My Irish Pot of Gold: Part 2

Elizabeth B., Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries
University College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 1, 2017)

A three-day road trip around the east coast of Ireland

If I could give any advice it would be to take advantage of every opportunity, and learn to say ‘yes’ to everything, especially things that are out of your comfort zone. This
is where some of my best experiences began, including exchange. This
means travelling with people you may not know very well, and doing trips that you may not normally think of doing. For me one of the best things was going over
with a very loose plan! Don’t be afraid to have very little planned before you leave, including a return date because I was able to travel with friends I met on exchange afterwards, and I was glad that I did not have a huge amount that I had committed to prior to leaving.

Lisbon, Portugal

While in Ireland I tried my best to learn (a very small) amount of Gaelic through some of my Irish friends, which is an incredibly hard language to learn. It was
fascinating learning about the Irish culture, and really getting to know some Irish people, and where they come from. While it can be difficult to meet Irish students while abroad, I was fortunate to meet quite a few Irish students through my external accommodation. I also found doing social sport was a good way to meet Irish students. I was a part of the social netball team while in Ireland, and was fascinated to find out that Netball is not a widely known sport in Ireland. There was only one team on campus and half the team consisted of Australian or New Zealand exchange students. I was incredibly lucky to be able to completely immerse myself in Irish culture, and experience life living and
studying in another country, which gave me a completely different experience to what I would have got being a tourist. Reflecting on my time in Ireland, while I visited some pretty incredible places, I wish I had focused a bit more of my travels around Ireland, and attempted to visit more pubs. I only went on four trips around Ireland, which meant there was a lot of the country I didn’t see such as the cliffs of Moher. I will definitely have to make a trip back to Ireland soon!

Finally, I would definitely recommend going on exchange to anyone considering it. It is a once in a lifetime experience, and you will grow so much, meet some incredible people and experience some life-changing events and opportunities. While I am nearing the end of my degree, this trip has made me realise my potential and has made me eager to plan my next trip!

My Irish Pot of Gold: Part 1

Elizabeth B., Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries
University College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 2, 2017)

One thing I did not anticipate leaving Australia is I don’t think I will ever feel completely at home again; part of me will always belong some place else, but that is a small price to pay for loving and knowing people and places all around the world.

If you had asked me 18 months ago that I would have had seven months abroad, visiting 12 countries, and meeting some of the most amazing people, I would not have believed you. The decision to go on exchange was not one I took lightly.

River Liffey at Dusk – Central Dublin

It required dedication and patience to the process, many hours per week of casual work to save up a decent travel fund, and a huge amount of independence. Leaving everything and everyone you know for seven months is an incredibly intimidating thought, and one that weighed heavy on my mind in the months leading up to my departure to Ireland. While there were moments during the beginning of my arrival to Dublin where I was uncertain I had made the right decision, and moments where I missed my family and friends immensely, the support and encouragement I received back home helped me get into the swing of my Irish lifestyle very quickly. I got to meet the amazing people I now call some of my best friends, and I am so thankful for my decisions to study abroad.

 

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

In those months abroad, I was based in the rainy but gorgeous Dublin, Ireland, however I got to travel to many other places on weekends and breaks. I also spent 7 weeks after my exchange travelling to some other incredible places like Greece and Croatia. I attended University College Dublin (UCD). While UCD was not central to Dublin like Trinity, it was only a short 15 minute bus trip to the city center. The campus was large but beautiful. It had modern sandstone buildings, big grass areas, and two main lakes, where Irish students would gather every time the sun was out. There was also a gym membership included for all students, which was a good destressor, and helped me regain some aspects of normality and routine. The gym was on campus, and included free classes and consultations. I did five subjects while abroad in Ireland, with three of them being direct credits to QUT subjects. I found the workload to be quite heavy, but without a job in Ireland, I managed to juggle travel, work and social life quite well.

Barcelona, Spain

My favourite and most unique escape while in Dublin was Iceland. A few other international students and I hired a car, booked some cabins in the middle of the Icelandic countryside and did a four-day road trip to some of the most fascinating, and ‘off the map’ places. The natural beauties of Iceland were breathtaking, and we got to do things I never thought I would be able to do. If you are okay with eating hot dogs for breakfast lunch and dinner (a meal at a restaurant is often about 35-40 euros for a burger), and splashing out on flights and accommodation, then I recommend Iceland to anyone. It was a trip that I will never forget!

The Best Experience of My Life So Far

Charlotte E., Bachelor of Justice/Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Universidad Carlos III Madrid, Spain (Semester 1, 2017)

 

Beautiful Madrid at sunset, on top of the Circulo Bella Artes

For my study abroad experience I was lucky enough to spend one semester at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M). I can whole-heartedly say it was the best experience of my life so far, and I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to complete a student exchange to do so.

HOW TO PREPARE
• Save! Save as much money as you can in order to make the most of your experience. Whilst Madrid wasn’t expensive, it is important to be able to live comfortably, go out, and say yes to everything you want to do without monetary restrictions. Depending on how much you want to travel in and around Spain I would say aim to have $12,000+ to spend.

• Look into accommodation prior to arrival! I would definitely recommend staying in the city and commuting by train (25 minutes) to uni as opposed to on-campus accommodation, as the location of campus (Getafe) does not have a lot going on compared to the ever-buzzing city centre of Madrid. Check out the company Help Madrid for room rental, and areas like Malasaña, La Latina, Chueca, Gran Via, and Retiro are the best areas to live in!

The view from the Cathedral over La Latina

• Learn some common phrases! Madrid is a very international city, and so in the centre itself it is possible to mainly get by speaking only English. However, you will find it is easier if you do learn some Spanish prior to living there, and it is also greatly appreciated by the locals.

• Have multiple class options! Whilst UC3M has many classes taught In English (if like me your Spanish isn’t at any level of fluency), international students get the last pick of classes, and so when I went to register for the classes I had planned to take, many were unavailable. So, I would recommend having a few different options for classes and timetables.

WHAT TO EXPECT

• At UC3M: compared to QUT, the university itself was far less organized. The teachers were often late, but I think that just links to the fact that in Spain there is no rush for anything. Whilst this didn’t hinder my experience or my ability to learn, it was just bit of an adjustment.

• In Madrid: Expect to fall in love with the city. It is such a vibrant and liveable city, with something going on at all times. It’s not until you are living there that you truly understand what an amazing city it is. Plaza Mayor, Retiro Park, and Palacio Royale are some of my favourite tourist spots.

The Royal Palace of Madrid

• Everything is much later than in Australia! Typical dinner time in Spain is between 10pm and 11pm, which is something that took a little getting used to. Also, Madrid is well known for it’s unrivalled nightlife so be sure to make the most of the multitude of bars and clubs whilst you’re there.

• Travel! With Europe on your doorstep, make the most of being so close to places like France and Portugal. You can get some crazily cheap flights to all over Europe, and head away for the weekend. As well as other countries, be sure to explore Spain itself! One of my favourite parts of my exchange was travelling to different parts of Spain and seeing it in depth, there’s so much to love about this country. Having said this, make sure you spend enough time in Madrid itself to truly appreciate living in this incredible city.

Delicious Food