Scottish Exchange

Emily, W. Bachelor of Business and Law

Strathclyde University, Glasgow, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2017)

In Semester 1, 2017 I had the opportunity to study in Glasgow, Scotland for 5 months. Departing sunny Brisbane I landed in the UK to rain, wind and eventually non-stop snow until April. Glasgow is the largest and most vibrant city in Scotland, with approximately 2 million of the friendliest Glaswegians populating arguably the best part of Scotland. I was lucky to be in the busiest and most bustling part of the country, while still in such close proximity to the beautiful highlands that would put our tourism ads to shame!

My time in Glasgow was highlighted by the many friendly faces that were proud to welcome the new kids to their city, the endless pints at the local pubs and the fascination with men in kilts! Walking around the city centre, you were bound to see some funny and interesting sights, something I soon took in my stride and can laugh about now. I am grateful for all the opportunities we had to travel wherever we wanted, with just a quick plane trip taking us to the furthest corners of Europe, or a scenic train ride to explore the expanse of the UK.

While not forgetting the purpose of my trip, studying at the University of Strathclyde with a great mix of local and international students while also consulting with some fast-growing local companies gave me opportunities and experiences that I would never replicate anywhere but Glasgow!

As the Glaswegian’s like to say, the people make Glasgow!!

Matthew, P. Bachelor of Business and Law

Vienna University of Economics and Business (Semester 1, 2017)

Host University

Life at my host university  – WU (Wirtschaftuniversitat Wien) – was great. The campus was located really close to the city centre and transport was so easy. Built in 2013, WU is extremely contemporary and offered many different learning spaces. The library is particularly noteworthy as it was designed by Zaha Hadid, who was arguably the most famous female architect in the world.

In terms of accommodation, there exists no on-campus accommodation but instead, through OeAD there are a number of student residences throughout Vienna. I stayed in Kandlgasse in the 7th District and loved it. It’s about 25 minutes on a tram and a train to uni but is in a really cool part of Vienna, full of nice places to eat and drink; I’d highly recommend this place if you want to go through OeAD. University was structured differently in that there were no 4 set classes and class times for the duration of the semester. Instead, there are a number of ways you can set up your study, for example by doing 2 classes that run for 2 weeks (block classes) and another 3 for a few months. In this sense, it is much more confusing and I prefer the Australian method of organisation. (Don’t let this deter you, it just takes a bit of getting used to).

Host Country

Austria is a fantastic place to live due to its depth and breadth of natural beauty – from huge ski fields and glacial skiing available in winter to warm summer hikes. It is in Central Europe, making travel really easy e.g. a 10 Euro bus to Berlin. Austria is a part of the Germanic region and has a rich imperial history, particularly during the 19th century, where its famous coffeehouses were frequented by characters such as Trotsky, Freud, Hitler and Lenin.

Highlights of Exchange

Being able to travel extensively throughout the entirety of my semester was definitely a highlight. Getting to ski twice, visit Amsterdam and hang out in Nice for a week are all very real possibilities when travel is made so easy.

Unexpected Things

I didn’t anticipate enjoying just hanging around in Vienna as much as I ended up. Forcing yourself to learn a bit of the language will help you (literally) understand the people you interact with and can increase your familiarity with the city. I consider Vienna a second home and would not be against moving back there in the future.

Tips and advice for future students

Just go on exchange with an open mind, don’t be nervous because everyone is in the same position as you and friends are almost too easy to come by. Try and assimilate a little bit and you’ll be surprised by just how comfortable you can feel half way around the world.

 

My Exchange Experience In France

Rosemary, K. Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Journalism

Catholic University of Lille (Semester 2, 2016)

Enjoying a cheese picnic during Lille’s fleeting summer

Lille is a great exchange city. It is small enough that I could walk everywhere. The university is about a twenty-minute walk to the main train station and beautiful old town or there is a very reasonable and user-friendly bus. The university is close to a string of student bars that are so well attended on Thursday evenings that the police close the surrounding streets down. There are also antique markets, the famous La Braderie, streets of gourmet food shops and wonderful fresh food markets in nearby Wazemme. Lille has its own soccer team in the national league, which is fun to spectate, and there is a beautiful opera building that sells cheap tickets to students. There are shopping malls and networks of beautiful little cobbled streets lined with lovely little stores. Being on the border with Belgium means that Lille can offer the best of both countries. Belgium chocolate mixed with French pastries, Belgium fries and French cheese as well as beautiful French wines and famous Belgium beers meant I never came close to hungry.

I studied in the second semester from late August to mid-December. I was concerned about the cold but soon came to love the winter and the lead up to Christmas. Lille (and all of Europe) comes alive at Christmas with markets in the square, mulled wine and a huge Ferris wheel. I had to buy a new wardrobe and my first winter coat but that was a fun novelty in itself.

Lille is well located for travel with Europe’s excellent bus and train network. Cities such as London, Brussels and Paris are each less than two hours away. Amsterdam and Cologne in Germany are easy day trips as are beautiful Ghent, Brugge and Antwerp. Flying out of the Brussels Charleroi airport is very cheap and easy with a Flixbus connecting the airport to the Lille Flanders train station. There is also the Brussels International Airport an hour and a half away on the train. I had the opportunity to take many trips including Edinburgh, Italy, Norway, Ireland and Germany. People in the north of France have a similar reputation to the Australians living in Tasmania but they are open hearted and friendly people who are always willing to help with whatever English they know. They are proud of their country and happy to share it with foreigners, often going out of their way to find someone to translate my questions. Living in a country where you don’t speak the language well can be difficult and it is important to be easy going because things get lost in translation and getting an extra drink or meal or something slightly different to what you ordered can happen so I learnt not to be fussy.

Enjoying a day of playing inflatable games organised by the AEU

Lille is a very affordable city when you are living on an Australian wage. Groceries, rent, meals, movies and clothes were all cheaper than Australia. In fact the only expensive service was trains. I had many concerns about budgeting during my time overseas but the cost of living was so cheap and I kept an eye on my finances so I had no issues. My only qualm with Lille was the lack of decent coffee but my Melbourne friends and I discovered Coffee Makers on Paris Street early in the semester. They have the best beans in Lille and often sell delicious winter salads, curries and homemade tarts alongside their decadent Malteaser coffees.

University in France is a very different experience to university in Australia. Firstly, everybody lives on campus or near campus and nobody lives at home with their parents. I prearranged my accommodation with an organisation run by the university called the AEU. I was placed in a tiny little residence called La Maison de l’étudiant that only had seven rooms and was across the road from the university. The residence was a large apartment on the third floor of a converted French chalet complete with stained glass windows, marble floors and ornate plaster ceilings. All bills, Internet, cleaning and breakfast was included in my very reasonable rent. We also got fresh croissants delivered every week. All my housemates were French and Mauritian students studying their whole degrees in France. They were extremely friendly and welcoming, excited to practice their (very good) English and well and truly made me feel at home, caring for me when I was sick, taking me to the doctors and translating anything I needed. Living in an AEU residence also meant I could participate in their organised sports, attend French zumba, join their gym for 10 euro a month, eat at the outrageously cheap cafeteria (three euro for three courses!) and attend their welcome and Christmas parties. I also had the very unfortunate experience of being robbed and the AEU were able to help me call the police, translate a statement and find a new place to live, all of which would have been extremely difficult on my own.

University is very different to university in Australia but if you embrace change and respect the differences you will learn a lot. For starters, twelve subjects is a normal load. There are subjects offered in many different languages and structures: some are taught in blocks, some are taught weekly and some are taught every couple of weeks. Nothing is recorded and it is necessary to attend all classes, it would be naïve to think you could pass without doing so. Getting together a timetable can be a bit hectic, especially if you study across two faculties but that may be necessary in order to cobble together enough English subjects to satisfy the 30 ECTS requirement. The faculties within the university may as well be totally different: they are manned by different staff, have different rules and sometimes slightly different grading systems. I studied within the ESPOL and FLSH faculties, favouring the latter as ESPOL only started in 2012. I studied a broad range of subjects from sociology in the media to medieval history, European politics, French language and literature and thoroughly enjoyed them all. I think there is a tendency for people to not worry about their subjects and focus on their ‘exchange experience’ but I would advise choosing subjects you like because you will spend a lot of time studying. The university is well respected and France and the curriculum is heavy on rote learning and memorisation (hence why you need to attend class and take good notes) and involves less analytical processes than at QUT. It is a different type of learning, but it is still learning and I felt like I got a lot out of my time in Lille.

Exchange students at a Lille soccer game

The university has a well-established program for international students. They have dedicated staff members and orientation events, buddy programs and parties designed solely for international students. This enabled me to meet so many people from around the world. I made friends with people from Germany, Lithuania, Afghanistan, America, Ireland, Japan, France, Mauritius and even Australia to count a few. Lille is a beautiful little city but it is truly the people I met that made my experience. Sometimes living in a foreign country can be exasperating but having people to share in that exasperation makes it feel a whole lot less stressful.

Overall I had an amazing time on Exchange. I met lifelong friends from all around the world and I am very lucky to have had such an experience. Exchange is the easiest way to live in another country, as there are so many people and services set up to help you. If you are considering taking the leap I cannot encourage you more, it is an amazing opportunity.

Vienna Exchange

Leah, D. Bachelor of Business & Law

Vienna University of Economics & Business (WU) (Semester 2, 2016)

WU and QUT differ in a number of ways – it’s not a good or bad thing, it’s just different. As WU only recently moved to its current location, every building is modern, inside and out. The highlight is undoubtedly the library: a place where students study in silence – which I will admit, is a little weird after the vibrancy of QUT’s law library. The academics are passionate about what they do, and something that WU does which is really good for class engagement is allocating a lot of marks for active class participation (on average, about 25%) – it creates a much more collaborative learning environment. Something they do which is also quite frustrating is because of this, most classes are quite small: there is only one time for a class, not 4 or 5 as there are at QUT, so if you miss class registration, it can be very difficult to find subjects and create a timetable that doesn’t clash. 

Another thing to be aware of is that the timetables are rarely consistent: whereas you might have Marketing from 10-12 every Wednesday in Z411 at QUT, the classes at WU are at different times every week, in different rooms. A class might go for 2 hours, or it might go for up to 8 if you choose a ‘block course’ – similar to a summer semester here. This inconsistency is both a blessing and a curse as an exchange student – it means you’re not locked into a bad timetable, and are thus able to travel still, but it does mean you never know where or when your class is.

Austria:

The cost of living in Austria is a little less than that of Australia, even with the exchange rate.  You could get lunch from the on-campus grocery store for about €5 or less, ($7AUD); and you could get a decent hot meal for €7 ($10AUD) on-campus, or at local eateries. Although they pride themselves on their coffee, it’s surprisingly expensive compared to other things: a regular melange would cost about €3.50 (~$5). Thankfully, there’s vending machines around campus that have good coffee for 60 cents (80 cents AUD), or €1.20 ($1.7AUD) if you want a larger cup.  Rent through the recommended organisation is quite expensive, but it is the most common option. If you are more adventurous, and are looking to save a couple of hundred Euro a month, looking into alternative accommodation is a good idea.

Austria is very centrally located, and this enables you to travel extensively for relatively cheaply, thanks to budget airlines, cheap buses, and the rail network. Whilst I was on exchange, I managed to travel to 13 countries, including Slovakia, Iceland and Portugal, and over 40 cities. It’s important to not discount travelling within Austria too – I would say that one of my favourite trips was to Innsbruck, in Austria’s west. Culturally, I found Austrians can be a bit standoff-ish. It’s something you adjust to, but it was initially quite jarring to go to the grocery store and not have the cashier talk to you at all.  Austrians living in the suburbs tend not to speak much English. My German skills subsequently developed a lot more than I expected.

Highlights

One of my unfounded worries in moving to Vienna for exchange was that I would struggle to make friends. Not true. Within three days I met people who I was friends with for the rest of exchange, and I’m sure I will stay friends with into the future. ‘Exchange time’ is a weird concept: time is compressed, everything is sped up: where becoming close friends may normally much longer in normal circumstances, it only takes a couple of hours or a day to become very good friends with someone.  At the same time, your time away both lasts and eternity, and is over far too soon.

Another highlight of my trip was seeing huge seasonal changes: when I arrived in September it was about 30 degrees, and then the leaves changed to classic Autumn hues, and then they dropped off, and snow came in: in fact, it was Vienna’s coldest winter in about 30 years. Travelling was also a huge part of exchange, and it was incredible to see how different cultures and foods and languages were geographically so close to each other. Being able to explore such amazing places with new friends cemented our friendships further.

Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Vienna as an exchange destination: there’s so much to explore, and such a rich culture and history in the country, and nearby.

Why I chose China

Roisin: Zhejiang University, China: Semester 1, 2016

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The Great Wall of China

I have returned to Australia this past week after spending 6 months living in Asia. I spent one semester studying Mandarin at one of China’s most prestigious universities, Zhejiang University, and then spent a month working at the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills in Hong Kong. The opportunity to study, work and live in Asia for 6 months was a once in a lifetime experience.

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By the Bund in Shanghai during Australia in China Week

As a law student, I have watched with interest the rapid economic growth of China and the corresponding opportunities that this is creating in the legal market, both domestically and internationally, as well as the increasing expansion of international law firms into the Chinese legal market. This, combined with a longstanding ambition of mine to learn a second language, drove me to embark on an exchange to China to learn Mandarin and immerse myself in Chinese culture.

Click here for more QUT Exchange Information.