The Best Student City In The World: Experiencing Montreal

Sneha M, Bachelor of Business and Laws (Honours)
HEC Montreal, Semester 2 2017

When I realised I was going on exchange I was a whole lot of excited and a little bit of nervous!

I had never lived overseas before for starters, and cooking skills were limited to toast. My partner institution was HEC (Hautes Ecoles Commerciales) in Montreal, Canada. While my classes were in English, French is the main language spoken in Montreal. Equipped with about three Duolingo lessons I packed my one suitcase and off I went! Luckily however, nearly everyone in Montreal speaks English. In fact, they want to practice English so much you may not always get to try out your French!

Getting There

My experience did not start off on the best note. My flight from Brisbane was delayed by four hours, which meant I missed both of my connecting flights. When I arrived in LAX for a stopover my phone stopped working and my next flight was delayed. On my final leg from Toronto to Montreal, the passenger behind me was severely sick and had to get medical treatment before we could fly out! I ended up arriving in Montreal with no one to pick me up at 4am, a day later than expected. This also meant I spent the first and only day before orientation week getting my phone fixed, getting some warm clothes (as it was -14 degrees) and grocery shopping. The next day Orientation Week began and it was jam packed full of activities including going to an outdoor spa in the snow, laser tag, snow tubing, pub crawls, hikes, ice skating, parties and much more. Needless to say it was really fun, but so exhausting I caught the flu. I think experiencing challenges so early in my exchange made me take initiative and get organised really quickly which made the rest of the trip so much easier.

My home for the semester!

Accommodation and Travelling 

I was really lucky my roommates were also attending HEC. This made the whole experience better because we had similar schedules and could travel together. I definitely recommend going to Montreal if you want to travel. It’s only a short bus ride to New York and Boston and a few hours further to Washington DC. I also got the chance to visit the Rocky Mountains on the West Coast of Canada which was simply breathtaking and even visited Iceland during spring break!

Blue lagoon in Iceland!

Death Valley, USA

The Student Life

Montreal was voted the number one student city in the world for good reasons! It has plenty to do and a great atmosphere. While on exchange I went to Igloofest, a music festival with intricately carved bonfires and great music. It started snowing halfway through the night, which just meant everyone had to dance harder.

A word of caution though, HEC has a very good reputation, but that also means the courses are quite difficult. Instead of using electives, I was able to complete compulsory finance subjects. The format is quite different with no online lectures and three hour classes that combine work as lectures and tutorials together. Take advantage of the consultations and make sure to study throughout the semester as most exams are worth 60%! One elective class I took however was Social Innovation in the International Area. This subject requires us to work with a Social Innovation group or project in Montreal to meet specific aims. It was amazing to see the social enterprises people from across the globe are involved in.

The Weather

It can sometimes be difficult in winter where some days it was -19. It’s really important to layer, because underground and inside it can get really warm with central heating. Montreal has an extensive underground metro system as well as shopping centers and an underground mini city! Good shoes are also a must as you can be trekking through deep snow just to get to class! Canadians are tough and class is hardly ever cancelled unless there is a major snowstorm.

Snow storm!

Notre Dame de Basilica, Montreal

 

The friends, skills and memories I have gained from Montreal and my time at HEC was invaluable. I am so grateful and humbled by exchange experience. I can’t wait to visit again!

Loving Leeds: What To Expect At The University Of Leeds

Gina O., Bachelor of Business/ Bachelor of Creative Industries
The University of Leeds, Semester 1, 2017

Upon my exchange at the University of Leeds, in Semester 1 of 2017, I learnt so much  about myself and the world surrounding me. Having gone on exchange with a friend I attend university with in Brisbane, I felt at ease having a friendly face with me on this epic journey. But soon I learnt that being a duo may have been our downfall as people assumed we did not need to be invited to hall events which led to us feeling isolated. But I was able to overcome this by putting myself out there, making sure I was out of my comfort zone and made life long memories with amazing people.

A lot of these people however were themselves exchange students. I found myself shocked at the little interest the local people in Leeds had in people from other countries. An interesting prospect considering the majority of their population is immigrants. It became more prominent as well after beginning my classes and I started to realise that in the classes I did not have any fellow exchange students in, it was quite difficult to make friends. People had already formed their own group of friends and were exceptionally unwelcoming to newcomers. As I had already made my own group of friends this did not faze me, you can’t please them all.

What I did enjoy about my classes was experiencing the different teaching styles offered at the University of Leeds. One lecturer in particular absolutely astounded me going above and beyond any other undergraduate level of teaching I had experienced. This particular lecturer really shone through and definitely made me happy with my choice of host university.

Travelling!

Another great aspect of my exchange experience was staying on campus and in the Halls. Not only could I get up 5 minutes before a lecture and take naps in between classes, but I was also surrounded by interesting people. We did lots together: dinners, birthday parties and travelling! I cannot begin to tell you what it was like to travel to a different country nearly every weekend, other than it’s a worthwhile experience. Costly, but WORTH IT. The reason I chose the University of Leeds is because it had it’s own airport and it was close to pretty well everything in Europe.

Leeds, the town.

Also the town of Leeds itself is BUZZING. A small University town with your rival University being Beckett makes for a lot of fun. They always have something going on in the center and great student deals pretty much everywhere. I’m not trying to talk up the University of Leeds, but simply the whole exchange program. You get the proper opportunity to live and study in a different country, with government support. Why wouldn’t you, it may be the best thing you ever do!

Welcome to Hullywood – University of Hull

Clare S., Bachelor of Business / Creative Industries 
University of Hull, UK (Semester 2, 2017)

Host University

Arriving/Campus Life

Arriving in Hull was so easy. The university organised a pickup service from Manchester airport and most of the international students used this. So I got to meet so many people before the semester even started. I flew in from Amsterdam and actually met one of my flatmates who was from the Netherlands on my flight. The university also organised welcome events for international students which was a great way to meet people.

The campus life in the UK is so different than Australia because everyone moves away for university so everyone is open to meeting new people and everyone is super involved in campus life. Hull was also a student city which was awesome as most places had student deals. I was told before I went to the UK that I had to join a Uni sports team and this was the best decision I made. I joined Netball Squad and this was one of my highlights. We played together three times a week but the best part was Wednesday night themed socials. During this every sports team on campus would dress up in the weeks theme and go drinking in a local pub and then head to the nightclub that was on campus. This is where I made most of my closest friends at Hull.

Accommodation

I stayed at The Lawns whilst at Hull which was a short bus ride to Uni. At the Lawns, we got a free meal everyday (expect a lot of potatoes) and a free bus pass. There is also a gym, laundry facilities and kitchens. The rooms and bathrooms were basically what you expect, small but had everything you needed in it. I had just come off three months of staying in hostels so to me it was amazing. The halls I lived in were a mix of international and domestic students, so I lived with Canadians, Americans, Germans (so many Germans), Dutch and Danish people. I was the only Australian at the university which I liked because I know other people who have gone on exchange and only made friends with other Australians.

Academics

The academics were somewhat different, classes are compulsory and they hold your hand a lot more than they do at QUT which I didn’t like. It was a lot of small group assignments and then massive 70% exams in the end. I didn’t go on exchange for the academic aspect so overall, I found it fine.

Host Country

Cost of living

Hull is located really north in England so everything was relatively cheap. Drinks at most clubs are 3 or 4 pounds and basics on Piper Mondays are 1.5 pounds. Food from the shops is also cheap but eating out after the conversion rate is about the same. My biggest expense was trains, they are ridiculously expensive. I caught trains to London and to the closest airports when I was travelling throughout the semester. I 100% recommend buying a rail pass, it makes the trips a lot cheaper.

Travel

I traveled around Europe for 3 months before the semester with other friends that were going on exchange to America. This was another highlight of the trip. We got to go to a music festival in Budapest, go to the Italian Rivera, ride camels through the Sahara Desert and more. I also traveled throughout the semester but how far you can go is is really dependent on your Uni timetable. During the semester I went on multiple trips to London and got to tick going to Iceland off my bucket list. All the flights are so cheap. I paid return to Iceland $80AUD which is cheaper than going to Sydney.

Learn About Other Cultures

Samantha D., Bachelor of Creative Industries
Bath Spa University, England (Semester 2, 2017)

I attended Bath Spa University as an exchange student in September 2017. This experience opened me up to the world and I believe I have grown as a person due to it and my travels before and after.

I lived with other exchange students from around the world in an eight-person female dorm on campus. Living on campus alone was very different from my experiences at QUT as I have lived in private house-shares the whole time I have been at university. Between the eight of us we shared the kitchen and one bathroom, we were unlucky and had just one bathroom rather than the two the other dorms had. The girls I lived with were from Germany, Finland, Spain, China and America, I was the only Australian doing exchange at Bath Spa at the time. It was an amazing way to learn about other cultures.

I was only in Bath for approximately three months rather than the five I had expected when I first applied for exchange. I would recommend to anyone looking at studying in England to go in the Australian Semester One as if you go in the second your exchange will end half way through the semester, right before the Christmas break. I had a difficult time when I arrived as there was an ongoing misunderstanding between institutions and professors about how many units I was meant to do, due to only being there for a half semester. I was also in my final year and ended up doing some very high contact hour final year units which took most of my time, so I couldn’t do as many outside activities as I would have liked.

The grading system in England is vastly different to Australia and took a lot of getting used to. For example adjusting to knowing that a sixty-five is a great result when at home it would be disappointing is an odd feeling and I had to keep that in mind.

A highlight of my exchange was a lifelong friend I made, whilst everyone in our dorm got along I became especially close to one of the girls I lived with. We really clicked, and I ended up going to Finland with her over Christmas to spend Christmas with her family. Meeting her and having such a good friend throughout the exchange experience was absolutely amazing and I’m so privileged to have had that.

Another highlight for me personally was the quality and variety of classes I took. I was able to take classes in subjects which are not taught anywhere I know of in Australia which really enhanced my learning and I feel will benefit me greatly in my future career.

Bath is quite an expensive town in England, so our cost of living was a little higher than expected. We split some grocery costs and bought individual crockery (spoons, plates and cutlery) but split the cost of cookware between everyone in the dorm. The campus was on a farm, so it was really nice to be able to walk over and buy fresh local produce.

As a dorm we wrote down every birthday and important holiday at the beginning of term and celebrated each of them as a group. We also tried to attend things that our roommates were in such as drama or dance performances. Over the course of the 3 months we celebrated multiple birthdays, Thanksgiving, Finnish Independence Day and Chinese National day. On each occasion we tried to eat relevant cultural food. It was amazing to experience how other cultures eat and celebrate and appreciate new things.

Some tips and advice for future exchange students:

I will reiterate, if going to England on your exchange go during Australia’s first semester to get a full experience.

Don’t let your schoolwork build up, whilst it may feel like a holiday it is still university and if you stay on top of your work you will enjoy it more. Try forming study groups to get to know other students in your class and combine study and socialising.

Be a tourist! Some of the most fun I had was exploring my host town. It is a new place and it’s great to get to know it.

It is living in another country and you may be homesick or not 100% all the time, that is okay. It’s all a part of the experience and you can grow from it. Also, your idea of fun doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s, just find people you have similar interests to. Some of my best nights were at home lounging around with my friends or eating together rather than out partying.

The most important thing is to be open to new experiences. An exchange will be great for your confidence and life skills.

Taiwan, A Country of Warmth

Yuheng L., Bachelor of Business (Dean’s Honours)
Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan (Semester 2, 2017)

I have always imagined Taiwan to be a warm little country which is often neglected by the international society. Due to political reasons, Taiwan is isolated internationally. It is not part of the UN and has only 20 countries of diplomatic relations (FYI: China has 175). However, Taiwan is not an underdeveloped country of any sort. Taipei has a well-built metro system and there is a High-Speed Rail throughout the west coast of Taiwan. By car, it takes 4 hours to get from Taipei to Kaohsiung but it only takes an hour and a half on the HSR. It is very convenient to travel around Taiwan where many people travel around the island as a challenge (mostly on a bicycle) every year. For me personally, one of the places I loved the most was Tainan (South Taiwan). It is an amazing city with great food and a lot of historical sites, mostly from the era when they were ruled under the Japanese Empire. It has a lot of cultural characteristics unique from other cities.

Taiwan also has a comparatively low cost of living. Dining out can be very cheap (it can be very expensive too, if you choose to do so), where a meal could be around AUD $3-4. Their wages, however, is much lower than Australian standards. Their minimum legal hourly wage is roughly $6, which makes things much cheaper than Australia. I lived in the campus dormitory for the entire semester and it only cost me around AUD $380.

It was not long until I faced difficulties. Immediately on the day after my arrival, a lady shop owner began speaking Taiwanese Hokkien to me. Luckily, I was with my exchange buddy (whom FJU has arranged before my arrival) at that time and he was able to communicate with the owner on my behalf. I am very grateful for my exchange buddies and my dorm roommates who helped me out a lot upon my arrival. I immediately felt the warmth and helpfulness of the Taiwanese people on my first couple of days. Listening to my roommates’ stories was very interesting as they all came from different backgrounds, one being in the army for 5 years after high school, another being a Bruneian of Taiwanese descent. Having chats and laughter, with the occasional disagreement, every night was definitely a memorable experience – something that I won’t experience at home.

One of the things that I really enjoyed is joining the basketball team of my faculty. There are yearly tournaments between faculties and between departments. Our team trained regularly and apart from having fun, I believe it is a great way to develop relationships. It shows that the university culture there is quite different too. Sports and other club activities are a vital part of their university life, where people gather together. I could see evidence of a more collectivistic society based on their university culture. Apart from that, the close relationship between classmates is something special. It feels exactly like high school where classes are held in small classrooms rather than large lecture halls. The teachers know every student, therefore, as soon as she saw my unfamiliar face I was immediately asked to introduce myself. They welcomed me and invited me to have lunch together on the first day of class. I felt like I could blend in to their culture instantly with their friendliness.

There is no way I could talk about Taiwan without mentioning food. There is so much food around campus to the point I could even get hot food at midnight. The entire campus is approximately the size of the Kelvin Grove campus, however, there are 5 different blocks of canteens! Plus, with the number of restaurants outside of campus, there is absolutely no need to worry about what you need to bring for lunch.

Taiwan is a country with a lot of warmth. There is a common saying of ‘The Most Beautiful Scenery in Taiwan is its People.”, and I recognized that it is true throughout my journey. I have made great friends during these past few months and I surely miss the moments I had with them. If you are looking at going to the Asia-Pacific region, or if you would love to pick up the Chinese language, I would surely recommend Taiwan as an exchange destination.