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.
My name is Jemma, and I’m a travel-bug-bitten 2ndyear business (and mandarin language) student. After many months in the making, tomorrow morning is the morning when my alarm will sound at the lovely time of 3:30am, and I will board a flight bound for one of China’s most exciting cities, Shanghai! Armed only with my limited mandarin and one incredibly heavy suitcase, the excitement and nerves have definitely started to kick in.
Before I even started university, I always knew I wanted to do a semester overseas. I’m a person who loves change, finding nothing more exhilarating than touching down in a foreign city. Honestly, the bigger the culture shock, the better! This is all much to my parents dismay of course, who would love nothing more than if I were to move out one street over and live in Bris-Vegas for the rest of my days. However much I love this river city though, that simply won’t be happening (sorry dad!).
This will be the first time I’ve ever set foot in the city of Shanghai, or even mainland China. Aside from the fact that the local street vendors serve up the tastiest xiaolongbao known to man, there’s really not a lot I know about this ever-changing place. They celebrate holidays I’ve never heard of, eat foods I’ve never tried and speak a language I’m still struggling to grasp. I really wouldn’t want it any other way, however I can admit I’m a little sad about having to celebrate my first Christmas away from home. Oh well, small sacrifice.
For those of you also contemplating spending a semester in this exciting country, allow me to give you a quick run-down of some key pre-departure info. Firstly, my advice would be to make a list of what you need to do, and DON’T leave it to the last minute. There will be mountains of forms you will need to fill out, and all will have a deadline. Trust me when I say the last thing you want to do is wake up and realise you’ve missed something important, like the date to book your dorm room. Not speaking from personal experience, but I do know someone who had to endure the last-minute struggle finding off-campus accommodation, and it isn’t fun. Secondly, when you apply for your visa, you will have to leave your passport with the consulate for a couple of days. This in itself was a little nerve-wracking, heightened by the fact the man next to me was being informed by frantic staff his passport may or may not have been misplaced. Luck was on my side however, and I received mine without drama. Just a heads up. Lastly, check out youtube to find some videos that cover student life in the city you want to travel too. They’re full of handy hints, from budgeting to local transport.
That’s all I have for you so far. So, until I hit the dorms of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 再见!
This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan.
My name is Fraser and I am currently a third year Law/Justice student who is a little bit too excited (and undoubtedly very nervous) about his upcoming exchange to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. During my semester abroad I will be studying Japanese full-time – which is just as well, since I only have a very preliminary knowledge of the Japanese language (In fact, this knowledge is close to non-existent).
When I told my friends and family that I had decided to live in Japan for the next six months the common response could be summed up in one sarcastically spoken statement, “Good luck with that.” To be fair, this reaction is rather warranted – it is foolhardy for someone who can barely speak Japanese to live in Japan, let alone study there! So, why would I make such an impulsive choice?
Put simply, it is because Japan is a mystery to me. I have never been there before and know little of their history or culture; and the unknown is rather exciting to me. Stepping off of a plane, in a place that you have never experienced the likes of before fills me with adrenaline. I know that this reasoning may not appeal to everyone (and undoubtedly some of you will see me as naive); but this is first and foremost an experience for me to broaden my mind in ways that I cannot do in the comfortable familiarity of Australia. And what better way to do that then to experience a lifestyle, culture and place that I have never known before?
So, as I wait for tomorrow’s nerve wracking flight to Japan, I should divulge how the pre-departure experience has been for me and some tips and tricks for anyone considering an exchange to the, ‘Land of the Rising Sun’.
Preparing for the exchange initially was a daunting task. It seemed that there was an insurmountable amount of work to be done ahead of me. Fortunately, the pre-departure checklist provided by QUT is a fantastic organisational tool and promotes a sequenced approach to exchange preparation. As a result, preparing for the exchange – on the formal paperwork side of things – presented little difficulties. One recommendation I can make is to constantly ask both the QUT faculty and your host university questions about any aspects of the process you are unsure of. They are there to help and seemed more than happy to answer the multitude of inane questions I posed to them.
Also, if you have never been to Japan before, like me, the most difficult aspect of the pre-departure process may be preparing for the inevitable ‘culture shock’. QUT also provides a lot of information on how to deal with culture shock; but for those considering an exchange to Japan, I must recommend that you watch the YouTube channel: Abroad in Japan. This site covers everything from must have experiences to Japanese language tips to the do’s and don’ts of Japanese culture. I found that this site has really helped with my anxiety and made me feel more prepared for a life in Japan.
If there is one thing I could recommend to those who are considering an exchange is to throw yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t go for a safe or easy option, really try to push yourselves into the unknown and experience what you may never get the chance to experience again.
As for me, the next blog will either demonstrate that the decision to throw myself into the unknown was a good one or one that was mislead by bravado and excitement. But, whatever the outcome, I will learn something.
Sayonara everyone, till next time.
Rusil W, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Bachelor of Science
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (Semester 1 & 2, 2018)
In a bit under a week I’ll be flying back to Singapore for my second semester at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). To be honest, I don’t think I’ve really finished processing my first semester. But I’ll do my best to summarise it here.
To start, the first few weeks felt almost surreal. Coming from the very compact Gardens Point Campus, NTU – with ~20 student residential halls, ~15 canteens and 2 supermarkets (just to name a few things) – feels like its own self-contained town. These facilities exist because the majority of NTU students live on campus during the week,which results in a significantly different student life. Dinner at the canteens would be shared with (for less than $5 might I add). The student club culture also seems far more invested because everyone is on campus. In Mid-February, lion dance performances for Chinese New Year could be heard from my room, and in mid-April, cheerleading practice could be heard into the late hours of the night.
The semester started off with a trip with some other exchange students to Pulau Ubin – a small island off Singapore which hasn’t been encroached by the concrete jungle. It acts as a kind of heritage area for the what the main island was like before major urbanization. This provided a great first opportunity to meet other exchange students from across the world – Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, China … too many for me to remember.
Most of the other exchange students I met primarily used Singapore as a gateway for travel throughout South-East Asia – using mid-sem break, public holidays, and even time between finals to visit countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Now, while I can’t begin to express my envy as I heard one friend’s plans to visit Vietnam between open book exams, Singapore isn’t just a travel hub. It’s also a cultural one.
People always think of Australia as a cultural mixing pot because of its very immigrant-based history, and Singapore is like that too, in a way. The island has three main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay and Indian. While the Chinese population is clearly dominant, it’s fairly easy to experience all three cultures in various ways. This includes physical places like Chinatown and Little India, celebrations like Chinese New Year, and the food (most importantly).
In fact, Singapore is probably the best place I can think of for an east meets west experience (besides maybe Hong Kong). This lets you sate virtually any cultural desire – which in my case was music. In just one semester, I managed to see two on campus concerts, a Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert (for only $10!!!!) and Fallout Boy – while eyeing performances by MIYAVI (a Japanese rockstar), the St Petersburg Ballet, and a showcase of works by Monet and Renoir.
Before starting exchange, a semester abroad sounds like a lot, but while there the time just flashes past. I’m glad to have another semester to do some things I missed, catch up with some friends, and make even more new ones.
Bachelor of Engineering (Medical)
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim (S2, 2018)
*Results are not guaranteed as I literally have no idea how to speak Norwegian. Sorry.
- Silently mutter the Norwegian words for things as you try and pack everything you own in to your car. When this doesn’t work (the muttering, although the whole car thing is a bit irritating too) spend a few hours watching Norwegian TV (with Norwegian subtitles on!) and get really excited when you understand the word for welcome (Hint: it’s velkommen).
- Attempt a conversation in Norwegian over text with an exchange student from France, before realising that they do not, in fact, speak Norwegian.
- Book a train ticket entirely in Norwegian! This is a great idea but honestly I’m not entirely sure … when … the train … is leaving …. yep.
Moving on from my “guide”, it’s almost exactly one month until I fly out to Norway! I’m unbelievably excited (and unbelievably scared) but mainly I’m just thinking about whether or not I can get a jar of vegemite through customs. I’ll keep you updated on that one.
At the moment my life seems to be a hectic mix of packing and admin. You would not believe that amount of forms and applications I have done in the last few weeks. Most of them actually are half written in Norwegian, which makes it exciting. Very difficult to tell the difference between a housing application and a cancellation form when one is a leieavtale and the other an angrerettssjema. Fun times all round.
It’s almost impossible to decide what I need to bring and what I should leave behind. My climbing and hiking gear are going to take up about 95.55% of my bag so I’m probably going to have room for a single pair of jeans and maybe a jumper, if I’m lucky. Hey, priorities.
Getting very, very excited to see this view ^ in 32 days! And no, I’m not counting. For real though, if you actually want to learn a bit of Norwegian my uni in Trondheim (NTNU) has made a handy little site which you can find here. Or you can just use my fantastic guide, which is really some quality stuff.
Cool. I’m going to continue finding new ways to procrastinate actually packing.
Christen W. Bachelor of Business (Honours)
Short-term program: LUISS ‘Market Regulation and Investments for Growth’
July 2017, Italy
It’s not every day that the chance comes along to attend an exciting, experiential summer school at a top university in Rome, spending two weeks learning from executives at Italy’s major financial institutions – so when the LUISS ‘Market Regulation and Investments for Growth’ program appeared in the short-term exchange portal, I jumped at the chance.
Ready and eager for the program ahead, I arrived in Rome late on a warm July night, my senses immediately enveloped by the soupy summer air, the lively and historical streets, and the rich undertones of the Italian accent resonating around me. I knew I was in the right place.
The LUISS residence that would serve as our accommodation for the next two weeks was renovated in 2016, providing excellent rooms and facilities that you might expect from a high-end hotel. Great views, strong WiFi and lots of space – the dream trio – were all present. The University is only a five minute walk past coffee shops, small European cars and cobbled streets. I quickly grew accustomed to the friendly greeting of ‘Ciao!’ from reception on the way out each morning; I could definitely see myself living in Italy!
Our program was a fast-paced, content-rich exploration of the various financial institutions of Italy, including those that seek to regulate and ensure level playing fields, such as the Italian Competition Authority and the Bank of Italy, and those that seek to catalyse investment in projects to spur growth, such as the European Investment Bank. Our small group of eight students was fortunate enough to visit and hear from senior figures from several of these organisations, providing us a first-hand glimpse into their operations and role within the larger European framework.
The level of academic rigour and expectations of the class were quite high, but with the enjoyable nature of a summer program; it was easy to be motivated to complete assessments and engage with lectures in such a stimulating environment. Our assessment pieces consisted of an in-class open book exam and two reports to be completed outside class times. Active participation was also encouraged and recorded to be put towards our final result. Being such a small group was a great advantage of this program – we were able to leverage maximum benefit from the classes, business visits, and our Professor, and I now have a network of fantastic friends around the world.
While in Rome, there were many chances to explore the local attractions and history, enjoy the famous cuisine in its home country, and even travel outside of Rome on the weekends. As I held the title of travelling the longest distance to participate in the program, it made sense that I would maximise the spare time on the program. The train network in Rome and Italy, including the Metro, inter-city and regional trains, are highly efficient and affordable, making them a great option for travellers; this is in contrast to the buses and trams of Rome which were often less than reliable (and much maligned by the Roman public).
On the first weekend, I took an early Saturday morning train from Roma Termini to the popular and beautiful city of Florence. The day was full of walking and enjoying most of Florence’s attractions, including the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. Sunset from Piazza Michaelangelo sealed in my mind that Florence is no ordinary destination. After some final sight-seeing on Sunday morning I took the short trip west to Pisa, where I spent Sunday afternoon in Campo dei Miracoli, taking in and climbing the leaning tower, the baptistery, and the nearby museum. It wouldn’t have felt right returning to Rome without this stop!
On the last Saturday I headed east from Rome to the ancient town of Tivoli, which made for a fantastic day covering many kilometres through the highlights of Villa d’Este, Villa Gregoriana and Hadrian’s Ruins. Some of the best places are those that are little known or underrated – discovering them is one of the great joys of travelling.
A small piece of advice is to budget generously for food, as the delicious meals that Italy is famous for do come at a price. Try to occasionally eat in – your bank account will thank you! I would highly encourage anyone interested in this or a similar program to take the plunge; the experience, the international friendships, and the broadening of horizons made it beyond worthwhile. You won’t regret it!
I am currently in my fifth year of a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Business (Accounting) degree and one of 120 university students to receive the 2018 New Colombo Plan Scholarship. The New Colombo Plan scholarship has allowed me to undertake a Korean language intensive program for three weeks at Yonsei University, followed by a semester exchange at Korea University and then two internships.
Yonsei University Intensive Language Program:
I completed my Korean language intensive program at Yonsei University in February 2018. The New Colombo Plan scholarship encourages and funds scholars to complete full-time language programs in order to not only connect with the local culture, but also to assist scholars on a practical level by giving them the skills needed to undertake basic tasks such as navigating the city. This is especially important when there is not a lot of English available and it helps scholars settle into their new environment.
I arrived at my new home in Seoul on 1 February 2018 on a crisp winter night. During my program at Yonsei University I stayed with several other students at off campus accommodation arranged by the university. Whilst the accommodation was great, after all we were living in a serviced apartment, this did make it difficult to get to know the other students in the program. Lucky, as soon as classes begun, some four days after my arrival, I was able to get to know a range of amazing people from all across the world. Fortuitously, I also met a student from El Salvador that would be going to Korea University with me.
(Outside the front of Yonsei University during my last week of the intensive language program)
The Yonsei University program is certainly intense, but very rewarding. Already, I can see the benefits of this language training coming to fruition through the little things, like reading bus timetables and menus that are written only in Korean. Unlike some international summer or winter schools, the focus of Yonsei’s program was to learn Korean rather than foster relationships between students. Although this means that your language skills progress rapidly, it also reiterated a notion I found to often be true, you have to be the driver of your own participation. As there are little to no social activities set up for students, you have to be responsible for how involved you will be in the culture and how much you want to get out of the experience.
With the support of the NCP scholarship, I was able to make the most of my winter in Seoul by undertaking activities that I would otherwise be unable to participate in. Particularly, this applied to learning how to ski – a goal I have had for a while. I found my Korean ski instructor to be so helpful that I became somewhat overconfident and ended up on a slightly too advanced run for my skills set. Fortunately, I walked away only damaging my pride. Overall, I had a wonderful experience at the Yonsei University language program.
(Learning to ski at Jisan Resort)
You can follow my experience as a New Colombo Plan scholar on Instagram at travel_life_sarah.
Scott C, Bachelor of Property Economics
Universitas Surabaya, Indonesia
Semester 1, 2018
First of all, Surabaya has a very culturally rich history and the locals are very proud of this, its best that you at least try to familiarise yourself with some of the historical events and culture customs, as this will help you understand Surabaya’s Identity. You will find most people in Surabaya upon meeting foreign people will be very curious and will ask for pictures and may want to ask you a lot questions, don’t worry or suspect anything, generally this is to do with the fact that they usually don’t get a lot of tourists (especially in the more rural areas), so naturally they are very curious. Sometimes, you can get the reverse because they are shy, this is easy to overcome, a good ice breaker is simply introducing yourself in Indonesian, “Nama Saya *insert your name*”, roughly translates to, “name my”, they most likely will laugh at your terrible attempt and then become more talkative. Try to learn some basic Indonesian, as this will become helpful in negotiations with taxi drivers, store vendors and so on, otherwise you may be given the “tourist prices”, but if you speak a little Indonesian they will likely become a more negotiable.
Getting your phone connected in Indonesia is relatively straight forward, if your accommodation is close to UBAYA (assuming you are on exchange), there is a mall called “Marina Plaza”, this mall mainly sells phones and data sims. Data sims are very widely used in Indonesia, and they are probably the easiest to obtain and recharge. Basically most of the people use Whatsapp to call and text, which the data sim is able to be used for. Regular plans can offer actual calling and texting options, but are very expensive in comparison. $50k Rupiah, should get 5GB of data, which will likely last you over a month. It will allow access to Facebook, YouTube and so on. You are able to recharge the data sims at either alfa-marts or indo-marts, they will require your phone number and clearly state that you are topping up your data, otherwise they might give you a call and text recharge, which is not what you want, most of the time they will understand, but the odd occasion they don’t, just use Google translate, 9 times out of 10 that will solve most miscommunication issues.
On that note, there are also another two apps worth downloading: GoJek and Grab. Grab is a taxi service that is similar to Uber, usually there is a fixed price and this service can be either linked to your debit/credit card or they have a cash option. GoJek is probably one of the most important apps (it will take some time to set this app up properly), as it not only allows you to order taxis (similar process to Grab), but also you can order food. The food options are limitless and cater for most tastes, please note though that there is a delivery charge and also in comparison to local food cost, it is quite expensive.
Photo taken: Heroes Monument
Things to see and do
If you feel like doing some touristy stuff, there is the Heroes Monument and Museum, which celebrates Indonesian independence from colonial rule and the integral part Surabaya played in this war. Ciputra Waterpark and Mount Bromo which isn’t too far from Surabaya are also great attractions. These are the main ones, but there is also a lot more to do and the more locals you meet the more options you will have. There are a lot of old temples and mosques, which date back hundreds of years, that are only minutes outside of the city. It’s suggested that you try to take part in as many events that you get invited to as possible, as it will allow you to mingle with local people and students, which results in invitations to other events.
Photos taken: Borobudar Yogyakarta and Bromo Volcano
In regards to accommodation, here are some points to look out for:
- Be wary of additional taxes, as these apply to services such as electricity, water and rent, so be polite and ask them to write down or explain the taxes in English and always ask for receipt.
- You will be required to provide 3-months rent up-front plus bond.
- Most student accommodation will have a provider for internet, generally it is easier to just go with that option, as the packages are fairly cheap.
- They do not complete a proper entry report, so make sure and check that everything works.
- Do not be afraid to ask them to repair pre-existing damages.
- Not all apartments come with heated water.
- Not all apartments will have a stove top.
- Do not expect apartments to have cutlery.
- There is Wi-Fi in all lobbies.
- Most staff will speak little English, so Google translate is initially your new best friend until you speak some basics.
- Water dispensers are a must, not all apartments have them, shouldn’t cost more than $12-$20.
- Be religiously sensitive, most of the staff and locals in the area are Muslim, so be careful what you say and do, so try to inform yourself about the local customs.
Photo taken: Hand of the Yogyakarta
I was lucky enough to be in Thailand to celebrate Songkran, the celebration of traditional Thai New Year. Celebrated every year from 13 – 15 April (although dates can vary depending on where in Thailand you are) and uses water, as a symbol of washing away last year’s mis-fortune.
Many of my new Thai friends have gone home to spend time with family, and those who are Buddhist, go and make merit at temples. However, the holiday is known for what I would consider the biggest water fight I have ever seen! These water fights are not everywhere in the country however all the biggest destinations hold them.
There is a mass exodus of the locals from Bangkok as most go back to their hometown but I stayed in the capital to celebrate Songkran. A couple of key streets become full of both international and domestic tourists and a few locals all keen to be involved in the celebration.
The morning of New Year’s Day, I headed to one of the spots for a big street water fight. It was insane! Even though I was not there during the busiest time I still came out drenched head to toe from a barrage of water guns, hoses and buckets. People who lined the streets wearing masks and gripping super soakers were my nemeses’. I left around lunchtime and while it was busy, there was still room to move and run to try dodging people’s shots at you. I did see videos of the same street later in the day and the wide street was packed shoulder to shoulder.
After being soaked we went back to clean ourselves up before heading to a bar which was holding a Songkran event in a more suburban area. Once we got there we could see how locals who did not leave the city celebrated – and boy were they wild! There were people young and old lining suburban streets throwing water at motorbikes, cars and buses that passed by. There was also white powder that they put on their face that apparently softens the skin. By this time of night many of the people were quite intoxicated and would run onto the road with the white powder and get the motor bikes to slow down while the coat the riders face with the powder.
Songkran celebrations is one of the most fun festivals I have ever participated in and I think that Songkran alone is enough reason for me to come back to visit Thailand. I would recommend to anyone considering coming to Thailand, to try and time it with Songkran, to see and enjoy the festivities for themselves.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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~