Spanish studies in the beautiful Medellin

Rhys P, Bachelor of Engineering

Intern Latin America, Colombia

My experience in Medellin was nothing short of incredible. After travelling through South America in 2015/2016 I had a desire to return and improve my Spanish skills. Thankfully with the QUT short term exchange program this was made possible. I studied at EAFIT for two weeks for an intensive Spanish course. In my beginner’s class there were three students and it is amazing how much we were able to cram into only two weeks.

Our teacher was called Cielo (Sky in English) and like the majority of people from Medellin she was extremely warm and welcoming. Before this I had never attempted to learn a second language however I have learnt that it can be extremely frustrating at times. The quality of not only my teacher, but all of the teachers at EAFIT made the experience much more enjoyable and they were able to remove this frustration and create a great learning environment.

The campus itself was not what I was expecting at all. Due to the much-discussed past of Colombia I was expecting the campus to be slightly run down. It was a pleasant surprise when I arrived on my first day to see an absolutely beautiful campus. The campus is full of trees, nature, wildlife and is an amazing place to study.

As for Colombia itself, it is my favourite country in the world and after I complete my studies at QUT I want to move there. The people made me feel extremely welcome, the food is amazing, it is such a diverse country. It truly is an amazing country and I highly recommend it as an exchange destination.

The highlights of my trip were definitely the amazing places that I travelled to and the friends that I made along the way. The only advice that I have for other students is to pack your bag and go!

Cultural lessons from the Japanese

Katrine K, Bachelor of Nursing

University Life in Japan: Kimono, Matcha and You at Sonoda Women’s University (December 2016)

Konnichiwa! My name is Katrine, and I’m a third year student studying the Bachelor of Nursing. In the first two weeks of the December holidays, I have been very fortunate to be given the opportunity to participate in a cultural exchange program hosted by the Sonoda Women’s University in Amagasaki, Japan. Not only did this unforgettable experience enrich my awareness of cultural diversity, but the kindness and warmth of the Japanese people made it possible to form friendships with almost anyone I encountered; whether that be at university or on the streets of Osaka! Throughout this program, I have been incredibly lucky to experience many unique and wonderful moments.

One memorable highlight of my trip however, would have to be the week-end I stayed with the Fujii family in Ojiro. Although I could speak or understand little Japanese, my host father, mother, sister and visiting locals were extremely sympathetic and accommodating to my needs and often tried their best to speak in English to ease my anxiety and restlessness. I thought this gesture was very thoughtful and generous of them and once again empathised the kindliness of the Japanese people. From the moment I arrived, my host family offered me food, snow boots, manga, fresh clothes, and my very own tatami room! I was also surprised and deeply touched at the lengths of preparation they put into arranging my bedroom. I never expected to have a mini decorated Christmas tree with flickering lights standing before me when I entered to unpack my bags! These experiences made me reflect on a time when my classmates and I had a cultural lesson with Keiji. He stated that Japanese people generally have a “you”-centred attitude or a “guessing culture”. This meant that they will often try to guess what the other person is feeling in order to accommodate their needs, believing this showed humanity. As a foreigner, I found the Japanese culture in this context quite refreshing and surprisingly relatable. I eagerly wanted to learn more about their culture as I too, coming from a nursing background, believe passionately in upholding similar values.

While living in Ojiro, I went on many insightful and exciting adventures! This included visiting the captivating sand sculptures at the Sand Museum and conquering the Tottori sand dunes through freezing winds. Another memorable highlight of staying in Ojiro was the opportunity to design and sculpt my own jewellery from stone.  The stone used to make our pendants were known as “magatama”, and were traditionally made from jade, glass or rocks. What I enjoyed most about this experience was not only learning of its historical value and appeal since the Jomon period, but the connection magatama had to religious practices including shamanism and Shinto. In addition to its spiritual significance, I found the crafting of magatama a challenging, but truly rewarding experience that I will never forget!

During the time when my classmates and I were not living in Ojiro, we inhabited the cosy grounds of Sonoda Woman’s University to learn Japanese or explored the historic highlights of Amagasaki where we took part in cultural activities. While at Sonoda Woman’s University however, I immediately noticed how small and homely the campus was in comparison to the blocky high rises that occupied the grounds of QUT. Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the students (which were no more than 200!) noticed our presence and gave us their utmost attention. My allocated group were particularly fortunate to receive a dynamic culture class presented by the university’s students themselves which I had the pleasure of attending. One unforgettable moment from our experiences was taking part in the traditional Japanese game, “suikawari”, and then learning about the meticulous process in which “katsuobushi” is made. Katsuobushi, in particular, made the most impression on me as I never expected dried fermented fish to appear as an oddly shaped rock or a chunky piece of wood that would later become an essential ingredient used in traditional Japanese foods, such as dashi. In addition, the kindliness and welcoming mannerisms of the students were, again, infectious and I felt a great sense of belonging and acceptance when I was asked to introduce myself to the class and share with them the cultural practices I engaged in while living in Australia.

My cultural experiences in Japan have been endless, and I felt so grateful for the time the Sonoda University staff gave us to make it such a pleasant experience! I would also like to say how very thankful I am to the teachers who managed, without fail, to remain optimistic and deeply passionate about teaching Japanese. I’m very proud to say that I’m now quite confident in ordering food in restaurants, thanks to a large appetite for Curry House CoCo and the multiple visits I’ve had to the “taiyaki” (fish-shaped pastries filled with custard or red bean paste) stand near Amagasaki station. I would highly recommend this exchange program for anyone, both young and old!

Spend your summer exploring Seoul

Jiwon L, Bachelor of Design (Honours)

Korea University – International Winter Campus (Dec 2016– Jan 2017)

Korea University is one of the highest ranked universities in the world in a variety study areas. The campus is filled with historical and incredible gothic-style architecture. As an architecture student, looking around the campus was a great opportunity to experience the sights and also outside of campus there were so many great high-rise buildings I wouldn’t be able to find back in Brisbane, Australia.

Staying at Korea University’s dormitory was very enjoyable, meeting new friends from other cultures. I have built such a strong relationship with my roommates, so we went out to travel Seoul together outside the campus.  We went to Dongdaemoon to see one of my favourite architect’s work, Zaha Hadid, during the weekends and other cities and enjoyed the culture of Seoul. As Seoul is one of the top cities that has highly developed transport, it was very easy to travel inner cities without spending a lot of money.

I have met very warm and welcoming friends from different places and cultures and sharing this experience with them was such a wonderful experience that I am not likely to have in life again. If you are a student who loves travel and exploring busy cities, Korea University in Seoul is the perfect place to be.

Reimagining India, the experience of a lifetime

Samuel G, Bachelor of Engineering / Bachelor of Business

IndoGenius: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program (February 2017)

New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient

The ‘Reimaging India Experiential Learning Program’, conducted by IndoGenius, expertly introduced me to Indian culture, politics, entrepreneurship, innovation, history, economics and a variety of other business aspects. The program immersed me in experiences that broadened my perception of what it means to be alive, reprogramming many of the Western ideologies I have grown accustomed to. Some personal and professional benefits I have taken from this program include: a deepened understanding of myself, the development of various cultural competencies, the growth of my emotional intelligence and finally the improvement of my ability to communicate across cultures. I am certain that my experiences in India will influence my future decision making after university. I now have ideas of moving to India to work and travel, creating a social enterprise that increases quality of life in developing countries and even smaller things like taking up yoga and meditating regularly. Some highlights of my experience in India are shown below. 

Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh

This man noticed my fascination towards his pet monkey that was sitting so politely on his shoulder. I asked if I could take a picture of him and his monkey, but he insisted that I take the monkey and get a picture with him myself. The monkey was awesome. He enjoyed eating a few flowers from my necklace also!

Agra, Uttar Pradesh

This was one very enjoyable afternoon by the pool at the Trident Agra Resort. Team Indogenius knew how to travel with style. I relaxed in the pool, watching the sun set with a few of the other students. 

The Lotus Temple, New Delhi

The sun was setting here over the Lotus Temple in New Delhi – a place where people of all beliefs can come to worship, meditate and reconnect with themselves. It was an honour to partake in a guided meditation here.

Dharavi Slum, Mumbai

The feeling of community and connectedness was incredibly strong in Dharavi. The people did not have much, but they at least had each other. The resilience, determination and willpower of the people living in this community was truly inspiring and motivating. Further, some 10,000 companies are operating in this space generating a yearly revenue of approximately US$1 billion.

Bicycle tour before sunrise, Mumbai

This was a great opportunity to experience India by bike, which is fitting considering it is the country with the most bikes in the world. We rode to some notable sights – the most incredible of them all was a small Islamic shrine where there were dozens of people lined up (before 6am) to worship and give offerings to their respective gods. These are places of incredible spirituality and openness, places that allow for one to strengthen the mind.

Havan Fire Ceremony, New Delhi

Experiencing the Havan was truly a spiritual journey for my mind. I was able to shut off the outside world, the material world, going deeper into myself. This allowed for a deeper reflective and meditative state, where I was able to let be what has been, and start to live my life more in the present.

New Delhi

We blocked the street as we danced alongside our marching band to the temple (featured previously) where we experienced the Havan ceremony. Koustav, who is wearing the dark green Kurta and blue scarf, guided our dance and direction, navigating the traffic like a pro.

Old Delhi, Delhi

Meet Ben, Casey and half of Alex. These are three of the many incredible people I met on this journey. The relationships I formed throughout the program have been forged for life. Especially considering I am likely to move to India and work for this program. Like I said, a life-changing journey.

The time I spent on the Reimagining India program was some of the most conscious and aware moments of my life. I was truly present in all situations, brought upon this newfound concept of focus. The personal benefits of such experiences are endless, examples include a deepened ability: to think critically, to think abstractly, to listen actively, speak consciously, to live in the present and to overall just embrace life, living it to the absolute fullest.

I would like to thank the Indogenius team, New Colombo Plan, QUT Business School and QUT International Short-Term Mobility for making these two life changing weeks possible.

Applications for the 2017 Indogenius program are now open! Apply here.

Business negotiations in North Carolina

Bryson C, Bachelor of Business

AIM Overseas: Business Negotiations and Communications (Jan-Feb 2017)

During January and February 2017, myself and 23 other Australians set out on a new journey not knowing what to expect. Our destination? Charlotte, North Carolina. A buzzing city full of life and American culture. My journey began from Brisbane, which at the time was about 40 degrees Celsius. When I arrived in Charlotte it was a quarter of that, 10 degrees Celsius. That was my first big shock. After a big day of travels, I settled down at what would be my home for the next 3 weeks, the Drury Inn. When I woke, I found myself surrounded by friendly faces at the breakfast buffet and already I had made my first friends.

   Later that day, we found ourselves in the actual university getting to know what our new campus looked like. We were stunned, it was so large and so amazing. The entire university was full of life and culture with several hardcore college basketball supporters telling us to come and support the team, and several sorority and fraternities trying to get us to sign up (unfortunately we could not do this). Life on campus itself was extremely different to that back home. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be BIG. There was so much to do and so much to explore and all in all, our host university kept us all very safe.

The United States of America is a very interesting place to travel. It is somewhat similar to Australia but there are several key differences I think. To begin with, tipping is the most annoying thing in the world. I accidentally under-tipped my hairdresser and she then proceeded to be very upset with me like I had done something wrong (sorry). The weather unlike Australia’s is very plain. If the forecast says cloudy and cold then it is cloudy and cold, no massive thunderstorms that pop up out of no-where. Traveling in the US was also very easy – with the use of Uber, my friends and I were able get around and see many places in our spare time such as the gyms, gun ranges, restaurants, race tracks and various other cultural places.

The highlight of my trip would have to be the day that we went and sat in on a very important speech given by world renowned economist Jay Bryson. I could network with American professionals and hear their take on the future of the American economy and listen to their opinions on what the world might look like in 5 years. Overall, I enjoyed my time in Charlotte and I would definitely recommend the AIM program to everyone seeking a short-term exchange to the United States.

A few reasons to head to Michigan this winter

Michigan State University

Location: East Lansing, United States

Why here?: Great spread of summer (Australian winter) short-term programs, student town, football games, on-campus living

Michigan State University has been around for about 150 years and is the centrepiece of East Lansing, USA. The whole town rallies around the university and their much beloved Spartans football and basketball teams. MSU is one of the top 100 universities in the world and is a leading research university.

To make the most of the experienced and knowledgeable staff at MSU, why not partake in a short-term study experience this summer available to all faculties. If you’re an Engineering, Creative Industries, Business, Law or Education student, in particular, then check out the Global Portal for all short-term exchange options to MSU. There are a wide range of options including:

The campus encompasses around 5,200 acres of land and includes 27 residential buildings, 10 on-campus dining halls, 4 indoor fitness facilities, 2 golf courses, and of course Spartan Stadium which holds 75,000 people. You will also have the opportunity to attend concerts, shows, theatre and museums across campus.

East Lansing is easily accessible from Detroit by a short bus ride on the Michigan Flyer. Chicago and Toronto and Niagara Falls in Canada are driving distance from the university.

QUT students Hayley and Emma attending a Spartans Football game

So why not don the green and white and cheer the Spartans on?

Clarice’s South Korean Short-Term Exchange Experience

Clarice: Seoul, South Korea – Short Term Program 2016

As a student in Seoul, I find it to be so much cheaper than being a student in Brisbane; especially when it comes to our daily food and caffeine needs. I would barely spend over 10,000won (about AUD11-12) a day while I was studying there and it would cover all my breakfast, lunch and dinner needs. If you’re lazy enough, you could always buy convenience store lunchboxes (which can have things like rice, meat and kimchi) for 3,000-3,800won (AUD4-5) and it is very filling.

Samgyeopsal

And of course, when one is in Seoul, one would need to try the famous “Samgyeopsal” (or “pork belly”) which is the slab of meat in the middle. I find that Korean meats taste vastly different (and honestly, a lot better) from Australian meats. For this meal, we usually barbecue the meats on the plate and accompany it with a few drinks (no guesses as to what those drinks are) and lots of lettuce, to balance the flavour of meat and vegetables. Generally, a meal like this would cost about AUD70, but I had it for about 30,000won (around AUD32) for 3 people.

Painfully cheap….and something I will never get while I’m back in Brisbane.

I would say that Seoul is a wonderful place for an overseas study experience, because it is so different from Australia in terms of culture and student life, and EWHA Woman’s University is an amazing place to find out a lot more about feminist issues (such as the unending justice for the “comfort” women during the Japanese invasion) and that, being feminist does not necessarily mean the Western view of loud and proud feminism, but rather, a social issue that has to be faced with quiet dignity in order to make the world a better place for not only women, but men too.

One of the many delicious lunch that we students would often go out for once morning classes are over.

One of the many delicious lunch that we students would often go out for once morning classes are over.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the male professors and most of the male students who were there for the co-ed summer program were also genuine feminists and supported many social issues that women still face.

My time in EWHA has certainly changed me for the better, and helped me in recognising many aspects of myself as a woman that I never knew existed. I will always fondly remember my time there as a student and if given the chance, would not hesitate to do a longer exchange program next time round. I also highly recommend the EWHA Woman’s University International Co-ed Summer College to anyone interested, because I guarantee you will come away learning so much more than just academically.

Does Clarice’s experience interest you? Find out more about QUT’s Short Term Study Options.

Our wonderful history class, with a few people missing, and Prof Michael in the middle. We’re standing in front of EWHA's very own museum which houses a private collection of art and sculpture pieces donated by the alumni of EWHA.

Our wonderful history class, with a few people missing, and Prof Michael in the middle. We’re standing in front of EWHA’s very own museum which houses a private collection of art and sculpture pieces donated by the alumni of EWHA.

Clarice’s South Korean Short Term Exchange – Summer ’16

Clarice: Seoul, South Korea – Short Term Summer Program 2016 

Originally, it never crossed my mind to apply for the summer program in EWHA Woman’s University when my friend from Singapore told me she had applied for it in January; but then I received the email about opportunities in the short-term mobility program from QUT and I thought, “Why not?”

EWHA Woman’s University is located in Seoul, South Korea around Seodaemun and is a very large and beautiful campus. The campus has a convenience stores, different places to eat depending on your mood, a gym, library and my personal favourite: the sleeping area, where the students go to rest and sleep during particularly stressful semesters.

This is the main feature of EWHA University: the “walls” that actually houses all the tutorial rooms, classrooms, lecture halls, a very big auditorium, convenience stores, a few cafes, a gym, library, computer room, optometrists and many other things.

EWHA University - "The Walls"

EWHA University – “The Walls”

This is also actually a major tourist landmark and you would often see tourists just come and take photos of themselves standing on this very spot (which can be rather obstructive for those of us running late to class).

 

For the summer program, I took up Korean traditional history and Korean Language classes (which were very tough but at least I can read Korean now). The one thing that stuck out most to me during my time in EWHA was the fact that they put a lot of emphasis and encouragement into empowering women to be excellent in their respective fields, and be dignified feminists.

The view of EWHA University’s entrance from the coffee shop opposite.

The view of EWHA University’s entrance from the coffee shop opposite.

Even in such a short time in EHWA, I have realized my identity as a female who would go out into the world to make a difference, no matter how small, without losing myself. It is a wonderful realisation to know that you are not alone in trying to figure yourself out amongst so many supportive females in one place and to have a sense of belonging even in a university which I was in for only a month.

Find out more information on QUT’s Short Term Study Options.