From big city Brisbane to small town Trento

The currency in Italy is the Euro which is generally about one third stronger than the Australian dollar. This was a bit of a blow as the money from the scholarship (9.5k) became lesser than anticipated and in this regards the concern of converting it all in one swoop or continuously was a dangerous risk as in some instances (what happened personally) the Australian dollar consistently dropped in strength meaning that when converting you were losing money comparatively if you had converted it all in the beginning.

Compared to Brisbane there prices are rather, odd. Expensive things in Australia would be really cheap in Italy and vice versa. This made a bit of an issue on then seeing the necessity of certain products.

This made having a budget key,

there were three major bills the pay and consider; accommodation rent, phone bill and public transport bill. These monthly would chew a large chunk of your budgeting expenses and didn’t leave much wiggle room, however, after consideration it is reasonably prices putting considerations into effect and made budgeting an easier very serious thing to do.

Personally I used a travel visa card which helped and lessened the need to withdraw money which would have a standard fee to do so and so the travel card was accepted in essentially all cases (besides a flea market).

Trento being a lovely place was easy to settle in and understand how it functioned, it being a small town made it feel safer comparatively to Brisbane big metropolitan city lifestyle. Although I had taken precautionary methods to ensure my safety I found myself being too critical of the locals and the people who were there and decided to present myself to strangers, saying hello, talking, interacting and to my surprise everyone was willing to stop and have a small dialogue.

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

Thesis work in Italy’s Trento

Academically speaking for me I was granted permission to start and finish my final thesis for my Medical Engineering degree, in addition to this I had to take on two course work units. This meant that this semester would not be a leisurely one.

For my course units I would travel to the engineering faculty and take my classes, as for my thesis work it was to be completed in a laboratory south of the town in the BioTech facility.

The BioTech lab where I undertook thesis work

On the days that I had no class (also after or before I had class one the same day) I found myself there early as 8:30am and late as 5pm Monday through to Friday, with the occasional weekend visit to check up on my work. My thesis work, as expected, was something not to take lightly and so I was determined to work hard and placed a lot of my free time in research and conducting experiments as much as I was permitted.

Thankfully the course works I undertook were in English (normally in Italy, Bachelor classes are taken in Italian) however the classes I took were in English and this was due to these course works being Master level units. I wasn’t previously aware of this however I felt dedicated in spending my time working. Comparatively to QUT, in the academic intensity, I have never had a full schedule as this nor one that required an immense amount personal study.

In our accommodation there was a study common room in which I would spend my nights after dinner with floor mates studying till our heads ached from reading. This was a motivational way of studying as a group we each had our own work but pushed ourselves to study by jokingly scolding each other if we were on the phone too long or were zoning out.

A challenge I faced was the work load. Despite having no commitment besides studying, the call to adventure was very strong however in most cases I could not take the chance as I would need to decided weekends and nights to ensuring my work was consistent and satisfactory. Even so, the friends I made in the studying were worth the trip.

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

The time of your life in Trento

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

The major strengths of the university is its exchange student associations that really do go out of their way to include new comers and let them see the fascinating places within and outside of Trento and better yet hold weekly events to ensure that everyone throughout the exchange form a group in a sense and make new connections globally. The university also offers student accommodation which is another huge way for students to connect foreign and domestic. In this regards I was able to meet wonderful people all around the world and from Italy and found new friends that throughout the exchanged helped me and made things bright and very fun for me.

The wonderful people living in student accommodation with me

The floor had a tradition of having a ‘Big Party’ at the beginning of the semester to welcome the new floor mates giving a great opportunity to formally introduce yourself and sensing the atmosphere that will be ever present in the floor. The photo above is everyone on the floor .The students each studied something different which I felt was a strong point as it would intrigue my curiosity in not only what they personally studied but how it worked in their own country and here in Trento.

The accommodation in depth functioned as a floor being a single unit. Each person had their own separate room with bathroom, bed, wardrobe, balcony, study desk and bedside lamp. The floor had a single kitchen and bathroom and balcony in which the cooking area was shared having lockers for each individuals cooking equipment and food and sharing fridges with a certain amount of people.

The view of the mountains from my accommodation

 

Continuing on for what the accommodation had to offer is that there were gyms, sports ground, music area and even a Unibar that was open breakfast to dinner all days. There was even a rock climbing centre around the corner which I personally enjoyed whenever I could go. The student accommodations are located 25minute walk from the city centre however was backed up right next to a train station which was super convenient.

What to expect in Trento, small-town Italy

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

 

My exchange program was placed and set in the northern part of Italy, Trento, a small city town that is located in the gulf between two mountains. Initially I had chosen this partner university by its impressive range of subjects that it offered in the field that interested me, biomedical engineering.

At this point I had no idea how things functioned overseas in a different culture and found myself in a new position of having to adjust myself. First arriving to meet my professors and colleagues I was nervous being relatively young and with the most minimal experience in comparison to those within the laboratory. This led me to the feeling as if I was inadequate to be there among everyone else as, I believed, the skill gap was too big for me.

However the hospitality, warmness and kindness of those within the laboratory aided me into being confident and strengthen myself immensely with how the exchange would progress.

 

The main square ‘duomo’ in which the statue of Poseidon with the trident stands on top of a well

Trento in itself, is a very small town located 100km above Verona (between Venice and Milan) and still holds dear the architecture, customs and style of a town well aged. The noticeable different between QUT and the University of Trento was the campus, unlike QUT where faculties have their respective buildings (P Block – Engineers, D Block – Design, etc) Trento had the faculties located around the town, with the major campus being in the city centre and the others in the surrounding suburbs. The University of Trento is a very beautiful and well-functioning university. The facilities that are offered are extremely well thought out and also aesthetically pleasing bringing a lighter to mood to things.

 

In addition to this, there were cafeterias. This was something totally foreign to me but as I visited it daily, I found myself enjoying it and soon enough become accustomed to it.

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.

Beautiful Italy – Milan Exchange

Catlin, B. Bachelor of Design (Fashion)

Politecnico di Milano (Italy) (Semester 1, 2017)

I completed my exchange semester in Milan at Politecnico di Milano, Bovisa Campus.  Politecnico have two campuses in Milan – Bovisa and Leonardo. In comparison to QUT Politecnico is very, very different.

Avoiding pigeons at Duomo di Milano

The Bovisa campus is considerably smaller with most classes being in one block only, where they have all the design labs; including but not limited to fashion, knitting, prototype, photography, etc.  I found the facilities were quite limited compared to QUT in most aspects, but they also had facilities that QUT does not have – such as a knitting lab.

 

The classes and how they are run is also extremely different to QUT, being very heavily centred around group work.  This may be due to the limited facilities and surplus of students, however I did not like the dynamic of the classes at all. That being said I also completed some masters subjects which were taught in English and they adopted a much more individual centred approach to the assignments. They are also very strict on attendance, it can sometimes be worth up to 30% of your final grade, which I find unnecessary and not conducive to productivity with some classes being up to 9 hours in length.  The general level of academics that was being taught I didn’t find challenged me at all, and was at a much lower standard to that of QUT.  In general I didn’t learn anything really from the actual classes and found them to be extremely easy – another reason I found the attendance rule so frustrating.

Sunrise from our apartment in Montalbino

Accomodation wise, I personally stayed in an AirBnB with another girl from my class at QUT; we originally weren’t going to stay for the whole trip, however, we were finding it very difficult being so far away and being able to find reliable and affordable accomodation so we decided to just book our apartment through AirBnB for the entirety of our semester.

 

This worked well for us but after meeting other exchange students from around Europe we realised we probably could’ve gotten a much better place through sites that they used such as Uniplaces, Easystanza or Erasmus. On the flip side of that, I have also heard that the Politecnico dorms are quite nice as well and they’re a great way to make friends and meet new people, just make sure you apply for them in advance as they do fill up!

Milan in general to live is again very different to Australia.

Lunch break at Polimi 1-2pm

The cost of living was mostly a bit cheaper; groceries, transport, etc were all cheaper (even considering the terrible exchange rate at the time which was 0.66c to our dollar) but rent in Milan can sometimes be quite pricey.  Milan has a great underground Metro system as well as many busses and trams to get you around.  The university will give you information about an ATM (Milan’s equivalent of Translink) travel card, which is like a go card however there is a reduced fee for students which is paid monthly and gets you unlimited travel with all of Milan’s transport systems.

 

The culture is also very different and I found the biggest culture shock for me was getting used to how Italians work – mostly very disorganised.

I also found that there seemed to be (especially at the university) a quite prominent language barrier – not because they couldn’t speak or understand english (because the vast majority of people all across Europe know English to some degree), but because there seemed to be a prejudice towards the exchange students as they did not speak fluent Italian.

Picnic with other exchange students in Parco Sempione

I knew some Italian going over, as did my friend, however a lot of the time we were treated like we didn’t know anything simply because we didn’t speak their language. It was quite a frustrating experience in that sense.

 

The main highlights from my exchange was obviously the ability I had to easily travel around Europe, but also the friends I made from all over the world. At first I was afraid I wouldn’t make any friends, but honestly they were what made it so worthwhile. Looking back there were a LOT of ups and downs but I’m happy that I did it because whilst the university wasn’t what I expected – I gained invaluable life skills, confidence, independence and a new perspective of the world.

My main tips (also known as – the things I wish someone had told me before I went) are these:

  • Italians are some of the most disorganised and frustrating people to deal with – the sooner you know that the better
  • Don’t expect everyone to be as openly friendly as Australians – a lot of the time people aren’t being rude they’re just not used to our vivaciousness

    Navigli canal

  • Don’t choose where you live based on the campus, chose a nice area as you will probably be spending more time at home than you think – places like Isola, Citta Studi, Porta Venezia or around Navigli, Cadorna or most places closer to the centre are pretty safe bets.
  • Speaking of Navilgli – make sure you pop by on the last Sunday of the month, there is an awesome flea market that runs down the whole canal
  • People are generally pretty nice in regards to the language barrier, but please try and give Italian a go – people appreciate the effort and the basics aren’t that hard.
  • Get an Italian SIM as soon as you can – google maps is your saviour
  • Coffee – order espresso, macchiato or cappuccino.  Their cappuccino is basically a latte and if you ask for “latte” you will get milk.
  • Most importantly:
  • Don’t pay more than three euro for a two scoop gelato!

Good luck!

Fashion-forward in Florence

Aimee R, Bachelor of Creative Industries

AIM Overseas: Media & Communication for the Fashion Industry (January 2017)

If you’re going to study Fashion somewhere, you might as well do it right – in one of the biggest fashion capitals in the world, Florence. AIM Overseas provided me (and around 20 other girls from around Australia), the opportunity to study Media and Communication for the Fashion Industry at the European Institute of Design (IED), in January 2017. The three week long program start in early January, meaning us Aussies had to rug up well for our first day.

I wouldn’t describe IED as a campus as much as just a building, camouflaged in the narrow cobble stone streets of Florence. In fact, a few girls walked right past it on their way there the first day. The first thing I noticed was that it was considerably smaller than QUT. A tour of the whole place took less than five minutes, and there definitely wasn’t hundreds of youths running around like you would find back home, in fact there wasn’t even a cafeteria or food court. Luckily enough, the university was situated right in the heart of Florence, about a 20 second walk from the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or as we will come to know it as “The Duomo”.  There’s pizza and pasta and panini’s on every corner and soon enough our diet consisted of 98% carbohydrates, but when in Florence, right? Because our program was only short, our uni schedules were a little full on, we were there basically all-day every day, cramming in as much information as we possibly could.

The highlight of the experience was definitely in the first week, where we were able to not only attend Pitti Uomo (Florence Men’s Fashion Week), but also work backstage at one of the fashion shows. For many of us, this was the first real hands on experience we had in the fashion industry. We worked for the show Concept Korea and spent the day dressing models, getting them ready for their catwalk. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was made possible by our course coordinator at IED. The rest of our days were spent learning about fashion blogging, styling, writing and the history of Italian fashion. The one thing that was a little bit hard to get used to were the fact that our classes were three hours long each! Most tutes at QUT for fashion are only one hour. Lucky for us, the content was interesting enough to help us through those long classes.

Another one of the great opportunities we had whilst at IED was styling and creating a concept for a fashion editorial. We worked in groups to work on a fashion photo shoot and were given models, a makeup artist and one of our teachers, a photographer, helped us photograph the shoot. It was super stressful to get everything to come together in such a short period of time, but it was one of the most rewarding experience and ultimately mirrored a real life situation we might find ourselves in working in the fashion industry in the future.

Florence is 100% one of the most beautiful and picturesque cities in all of Italy and our experience would not have been nearly as enjoyable without this amazing place serving as our backdrop. We spent our afternoons and weekends seeking out the best pizzerias and gelateria’s, hiking up to Piazzale di Michaelangelo for one of the best views of Florence and climbing up the Duomo and bell tower. There aren’t really any trains of easy uses of public transport in Florence but that didn’t matter since basically everywhere is in walking distance. When we weren’t admiring the Ponte Vecchio or walking along the river at sunset or shopping, we were eating. In a little restaurant over the bridge we found the most amazing baked gnocchi with four cheese and truffle oil! We must have gone there about four times in three weeks!

The cost of living on Florence isn’t exactly cheap. The hotel we stayed in didn’t have any kitchen facilities which meant we had to eat out every night and it would always cost us between 12 and 18 euros. Lucky for us, since most of our days were spent at uni, we didn’t really spend much money on anything besides eating. For anyone traveling to Italy or spending some time there studying, my best advice is don’t be afraid to eat pasta for every meal and gelato for dessert everyday. When you have a spare weekend, hop on a train to Milan or Rome or Verona and see the other amazing cities. A plane to Barcelona is only an hour and a half, so take advantage of your central location. And most importantly, learn to just go with the flow. Your lecturer might be 15 minutes late or they might change the class at a moments notice, they might go off topic for half an hour, instead of stressing, appreciate the relax-ness of your class, it’s not going to be the same when you return!

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