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!

‘Crisps’ or ‘Chips’?

One of the first things I remember being told about exchange is that assimilating into another culture can be hard. “It’s England,” I thought. “It can’t be that hard.” If I was to study in Italy or France, a country whose first language wasn’t English; that would be hard.  Now I’ll just get this out of the road and say it. I was wrong. It wasn’t ‘hard’ per say, but it was a lot different than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I love England. I love the perpetual cold and rainy days, the history, the Victorian architecture. But there are a few things that confused the hell out of me and here they are.

The people.
I now have many British friends, some of whom are from London. I have no problems getting along with these people – love ‘em to bits. But when I first walked through the streets of London I wasn’t met by friendly smiles, or people willing to help out the lost tourist. Instead they were steely eyed and hell bent on getting from A to B without disruption. At first it made me think ‘Oh god, why did I choose this country’ BUT I got used to it, it’s not bad it’s just different and that’s okay. Besides, now I know my way around I’m just another person on the escalator getting frustrated when some doesn’t stand on the right (this is a must: overtaking on the left, standing on the right).

Food.
You’d think being fairly similar countries the food in England wouldn’t be all too different from the food in Australia. For the most part that’s true but imagine my shock and disgust to open a blue packet of crisps (chips, I mean chips) to find not original, but salt and vinegar and that’s not the half of it. Cinnamon on donuts? Nope, sugar, sugar and more sugar. A bit of chicken salt on my chips? Ha, no. Pasito soft drink? Silly Australian, no again. Okay, I’m probably exaggerating slightly, the food is edible but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down the days until I can buy a pie.

Obvious disapproval of being mislead by the blue packaging.

Language.
Yes we may both speak English but to say I haven’t had a few issues in communicating simply isn’t true. Among the few:
Pants. Get used to asking for ‘trousers’ when shopping or be prepared to have the awkward ‘ah actually I was looking for thermal trousers, not literal heated underwear’ conversation,’ you’ve been warned.
Capsicum.
My first Subway encounter went a little like this: “I’ll have the green capsicum too thanks”

Subway employee,”uh… the what?”

“Capsicum, the green stuff?”

Friend, “Emma. That’s pepper.”

*Sighs internally*

Orange squash.
Sadly I learned the hard way that this is in no way orange juice or at a stretch, soft drink. It’s cordial. It took drinking a full glass of the stuff to realise that. Safe to say the flat mates have no let me live it down.

And of course we have the obvious, thongs.
On multiple occasions I’ve gotten the ‘that’s way too much information Emma’ look when saying, “I’m just going to put my thongs on before we go.”

My point here is that YES England is an English speaking country, YES it’s very similar to home and YES it really doesn’t take that long to settle in. BUT there are some things (plenty more that I haven’t talked about here) that are simply going to confuse the hell out of you or make you feel uncomfortable so don’t be surprised or feel stupid when it happens. It takes a while and debates like ‘crisps’ or ‘chips’ still happen but I’ve finally managed to stop myself before blurting out ‘capsicum’ at Subway. Adapting is key. Enjoy England.

A Polish Experience

Clay A, Master of Business

Warsaw School of Economics (Semester 2, 2016)

I have just completed one semester at Szkoła Główna Handlowa w Warszawie aka the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) in Warsaw, Poland. It was a truly fantastic experience.

SGH Main Building

SGH is a reputable business university in Warsaw located just south of the city centre. The campus itself is spread out over a couple of blocks in various, interesting looking buildings. The university itself is quite old, as are some of the teaching methods (over-head projectors, no lecture recordings, and best of all black boards with chalk) and I enjoyed every second of it. There are also very modern classrooms as shown below.

The main difference I noticed between SGH and QUT is that SGH is far more formal and the students are treated more like young adults. The students at SGH are required to call the lecturers ‘professor’ as opposed to the more casual approach at QUT. This formality is most likely reflective of Polish language and culture as a whole, which seems generally more formal. One thing I have noticed in my time abroad is that Australia is an extremely casual and laid-back country, and that we never get views like this from our classroom.

International Finance Lecture Room

Don’t let the formality of Polish culture put you off, this formality is mainly limited to the older generation. The younger Polish people I met in Warsaw were always very interested to learn that I was from Australia and were eager to practice their English speaking skills on me especially some Australian slang that they had picked up. The general consensus of people I spoke to referred to Australia as a ‘dream country’. Not many people I met had visited Australia but all of them seemed to have a distant relative or friend living in Australia. The cost of travelling to Australia played a major role in deterring people from visiting.

Always snow out of the window

The currency in Poland is the Polish zloty (pronounced zwotie), which equates to about 1/3 of an AU$ which was ideal for me and the other foreigners as the cost of living in Poland is very cheap, especially compared to its neighbouring countries in the EU zone. A 6 month student public transport card for unlimited travel was the equivalent AUD$100. The cost of food in restaurants, even very fancy places, was significantly cheaper than any major city in Australia.

I really enjoyed the Polish cuisine, especially during the colder months. It consisted of lots of different soups, meat (pork knuckles, beef tartar, ribs, duck legs etc), potatoes and cabbage (boiled, stewed, pickled). But the most notable of the Polish cuisines was the pierogi! Pierogi are Polish dumplings, the encasing of which are not too dissimilar from a Chinese dumpling, however the fillings are mainly cabbage, mushroom, beef, pork and are often covered with a bacon/oil sauce. Delicious!

Various styles of Pierogi

There were many international students at SGH, a large portion was from Germany but I also made friends with many Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, South Americans and even Egyptians. Two notable highlights for me in my time abroad was firstly having a Christmas party in my apartment with all my SGH friends, everyone came wearing their ugliest Christmas jumper and bringing with them a native dish from their country. The night ended with karaoke with everyone singing songs in their mother tongue. There was a total of 6 different languages sung, something which is very rare in Australia, but probably far more common in Europe.

The other highlight for me was travelling all over Europe, visiting a total of 16 countries in 5 months. The most memorable was travelling to Italy over the Christmas break, I was lucky enough to be invited for Christmas lunch to a friend’s family home I met at SGH in Treviso, Italy. I had a memorable and very delicious experience which was possible because of Erasmus experience at SGH.

I would highly recommend taking up the challenge/experience of studying abroad.

International Christmas Party

Making the most of my time in Vienna

Olivia R, Bachelor of Business/Laws

University of Vienna (Semester 2, 2016)

Travelling to Vienna, Austria, I was overwhelmed with the prospect of studying human rights law in the place so deeply rooted in the fundamentals of legal first principles. As my classes were in English, and many exchange students were not from English-speaking countries, the subjects themselves were quite light on. It was fairly disheartening, though allowed me to realign my future goals. The main building of The University of Vienna is incredible, though only history and English subjects are taught in that building.

The main staircase of The University of Vienna & throwing a cheeky snowball in Stadt Park, Vienna on the first snow day.

Prior to departure, I had been told to budget more than other exchange destinations. Vienna, Austria, is renowned for its extravagant coffee houses, long nights at the State Opera House, and elaborate palaces. While its First District, the Inner Stadt, is notoriously expensive, on par with Sydney or Melbourne, not too many students venture out to the restaurants and hotels in this area. As long as you have a budget figured out, and are pretty good at sticking to it, there’s no reason you can’t occasionally treat yourself to one of those famous coffee houses. Part of my budgeting was to live in student accommodation a bit further out of the city, in order to take advantage of the plethora of Eastern European countries at Austria’s doorstep.

An autumn sunset in Vienna & christmas lights in Vienna’s Inner Stadt

Over my five months in Austria I managed to pack in 11 other countries. A quick 50-minute bus ride east will find you in sweet little Bratislava, Slovakia. A small and relatively quiet capital city usually, Bratislava played host to the international White Night Festival the weekend I was there. I feel that I saw Bratislava at its absolute best—a light, culture and food festival lasting from 6pm-6am, and the Slovakians were out in full force for it!

Looking up to Bratislava Castle.

Next was Ljubljana, Slovenia. As a bit of an underdog city, I had no real idea of what to expect from Ljubljana. I went with two other exchange students. Having no preconception whatsoever of Slovenia, we had an absolutely incredible weekend. Slovenia is certainly an up and coming country, with many local designers and concept stores lining its streets. Ljubljana was awarded the greenest city in Europe for 2016, and no wonder! With cool social enterprise restaurants that charge per minute you’re inside and bikes stationed all over the city. We even made it out to Lake Bled for a chilly afternoon.

While I could write at length about each country and culture I visited, I feel these two places were their own kind of highlight. Were it not for the proximity of these places that Austria facilitated, I may not have ever travelled to these trendy places. These were such memorable destinations purely from the pleasant surprise of how much I enjoyed them, and a kind of opening of my world view when it comes to travel.

At the Vienna State Opera & The 180 Degrees Consulting Team.

Vienna itself provides a multitude of cultural experiences, from the State Opera House, to the extraordinary Albertina Museum and the historical significance embedded in its very identity. Vienna is truly a destination for history buffs, with plaques commemorating World War II significances, infamous psychologists and composers on almost every corner of the Inner Stadt.

While in Vienna, I was privileged to be a part of 180 Degrees Consulting Vienna. I was part of a team advising a firm that established an online job platform for Austrian refugees. For me, this was the definite highlight of my whole trip. We were also awarded the best project for Austria that semester. I met some incredible and impassioned people using social enterprise, who I am sure I will keep in contact with. It has encouraged me to join the 180 Degrees Consulting UQ team.

Canadian Escapade

Helena J, Bachelor of Engineering/Information Technology

University of Waterloo (Semester 2, 2016)

Deciding to go on Exchange in Canada is the best decision I’ve ever made! In Semester 2, 2016, I travelled to Ontario, Canada to study at the University of Waterloo. Waterloo is amazing and highly ranked engineering school located in the suburb of Waterloo. The campus was gorgeous, with many cool, modern and interesting buildings and recreational spaces.

Outside the University of Waterloo sign on the last day with two of my now best friends.

I lived “off-campus” at WCRI which was located across the road from the Uni. It took me 4mins to walk to class everyday – which was great, especially when it got really cold! It was an older styled accommodation which featured 4 buildings. I had my own little room and shared a bathroom with three lovely girls from Canada. We then shared a kitchen and living area with another 16 people! This made for some chaotic but fun times in the kitchen; including setting off the fire alarm with burnt slice, traditional German meals being cooked for us and communal lasagne nights. Coming from living at home to such a shared environment was awesome and gave me many opportunities to make incredible friends from all over the world.

The Canadian University life was fantastic! I got to go see the school play at their Homecoming CFL (Canadian version of NFL), Ice-Hockey, Rugby and even got involved with school sport myself. I joined an Ultimate Frisbee team with some fellow exchange students, joined the Volleyball club and even played some Squash. The amount of school spirit was something I’d never experienced back home in Australia.

Supporting the Waterloo Warriors at the Homecoming Game.

Subjects at the University were quite hard. The atmosphere was quite competitive and scary at times, especially when compared to the more laidback attitude in Australia. Lectures weren’t recorded and notes were written on a blackboard which sometimes made studying quite hard! The other students thought it was crazy that back home at QUT, all my lectures are recorded and done primarily through a computer. So adapting to academic life at Waterloo was a big struggle for me, as I had never experienced anything like it.

I cannot recommend Canada enough to anyone thinking of going on exchange though! Cost of living was on par with Australia – if not cheaper, which was great for the budget! And with the Australian dollar doing so well, I did not lose much while converting my money. Another great thing is that even though majority of Canadians speak English; we got to meet some Québécois who spoke mainly in French! I also got to do stereotypical Canadian activities like eat poutine (so delicious!!!), have an extremely intense snowball fight (at midnight because the snow started bucketing down!) and celebrate Thanksgiving (the Canadian one, not American; don’t get that mixed up!) and Halloween. An added perk to doing Exchange in Canada was the opportunity to travel. With some of the new friends I made we did many cool road trips; numerous national parks, lakes, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Chicago! I also got to travel around the USA at the end of my exchange; going to places like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Alaska!

Having fun with some friends in Chicago at the Cloud Gate.

With some many new and incredible experiences under my belt it is hard to pick a favourite or highlight of my exchange and travels. However, making so many wonderful, hilarious and beautiful friends for life would take the cake if I had to pick one. They 100% made my exchange everything that it was and opened my eyes to different cultures and ways of life. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to everyone I became friends with at the University of Waterloo as we all shared such a wonderful exchange experiences together.

Me standing on Matanuska Glacier in Alaska in -42°C as the last part of my trip after Exchange.

An Engineer Abroad

Jacob W,  Bachelor of Engineering

Exeter University (Semester 2, 2016)

 

A blog for uni, I must write,

as I sit and wait for my flight.

Home, I am bound,

Now I am out of euro & pound.

An adventure I have had,

soon to see friends and family though, I am glad.

It was July I left, travel and study abroad lay ahead,

though now in hindsight I feel I may have been misled.

A semester abroad can be really great,

unfortunately for me it was not to be my fate,

often you will read and hear,

“Embarking on exchange was the best decision I made this year”

“Don’t think, just do it” was something I read,

take heed! think! before dreams fill your head.

Life in Exeter, day to day

very similar to home though in winter, dreary and grey.

I lived with a lovely brother & sister, just out of town,

my expectations for foreign dorm life meant this was a slight let down.

Weekend trips to the English countryside, I thought there would be many,

lots of assignments ensured there were hardly any.

All-nighters in week two, something must be wrong,

Suddenly my time abroad was seeming very long.

Weeks turned to months and I eventually settled in,

I made a lifelong friend, thank god as things were looking a bit grim.

I did have a lot fun, travelling and meeting people along the way,

     seeing the sights and trying new foods, almost every day.

     Beer bike tours and river boat cruises in Budapest,

     these experiences might have been the best.

Though the delicious Polish sausage in Krakow,

    Chargrilled from a food truck, I wish I had one now.

    However, I can’t forget snowboarding in Norway,

      Amazing Berlin Christmas markets and all the Paris Clichés.

    There are many more highlights and stories to tell,

    Though I’ll wrap up this poem before you’re bored as hell.

So my semester abroad is done,

looking back, mostly I remember the fun.

Contemplating exchange? Here’s my final advice,

Dream big, get inspired but also think twice!

If you decide to go, pack light,

double check your passport before every flight.

Try to see everything but also study hard,

Call your parents and send them a post card.

 

Bullet Trains, Godzilla and Temples – The Real Japanese Experience

Elise L, Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Fine Arts

Ritsumeikan University (Semester 2, 2016)

New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient

In the Fall Semester of 2016 I studied at Ritsumeikan University in Osaka, Japan. I was part of the short term ‘Study In Kyoto’ program (SKP), but because I study in the Business Track my home campus and life was actually in Osaka.

Ritsumeikan University, Osaka Ibaraki Campus, from the ninth floor

I lived in a studio apartment (in the same building as many other SKPers) about forty minutes by train from uni. OIC campus was only completed in 2015, so dormitories are still under construction. Our apartments were small (22m2) but had everything we needed and I really came to love that little space. Being based in Osaka, we also had places like Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara only an hour away by train! Cost of living in Osaka seems moderate – rent is quite high and travel can be expensive (a ride on the bullet train can cost hundreds of dollars…), but food is very cheap and it is easy to walk to many places.

Home base – Aya Mikuni apartments

SKP students were assigned a Japanese student buddy, and they helped us with the little complexities of day-to-day life – how do you pay your bills when you can’t read them? How do you call the maintenance guy when you don’t speak Japanese and he doesn’t speak English? Our buddies helped us to function as residents rather than tourists, as well as taking us sightseeing and making us feel very welcome.

Shinjuku, Tokyo, feat. Godzilla

I spent more time on campus at Ritsumeikan than I ever have at QUT, and the timetable was more intensive than I’m used to – going from part-time study to 10 x 90 minute classes a week was a bit of a shock to the system! I studied Japanese too, and I’d highly recommend it – the things we learned were very practical for everyday life. There are also many university events to attend – we volunteered in a Haunted House at the Halloween festival, and we supported the university team at their American football games (go Panthers!). I attended the first World Community Power Conference in Fukushima, which was fascinating, and also visited the Toyota factory in Aichi.

My top 3 tips for studying in Japan:
1. Say yes (hai/はい)!
A piece of advice that my Dad gave me when I moved from our small country town to the big city of Brisbane. Whether it’s a student excursion on offer, or grabbing dinner with new people, say yes. If you don’t enjoy it you don’t have to do it again, but at least you tried!

2. Learn the language!
Downloading an app, buying a phrasebook or enrolling in classes like I did – language was the biggest barrier I encountered in Japan. By the time I left, I was able to have very simple conversations, and that felt like a huge achievement when I couldn’t even read my own mail.

3. Get an ICOCA card
A bit like a gocard in Brisbane, except you can’t get a discount as an international student (boo). It streamlines your travel process (no queueing for tickets), works across the whole country, and you can pay for a travel pass –  I had unlimited travel between my university station and the central Osaka station (with my home station being in between) which was worthwhile. Just don’t lose your card!

Japan is an amazing country and I feel like I barely scratched the surface, despite travelling as much as my budget allowed. My exchange actually postponed my graduation by a year, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat – in fact, I’ve already booked my flights to go back!

The famous red tori gates of Fushimi Inari shrine, Kyoto