Japan – First Impressions

Hello everyone,

It has now been about a month since I left Australia for the land of the rising sun and I am beginning to settle into life here. Classes have begun, I’ve made quite a few friends and I have experienced the devastation of a typhoon! Twice!!! But what have I learned from these initial experiences, and more specifically, what have I learned about Japan?

Well firstly, Japan is visually very stunning. Many of the temples in Kyoto fit in seamlessly with the surrounding gardens, which – in my opinion – are even more beautiful then the temples themselves.

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The Japanese clearly revere nature, so much so that they build fences around trees and construct supports for boughs and branches that bend too precariously!

Japanese people are also very friendly, helpful and incredibly polite. Many Japanese people will treat you with great kindness. An example of such kindness is if you become lost whilst out travelling you will be approached by a multitude of people asking if they can help you in any way possible.

The food is also incredible (as most would already suspect) and I have yet to be disappointed by a meal. Additionally, the food here is so cheap that, in fact, eating out is only slightly more expensive then making your own meals! And not being a particularly good chef myself (quite a shocking one actually) it would be safe to assume that I eat out far more often than I did in Australia.

These are all very pleasant aspects of Japan and it must be said that, in general, Japan is a very pleasant place to live. However, if there is one thing I could warn people about before they come to Japan it is the emphasis the population places on order and rules.

This doesn’t only entail abiding by the law (of which you should do regardless) but the multitude of social rules that govern day to day life in Japan. In fact, people who break more serious social rules or continue to break minor social rules are often stigmatised as deviants and treated as such. Personally, I do not like this aspect of Japanese culture, as it forces the populace to discard their individuality and focus on conforming to cultural ideals. But, if you would like you’re stay here to be a pleasant one you should undoubtedly respect these rules.

So, one tip that I can offer to people considering an exchange to Japan is to have a sense of the many social rules that govern the society before you come here. This often involves simply being polite and bowing; but there are more subtle rules, such as limiting physical contact even when exchanging money with shop clerks. For more information please check out the link posted below, which comes from the youtube channel I recommended in my previous post: Abroad in Japan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GCuvcTI090

Overall, I can say that in my short time here I have learnt a lot about Japan, but obviously there is still much more to know. The culture here is vastly different from Australia’s laid-back way of life. As a result, I have had my fair share of pleasant and unpleasant experiences during my stay. Nevertheless, I am acquainting myself with a completely different society here and I am learning new things and discovering new perspectives every day. In the end, that is all I want from this experience.

Sayonara.

9 Time Zones and 16,000 km ~ One Very Long Trip to Oslo

Sarah Yates
Bachelor of Engineering (Medical)
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim (S2, 2018)

I had great intentions about publishing this as soon as I arrived in my now home city of Trondheim. I honestly which I could say it was because I’ve been, you know, working really hard and applying myself at uni. Sadly the last two months of near constant climbing and hiking and cabin trips may have distracted me from actually writing anything! Such a shame. 😂

I’m not sure I really understood just how far Norway is until I spent nearly 30 hours trying to get there. International plane travel is an excellent opportunity to overthink how many times it is socially acceptable to try and get out of your seat in one trip. Once an hour? Every five hours? What’s the go here? I’m still confused.

My sister and I had to resort to using an ad to get that perfect insta background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had the opportunity to use my really good***** Norwegian within about 5 minutes of touching down in Oslo, as I needed to find the flytoget (airport train!) and the only helpful stranger I spoke to was probably the only non-English speaking resident of the whole city. With an embarrassing amount of sign language and a bizarre hybrid of English and Norwegian, this nice old man did eventually point me and my 30kg hiking bag in the right direction.

*****really not that good

I was lucky enough to be able to stay with a Norwegian family for my stay in Oslo, and I was completely adopted within about 5 minutes of meeting them. People do not exaggerate about Norwegians’ love of the outdoors – it is quite literally a national obsession. I woke up on my first morning to a map of Oslo’s forest Nordmarka, which was all of a 5 minute train ride away.

 

The Norwegian outdoors is not the Australian outdoors – in Norway, you can plan an entire walk based on which cabins sell the best hot chocolate. Brilliant. I spent the entire day wandering (kind of aimlessly) around this gorgeous place, between Sognsvann (a big lake close to Oslo) and Ullevålseter (one of the many, many DNT wooden cabins strewed around Norway). While the hot chocolate in Norway is legit FANTASTIC, I’ve got to warn you, “coffee” in this country is more like drinking straight up filtered dirt in a cup. But you can get unlimited refills! Which is just as well, because otherwise you’d be paying $6.50 for a cup of liquid sadness. Thanks, Norway. (Two months in this country and I’m disgusted to say I almost enjoy their coffee now.)

I also spent quite a lot of time exploring Oslo, which has got to be hands down one of the most gorgeous towns I have ever seen. The strangest thing is just how green everything is – really, really weird after Australia in the middle of a long drought. If you go to Oslo, it’s really worth going to Frognerparken, which is a big sculpture park in the middle of the town. Some of the sculptures are a bit ~weird~ (namely the massive pillar of naked bodies) but hey, it’s pretty cool.

 

You can also go and see for real viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum, which – I’m not going to lie to you – is pretty damn cool. About a 15 minute walk from here is the Norsk Folkemuseum, which has everything replica Norwegian villages to live folk dancing performances.

On my last night in Oslo, my host family made me the most Norwegian of all desserts – waffles and brunostBrunost, or “brown cheese”, is this really intense caramel cheese that Norwegians will eat literally all the time (including in the middle of lectures – I’ve even seen people crack out a cheese slicer mid-class). It’s a weird mix between being incredibly delicious and incredibly sickening and I’m honestly sure how I feel about it. The next morning I said goodbye to my host family and took the train along the Dovre Railway (!!) all the way up to Trondheim, where I’ve literally been having the time of my life.

Give me another two months and I’ll update you on that as well. 🤣

Dormitory Life in Japan

久しぶり(hisashiburi). Or in English, it’s been a while.
Semester one is long over and somehow, today Semester 2 officially begins of my study abroad here in Tokyo, Japan. It is hard to believe that I’m at the half-way point in my exchange, it feels like so much has happened yet I clearly remember the first day I moved into my dorm. There is so much to share, dorm life, studies in Japan, travel! With this I’ll divide my experiences into two, first Part 1 – dormitory life and being away from home.

To be honest with you, during my first semester of my exchange I felt no homesickness, this doesn’t mean I didn’t miss my family, but I was so absorbed with everyday life that nothing could overcome the excitement. However, after a brief visit back home to Australia in the Summer Holidays, I feel myself experiencing this very much delayed homesickness. Frequent calls with family help a lot and falling back into my routine assist in occupying my thoughts.

My everyday routine has become so normal at this point that returning from Australia back to my dorm for this semester, I remember thinking at the airport, wow I’m home! At this point, my cosy little room in my dormitory has really become a second home to me. Catching the trains back I couldn’t wait to get off at my little train station in Saitama and walk to my dorm. Keep in mind that my room has become so homey that I don’t know how I’m going to manage bringing all my goodies purchased back to Australia!

On a different note, an aspect of this exchange that I was not expecting was the goodbyes I had to say during my stay here. Whether I was a 6 month or full year exchange student. The goodbyes were always inevitable. At my dormitory called “Rikkyo Global House”, living with over 60 other students, I found myself making many friends. I made friendships in the last 5-6 months which I can proudly say will last me a lifetime. In my dormitory in particular, all my facilities are shared, with my only private space being my room with my bed, study desk, shelves and a sink to wash up. Due to this, every step in my daily routine is filled with interactions with the people in my dorm. Living on the 5th floor I have to go down to the first floor to cook my meals, have my showers and do my laundry. A simple day at home is filled with many human interactions, which at first was very intimidating, but soon became the reason for us becoming one big family. Spending my every moment of the day, including studying, with friends became natural and comfortable to the point that being alone felt odd.

The hard part of this was that most of these friends I made, chose to make the duration of their exchange as one semester rather than the two semesters, which I had chosen to take. This resulted in us having to part our ways. To be honest, I struggled at first with being left behind in the dorm as all the members of my newly made family left. But as I looked back on our time together and my reasons for coming on this exchange, I quickly picked myself up and am continuing with my determination to continue improving my Japanese studies and making the most of this exchange. Now I have made connections all over the world and whether I want to visit Switzerland, America, England, Indonesia and many more countries, I have a place to stay and arms that I know will be open to take me in on my travels. Not only this, but with a majority of us exchange students at Rikkyo being business students, this contributes to my worldwide networking which I believe will be of assistance to me in my International Business major. My eyes have been opened to all our cultural and language differences, and with this I feel like I have improved as a person.

With one semester left, I can already genuinely say I would never trade this experience and the things I have gained from this exchange for anything in the world.

5 Reasons Why Shanghai is a Decision You Won’t Regret!

Natalie Malins, Bachelor of Business – International

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Semester 1 2018

My BS08 degree entails a compulsory year abroad for which I chose to go to Shanghai and Paris. For my first semester abroad, I was lucky enough to receive the New Colombo Plan (NCP) mobility grant from the Australian government. I had many reasons as to why I chose to study in Shanghai, however, it mainly came down to the fact that I wanted to improve my Mandarin while learning more about the exponential growth of the Chinese economy.

The first few weeks were admittedly a bit of a rollercoaster (as they usually are with every exchange I suppose). Settling in and getting accustomed to the Chinese way of life proved to be a bit challenging at times, especially with the admin and visa side of things. Nonetheless, after getting myself sorted, I was able to relax and take in all that Shanghai had to offer. Four months later, I can happily say that I fell in love with the city. I could ramble on about it for ages if you let me, so here are the five main reasons why:

  1. University life

Shanghai Jiao Tong University is a very reputable and prestigious university in China. There are two campuses, one in Xuhui (the city), and one in Minhang (about an hour drive out of Shanghai). I attended orientation day at Minhang and was surprised at the large amount of exchange students. People always asked me, “aren’t you scared to go over there by yourself?”. The answer was of course! But I soon realised that everyone was in the same boat as me and there was nothing to be worried about.

I had classes from Tuesday to Friday, each class being around 2-3 hours. Classes were usually in a small classroom consisting of 15-25 students. Both campuses were nothing short of extraordinary and I was surprised at how well-kept everything was. I was at the Xuhui campus most of the time which had a canteen, restaurants, tennis courts, athletic track and not to mention, beautiful tree-lined streets.

  1. Culture

China’s culture is one of the world’s oldest cultures and if you ask me, one of the most intriguing. Shanghai is a bustling city with plenty of things to do from The Bund, to the French Concession, to the Umbrella Markets. What I found to be interesting was the mix of the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ Shanghai. I lived in Xintiandi, which is a tourist attraction covered with fancy restaurants and expensive boutiques. However, walk 5 minutes away from it and you find yourself in what I would’ve imagined Shanghai to look like a century ago; butcher stalls with meat hanging from the ceilings, old men playing chess on the streets in their pyjamas, street sweepers weaving their own brooms, old couples dancing in the park. With Shanghai growing into a modern city at such a rapid rate, I love that it still maintains its own unique character and charm.

As for the food…I think you can guess how amazing (and cheap) it is.

  1. People

I discovered the locals to be extremely friendly and helpful. The locals who lived in my residence were very chatty and pleasant, even when they couldn’t speak English. Additionally, the expat community is massive in Shanghai. I met people from all over the world and have stayed in close contact with many. You’ll find an international city like Shanghai to be quite transient, which is why people are more open to the idea of meeting new people.

  1. Nightlife

If you’re looking for a place with a CRAZY nightlife scene, Shanghai is your place. Many nightclubs have promoters, who give you free entry and free drinks all night. This is literally a city that never sleeps, and you can find something fun to do even on a Monday night.

  1. Travel

One of the definite bonuses of studying in China is its accessibility to the rest of Asia. I managed to travel to Thailand, Hong Kong, Beijing, Suzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Zhangjiajie (aka the Avatar Mountains). There are so many interesting and beautiful places in China alone that you don’t even need to leave the country. There are multiple airports and train stations in Shanghai which make it very easy to get around. Trains are reliable, affordable and super efficient. My highlights were definitely the Great Wall Festival (yes, a techno music festival on the Great Wall), and also Zhangjiajie National Park, where the movie Avatar was inspired.

These are the reasons why I believe that choosing Shanghai is a decision you definitely will not regret. I had many moments of doubt at the start, but at the end of it all I can happily say that it was one of the best decisions of my life. However, none of it would be possible without the support of the Australian Government and the QUT Study Abroad team.

If any of you have any questions about exchange or studying in China, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan

Preparing for Korean exchange: a haphazard guide

My preparation for going on exchange began in June 2017, a full year before now. The exchange process is crazy difficult to navigate and although QUT will try to help you as much as they can, you have to figure out the application process for your individual institution mostly on your own. So, if by some kind of miracle, you know anyone who has been on exchange where you want to go exploit them to the ends of the earth. Orignally, as I was studying Mandarin at the time I was dead set on going on China and reached out to any Chinese university I thought might take me. Unfortunately, despite my best stalking efforts of these universities I could not find one that a. would reply to my emails and b. had subjects that lined up with my degree. After being seen no reply’d by a whole country for a couple of months I decided to look elsewhere.

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Day in the Life of a Japanese University Student (Rikkyo)

It has been just a little under 6 weeks since I embarked on my year long journey to Tokyo, where I am currently studying at the incredibly beautiful Rikkyo University. In the short time I have been here (which seems to have passed in the blink of an eye), I have leaped from my comfort zone in almost every aspect of my daily life; I eat a range of new foods, I have made a lot of new friends, explored incredibly beautiful places, and everyday I attempt to speak in a language I am still highly unsure of. Nevertheless, I approach every day with an attitude of eagerness, and hope to continue to do so throughout my exchange.

Just some of my explorations so far: Tokyo Tower, Hakone, Kawagoe.

 

I’m sure I will continue to share my experiences about general life in Japan, however, today I will give you a brief overview of what my daily life as a student looks like, so far.

 

Morning:

Typically, (unless karaoke from the night before is involved), I wake up early and lounge around my dorm. My dorm (RIR Shiinamachi, for those of you interested) is incredible, and I couldn’t have wished for a better location; I live just a brisk 15-minute walk from campus. I have breakfast in the cafeteria, where everyday, so far, there has been at least one item of food that I haven’t yet tried. I eat, chat with anyone who is there, and try to decipher the Japanese morning news, which, by the way, has an amazingly-brilliant number of wacky sound effects. Afterwards, I leave the dorm for the day at about 8AM, and get to University soon after. I usually spend the the time before class starts doing revision, practicing my Japanese, or doing some readings.

The view of the main building on campus. Every day I take so many photos of it! 

From 9:00AM = Classes:

Between 9AM – 5PM I attend class, each of which are 1 and a half hours long, and are distinguishable from my experience at QUT in a number of ways. Firstly, I don’t really have any lectures; all of my classes are analogous to “workshops”, and all have quite high participation marks built into the course structure (I’m talking 30/40%). The teacher (先生 – Sensei) goes through the topic in reference to the weekly readings, and then opens the floor for discussion or asks specific people questions. With the credit system here, I have to study 7 subjects, and some meet more than once a week, so I have 11 actual classes. However, the difficulty of the work is, in my opinion, significantly less intense than my subjects back home. The assignments and exams are not overly difficult, however the general study is A LOT more (I come 5 days a week, I have homework for every class, every week – often more than once a week, and this is on top of regular study).

A typical classroom. Very old school, and yes, they still use the blackboards. 

There are 6 periods in a day (you may not have class in every one, though) and conveniently a designated time for lunch! Between 12:15PM – 1:00PM, students burst from their classrooms and fill the campus’ multiple cafeterias (食堂 -Shokudō), and the convenience store nearby. The food is so cheap, generally under $5AUD, and is always good quality –  in true Japanese fashion.

If I ever have spare periods, you will probably find me in the library, which is wonderful and has an astonishing amount of resources to use/browse. You will always find a seat, and it is always super quiet; the Japanese cultural values of politeness and conscientiousness really flow through to every aspect of life.

 

6:00PM – Bedtime:

The neighbourhood bell (that’s right, a bell), chimes out at 6PM signalling that it’s DINNER TIME (side note: this isn’t actually the sole purpose of the bell, but for Shiinamachi dorm, it usually is). My friends and I walk down and grab our trays and tables, waiting to see what the new exciting dish will be. There are often Japanese game shows on, which we play/watch along with – sometimes to the point where everyone is screaming and laughing at the TV. I spend an hour or so down there, just chatting to everyone about the day. I will definitely miss chatting to everyone I have met here so far, as they are all only here for 1 semester. In the time after dinner and before I sleep, I usually just do what I did back home; I watch TV, talk with family, or study.

Some of the amazing dishes so far! I stole these photos from my friends, because I am always too hungry to take pictures first! 

So, although some things remain the same from my life back in Australia, many, many things have changed. And so far, I am really enjoying it. I love the people I am meeting, the new schedule I follow, the time I have to dedicate to my studies, and the areas around me I get to explore some more of everyday. If you have any questions about studying in Japan, or something you want to know about general life in Tokyo, please let me know!

Until next time! またね~

Honkers Part 2

So we are now a little over two months in… and I am realising more and more that I love being a little fish in this big, big, crazy sea. I thoroughly enjoy spending time on my own and Hong Kong gives you endless opportunities to take yourself out on dates where you never really feel alone amongst the chaos.
In the most densely populated suburb in the world – Mongkok – you can found countless little Chinese or Taiwanese restaurants on the tenth floor of a 20 storey building crammed in between 2 other equally busy restaurants that will serve you up the most delicious broth at an amazing price… Honestly I could do six blogs just about the food and I am really giving myself a pat on the back as I’m becoming a true wiz at Chopsticks.  There is something exciting about picking your meal from the menu pictures and never really knowing what you’re going to get – just praying its not intestines or something like that!
Among other things, what I love about the young Hong Kongers is that they love to treat themselves. They love having the best – I thought I would follow the trend and wait 2 hours for ‘Hong Kong’s Best Bubble Tea’. Coming from uncrowded Brisbane this was crazy to me – I mean don’t get me wrong it was delicious but these people do this on a daily basis. Don’t let me put you off though – despite the huge crowds Hong Kong is a hub of efficiency. Everything in Hong Kong is how do we get as many people in the restaurant as possible and how do we get them straight back out again. So although you might see a huge line up for a little restaurant rest assured you will be served within 20 minutes! Although you better be ready to put your change away quickly and get out of the way!
What really has changed my life though has been the hot lemon tea. I am ADDICTED! This is basically a staple with every meal and if you have ever been to Hong Kong you know that you must preface every drink with ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ as everything is offered in both.
Another plus of living here, aside from the hot lemon tea, is Hong Kong’s central location.  It is close to most of Asia and there are so many airlines flying through Hong Kong that every week you will find flights that are cheap as chips to anywhere in Asia you wish to go. So far I have been to Cambodia and Taiwan and next stop – TOKYO.
Of course its not all jetting around here. I am starting to truly understand what living on a student budget looks like. But Hong Kong is perfect for youif you have plenty of money or no money at all, because you can pick the type of lifestyle you wish to lead! Extravagant, top of the range down to $15 AUD a day – note this is still eating delicious food if you know where to go!
Hopefully my next blog is less centred around food but it is unlikely. Until next time…

My first Thai scam

It has been a month since my last post, and in that time I have been able to travel to six new cities. This year Thammasat University held an inter university sport event that lasted two weeks. This meant that after only two weeks of study we had two full weeks off. Naturally, myself and some other exchange students used this to our advantage and booked a trip away. We started up in the North of Thailand at Chiang Mai, from here we ventured down to Singapore and then up through Malaysia. In this post I am just going to speak about my Chiang Mai experience.

I travelled to Chiang Mai with three Thai students and two other exchange students, both from America. I expected the city to have a similar bustle to Bangkok however I was very wrong. Even though it was still a big city I thought it felt more like a small town. The first night we stayed close to lots of unique cafes and Chiang Mai speciality restaurants. Al were delicious. At night we visited an extremely long night market that showed off some of the textiles that come from the region.

The following day the Thai girls arranged for a taxi driver to take us to our next night’s accommodation, glamping about an hour out of the city. On the way the driver was supposed to take us to Doi Suthep, some strawberry fields, and some places the taxi driver recommended. Before coming to Thailand, I had heard about lots of taxi driver scams, so I was cautious but since my Thai native friends arranged it I thought I should trust them.

We woke up early, so we could see Doi Suthep, a temple on top of a mountain at sun rise. The glow of the yellow sun rising over the town in front and the intricately designed temple, made for a stunning view.

Sunrise from Doi Suthep

Once we had soaked up the beauty of the temple we started heading out of the city. Our first stop, an elephant park. This is where red flags began to fly because we specifically told the driver we did not want to see elephants as we had already arranged to go to an elephant sanctuary on our final day. The whole time we were there the driver was trying to sell us different packages, but we politely declined and moved back to the car.

We got on the road again and shortly stopped at what I thought was a nice cafe on a creek. However, after getting coffee our driver approached us about paying an entrance fee, of about $20, to see a hill tribe above the river. The price seemed a bit extravagant to see a village, so we declined but he then came back with a counter offer of $8. As one of the Thai girls was very interested in going we decided to go up. The ‘hill tribe’ was only about two-minute walk up a slight hill and there were about 16 huts. This didn’t seem enough to host the eight different kinds of village tribes it was said to have. I overheard a tour guide explaining that all the men were out working on farms so they weren’t in the village. It didn’t take much observation to see men playing on their phones around the back of their huts. The hill tribe women are known for wearing long neck pieces but many of the women simply put them on like necklaces. The obvious tourist trap felt objectifying towards the people and especially the children that were there.

Once I happily left the ‘hill tribe’ I thought we must finally be going to the strawberry fields, but some people were getting hungry, so we had stopped at another beautiful café on the water. Here the two American girls and myself began asking the Thai girls what was going on. Before this moment we were just going with the flow as every discussion was had in Thai, but we were starting to get frustrated about never knowing what was happening and why we hadn’t gone to the strawberry field yet. They told us he wasn’t going to take us anymore because it is too far away. So, we decided we were going to speak to him as we didn’t feel it was fair that we still pay him as much if he was not providing the service we agreed on. Once we mentioned the strawberry fields to the driver he began acting like a three-year-old having a tantrum. He threw off his jacket and started walking fast back and forth saying how he never said he’d go there and it’s too far. This made me concerned that he might get in the car and drive off with our stuff, so I stood in front of the driver’s door. He came over and tried to push me out of the way, so he could get in, but I didn’t want him to go so I stayed in front of it. One of our Thai friends kept talking to him in Thai and it was clear they were arguing. Eventually after the arguing we all got back in the car, with us three English speakers still unclear about where we were going. We ended up at the campsite, so that answered that question. We got out of the car and more arguing about the price followed. We all paid about $2.50 less than originally planned so a very small discount. The whole experience was frustrating and exhausting. It also left us at our campsite 4 hours early.

We were lucky that the owner of the site, an ex-teacher, was so lovely. She made us lunch for free and showed us an area we could hang out. being in the beautiful atmosphere of the mountains was exactly what was needed after that experience. That night we had a BBQ and watched the stairs before settling for an early night.

The view from my tent

The next day we headed off back to Chiang Mai by bus this time to avoid anymore dodgy taxi drivers. Once in town we went to the infamous fried bread place that shapes bread into elephants, frogs, dragons amongst other things. We also visited an interactive art museum that proved to be a lot of fun for the afternoon.

The last day we spent in Chiang Mai was my favourite of my time in Thailand so far, we went to see the elephants! We were picked up from our hotel and taken in an open-air truck to the elephant sanctuary. Here we were able to feed, play, and wash them in a river. It was a lot of fun and the elephants seemed happy and playful. There is so much information on ethical elephant sanctuaries, but at the same time still so much you don’t know about what happens behind the scenes. The relationships between the trainers and elephants seemed so genuine and helped me believe that they really do care about the treatment of the elephants. We were even told to leave some elephants alone for a while because they did not feel like being crowded.

The baby elephant recieveing a tickle from a trainer

Chiang Mai is such a unique place with such a range of things to do there and is definitely worth a visit.

Bangkok, far exceeding my expectations

Bradley Webb, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.  


Well i have to say that after being here 2 months there is zero regret for my decision to go on exchange. This place is amazing, Bangkok you are far exceeding my expectations. This place seems to have a pool everywhere, most places you stay or visit seem to have a pool somewhere in the complex. Here is two that i recently visited.

I went exploring the city this week and went on a long boat through the city. It was amazing and surprising cheap at 3 dollars for about 2 hours up the river. Was fun playing with the pigeons at the dock, I definitely enjoyed being a little kid that day.

Finally after 6 days of humidity and feeling sticky it finally rained. Was amazing sitting on the balcony of the place i was staying and watch a monsoonal storm roll over the city. The weather here in Bangkok is surprising like Brisbane stinking heat and storms that just erupt with exceptional speed.

This student’s exchange to Thailand is generously supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan

Spews, poos and smiles

What a crazy first week! From spews, to smiles, new friends, sore throats, happy kids, championships and a whole lot more. It has only been one week and already this trip has become one that will be unforgettable.
It was a little overwhelming arriving in Vietnam, not really knowing the people that you will be spending most of your time with, but didn’t that change quickly!
It took only a couple of hours before we were happily cheering our glasses and becoming immersed in the food and culture.

The first day of business involved meeting our new friends from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy. The people that we met and the friendships that we developed will be forever cherished. Not only did they welcome us with open arms, they gave us the inside scoop on places in Saigon that we would never have found on our own. During the week we, with our new friends, went to the gym, danced, ate delicious food, rocked out to songs in both Vietnamese and English at karaoke and together taught primary school children some fun games that not only tired them out but also us. We also ran some nutrition classes!


Visiting the primary schools the past week in Saigon is definitely in the running for the number one experience of the trip. The school environment was so positive and the children were so happy and eager to learn. It was so amazing to have the opportunity to run around with these kids that I would highly recommend this trip even if it was just for that one experience or even looking into placements overseas! (Even though there was a few runny poos due to dehydration 😕) Being in a school environment so different to that of Australian schools is 10/10 and something that I believe will advance your understandings of pedagogies as well as your development and perspectives as a future teacher.


On an end note, one major night to remember was Vietnam’s win in the U23 AFC football semi-final. The streets were packed and the crowds were out of this world. There were flags everywhere and continual honks of horns until early EARLY hours of the morning. It was something we had never seen before and something that we will never forget!


Week number one was a major success and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for week 2 in Hanoi.

Editor’s note: Tessa’s trip to Vietnam was made possible through sponsorship from the Australian’s governments New Colombo Plan. To discover similar programs check the QUT Global Portal.