London Living

Alexander Aikman., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries

University of Westminster, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2019)

The University of Westminster is located in central London. The campus is compact and modern in its layout. One of the best parts about university life for me was playing rugby for Westminster. Joining a sports team was a great way to connect with people and I would highly recommend it for anyone going on exchange.

As expected, the cost of rent and groceries within London was steep. However, there are a lot of discounts on offer for students. Including a discounted travel card for the tube and bus services. There were also a lot of free attractions to be taken advantage of during my exchange. These included the British Museum, Borough and Camden Markets as well as Hyde Park to name a few.

Another one of London’s perks is the travel. Trains from London go across the UK. Allowing for easy exploration across the country on weekends. Better still were the cheap flights across Europe. I spent much of my free time travelling to other countries. Every holiday and long weekend I would travel somewhere new. Travelling to Norway with friends from Uni and travelling solo across southern Europe were true highlights of my trip. And I would encourage anyone to try travelling both in a group and on your own.

The exchange program is an opportunity to try new experiences. The best advice I can offer is explore as much as you can. Travel to someplace different. Meet new people from other countries and experience their culture. Finally, if you’re going to a big city such as London, then be travel smart. A healthy dose of paranoia and scepticism will save you a lot of grief. But above all, make your exchange memorable.

My Exchange in Texas: A&M University

Isaac Farrell, IX30 Bachelor of Business and Mathematics

Host University: A&M University, Texas, USA (Semester 2, 2019)

My exchange was arguably the greatest experience of my life to date. Living in a completely different culture is something that I would recommend everyone to do at some point in their life. It takes you well outside of your comfort zone and makes you grow up fast. In terms of my experience, I found that living in Texas was interesting. The people aren’t all rednecks as many of us believe, but they are some of the nicest people on this Earth.

Texas, USA

Texas A&M University is in a small Christian town called College Station. Its Christian roots are the basis of everybody’s day-to-day life, and it is why they are so kind and caring. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just met someone, you are already friends. An amazing example of their kindness is my friend Mimi’s roommate. Mimi had just moved into the dorm and had known her roommate for 4 days before her birthday came. Not only did her roommate buy her presents, but Mimi’s roommate’s parents also bought her a gift and a surprise birthday cake. Their kindness is unprecedented.

Another amazing part of living and breathing the Texas lifestyle was their love for all thing’s sports. Whether you were interested in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, or anything else, there was always games being played, and always people that wanted to talk with you about it. Their passion for their teams and their university is amazing. If you love sport, you will LOVE Texas A&M.

Football Field, Texas

The last thing I want to reflect on is the country bars. These bars are like the movies. You’ll go out with some of your exchange friends or American pals to these bars multiple times a week. They are the best place to relax and hang out with people. Instead of flashing lights and dance music, Texas opts for a more old-fashioned approach, with country music, line-dancing, and Texas two-stepping flooding out the doors. It is truly an amazing atmosphere to be a part of.

I don’t regret one second of my exchange at Texas A&M and I encourage every single person to go on exchange because (whilst it sounds cliche) it will change your life.

My Thai Experience: Study Abroad Done Right

Elliot B.
Thammasat University, Thailand (Semester 1, 2019)

My last post on QUT Gone Global was back in January, so I apologize for not posting sooner. Back then, I had just settled in and begun my first week of classes at the Rangsit campus.

What I loved about studying at Rangsit was that each time I went into Bangkok, it felt just as exciting as the first time. If I was studying at the city campus, I would get used to living in Bangkok and the excitement would eventually subside. But by only getting to see Bangkok on the weekends, the thrill of driving through the city and walking around the different areas was still there, even near the end of my exchange.

I found university life in Thailand completely different to university in Australia. Thai universities feel a lot like school: you have lots of homework; you are asked to participate in class discussions; and you have the same classes with the same people. Most classes have between 30-50 students, but in one of my classes, Advanced News Reporting, there were only 10 students. This was great because I could really get to know everyone, and could develop a good relationship with my teacher. You also take between 6-7 subjects, so you get to know the other students very quickly because you see them so regularly.

My class for JM310 – Editorial and Article Writing

The highlights of my trip include spending Songkran in Chiang Mai. Songkran is the Thai New Year holiday, famous for water fights that are held all over the country. People of all ages wear colourful Hawaiian shirts, arm themselves with water guns and buckets, and spray water at each other. Chiang Mai is known as having one of the country’s biggest Songkran celebrations.

Drenched on the streets of Chiang Mai

Another highlight was getting to know so many Thai students. I’m a massive food lover, so I found getting along with Thai students super easy. We would talk about food all the time. One friend invited me over to his house to cook with his family and have dinner with them. We cooked up a huge feast of traditional Thai dishes including kai palo (sweet and sour pork soup), red curry of duck, dry-fried prawns in garlic and chili, and the best fried rice ever!

The huge meal we cooked!

One last highlight would have to be a trip with my closest exchange and Thai friends where we took to an island in Southern Thailand called Ko Phi Phi. We spent an incredible day on a boat and visited some beautiful beaches. These are memories I’ll never forget.

My friends and I on a boat somewhere in the Andaman Sea

I feel very fortunate to have had this amazing experience, and implore others to go on exchange. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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

Spain Student Exchange Summary

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Kirra Sodhi

Universidad Carlos III Madrid, Madrid

Host Country

Deciding on a host country was one of the most difficult parts of my application process. I was comparing countries like Ireland to Norway to Singapore. However, I decided to go to Spain for several different reasons. Firstly, I had always wanted to visit the country, I was so intrigued with there fun and chilled out way of life (which eventually became quite annoying as nothing was ever open). Then there was the weather, now I know that we get a lot of sun, but Madrid is always sunny, in fact I could probably count only 5 days during my semester where there was grey skies. The people of Spain are also so welcoming, even if you know nothing about the language. I originally wanted to study in Barcelona because I though it was an amazing city, which was so multicultural and consisted of many aspects including arts, sports and most importantly beautiful beaches. However, as my business program was only offered in Madrid, I ended up going there instead (which was still a win). As the capital of Spain, Madrid was lively at all hours of the day, filled with amazing food, shops, festivals and lots of street performance. I was really into this traditional Spanish city and all its little quirks.

University and Campus

The university I went to was Universidad Carlos III Madrid, which located outside the city a bit, in a suburb called Getafe and took about 20 – 40min by train from Madrid’s central station (Sol). Compared to QUT’s modern facilities, the school seemed surprisingly quite old with chalk boards in the classrooms. I also found the education system to be dysfunctional and very unorganized, which most exchange students I met there agreed with. All the classes were pretty easy to pass, and the assessment pieces were not too hard. Also, I found that group assignments are very popular. All the classes were done in English which was fortunate since I knew zero Spanish.

Accommodation

This was very different to organize and caused myself I lot of stress when preparing for exchange. On campus accommodation was full and honestly, I would not recommend it as it is located in Getafe which is a very small and basic town. Madrid’s student rental services were various and helpful. For me, I often used be roomers, spotahome and uniplaces to search for apartments. The apartment which I lived in was owned by HELP MADRID they offered good accommodation but definitely ripped you off. I was constantly being charged extra for services like water and gas and each month the charges would increase by sometimes 50 euros which blew my budget out. Apart from this I did enjoy the accommodation, I lived with 11 people all exchange students mostly from the USA. Plus the best thing about the apartment was our location, basically in the middle of Sol, the main plaza was right around the corner.

Conclusion

Spain is an amazing place to go on exchange, especially as it is a large and central European city with something to explore every day. Compared to other European countries, I found it to be relatively cheap, which was definitely a big bonus. Having the ability to travel every weekend was amazing and I was able to see so many countries that I could not imagine.

My advice any future global student is that exchange can challenge you in more ways than you would expect, but the great thing is that you will grow as a person, make amazing friends and have the craziest lifelong memories along the way.

 

An Unforgettable Exchange in Exeter

Jasmine B. Bachelor of Journalism / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Exeter, England (Semester 1, 2016)

It feels incredibly surreal now, thinking back to my semester spent abroad in England. Ever since I had heard about the unique opportunity to study on exchange, I knew it was something I had to be a part of. I’m pleased to report that the experience was even more remarkable then I had imagined. Between the international friendships made, exploring European cities, and getting to be a part of another culture, there really wasn’t a dull moment!

Host University: The University of Exeter

Above: Reed Hall, on the University of Exeter campus

University Campus

I spent my semester abroad in the Southeast of England, in the picturesque county of Devon. I studied at the University of Exeter (where J.K. Rowling graduated from, for the Harry Potter fans), using my electives from my Law degree to experience a range of disciplines, including: Philosophy, Sociology, Politics and Law. It gave me a great taste of their teaching methods, as well as enabling me to engage with a range of students. The campus itself is beautiful, built on the top of a hill overlooking the city of Exeter. It’s size and student intake is significantly lesser in size to QUT, which was fun to experience, as you often find yourself running into familiar faces around campus. The university hosts a combination of modern and heritage buildings, which cover a lot of great facilities including: student medical centre, pub, sporting halls, eateries, libraries and even a theatre.

Accommodation

 

James Owen Court University Residences

I undertook my exchange in the second semester of their academic year, which meant there were only a limited number of campus-run accommodation on offer. However, those planning on studying here in the first semester would have a larger choice of accommodation options (including catered, self-catered, ensuite and studio). My accommodation, as pictured above, was at ‘James Owen Court’ which was a 20-minute walk from the main campus and was located in the centre of the city. The location worked out perfectly, as I only spent two days at the University, so the other days I could spend enjoying cream teas and shopping in the city! It was a self-catered facility, where I shared a kitchen between seven other roommates. The rooms were ensuite, and a laundromat was available on the premises.

It was my first time living out of home, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the independence. I arrived in Exeter alone, but met a huge group of international students along the way, who all quickly grew to be close friends.

International Students Group

Exeter Cathedral Square

Host Country: England (Exeter) The cost of living in England is quite high, especially if you’re living in bigger cities such as London. However, Exeter was quite affordable, and there were a range of places to eat and shop at a more affordable price (I would strongly recommend the local hangout, ‘The Old Firehouse’ which apparently inspired the Leaky Cauldron from the Harry Potter series). When it comes to travelling, there’s some great ways to get around Europe on a budget. One weekend I flew with a friend to Dublin for the low cost of 8 pounds (approximately $16 dollars). So, if researched right, travelling can be very inexpensive! I even secured a paid internship whilst living in Exeter, which helped offset some of the costs and gave me an even better insight into the city and the locals. The great thing about England is that you speak the same language, and hold a lot of the same cultural views, so there really isn’t any culture shock to be experienced – apart from the constant rain, that is!

All in all, exchange was an unforgettable experience, and there wasn’t a single moment I didn’t enjoy. Exchange presents an incredible opportunity to challenge yourself, step out of your comfort zone and develop your independence and awareness of different cultures.

A few extra snaps from my travels in Europe:

Copenhagen, Denmark

Cinque Terre, Italy

Paris, France

Happiest Time of My Life

Jade P., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Strathclyde, Scotland (Semester 1, 2016)

What a task – asking me to reflect on my exchange experience in less than one page, where to even begin?

Semester 1, 2016 was the happiest six months of my life.

I did my exchange at the University of Strathclyde in the oh-so-sunny Glasgow, Scotland. That was typed with the heaviest sarcastic tone FYI, I think I had about seven days’ worth of sun during my time in Glasgow – I even had to go out and buy a lighter foundation!

I lived on the top floor of the second-cheapest accommodation option, with seven other girls. For six of which, English was their second language, so anytime the American girl or I noticed a mistake in their English, we had to write it out on ‘the fridge’ (cue: dun-dun-duuun). After 4 and a half months the fridge was filled with the most hilarious out of context sentences and embarrassingly enough even something I had said managed to make it there. In my defence, Australian English okay! And that’s another thing I had to learn, to make fun of the country that I’m so proud to call home. I don’t know why, but Europeans don’t quite consider us a real country yet; you should have heard the sassy comments on the night of Eurovision! I’ve heard it all from riding kangaroos to buying my groceries with monopoly money – people will laugh at us and our “what is a bogan?” accent, but at the end of the day you will be their favourite international drinking bud – take it all in pride.

I am so relieved to report that I did not have any Scottish teachers, except for one guest law lecturer, and yes – I did not understand a single word he said. We call ourselves multicultural; wait until you go to school in Europe. I’ve learnt from people all over the globe, Egyptian, Greek, Spanish, African, Lithuanian, you name it. Their teaching staff were so globally experienced, name a country and they’ve worked there.

Moving onto the most important part of the exchange, Spring Break (sorry Mum). 3 girls, 6 countries, 10 cities, 5 flights, 1 overnight bus, a cross-country drive, a night on an airport floor, countless hostels, and endless coffee, all in 15 days. Now I can officially say I’ve walked to the smallest country in the world! I’m not even going to try and dive into this trip because there are too many stories for one page, and it’s something you just have to go out there and experience for yourself.

I honestly cannot even begin to explain how amazing my exchange was – I will always be so grateful for this experience and the support QUT offered from beginning to end. Being able to live, and study abroad with the administrative and financial help from your university isn’t an opportunity you should just let pass you by. My advice to those considering an exchange, go to virtual>study>open exchange application and submit. To those that are eagerly counting down the days until their flights, boy do I envy you! Just take each day as it comes and make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Don’t waste your weekend’s Facebooking friends from your dorm room – RyanAir is your new best friend. Book those $15 6:50am flights and go out and get a taste of the world! Everything will still be waiting for you when the dreaded day comes and you have to make your trek home. Then you’ll be where I am now, wishing more than anything that you could wake up and do it all over again.

Embracing Chilly Birmingham

Laura H., Bachelor of Business
University of Birmingham, England (Semester 2, 2017)

I completed my QUT Study Abroad exchange semester in the chilly city of Birmingham in the UK! My host institution was the University of Birmingham (UoB), and I could not recommend the university more highly. The staff provided exceptional amounts of support for exchange students like me, and we were made to feel incredibly welcome.

View of “Old Joe” Clock Tower from the University Library

Life on campus was so different to being at QUT- in a great way. The on-campus accommodation was more of a “college” style living situation and I shared a flat with six first year students. I made such awesome friends with everyone I was living with and could not stress the importance of making sure any future students make the most of their shared living situation!The learning and teaching style adopted by UOB was quite similar to that of QUT, which I found to be comforting. It allowed me to feel confident in my academic performance as the expectations were not dissimilar to those laid out by QUT. One difference, however, was that all my classes were compulsory to attend. This may sound daunting, but it was totally manageable due to the fact that I wasn’t balancing study with work as my Visa did not allow me to find employment in the UK.

During my time in England I always felt at home, as the cultural norms were not overly different when compared to those of Australia. Everyone I met also spoke English and because of this I was able to make great friends easily without language barriers. The only element to be aware of is the difference in weather! It’s safe to say that I wore my fair share of woollen sweaters to keep out the cold during Birmingham’s wintery months.

The Vale – my accommodation!

If I were to draw out some highlights from my experience, one would definitely be the friendships I have made throughout my exchange semester – I really have made friends that I will keep in contact with for life. Another highlight would have to be my travel experiences around the UK and Europe. Being based in Birmingham, it was incredibly easy to access other parts of the UK and Europe as the city has its own airport and great train system. Finally, the college living experience and campus-focused lifestyle was also something I will appreciate forever.The only tip I have for students considering an exchange is to jump in and go for it. I had such a fantastic time on my exchange and would gladly go back!

Things I did in Madrid!

Olivia H., Bachelor of Mass Communication
University Carlos lll de Madrid, Spain (Semester 2, 2017)

My exchange semester in Madrid was great. Although it had its ups and downs I learnt so much that I will take with me through life. I studied at Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3m) in Getafe.

Most subjects I wanted to do become filled up so I was left with limited study options. The teachers are not very willing to help; however, this is just the Spanish way; they are laid back. Some of the subjects are quite boring and you’re only given one week of classes before you can change/ pull out making it difficult to enjoy the semester. However, the benefits far outweigh these negatives.

It is incredible meeting people from all over the world and learning new things about different countries/ cultures. Exploring Spain and learning about the country and its culture and history is fascinating. I used a group called Smart Insiders who were great with day and weekend trips. They provided fun weekends for really low costs and no hassles.

Now for the practical stuff like budgeting, accommodation, your phone plan and most importantly, language. If you’re concerned about money here is my guide. You could easily do an exchange semester for less than $10 000 if you do not want to travel too much. For the whole semester September through to mid December I was using the QUT bursary and the government loan. With good research on apartments and being good and sometimes frugal with food costs, weekly living costs can be under 50 euros!

I lived in Getafe which although was cheap and convenient to get to uni four days a week, was inconvenient whenever I wanted to go out clubbing or into the city in general. I was paying at least 150 euros per month cheaper than anyone I knew but I either had to ask a friend to stay at theirs or stay out until the trains started again at 5am. When looking for an apartment, make sure all bills are included so you know exactly what you have to pay and can get a better deal. As for a phone sim, I would go into CityLife Madrid or Smart Insiders as they can help you set up with Lyca or Lebara mobile.

You can get by fairly easily without knowing Spanish and you definitely pick it up along the way. However, it is tricky in the first few weeks when you are trying to do things like get your transport card and a phone sim. For the transport card, I would order it a week before you leave for Madrid and deliver it to your accommodation. This is the easiest way and it means you can begin exploring the city right away.

The transport system is very confusing when you first arrive, but you get the hang of it quickly. The main type of transport in the city is the metro. However, to get to places like Getafe (where UC3M is located) you need to get the train, Renfe cercanias. Transport is much cheaper than Brisbane, like anywhere else in the world. Each month you load 20 euro onto your public transport card and it gives you unlimited access to all of the metro, cercanias and bus lines within Madrid.

Finally, travel which is hands down the best part. I went before, after and during my semester and although tiring it is so worth it. I used the semester for travel within Spain and the Summer holidays before and Winter holidays after to explore Europe! Below are some photos of my trip. Thanks for reading!

 

Chance Encounters in Milan!

Michael C., Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Universita Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, Italy (Semester 2, 2017)

My exchange started with a chance encounter which would later be incredibly beneficial. I had only been in Milan for three days and the apartment I was supposed to move into cancelled my booking. So here I was knowing one person in my building, who had a room for rent but not until the following month and nowhere to sleep in four days.  So after I managed to sort out accommodation, which was incredibly stressful I then began to focus on my studies and travel.

Milan was a fantastic place to go on exchange. The university had a very well organised social club, which for the first two weeks organised a night out every night for the first 2 weeks before class started. It was a fantastic way to meet people and make new friends. I also made some great friends in the language course, because it was full of other exchange students from around the world.

Making friends was terrifying but worth the effort. The friends I made became a big part of my exchange experience. We would study together, go out to dinner, go out for drinks and travel together. One of my favourite stories was where a friend I made in the first week, asked if I would like to go with her to a concert in Prague in November. I had never heard of this band before, but I am so glad I said yes. It was a fantastic concert. I had so much fun, and now this is one of my favourite bands. It just goes to show that you never know what is going to happen on exchange.

Travel as much as possible. An exchange in Europe in not complete without travel. I had so much fun booking flights on a Thursday, flying out on Friday and coming back Sunday night. One of my favourite trips was London. I met a girl in a bar in my first week in Europe, who as it turns out is a huge Harry Potter fan. When she was looking for people to go to the Warner Bros studio in London I eagerly said yes. Brittany became one of my best friends and we had so much fun in the studio. It was one day I will never forget.

My exchange was more fun than I expected. For anyone planning to go on exchange my advice is this; meet as many people as you can and be very organised, because time flies.  Make sure you have the funds to support your exchange because it is expensive and don’t miss home too much because before you know it you’ll be back and wishing the exchange wasn’t over.

“100% Worth It” – University of Leeds Exchange

Natasha L., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Media and Communication
University of Leeds, England (Semester 1, 2016)

I was extremely nervous to begin my university exchange experience. I am quite a shy person and was unsure about how I would make friends, live away from home and navigate myself around a new city. However, going on exchange was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

The University of Leeds is located in the northern region of England called Yorkshire and is known for it’s impressive school of communications as well as an amazing student union and social environment. I chose to study here because of the vast opportunities to get involved in university life and immerse myself in the entire exchange experience. Despite some initial fears, tears and freak-outs, I definitely settled in a lot more quickly than expected and made professional and personal connections that will last.

Walking around and learning the city of Leeds proved to be exceptionally easy from my accommodation, basically following one main street the entire way. I enjoyed exploring the city centre after uni and shopping at the local Kirkgate markets, going to grab a bite from the Corn Exchange or just admiring the old, intricate architecture on most buildings. Despite the fact that many compare Australia to England, I definitely felt that there were many differences and going to Leeds did pushed me to become more confident in new environments.

Staying in “Devonshire Halls” student residence for my exchange was one of the best decisions I had made. A range of exchange students had all chosen this accommodation and we were able to hang out, study and walk the 20 minutes to university together most days. I chose to be self catered but had the opportunity to meet people at special dinners, in the laundry room or at social events that the accommodation put on with live music and free food included!

I found that the cost of living in Leeds was similar to that of Brisbane, but that travelling around Europe in between did take up a huge portion of my savings. I travelled to more than 14 countries in my time away and found that I did need to always budget for more than I needed due to traveling mistakes or slip ups (i.e. missing a flight, booking a flight for the wrong month, booking a flight for the wrong city etc etc).  Many of my friends had the same issue and we all decided that over estimating your budget is a lot more beneficial to prevent stressful situations. I would encourage students to take $10,000 – $12,000 AUD per semester. In saying this, it is easy to stick to a budget when living in Leeds to due the ability to walk everywhere and the general cheap cost of living.

Exchange was an unforgettable experience that helped me grow and develop as a young adult. I gained confidence in social and professional situations and learnt how to handle myself independently when stressed. I made friends that will definitely last a lifetime and was able to meet and connect with people from all over the world. Although pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be daunting, I believe that going on exchange is 100% worth it and it will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.