A week in Hanoi

Who would of thought it could keep getting better. Although a number of us were a little run down and sick, we all managed to still have an amazing week that could not have been possible without the staff and students of Hanoi Medical University. Throughout the week, we did our business before exploring Hanoi with our new friends. They definetly made this part of the trip better than we could have ever imagined. With their help, we visited places we would never have gone if we didn’t have them. These Included a number of street food vendors with the best foods, a jail known as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ used throughout the 20th century and also the Hanoi night market. At the markets we danced all together on the street and played a traditional game seen in many Asian countries similar to soccer juggling but instead using a small ‘hacky sack’ with feathers attached. They took time out of their own studies and we could not be more thankful!!






We hope one day to return the favour over in the land of Aus. As for the research, again the school visits topped the charts. The kids were again so excited and willing to give it all a go. We danced together, learning some Vietnamese dances before teaching everyone the nutbush. They wanted our autographs and by the end of the visits we had all agreed that we did not want the life of a celebrity. It was a 10/10 experience though and I am so grateful to The New Colombo Plan and QUT for making this opportunity available.

We also had the opportunity to visit the Physical Education University which was super super cool. It was so interesting to see the differences in studies undertaken between Australia and Vietnam and learn about the employment rates. In Vietnam PE university students must undertake a 70/30 practical to theory course in order to graduate (which I wish we had).

It was so eye-opening and such a great way to make new connections and friends from Vietnam!

This program was made possible through the generous support of the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan. To discover similar programs check the QUT Global Portal.

New Sights, New Smells – Hong Kong

“Learn a little Cantonese and the locals will bend their backs to help you out”

Arriving in Hong Kong on my first day was both exciting and daunting at the same time – I had only been overseas less than a handful of times, let alone traveling by myself on this occasion. However, upon stepping foot on the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, the crowds, the dazzling LED lights and the new smells were comforting – I knew then that my time in Hong Kong was only going to get better.

If you plan to come to Hong Kong, you may notice (as I did) that Hong Kong locals hold different conceptions of “personal space”. I first noticed this when I boarded the Hong Kong MTR (a feature of Hong Kong which you will become very familiar with and learn to appreciate very much) from the Hong Kong airport to my hotel. Locals were comfortable with standing or sitting close together on trains, buses or public transport in general.

This was interesting as it was a quick introduction to the cultural differences between Hong Kong and Australia. As such, if you do find yourself in the Hong Kong MTR or on a bus and a local sits or stands next to you despite there being an abundance of space or seats available – this is not meant to intrude but rather to save space.

Scenes such as this are not uncommon in Hong Kong – Photo Credit Arnold M

Hong Kong locals are friendly, warm and will do what they can to accommodate your needs. You will often find this when you order food at a restaurant or food stall. Despite the inherent language barriers, locals will find ways to communicate and help you with your order. If you wish, you may reciprocate their kindness by thanking the person who served you in Cantonese – this is very much appreciated. There are an abundance of resources available in YouTube or Google to help you with basic Cantonese.

For those of you who are excited to try the cuisine in Hong Kong, do not fret, I will address the very interesting topic of cuisine in another blog post given its vast and varied nature.

I am currently undertaking my single exchange semester in City University of Hong Kong (CityU). CityU is located in Kowloon Tong and is very accessible by the MTR as the university is connected to the MTR station via a small tunnel. CityU offers a diverse range of courses which range from studies in European and Asian languages to Principles of Nuclear Engineering.

Although the CityU campus is not large, it contains many interesting features of which I highly recommend that you take advantage of to help you make the most of your exchange semester – from swimming pools, restaurants and large canteens, rooftop gardens to barbecue facilities (rest assured I will taking advantage of the latter).

CityU has some very interesting areas where you can relax and escape the heat.

To close, if you do find yourself entertaining the idea of studying abroad for one or two semesters – do not hesitate any longer and visit the STAE office in level 1 of A block in QUT GP campus.

I will be covering more things about Hong Kong, so watch this space再見 (joigin)

Forever Hungry in Hong Kong


“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.


My Singapore Top 5… So Far

Two months into my Singapore exchange and I have certainly been blown away by some of the attractions this magnificent country has to offer! Did you know that you can fit 22 Singapore’s within the Brisbane Region? Yup, 22! So Singapore may be tiny, certainly when compared to Australia, but somehow they have managed to pack it full with some of the most amazing sights and activities in the World.

Working full-time doesn’t leave a lot of spare time to explore, but I’ve done my best, and wanted to briefly write about five of my favorite experiences thus far.

  1. Gardens by the Bay

One cannot visit Singapore without wandering through the Gardens by the Bay. Over 1 million plants are spread out over 101 hectares of brilliant greenery, so no matter how many times you return, there will always be something that surprises you.

A word of advice, do not forget your phone or camera because it is physically impossible to NOT take a selfie as you stumble upon the supertree grove. Now this is possibly the greatest highlight of the gardens with 12 mechanical tree-like vertical gardens looming 25-50 meters high. To top it off, 22 meters above ground is the OCBC Skyway, a walkway between the trees offering an unparalleled view of the gardens.

The Gardens by the Bay also have two observatories, Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. Whilst I haven’t entered these observatories yet, they are certainly on my ‘to do’ list as I have heard incredible things. Another item on my ‘to do’ list is to come back at night, for when the sun goes down the gardens come to life with a brilliant show of light and colour in the Garden Rhapsody, where the supertrees are by far the stars of the show… or so I’ve heard!

Finally, after walking around in the Singapore heat all day, you are going to need to refuel! I definitely suggest making the trek down to Satay by the Bay where you can indulge yourself in delicious satay skewers and other hawker-like goodies. The fruit juice stall is also a hit when trying to freshen up during the heat.

  1. Singapore Zoo

If the Singapore Zoo isn’t on your bucket list – write it down! You will be absolutely amazed by the plethora of animals living in this zoo, ranging all the way from polar bears and monkeys to zebras and rhinos! I even got to see Wolverine… unfortunately not Hugh Jackman, but the actual wolverine animal. Plus naked mole rats – somehow they are both very cute and terribly ugly.

The most exciting thing about Singapore Zoo would be the fact that some ‘enclosures’ and actually not closed at all! You can get very up close and personal with some animals, such as the Cotton-top Tamarin, who I faced at a mere distance of less than 30cm, with no wire/fence/barrier between us! The tree-top trail will blow your mind even more though! As you walk along this trial, keep our eyes out for Siamang, just free flowing Tarzan-style through the treetops, and False Gavil preying in the waters below!

There is so much to do and see at the zoo, that I unfortunately did not get through it all! Luckily for me, I bought an annual pass so I can come back and watch all the shows. I’m particularly interested in seeing ‘Splash Safari’ and ‘Elephants at Work and Play’.

I am yet to do the famous Night Safari, as well as the River Safari and Jurong Bird Park, however, fortunately, they are included in my annual pass so I am sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to make the trip! If you’re staying for a long-term trip – I would definitely recommend purchasing the annual pass!

  1. ArtScience Museum

Now this is a great place for adults, children, and adult-children – of which I believe I fall into the third category. If playing virtual Fruit Ninja while sliding down a slippery slide, or designing and trialing your own hopscotch track sounds fun – then you would have had a blast at the Future Work exhibit!

My personal favorite piece, was the depiction of space using thousands of LED lights hanging from the ceiling. I stood for over 30 minutes just watching as these lights created brightly colored patterns and planets to a musical background. It was amazing how something so simple could completely demand your unwavering attention.

If you are not prone to motion sickness, I would also strongly recommend participating in the immersive audiovisual installation “Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are destined to be Chased as well, Transcending Space”. As you stand in a room, you are transported into a breath-taking show of light and music, following a story of the Yatagarasu, a three-legged crow, believed, in Japanese mythology, to be the embodiment of the Sun.

  1. Merloin Park

Selfie central. If your selfie/selfie stick game is not on point, then I certainly recommend going with a friend! This park is home to the infamous Merlion, the half lion, half mermaid, mascot of Singapore.

The large structure is backed by the most beautiful scenery, making it a photographers dream come true. With Marina Bay Sands, the ArtScience Museum and the DBS sailing boats in all their glory in the background, this is the place you can capture some of Singapore’s most iconic landmarks all in one picture! Plus there are a bunch of cute little food stalls around as well, in case you just want to admire the view whilst munching on some lovely brunch.

  1. Haji Lane

Now this is the Insta-lovers dream. Nothing beats a cool pic with a street art backdrop, and if that’s what you’re after, Haji Lane can give it to you! This funky lane is practically designed for young adults wanting cool boutique clothes and food and restaurants that are Insta worthy, for sure. If you make your way right down the end, there is a cool bar with a black/white updo and at restaurant with a rainbow coloured abstract pattern – these places are the best to grab your cool street pic. Oh, plus there’s great food and good vibes in Haji Lane for after your all photo-ed out!



Touch Down in Singapore!

Well it has officially been three weeks since I touched down in Singapore! Let me quickly tell you just a bit about myself. The names Dana, I am an avid netball and sports fan, action/comedy movie enthusiast, aspiring traveller and dog lover. I am doing a BS08 Bachelor of Business – International degree with economics major, and am currently 3 weeks into a 15 month adventure in SG! Yes. 15 MONTHS! I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship to work and study in Singapore this year. My program (at the moment) starts with a 6 month internship at PwC Singapore working in their Growth Markets Centre, followed by two semesters of study at Nanyang Technological University.

Strangely enough, I almost feel at home here in Singapore. Adapting to the different country and culture came a lot more naturally then I had anticipated and thankfully this has made for a relatively smooth start to my exchange. Transport here is unfaultable so I am finding my way around easily and food is never hard to locate (or afford if you are at a hawker centre!). The local Chinese family I am bunking with are wonderful and welcoming, and I think they have made leaving my family for the first time much less difficult. My accommodation itself certainly met expectations and is well located in a traditional and local area not too far from the city. Even adapting into the professional workforce for the first time hasn’t been too rough, although my back and neck are protesting a desk life.

Nevertheless, not everything about this exchange has been easy. I’m going to be honest with you – I’m the baby of the family, I’m overprotected, I haven’t travelled much and I have a very strong and close relationship with my family and 4 month old puppy…

Leaving wasn’t easy – it never is.

Saying goodbye to loved ones was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Even just thinking about hugging my puppy for the last time, and waving goodbye to my family as I walked to the airport gate brings tears to my eyes. It’s hard to grasp that you will be leaving for so long, but when you do it is one of the most nerve wracking and sickening feelings.

Rolling on from having to say goodbye – day one was the worst. A 2am flight with a busy day full of visas and bank accounts probably didn’t help, but day one, for me at least, was when everything sunk in. All I did that day was cry. I’ve never felt so lost and alone in my life. I felt isolated and out of my depth.

I made it to perhaps 3pm before I threw myself onto my bed, called my mum and bawled. And that was all I needed. I just needed someone to talk to, to cry to, and to tell me everything was going to be ok. That I had the experience and opportunity of a lifetime ahead of me. That this is what I wanted and I was going to do great. The call lasted an hour, but it fixed everything, and when I woke up the next day I was ready. It was as if day 1 never happened. I felt at home, I felt adventurous, I felt safe, calm and ready to explore. So I did – all weekend, to get used to my new home. Now, 3 weeks in and I haven’t had a bad day again.

There is no denying that shock will hit you. For me it was day 1; for you, it might be a week or even a month in. It will hit, and it will hurt, it will be tough, and you will doubt yourself and want to go home. My advice is to take it as it is. Moving overseas is a new and intense experience, it can’t be flawless. Expect to have bad days, because you will. Just make sure you have someone to call, to tell you everything is ok. That’s all you really need to hear. You realise home, familiarity, normal, is just a phone call away. It’s not as far as you think.

If you are worried about going on exchange – don’t be. Yes, there will be tough times, but I assure you the good times will outweigh the bad a million times over! Going overseas is such an incredible experience and in the technological and integrated world we live in today – home is never far away. Plus, there are so many people who can help you along the way, the QUT international student mobility officers, present and previous exchange students, friends and family – you are never truly alone, there will always be someone to back you.

That’s all from me (for now), but please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding exchange, Singapore, internships, the New Colombo Plan – anything! I’m happy to help! If you’re interested in Singapore or Asia in general, check out my Instagram downunderdana – I am challenging myself to post a different photo every day I am away, so over the 15 months… there’s going to be a lot.