University of Leeds – Finally here!

Well, it’s officially been two weeks since I have arrived in the beautiful city that is Leeds. Saying two weeks now is crazy to me. It feels like a day!

Unfortunately, I had to arrive in Leeds later than expected due to some medical troubles – which sucked, big time. But hey! I’m finally here! And it still hasn’t sunk in. The city itself is so vibrant, yet filled with history. The architecture is absolutely breathtaking and every time I step outside, I feel like I’ve stepped back in time. Cheesy, I know, but oh so cool!

I’m currently staying on campus at a little place called Charles Morris Hall. It’s one of the newer accommodations the university had to offer and it’s perfect for what I need. The size of the room is just right and the En Suite bathroom is a definite bonus. However, I would recommend bringing something to put on top of the mattress, it’s absolutely terrible! In regards to flatmates, I am fortunate enough to have the most amazing people. Since arriving, I have made so many friendships and connections that I would never have even imagined having in Australia. For example, my flat mates come from a variety of countries; Nigeria, America, the United Kingdom… The list just goes on! It’s really interesting comparing our cultures and sharing them together. I managed to get my American flat mate to try Vegemite (which they sell over here!) and she hated it! But the experience was something I’ll remember forever.

In terms of classes, the system is quite similar to that of Australia’s – except for a British accent and some old lecture theatres! The classes are very dependant on readings, which is where you learn most of your content, and you then discuss it in seminars (tutorials). It definitely is hard to keep up with classes with the temptation of adventure all around you… I’ve been on two trips already!

I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks hold and I don’t want it to end.

Talk soon,

Georgia

When in Reykjavik – Tips for travellers

So after living in the heart of Reykjavik, Iceland for the past few months I have accumulated a bunch of tips for those newbies here:

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – the most famous hot dog stand in Iceland! So it took me a few weeks to convince myself that I wanted to stand in line for half an hour for a hot dog, but it had to be done. The hot dog I must admit was pretty great; complete with fried onions, regular onions, ketchup, mustard and remoulade. One hotdog is 420ISK (~$5) and a small cup of soda is 220ISK (~$2.50), so it’s one of the cheaper places to buy lunch around town.

Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavík, Iceland. At 73 metres, it is the largest church in Iceland. It was 9000 ISK (~$10) to get an elevator to the top. It was such an amazing view, even on a cloudy day. I think it’s worth it, There are no other buildings in the area that high so you can see the ocean and the mountains and the entire city, even the airport.

 

Perlan (the pearl) – a short walk from the city. Free entry to the observation deck and I would recommend going at night. There’s also a revolving restaurant on the top level.

Blue Lagoon – locals often say this is a tourist trap, but honestly I loved it. The cheapest entry price is 40 Euros (if you can find your way there). It was very clean and well organised and unlike anything else I’ve seen before. I’ve been there twice now and loved it more each time.

Puffin watch – I went on a puffin boat tour. It was about $50 with Special Tours. We saw a couple of the birds but it wasn’t mesmerising or anything. I will admit I went on the last day before the stop the tours due to the birds migrating, so maybe it wasn’t so great because they had all gone off to sea. It was interesting and nice to see the city from a different perspective, not something worth doing if you only have a few days here, but it was a nice tour all the same if you’re looking for cheap things to do.

Sea Angling – I went sea angling in the last weekend it was available before the close for winter. I had a lot of fun, even though it was freezing. So I would recommend taking gloves, scarves and beanies definitely. They give you raincoats so your clothes don’t get wet or smell of fish and the crew handle all the fish so you don’t actually have to get your hands dirty. I’ve never been fishing in the ocean and it was heaps of fun. The the crew cooked up all the fish everyone caught and some potatoes on the BBQ on board and we got to eat a small feast as we made our way back to shore. A tour was I think about $50, but I’m sure if you want to get more hands on there are other options.

The Golden Circle – I was lucky enough that my parents came to visit me about half way through my stay! We went on a tour of the Golden Circle on probably the worst day of the year. It hadn’t rained so much in Iceland in a long time so we were soaking wet all day, bit I still had a great time and it’s a beautiful drive if you don’t have enough time in Iceland to drive the ring road.

 

My first impressions of Leeds

The train stopped. My world halted. But the people around kept moving.  The moment I had anticipated, dreaded, feared, dreamed of and planned for was finally here. I was in Leeds. I had made it. I was on exchange.

I’ll be honest, my first day in Leeds was a strange one. It was full of mixed emotions, cold weather and slight confusion. After dragging my suitcases through the city centre, whilst strategically glancing at my phone that was carefully balancing in my pocket every so often so I didn’t get lost, I managed to reach my residence, Central Village. The weather was cold. Very cold. I was sick of travelling, and I was simply ready to sleep BUT my birthday was in two days and no one wants to spend their birthday alone, so off I went to be ‘social’. 

That first night was great! I met people from all over the globe, all studying different things and all hoping to get something different out of this unique experience of exchange. The people I met that night are people I would now class as my friends, and I suppose THAT would have to be one of the greatest ‘first impressions’ anyone could hope for… acceptance.

The following days only got better (with the exception of the weather) and my good impressions of Leeds only continued to grow. The juxtaposing architecture, the rich history, vibrant culture and once again, acceptance of Leeds as a town and the university, all came to the forefront.

Never before had I ever seen public pianos in a shopping mall prior coming to Leeds, but I must say seeing a fellow student pull up a chair and play with complete freedom for nothing but his own self-satisfaction is one moment of those first few days I will never forget.

Exchange is supposed to change you. To enrich your life, broaden your perspective, open up opportunities and challenge you to push yourself. I feel like it is premature to say this has happened to me already… but perhaps first impressions are the most meaningful.

Travel: Before or After?

Whilst semester one at QUT is yet to start, here at The University of Exeter my fifth week has begun. I’ve been abroad for almost 3 months now, so how has this side of the world treated me so far?

Before I arrived in Exeter I spent a month doing the typical Aussie thing and took a Topdeck Tour around Europe, and what do you know?  Around 3/4 of the group were Australian. Doing a tour before or after my exchange was something I mulled over for quite a long time, but from the moment I got on a bus with a group of strangers I knew I’d made the right call doing it beforehand. My tour group became a second family. You can’t spend 18 days in close quarters with the same group of people and not become close. Together we travelled to 8 different countries and saw parts of the world older than Australia itself.

On my travels I saw the Colosseum in Rome, cruised the canals in Venice and reached Jungfrau, the top of Europe, in Switzerland. This tour enabled me to see parts of the world I wouldn’t necessarily have seen by myself. I climbed the never-ending stairs of the Arc De Triumph, ate snails and avoided Haggis like the plague and explored the nightlife in Edinburgh.

Canal Cruise, Venice

 

Hogmanay Torch Procession, Edinburgh

But it wasn’t simply the sights that had me amazed on the trip. My Trip Leader (don’t ever call them a tour guide), somehow had all of Europe’s history stored in his head. So on the long drives between countries he shared his knowledge and I learnt more on those bus trips than 2 years of high school history could ever teach me.

Because of this trip and with a great deal of help from our Trip Leader I learnt how to integrate myself into other cultures. In most countries I was taught the basics, hello, goodbye and thank-you, other than that however I was on my own. It forced me, along with the help of my new-found friends, to figure out our own way home on public transport in Rome or a walking route in Florence. I learnt the awkwardness of a checkout exchange when the only English the server knew was chocolate and I learnt to become more street-wise in Paris. Being forced into these situations made me so much more aware and appreciative of other cultures, which in turn made me more confident in my abilities to travel alone and study abroad.

Navigating the trains in Paris

The streets of Florence, and its beautiful Cathedral

My trip across Europe will definitely be a highlight of my exchange. It enabled me to see the places I wanted to go back to (almost everywhere) and was the perfect way to become accustomed to different cultures before settling down in England. I felt more excited than ever to start my exchange and even made some friends along the way. So if you’re stuck on the before or after question when it comes to travelling, the answer is before. But, who knows, you could end up doing both!

My incredible tour group in Amsterdam

Making the most of summer in Germany

Brian: Kassel, Germany – International Summer School Program

After I finished my last exam in Semester 1, I headed off to Kassel, Germany for International Summer School program at Universität Kassel.pic On route to Germany, I stopped over in Singapore for a week to catch up with friends from a previous yearlong exchange program before stopping over in Dubai for 24 hours. I made the most of my stop-over in Dubai by leaving the airport and going out to the desert safari, where I went driving through the sand-dunes, watched fire dancing while eating traditional food in the middle of the desert before catching the sunset.
Upon arriving at Frankfurt Airport, I took a 2-hour train into Kassel where I met my host family for the next month. My host family lived in a village just outside of Kassel called Kaufungen – a nice small community which was beautiful during summer. pic-2Having a host-family was definitely one of the highlights of this program, as it really gave you the opportunity to experience German culture first hand. They provided me with authentic German meals, while also helping me improve my German. At times it was awkward, given that I knew next to no German, while they knew little English – however this was all part of the experience.

Within Kassel, there were a number of museums and castles to visit as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site which was the Hercules Monument.pic-3 This was a must see, especially when they have the water feature and light show running. The great thing about Germany is all the major cities are either a high speed train or a cheap bus ride away. Even going to neighbouring countries like Czech Republic of France, is just a cheap overnight bus ride away – perfect for cheeky weekend trips.

Find out more about QUT’s Short Term Options!

Why study abroad?

Going abroad for a semester has taught me so much about the world and about myself, and I really would recommend it to anyone that has the opportunity. Some of it has been really hard, I will admit. But it has all been worth it.

The biggest problem I had was with my units when I got here. This really stressed me out because I was worried I would lose my scholarships since I would only be enrolled part time at QUT. Another big challenge I had was home sickness; it took about 50 days before I realised I was home sick. Iceland is pretty much exactly on the opposite side of the world from Brisbane, so the time difference was really difficult to deal with, not being able to talk to my friends or family during the day because everyone is asleep. I dealt with it by talking more to my family and friends back home whenever possible. Something else that was really well timed were some road trips I went on with some new friends I’d made here. They really helped remind me why I was here, on the other side of the world; to see this beautiful country.

Lanmannalaugar is in the highlands. I took a Greylines tour (~$300AU) and it was pretty great. The bus drive was about 3 or 4 hours, a lot of this was off road so it was a bit exciting. We stopped every hour or so for food or toilet breaks or to take photos of some beautiful landscapes. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life and I highly recommend going here if you get the chance (they close down the place in winter I believe). When we arrived we took a 2 hour hike through the dried magma fields, then we had a bit of time to go swimming in the geothermal hot springs. It was so beautiful and the land was so diverse and different around every corner. This was one of my favourite places, and my first time outside the city.

Ljotipollur Lake; a lake inside a crater in the highlands

Gljúfrabúi


I also drove the south coast along the ring road with some other exchange students. It only took us a few hours to drive there, not including

all the stops along the way. We saw a lot of breathtaking waterfalls, including Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi, Skógafoss and Svartifoss (Black Waterfall). We also visited the black sand beach and the glacier lagoons. One of the more memorable places we went to on this trip was the first swimming pool in Iceland. We had to hike about 10 minutes to get to a small concrete pool, natural heated by the geothermal hot water, and pitch black with moss. Getting changed into our togs felt like a race against the cold, but you were more concerned about accidental dropping your clothes on the mud covered floor.

The black sand beach, Reynisfjara

 

Svartifoss (Black Waterfall).

Another wonderful road trip was to the north of Iceland, Akureyri. This trip was more about the landscape, and involved a lot more driving but was just as amazing. While in the north I went whale watching, but this was a huge mistake since I didn’t realise how sea sick I would be until we left the harbour. So I spent the next 3 hours with my head between my knees. We also saw more waterfalls and canyons and swam in the “Blue lagoon of the North”.

We ventured a bit out of our way to find the cave where a scene from Game of Thrones was shot

So it’s safe to say I had a few “wow” moments. I just couldn’t believe I was all the way over here in this beautiful country; a year ago I would never have guessed this is where I’d be.

It’s also pretty convenient for other travelling around Europe or America. I went to Copenhagen for a week and the flights were only $200AU. I’ve heard flights to New York are about the same price.

Austria: Centrally Located, Great for Travel

Exchange isn’t only about living in a new city, a long way from home. It’s about seeing as much of the world as you can that is now suddenly at your doorstep.

Vienna has many perks. A historical and cultural hub, a lively city and a wonderful coffee culture. For this post, however, the most important perk is its central location in Europe.

Whilst my classes were on, I have been incredibly lucky to have been able to take five subjects, one pre-semester language course, and still have been able to travel to 12 cities in 9 countries.

Devin Castle

 

Bratislava, Slovakia 

Likely to be the first international trip for many of Vienna’s exchange students,

Bratislava is a mere 45-minute train ride away (literally less time than it takes me to get to uni from home in Brisbane). The city itself is small, but the food is cheap. My tip: take a bus out of town to Devin Castle (pictured). It’s a 6th Century ruin that sits at the fork of two rivers, and it undoubtedly adds to the Bratislava experience.

The Chain Bridge and Parliament

 

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is about 2.5 hours away, and a very historical, interesting city. There’s quite a bit to see and do in Budapest, and a free walking tour is a great way to see a lot of it (they’re great in every city, not just

Budapest!), as well as hear stories about what you’re looking at. I also loved the tranquility of the thermal baths.

Graz, Austria

If you do the pre-semester orientation and cultural program, you’ll go to Graz, but because my friend and I didn’t, we took a spontaneous day-trip instead. Although it’s one of Austria’s largest cities, we managed to see most things, including climbing the hill to the Uhrturm (clock tower) in that time.

Porto, Portugal

Whilst I was on exchange, I was lucky enough to be selected and compete for QUT at

the University of Porto’s International Case Competition. While this involved being locked in a room for 34 hours to solve a case (albeit with 3 fantastic friends), it also involved meeting some amazing people from all over the world, and getting a guided tour by local students around the beautiful city of Porto. The comp was easily one of the highlights of exchange.

Team QUT in front of the Faculty of Economics, University of Porto

 

 

Douro Valley, Portugal

After the competition, QUT and several other teams went on a day trip to the world-renowned Douro Valley.  The valley was absolutely beautiful, and it was very refreshing to see such incredible scenery after Vienna’s relatively low tree-to-building ratio.

 

Inside the Sagrada Familia

Barcelona, Spain

(Unfortunately?) There are no direct flights between Porto and Vienna, so budget airlines tend to stop in Barcelona. We booked a couple of nights there on our way back, and got to experience some Spanish culture via sangrias, several walking tours, tapas, and paella. We were also very lucky to be able to spend time with people we’d met at various competitions (including Porto), and on exchange. Be sure to book online beforehand for Park Guell or the Sagrada Familia if you’d like to enter those, because they often sell out of tickets at the venue!

Berlin, Germany

I’d been interested in travelling to Berlin for a little while, but sadly I did it the disservice of not having enough time to truly explore the city (I would recommend 2-3 nights there, minimum). In the short time that I had there, I saw the East Side Gallery (pictured), the Brandenburg Gate, and visited the museum dedicated to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

The East Side Gallery, a large remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall decorated by street artists from around the world

 

Krakow, Poland

Inside the Basilica of St Mary

 

One year ago, if you were to ask me which countries I imagined myself visiting whilst I was on exchange, Poland probably wouldn’t have made it on my list. Enticed by my friend’s stories, 5 euro bus tickets, and a very large gap in my timetable, I decided to see Krakow for myself, and I was pleasantly surprised. The city has very student-friendly prices, and the old town square is bustling at all times of day. While I was there, I took a guided tour of Auschwitz, which was hauntingly moving.

 

 

Copenhagen, Denmark

I flew from Krakow onto Copenhagen to visit friends and see a beautiful city, and I was not disappointed. We ate authentic

Danish pastries, climbed the spire at the Church of our Saviour to watch a beautiful dusk and wandered through Nyhavn and Paper Island at night. Although Copenhagen is very beautiful, it is also quite expensive, and a surprisingly small city: my tip is that you only really need 2 full days to explore it.

View from the spire of the Church of our Saviour

 

Malmo, Sweden

The main square in old town Malmo

Many of the ‘Things to do in Copenhagen’ lists suggest ‘Take the train to Sweden’ – and

with my friend’s recommendation, I did. For the same price as entry to Copenhagen’s Tivoli you take the train across the bridge (famous in the TV series ‘The Bridge’) to Malmo.   Unfortunately, it was cold, windy and rainy for my daytrip, so most of my sightseeing involved comparing Swedish and Danish aesthetic (a little more colourful, but just as expensive), eating a delicious soup in a café that was also a record store, and eating New York cheesecake (thanks globalisation!).

 

Innsbruck, Austria

This trip was meant to be a trip to Milan with three other people, but ended up as a trip

to Innsbruck with one other person. It also ended up being one of the most beautiful trips I have ever taken.  We stayed at an Airbnb in Innsbruck, and our three days there

were filled with my friend and I turning every corner and gaping at the incredible scenery. One thing we did that I thoroughly recommend to anyone who’s interested in seeing Innsbruck is to not limit yourself to just the town.

View of Innsbruck

We took a “regional” bus, and stayed on until the end (approx. 20 minutes). Because the tickets are day passes, we wandered from one small town to the next (at most it would have been a kilometre between towns), and hopped on and off the bus as we pleased. It allowed us great freedom, and some amazing views (as seen in the photo below).

A stunning panorama outside the tiny town of Rinn

 

Vienna’s location allowed me to easily travel to all of these places with whilst studying. The question isn’t “Why Vienna?” It’s “Why NOT Vienna?”

 

 

 

Politechnico di Milao: A few fast facts

Krystel – Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy: Semester 1, 2016

Dreaming of an Italian Exchange? Why not head to Milano?

Fashion capital of Italy and gelato to-die-for. But that’s not all Milan has to offer; here is a list of interesting facts about Milan, from QUT student Krystel who spent 6 months studying in this beautiful city.

Piazza del Duomo (Milan Cathedral), Milan

Piazza del Duomo (Milan Cathedral), Milan

The first Politecnico university was established November 29, 1863, by Francesco Brioschi, a politician, mathematician and hydraulic engineer.

Initially, the university was specific to Civil and Industrial Engineering only.

It focused on scientific and technical teachings, and was based on the same model as German and Swiss polytechnic universities.

1865, architecture joined the school.

View from the Florence Duomo Bell-tower

View from the Florence Duomo Bell-tower

Students renamed the school ‘The Brioschi Asylum’ due to strict disciplinary provisions, and classes were held through from Monday to Saturday

In the first year, there were only 30 students and seven auditors, and the first graduates reduced to 25 students.

The first female student enrolled 1888, however, the first female to graduate was not until 1913.

Female student enrolment increased over the years, however, in the mid 1940s, out of approximately 9500 graduates, only just over 100 females graduated.

At the end of the 1990s, women accounted for over 50% of the students registered in Industrial Design.

If you want to hear more about Krystel’s Italian Exchange experience. Keep an eye out for the next part of her story on the QUT Gone Global Blog.

For more information on QUT Student Exchange Options visit our website.

Clarice’s South Korean Short-Term Exchange Experience

Clarice: Seoul, South Korea – Short Term Program 2016

As a student in Seoul, I find it to be so much cheaper than being a student in Brisbane; especially when it comes to our daily food and caffeine needs. I would barely spend over 10,000won (about AUD11-12) a day while I was studying there and it would cover all my breakfast, lunch and dinner needs. If you’re lazy enough, you could always buy convenience store lunchboxes (which can have things like rice, meat and kimchi) for 3,000-3,800won (AUD4-5) and it is very filling.

Samgyeopsal

And of course, when one is in Seoul, one would need to try the famous “Samgyeopsal” (or “pork belly”) which is the slab of meat in the middle. I find that Korean meats taste vastly different (and honestly, a lot better) from Australian meats. For this meal, we usually barbecue the meats on the plate and accompany it with a few drinks (no guesses as to what those drinks are) and lots of lettuce, to balance the flavour of meat and vegetables. Generally, a meal like this would cost about AUD70, but I had it for about 30,000won (around AUD32) for 3 people.

Painfully cheap….and something I will never get while I’m back in Brisbane.

I would say that Seoul is a wonderful place for an overseas study experience, because it is so different from Australia in terms of culture and student life, and EWHA Woman’s University is an amazing place to find out a lot more about feminist issues (such as the unending justice for the “comfort” women during the Japanese invasion) and that, being feminist does not necessarily mean the Western view of loud and proud feminism, but rather, a social issue that has to be faced with quiet dignity in order to make the world a better place for not only women, but men too.

One of the many delicious lunch that we students would often go out for once morning classes are over.

One of the many delicious lunch that we students would often go out for once morning classes are over.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the male professors and most of the male students who were there for the co-ed summer program were also genuine feminists and supported many social issues that women still face.

My time in EWHA has certainly changed me for the better, and helped me in recognising many aspects of myself as a woman that I never knew existed. I will always fondly remember my time there as a student and if given the chance, would not hesitate to do a longer exchange program next time round. I also highly recommend the EWHA Woman’s University International Co-ed Summer College to anyone interested, because I guarantee you will come away learning so much more than just academically.

Does Clarice’s experience interest you? Find out more about QUT’s Short Term Study Options.

Our wonderful history class, with a few people missing, and Prof Michael in the middle. We’re standing in front of EWHA's very own museum which houses a private collection of art and sculpture pieces donated by the alumni of EWHA.

Our wonderful history class, with a few people missing, and Prof Michael in the middle. We’re standing in front of EWHA’s very own museum which houses a private collection of art and sculpture pieces donated by the alumni of EWHA.

Thinking About Going on Exchange? Do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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