Quintessentially British

Katherine Thelander
Bath Spa University, England (Semester 1, 2016)

Going on exchange is a chance to see the world and at first I found that England, apart from the weather, was no different to Australia. It took a mere twelve months for the United Kingdom to change my mind, to convince me that there was more to it beyond cloudy skies and posh accents. I now present to you my findings, my discoveries of the most quintessential ingredients that make up Britain. 

  1. Double deckers are ridiculous forms of transport.

There is nothing sillier than two double-decker buses facing off on the narrow road leading to Bath Spa University. Nothing more tense than them sliding past with inches between them, two tiers of students anxiously watching the debacle. Staying in a residence hall meant that my only connection to town was via this long and winding road, and this was altogether far too much effort. Why leave campus when all I needed – friends, food, and (ugh) class – was within walking distance. In Australia we’re used to commuting into uni but in Bath I could leave for class minutes before it started. The university is much smaller than QUT but that was a good thing for me – it meant my classes were small and focused groups, and it meant that you formed close connections with people who had the same interests. Living on campus and having my friends within easy reach is one of the things I’ll miss the most from my exchange experience (and I admit, the double deckers were pretty adorable too).

  1. Europe is a stone’s throw (almost literally).

We’ve learned to balk at the idea of booking flights, knowing that a vacation’s feasibility hangs on the whimsy of Jetstar and Virgin. Well worry no more – once you get over the initial flights to England you’re treated to flights cheaper than Australian intercontinental travel. Travelling Europe is appealing because vastly different cultures are close together in a small space, so you get a high concentration of ‘culture’ for a relatively small amount of money. More bang for your buck. It’s common for Australian travellers to string these countries together, embarking on months-long journeys so they’re not wasting the flight over, but living in Europe removes that worry. Exchange gives you the chance to take your time with travel, to not worry so much about increasing your ‘countries visited’ tally. Europe is also the perfect playground for beginner solo travellers (which I was and still am), so go get lost.

  1. Quaint rhymes with England (figuratively speaking).

Ah, England. Not an unfamiliar country. We’ve seen ‘Love Actually’, we’ve seen ‘Harry Potter’, we’re pretty sure we know exactly what England’s about. You know, it’s not that far off. London’s cool and all, but in my year in the UK I grew to adore the tiny towns that dot the countryside. Bath is the culmination of the English dream to me, the dream of retiring to a town with easy access to scones and spas. The buildings are stone, the roofs are thatch, and there are sheep on my campus. I never would have thought of Brisbane as a big city until coming to England, but now ensconced in town-living I realised what I’ve been missing. A friend in Oxford showed me one of the colleges of Oxford University, with two distinct stone walls. The first one, the inner one, was built in the 1200s, and the outer one was built in the 1600s. We stood between the two and were struck by the fact that our country was younger than the difference between them. I ruined this moment somewhat by smacking the 1200s wall, but it was a reminder that England is old, almost unfathomably old, and that there’s so much history to discover for yourself.

I can talk about my experience on exchange and everything I learned, but that doesn’t cover what’s possible. Every exchange is different because everybody is trying to answer a question they’re asking themselves. I don’t know if I found that answer while I was abroad, but I’ve gotten a whole lot closer. If you have a question, if there’s something you need to find out about yourself, then exchange is the time to ask it.

 

My Short but Sweet Time in the United Kingdom

Su Jin Lim, Masters of Business

Short-term program: University of Exeter ‘International Summer School’

England (June/July 2018)

It had always been a lifelong dream of mine to study in the UK; therefore when I saw QUT’s Global Exchange Portal advertising the International Summer School Program at the University of Exeter, I knew I had to do it.

In order to make full use of my winter break, I made the choice to extend my trip and arrive 2 weeks before summer school began. In that time span, I took the opportunity to sight see around London and the beautiful Welsh countryside. I had the opportunity of visiting, Highgate Cemetery (The burial place of Karl Marx), shopping along Oxford Street, and most importantly going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden (It would have been blasphemous for me not to do so!). I spent one week in Wales with my relatives at their smallholdings estate up in Lampeter. Over there we drove around to different places and visited historical sites and museums.

One of the “must-have” shots for anyone who visits the Harry Potter studios.

I then returned to Convent Garden in London where my summer school program began. By this time, London was experiencing one of the worst heat waves, which really was equivalent to a typical Brissie Summer, except it was a lot more humid. We were scheduled to stay in London for the next 4 days for sightseeing. The summer school coordinators planned the trip such that we had plenty of leisure time to explore the city on our own. Luckily for me, I managed to meet friends on the first day of the program, they became my travel buddies throughout the trip. During our stay in London, we were taken to see iconic places such as Tower Bridge, House of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and the British Museum. The most memorable part of the trip was having the opportunity to watch Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale” at the Globe Theatre just like how people used to watch it back in the day (i.e. standing up for the whole play!). Never have I ever cried and laughed so hard watching a play, the acting and the whole experience of it was honestly quite moving.

Waiting for the play to begin at the Globe Theatre.

Bright and early on our last day in London, we boarded our buses for the 4 ½ hour journey to Exeter. The moment we arrived in Exeter, we were greeted with typical British weather which quite ironically I found to be quite warm and welcoming. I think it was because it was the English weather I was expecting to experience rather than the warm sticky weather. We were all assigned rooms at the on campus accommodation at the University of Exeter. Each of us had our own ensuite toilets, a bed, and a large desk. I technically shared a “flat” with 5 other students and we all had access to a common kitchen. Meals were not catered for, which allowed us full freedom to plan all our meals. Quick tip: I highly recommend you try eating-in when you can; it gives you the opportunity to learn how to cook for yourself but to also to learn the cuisine of other international students cooking in the flat as well. My accommodation was a 10 minute walk to campus and all its facilities which was really convenient for us.    

The Iconic University of Exeter “Rock”.

Class picture on our last day of class with our two module facilitators (Standing on the far left and right).

I enrolled for the “Adapting Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to Improve Accessibility to Psychological Therapies” module at summer school. Classes were 4 hours a day, in 2 hour blocks. Despite the intensity of our classes, I thoroughly enjoyed them as it was highly interactive and very much hands on. I only had 12 other students in my class which gave us the opportunity to really bond with one another and having sessions better tailored to our needs. The assessments for our course were broken down into two parts. Firstly, we had to design a psycho-education leaflet tailored towards international students from a specific country/region. Secondly, we had to give a 30 minute presentation explaining our target sample, design of our leaflet, and how we worked together as a group. 

Visiting the underground tunnels of Exeter.

The town of Bath.

During the two weekends we had at Exeter, we made it a point to do as much sightseeing as we could. We took day trips to the town of Bath (a UNESCO World Heritage site), St. Ives, and we were even adventurous enough to cycle 44km to visit the nearby port town of Exmouth. All of these places were truly amazing and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Overall, I will say that the International School Program at the University of Exeter was amazing such that it allowed you time to learn and having enough time to sightsee, it was really a rewarding experience. Not only did I get the opportunity to visit the beautiful places the UK had to offer, but I was also able to form lifelong friendships with students from all other the globe. To anyone reading this and is interested on going to the UK, I highly recommend applying for this program. You will not regret it, I definitely didn’t J

Everlasting Memories Made at Cambridge

Sabrina Catania, Bachelor of Science

Short-term program: AIM Overseas ‘Cambridge Sciences Summer Program’

England (July 2018)

Life on campus was in itself an amazing experience. All the academics, although kind of intimidating to approach because of how intelligent they were, were so nice and ready to answer any of your questions. This programme brought people from all different organisations to give lectures such as the Gurdon institute and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) which was a major highlight for me. I was unbelievably lucky to be able to visit the BAS twice while I was at Cambridge and has completely influenced my future plans to work overseas.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS)

Queens College.

Making friends from all over the world.

I stayed on campus at Queens’ College where I was in a single Ensuite room. Breakfast and dinner were also provided for me, which was held in dining halls within Queens’. Breakfast was held buffet style which was amazing! Hash browns, bacon, fresh fruit every morning! There was also a different dinner every night with spectacular desserts to end the night with.  I did have to scout around for my own lunch every day, which I was actually happy about as it gave me the chance to taste test food from all over the city.

The view from my room.

Travelling from Heathrow Airport to Cambridge University was a massive culture shock for me. It definitely made me feel out of depth and overwhelmed. I think this was more to do with this trip being my first time travelling alone and to such a far place from home. Luckily, I made friends at the airports on both my trips from and to Australia. I think having an open mind and being open to the idea of meeting new people adds a lot to your experience overseas. However, once I reached Cambridge, everything kind of fell into place and it was so easy to fall in love with the city. England isn’t too different from Australia, so the cultural aspects weren’t much of a shock for me, however not hearing your normal Aussie accent everywhere was a bit weird.

Here I got to go on a beautiful Punting tour that takes you through the heart of Cambridge University along River Cam.

Here I got to go on a beautiful Punting tour that takes you through the heart of Cambridge University along River Cam.

King’s College Chapel, Cambridge

What was also great about this short-term trip was the amazing people that also were attending the same programme as me. So, although there were people from all over the world, I still got to meet so many people from Australia. It was this group of girls that made me feel at home in this foreign country and we are even now planning a trip to meet up. I also became friends with people from America, Pakistan, Hungary and so many other places. So, I think a main highlight of my trip was the friends I made and the everlasting memories that they helped me create.

The famous Mathematical Bridge which is luckily enough located in Queens’ College.

Charles Darwin statue at Christ College, Cambridge.

I think it should most definitely be noted however, how beautiful Cambridge actually is!

A Short Summer Spent Studying at Cambridge

Laura Spenceley, Bachelor of Science/Laws

Short-term program: AIM Overseas ‘Cambridge Sciences Summer Program’

England (July 2018)

Not long after my semester one exams this year, I headed to the United Kingdom for a 2-week short-term exchange program at Cambridge University. This program not only met but exceeded every expectation I had – including the surprisingly very hot English Summer.

Life in Cambridge and England

Prior to the program beginning on Sunday the 8th of July, I flew to London (Stansted) and arrived in Cambridge on Friday afternoon. I then had two (very hot) days to explore a beautiful city and get to know the university and some of its colleges prior to my program.

Arriving at Selwyn college

As a student city, Cambridge is very accessible and easy to get around. It was a short half-hour train journey from the Stansted airport, but once you are in Cambridge it is very easy to navigate on foot. Most students and residents of Cambridge prefer cycling as a mode of transport. Considering that the city of Cambridge is mostly comprised of the University itself, Wi-Fi is easily accessible everywhere you go. This was definitely a bonus while travelling and made getting around quite easy.

Arriving at Selwyn college

After 2 weeks at Cambridge, I spent a few days in London and the rest of the week travelling around France to make the most of my trip to the other side of the world – which was quite a relaxing end to a whole lot of learning at the University.

The Summer Program

One of the program highlights would have to be the experience of life at a Cambridge college. While in Australia most students live at home and commute to uni, at a University almost 200 years older than QUT with 31 historical colleges to choose from, students live on campus during term time and either walk or cycle to classes. At Selwyn College, I stayed in a private room which overlooked Old Court and the dining Hall where we had meals each morning and night. This was a quick 5-minute walk to the where all of the Summer courses teaching was held at Sidgwick site (next-door).

The view of Old Court from my accommodation in a college room.

The academic program was run over the course of 2 weeks, with 4 science lectures per day between 9am and 9pm. During these hours, we had morning plenary (core) lectures and evening talks which were each run by a different Cambridge lecturer or subject specialist, as well as 2 elected courses per week. I am glad these gave me the opportunity to study things I probably wouldn’t study at home as part of my science degree, such as learning about Polar Research and Autism Research based in Cambridge. Evening talks included topics such as a mathematician on the Enigma Machine, and the engineering behind the ‘Dambusters’ bouncing bomb during World War 2.

Cambridge University Museum of Zoology.

The University Library

Outside of the classroom, my chosen courses involved two visits to the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, the University museums (Museum of Zoology, Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, and Fitzwilliam Museum). The Summer Program also included a piano recital one night in St. John’s College, a reception for the 95th anniversary of the Program at the beautiful Queens’ College and went on a traditional ‘punt’ on the River Cam over the weekend with some of the other students I met on the course. Our final night as Cambridge students was marked by a formal closing dinner in the dining hall, with the presentation of certificates.

Dining Hall at Selwyn College

Finishing the course.

Aston-ishing England

Annabel Boersen, Bachelor of Business – International
Aston University, England (Semester 2, 2017 through Semester 1, 2018)

I absolutely loved my time on exchange at Aston University in Birmingham, UK. There were so many highlights of my trip both academic and cultural: including meeting Orlando Bloom!

I chose to go to Aston University as part of my BS08 Second Degree program, and to be honest, I hadn’t really researched too much on the location of the University before I arrived. I was surprised to find that it was right on the edge of Birmingham city centre (it took 20 mins to walk to the other side of the city). This meant that everything you needed was within walking distance! The city of Birmingham also has fantastic transport options to travel around the UK and Europe (multiple train and coach stations, and an international airport as well!). I went to Bratislava, Frankfurt, Dublin, and more with cheap flights from Birmingham. I also made an effort to see as much of the UK as possible. I went north to Edinburgh, did a narrow boat adventure into Wales, and even did a 7-day walking holiday along the Cornish Coastal Path (in Cornwall), just to name a few things. I definitely recommend that you take advantage of the central location of Birmingham to get around the UK in your time there.

Since I was at Aston for a full year exchange, I was able to secure accommodation on campus. This was awesome because it was only a 5-minute walk to any class. There was also a supermarket and gym on campus which meant that in winter if it was raining or snowing, you could still get to everything very easily. I lived in a female only 7 bedroom flat. I shared a kitchen with 6 other girls, and we each had our own room and bathroom. I

One of the highlights of my entire exchange was celebrating Christmas at Disneyland Paris with my sister, who had come out to visit over the Christmas break. It was so magical especially when it snowed, and is something that I won’t ever forget. Another highlight was the people that I met while I was there. Because my exchange went for a whole year, I took part in many activities, joined the university dance society and even found a casual job at a 5* hotel in the city centre. I met people not only from all around the UK, but from all around the world. I also connected with eight other Australians who were doing the same program as me and we went to all the classes together, which was great because it meant that I knew people who were going through the same experience and if we had any questions or issues, we could figure them out together. Another highlight was looking out my window and seeing it snow on campus (it snowed multiple times on my exchange, even through April)!

In terms of units, lectures and tutorials, the UK system, although similar, is quite different in some aspects. For example; attendance at all lectures and tutorials was recorded, timetables were assigned and not chosen, and some of our units that went for the entire year only had one piece of assessment (a 100% exam). In the first semester I studied five units and in the second I studied seven. This resulted in me having four 100% exams, two 80% exams, and one assignment all in the final examination period. But as hard as it sounds, I found it realistic and was not overwhelmed at all. It was also very interesting as all my lecturers came from different cultural backgrounds. I loved how cultural the whole experience turned out to be, despite me still being in an English speaking country!

I loved the whole experience and would totally recommend others to take part in an exchange to Aston University. If I could do it again, I would!

Discover the UK’s picturesque countryside

Jordan W
(BCI student Majoring in Drama, Minors in Scenography and Literature)
Leeds University, UK

 

The landscape is stunning in England, if you’re a painter or creative type it will make your mind wonder. I was fortunate enough in my weekend explorations of the England countryside to come across an exhibition holding some of Francis Bacon’s most famous work on tour.

You’ll meet so many friends while on exchange. I will give some advice, you will notice on your return home that you will have more international student friends than English students, as they tend to stick to their own crowd (usually). This is not necessarily bad, it was my own personal experience and made friends with plenty of non-student English friends.

So, you’re probably wondering about Europe. Do it. It’s one of the best things. In the middle of Semester 2 (which is our Semester 1 at QUT), there is a month break in the middle to study, I suggest do some study then take some time off to travel to Europe, it is at a very good time in March / April where the tourists have not yet arrived, but it is not blisteringly cold like Winter – it is just right.

Nothing is more rewarding than travelling

A highlight I would suggest is to do Italy – it is magnificent, you will not regret – climbing Mount Vesuvius was indeed my favourite as it snowed while I was at the top.

However, transport and travelling to other places is quite expensive due to the class system on trains which interlink England. I suggest using the National Express bus service that allows extremely cheap tickets around the U.K. – it takes longer to your destination point but it saves you money.

By the end, you will wish you could never leave – but that’s okay because at the end you would have made connections and can meet up with those friends again, traveling and searching the world together.

Leeds Survival Guide, Part 3: The Studies

Having just finished my final class for the semester, I now have a one month break before exams and so, I decided to let you all know what the studies here at Leeds have been like.

To get an idea of where I’m coming from, I did the following three modules this semester:

  • Understanding the Audience
  • Beginners French
  • Career Development

Here are some of the differences I’ve experienced between studying at QUT and the University of Leeds:

1. I received a lot of handouts at Leeds

  • For every class I received at least one piece of paper per lesson, which rarely happens at QUT
  • Buy yourself a display folder before leaving because they are extremely hard to come by in Leeds for some unknown reason
  • They’re also handy to keep your travel documents in while travelling

2. Referencing is different to QUT 

  • I recommend downloading EndNote (A free referencing software) because Leeds has their preferred referencing method available to be downloaded and it makes referencing so much faster and easier
  • QUT has this available too if you didn’t know!

3. Most classes take attendance

  • The amount of times you can miss class depends on your course but for media, missing 5 classes resulted in being contacted and questioned
  • Be careful with planning big trips during class time; I recommend travelling before the semester starts or during December before the exams

4. Not all lectures are recorded

  • None of mine were, which meant I had to actually pay attention
  • It was definitely difficult not being able to go back and rewatch lectures, but this just made me listen harder and take more notes

5. A passing grade is 40/100

  • This changes depending on what you study but this is the passing grade for most courses
  • It’s definitely a lot easier to pass at Leeds, but from my experience, it’s a little more difficult to do well

6. For all my media students out there, be aware that media at QUT is a lot more modern and practical whereas at Leeds it’s a little more traditional

  • You’ll most likely find powerpoint slides with plain black text on white background and no pictures or videos
  • For the assignments, Leeds wanted a lot of academic study examples, whereas QUT usually prefers that students find their own examples from tv shows, articles or other media
  • With that being said, Axel Bruns who works at QUT did make an appearance in my reading list one week for his work on convergence, so the content isn’t that different from QUT, it’s just a little more bland

7. Finally, less of a difference but a great recommendation, if you have a free elective, do Career Development

  • Career development is a 20 credit module (60 credits makes up 48 QUT credits) so I only had to do 3 units to get a full study load (this left me with time to travel on weekends!)
  • It was pretty much a big reflection unit on what I want to do in the future
  • Along with it being quite easy it was actually pretty useful in helping improve my resume and my interview skills

Even though it’s been different here in Leeds, it’s definitely been a worthwhile experience, mainly because I get to study in buildings such as this:

So, I highly recommend you come to the University of Leeds to experience studying here yourself.

Leeds Survival Guide, Part 2: Leeds Lingo

In the past few months of being in Leeds, there have been plenty of interesting and strange Yorkshire sayings that I’ve encountered. In Australia, we have words such as “snag”, “arvo”, “grog” that are native to the Australian language. Similarly, there are newfound words found in the ‘Yorkshire’ dialect found in places like Leeds, York and Sheffield.

As part of my Leeds Survival Guide, I’m going to share a few crucial and the most interesting words I’ve heard so far.

Most importantly, when you first make eye contact with a Yorkshire person you’ll most likely be greeted with “you alright?”. This happens to mean “how are you?” but if you’re not expecting it, it feels strange being asked if you’re alright by the cashier at a supermarket or a stranger you pass by.

Why yes I am okay… Do I not look okay?!

You are supposed to respond with something like, “yes I’m good, and you?”, but it is definitely something I had to get used to.

Aside from that, the following are some more intriguing things I’ve heard that I thought would be good for an incoming student to wrap their head around:

  • Ey up – Hello?
  • Aye – Yes (Kind of like a pirate with a British accent)
  • Clever clogs – Conceited person
  • Egg on – To urge someone to do something
  • Endways – Forward
  • Fancy dress – Costume (Not in fact nice clothing, but something like a Halloween costume)
  • Jiggered – Exhausted
  • Jock – Food or lunch (similar to the Australian use of ‘tucker’)
  • Lark – Good fun
  • Teem – Pour (e.g. “It’s teeming!” – “It’s pouring rain!”)
  • Us – Me, my or our
  • Usen – Plural of ‘us’ (Kind of like the way some Aussies say ‘youse’ as a plural of ‘you’)

And here are some Yorkshire idioms that are fun to say:

  • As daft as a dormhouse – Not very intelligent
  • As sharp as a Sheffield – Someone who is quick-witted
  • Catch as catch can – Everyone for themselves
  • Where there’s muck there’s brass – Where there’s hard work, there’s money

There are plenty more England ‘easter eggs’ like this to be found and it is most definitely worth it to explore and find them all. To quote a plaque I found in Whitby, I personally really ‘luv it ere’.

Leeds Survival Guide, Part 1: Arrival

The idea of travelling and experiencing a life away from home seems fantastic; until you arrive in this strange place with no clue of what you’re doing here.

I’ve been in Leeds, England for about a week now. It’s been scary, but it’s also been an incredible amount of fun.

Coming from Australia, I assumed that I’d fit right in with British culture. I already speak the language so, how different could the UK really be? Very. And this is what they call ‘culture shock’.

From accidentally pulling an alarm chord (I thought it was the light), not knowing how to unplug a sink (turns out there’s a lever at the back) and adapting to the Yorkshire sayings (blog on Leeds lingo up soon), I was definitely in shock.

Even seeing a squirrel for the first time had me amazed!

It’s funny how such a common animal can be so foreign to some.

Although, within all of the bewilderment, there was one powerful thing that got me through: making new friends.

If I could give one major piece of advice to all those studying in the UK, it would be to get out of your little dorm room and go to every, single ‘Freshers’ event you can.

With international café meetings, food adventures and an array of parties, there are so many chances to meet other students who are as new and confused as you are. Below are some of the incredible people that I befriended at these events.

All the international friends that I met at various freshers events.

These new friends who share my shock of this new culture are keeping my homesickness at bay, giving me the chance to explore more and simply smile more.

My first week in Leeds is almost over, but with about 30 new friends on Facebook, I’m feeling much more comfortable in this new place. It’s time to let the real adventures to begin.

London Calling

Jessica R, Bachelor of Business/Law

CIS Australia: January in London (January, 2017)

 

Host University

I completed a short-term program at the University of Roehampton, a beautiful parkland university in London. The campus was picturesque, and the facilities were very useful and easily accessible. The accommodation was situated on campus, in a brand new building. The rooms were single and very comfortable, with a double bed, desk, kettle, television, and en suite. Classes were held one level up, and breakfast and dinner were two levels up, so it was very quick and easy to get around!

The program I chose was London’s art, history, and society. Classes were held every day for 2 weeks, but only half of these days were held in a classroom. Every other day was spent on excursions exploring London’s historic sites, including the Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Museum of London, and the British Museum. The excursions were a great way to experience London’s vast history, whilst exploring the theory we had been taught in classes.

Host Country

The UK is similar to Australia in many ways, so culture shock wasn’t as big of an issue there as it might be elsewhere. Although I had often heard that London was very expensive, I didn’t find that to always be the case. Food could be expensive off campus, but with breakfast and dinner provided by the university, and my lunch and weekend meals mainly bought on campus, this wasn’t much of an issue for me.

Public transport in London is great, and it is very easy to get around with an Oyster card. Travelling from place to place throughout the day could get expensive, but there is a daily limit after which transport is free.

Tower Bridge, London

Trip highlights

This program was an unforgettable experience, and I loved every moment of it. The campus and its staff were very welcoming, and I felt comfortable knowing there were always people I could turn to if I needed help with anything. I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and the excursions we went on, and learnt valuable information. Studying at an overseas university is an entirely different experience than holidaying there. In just 2 ½ weeks I established my independence, developed as a person, and made life-long friends. My advice for any student considering exchange is: just go for it! It might seem daunting going to another part of the world on your own, but it is entirely worth it. Put yourself out there, make the most of the time you have, and you will have the experience of a lifetime.

If you are interested in undertaking a short-term program during the QUT semester breaks, check out the QUT Global Portal.