My life in Kassel and Germany

Jeng-Han Lu, Master of Information Technology

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

Germany (June/July 2018)

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

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

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

Museum of Grimm’s Fairy Tales

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

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

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

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

Opening My Eyes to the Beauty of Germany

Sophie Heather, Bachelor of Fine Arts

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

Germany (July/August 2018)

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

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

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

Brandenburg Gate

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

I made friends from all over the world.

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

Playing rare instruments in the music therapy program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Summer Spent in the City of Smiles

Madison Brittain, Bachelor of Creative Industries

Short-term program: “Experience Summer at Aarhus University”

Denmark (July 2018)

During July 2018, I participated in a summer semester at Aarhus University in Denmark. Where I studied Social Marketing as an intensive 2-week course. Aarhus is the largest and second oldest university in Denmark, the city is known for its young demographic and happy people. Aarhus, also known as Smilets (City of Smiles), was voted as the European Capital of Culture for 2017 where it’s legacy still lives on.

Aarhus University is a very dispersed university, with many of the classrooms and faculties spread across the city. Many of the buildings are architecturally different from what we see at QUT, the university’s design has followed the same principle since the 1930’s of characteristic yellow-brick buildings. The university is internationally renowned for this design and has received cultural excellence awards for it. The university also boasts the tallest library in all of Denmark!

University buildings displaying the yellow-brick characteristics.

The University boasts the tallest library in Denmark.

My accommodation was on campus and only a five-minute walk from classes. The accommodation was dorm-room style with a bed, night stand, wardrobe, desk, chair, sink and mirror all provided. The kitchen and bathroom were shared with 9 other full-time study students, but they had plenty of facilities so waiting was never an issue.

I was enrolled in a course called Social Marketing where I attended class for 3 hours a day for 2 weeks straight; with 2 assignments and 1 exam as my assessment. The subject was broad but gave an insight into all the workings of social marketing. The class was made up of both local and international students which helped to give a world perspective on ways in which social marketing is used in different countries. The classes are very informal, with students and teachers being of equal ground.

An art installation of a cat pouring water into a bowl on the grounds of the university.

The university offered an amazing social program including activities like canoeing, visit’s to the Old Town, ARoS museum (which is a must), and many more activities. While I was there, the World Cup was being played out in Russia and the local community set up a massive screen by the water front for the locals to come down and watch the games. It was a great atmosphere and a great way to end the day (even If the sun didn’t set until 11pm some days).

Part of the rainbow 360 art feature at the ARoS museum.

A glimpse of the houses along the banks of the river from the canoeing trip.

The cost of living in Denmark is very similar to Australia, with drink and food prices on a similar budget. Some super-markets charge more than what you would find in Coles or Woolworths, but with the variety of supermarkets they offer, it is easy to find a cheaper price. Public transport in Aarhus is quite expensive to, as the Danes are very much a bike culture. Bikes are easy to rent out around Aarhus and a great form of exercise. Taxis are ridiculously expensive in Denmark and cost you approximately $20 to go 750m.

Danes are the nicest people around and are always willing to help you; they aren’t loud or rowdy, they do not litter or act out in public. Aarhus is an incredibly beautiful, small city with friendly locals who can all speak English amazingly. I’m grateful for my time their and would highly recommend it to anyone!

Top tips for Copenhagen

Yasmine E
Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

 

Need a go-to guide to Copenhagen?

Yassi’s Top CPH tips:

  • Buy a good quality bike
  • Learn the basic phrases
  • Go out and enjoy everything Copenhagen has to offer, trust me there is loads
  • Grocery shop at Lidl and Netto before Fotex
  • When it’s sunny have a day on the Go Boats
  • Eat at Paper Island, Moller and Grod
  • Spend time cycling around the cool little areas like Ostebro, Norrebro and Frederiksberg

  • Use a travel card such as the QANTAS card, it’s the cheapest way to spend money, Copenhagen uses card for everything, very few places will take cash only but many are card only. I would also recommend having multiple cards in different places in cases one is lost or stolen. No need to open a Danish bank account it will be more of a struggle and it’s super easy to just use your Australian bank card it will just charge you a few cents every time you make a purchase.
  • When you arrive in Copenhagen go to Central Station and talk to the people there about what is your best option for a transport card. I personally had 2, one monthly pass that required a passport photo and it would be a once a month payment for unlimited rides on all transport in Zone 1 and 2 but I also had a Rejsekort card which is kind of like a Go Card which I would use if I was going into Zone 3 and 4. Always make sure you pay for transport because the fines are huge!
  • Get a really great everyday backpack
  • Get comfy fashionable sneakers

  • If you are going to make any big purchases make sure they are done within 3 months of leaving Europe to get your tax back at the airport
  • Go for lunch in Sweden… literally it’s like 50 minutes away!
  • Visit other cities in Denmark like Aarhus it’s a really cool town
  • The Danes are not rude just private, don’t be offended if they seem like they are keeping to themselves but if you do need anything they are really lovely.
  • Make your room feel homely, take a trip to IKEA and get little things that will make you feel more at home.
  • PORTABLE CHARGERS!!!! They will save your life! Because it gets so cold your phone will freeze and just shut down so always have a charger with you.

If you would like to know more or have any questions at all no matter how long or small feel free to add me on Facebook and ask away! You are going to have the time of your life, trust me!

Sometimes, you’ve gotta go with the flow on exchange

Yasmine E
Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

 

“You will love Copenhagen”
“Copenhagen is such a great city”
“Everyone in Copenhagen is so good looking”
“You will bike ride everywhere”

These are just a few of the lines I heard over and over again when I told people I was going to Copenhagen on exchange. Of course, this made me overwhelmingly excited! I mean who wouldn’t be right? But there was still this voice in my head saying “how could everyone love one place?” “Can everyone be that good looking” “I never ride a bike at home, I can’t see myself doing it every day there” Boy was I so wrong, so very wrong.

Yeah, so I did end up riding a bike… a lot.

But it wasn’t all roses at the start. Let’s go back to the beginning. I arrive into Copenhagen from travelling around Scotland and England for close to two weeks. I touch down and am instantly blown away by the amount of ridiculously good looking people, I mean everyone everywhere is drop dead gorgeous.

So I continue on in my sheer awe grab my luggage… which I am still feeling smug about getting an extra 7 kgs on for free (winning already) and catch up with my buddy that my uni Copenhagen Business School (CBS) had organised we get chatting and make our way to the Metro, this is by far the most efficient Metro system I have ever seen, there are only 2 lines and they run every 2.5 minutes. So there is no waiting and very little crowding.

We arrive at our stop and walk to the bus located in Copenhagen’s main district Norreport. It is at this point I feel an overload of new information, it is freezing cold, I am looking out for not only cars but pedestrians and now bikes too.

We cross the road and make our way to the bus, which unlike the metro is very busy and only arrives every 15 minutes. We shuffle on with try to find a decent place for all of my luggage without annoying any other commuters. I am in awe of all the buildings. The bus comes to a screeching halt and naturally I fall over all of my luggage, I am shuffling around trying to pick myself up while repeating profusely “undskyld” (pardon me) it is at this point I pull my handbag back to the front of my body and find my zipper open and my wallet was gone… sneaky bugger got me!

Instantly I was devastated and did all the right things like cancelling my cards and going to the police station to report the incident (which was not on the top of my ‘to visit’ list). It took me a few days to settle into Copenhagen after this but once the welcome week festivities began it was like nothing had gone wrong.

Even though it was a rough start, and sometimes things do go wrong, you are going to have the time of your life, trust me!

If you would like to know more or have any questions at all no matter how long or small feel free to add me on Facebook and ask away!

 

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.

Calgary – things to do and know

5 weeDowntown Calgaryks into my exchange at the University of Calgary and I have some updates for you back home.

My last post had lots of information about the university and O Week at U of C. This time I would like to focus more so on Calgary and Alberta. Calgary is the perfect city in size, people and activity. Calgary has about 1.1 million people meaning that it has a lot of great services but isn’t too big.

 

 

 

Firstly – transportation

Calgary has two train lines, the Red and the Blue. While staying at U of C you will likely only use the Red line which travels NE to SW. Although the train isn’t all that quick around Calgary, it is convenient and takes to right into the heart of the downtown area. There is a stop at the university (although it is on the other side of the campus), and stops to all major areas including sporting grounds.

Calgary’s buses are decent. I find them comparable to ones in Brisbane, not super fast, but not horrible either. There are a number of routes traveling from the university to close shopping malls or districts, however, unless going somewhere nearby, the trains are generally easier. The best part of public transit here is that you pay $130 at the beginning of the semester to get a UPass sticker for you university ID, which you then show the drivers, and you don’t have any more to pay.

Taxis are not as expensive here as back home (but you will hear Canadians complain about them). You will be expected to tip though, so keep that in mind and maxis aren’t really a thing. There is sadly no Uber 🙁

 

View from Ha Ling Peak, Canmore

Secondly – activities

There is an abundance of fun activities to do in Calgary and the surrounds. Small concerts are held on the university grounds every so often as well as around the city reasonable frequently. Keep your eyes peeled for posters around campus or the city. If not in Calgary, then artists usually perform in Banff which is a rather short bus trip away.

There are incredible hikes or walks close to the city. I recently hiked Ha Ling Peak in Canmore (about 1 hour drive), which was difficult (partly due to my fitness level, but also due to the thinner air) but definitely worth it for the view. It gets quite cold up the top so bring layers!

 

Radium Hot Springs, BC

Radium Hot Springs, BC

10 friends and I also took a road trip to Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia (BC). The trip was about 3.5 hours (if the van hadn’t broken down) and absolutely worth every penny! As we drove to Radium, every corner brought new mountains and magnificent views, while the town itself was full of awesome walks and, of course, hot springs!

If you are looking for something closer to Calgary I would recommend ice skating or catching a game of Canadian football or ice hockey. You can ice skate on campus at the Olympic Oval for $5 skate and helmet hire. Entry is free. All U of C Dinos games are free and the football games walking distance from campus (the hockey is just a train ride away).

At a Hitmen game

^^This is Josh^^

Calgary Stampeders (football) games are walking distance (McMahon Stadium) and you can get tickets in the nosebleeds for $25 (if you buy a few days early). The Calgary Flames (ice hockey) games are held at the Scotiabank Saddledome a bit more expensive and worse seats but look for deals on StubHub or for student games.

 

Otherwise the Calgary Hitmen, a team in the WHL (so under 23 ice hockey) also play at the Saddledome and tickets will likely be cheaper.  Or if you’re like me, become friends with someone who gets free tickets (thanks Josh)!

 

 

Of course I should mention all of the bars and clubs around the city. Everyone has different tastes so I will let you figure that out for yourself. I will say that The Den (on campus) turns into a conveniently located club on Thursdays, and that Commonwealth is also popular. As far as bars go – Ranchman’s on Saturdays (country), Kilkenny’s (at Brentwood – about 10 minutes on the bus and great for sports) and The Ship & Anchor (17th Ave SW – great for food) are all a bit of fun. It’s a good idea to carry cash out, as some places only take cash at the bar. Ladies also get in cover-free on Wednesdays at Cowboys because it is ladies night. Remember to tip!

Stephen Ave Walk

Stephen Ave Walk

And of course, more known things like the Calgary Tower, Stephen Ave Walk and the path along the river are also great for a free day.

 

 

Finally – weather

Be warned that the weather can change quickly. One day it will be cool, but sunny and the next day will be snowy. Dress in layers!

 

That’s it for now but as usual, if you have specific questions, email me at emma.blatz@ucalgary.ca.