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.

Foods, dudes and moods- Josh’s journey through asia

In short, my trip to Hong Kong was good.

The long version however, you might want to strap yourselves in for it.

So, Without further ado! lets dive headfirst into the world that was “Josh’s Exchange in Hong Kong”

Hong Kong:  the New York of the east, was where I was lucky enough to study during the latter half of 2017. No amount of preparation could have readied me for the crazy adventures and stories that followed.

I could sit here for days and type out pages of my different adventures, but I’ll keep this one readable in a sitting or two

I remember my feeling of first landing in Hong Kong, it was one of anticipation and trepidation. I had no idea what was in store for me or what was even going to happen, all I knew was that I had an interesting time ahead of me. This feeling of wonder and adventure is something that I wish you, dear reader, will experience through my writings

Looking back at it now, the things I worried about back then were insignificant, just like the myriad of problems in day to day life that we tend to exaggerate in our heads. Things have a way of working out if you stay determined and resilient. Every obstacle in your life is a wall that can be shattered, passed by, scaled and much more. Every challenge is one you can learn from.

When people asked me about living in Asia, one of the most common things that I was asked was the price of food. Now I’m going to be real with you here

The cheap food was CHEAP and expensive food was something that could bankrupt me very easily. I found myself eating “buy one get one free” egg cartons and rice very regularly. I somehow always managed to run out of food money.

I always cooked for my best friend and I during my time there. We bonded through our mutual suffering of never having enough to eat. Some of the most meagre meals we shared are some of the most important memories that I have of him.

I remember one time I had a plethora of eggs and nothing to go with them. I scrambled some eggs to have the consistency of rice to go with some other sunny side up eggs.

It was a somewhat depressing meal.I found a way to make it work though.

However, I went hungry quite a lot.

Don’t think it was always poverty living though!

Hong Kong has a plethora of Michelin star restaurants in seemingly impossible to find back alleys. Seemingly unassuming hole in the wall eateries were often Michelin recommended or better.

Food aside, one of the big points I’d like to point out is the lifestyle of Hong Kong. Living up to its name of “the New York of the east” Hong Kong is busy, crowded and  somewhat dirty- I revelled in the lifestyle.

My first few weeks were spent navigating the attractions of the island as well as exploring every district possible. I like to think of it as my excited tourist phase

I managed to see 90% of the attractions in that period. But as time passed and reality set in, I found myself used to the busy schedule. There was always a list of things to do and people to see. However, what once was a magical experience quickly became mundane. If you ask me what’s interesting about Hong Kong I wouldn’t know because it was all so normal to me.

I remember spending nearly every day I had in “Mongkok”- a district in Hong Kong. It has a world record for being the densest commercial district in Hong Kong. As an avid shopper, I quickly became familiar with the spaghetti streets and innumerable streetwear, fashion and electronics stores. Very often I’d give directions or show tourists shops that I frequented. I quickly became a local. Fashion in Hong Kong is trendy and expensive. People cared most about how much their clothing/image was and it was a race to wear as much money as possible. I admit, I was swept away in the waves of HK culture.

(My favourite shopkeeper there! she made a lot of money from me)

I quickly made friends with the shopkeepers there, I brought a lot of business to them too!

Now, like all big cities, transportation was light years better than public transport back home. The subway was fast, reliable and crowded. It was the epitome of big city transport. It was definitely preferable to the lengthy delays, slow circulation speeds and unreliable transport methods back home.

One piece of advice I’d like to give is to try and be as social as possible in the early periods of your exchange before cliques and groups are made. You can quickly veto out the groups that you don’t wish to stay with and form as many close friendships as possible. This is extremely important as you risk being isolated in a foreign land with very few people to turn to. Make friends with your dorm security guards too!

I tried to be as nice to the dorm guards, I usually waved or smiled whenever I passed. Due to this alone I was able to get away minor infringements as they would often bend the rules a little for me. I do admit I admired their work ethic though. One of the security guards I nicknamed “eagle eyes” for his sniper like eyesight and ever watchful gaze. He always smiled and nodded whenever I waved. He always worked 10 or 12 hour shifts without so much as a single complaint

He retired when I was there, I miss him.

I met some of the most interesting characters from so many different backgrounds during my time there. Many evenings and dinners were spent simply comparing our lives back in our home countries. I loved telling stories of the plethora of things in Australia that can kill you.

The sheer variety of different nationalities and cultures meant that you get a feel for how wide the world is, your eyes are opened to so many different perspectives that you never thought possible.

I was humbled.

I’m going to admit, everyone seemed to have things that they disliked about their home country. There were always complaints about this or that.

There are always things wrong with where you live, but there are always positives too!

Now if you are traveling to a country that does not speak English as the primary language, it might take time for the locals that you encounter frequently to open up to you. Don’t take offence from it though! I remember during the early period of my time in hong kong I continually offered to some of the people on my floor to join in the activities that my friends and I did. They all said the same thing

“I’m not confident in my ability to speak with you in English”

I insisted that it was fine and was rewarded with some of the nicest people I’ve met. I was able to go rock climbing for free and had friends I hope to keep for my lifetime.

 

I loved everyone there. They were some of the most interesting, varied and wonderful people I’ve ever met. It might sound a bit weird, but I like to think that even though I may not be able to see them again, they never really left my life. The memories we made together will always stick with me.

Life in Hong Kong really opened my eyes to how lazily I had lived my life until then. The lifestyle of Hong Kong was busy, it really contrasted against my life on the Gold Coast. There were so many things back home that I needed to do, and hadn’t.

I realised that I had to make changes

I can guarantee you that you will make many realisations during your time too.

Exchange is definitely an experience that will quickly mature you or break you. I mean that as it’s a situation of “do or die.” You’re stuck in a place on your own and you have to claw and tear through the difficulties that you face with your own strength.

I want to say that there are a lot of things in life that might scare you. Its normal to feel scared, but it isn’t normal to let it paralyze you. You’ve got to trust in yourself and have the courage and resilience to take that step forward, lest you may never move from where you are standing now.

STUDYING

I’m going to admit that studying in Hong Kong was something I disliked. Partly due to the fact that I somewhat didn’t take it seriously, but also because of how different the experience is compared to Australian universities. Group projects were common and always had a minimum of eight people, that’s right, eight people.

I remember spending many nights awake with a bottle of alcohol to get me through, Hong Kong was busy and so was I. Lectures consisted of three hour lectures once a week per subject. I’ll admit i often fell asleep, but then again, so did everyone else.

 

TRAVELLING

During my five months abroad, I visited a variety of locations and countries

  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan – Taipei, Hualien
  • Japan – Osaka
  • Korea – Seoul
  • Philippines – Manila, Siargao

I managed to get lost or face difficulties in every single one. I’ll admit, I have terrible travelling luck…

But what I do have, Is amazing people luck.

During my travels, I was amazed at the sheer human kindness of the people I encountered.

In Taiwan, I wasn’t able to find my Airbnb. My taxi driver stayed with me the entire time to make sure I found my place to stay. Sure he could’ve simply dropped me off at the first address but he drove with me for over an hour simply looking for where i was staying.

I had to insist that he take the 200% tip

In Korea, I met people that helped me find my way, showed me the “local experience” and fed me for free. They approached me and I’m grateful that they did. They were there when I saw snow for the first time, which was an important item on my bucket list

In Siargao, Philippines, I was beset by events that should’ve made my trip a nightmare. However, I met some of the kindest and most inspirational people in my life thus far, my dinner with them probably changed the direction that my life is going.

  • I had a 50-hour travel time to the island due to flight cancellations
  • I lost my debit card and had no money
  • I sliced my foot open x5
  • I crashed my motorcycle and had no money to pay for it
  • My flight away from the island was cancelled
  • I had nowhere to stay and nothing to eat
  • I was stranded

I’d like to highlight the last few days on the island in particular.

I met these two women on a tour and afterward we all went partying as a group with other people. The next day we all hung out and relaxed and it quickly dawned on me the extent of damage that my bike received during my crash. Due to my loss of debit card I had no money to pay for it and very few options. I seriously considered ditching the bike and leaving. I risked being beat or hunted down.

Upon hearing my story, the two women, offered to pay for the damage without hesitation. Their sheer kindness at the time nearly brought me to tears. During our dinner together, I asked for life advice from them and filled over 4 pages in my notebook from what they said alone. I would not have made it off the island without their unrelenting kindness. I look up to those two greatly, I hope to one day be able to meet them again and repay their kindness with interest.

Even my tour guide offered to go with me to talk to the bike rental agent to see if he can lessen the degree of trouble I was in.

The next day my flight was cancelled and since I had no money I was simply going to camp outside the airport as I did in Taiwan. A man sitting next to me offered to let me stay with him and the van driver that brought me to the airport offered to drive me for free.

I ended up staying with the two women from before though (don’t get any ideas).

Instead of having to sleep in a ditch somewhere I was able to have a shower and coffee without having to fear for my safety.

Like I said before, it’s this human kindness that really humbled me. None of these people had to help me, they didn’t even know me. But they did, and for that, I do not have words to explain how I feel. Those people that offered to help a stranger like me

I hope that I too, can be like them.

Now If you’ve stayed with me until now, I’d like to congratulate you on ploughing through my ceaseless rambling. I have a little more left, but stay strong!

If you are considering exchange, Go for it!

However, Exchange is what you make of it. It’s a washing machine of unforgiving circumstances that will test you as a person. I encourage you with all my being to stay resilient, be determined and most importantly,

Make the most of it! Talk to people! Learn lessons! Go places!

I know for a fact that I am a completely different and mature person from when I initially left. I’ve experienced so much that I cannot even begin to write about them all. I definitely recommend keeping a journal of the things that have happened to you, to ensure that you remember what you have learned.

I hear the phrase “I’m travelling to find myself” quite a lot. To be completely real with you here, I think it’s stupid. If you want to find yourself go to the lost and found, you might have better luck there.

What I’d rather say is to know yourself. I mean, what if you actually do manage to find yourself and you turn out to be a terrible person, what good that will do for you?

Know your strengths, your weaknesses, the things that make you who you are.

Be introspective! Be self-aware!

If you know what really makes you tick, you can capitalise on what you know and really make the best of what makes you, you.

I used to think that by studying what I was studying, I was aiming to become that profession. However, I learned that my profession is simply a means to an end.

If I am truly good at meeting people, then I must work in something that allows me to meet people.

Get what I mean? It’s something along those lines.

Finally, you should always do good (yes, I know, cliché). If you fall into the cycle of thinking that bad inputs equal good outcomes as long as you get away with it, you risk having it all come crashing down on you in an instant. All the bad you have done will drag you down.

The world is shitty enough, don’t make it worse.

Be someone that other people aspire to be like.

As I write this in the closing days of my adventure, I hope that I’ve managed to convey even a fraction of how I feel at this moment to you. I consider myself incredibly blessed to have experienced all this at my age and even more so because of the incredible people that I have met or been helped by. I am indebted to a lot of people around the world.

Just like all the people that have been kind to me, I honestly hope to pay it all forward.

I could keep rambling, but I’d seriously like to say.

Thank you, thank you for taking the time to read this.

May your own journey be worth an essay multiple pages long.

I wish you all the best in your future travels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Settling into Thai time

It has almost been two weeks since I first touched down in Thailand. Although I haven’t been here long yet, I have already faced so many challenges and have discovered many fascinating things about life in Thailand.

As this is my first blog post I think I am going to answer one of the most common questions I have been asked “why did you choose to study abroad in Thailand?” as well as how settling in to a new and very different home has been so far.

When I decided I wanted to go on exchange I spent a long time working out where exactly I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to go somewhere very different from Australia. I also knew that I wanted to travel quite a bit while I was away so finding somewhere affordable and close to other countries was also important. The last criteria I had was I wanted to be able to receive credit for core subjects while I was abroad. Out of all the options I was given Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand was able to tick the most boxes. Whilst for me Thailand seemed to be the best option it was quite clear that for most other students at QUT it was not. The lack of previous students having attended Thammasat University made it difficult to talk to someone who knew exactly what life would be like there. Also, due to the language barrier, many aspects of the university website were confusing and unclear. The lack of information about my studies and other things like how easy it would be to make friends and the best places to live was quite frankly a bit terrifying.

Thammasat University uniform

I arrived in Bangkok on the 2nd of January hoping to relieve some of my concerns during orientation week. The first event that I attended was uniform shopping. Yes, that is correct, in Thailand university students generally wear uniforms. I began to get a better picture of how the university and Thai student life worked after speaking to some of the Thai students that helped us buy our uniforms.

  1. The faculty I was in meant that I only had to wear a uniform when I was having mid-semester or final exams.
  2. Out of the 80 odd new exchange students only one other would be up at the Rangsit campus (just north of Bangkok) with me because most of the English programs were at the campus in the city.
  3. Thai people are really friendly and helpful people.

The university also paired me up with a couple of Thai students who studied up on the Rangsit campus. Both girls that I was paired up with were very lovely and helpful. They guided me on everything from how to get around to where to live. Although I was fortunate to have such supportive people helping me out I still struggled with simple things such as reading and signing the lease of the apartment I am living in. It may have been translated into English but the sentences did not make much sense. Since I was no longer in the tourist area asking a taxi or motorbike driver to take me somewhere was very difficult and it helped me realise how important learning some Thai would be for survival while I am studying here.

I have had one week of classes and so far, I have had a mixture of teachers. Some have been extremely charismatic, and good at English. Whereas others have been quite strict or had to ask other students to help translate some sentences into English for me. Either way being in journalism and communication classes have already proved to be a great way to get an inside look at different issues in Thailand and aspects of Thai culture that are not as obvious. I am very interested to see what the rest of the semester holds.

Although I came to Thailand with a bunch of concerns I have been able to work through all of the challenges and so far I am very happy with how everything is going. Being at Rangsit campus has turned out to be a positive. It has helped me to be able to befriend more Thai students than I would have been able to otherwise. I am also really lucky that the other exchange student in my faculty is really awesome and it has been great to have someone to travel to places near our campus and places closer into Bangkok with. I have learnt so much about Thailand and myself already and cannot wait for the next four and a half months here. I am going to try and post as much as I can on Instagram so if you would like to see more of my travels follow gabcarter.

Forever Hungry in Hong Kong

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“You may never go hungry in Hong Kong; however, you will feel the perpetual desire to eat being surrounded by delicious food” 

As a cultural hotpot, Hong Kong boasts a vast array of cuisines and delicacies unlike anything I have previously seen. If you decide to undertake your academic exchange in Hong Kong, you can expect the whole Asian continent on the menu. Restaurants are scattered all around Hong Kong – even in places where you wouldn’t expect a restaurant. Precariously sandwiched between soaring high-rises and glitzy, boutique clothing stores, it seems as though every third shop on Hong Kong island is a restaurant.

During my time in Hong Kong, there were some definite standout dishes. This included Poke, Dim2 Sam1, soup-dumplings, open-air eating and Portuguese egg-tarts.

Poke is a dish which originates from Hawaii and consists of seasoned shashimi grade fish. Customers at Pololi, one of the poke shops in Hong Kong and my favourite Poke shop so far, can choose to pair the fish with rice or salad and top the dish off with a variety of sauces. The result is a creamy, fresh and very filling meal.

A very filling bowl. You can find Pololi here: 35 – 39 Graham Street Central

Dim2 Sam1 has a very long history, dating back to the height of the Silk Route trade. Literally meaning “to touch the heart”, small dishes in Dim2 Sam1 allows diners to enjoy a variety of dishes and flavours. In Hong Kong, you will be spoilt for choice with the innumerable Dim2 Sam1 houses.

For me, Lin Heung tea house was a standout. Established in the 1980’s, Lin Heung is widely known for its traditional style and delicious food. At Lin Heung you are not given a menu sheet. Rather, you must chase after the ladies pushing the carts containing the dishes.

Don’t look for love, look for the cart with the delicious food.
Lin Heung – 162 Wellington St, Sheung Wan

Wrapped within a delicate casing, soup dumplings are a perfect blend of meat and delicate soup. Every bite is almost a complete meal by itself. There are several places where you can find soup-dumplings, you can find a full list here.

The perfect bite everytime. Soup dumplings.

Dai pai dongs are open air food stalls that usually set-up tables and chairs on the street. I’ve often heard that dai pai dongs are becoming increasingly rare due to governmental regulations.

If you are looking for a cheap, no-frills meal, then look no further than the humble dai pai dong. The dai pai dong featured below was located at the corner of Stanley St and Cochrane St in Central Hong Kong. However, there are many more located throughout Hong Kong, you can find a full list here.

In stark contrast to the high-end fashion, the space-aged cars and the suits, dai pai dongs offer a down-to-earth perspective to Hong Kong.

A sweet buicuity base, creamy custard filling and a sticky sugary glaze, each egg tart is a littble bit of happiness. Although this picture was taken in Macau, there are an abundance of places in Hong Kong where you can get your hands on one of these cups of joy.

Baked Happiness.
Portugese egg tarts.

 Tips before eating: 

Money matters: You would not want to be caught having finished a meal and not being able to pay for it, so make sure to always bring sufficient cash with you at all times. Many food stores in Hong Kong only take cash. 

Hygiene: If you choose to eat at a street stall in Hong Kong, a good rule of thumb to follow is to follow the crowd. A crowded stall is usually a good sign as it shows that food will be in constant circulation.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to wash your eating utensils. Restaurants will usually provide you will a large bowl big enough to fit all utensils inside and hot tea. Simply place the utensils in the bowl and wash it with the tea. Please don’t drink the tea afterwards. If you are unable to do so, cleaning your utensils with clean bottled water will also do.

 

Three down, Two to go

I like to think of going on exchange just like moving out of home for the first time, but with extra steps. There’s the feeling of limitless freedom at your fingertips and mountains of things to do, see and explore. However, being so far away from home brings a lot of things that you may not consider.
Being abroad isn’t all about the pretty instagram photos and cool foods. There’s a lot of times where you gotta eat the same thing for two weeks straight because eggs are “buy one get one free” and you’ve been shopping a lil’ too heavily lately.
money saving aside, being abroad is an amazing opportunity to connect with people from all across the world, I mean, in the morning i could be cooking Korean and later be feasting on authentic Spanish home-cooked cuisine. Some of my most enjoyable dinners were spent comparing the differences of our lives in our home country over a hotpot or some strange looking concoction that still somehow tasted good
That’s another thing, being abroad is probably the only time where people really like your Australian accent. People just love hearing me speak for some reason.
Those things aside, i underestimated how much being abroad would change “me”
I remember first coming to Hong Kong and being slack jawed at literally everything and generally sticking out like a sore thumb as “another one of those damn tourists.” Eventually however, i came to understand how things worked and soon enough i was pacing through the streets of Mong Kok like a local
I mean i give directions to people every now and then, that’s how much I’ve integrated. There’s a whole bunch of little changes that you don’t really realise that eventually pile on. But don’t worry, when you come back home you’ll be super cultured and stuff.
To finish, i think i should share some top tips for you guys when you do take the plunge into exchange
1: Souvenirs guys, cheap $1 key chains from Australia will definitely be appreciated by the people that you meet abroad. Give em to people for them friendship points
2: If you live in a dorm, MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SECURITY GUARDS. They’re more likely to turn a blind eye to situations when you come home at 5 am in a less than sober state
3: Get amongst it. initially you might be inclined to not stray too far from the beaten path, but some of the coolest things you can do in a country are well kept secrets that don’t show up on tourist guides
 
So keep tuned on the updates guys, i’m not home just yet

Ei-ffel in love with Paris

Marcella Denaro – Bachelor of Business
Universite Paris Dauphine (Semester 1, 2017 Exchange)

My exchange experience is one I will definitely treasure forever. What an amazing opportunity to be able to immerse yourself in a foreign country while partaking in a completely different study regime and culture. Paris’ Universite Dauphine was extremely welcoming to the large amount of foreign students arriving from all over the globe and made the transition almost seamless, particularly as the vast majority spoke minimal French. As an ex-United Nations building, the campus was vast and housed many conference rooms that no-doubt used to host many dignitaries and discussions.

Paris as a city takes your breath away every day. It is a city with no shortage of good food and beautiful architecture that can be found nowhere else. I would often spend my afternoons reading in Jardin du Luxembourg, just a ten minute walk from where I lived where you can spot the top of the Eiffel Tower. It is those moments that I have really missed since returning home. I’d recommend learning some basic French before embarking on a trip to Paris as the locals really appreciate it.

Paris was the perfect city for me and I would not change anything about my experience. I traveled to amazing places and met people I still keep in touch with. I could not recommend exchange more!