Hej from Sweden!

Jordan S., Bachelor of Engineering
Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden (Semester 2, 2016)

Hej jag heter Jordan Simpson! I undertook an exchange semester at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg (Gothenburg) Sweden during the second semester of 2016!

Host University

Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg

I found that life on campus at Chalmers is quite different to QUT. A few of the main differences I found was the block scheduling of courses, the really cheap lunches they provide, and the amount of leisure activity rooms. I found the block scheduling of classes to be quite good; it meant not having to deal with class registration and ending up with a shocking timetable.  It even usually allowed for one or two free days a week! Chalmers also offered really cheap and decent quality/sized meals each day for 40kr (which is approx. $6.50). Chalmers also had heaps of buildings that could be used for all sorts of leisure activities (indoor soccer/basketball, rock climbing, even a billiard area!).

Accommodation can be quite hard to come by for the local university students of Gothenburg wishing to move out of their parent’s place. These students have to start queuing to find a place when they are in grade 9 or 10 in high school! However, being an international student, Chalmers and SGS Studentböstader (a student housing company) offers priority 1 when looking for accommodation during your stay in Gothenburg.

From an academics standpoint, Chalmers is very different to QUT. The main difference being that instead of taking 4 courses over a semester, the semester is broken up into two study periods. Each study period lasts 8 weeks, and during this time you take 2 courses. This means that the courses are a lot heavier, but leads to a much easier time during exam block period.

Host Country

City of Gothenburg

The cost of living is almost identical to Australia, only major difference being the alcohol prices in their bottle shops. Getting around in Gothenburg is very easy! The public transport system is phenomenal (well almost anything is compared to my hometown, Mackay).  There are many trams and busses running all the time to get you to where you need to go. If you want to see a bit more of Sweden there are also plenty of top quality trains to take!

I found the culture of Sweden to be quite similar to our own. With one notable difference being people keep to themselves at first so you have to really initiate conversation. But once you start to get them talking they are just as friendly and inviting as we are! If you are also wondering how the language barrier is, I can assure you that it is almost non-existent. Almost every Swedish person I met was able to speak English perfectly and switched to it as soon as they knew you only spoke English!

One of the cool things I really enjoyed about my time in Sweden was actually being able to experience the four seasons of the year! My favourite time of the year was Autumn as I found it cool to see everything go orange, and actually see the physical change from Summer.

Highlights/Tips

It’s hard to choose highlights from my exchange as the whole experience has been absolutely fantastic.  One of the many highlights was being able to meet so many people from different countries.  I got to experience bits and pieces of their cultures and share some from mine, while also learning about the Swedish culture with them.  However, one of my favourite times during this exchange was when my mates and I went for a weekend in Stockholm before going on a 3-day cruise to Talin, Estonia.

Northern lights in Lapland

The best tip I can give is get involved with CIRC (Chalmers’ International Student Society), and make sure to go to all of their events during the first few weeks so you can meet heaps of people that eventually make a good group of friends! Also, the one event I highly recommend (which I personally didn’t get to go to but all of my friends did) is the Lapland trip! During this you travel to the far north of Sweden and get to experience ridiculously cold temperatures, go dog sledging, and see the Northern Lights!

 

Canada Eh?

Georgia Christie, Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Laws
The University of Calgary, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

I arrived in Calgary on the 1st of January and could not believe the amount of snow that was covering the city; I found out later that Calgary had a massive cold snap in the days leading up to NYE with temperatures dropping to -30°C. So, I was quite terrified and unsure how I’d survive an entire winter. However, you do get used to the cold and start thinking that -5°C days are warm days.

The University of Calgary was quite different to QUT. Classes are not recorded and I even had a political science prof (lecturer) who did not upload any slides online, so if you missed a class you missed a whole heap of content. The university is very focused on sports, and as a student you get access to the gym and all the sporting facilities. During the winter semester, it’s all about hockey and there are plenty of games you can go watch. There’s also the Olympic Oval which was the ice-skating rink used in the 1988 Winter Olympics and it is open for public use.

I stayed in residence at Cascade Hall for the semester and this was where most exchange students stayed, so there were always other international students around. This also meant that I spent most of my time with other exchange students rather than Canadians.

My exchange experience was incredible and I experienced so many uniquely Canadian things. At first, Tim Hortons is a very confusing concept: it’s not a café and it’s not fast food but somewhere in the middle but after a while, Timmies becomes a staple for all road trips, ski days and early morning classes.

The Rocky Mountains are only a short drive away from Calgary and this is where I really enjoyed the North American winter. Alberta is    home to many world-class ski resorts and I was lucky enough to ski and even try snowboarding at a lot of them. It is definitely easier to enjoy the Rockies by getting a car and exploring all the mountain villages. Banff and Jasper are very popular towns with great nightlife, food, hikes and of course skiing. I highly recommend driving up the Icefields parkway from Banff to Jasper, it is truly one of the most beautiful drives in the whole world.

Canadians really live up to the stereotype of being very nice people and they love Australians, so it wasn’t difficult to feel at home in Calgary. I was shocked at how country Calgary is, there is always country music playing at clubs/bars and people actually wear cowboy hats and boots around.

Without a doubt, the best part of exchange is the people you meet. I met many other exchange students, Canadians and people from all over the world who were travelling Canada. The people I became friends with on exchange are friends for life and I can’t wait to visit them all again. After my semester was over, I travelled around Canada, New York and California for a month. I definitely recommend travelling to eastern Canada because it is so different from Calgary or Vancouver, so you miss out on the full Canadian experience if you just stay on the west coast.

My exchange experience was by far the best thing I have ever done and I can’t wait to go back to Alberta again one day.