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

Why I Chose To Study Journalism Abroad at Sheffield Hallam University

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You’ve dreamt about studying journalism abroad for years, and now the time has come to choose the university you want to study at in the UK. There’s just one catch: you need to sort through all of QUTs compatible UK universities with a journalism degree to find the one that’s right for you. It sounds like a lot, but don’t stress! Whatever you want from an overseas university – whether it be an ease-of-travel location or accredited journalism experience – Sheffield Hallam University will be a definite contender for one of your top three preferences.

IT’S SITUATED IN A CHARMING, STUDENT-FRIENDLY CITY

Sheffield Hallam University is based in Sheffield; a city in which one in every ten residents is a student. With such a large amount of students in its populous, Sheffield has developed with its students in mind – it’s safe, green, cheap, independent and lively!

…WHICH BOASTS A VIBRANT STUDENT-FRIENDLY NIGHTLIFE

To cater to such a large student population, Sheffield has established a diverse, student-safe nightlife. Pubs, clubs, restaurants and cinemas offer discounts to anyone wielding a student card and student nights are held during the week, to avoid the weekend rush. Talk about convenience!

IT’S IN A STRATEGIC SWEET SPOT

Sheffield is at the midway point between London (England’s capital city) and Edinburgh (Scotland’s capital city), making it the perfect place to study at if you want to explore the UK.

IT FEATURES MOST FORMS OF NATIONAL AND INTERANTIONAL TRAVEL

Sheffield links into national motorways, national and local bus lines, inland waterway services and local cycling routes. It also boasts several major railway routes via the Sheffield railway station – perfect for those fleeting weekend getaways. To top it off, Sheffield also neighbours Leeds Bradford International airport, which flies to over 75 European destinations. Talk about it being too easy to travel abroad!

IT’S NOT TOO COLD

Temperatures average at about 15°C during Sheffield’s hottest month of the year, August, and dip down to an average of 3°C in its coldest month, January. Don’t get me wrong, those are some cold temperatures – but it’s not the wear-ten-pairs-of-socks kind of cold. Plus, the small variance in temperatures between the seasons ensures the transition from summer to winter (and back again) isn’t too much of an unsettling experience.

ITS PRIVATE ACCOMADATION IS CHEAP

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment or complex in Sheffield is around £130 per week. This is a lot cheaper than the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the UK, which sits at around £185 per week. However, it’s still a fair amount, especially considering the conversion rate from dollars to pounds. The good news is Sheffield Hallam University has a solution for this – student accommodation!

…AND ITS STUDENT ACCOMADATION IS EVEN CHEAPER

Sheffield Hallam University’s student accommodation is grouped into three price ranges to ensure there’s housing suitable for every student’s budget. With prices starting at £81 per week, these properties are significantly cheaper than private accommodation. Plus, they often come with additional benefits, such as security, designated parking and a close proximity to campus.

IT’S A WORLD RENOWED UNIVERSITY

Sheffield Hallam University has a great reputation internationally, thanks to its success as one of Britain’s most progressive and innovative universities. Studying at a university with such a solid international reputation looks great on paper, and can even open the door to enriching connections, internships or jobs in the future!

IT FEATURES EXPERT EDUCATORS

All of the teaching staff at Sheffield Hallam University are experts in their academic subjects. This not only helps inspire student learning, but also allows you to make important real world connections.

IT HAS A DEDICATED INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE TEAM

Sheffield Hallam University’s international experience team rolls out the red carpet service before you even set foot in England. They offer a 24-hour turnover time for emails, advice on how to prepare for your semester abroad and – shocker – the team will even help you with your visa application. This great service doesn’t stop once you arrive, with the team operating an optional (and free!) airport pick-up service from Manchester Airport to Sheffield Hallam University. New international students are also welcome to join entertaining orientation events held by the international experience team to get to know their campus, settle in and meet other campus newbies.

IT’S GOT AN ACCREDITED JOURNALISM DEGREE

The BA (Honours) of Journalism is taught by award-winning journalists and academics – all of whom are members of the Association of Journalism Educators. And as if that’s wasn’t incentive enough, the course is also ranked in the top ten journalism degrees in the UK in the Guardian University Guide, 2016!

IT PREPARES ME FOR MY CAREER

All of Sheffield Hallam University’s courses are designed to maximise your job prospects – even during my semester as an international exchange student! Their BA (Honours) Journalism degree will help me get industry-ready with:

  • Practical experience, such as: creating a live online newspaper; writing articles for magazines; and producing TV and radio packages.
  • The option to undertake work experience at a media organisation for credit points – a great way to spice up my resume while overseas!
  • And, the option to specialise in areas such as sports journalism, feature writing and social media.

Iceland – The land of fire and ice

For some crazy reason I decided to apply to study abroad in Iceland. It’s about as far away from Brisbane as you can get both in distance and differences. Brisbane is sunny, warm and relaxed for most of the year; Reykjavik is cold, overcast and windy. Honestly though, this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

 

First Impressions

I arrived in Reykjavik about a week ago. It took almost two days (and four long flights) to get to the other side of the world, surprisingly. During the cab ride from the airport I could see the famous church, Hallgrímskirkja, in the distance and I knew I was close to my apartment and, more importantly, close to showering for the first time in 40 hours!
My initial impression of the city: I love it. The buildings are the classic European style with the pointy roofs, there are a few churches breaking up the skyline before hitting the city. The weather for the most part has been overcast, grey, cloudy and sometimes windy; personally I love this kind of weather so I know I’ve come to the right place.

The people here are very polite, especially the drivers. Basically everyone speaks English, definitely any shopkeepers or cab drivers, which is a huge relief. I was concerned about the language barrier since I do not speak Icelandic and while I would love to learn it I don’t think I’d even have a chance to make much progress in the short time I’m here. It looks unlike anything I’ve ever seen, not to mention the actual letters I have never seen such as ð, þ and æ.

 

Adjusting to living away from home

I moved out of my parents house over a year ago so I’m used to not seeing my family and friends everyday, but to be in a completely new town, country and hemisphere was something I was worried about. Another concern I had was that obviously I’m going to have to talk to a lot of people, I’m a bit introverted and this is something I’ve freaked out over in the past. Honestly, I’ve been expecting a breakdown. Instead I’ve just been incredibly happy. I feel like this is definitely the the next stage of my life, I know the next few months are going to be a lot of fun.

 

 

Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis

Like Jodie in Maastricht, I am also taking part in QUT’s new double Masters program. I have completed the first six months of my Master of Business (International Business) in Brisbane and will complete the remaining six months in semester two, 2013. In the meantime I will be undertaking a full Master of Science in Arts and NGO Management at Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales du Nord (EDHEC) in Lille, France.

There is a charming saying that travelers cry twice in the North – once when they arrive and once when they leave. I arrived in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais on August 2nd and so far no tears have been shed but I can confirm that the welcoming atmosphere portrayed in Dany Boon’s Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (Welcome to the Sticks) is very real.

EDHEC welcomes many international students each year and they are clearly  aware that this might be the first time some of these students have been in France (myself included). Months before arriving in Lille I was directed to a special Blackboard site for international students that included, amongst other things, a wonderfully comprehensive student guide that covers almost everything from organising accommodation to opening a bank account to purchasing tickets for the tram and tips for navigating the labyrinthine French bureaucracy. It is probably due to the existence of this guide that I have had a tear-free existence in France thus far.

Aside from its student engagement team at Open Up (they organise activities and trips for students amongst other things), EDHEC also has a buddy system for new students. My buddy and I have exchanged a couple of emails and we have tentative plans to meet for coffee during Orientation next week which is definitely something to look forward to.

It is not just the university that makes you feel welcome in the North – most of the French people I have come across so far have also been friendly and very patient as I use my limited French and expert miming ability. Lille is the second largest student city in France after Paris and there are quite a few tourists so I expect the residents are used to hearing some interesting attempts at their language. There is also a local dialect here call ch’ti – you can hear examples of it in the movie trailer above – but I am not bold enough to try it just yet, but once my French classes are under way at the university it might be a different story.

If you are also considering the double Masters program or going to France on exchange and have some questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments and I will respond. I am not sure how I will go keeping a set schedule for updates but there will definitely be a post soon with more information about my studies (I am enrolled in the eleven compulsory units for this semester as well as the optional French Business in Perspective and French language classes) once I have received my timetable and have an idea of how one can undertake so many different units in one semester.

Until then, a bientôt!

One down and one to go

Two weeks in and I have now completed the International Business unit. If you are looking at doing International Business, I highly recommend it. Not only did I learn the basics of International Business but also information on trade economics, international marketing and international organisational structures. Thus covering many of the broader factors relevant for International Business. Ignoring the intensity of the course (cramming one semester into two weeks), the course was very interesting and will definitely assist with my future business endeavors.

Further, having diversity of culture within the class, it made for greater insight into the workings of various countries and for interesting discussions. Smaller class sizes of 5-10 people also allowed the greater interaction between students but also greater teacher to student interaction. For me, this learning environment has been much more effective in ensuring I understand and know the content of the class and works much better for intensive study.

As a treat for completing the first subject, Grenoble School of Management took the class on a trip to Paris…

Eiffel Tower by Ellie Bakker

Eiffel Tower by Ellie Bakker

Spending a weekend in Paris with my school summer group was such a fantastic experience. A few of us rented a bike (free for each half hour increment) and traveled to all of the major monuments in Paris such as Notre Dame, Lourve, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees and Eiffel Tower (of course)! I also wanted to enhance the “French” stereotype so I got wine, baguettes and cheese and had a picnic under the Eiffel Tower (photo above of Eiffel Tower).

Versailles by Ellie Bakker

Versailles by Ellie Bakker

I also took a trip to Chateau de Versailles. There I explored the amazing gardens and the house of Marie-Antoinette. Unfortunately, time did not allow for a visit through the Palace but I will be venturing back to see this in a few weeks. If you have a chance, I highly recommend the 45 minute trip from Paris to Versailles. So much history, beauty and amazing architecture.

I will be sure to post again soon about the progress of my next subject, digital marketing and any other adventures I get up to.

Weekend for Students

Wondering what students get up to on their weekends in Grenoble? Well our University had planned a ropes course on the Saturday and a trip to Annecy, France on the Sunday.

On Saturday, myself and the other students were full of adrenaline throughout the entirety of the ropes course largely due to the fact we were up in the treetops and crossing thin ropes and wires with obstacles in our way to make each area more challenging. To start, we completed the beginners course which I found quite easy (luckily). From there, I felt ready to face one of the harder coursers, the “red course”. After a few obstacles on the red course (climbing up a rope ladder and walking across a thin rope with not much to hold onto) I was exhausted and fear got the better of me. Worst problem was that I had to finish the course, as there was no other way down. By the end of the course though, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I had just walked across and weaved my way through thin ropes and down big nets. The ropes course was a fantastic way of facing fears, experiencing a different type of challenge and receiving encouragement from fellow students.

 

Ropes Course by Ellie Bakker

Ropes Course by Ellie Bakker

Ropes Course by Ellie Bakker

Ropes Course by Ellie Bakker

Today (Sunday, 24 June 2012), we took a trip to Annecy, which is about one and a half hours from Grenoble. Annecy is beautiful and I would describe it as being very colourful with the bright green mountains, blue rivers, bright coloured buildings and flowers everywhere. There are many tourists weaving through the streets, markets and little shops and enjoying the food of many restaurants. We got to explore the Annecy goal, explore the town and have lunch at a great little French style restaurant. Many of my classmates hired boats and went along the river as the rest of us wandered the streets. It was such a fantastic day and I would really recommend everyone to visit the beauty of Annecy.

 

However, we are back at our residency now and after such a wonderful weekend, it is hard to get motivated to study. I do however, have to hit the books so it is goodbye for now.

What a week

Hooray! Made it through the first week and what a good week it was. Grenoble is beautiful. Here, we are surrounded by the Rhone-Alps, the buzz of chatter and laughter, pure sunshine (although rain periods have also been experienced) and people out on their bikes or having a coffee at the cafe. The Grenoble lifestyle appears to be waking up late, food from the bakery, work from 10am till 7pm, two-hour lunch breaks and then out for dinner from 7:30pm. Finally, the sun decides to leave this place about 10-10:30pm and it is off to bed.

Bridge, Grenoble by Ellie Bakker

Bridge, Grenoble by Ellie Bakker

View from La Bastille by Ellie Bakker

View from La Bastille by Ellie Bakker

My Grenoble lifestyle feels much like the locals. I grab my croissant and head off to the Grenoble Ecole de Management, for my subjects in International Business and French Language and Culture. I will admit the days are very intense. We learn the equivalent of three weeks of study at QUT in one full day. The classes are kept interesting though by incorporating current world trends and issues and with such diversity in the classes (students from India, Saudi Arabia, Syria and America), the similarities and differences between the countries are greatly emphasized in discussion. French Language and Culture is NOT about learning the language (which I assumed it was) but about French society, history, and places to visit within the country. We have also learnt some basic language phrases which have been useful for day-to-day.

Evenings are spent taste testing the different meals, desserts and wines from various cafes/restaurants followed by some late night revision. Two unforgettable moments of the week included the trip to La Bastille and the music festival. As a class, we took a cable-car over the roofs of Grenoble, over the Isere river and up to the top of La Bastille. The views from above are spectacular, overlooking the entirety of Grenoble, the mountains and the rivers. The view plus a delicious three-course meal definitely made for a fantastic memory.

Secondly, ‘La fête de la musique’ (music festival) was another highlight. To celebrate the longest day of the year, stages are setup around Grenoble with music from genres of pop, rock, electronic, hip-hop and classic blaring from them and children to adults dancing around the stages. Again as a class, we went around to each of the stages and enjoyed people watching and participating in the celebrations, which go well into the morning.

To sum the week, it was fantastic. I have been able to meet new people from all different countries, expand my waistline with all the taste testing, explore the city of Grenoble and undertake studies in a new and interesting environment. For the weekend, we (the class) are off to Annecy for a ropes course and to explore the cute little town. Till next time…..

 

Where it all began

1 new email received – “Congratulations, you have been chosen to take part in our study abroad program at the Grenoble School of Management in France.”

I could not believe my eyes. Quick, post on Facebook, call all members of the family; my excitement needs to be shared!

In the lead up to my departure however, there were a few administrative items which had to be completed. I have created a list below in the hope it can be of assistance.
1. Once you are accepted by QUT, you need to enroll to the overseas Uni directly. It is a fairly easy process as it involves completing your basic information, educational background and references. There is also an application fee. Mine was $130 approx.
2. Book and pay for fights. Send your receipt through to the International Student Office of QUT for reimbursement (if you have received a scholarship).
3. Pay course fees directly to overseas Uni. (They will send you an invoice).
4. Attend QUT study abroad information session.
5. Familiarise yourself with all documentation sent by the overseas University.

Having all that completed and after numerous efforts of packing and repacking, I am now in Grenoble, France. Two days ago, I was out exploring the sites and shops of Paris and stuffing myself full of croissants and baguettes (some photos below). Yesterday, I explored Grenoble and I must say, it is so beautiful here. Reminds me of Kelvin Grove Campus surrounded by amazing hills and old buildings.

Anyway off for my first day of school!

P.S – Huge thank you to QUT for their assistance and support and for also allowing me this amazing opportunity.

Photo 1 – Temptations of France

Photo 2 – Place of Residency