‘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

Thinking About Going on Exchange? Do it.

My final exams are over, Bishop’s is closing for the holidays and by now the majority of my wardrobe is purple, so I guess that means my time here as a student is up!

Applying to go on exchange and choosing Bishop’s has been the best decision I’ve ever made. So I want to take a moment to say to anyone who might be considering going on an exchange (or even if you’re not), do it! There are so many amazing places out there, choose somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or somewhere that looks cool to you and just go for it. Get that second job and start saving, work hard for a scholarship that can get you there, plan a budget that works for you, boost your grades and take the time to put together a great application – whatever it is you can do to make it happen, if you can do it, I guarantee it’ll be worth it.

My advice once you get there? Immerse yourself in the university life, embrace the foreign culture, stay in contact with family and friends back home, study (not too much! but enough to pass), make new friends, party, travel and just have fun with it – it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

What I love about the student exchange program is that it’s more than just travelling and more than just studying. I got the chance to live in another country for the first time, have the ‘college experience’, be the ‘foreign exchange student’, and meet people and learn things I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. If you’re experience is anything like mine, you’ll have the time your life.

I also just want to take a second to mention, it’s ‘pass or fail’. Okay, I’ll leave it at that.

So after all this, if you’re wondering why I’m not an absolute mess right now about having to leave, because I’m so in love with this place and the people in it, I’ll be returning for a visit to Bishop’s in January to say my goodbyes before I fly back home to Australia. Until then – I might not be an exchange student anymore but that doesn’t mean the adventure is over yet! I came all this way, so now it’s time to travel!

My Time in Mannheim

Caitlin: University of Mannheim, Germany – Semester 2, 2015 & Semester 1, 2016

My name is Caitlin and I set out on my year abroad to Europe in July, 2015. At that time, I had no idea that the next year of my life would be the best year yet!! For the next year, I was undertaking my study year abroad at the University of Mannheim, which is located in the South/West part of Germany. This was a city of approximately 360,000 inhabitants and it was here that I made friends from around the world.

Galata Tower, Turkey

Galata Tower, Turkey

Prior to moving into my apartment in Mannheim, I did a contiki tour solo in Turkey and Greece. It was the summertime and I saw the perfect opportunity to embrace the beautiful weather. I highly recommend doing some travel before you start your exchange semester or year, so that you feel a bit more confident towards travelling solo for when you do arrive in your exchange destination.

Highlights

During my year abroad, I had some amazing experiences and was able to share these experiences with the awesome people I met along the way. My favourite parts of the year abroad were the wine festivals in Germany, of course the beer festivals too: P below is a photo of my friends and I at the Stuttgart Volksfest Beer Festival!

My Brother and I in front of Mannheim

My Brother and I in front of Mannheim

Travelling to Amsterdam was amazing, I loved the city’s atmosphere and would go back again in a heartbeat. I was lucky enough to travel to Norway to spend Christmas with one of my closest friends from exchange and experience a proper Norwegian Christmas. I will never forget it!!! There I am below enjoying the Norwegian snow! I would do this year all over again; it will change your life!

To find out more about QUT Student Exchange, visit our website!

Friends for Life at San Jose State University

Charlie: San Jose State University, California, USA – Semester 1, 2016

Hi! I’m Charlie Shaw-Feather and I am studying a Bachelor of Engineering, majoring in Computer and Software Systems. I studied at San Jose State University (SJSU) for the spring semester, 2016.

As I am writing this I am on my way back to San Jose for a holiday to catch up with the friends that I made and the relationships I hope to last a lifetime.

Whilst on exchange I stayed at SJSU’s International house. This was a college owned house situated just off campus for international students, welcoming students from all countries. This formed an integral foundation for the time that I spent in San Jose. They hosted a plethora of different activities and events to engage students allowing them to get out of their comfort zone. When I stayed there was a little over 60 residents, about 12 of which were from the US.

I set out on exchange to experience as much of American college culture as I could and what better way than to join a fraternity. The colleges orientation week coincides with ‘rush week’ which is the time that fraternities and sororities seek new members. ‘Friends for life’; is one of the mottos that is prevalent throughout the Greek (fraternity/sorority) community and it is most certainly true.

The left picture is Tower Hall, an event building on SJSU’s campus. On the right, is Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.

The left picture is Tower Hall, an event building on SJSU’s campus. On the right, is Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.

 

The whole community is very accepting and it is an extremely rewarding experience. One of the great parts about being in a fraternity is the philanthropic events. For example, Kappa Sigma, the fraternity that I am a member of hosts a series of events each semester to support military veterans.

When planning my finances for my travels I had to not only account for my student exchange but I also had to plan for my short term program before hand as well; I was overseas for 8 months in total. QUT has plenty of different support systems for students including OS-HELP loans and bursaries. Without QUT’s support I would not have been able to experience as much of American culture as I did.

When paying for living expenses one of the reasons that I chose to stay at I-House was that they offered a meal plan. This meal plan was for 7 days a week with extra dining credits to spend on campus restaurants outside of the dining hall. It should be noted that the food was nothing to call home about, other than to complain…

To find out more about QUT Student Exchange Programs, click here!

Life in Sweden & at KTH

Peter: Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden, Semester 1, 2016

Through the QUT Exchange program I had the opportunity to spend not one, but two full semesters abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. I had done some backpacking through South East Asia in the past, but I had never left Australia for more than two months and I had never called another country home. Looking back on it now, I didn’t exactly realise the size of the challenge at hand – moving across the planet to a place where I don’t know anyone or understand the language – but that challenge along with every amazing experience has made it the best year of my life. Aside from learning the ins and outs of Stockholm, by the end of my exchange I had the opportunity to visit 17 countries and meet some incredible people.peter_davis1

My host university in Stockholm was Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan. Sound like a mouthful? Thankfully it’s also called the Royal Institute of Technology in English, but let’s just call it KTH. KTH was founded in 1827 and today is one of the largest and most prestigious technical institutions in Scandinavia. Universities work a little differently in Sweden and don’t tend to offer the same courses in competition with each. In Stockholm, Karolinska acts as the main medical school, Stockholm University specialises in subjects like Law and Business, and KTH is full of the country’s brightest engineers, programmers and scientists (among other things).

Europe has a bachelor-master system in which most people complete five years of study. In Sweden, all students are required to study their bachelor’s degree in Swedish, and their two year masters degree in English. Because of this, I was able to study equivalent units for my four year degree in Australia from fourth and fifth year units in Sweden. The KTH Main Campus was built over 100 years ago and is filled with beautiful red brick buildings, with the main courtyard being something akin to Hogwarts.

peter_davis2Our accommodation was organised through KTH and provided by the state-run SSSB (Stockholm student accommodation). Lappkärsberget or ‘Lappis’ as it is so affectionately known isn’t located on the KTH campus, but is a short walk away from the campus of Stockholm University, which is only one subway stop away. The area houses several thousand people, mostly in corridor rooms. My room was spacious and had its own bathroom and a lot of storage, and each corridor has a kitchen and common area shared between 13 people. In true Swedish style, my neighbourhood was not only near a subway stop, but also surrounded by forest and a short walk from the lake.

Discover more about QUT’s Student Exchange Programs here!