Becoming a Part of the Gamecock Family!

Marianne J., Master of Business
University of South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

Going to Columbia and University of South Carolina (USC) gave me so much: the ultimate American college experience, friends for a lifetime and experiences I will never forget.

On Campus – Horseshoe

Preparation and Arrival

Once I got my official “Letter of Acceptance” from the partner institution I could start the visa application. As compared to applying for an Australian visa this process takes more time and effort. First, you need to apply online, pay fees, get approved, set up an interview date and then go to the actual embassy. Be aware that, upon your interview they will need to keep your passport for a maximum of two weeks in order to insert the visa, so be sure to have enough time before departing.

Darla Moore School of Business (DMSB)

When I arrived in Columbia, South Carolina, a friendly, old couple picked me up as a part of the airport reception provided by the university. I highly recommend everyone to attend orientation week, not only are some events compulsory, but this is where you`ll have the chance to meet with your fellow students and professors and a lot of useful information will be given. This is where I met most of the people that I become close to and hung out with the most the rest of the semester. Including that, there are loads of events that offer free food, and as a poor student you don`t want to miss that! I arrived just in time for the solar eclipse, where Columbia was in the zone of totality. I also arrived in time for hurricane Irma, and quickly got an insight into the natural disasters that can occur on this side of the world.

DMSB

Accommodation

As for housing, postgrads usually cannot live on campus, but there were plenty of other off-campus student communities. Unfortunately, all the short-term leases fill up rather quickly. I went onto the USC website and found students who were subleasing, and ended up staying in a four-people apartment at a place called Riverside – a ten minute drive from campus. Most of the off-campus communities have a shuttle running to and from campus every 30 min on week days, all with a common stop on campus. This made it easy even for international students to get around. Riverside apartments came fully furnished and are very conveniently located next to a Bi-Lo (grocery store), bowling alley, and restaurants. In the USA you pay rent monthly, and living in a student accommodation is usually very cheap. I paid approximately $610 AUD a month, excluding utilities.

Riverside Student Accommodation (Off-Campus)

College Life

Columbia is a major college town and the whole city is proudly supporting and representing USC and the Gamecock (school mascot). I was there in the fall semester and got to experience football season, which entailed a weekly game where 80 000 people came to cheer for the Black & Garnet. The team and school spirit that you will experience here is like nowhere else. USC is also lucky enough to have the biggest college gym in southeast America; Strom Thurmond; a three-level playground for athletics and free of charge for all students. I can honestly say that this is the best and nicest gym I have ever been to.

Football Game at Williams-Brice Stadium

Further, USC offers heaps of clubs to get involved with, no matter what interests you, they have it. I played indoor soccer and used the student gym and its amenities frequently, and personally thought it was fun to see what all the fuss about sororities and fraternities were all about.

Strom Thurmond – Student Gym

Classes

I had to have my study plan ready before going overseas but couldn’t officially enroll until I got to Columbia. To pass the requirements from QUT I had to enroll into four units at USC, where 48 Australian credit points were equivalent to 12 U.S. credit points (3 per unit). You are being told from the beginning to save your electives and I would really recommend doing so. Some of the classes I wanted to enroll in were either full or not available to exchange students, so having mostly electives left when going abroad made the process of choosing new ones, and having them approved, much easier. Bear in mind that attendance is compulsory in the States and can, along with participation, be a part of your end grade. The postgrad classes were relatively small, ranging from 15-30 students. Some classes could be challenging, but they were all achievable.

Columbia and the U.S.

Columbia has a climate that is a little similar to Brisbane. The summers are hot and humid, and long-lasting, while the winters can get chilly and sometimes below 0, but only for a few months. Throughout the semester you had plenty of time to explore. Columbia has a river that runs straight through the city, where tubing is a very common activity, especially on those hot summer days. Five Points and the Vista are the famous areas for restaurants and night life. This is where students usually come together to socialize.

Tubing on the River

Christmas

Halloween

Although, Columbia, or ‘Cola’ as the Americans call it, isn’t the biggest and most exciting city there are many places worth seeing only a few hours away. We went to Atlanta and saw the World of Coke, to Savannah – the 7th most haunted city in the U.S., Charleston –home of all Nicholas Sparks movies. Including bigger trips to NYC, DC and I even had time to go see my host family in Utah over Thanksgiving. It is also an experience in itself to celebrate the different public holidays like Labor Day, Halloween, and Christmas.

Atlanta Skyline

Atlanta – CNN Headquarters

New York

Washington DC

I really enjoyed my time at USC and am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to go abroad and become a Gamecock! I can`t say it enough, but if you have the chance – take it. Going abroad and all it implies is so worth it!

– Forever to Thee –

Made Friends for Life!

Heidi F., Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
State University of New York, USA (Semester 2, 2016)

University

I loved studying at SUNY. It was such a different experience to anything that I had been used to previously. It was awesome to be living on a campus where it was snowing almost every day, so much so that we sometimes had snow days where university would be cancelled for the day (where we then went out sledding behind our dorms). Not to mention the time when I ran out into the snow in my bikini! (Just to say I had done it). The university as a whole was all quite expensive but worth it I think. The meal plan was compulsory (and super expensive!!) but I’m glad I had it as it made everything a lot easier. It was a lot of fun having an ice skating rink on campus as we did that quite a bit as well as watched a lot of ice hockey matches which I loved. I joined a lot of sporting groups and I also did a lot of on campus activities which kept me busy. They were a lot of fun! Academics wise- it was quite easy compared to QUT. It surprised me how much easier it was than what I was used to but it was good as I was able to get pretty good marks without placing much stress on myself.

One of the sporting groups I joined

America

It blew me away how bad the currency exchange rate was. I lost a lot of money when I exchanged my AUD dollars to the US currency. It was super sad seeing how many thousands of dollars I was losing but I just kept telling myself that it was all going to be worth it! And it totally was. I traveled quite a bit to New York City as well as around New York State and up to the Thousand Islands. At the end of my uni semester, I also flew across to California and spent quite a lot of time there. It was exciting to get some sunshine and beaches there after such a long time without! One thing about America that was a little tricky was the ability to adjust to the different foods. I often found myself feeling a little sick as I wasn’t used to it. After a while my body adjusted I think, and I was feeling a lot better.

Snow days happened all the time

New York City!

Highlights

There were so many highlights, obviously. I had a great time experiencing new things such as skiing and snowboarding as well as getting into new sports like ice hockey and American football. The ‘touristy’ things were also a blast such as the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood sign, Hollywood boulevard, Santa Monica Pier etc. I did and saw so many things! Looking back on it all though, I definitely think one of the best things about my exchange was just living on campus and meeting so many amazing people. I have now made friends for life and so many of these guys are already heading over this way soon!

Santa Monica Pier

Bubblin’ Dublin

Renee G., Bachelor of Business International
University College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 2, 2017)


I began the second half of my full year of study abroad at University College Dublin in Dublin, the capital city of Ireland. The first day that I arrived on campus I was very surprised at the size of the university and a bit in shock about how I was going to find my way around as my previous host university was a lot smaller. I found UCD campus to be very clean and well looked after and goes above and beyond to provide numerous facilities for students including multiple food restaurants, cafes, small supermarket, bus stop within campus, free gym, pool and sport facilities, a cinema, uni bar and a bank. The university itself is almost like a small city and this was very handy for us international students. In terms of buildings/classes, each academic school has its own allocated building for classes, for example I was a part of the Quinn School of Business and therefore all my classes were in the Quinn building. This made finding classes a lot easier and saved time if you had classes back to back. Each of these buildings are fitted with numerous study rooms, printing facilities, support staff and lunch areas to make your academic experience great.

Trinity College Dublin

Whilst at UCD I chose to stay in on campus accommodation for security, the proximity to campus was convenient. Although expensive, I also found this to be the best way to meet other international students as there are many rooms allocated to them in a certain area. When it comes to choosing accommodation, there are about 5-6 different options, some catered and others not. There is also a difference in room size, shared or own bathrooms and number of flat mates. In the end I chose Merville Residences as it was one of the cheaper options that provided a sufficient living environment for the four months I would be there. I shared my flat with three other international students, one girl from New Zealand, one guy from Germany and one guy from America. These students turned out to be very good friends and based on their connections with other students from their home universities and countries, making friends and socialising was made easy.

UCD Residences

During orientation week at UCD, the international society puts on a large range of activities for students to participate in if they like as well as the residences hub Reslife who also organise numerous night and day options for students to get to know each other. These events gave me the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and interact with students from around the world. Additionally, through my flatmates friends and connections I could connect with people who I will now consider friends for life and be sure to catch up with in the coming years. I strongly advise to participate in as much as possible so you are never left to do anything alone as that is not always the greatest idea when in a foreign country.

In terms of Dublin City, there will always be something for you to do. It is full of pubs, restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, great nightlife and the people are the friendliest bunch you will ever meet. The Irish culture is one you don’t want to miss out on experiencing if you have the chance. As Dublin is a large city there are numerous forms of public transport, but most popular is the bus system as this is required to get from the UCD campus into town using the student leap card. If you want to explore the rest of Ireland as well, the train/rail system is also a handy way to get somewhere faster than on a bus, but the cost of transport in Ireland is not cheap. This also goes for the cost of living as groceries and accommodation whether it be on and off campus will be higher than you expect. On a more positive note, the city itself and surrounding suburbs I found to be very safe and I was comfortable whilst travelling alone, but of course always use your common sense and be aware of your surroundings.

Dublin City

Now, much like my first exchange in England, the weather in Ireland can be very unpredictable and you can experience all four seasons in one day. Lucky for me, I was fortunate enough to get numerous sunny days during the four months I was there but as expected there were many cloudy, rainy and windy days as well. Despite the weather, Ireland is a beautiful country with a lot to enjoy and with its proximity to Europe you have the chance to travel to numerous beautiful countries as well on the weekends or whenever you please. My advice to everyone is don’t miss out on taking advantage of Ireland’s location and the cultures you could experience that are only an hours flight away. Try not to stress about money and just make the most of it.

I must say the highlight of my exchange was the people I met and friendships I made along the way as without them my experience would have been a lot different. Of course, the academic side is very important as well and UCD is fortunately a lot like QUT and how everything runs so you shouldn’t have too many issues with settling in. I highly recommend UCD as an exchange destination and you’d be crazy not to go if offered the chance. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way and enjoy the time you have because I can assure you it goes quicker than you would think possible.

Ring of Kerry

Making Hearty Friends Abroad

Fraser B., Bachelor of Media and Communication / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Leeds, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2017)


January 15th, 2017 I packed my bags and headed for the UK. I hadn’t been to the UK since the summer Commonwealth game of 2002 in Manchester, and I was certain it had changed a little since then!

After spending a week in London seeing high school friends, I journeyed north to Leeds where myself and 500+ other exchange students settled into one of many student residences across the town. It took the better half of a week just to get familiar with faces, let alone knowing names. However, it didn’t take long before the international students formed one big group, the likes of which I’d never been a part of.  It was interesting watching all these different cultures assimilate in such a bizarre setting. The north of England, housing those from countries, which covered all continents. But, we made sure our time spent with each other was worth it, studying, travelling and creating friendships that will last much longer than our mere six month semester abroad.

I was very lucky to travel the European continent, to destinations I’d never been before. It was a priority of mine to not just go and see sights, but rather spend my time in these new destinations doing what the locals do. Because that’s how you assimilate and diversify yourself as a person, you learn from those who are native and can convey to you their culture and the way they live. You learn about the country itself, not just what it has to offer in aesthetics.

One blog post simply cannot encompass my exchange in semester 1 of 2017. There are simply too many memories, experiences and events that I’m sure all other students can relate to. The pictures, although pretty, do not do each destination justice. As to completely experience something, you must do so in the flesh.

Blossoming in Sweden

Hayley W., Bachelor of Urban Development
Kungliga Tekniska Hogskolan, Sweden (Semester 1, 2017)

For my semester abroad I attended KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm City, Sweden. It was by far the best six months of my life. I was challenged in many different ways, given the most insane opportunities and experiences, met people from all over the world that I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I was pushed out of my comfort zone in terms of learning. Living in a different city provided me with many differences to Brisbane that I had to deal with, one particular aspect being the cold. I had never seen snow before going to Sweden and had never experienced a proper winter! At first I found it extremely hard to adjust to the short days (5 hours of sunlight) and the freezing temperatures in conjunction with not having any friends or knowing many people. This caused me to become very homesick at the start of my exchange, spending a lot of time in my room alone. However, the staff at my host University were amazing and made me feel very welcome, they hosted numerous events to encourage other international students to meet each other and this is how I made my friends (from Turkey, Brazil, England and Ireland!). In hindsight, the challenges I faced at the beginning of my exchange taught me so many lessons in life – it taught me lessons about being grateful (grateful for where I am lucky enough to live, and how I grew up) and also lessons about myself (such as I now realise how weather can effect my mood, and every day I wake up and it is sunny, I am grateful!). By the end of my 5 months in Sweden it was Spring and I had felt like I had blossomed along with the seasons – going from a shy girl spending most of my time in my room to a fully bloomed flower with heaps of friends out enjoying the sunshine and everything the city had to offer me! By June I did not want to leave Sweden, but I was so thankful for all of the opportunities I had received and the people I had met.

I am so thankful to the QUT mobility team who encouraged me to put in my application and assisted me at all stages of my application to ensure that I had the opportunity to go on exchange.

A Life in Chicago

William N., Bachelor of Design (Honors)
Illinois Institute of Technology, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

The university…

Going on exchange to Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago last semester was an amazing experience, which I already miss and wish I could repeat all over. As an architecture student, IIT was an amazing place to both visit and live. The campus was designed by one of my favourite architects – Mies van der Rohe – who also started the architecture school on campus, and taught there for a period of time. Because of this, the school has a wonderful architecture program, and great resources for architecture students.

Despite being in a somewhat dodgy area, the campus is only a few train stops from downtown, making it really easy to explore the city throughout my exchange. On top of this, during the semester the university gives you a free travel card, giving you unlimited access to the buses and trains throughout the city. The campus is also within walking distance of the lake which is a really nice place to go swimming.

The on-campus accommodation that I chose was really nice, however the other dormitories I visited were not as nice, which I think would influence the quality of exchange perhaps. I had two randomly assigned roommates, who I didn’t become friends with, but it gave me the opportunity to experience living with strangers, and make me a more tolerant person. My apartment had a kitchen so I cooked most meals, however the university requires you also purchase a meal plan at the cafeteria. The food was not very nice though.

Unexpected…

For future exchange students visiting IIT, don’t expect the university to make much of an effort introducing you to other international students, so make sure you make an effort yourself at the start to introduce yourself to others.

Highlights…

For me, the highlight of exchange was the opportunities I got to travel both within and outside the states. During the semester I travelled to New Orleans, Toronto, and New York – and spent a week in Copenhagen during my Thanksgiving break in late November.

The campus life at the university was definitely not what I expected. I was expecting a very traditional university with frat parties, etc. but was surprised how different it was. The university has very little social or party life, making it difficult to make friends with other students. However, I found a group of other exchange students who I became good friends with, so it ended up not being an issue.

Tips/ advice…

Definitely pack or buy a lot of warm clothes, as it gets very freezing, very quickly. When looking at the weather, always pay attention to the “feels like” temperature, as the wind chill is almost always ten degrees colder in the winter. Do a lot of research before choosing your housing. The university give most if not all exchange students $1500 a semester towards housing – however not all options have kitchens, meaning you may pay more on the cafeteria meal plans!

How to Survive in Canadian College

Reeve D., Bachelor of Business
Bishops University, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

  1. Frosh week / O week

Frosh week started off with team selection day, where you would go around to every team (consisting of older students) and learn a bit about them. There were heaps of teams for people with different interests, with some stressing the fact they love to party and others – being all girl’s teams – centred around making friends. Every team had their own house, which was your meeting point for weekly activities. During frosh week, your aim is to complete challenges to get your team points. One of the challenges I completed was to wear a shower cap of shaving cream on my head for a night, one guy shaved his head and another guy was painted green for the week. However, you definitely aren’t forced into any challenges you don’t want to complete. There were a couple of concerts held in the quad during frosh week and a swamp day where you had to get as messy as possible being covered in gross foods. The week was amazing and was great with helping me make friends instantly. With the week ending with a team performance and football game.

  1. Halloweekend

I definitely consider Halloweekend one of the best events from my time at Bishops. Its three nights of different Halloween parties, all with different themes. The first night consist of everyone going to either the school bar, residence parties or different house parties. Night two was held at Animal House (probably the biggest party house of the university) and night three was the official event held by The Gait (on campus bar).

  1. Residence/Where To Live

I can’t stress enough how important it is to live in Lennoxville. So many exchange students (including myself) originally made the mistake of living a bus ride away from the university in Sherbrooke. Living in Lennoxville is extremely social and convenient. It’s also extremely rare that students don’t live near the university. Bishops campus is practically all of Lennoxville, so even if you are unable to get a spot in residence, living in one of the many party houses or in your own apartment is a great way to still get that real college experience. Join the Bishops housing page and find a couple of other exchange students looking for housing and contact Carl, who is the land lord of all the apartments in Little Forks (circled- I can provide Carls phone number if requested).

  1. Classes

Classes are typically small and don’t consist of a regular lecture and tutorial, instead it’s more like two tutorials a week (this was the case for my business/criminology subjects). I found the work to be much easier than QUT and more interactive, however more class time was required.

  1. Social
    1. The Gait is the student run school bar which host regular happy hours and themed events.
    2. The Lion is a bar (kind of like a pub) off campus in Lennoxville. The lion is super fun and has acoustic Tuesdays where there’s a live band.
    3. House parties: As you can see on the map above each house in Lennoxville has its own name, with the majority of parties being at Animal House, Football House, Haunted or along Reed street. There’s also a huge party at Cool Ranch (which was my frosh house) every year called Luda Christmas, where the whole school is invited.
    4. There are also so many social events for those students not into the party scene such as plays, organised weekend trips to Montreal and Quebec City, talent shows, fashion shows, football games, hockey games, guest speakers, movie nights and many clubs.
  1. Dining Hall / Food

The dining hall at Bishops is called Dewhurst Dining Hall or Dewies for short, and has a great variety of foods available. It has a grill bar where you can order fries/burgers/hotdogs, salad bar, pasta station and many other great foods. Even if you don’t live in residence you can still get a Dewies pass, and it’s definitely worth it!

  1. Travel

I found traveling around Canada easy and relatively cheap. During the semester, I was able to go on a weekend trip to Toronto which was amazing. After the semester finished is when I completed the majority of my travel. I went to Vancouver, Whistler, Ottawa, Montreal, Chicago and New York. Due to the university being in a small town I was able to budget my money super well during the semester, enabling me to have the best time at the end of my exchange. I definitely recommend Vancouver and Whistler, as I was able to experience a non-French side of Canada.

Getting Giddy in Glasgow

Liam M., Bachelor of Journalism / Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
University of Glasgow, Scotland (Semester 2, 2016)

There is a saying in french: Il n’y a d’homme plus complet que celui qui a beaucoup voyage, qui a change vingt fois la forme de sa pensée et de sa vie, which means that there is no man more complete than he who has travelled a lot, who has changed the shape of his thoughts and his life twenty times. And to be frank, I think this sums up my exchange experience beautifully.

For me the whole idea of embarking on an exchange program was to broaden my mind and my life through another culture or cultures so that upon my return I could come back enriched with life experience, great memories and stories that I will remember forever. I have been fortunate throughout my life to have travelled with my family, but there is nothing quite like moving overseas by yourself for the very first time. This was my reality on the 23rd of August 2016 as I ventured on a 26 hour flight to Paris, and then eventually over to the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Words couldn’t describe the emotions that I was feeling after spending over a week in Paris, five days in London and then finally arriving in Glasgow. As I hopped out of Glasgow Central train station I arrived in what could be described as typical Scottish summer weather, 13 degrees and raining. However, I couldn’t be more excited to move into my student flat.

Over the coming days and weeks everything seemed to move very fast. From moving in, to making new friends and countless orientation activities and to the infamous “freshers week” everything was great. I couldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world. However, nothing will challenge you more on exchange than being essentially alone, and sick overseas. Halfway through freshers week, I had contracted tonsillitis for the very first time, and it was a very trying time as I attempted to take care of myself, while extremely sick. This is probably one thing you cannot prepare for before going on exchange, as no one can predict how healthy you’re going to be while overseas. However, it taught me that you really have to look after yourself no matter how much fun you’re having, eat good food, get enough sleep and in Scotland, wear the appropriate warm clothes so you don’t get sick. The University of Glasgow had made every exchange student feel extremely welcome by throwing all sorts of events throughout the coming weeks. One particular favourite was the Ceilidh, a Scottish party where traditional dances take place.

Throughout the semester I took three subjects, equivalent to QUT’s four. I probably didn’t enjoy them as much as I should have, but learning about a different country’s legal system was interesting albeit challenging at the same time. I made a lot of friends at GU, who weren’t just exchange students. This is because I joined the legal society and GUSWPC, which is Glasgow Uni’s swimming and water-polo club. This was probably the highlight of my time abroad because I made many local Scottish and English friends that will be in my life for many, many years. This would be my main recommendation to anyone going on exchange and wanting to immerse themselves in their host universities life: join a club or society that you’re interested in, as it is the easiest way to make local friends and to really have a good time. I was lucky enough to be selected on the men’s water-polo and men’s swimming teams. With swimming, I was able to compete at the British National University Championships, local club meets, inter-university league matches and the Scottish National Swimming Championships. I even took part in a swimming camp in the Canary Islands after my exchange had finished, which was the best way to say goodbye to my Scottish friends.

I also got a job while in Glasgow, and this showed me a very different side to Scottish culture and allowed me to experience different things while abroad. I was also able to spend my hard earned Scottish pounds. I made the most of days off uni and weekends when I wasn’t working by travelling around Scotland and England as much as I could. From St. Andrews, to Edinburgh, to the Scottish Highlands and the different Lochs and Isles. Scotland was more beautiful than I imagined. Though, throughout all this travelling I still had to keep up with my studies, and before I knew it, Christmas exams were around the corner and it dawned on me that the end of my time in Glasgow was almost here. I tried to extend my exchange for another semester, but subject approvals let me down. Nevertheless I couldn’t have been happier with how my time in Scotland went.

However, even though my exchange at Glasgow was up, my real travelling time was just beginning. From the beginning of January to the end of February I visited 14 countries throughout Europe and the middle-east, I made lots of friends, had many sleepless nights, ate delicious different foods, got food poisoning, went skiing in the Austrian Alps, visited eastern Europe and made many memories that will be with me forever. I really couldn’t have asked for a better exchange experience, because everything I did, I loved, and I wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe applying for a year exchange instead of 6 months 😛 ). However, I have come back a more mature, sophisticated, well travelled boy who can now share my stories in the hopes that many other future QUT students use their abilities to embark on what really is a once in a life time opportunity to study abroad. Thank you Study Abroad QUT for giving me this opportunity. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Experiencing Danish ‘Hygge’

Tayen L. Bachelor of Business
University of Aarhus, Denmark (Semester 1, 2018)

International Dinner in Our Backyard

Exchange feedback… Wow! Where do I even begin? First of all, for my exchange experience, I chose to go to Aarhus university in Denmark and I’m so glad that I chose it, as I have met some amazing people and had some really life changing experiences! In my opinion, Aarhus does not get talked about enough! It is essentially a student city where everyone is so welcoming. There are always events happening, so you don’t really have a lot of time to be homesick.

The accommodation

For my student accommodation, I was able to choose what kind of accommodation I wanted to live in. There was a choice between dormitories, apartment styles or living in a house. I remember this being quite a hard choice to make, but because I have lived out of home for many years, I decided on choosing the house option because I didn’t think I would like to live with as many people as dormitory style living offered. I assumed I’d be living with 4 or 5 others in a cute little Danish house. Boy, was I wrong! When I received my housing offer, I was granted my first choice of a Danish house… but there were going to be 12 others living in the same house! Safe to say I was a little shocked that a house could fit 13 people in it and then immediately became concerned as this was essentially what I was trying to avoid when I made my decision.

Lucky for me though, living in a house with 12 others actually turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I have left Denmark, not just having some cool housemates, but with a global family! Everyone was so welcoming and we all soon became very close. Our house was the place to be! We would constantly have people who were living in dorms or in apartments tell us that our place was so much fun and that they were jealous of the close friendships we had all formed as housemates and that they were struggling to ‘mesh’ with their dorm or apartment mates. To any future students, I would HIGHLY recommend choosing the housing option, because the experience is amazing, and it gives you the ability to form friendships like no other! Plus, the house was a 30 minute walk to the business school or a 9 minute ride. And Danes ride their bikes everywhere, so you’ll want to be like the locals and get yourself your own bike! (You won’t regret it!).

My House

The weather

Going to Denmark in the Spring semester was incredible because I not only got to see the entire university covered in snow, but I also got to see it bloom with flowers. Two very different experiences, going from all white to all green! Although it was very cold in the winter, Danes would still get out and do things and go to bars with candles and eat nice food. All of this was a very ‘Hygge’ experience, which is the feeling of cosiness, being with good friends and can only be felt but not really explained. In the Spring, when the sun finally came out, we’d often spend our time down at the beach or going for coastal rides!

The grading system

The university system is so different to Australia, because instead of having assessments due every 6 weeks which are worth a certain percentage of your grade, they have one assignment or exam which is due at the end of the semester and is worth the entire grade. So, if you don’t pass your last assessment, then you don’t pass the entire class! I found this a little bit hard to deal with and ended up failing one of my classes I took while over there, as I’m used to the Australian system where if I don’t do quite as well in one assignment, I have a chance to make up the marks in other assessments. So that was a different experience for me! Having said that, it did allow me to really engage with the culture and enjoy the experience. The mentor program for business students was significantly better than other faculties. We had so many introduction week events and meet ups that made my experience even better!

Campus Grounds

Living in Denmark is fairly expensive, but I did find a lot of things to actually be quite similar to Australia and some things which were considerably cheaper.

TIPS:

Learn some basic Danish

Practice a little bit of Danish with Duolingo or another app that makes it easy & convenient. I can almost guarantee you won’t feel confident in speaking the language, but you will feel less overwhelmed when you walk into a supermarket for the first time as you’ll have a basic ability to read Danish (and Duolingo covers some food and basic greetings which is VERY helpful in your first and future Danish supermarket experiences!) Also, I would recommend not greeting people with “hi” as the Danish greeting is “hej” and it sounds very similar so they will assume you are Danish and speak Danish to you. This leaves the both of you feeling embarrassed when you have to tell them you only speak English! Also not learning the language is totally fine as well, as every Dane speaks perfect English, you just may have to tell them that you don’t understand Danish! So don’t stress if you don’t get a chance to learn it, you’ll pick it up as you go!

Get a bike

Seriously. Danes bike everywhere and you’ll soon learn that your fellow international classmates will always bike everywhere too because it’s easier. You don’t want to feel left out or be the only one not going somewhere because you don’t have a bike. You could always bus but this is expensive and it’s significantly faster to actually just bike to places! Also, be warned that your jeans will eventually give in and rip on the inner leg area from your constant bike rides!

Danish Houses and their Bikes

See the City

Try to get out and see more of Denmark than just the city if you can. Denmark is a really beautiful country and surprisingly has some amazing cliffs and sand dunes (despite the fact that everyone says it is a flat country with no mountains). Hire a car if possible. (Note if you do this, it is significantly more expensive if you tell them you are a temporary resident and have a CPR number, you’re much better off booking the car from your home countries website for Denmark and then applying a student discount- this will allow you to get unlimited mileage when you hire a car and will be MUCH cheaper.

Aarhus Cathedral

Embrace the Hygge

Embrace the feeling of Hygge and you’ll really get to experience what Danish culture is about. It’s a feeling that is hard to explain, but you’ll know it when you feel it. It’s cosiness. It’s friendship. It’s love & warmth. It’s hot chocolates. It’s togetherness and it is just something so hard to explain

Go to international nights & other events

They are a lot of fun and a GREAT way to form some lifelong friendships. Danes can be a little reserved and respect personal space, so going to these events is a great way to mingle with some Danes and learn about their culture first hand

Road trip to the Danish Mon Klints with my exchange friends

Go to the eat street markets

If you go to Aarhus university, Eat Street markets will become one of your go to places for meeting groups of people and enjoying great food together!

Aarhus City Centre

Living in France

Sophia A., Bachelor of Law/ Behavioural Science
Catholic University of Lille, France (Semester 1, 2017)

My name is Sophia Armitage and I am a 20 year old QUT student who just finished her semester abroad! At QUT, I study a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Behavioural Science; however, I used my free electives to do my exchange as it made it easier to pick classes. I went to the Catholic University of Lille (France) and I cannot recommend it enough!

Accommodation

The university was always happy to help me with any questions I had; there were even students who showed me around and to my residence (which was right across the street). The campus at the university was a bit Harry Potter like as it is an old set of buildings (mainly). The first thing I had to get used to was the million stairs around the building and the hectic security, but after I got the hang of that it wasn’t too dissimilar to QUT. My residence was very close which made my midday naps easy! But it was also right where all the student eating areas were (there are specific places where a whole meal is only 3.25 euros). I stayed at the Teilhard de Chardin and it was clean, quiet, but still lively. There are allocated study rooms in the building too, which were useful throughout the semester. The style of the classes was more similar to high school as it’s about 15 different subjects and one class each week of each. There was a lot less direction from the teachers and sometimes it was really hard to understand what I needed to do (even though all my classes were in English) but I soon realised that it was pretty simple if I just treated it like high school.

Culture Shock

As I’ve never really travelled before, this was a fairly big culture shock. Six months in a different country is pretty insane, let alone somewhere that is all terrace buildings and cute cobble stone roads. The cost of living was very low; food and drink was inexpensive as was clothing and bedding. Lille is in a perfect spot because it’s cheaper to live than Paris but it is still very easy to travel from. There are buses and trains that go to major airports and that even go to the UK. The only thing that was very strange to me was that on Sunday everything is closed. Also, that after around 2:30pm all the cafes close their kitchens. Other than that, and other than the language barrier, the culture shock wasn’t too extreme.

Some of the best parts of my exchange were just the regular parts of the day. The only other QUT student and I made a friendship group very early on and we had regular catch-ups at a local pub (La Faluche) and went to restaurants regularly. I also had a group of French friends who showed me the local hang out spots. I also really enjoyed my subjects that I was studying in the FLCH faculty (mainly humanities and literature).

Adjusting, Homesickness and Budgets

I really didn’t expect to be so homesick at the start of the exchange, even though many people told me it would happen. Luckily, I made a friend who had been through a similar thing when she did her exchange and she helped me through it. I also didn’t expect to make such fantastic lifelong friends. We made a Facebook group chat that we all still use; I now have a place to stay in all of their home countries. My main tips for doing the semester abroad is to pack lightly clothes wise because there are loads of things you’ll want to buy. Pack a towel, pillow, and a blanket of some sort for when you first get there because you’ll be tired and just want to rest. Definitely make a budget for your expenses so that when the holidays come you have enough to travel around. Another thing that I wish I had done was to set up some realistic goals for how often I would communicate with people in Australia so that I wasn’t pushing them too much and they had a realistic idea of how often I would be able to contact them. The mentality the international students have is different to how we all are usually; this impacted the relationships I had in Australia and I wish I had had the foresight to plan around that.

I would 100% recommend a semester abroad to anyone, the experience was once in a lifetime and the things I learnt are invaluable. Where there is a will there is a way; there are so many things that QUT, the government, or your host university can help you with. I only wish I had more electives so I could go again!