Make the Leap and Go On Exchange!

Alexandra K., Dual Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and Business
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany (Semester 1, 2018)

Imagine thousands of people sitting by a river, beer in hand, basking in the sunlight or throwing a Frisbee while techno music plays in the background. This is the definition of a Berlin summer. Sadly, my exchange was for the fall semester, where snow and a Glühwein by a fire was more favourable. However, being kept indoors also meant more time to bond with the students who I shared my dormitory with. Students from all backgrounds and languages mingled daily, and there was certainly no shortage of partying. The little things are what makes an exchange so memorable, such as ice skating at the Christmas markets together or using the car seats from an abandoned van in our living room. Some of the people I lived with have made their way into my heart as life-long friends, who I have already visited in their home countries.I attended HWR for one semester with the goal of deepening my knowledge of international management in an international setting. The experiences and lessons I gained from the teachers who are sourced from all round the world were invaluable, and helped to set me apart from the curve. HWR, like most of Germany, is very old-fashioned and traditional in their approach to learning and bureaucracy. No lectures are recorded and you are expected to build a relationship with your teacher. This approach at first seems a bit intrusive or unnecessary, but my teachers were able to connect with me on a personal and professional level. This approach encourages students to develop their own opinion and solutions to issues presented, as opposed to simply memorising content.

Culture shock in Germany was inevitable, but learning the language is the best step towards fitting in and finding your place. Before my exchange, I studied German in Brisbane at the “DerDieDas” school, which was excellent to ensure I was not wasting time on the basics when in Berlin. After my 6 months of exchange, I am currently at a B2 level, and am undertaking an internship in Berlin now. Advice for your exchange I can offer is be prepared to feel lonely, homesick or just displaced. Take the time out of your week to call home, be ready for the shopkeepers to be rude to you, and don’t be afraid to go out alone. One of the highlights of my experience was simply going to a local German-owned café and spending hours preparing for my German exam the next day. This small decision lead to me meeting my now-boyfriend, a Kiwi who lives in Berlin! Just make the leap and go on exchange, but don’t stop there, make the leap and squeeze every last drop out of the experience.

Reconnecting with Friends and Family all over the World

Sylvia L., Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries
Hochschule Darmstadt, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

Student exchange is one of the things you have to experience in your life. Even if you don’t know the language, it is worth it just to immerse yourself in another country’s culture, meet new people from all over the world (free accommodation when you’re travelling in their country now!), and truly a fun experience overall.

I undertook my student exchange in Darmstadt Germany, at the Hochschule Darmstadt studying Animation and Game. Not many people have heard of Darmstadt despite it being the headquarters of the European Space Agency, and students from the Graphic Design faculty at Hochschule Darmstadt recently had the opportunity to design the logo for the 2018 ISS mission. Located near Frankfurt, it was very easy to travel around Europe, which of course I did. Belgium, France, Czech Republic, Austria, England and even more.

German Christmas Markets

Some people have the idea that Germans are very unfriendly, I beg to differ, with the exception of bus drivers. The number of methods they have to cook potatoes is unbelievable and I truly miss all the cake and bread, especially the bread, nothing compares. While I was there I got to experience the Christmas Markets which Germany is famous for, they were absolutely magical and I discovered my love for potato pancakes and apple mousse.

Heaps of places to travel

Personally I felt that uni was easier in Germany then Australia. The system there allows you to retake exams if you fail them and I found there was a lot less pressure because of that. I really enjoyed my units there, especially the games methodology lecture where 50% of the time it would just be the lecturer playing games on the original NSES with lots of references to modern gaming thrown in.

The people I met over there were what made the trip truly worth it, especially those that you know will remain life-long friends despite the large distance between you.

Catching up with old friends and family

Another highlight of my trip that I am extremely grateful for that student exchange allowed was reconnecting with friends and family from my childhood. Spending time with my cousins in France and England, staying with old neighbours in Berlin and Benshiem, eating dinner with my grandmother’s family along the Rhine, those were the best moments.

I highly recommend for everyone to go on exchange. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and you learn and gain so much knowledge, connections, and an unforgettable experience.

Finding friends and falling in love on exchange

Declan, S. Bachelor of Business
University of Mannheim, Germany. (Semester 1, 2018)

The thought of going on student exchange never crossed my mind. But one day I was just procrastinating, scrolling through the QUT website, and I came across a link that said: ‘Applications for student exchange in semester 2, 2017 close TOMORROW’. I decided to have a look and see where I could go. I had been learning German out of personal interest for about a year so I thought, why not Germany? I rushed to get my application in on time and hoped for the best, but never really gave it another thought. Then the time came to find out whether I had been accepted and I found out I was headed to the University of Mannheim! I knew it was going to be a challenge but I had no idea what was going to be in store for me, or that I was about to have the best and probably more important time of my life.

Firstly arriving in Mannheim, a small(ish) university town in South-West Germany, was quite daunting. I had to find my way to the student accommodation and check-in, all in a language, that up until that point, I had actually ever conversed in. But I managed. The reality that I was now on the other side of the world had not yet set it, but after my first few days I started to have my doubts and thought to myself, what the hell am I doing here? I was yet to make any friends and the start of the semester was still a couple of weeks away.

But the following day my luck changed. I was sitting in a cafe taking advantage of some free wi-fi when a group of people made their way in and sat next to me. They were all speaking English with various different accents and I figured they must also be exchange students. One of them asked me where I was from, and if I would like to join them. I of course agreed. After our coffees, two of the guys, one from Ireland, one from America, asked me if I’d like to come and play basketball with them. I thought to myself, this can’t be real life? Basketball is my favourite sport, which I’ve been playing since I could walk. So played I did, and continued to hang out with these guys, who have since become two of best friends, for the rest of the semester.

Playing my favourite sport

In addition to the busy university scheduled, the following six months were filled with countless nights out, parties and weekend trips to Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich and Prague. I met so many people from all over the world, fell in love with a girl from Norway, and just had so many great experiences that I will never forget.

Exploring with friends

I think it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and experience different cultures sometimes. I am so happy with my decision to go on exchange and with my time in Mannheim. I learned so much, not just the about world, but about myself. As cliché as it may be.

Living like a Local in Kassel

Xaythavone Phommachanh, Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

Doing exchange abroad is one of my favourite opportunities that I could do while being in university. On July 2018, I took a journey to Germany to participate in an exchange program called International Summer University (ISU)– Kassel. This was my very first trip to Europe and Germany and I was excited and looking forward to it. Eventually the very first day arriving Germany came, it took some time to travel from the Frankfurt airport to the city of Kassel where the exchange program took place.

The city of Kassel is a small city where everything is pretty much easily accessible by trains, trams or foot, for example, stores, cafes, restaurants, museums, parks and so on. The University of Kassel, main campus, is situated not far north from the city centre. There are many tram stops around the university so it is very convenient to travel to study from the city and also outer suburbs. The main campus is large in terms of area. There are many buildings, namely the library, central canteen, study areas, etc. and my most favourite building of them all is, and I think you know what my choice will be, Zentralmensa or Central Canteen. This is because they serve cheap and good food, but you need to know how the Zentralmensa works so that you will get all the benefits.

Cheap and good food on campus

Throughout the program, I found that it was very well organised, educational and enjoyable. Staff and other participants were very kind, caring, cheerful and friendly. The program offered a German language course and a variety of seminars for participants to choose. Along with all those on-campus components of the program, the participants were also offered off-campus and extracurricular opportunities, for example, field trips in order to improve participant understanding about the chosen seminar topics and movie night or BBQ gathering to maximise the cultural experience of all participants. Furthermore, there are also recreational trips like a trip to Berlin, Fritzlar (a small historic town) and hiking trips, to name a few.

Recreational trip to Berlin

The cultural experience of the trip was maximised through extracurricular activities.

As the time of applying for this ISU program in Kassel, there was one aspect of the program that stood out and interested me to participate, and that was the opportunity to stay with a German family, they were really great at helping out with transitioning to the German culture. By spending time with them, I learned a lot about them and also the things that only the locals know best. I have to admit that I did little research about Germany before actually going on exchange, but because of them, I felt that I did not miss many things that are expected to do in Germany. Fun Fact: they like Tim Tams a lot!

I recommend that everyone join this program.

Overall, the program is so good. I recommend everyone to join this program, International Summer University – Kassel. I am sure that you will have a good time here. 😊

Life in Kassel

Tantika Na Nakhon, Master of Engineering Management

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

Hessen International Summer School

My name is Tantika Na Nakhon and I’ve just completed an international summer program at the Universität Kassel (University of Kassel) in Kassel, Germany. It was four-week program and I was studying in the engineering module. I chose environmental engineering and renewable energies and risk management in environmental engineering. The seminars were intensive and lots of excursion. As part of risk management, my class visited Volkswagen, B. Braun Melsungen and Wintershall and we found the risks from the real situations. I would highly recommend enrolling in both courses. Moreover, German class was useful for daily life. There are many activities that you can join such as hiking, movie night, games night and German folk dance.

University Campus

University Campus

University Campus

Life in Germany and Highlights of short term program

Living in Germany was easy. In this program everyone had to stay with host family and it was good to learn their culture and lifestyles. German people were cold at first meeting, but when you get closer to them are friendly and kind. Kassel is located in central Germany. Thus, it would be beneficial to travel to other countries. My favourite trip outside of Germany was to Netherlands with my host family, and within Germany we took a 4 hour drive throughout the country which was also fantastic. The University organised a free trip to Fritzler. It took 35 minutes from Kassel. Fritzler is a small town in the Schwalm-Eder district in northern Hesse. The town has a medieval centre surrounded by a wall with numerous watch towers.

Fritzlar

Netherlands trip with my host family

Overall, I had an awesome experience and I wish I had the chance to do it again. It was good opportunity to explore other countries and I’d encourage every student to consider this program.

University of Kassel: Short Term Exchange – Long Term Memories

Karl Somoray, Bachelor of Engineering/Mathmatics

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

During the Summer of 2018, myself and along with around 15 other QUT students were very fortunate enough to receive a mobility scholarship from the Hessen International Summer Universities. From this, we were able to complete a short course over at the renowned University of Kassel, at Kassel, Germany where I studied Adaptations to Climate Change, Environmental Engineering and Renewable Energies and German (Basic).

The University

Being only experienced to seeing the QUT campuses (and some of the UQ facilities), one of the biggest things that shocked me was the vast difference of facilities that the University of Kassel had compared to QUT. I found that both the buildings and the facilities of the University of Kassel seemed more `aged’ than the QUT campus, but nevertheless was a host to numerous experienced academics in renewable energies and had connections to multiple institutions leading the renewables field.

A trip to the wind farms!

While I’m happy to be back on QUT campus, the one thing I miss is the MENSA! Conversely to the food court we have at either KG or GP (where we have multiple stores in one spot), the cafeteria at Kassel instead has multiple outlets for different types of meals, desserts etc. all cooked by staff at the university. Every day the meals are different, and the best thing about is that it’s very cheap and tasty!

All this for ~$6AUD!

The Country

For my stay, I lived at a quaint little street at the outskirts of Kassel with 3 other ISU students, including my friend from QUT! Fortunately as well, the scholarship paid for our months stay, including meals that our host parent was extremely good at making!

Don’t be alarmed, but this raw pork is awesome.

The relatively small town of Kassel in which the majority of the time we were in, was a refreshing place to live in, outside of the usual bustling city in Brisbane. With my host family as well as the ISU, we explored several spots around Kassel that I wouldn’t have thought to explore.

Fritzlar

Edersea

The Experience

By far the most memorable moments in my trip however were the short excursions to different countries/cities during our free time (enabled by getting a Eurail travel pass beforehand, which was definitely worth the price we paid for it) and hanging out with the ISU students.

ISU Graduation Ceremony

Manarola, Italy

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

So my tip for future students is to make the most out of every day of your trip! Meet new people and explore as much as you can. It’s a short exchange that happens once in a lifetime, so don’t skimp out on time and have fun, because before you know it, you’ll be boarding your plane back home, and you’ll never know what experiences you’ll miss out on!

My life in Kassel and Germany

Jeng-Han Lu, Master of Information Technology

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

In the semester break between SEM-1 and SEM-2 in 2018, I was fully immersed in German culture, thanks for the International Summer University (Kassel). Although the time was short, it may have been the best travel experience of my life.

The course I selected was the two seminars under the cultural module: Intercultural Communication and German Fairy Tale. Composed with various activities, we started from the definition of culture to how different cultures interact with each other. One of my favorite activities was a role playing game about collaboration between two cultures. The whole class was divided into a group of villagers and engineers, each group had follow their own custom. The goal of the game is to learn how to communicate with people with of different cultures or customs, and complete the task. Although it was challenging at the beginning, finally we worked out some ways to build a “bridge”. I believe this seminar will greatly help people who wish to work in a multicultural environment.

As an iconic city because of the stay of the Brothers Grimm, studying their fairy tales at Kassel became so immersive. The seminar contained both indoor classes and excursions. The indoor classes provided a brief introduction of the Grimm’s fairy tales, including lives of the Brothers Grimm, their motives of writing the fairy tales and other background knowledge. There are two excursions in this seminar: Brauhaus Knallhütte and Grimmwelt Kassel. Brauhaus Knallhütte was once the inn where the Grimms collected many folk tales from the innkeeper’s daughter, Dorothea Viehmann. We had a fantastic lecture in this historical place and enjoyed traditional German courses and beer. Another excursion to Grimmwelt was also amazing. As a museum of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Grimmwelt indicates the achievements of the brothers, including the fairy tales and German Dictionary. The interactive equipment also takes visitors into the world of the fairy tales.

Museum of Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Brauhaus Knallhütte was once the inn where the Grimms collected many folk tales from the innkeeper’s daughter.

One of the most impressive culture shocks was that German people are very willing to help visitors. On the second last day in Germany, I took a train from Kassel to Frankfurt and stayed overnight for the next day’s flight. When the train approached Giessen, it slowed down earlier than expected. Then, the train stopped at a small station and the train conductor spoke to the travellers. Suddenly everyone stood up and started leaving the train. Luckily, the man next to me told me that we must leave the train now. After departing the train, the man asked the conductor about what is going on and how to continue to Frankfurt. Then, we took the same bus to the next station, caught the additional train, and finally managed to reach Frankfurt with a 1-hour delay. Honestly, the man had no responsibility to help a foreign traveller, but he wished to spend part of his attention to help a stranger. During my visit to Germany I was helped by many volunteering German people, including a ticket checker on the train (she told us to change wagons because the train would split at the next station) and bikers on the street of Kassel (he told us the correct platform to wait for our tram). So next time, don’t be afraid to ask German people for help!

Don’t be afraid to ask German people for help!

All in all, I strongly encourage QUT students to apply for this program. The summer university provided a comprehensive experience of Germany in all aspects. You will stay will German host families and having traditional German food. Moreover, you stay with host families or explore other places in Germany on weekends or day offs. Last but not the least, you will meet other international students from all around the world!

A Unique Experience in a New City

Dominic Dall’Osto, Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Hessen University ‘Hessen International Summer University – Kassel’

Germany (June/July 2018)

I’ve just returned from a 4 week short-term program in Kassel, Germany – the International Summer University (ISU). I was part of a group of 45 students from all over the world at the ISU. Well, every continent apart from Antarctica. The program consisted of studying German, along with a choice of classes in Environmental Engineering, German Culture, or Nanoscience. We also had a lot of free time to explore the city, as well as travel around Germany.

The best part of the program, though, was the homestay component. I stayed with my host mum, Kristin, and 2 other students from Colombia, in a small farming village in the outskirts of town. It was amazing to wake up every morning, look out over the green fields and see farmers starting their work, but only be a 45 minute train ride away from the city centre. It was also great to live with 2 other students in the program – we shared a lot of new experiences getting to know Kassel, learning German, and cheering for each other’s countries in the World Cup!

The view from my room over our backyard.

My new roommates!

I also spent a lot of time exploring the sights of Kassel. The city’s most famous landmark is the Herkules monument. It is perched 500 metres above the town with a huge complex of water fountains leading down to a castle at the bottom. A castle in Kassel, who’d have thought?! Twice a week the water is turned on and the site fills with tourists following the water down the mountain; through the fountains, down an artificial waterfall, under the Devil’s Bridge, along an aqueduct, and shooting 50 m high into the air at the bottom. All of it is powered only by natural water pressure and has been running for over 300 years!

The beautiful view from the Herkules (ignore the cranes and tourists).

Speaking of powering things with water pressure (smooth segue!) I studied environmental engineering during my time at the University of Kassel. We had guest lectures from experts at the university, and nearby research institutes. But the best bit was going on field trips to see renewable energy technologies in action. We visited a farming village that had built a biogas plant to provide its electricity and heat requirements. We also had the chance to go inside a wind turbine to examine it up close. They’re a lot bigger than they look from a distance! Thanks must also go out to the amazing tutors from the uni who looked after us and kept us entertained throughout the program!

Visiting a wind farm. Fellow students for scale.

A Biogas tank in the village of Jühnde.

Another highlight was the group trip to Berlin during the program. Especially interesting were the stories told by the program director, Jürgen, who had experienced the separation between East and West Germany first hand. Hearing his accounts of waiting for 5 hours at the border while his car was searched were chilling. We also caught Germany’s capital in the grips of World Cup fever, with a huge public viewing at the Brandenburg Gate. Unfortunately, spirits dropped after Germany got knocked out.

Overall, the Kassel ISU program was a great and unique experience: living with a German family, but also spending so much time with the other students that they became like family; exploring a new city; learning a new language; being taught by experts in the field of environmental engineering; and generally enjoying the summer in Germany. I would definitely recommend Kassel’s International Summer University program!

A Memorable German Experience in Kassel

Arun Pathmanathan, Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Hessen University ‘Hessen International Summer University – Kassel’

Germany (June/July 2018)

I wanted to do a short-term exchange program which I thought would help me to develop my knowledge on the subject that I wanted to pursue, to learn new culture and languages and to meet different people from different parts of the world. Therefore, I thought of applying for the Hessen International Summer University program. Since I am an engineering student, I selected the engineering modules that were offered by Hessen International Summer University program which was held in the University of Kassel.

Kassel is a city located in the northern Hesse, Germany. Kassel had many historical palaces and parks including the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe which was considered the second largest park on a hill slope in the world. Staying in such a place for four weeks was a new experience, studying there with students from different countries gave me a chance to get to know their cultures and traditions and their languages.

Throughout our stay in Kassel, the University of Kassel took us on excursions to different places in Kassel and made us participate in German Folk Dance, hiking and many other activities apart from studying. I think having to just study the whole four weeks would have made our experience miserable, but the ISU had different kinds of activities for us which made our experience in Kassel memorable.

Kassel is a city located in the northern Hesse, Germany.

The location of the University of Kassel was very convenient for us as it was located in the city. The cafeteria of the University was an advantage for us as the food that they had was really good and therefore, most of the students often ate their lunch there.

My accommodation was in a homestay with a German family, and the place was about 5km away from the university. The place was quiet and clean and the facilities were good. Since the public transportation were good in Kassel, there wasn’t any problem of travelling to the University or any other place that I wanted to go.

In terms of studies and other activities, I had a very good time in Kassel. There is no point of anyone going just to concentrate on studies, without participating in other activities organised by the University. By attending those other activities you can learn their culture, meet new people, and of course have fun.

Opening My Eyes to the Beauty of Germany

Sophie Heather, Bachelor of Fine Arts

Short-term program: Hessen University ‘Hessen International Summer University – Fulda’

Germany (July/August 2018)

My time in the 2018 ISU Fulda was life changing. It’s hard to find the words that will give justice to the program. I applied not expecting to be accepted, but I was, and I had 8 weeks to get organised! (I didn’t have a passport…eeek!)

Going into the program I hadn’t heard much about Germany aside from it’s infamous history. Friends would ask me if I could speak any German, to which I replied “no, but we learn it as part of the program”. I expected to leave the trip being relatively fluent in German. Haha. The language is very hard as the grammar is very different to English.

I am welcomed into Fulda by the German tutors – students who attend the host university. The tutors ran every activity and were the people we consulted if we had any issues. They were so funny, welcoming and understanding – I hope to see them in the future. They are fluent in English and are just absolutely lovely. I am given directions to my accommodation which require me to take a bus. I learn that public transport is free for university students! This ended up saving me a lot of money.

Brandenburg Gate

There were four types of accommodation; I was lucky to be in the hostel where I had my own room and shared kitchen and bathroom. Instantly, I made friends with the other girls from the program; on the first night they were so welcoming and invited me to go explore Fulda with them! The second I started talking to these girls I noticed how unusual the Australian accent is – it was a really strange moment. I was the only Australian in my hostel, and one out of four in the program! Australians made 1 out of the 15 different nationalities that attended ISU Fulda in 2018.

I made friends from all over the world.

For the seminar, I chose Music Therapy. My class was very small, I was 1 of 8 students! Additional to Australian students there were Portuguese, Russian and Israeli students. The seminar was very fun as we got to play a variety of instruments including rare instruments one wouldn’t typically know. Our teacher, Wolfgang, was highly energetic and took an interest in our cultures; as half our class were from Israel, we learnt a lot about their culture and the Jewish religion which I found fascinating.

Playing rare instruments in the music therapy program.

I was in the Beginner German class and was taught by the lovely Jana – a Russian woman who loved to learn languages! She taught us through singing songs whilst she played the guitar, it was very helpful! There were also days where she took us out blueberry picking, and on the last day to get some cake; she has the kindest heart.

The Mensa is the campus cafeteria – the food is so cheap! Each day there are 8 new meal options and they always tasted so good! You could get a big bowl of pasta for 1.50 Euros! There were lots of salads and snacks as well as vegetarian and vegan options! QUT seriously needs one of these!

ISU really opened my eyes to the beauty of Germany. I had learnt in school the brief history of the country during the World Wars and the Cold War. However, to actually go to the places that were talked about (Point Alpha, The Berlin Wall, concentration camps) it was only then that the history lessons made sense. It was eye opening to learn about the suffrage of people due to power falling in the wrong hands. It was haunting to walk upon grounds where millions were murdered. It was incredible to see modern Germany where the civilians accept the past and continue to create a nation that focuses on love and peace.

Upon returning to Australia, everyone would ask me “what was the best bit?” I can’t think of one particular time, however, my favourite aspect of the trip was that I made so many friends. I was able to walk up to anyone and have a great conversation. I made lifelong friends from all over the globe; my most closest friends live in: The USA, France, Netherlands, Portugal and India. I learnt so much about their cultures, and they were so interested to learn about mine. I still keep in contact with these people and I intend to for a very long time.

The best part was I was able to walk up to anyone and have a conversation.

The trip threw me in the deep end and I am so appreciative QUT gave me this opportunity to broaden my horizons. If anyone is wanting to study overseas but does not want to stay long term, this is your program!