Vienna Exchange

Leah, D. Bachelor of Business & Law

Vienna University of Economics & Business (WU) (Semester 2, 2016)

WU and QUT differ in a number of ways – it’s not a good or bad thing, it’s just different. As WU only recently moved to its current location, every building is modern, inside and out. The highlight is undoubtedly the library: a place where students study in silence – which I will admit, is a little weird after the vibrancy of QUT’s law library. The academics are passionate about what they do, and something that WU does which is really good for class engagement is allocating a lot of marks for active class participation (on average, about 25%) – it creates a much more collaborative learning environment. Something they do which is also quite frustrating is because of this, most classes are quite small: there is only one time for a class, not 4 or 5 as there are at QUT, so if you miss class registration, it can be very difficult to find subjects and create a timetable that doesn’t clash. 

Another thing to be aware of is that the timetables are rarely consistent: whereas you might have Marketing from 10-12 every Wednesday in Z411 at QUT, the classes at WU are at different times every week, in different rooms. A class might go for 2 hours, or it might go for up to 8 if you choose a ‘block course’ – similar to a summer semester here. This inconsistency is both a blessing and a curse as an exchange student – it means you’re not locked into a bad timetable, and are thus able to travel still, but it does mean you never know where or when your class is.

Austria:

The cost of living in Austria is a little less than that of Australia, even with the exchange rate.  You could get lunch from the on-campus grocery store for about €5 or less, ($7AUD); and you could get a decent hot meal for €7 ($10AUD) on-campus, or at local eateries. Although they pride themselves on their coffee, it’s surprisingly expensive compared to other things: a regular melange would cost about €3.50 (~$5). Thankfully, there’s vending machines around campus that have good coffee for 60 cents (80 cents AUD), or €1.20 ($1.7AUD) if you want a larger cup.  Rent through the recommended organisation is quite expensive, but it is the most common option. If you are more adventurous, and are looking to save a couple of hundred Euro a month, looking into alternative accommodation is a good idea.

Austria is very centrally located, and this enables you to travel extensively for relatively cheaply, thanks to budget airlines, cheap buses, and the rail network. Whilst I was on exchange, I managed to travel to 13 countries, including Slovakia, Iceland and Portugal, and over 40 cities. It’s important to not discount travelling within Austria too – I would say that one of my favourite trips was to Innsbruck, in Austria’s west. Culturally, I found Austrians can be a bit standoff-ish. It’s something you adjust to, but it was initially quite jarring to go to the grocery store and not have the cashier talk to you at all.  Austrians living in the suburbs tend not to speak much English. My German skills subsequently developed a lot more than I expected.

Highlights

One of my unfounded worries in moving to Vienna for exchange was that I would struggle to make friends. Not true. Within three days I met people who I was friends with for the rest of exchange, and I’m sure I will stay friends with into the future. ‘Exchange time’ is a weird concept: time is compressed, everything is sped up: where becoming close friends may normally much longer in normal circumstances, it only takes a couple of hours or a day to become very good friends with someone.  At the same time, your time away both lasts and eternity, and is over far too soon.

Another highlight of my trip was seeing huge seasonal changes: when I arrived in September it was about 30 degrees, and then the leaves changed to classic Autumn hues, and then they dropped off, and snow came in: in fact, it was Vienna’s coldest winter in about 30 years. Travelling was also a huge part of exchange, and it was incredible to see how different cultures and foods and languages were geographically so close to each other. Being able to explore such amazing places with new friends cemented our friendships further.

Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Vienna as an exchange destination: there’s so much to explore, and such a rich culture and history in the country, and nearby.

Ottawa Ontario

Joel, R. Bachelor of Mathematics

University of Ottawa (Semester 2, 2016)

My first night at the University of Ottawa in Canada’s capital city was 30 degrees Celsius and muggy.  Not at all the weather I expected, but perhaps that was simply thanks to my lack of research into my host city.  My housemates were chatting in the lounge as I walked into my new home, a Chilean, Russian and a Belgian rounding out our multicultural apartment, and they made the next 4 months far more welcoming than that first hot night.

Before arriving in Canada I took the opportunity to visit Europe, managing to visit Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna and Munich before finally heading to North America.  I then spent another couple of weeks in Kelowna BC, Canada, a beautiful town which offers a huge amount of outdoor activities and natural beauty.

As the first weeks in Ottawa went by I took the opportunity to explore and meet my neighbours, generally fellow exchange students from places like Ireland, Sweden, England, China, the Netherlands and everywhere in between.  Ottawa is a curious mix between city and town, not as big or busy as Toronto or Montreal, but with just as much history.  Originally a frontier logging town, Ottawa prospered into the home of Canada’s government.  Separated from Quebec and one of its cities, Gatineau, by a large river, Ottawa is a city of beauty and variety as I came to discover during my time there.

Eventually the university semester started and I began my first classes in a new country, an experience that ended up feeling very similar to those I had at home.  Professors used technology to present lectures, answered class questions and gave assignments, just like they do at QUT.  The only major difference was the rack of winter coats hanging at the back of the classroom by the time cold weather came through in about November.  Snow followed soon after, transforming an already beautiful city into a winter wonderland (as corny as that sounds).

My apartment, while not luxurious by any means, was cosy and sufficient enough to keep me alive through the cold weather.  I was relieved to find the cost of living similar enough to Brisbane, with goods roughly the same or cheaper in Ottawa.  My housemates and our neighbours grew accustomed to the idea of spending 15 minutes or more just layering up enough to brave the -25 degree weather to go get some shawarma or poutine from the local store.

Through all the pitfalls of a new country, like dealing with tipping, winter clothes and the rules of hockey, I was lucky to have a tight group of friends to go through the same experiences.  We shared trips to Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls, even managing a week in Cuba, and meeting people like them has been the most important takeaway from my time overseas.  My advice to future exchange students is to focus on that network of friends, push yourself to talk to anyone and everyone.  Any city in the world has things to do, but it’s the people in that city that sets it apart and makes exchange a truly worthwhile experience.

Life of a Travel Blogger

Joel, T. Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design)

Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway (Semester 2, 2016)

Before commencing my venture to Oslo (Norway) I knew a few things, it was expensive, cold and Scandinavian design is what I wanted add to my repertoire. Arriving at Lillestrøm station (10 min train from Oslo central) we were greeted by a young female student how helped us navigate to our Sio accommodation, where we would call home for the next 6 months. The accommodation was basic but what student housing isn’t. I had my own bedroom but shared a kitchen and bathroom with roommate, which just so happened to by my friend and travel partner on this journey.

Tip for future students, be prepared to make a trip to Ikea which is a bit of a trek to get everything. Room has furniture and bed but kitchen literally has nothing except for an oven and cook top. Best preparation would be to try contact residents living there the semester before you go and try and acquire some of their items. This will save a lot of money and time.

Two weeks before classes commenced we explored the city while the summer sun and “warmth” (it was still only 18°C) still filled the air. It was a beautiful day and dockside was a buzz of excitement with cafes and street performers. From here you can also spend the beautiful day, island hopping the little islands situated on the Oslo Fjord – as this is where the ferry leaves. 

Tip for places to visit: North of the Oslo is Holmenkollen, boosting a 60m high ski jump that has hosted ski festivals since 1892.

Norwegians are serious about getting out and enjoying nature, they love nature and hiking mountains. They also love to tell you all about it every minute of every day – just in case you forget *wink wink*. As such the Norwegians love their recently build Opera House where you can actually walk on the roof, via a small hike up the side of the building. I would highly recommend doing so as it has one of the most stunning views of the city and harbour, especially at sunset. 

Uni life….

I studied Product Design during my time at HiOA Kjeller campus. I found it interesting that they only do one subject at a time, it seems a lot less strenuous than QUT. One of the bonuses though was studying at HiOA was the amount of new educational opportunities I received. I learnt how to weld, and also gained numerous skills with ceramics and concrete moulding. Their workshops are first class and even better once you have done a week of inductions, as you are deemed competent to use all the facilities without supervision.

My first group assignment consisted of three girls and one guy. We decided to look into tiny living and the outdoor and active Norwegian culture. We hired a cabin in the middle of the woods with no electricity or running water. It was an hour bus ride and a 6km hike to loose ourselves, but we were alone for miles. We all huddled in a cabin made for two. It was a cosy night, but the experience was a one in a lifetime and a real good look into Norwegian culture.

Highlights …

Travel highlight – Trolltunga, it takes this prestigious role because of how hard I had to work to get there. Five gruelling hours hiking up and five back. Trolltunga aka Trolls Tongue chewed me up and spit me out, but the view from the top was worth it.

HiOA university had many highlights, great people, lifelong friends, workshops. But the ones that stands out is when our concept became a prototype. A finished product made by myself and group, with a lot of the new workshop skills to thank for its polished finish.

This has been a wonderful opportunity for me, I got to travel abroad and this experience has really open mind and broadened my horizons.

Fashion in Hong Kong

Nhu, C. Bachelor of Design (Fashion)

Hong Kong Polythechnic University (Semester 2, 2016)

I studied fashion design at The Hong Kong Polythechnic University in second semester of my second year. The Institute of Textiles and Clothing in PolyU is significantly different to QUT fashion studios as they have a larger number in students, more facilities however the teaching was not as intimate. The institute offered eye-opening subjects such as knitting, colouration, intimate apparel, shoe design, denim design and so on. The teaching staff were also very experienced and supportive especially the pattern maker, knitting technician, colouration and finishing professor that taught me.

During my semester abroad, I made myself at home at the PolyU student accommodation. I paid approximately $1 600 for the whole semester which was significantly cheaper than living outside of the student dorms. It was one of the best decisions I made over in HK as I built strong friendships with my roommate, other exchange students and the workers within the building. It was also near the university, only taking 10 minutes by foot.  Within the student accommodation it provided functional, studying and leisure facilities including a communal gym, swimming pool, snooker pool room, game room, table tennis, dance room, kitchen, laundry room, study rooms and printers.

The cost of living was not as bad as I was expecting. I roughly spent $8000-9000 during the whole 4months (including flights, flights booked in HK, accommodation). Hong Kong is full of culture, mixing both Western and Eastern qualities. I didn’t experience much of a culture shock as my ethnical background is Chinese and Vietnamese.  Hong Kong was my home, the hustle and bustle of the night life and the sensational scenery as you escape the city will forever keep me wanting more. I met and became close friends with many of the locals and exchange students who’ve broadened my perspective on life and design.

My advice for students who are still undecided whether to go or not, I say go!! It’s true when past exchange students say it’s one of the most memorable and best experience. For the future exchange students, my advice is to learn as much as you can and take advantage of your host university’s curriculum but also don’t forget to make time for exploring your host country, be part of their culture, make both local and exchange friends, visit nearby countries and take up every opportunity!

Exchange at the University of Mannheim

John, H. Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Creative Industries

University of Mannheim, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

My time living in Germany was absolutely the best experience I’ve ever had. In the beginning the idea of spending 6 months living in a totally new place with a whole new bunch of people was totally daunting, but when my time was up I left practically kicking and screaming. No other experience has seen be grow as much emotionally and socially, and if I could do it all again I would drop everything and go in a heartbeat.

Life at the University of Mannheim

Studying at the University of Mannheim was excellent. The University has such incredibly rich campus culture, and every single day was packed with activities and parties aimed to bring everybody together. While maybe half of these were for all students, there were also events aimed particularly for exchange students, meaning that we all got to meet in the end, all the other exchange students. The university holds a reputation for its parties, its famed “Schneckenhof” party- a weekly event held in the very heart of the campus, attended by vast numbers. As well as this, the organisation called “Visum” (Visa in German) threw parties for the exchange students called “Stammtisch”, also weekly. Visum were the ones responsible for the immersion of exchange students, and it was with them that I got to experience the magnificence of Munich (including Oktoberfest) and Berlin. While its parties may be one of the factors that makes it a really attractive choice, the University of Mannheim also boasts an incredible academic reputation, especially in the field of business. While I was undertaking Law units, for which it is not as renowned, the law faculty’s success in international competitions filled with me with great confidence, and indeed my expectations were met and surpassed. The structure was a little different to what I was used to, in fact the workload was a little less per subject, but most German Students undertake More units than we would in Australia.

Life in Germany and Highlights

I’ve combined this section as one page really isn’t enough to sum up my time, but in short living in Germany was of itself a highlight. Aside from the aforementioned parties, living in Germany was incredibly easy. The people come across as cold at first meeting, but as you get closer to them are incredibly friendly, warm and have a wicked sense of humour. German people are not shy in any regard, and I guess rather stereotypically, are very short in conversation, never exaggerating and often speaking in exact terminology. But they always want to hear more about you, and are so incredibly genuine. Germany is also famous for its music culture, one of the reasons why I chose it as a place, and I was not disappointed. While the average person doesn’t listen to Beethoven or Wagner as their regular taste (nor is that to be expected) almost every German person has an appreciation for the fine arts that many people in Australia lack. The cost of living in Germany is incredibly low, with groceries costing me less than 30 Euro a week, and rent 280 Euro a month.

Germany is super central in Western Europe, and especially the cities of Mannheim and Frankfurt, is a hub for transport. Thus, it would be remiss of me to say that travelling was not a highlight for me. My favourite trip outside of Germany was to Vienna, an 8-hour train journey, though travelling within Germany itself was fantastic. The city of Heidelberg is a must for anyone staying in the region. It’s a gorgeous, untouched medieval city with an incredible castle ruin. The historic City of Strasbourg is also a mere two-hour bus ride away, across the border in France. Other highlights were definitely the aforementioned trips to Munich and Berlin.

My experience in Mannheim is one that I will never forget. If you want any further details, I have a more detailed blog on this link.  https://fergusabroad.wordpress.com/

Just Do It!

Samantha, C.
San Jose State University (Semester 2, 2016)

I’ve always wondered why birds choose to stay in the same place, when they can fly anywhere on the earth… and then I ask myself the same question.

To put it frankly, if someone had of told me that I would be attending American college at the ripe age of 19, I would have believed it. Why? Because studying abroad was always a dream of mine, and I knew I had to work hard to get there.

San Jose State University

While going on student exchange isn’t just travelling as a tourist, it’s also living in a new country, with a new culture. In order to fit in, I had to immerse myself fully into the American lifestyle, by having day-to-day interactions with the locals, getting accustomed to their habits, traditions and culture, while gaining first-hand judgement and experience, which has and will continue to broaden my horizon for life.

In my opinion, a life of travel is a good thing to have… but the catch is, once you start, there’s no looking back! So where I began, grew and prospered was at San Jose State University (SJSU) in California.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

I chose to study at SJSU because of its fantastic extra-curricular activities for journalism and public relations students, their high graduate employment, and overall student satisfaction. Respected globally for its excellence, diversity, flexibility, range of opportunities and top quality academics, SJSU provides a broad variety of courses and more precisely in the communications area.

I chose to live on campus, in CVB accommodation, and shared an apartment with four other girls, with each having our own single bedroom. I also opted not to have a meal plan, and instead cook for myself! The closest grocery store was about a 10-minute walk, and in turn I dined out a couple times each week with friends. Living on campus, American college style, truly was incredible. As I looked out my bedroom window on the 11th floor, I viewed what could be deemed as college road, where all the fraternities and sororities were located – oh what a sight! Living on campus also allowed me to fully immerse myself into college life, where I was involved in clubs, activities like Victoria’s Secret Zumba night, and mingling with friends either at social events or just hanging out in our dorm rooms. I did however enjoy having my personal bedroom, which gave me a bit of down time and privacy to study and facetime home.

My Dorm Room, San Jose State University

At SJSU, I chose to study an overload of five subjects, and while it was very trying, with the support of my wonderful professors I pulled through and managed to achieve an A+ overall in each unit (equivalent to a high distinction – yay!). Though as you would know if going on exchange, the actual grade isn’t recorded on your QUT transcript, but rather satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

During my time abroad, I made an abundance of new friends both international and American. The support network was fantastic, and never once did I feel lonely or isolated, but rather overwhelmed… in a good way. As an Aussie you’ll feel like a celebrity (totally not kidding!) and you’ll understand this once you’ve been. It was amazing to have other students interested in my home country and where I come from, as was I with their culture too. On my first day, I mingled with all the other international students who I remained close with throughout the first week while I settled into college and met all my American friends. In fact, I miss all these friends so much, that I have just booked another trip to return and catch up in less than two months, with only my flights to book and the accommodation covered. If that’s not enough to convince you to go, let me share with you my account of America.

SF Giants V NY Mets Baseball Game

America was everything I had imagined, but MORE. It is a very upbeat, exciting and spontaneous country! So much to see and do, and the people are extraordinarily friendly. No day was the same, and I always found myself creating lists of things I have to see before my departure date. While I was in the U.S., I was fortunate enough to travel extensively through California, seeing sights like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Yosemite and more. I also travelled through Hawaii, Arizona and Nevada. And yes I did visit the Grand Canyon, Universal Studios/Disneyland and also got to climb Diamond Head in Waikiki.

Diamond Head, Waikiki

I now look back on the breathtaking photos and vision, and It blows my mind that yes that was me standing there. There is still so much to see and explore in this magical country, and many ask what my favourite place was, and I can confidently say it was San Jose State University. Going on student exchange would have to be the best decision I have ever made… and SJSU will forever be my second home. While I spent just one semester in the U.S., the experience I have gained will undoubtedly endure throughout a lifetime. I promise, if you’ve ever had a slight thought of going global with QUT, I say… just do it, you won’t regret it.

Its what you make it

Nicola, B.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Semester 2, 2016)

The biggest shock when arriving at PolyU was that very little was online.  All the students prefer face-to-face contact and therefore no lectures are recorded, all questions are asked in class or you meet up with your lecturer/tutor, all assignments are still printed out and handed in and they are only just starting to build up blackboard. The students were all very motivated, spent so much extra time in the library and all group work was discussed in person. I really enjoyed my time on campus at PolyU.  They had so many events and different activities always happening on campus.  They may not have as many clubs but they put so much energy into the clubs and the different stalls they had set up were just amazing!  Many of my classes were quite interactive with one having 40 students going on a field trip to a company that organises a simulation where you can experience what it is like living in aged care.  This was a lot of fun and certainly an experience.

The halls accommodation was a bit of an adjustment having to life in such small quarters as well as with a roommate.  It was super close to the university, to public transport and to plenty of restaurants which made it worthwhile.  Most nights at about 7pm there would be a message from an international student organising to go for dinner that night so there was always an opportunity to be social.

Hong Kong is a very cheap place, particularly in relation to Australia.  Whilst some things were more expensive than anticipated, travelling around Hong Kong and to other countries close by was very easy and very cheap.  A real shock for me was the amount of people living in Hong Kong.  I knew it was a small country with a large population but I really was not expecting it to be as busy as it was.  Public transport would get so packed and at night  just walking down the sidewalk sometimes would be difficult with all the people around.  In saying that though, it is also a place that has many hiking routes and places to escape.  Many weekends involved exploring a different part and finding those quite places where everything is calm.  I was very lucky that I was put with some truly lovely local students that took me places, made suggestions and gave me any advice I needed.  Before I left for Hong Kong I had a lot of people tell me there was English everywhere and while English was on most signs and most people had broken English, it was not as common as I had anticipated.  This caused some difficulties while I was over there, particularly with some of the local students but for the most part could usually work around the language barrier.

The major highlight of my exchange was simply the friendships I formed while over there.  I certainly miss lots of people but I know have friendships all around the world and there is a certain special feeling in that.  While it was amazing to see the country and experience so many new adventures, it would not have been the same without new friends around me experiencing it too.  I suggest to anyone that is going on an exchange to just say yes to everything and just really make the most of everything that the experience is.  As the popular saying goes “it is what you make it” and I truly felt my exchange experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity with so many lasting memories.

Victoria Bridge, PolyU & Disneyland Hong Kong

Fall Semester in Amsterdam City!

Darcy, C.
Hodgeschool Van Amsterdam (Semester 2, 2016)

The reality of living in Amsterdam city is a true as the picturesque photos. It is all bikes in busy lanes, tourists flooding Dam square, tree lined canals, beautiful cobbled streets and beautiful townhouses to match. What’s more, you’ll see coffee houses beside museums, reflecting the truly unique culture of Amsterdam and it’s people. Unlike the relaxed culture though, the Dutch are very direct – kind but direct.

Living in Amsterdam offers so many options. Not only is it centrally located in Europe, making travelling easy and affordable, but Amsterdam itself is a very small city and very easy to navigate, especially on your bike. It’s perfect for one semester abroad but perhaps too small for two.

I studied at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (also known as the University of Applied Sciences) studying a Minor in Business of Sports and Entertainment. As part of this minor, my class visited London meeting with Ticketmaster UK. While we were based in the classroom as well, half of our assessment was based on our work with a real world client, developing real initiatives and campaigns for implementation. I would highly recommend enrolling in a Minor course, rather than selecting your own individual classes; as you work with the same people every day, four days a week, you develop very strong friendships within the classroom – making it very easy to meet people. My class was a mix of half Dutch and half international students. The assessment was relatively easy in comparison to QUT though (which was a welcomed surprise).

What about living arrangements?

I lived in a private room at the Fraijlemaborg (Fry-lem-a-borg) student dorms. These dorms were home to 170 other international students across 6 floors and literally right next door to the university. All in all, the standard of living was great and much better than I expected. The rooms were quite large and the facilities were ample – the only downside is that our accommodation was quite far from the city centre which made nights out a tactical mission to ensure you are on the last (or first) train home – the centre was too far to cycle most nights.

My favourite Saturday’s were spent at breakfast at CT Coffee & Coconuts and my favourite evenings began at Leed and Webber in Leidesplein and then to the Chicago Social Club in Rembrantplein.

Amsterdam is such a wonderful city that will show you art, culture & all four seasons in four short months. I was surprised to discover that weather in Holland in very similar to England. Typically in cooler months, its windy, drizzles with rain, and is very overcast. I can say that my stay was mostly sunshine… lucky me.

A few Do’s and Don’t’s to living in Amsterdam:

  1. Do buy a bike
    It will save you so much money on public transport and is quintessential to the dutch life. 9makes for a great photo too). You can buy your bike at the second hand flea markets (although the Dutch aren’t fond of these markets whichs ell stolen bikes) or the Amsterdam Bike Marketplace facebook page for cheaper, better and more reliable bikes. Consider investing in two locks, bike theft is notorious (hence the second hand markets) and you’ll want to ensure your bike has gears… one speed is just too slow for the Dutch.
  2. Do arrive on time for Orientation week
  3. It is a week long of socialising – you’ll meet your semester long friends immediately and kick off your new social life. Miss it and you’re off to a wobbly start as events are significantly less after wards.
  4. Do learn please and thank you
    Thank you: Dank je wel (dunk-ya-vell)
    Please: Alstubleift (Alst-oo-bleeft)
  5. Don’t bother asking ‘Do you speak English?’
    Everyone speaks English – probably better than you. You will more often than not be greeted in English and hear it all around – it is considered the business language.
  6. Don’t photograph the ladies of the Red Light District. ‘Do’ and find out what happens…

Go to Amsterdam.

There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes

Thomas, M., Bachelor of Business and Law
University of Glasgow (Semester 1 & 2, 2016)

Study:
The standard and method of study is very similar to QUT. The one big difference however is that most lectures are not recorded. Otherwise the study experience is just like QUT, in that there is a mix of tutorials, seminars, and lectures and there are similar expectations placed on students.

Hillhead campus in November taken from Argyle St

Campus:
The UoG (University of Glasgow) campus at Hillhead is as stunning as the pictures show. Not only is it beautiful but there are plenty of amenities including a gym, two student union complexes, numerous cafes, libraries, and study areas.

Accommodation:
In my first semester I stayed at Firhill student accommodation. Firhill, like Murano, is a long way from campus and is unfortunately not in a vibrant part of the city. It does however offer well-appointed accommodation with (tiny) ensuites however it is quite a distance from West End and campus which becomes annoying especially when the Glasgow weather sets in.

During my second semester I stayed in Kelvinhaugh student accommodation. This is a much better option, although not as modern and without personal bathrooms. Kelvinhaugh is ideally located 10 minutes walk from campus in the suburb of Finneston. Kelvinhaugh Street Student accommodation is surrounded by cafes, bars and Kelvingrove Park, and is a short walk from the city and Byres Road in the West End.

The other accommodation option to consider is Student Apartments. They have the best location as they are located on campus in the heart of West End. However it is highly sought after so you may need get accepted. That being said, everyone I knew that had stayed there loved it.

Costs:
On the whole I found Glasgow to be cheaper than Brisbane, particularly in regards to food (groceries and eating out). I set myself a strict budget of 40 pounds per week (roughly $80 AUD), but this meant that I could travel around Europe on my weekends.

Camping on the Isle of Skye (taken in March): wouldn’t recommend in Winter/Autumn

Travel:
There is plenty to see around Scotland and there are a number of tours set up specifically for exchange students. These are great as an easy way to see the country however it can be better to do some things on your own and at your own pace. If you are old enough renting a car is one of the best ways to see the highlands.

The downside about Glasgow was that its airport is relatively small so there wasn’t a lot of flights going in and out to mainland Europe or the rest of the UK. On the upside there is a bus that travels to the Stansted airport (just outside London) which is super cheap, 5-10 pounds. Added bonus there are heaps of cheap flights to Europe from Stansted airport.
Top Tips:

  • If you can only go for one semester, my recommendation would go in Semester 2 (January – June) more time to travel, plus you get to experience what winter is actually like.
  • Definitely attend all the exchange and introduction events they are a great way to meet people
  • Join clubs and societies, get involved, its a great way to increase your chances of meeting Scottish students
  • See as much of Scotland as possible don’t be put off by the weather (“There is no bad weather, only bad clothes)

I cannot recommend Glasgow enough and if you go you are guaranteed to have a great time!

Japan > Australia*

*in these particular areas.
There is no denying that Japanese culture and Australian culture are poles apart. Where Australia is laid-back and simple, Japan is wonderfully weird and over-the-top. Where Australia is endearingly rough-around-the-edges, Japan is pristine and polished. And while I love Straya, I’m taking the opportunity to outline some key areas where we can probably (definitely) learn (read: copy) a thing or two from our Japanese friends.
Vending machines
They are literally everywhere, and they sell everything, from soft drinks, to both hot and iced coffee, to instant noodles, cigarettes, alcohol, icecream, umbrellas and neckties. It’s revolutionary. There is literally one vending machine per 23 people in Japan! In my 1.1km walk to uni alone, I pass more than 16 vending machines; approximately one every 70 metres.
Convenience stores
7-11 here is like that tent from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; it’s tiny, but it can, and does, hold literally everything you could ever need. Freshly baked breads and home-style meals are delivered each morning, they’re practically a fully-fledged liquor store, and the cheap machine coffee doesn’t even taste like death. You can even pay your bills in store! Plus, again, they’re everywhere.
Transport
It’s totally normal to bike or walk everywhere, and when you do need to use public transport, it’s quick, clean and punctual, the exact anti-thesis of Translink.
Sorting rubbish
Sure, sorting your rubbish into burnables, plastics, PET bottles, cans and glass can be pretty bloody annoying, but it’s fairly easy to do and environmentally friendly so I can get behind that.
Hi-tech toilets
I’ve literally forgotten what a cold toilet seat feels like. Look, are all those extras necessary? Of course not. But they’re convenient.
Harmony between history, nature, and urbanity
I literally walk past a temple everyday on the way to uni. It’s not uncommon to see a small Shinto Shrine on the roof of multi-storey offices, nor is it unusual to see a Buddhist temple’s towering pagoda peeking out from behind tall buildings. Kyoto is home to over 2,000 temples and shrines, as well as 17 UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites, all of which are within about an hour of where I live. I’ve been here 3 months and am still continually astounded by this city’s ability to have its history and culture coexisting so seamlessly and beautifully with its urbanity.
Cool side note story: I had the unreal privilege of dragging myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4am to signal the start of morning prayers by ringing the bell at Nishihonganji Temple, one of the 17 World Heritage sites, a ritual usually only performed by the head monk. A small group of my friends and I were only permitted to do so as a part of celebrations around the passing down of the temple’s custodianship from father to son, an event that only occurs maybe once every 50 years. It was such a serene and awe-inspiring experience, and the most quintessentially Japanese thing I’ve ever done.
It’s so clean*
I never see litter (although I have no idea how, considering it’s near impossible to find a bloody rubbish bin), I’ve forgotten what mud looks like, and I have my suspicions that leaves here spontaneously combust if they’re not swept up within 5 minutes of hitting the ground (though I’m yet to prove this theory, because the leaf sweepers here do a fantastic job).
*This does not apply to my dorm kitchen. A chicken coup is more hygienic.
Amusement parks
Dreamworld is the biggest theme park in Australia, and doesn’t even hold a candle to the kinds of amusement parks they have here. I recently went to Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka, and the attractions there are fully immersive (Harry Potter World and the Hogwarts Castle were UNREAL), and expertly marry production with adrenaline-inducing rides, unlike anything we have in Australia. It was legitimately one of the best days of my life, in no small part because I touched a minion’s butt (it was an accident, but I’m not apologising really).
Mayonnaise
It’s the best. Don’t start me.
Eating out is cheap
I can get an epic bowl of ramen for 800¥, or plethora of ridiculously sized meal sets for under 1000¥, where the same could easily cost me double at home. Ingredients, on the other hand, will cost you an arm and a leg, and quite possibly your soul.
Free WIFI
Again, everywhere. I live for it.
While I do love all of these wacky Japanese things, I am keen to return home to the good-ole Australian sense of humour, Western confectionery (they are OBSESSED with red bean paste here, and anko is one of my least favourite things ever, right up there with manspreading and the shrinking size of Pringles chips), PayPass, non-compulsory class attendance, and of course…
 …sensible smoking legislation.

Sincerely,

Tiffanie.