and any place. Refusal or inability to give them anything they ask may land you in hot water. To quote our security officer, ‘don’t use things like human rights as an excuse!’. You also need it to do things like travelling domestically, booking a hostel room in addition to orientation or registration at your university.

When you do begin university life, there will be an absolute stack of admin to do. My advice would be to write a list, and get it done as soon as possible. First things first, set up a WeChat account – you honestly can’t live here without it. You use it to pay vendors, shop online, contact tutors, be informed about class info etc. For that last one, WeChat basically takes the place of Blackboard, so it is really important. When you set up your banking, get to the bank early unless you want to spend 3 hours sitting in their lobby (you don’t). Don’t forget your TFN either! When you get a sim card, I recommend China Unicom. You get unlimited data for a very reasonable price, and it’s a reliable network country-wide. If you’re studying/living in the Xuhui campus, there’s a Unicom and BOC branch right outside one the main gates, so it’s pretty convenient. Speaking of, if you’re torn between living on Minhang or Xuhui, I would highly recommend Xuhui. Not only is Minhang really far away from downtown Shanghai, but because it’s so big it has become its own little city. What I’ve heard from people who live there, is that this means you become rather reluctant to leave and explore because everything you want is around you, and you end up missing out on all Shanghai has to offer. There is a shuttle bus that runs between the two, but it’s still a hassle. So, unless the majority of your classes are taught there, I would say book in Xuhui. Side note, if you do book in Xuhui, your options are; Lianxing building and Tao Li Yuan. The former is an older building, and only the rooms on the top level have been renovated. The latter is new, and all the rooms are much more modern. I’m stuck on Lianxing level one which isn’t that nice, but I’m only here for one semester so I’m willing to put up with it. It was also, like everything in this country, so incredibly cheap that it’s not really worth complaining about.

 

Last but not least, if you are here on an X2 visa (one semester), you cannot obtain a Residence Permit visa. This is contrary to what I had been told, so it was a bit of a disappointment. You can add one more entry to your visa if you want, but that’s it. Just a word of warning!

 

Well that wraps up my post for month one! If you have any specific dorm orientated questions don’t hesitate to ask because I found very little information myself when I was looking. Until next time!

A Cultural Explosion – My first few weeks in Hong Kong

Regina Collins

Bachelor of Law (Honours)/Bachelor of Media and Communication

Hong Kong Baptist University (Semester 2, 2018)

你好 (Nǐ hǎo) or Hello!

My name is Regina Collins and I’m in my third year of studying a Bachelor of Law (Honours)/Bachelor of Media and Communication at QUT. I have just started my Semester Exchange at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) here in Hong Kong and it’s hard to believe it’s already been a month since I began this journey.

Hong Kong as an exchange destination is everything I hoped it would be – a true explosion of culture. No matter where you’re from, I believe that Hong Kong has a place for you and the rich variety of culture is what makes living here such a fascinating and eye-opening experience. I decided when applying for the QUT Study Abroad program that I wanted to live in an entirely new culture unlike anywhere I’ve lived before. And while I will say that Hong Kong has fit that description, there is a certain similarity to Australian culture that make this place instantly feel like a second home.

Adjusting to living in a sleepless city like Hong Kong did take a few days. By the end of week one, I had mastered the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system and using my Octopus Card (which is, in a lot of ways, similar to that of a Go-Card in Queensland). I can now also navigate around my campus neighbourhood, know where the cheapest place to buy groceries is, and have a basic understanding of Hong Kong Currency in comparison to the Australian Dollar.

Having been here for a month now, I can definitely say I’m making the most of this incredible experience. A few of my favourite journeys so far have been catching the tram up to Victoria Peak, navigating through the Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok, taking the cable car up to the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, and of course, Hong Kong Disneyland.

Through this, I have formed memories with so many incredible people from around the world and began what I hope to be lifelong friendships.

At the end of the day, I still like l have so much to explore on this exchange and I look forward to seeing what else this beautiful, vibrant and cultural city has to offer. I intend to keep learning and thriving in such a unique environment and I’m so grateful to QUT and NCP for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime.

希望再次见到你 (Xīwàng zài jiàn dào nǐ) or Hope to see you again soon!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan

Hong Kong = Sleepless City!

Kate K.

Bachelor of Business – International

Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Semester 2, 2018)

Hi, my name’s Kate. I’m a third-year marketing student and I’ve just begun my year of exchange. I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since I hopped on an aeroplane and began my adventure abroad on exchange at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. It’s been a whirlwind of vibrant colours, breathtaking sights, mouth-watering tastes and incredible people and I can’t imagine myself ever wanting to leave this sleepless city!

I think Hong Kong is the kind of place that has something for everyone. It’s a buzzing metropolis where the buildings touch the sky, and the lights and people dance all through the night. It’s a culturally rich and diverse city with thousands of different cuisines at your door waiting for you to try them; and it’s an amazing country for anyone who wants to stretch themselves and open their eyes to a completely different way of life to what they already know.

Strangely enough I don’t think Hong Kong is a difficult environment to adjust to living in and I think this is because it’s so extensively diverse that finding a place to fit in with the way of life is pretty simple. I think the only thing I’ve found difficult to wrap my head around is using my transport card or “Octopus Card” to pay for services other than public transport. Here in Hong Kong your Octopus card can be used to pay for meals at both food courts and the university cafeteria, as well for any items at convenience stores like 7 Eleven (which is on every corner) and supermarkets. On the other hand, I think I may have adjusted my mindset almost too quickly, to how insanely cheap food is here, to the point where my initial reaction to a dinner costing over $100HKD (just under $20AUD) is that it’s really overpriced.

Every spare moment I have here I try to fill with all of the incredible things to see and do. I took the above picture at Victoria Peak, one of the best-known tourist hot spots in Hong Kong. I believe there are three parts to complete the entire Peak experience. The first is to ride the tram up to the top. It travels up hill at a very steep incline which causes all the surrounding buildings to look like they’re at a severe angle; and makes you very grateful that they’re no longer using the wooden one from 1888. The second part is of course to take in the amazing views offered from both the restaurants and Lion’s Pavilion (where the picture was taken). The third is to hike the trails down to either Pok Fu Lam, Central or Aberdeen and take in the luscious scenery.

Another experience which I can’t recommend enough is taking the cable car to Ngong Ping and climbing up to see the Big Buddha. The views from the cable car are absolutely spectacular… there really is no other way to describe it. The day we went was very overcast, so the cable car actually took us through some low clouds. The Big Buddha itself is simultaneously imposing and ethereal as he sits up with the clouds. I definitely recommend trying to go on a day that is a bit overcast or rainy because not only do you avoid the crowds, but also because the low hanging clouds give the experience an almost mystical vibe; as you can see in the photo below.

The things I’m looking forward to most on this exchange are the amazing sights I’ll see, food and activities I’ll try, but most importantly, I’m keen to immerse myself in Hong Kong’s global atmosphere and gain a greater understanding of cross-cultural communication. I’m also excited to embark on a well-rounded experience working with people from a plethora of cultural backgrounds on projects like university assignments; and expanding on that I would like to create friendships and connect with people who I would otherwise have never had the pleasure of getting to know without this exchange opportunity.

These first two weeks have been spectacular, and I’m eager to see what unforgettable experiences the next four months will bring.

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

5 Reasons Why Shanghai is a Decision You Won’t Regret!

Natalie Malins, Bachelor of Business – International

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Semester 1 2018

My BS08 degree entails a compulsory year abroad for which I chose to go to Shanghai and Paris. For my first semester abroad, I was lucky enough to receive the New Colombo Plan (NCP) mobility grant from the Australian government. I had many reasons as to why I chose to study in Shanghai, however, it mainly came down to the fact that I wanted to improve my Mandarin while learning more about the exponential growth of the Chinese economy.

The first few weeks were admittedly a bit of a rollercoaster (as they usually are with every exchange I suppose). Settling in and getting accustomed to the Chinese way of life proved to be a bit challenging at times, especially with the admin and visa side of things. Nonetheless, after getting myself sorted, I was able to relax and take in all that Shanghai had to offer. Four months later, I can happily say that I fell in love with the city. I could ramble on about it for ages if you let me, so here are the five main reasons why:

  1. University life

Shanghai Jiao Tong University is a very reputable and prestigious university in China. There are two campuses, one in Xuhui (the city), and one in Minhang (about an hour drive out of Shanghai). I attended orientation day at Minhang and was surprised at the large amount of exchange students. People always asked me, “aren’t you scared to go over there by yourself?”. The answer was of course! But I soon realised that everyone was in the same boat as me and there was nothing to be worried about.

I had classes from Tuesday to Friday, each class being around 2-3 hours. Classes were usually in a small classroom consisting of 15-25 students. Both campuses were nothing short of extraordinary and I was surprised at how well-kept everything was. I was at the Xuhui campus most of the time which had a canteen, restaurants, tennis courts, athletic track and not to mention, beautiful tree-lined streets.

  1. Culture

China’s culture is one of the world’s oldest cultures and if you ask me, one of the most intriguing. Shanghai is a bustling city with plenty of things to do from The Bund, to the French Concession, to the Umbrella Markets. What I found to be interesting was the mix of the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ Shanghai. I lived in Xintiandi, which is a tourist attraction covered with fancy restaurants and expensive boutiques. However, walk 5 minutes away from it and you find yourself in what I would’ve imagined Shanghai to look like a century ago; butcher stalls with meat hanging from the ceilings, old men playing chess on the streets in their pyjamas, street sweepers weaving their own brooms, old couples dancing in the park. With Shanghai growing into a modern city at such a rapid rate, I love that it still maintains its own unique character and charm.

As for the food…I think you can guess how amazing (and cheap) it is.

  1. People

I discovered the locals to be extremely friendly and helpful. The locals who lived in my residence were very chatty and pleasant, even when they couldn’t speak English. Additionally, the expat community is massive in Shanghai. I met people from all over the world and have stayed in close contact with many. You’ll find an international city like Shanghai to be quite transient, which is why people are more open to the idea of meeting new people.

  1. Nightlife

If you’re looking for a place with a CRAZY nightlife scene, Shanghai is your place. Many nightclubs have promoters, who give you free entry and free drinks all night. This is literally a city that never sleeps, and you can find something fun to do even on a Monday night.

  1. Travel

One of the definite bonuses of studying in China is its accessibility to the rest of Asia. I managed to travel to Thailand, Hong Kong, Beijing, Suzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Zhangjiajie (aka the Avatar Mountains). There are so many interesting and beautiful places in China alone that you don’t even need to leave the country. There are multiple airports and train stations in Shanghai which make it very easy to get around. Trains are reliable, affordable and super efficient. My highlights were definitely the Great Wall Festival (yes, a techno music festival on the Great Wall), and also Zhangjiajie National Park, where the movie Avatar was inspired.

These are the reasons why I believe that choosing Shanghai is a decision you definitely will not regret. I had many moments of doubt at the start, but at the end of it all I can happily say that it was one of the best decisions of my life. However, none of it would be possible without the support of the Australian Government and the QUT Study Abroad team.

If any of you have any questions about exchange or studying in China, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan

A snapshot of my Singapore experience (so far)

Rusil W, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Bachelor of Science

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (Semester 1 & 2, 2018)

In a bit under a week I’ll be flying back to Singapore for my second semester at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). To be honest, I don’t think I’ve really finished processing my first semester. But I’ll do my best to summarise it here.

To start, the first few weeks felt almost surreal. Coming from the very compact Gardens Point Campus, NTU – with ~20 student residential halls, ~15 canteens and 2 supermarkets (just to name a few things) – feels like its own self-contained town. These facilities exist because the majority of NTU students live on campus during the week,which results in a significantly different student life. Dinner at the canteens would be shared with (for less than $5 might I add). The student club culture also seems far more invested because everyone is on campus. In Mid-February, lion dance performances for Chinese New Year could be heard from my room, and in mid-April, cheerleading practice could be heard into the late hours of the night.

The semester started off with a trip with some other exchange students to Pulau Ubin – a small island off Singapore which hasn’t been encroached by the concrete jungle. It acts as a kind of heritage area for the what the main island was like before major urbanization. This provided a great first opportunity to meet other exchange students from across the world – Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, China … too many for me to remember.

 

Most of the other exchange students I met primarily used Singapore as a gateway for travel throughout South-East Asia – using mid-sem break, public holidays, and even time between finals to visit countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Now, while I can’t begin to express my envy as I heard one friend’s plans to visit Vietnam between open book exams, Singapore isn’t just a travel hub. It’s also a cultural one.

People always think of Australia as a cultural mixing pot because of its very immigrant-based history, and Singapore is like that too, in a way. The island has three main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay and Indian. While the Chinese population is clearly dominant, it’s fairly easy to experience all three cultures in various ways. This includes physical places like Chinatown and Little India, celebrations like Chinese New Year, and the food (most importantly).

In fact, Singapore is probably the best place I can think of for an east meets west experience (besides maybe Hong Kong). This lets you sate virtually any cultural desire – which in my case was music. In just one semester, I managed to see two on campus concerts, a Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert (for only $10!!!!) and Fallout Boy – while eyeing performances by MIYAVI (a Japanese rockstar), the St Petersburg Ballet, and a showcase of works by Monet and Renoir.

Before starting exchange, a semester abroad sounds like a lot, but while there the time just flashes past. I’m glad to have another semester to do some things I missed, catch up with some friends, and make even more new ones.

 

Invest in an Italian Experience!

Christen W. Bachelor of Business (Honours)

Short-term program: LUISS ‘Market Regulation and Investments for Growth’

July 2017, Italy

It’s not every day that the chance comes along to attend an exciting, experiential summer school at a top university in Rome, spending two weeks learning from executives at Italy’s major financial institutions – so when the LUISS ‘Market Regulation and Investments for Growth’ program appeared in the short-term exchange portal, I jumped at the chance.

Ready and eager for the program ahead, I arrived in Rome late on a warm July night, my senses immediately enveloped by the soupy summer air, the lively and historical streets, and the rich undertones of the Italian accent resonating around me. I knew I was in the right place.

The LUISS residence that would serve as our accommodation for the next two weeks was renovated in 2016, providing excellent rooms and facilities that you might expect from a high-end hotel. Great views, strong WiFi and lots of space – the dream trio – were all present. The University is only a five minute walk past coffee shops, small European cars and cobbled streets. I quickly grew accustomed to the friendly greeting of ‘Ciao!’ from reception on the way out each morning; I could definitely see myself living in Italy!

Fantastic, modern accommodation

At our lecture in the Bank of Italy

Our program was a fast-paced, content-rich exploration of the various financial institutions of Italy, including those that seek to regulate and ensure level playing fields, such as the Italian Competition Authority and the Bank of Italy, and those that seek to catalyse investment in projects to spur growth, such as the European Investment Bank. Our small group of eight students was fortunate enough to visit and hear from senior figures from several of these organisations, providing us a first-hand glimpse into their operations and role within the larger European framework.

The level of academic rigour and expectations of the class were quite high, but with the enjoyable nature of a summer program; it was easy to be motivated to complete assessments and engage with lectures in such a stimulating environment. Our assessment pieces consisted of an in-class open book exam and two reports to be completed outside class times. Active participation was also encouraged and recorded to be put towards our final result. Being such a small group was a great advantage of this program – we were able to leverage maximum benefit from the classes, business visits, and our Professor, and I now have a network of fantastic friends around the world.

While in Rome, there were many chances to explore the local attractions and history, enjoy the famous cuisine in its home country, and even travel outside of Rome on the weekends. As I held the title of travelling the longest distance to participate in the program, it made sense that I would maximise the spare time on the program. The train network in Rome and Italy, including the Metro, inter-city and regional trains, are highly efficient and affordable, making them a great option for travellers; this is in contrast to the buses and trams of Rome which were often less than reliable (and much maligned by the Roman public).

The Duomo, Florence

The Leaning Tower!

In front of the Trevi Fountain

On the first weekend, I took an early Saturday morning train from Roma Termini to the popular and beautiful city of Florence. The day was full of walking and enjoying most of Florence’s attractions, including the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. Sunset from Piazza Michaelangelo sealed in my mind that Florence is no ordinary destination. After some final sight-seeing on Sunday morning I took the short trip west to Pisa, where I spent Sunday afternoon in Campo dei Miracoli, taking in and climbing the leaning tower, the baptistery, and the nearby museum. It wouldn’t have felt right returning to Rome without this stop!

On the last Saturday I headed east from Rome to the ancient town of Tivoli, which made for a fantastic day covering many kilometres through the highlights of Villa d’Este, Villa Gregoriana and Hadrian’s Ruins. Some of the best places are those that are little known or underrated – discovering them is one of the great joys of travelling.

A small piece of advice is to budget generously for food, as the delicious meals that Italy is famous for do come at a price. Try to occasionally eat in – your bank account will thank you! I would highly encourage anyone interested in this or a similar program to take the plunge; the experience, the international friendships, and the broadening of horizons made it beyond worthwhile. You won’t regret it!

At the Colosseum

The end of a great program!

Sawadee pee mai Thai (Happy Thai New Year)

I was lucky enough to be in Thailand to celebrate Songkran, the celebration of traditional Thai New Year. Celebrated every year from 13 – 15 April (although dates can vary depending on where in Thailand you are) and uses water, as a symbol of washing away last year’s mis-fortune.

Many of my new Thai friends have gone home to spend time with family, and those who are Buddhist, go and make merit at temples. However, the holiday is known for what I would consider the biggest water fight I have ever seen! These water fights are not everywhere in the country however all the biggest destinations hold them.

There is a mass exodus of the locals from Bangkok as most go back to their hometown but I stayed in the capital to celebrate Songkran. A couple of key streets become full of both international and domestic tourists and a few locals all keen to be involved in the celebration.

The morning of New Year’s Day, I headed to one of the spots for a big street water fight. It was insane! Even though I was not there during the busiest time I still came out drenched head to toe from a barrage of water guns, hoses and buckets. People who lined the streets wearing masks and gripping super soakers were my nemeses’. I left around lunchtime and while it was busy, there was still room to move and run to try dodging people’s shots at you. I did see videos of the same street later in the day and the wide street was packed shoulder to shoulder.

After being soaked we went back to clean ourselves up before heading to a bar which was holding a Songkran event in a more suburban area. Once we got there we could see how locals who did not leave the city celebrated – and boy were they wild! There were people young and old lining suburban streets throwing water at motorbikes, cars and buses that passed by. There was also white powder that they put on their face that apparently softens the skin. By this time of night many of the people were quite intoxicated and would run onto the road with the white powder and get the motor bikes to slow down while the coat the riders face with the powder.

Songkran celebrations is one of the most fun festivals I have ever participated in and I think that Songkran alone is enough reason for me to come back to visit Thailand. I would recommend to anyone considering coming to Thailand, to try and time it with Songkran, to see and enjoy the festivities for themselves.

Day in the Life of a Japanese University Student (Rikkyo)

It has been just a little under 6 weeks since I embarked on my year long journey to Tokyo, where I am currently studying at the incredibly beautiful Rikkyo University. In the short time I have been here (which seems to have passed in the blink of an eye), I have leaped from my comfort zone in almost every aspect of my daily life; I eat a range of new foods, I have made a lot of new friends, explored incredibly beautiful places, and everyday I attempt to speak in a language I am still highly unsure of. Nevertheless, I approach every day with an attitude of eagerness, and hope to continue to do so throughout my exchange.

Just some of my explorations so far: Tokyo Tower, Hakone, Kawagoe.

 

I’m sure I will continue to share my experiences about general life in Japan, however, today I will give you a brief overview of what my daily life as a student looks like, so far.

 

Morning:

Typically, (unless karaoke from the night before is involved), I wake up early and lounge around my dorm. My dorm (RIR Shiinamachi, for those of you interested) is incredible, and I couldn’t have wished for a better location; I live just a brisk 15-minute walk from campus. I have breakfast in the cafeteria, where everyday, so far, there has been at least one item of food that I haven’t yet tried. I eat, chat with anyone who is there, and try to decipher the Japanese morning news, which, by the way, has an amazingly-brilliant number of wacky sound effects. Afterwards, I leave the dorm for the day at about 8AM, and get to University soon after. I usually spend the the time before class starts doing revision, practicing my Japanese, or doing some readings.

The view of the main building on campus. Every day I take so many photos of it! 

From 9:00AM = Classes:

Between 9AM – 5PM I attend class, each of which are 1 and a half hours long, and are distinguishable from my experience at QUT in a number of ways. Firstly, I don’t really have any lectures; all of my classes are analogous to “workshops”, and all have quite high participation marks built into the course structure (I’m talking 30/40%). The teacher (先生 – Sensei) goes through the topic in reference to the weekly readings, and then opens the floor for discussion or asks specific people questions. With the credit system here, I have to study 7 subjects, and some meet more than once a week, so I have 11 actual classes. However, the difficulty of the work is, in my opinion, significantly less intense than my subjects back home. The assignments and exams are not overly difficult, however the general study is A LOT more (I come 5 days a week, I have homework for every class, every week – often more than once a week, and this is on top of regular study).

A typical classroom. Very old school, and yes, they still use the blackboards. 

There are 6 periods in a day (you may not have class in every one, though) and conveniently a designated time for lunch! Between 12:15PM – 1:00PM, students burst from their classrooms and fill the campus’ multiple cafeterias (食堂 -Shokudō), and the convenience store nearby. The food is so cheap, generally under $5AUD, and is always good quality –  in true Japanese fashion.

If I ever have spare periods, you will probably find me in the library, which is wonderful and has an astonishing amount of resources to use/browse. You will always find a seat, and it is always super quiet; the Japanese cultural values of politeness and conscientiousness really flow through to every aspect of life.

 

6:00PM – Bedtime:

The neighbourhood bell (that’s right, a bell), chimes out at 6PM signalling that it’s DINNER TIME (side note: this isn’t actually the sole purpose of the bell, but for Shiinamachi dorm, it usually is). My friends and I walk down and grab our trays and tables, waiting to see what the new exciting dish will be. There are often Japanese game shows on, which we play/watch along with – sometimes to the point where everyone is screaming and laughing at the TV. I spend an hour or so down there, just chatting to everyone about the day. I will definitely miss chatting to everyone I have met here so far, as they are all only here for 1 semester. In the time after dinner and before I sleep, I usually just do what I did back home; I watch TV, talk with family, or study.

Some of the amazing dishes so far! I stole these photos from my friends, because I am always too hungry to take pictures first! 

So, although some things remain the same from my life back in Australia, many, many things have changed. And so far, I am really enjoying it. I love the people I am meeting, the new schedule I follow, the time I have to dedicate to my studies, and the areas around me I get to explore some more of everyday. If you have any questions about studying in Japan, or something you want to know about general life in Tokyo, please let me know!

Until next time! またね~

Compare the Pair (Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand)

One of the things I love best about Southeast Asia is the closeness of other countries. I have already been able to visit two new countries; Singapore and Malaysia.

When I first stepped off the plane in the middle of the night in Singapore I knew it was going to be something entirely different from Thailand. The airport looked like a luxury hotel and the process was very efficient. We got a taxi from the airport to our hostel and were even told to do up our seat belts!

Myself and two fellow exchange students woke up the next day ready to explore. We only had one day in Singapore and we wanted to make the most of it. We began our day taking the train to the botanic gardens, the perfectly groomed greenery was a nice contrast from the surrounding city it reminded me of Central Park in New York City.

Waterfall in the Botanic Gardens

 

We then travelled to Little India. Here we saw beautiful yet quirky street art. Even in Little India, a place known to be more chaotic, the streets were so clean and orderly. I was beginning to see how ahead of the times Singapore was in regards with efficiency and modern development. It reminded me of District 1 in The Hunger Games.

Street art in little India

By now it was lunch time and we were hungry for the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world. We headed to a hawker market in China Town to check it out. The food was tasty however I have tasted food of a similar quality and price in Thailand.

Following our quick sit down for lunch we headed to the Marina Bay area. This is by far the most glitzy and photographed area of Singapore. We had some time to kill before we the light show started, so we went to a rooftop bar, LeVel 33. Here I got their IPA that was brewed in house, it was pricier than anything else I’d spent that day but worth it. During our time here, the sun began to set so we headed out to the Supertree Groves. Their glow was stunning! The view from a distant lookout and below them were both gorgeous. Time was ticking on our 24 hours in Singapore but luckily, we only had one more thing to tick off, the light show on the Bay. I had read reviews about how it was nothing special, so I didn’t have my expectations set high, but boy I couldn’t disagree more. The special effect lights and sound were so perfectly timed to tell the story of a beautiful bird spreading its wings. For a free show that is on every night I felt that I got way more than my money was worth. My time in Singapore helped me understand that even if countries are in the same region, historic and current events can shape the economy and culture of those countries very differently.

Roof top view of Marina Bay

Super tree Groves

Light show

 

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur early the next day. I would consider the development of the city somewhere between Bangkok and Singapore. We first ventured to the old part of the city to visit some museums that gave us greater perspective of Malaysia’s past and its current culture. We were prevented from entering the museum until an hour after we arrived due to Friday prayers. The echoing of the prayers over the old city was fascinating. We next visited the police museum. This enlightened me on how many colonies have tried to rule Malaysia. Later that night we went out with other people from the hostel to a backpacker bar area. It was lots of fun and I ended up learning salsa dancing from a Costa Rican!

The next day we visited the Batu caves. It is out of the city slightly. Once there, you climb 272 stairs to get to the top where there is a temple. We were lucky to be there at the start of a Hindu festival, Thaipusam, so there were many traditional ceremonies happening. One of the most notable things were people all dressed in yellow carrying offering in metal vases on their heads. Later that day we went to the new part of Kuala Lumpur to check out the famous Petronas Twin Towers.

Top of cave

The following day we headed to Cameroon Highlands, a popular Malaysian destination known for it’s greenery and tea plantations. We arrived in the afternoon and went on a small hike (there are many popular trails in the area). The trail led to a waterfall. As we walked along the waterfall to the bottom of it, I sadly saw mountains of rubbish that had piled up after going along the stream. It was a very visual representation of the ugliness and destruction our waste is doing to the world. The next day we walked one of the longest trails in the area, that also had the best view of the region. Along the way there were many beautiful trees and shrubs but again plastic was almost as plentiful as the trees in the rainforest. The walk was very pleasant and made even more so buy a dog that decided to come with us, I called her Milly. Our final day in the Cameroon Highlands the three of us went on a tour that included a small guided hike and a trip to the tea plantations, bee farm and strawberry fields. The guided hike was interesting, I learnt there were over 500 types of moss in the forest and that there were flowers that caught and fed off bugs. The tea taste testing was also delicious.

View from the top of the hike trail

Our final destination for my two-week trip was George Town, on Penang Island. This town had a very heavy English influence, complete with splashes of classic English infrastructure around, such as the red telephone booths. One of my favourite parts of the area was the high value it placed on art. I have never been anywhere that had so much street art. All the art added so much character to the town. There were also many art galleries that displayed local visual artists. On the final day we visited the beach. It was nothing special as again, it was full of rubbish along the shore. However, getting in the ocean still felt like a perfect way to end my time in Malaysia.

George Town street art

It’s eye opening to see how different countries that border each other are. Singapore’s big difference is it’s valuable trading port, giving the nation great wealth to build modern infrastructure. Whereas, Malaysia is a melting pot of culture, it has a lot of Malay, Chinese, and Indian people and traditions that make up the country.

5 Must-Have Apps When Studying Abroad in South Korea

Marisa K, Bachelor of Journalism / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)

Korea University (Semester 1, 2018)

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!