Dormitory Life in Japan

久しぶり(hisashiburi). Or in English, it’s been a while.
Semester one is long over and somehow, today Semester 2 officially begins of my study abroad here in Tokyo, Japan. It is hard to believe that I’m at the half-way point in my exchange, it feels like so much has happened yet I clearly remember the first day I moved into my dorm. There is so much to share, dorm life, studies in Japan, travel! With this I’ll divide my experiences into two, first Part 1 – dormitory life and being away from home.

To be honest with you, during my first semester of my exchange I felt no homesickness, this doesn’t mean I didn’t miss my family, but I was so absorbed with everyday life that nothing could overcome the excitement. However, after a brief visit back home to Australia in the Summer Holidays, I feel myself experiencing this very much delayed homesickness. Frequent calls with family help a lot and falling back into my routine assist in occupying my thoughts.

My everyday routine has become so normal at this point that returning from Australia back to my dorm for this semester, I remember thinking at the airport, wow I’m home! At this point, my cosy little room in my dormitory has really become a second home to me. Catching the trains back I couldn’t wait to get off at my little train station in Saitama and walk to my dorm. Keep in mind that my room has become so homey that I don’t know how I’m going to manage bringing all my goodies purchased back to Australia!

On a different note, an aspect of this exchange that I was not expecting was the goodbyes I had to say during my stay here. Whether I was a 6 month or full year exchange student. The goodbyes were always inevitable. At my dormitory called “Rikkyo Global House”, living with over 60 other students, I found myself making many friends. I made friendships in the last 5-6 months which I can proudly say will last me a lifetime. In my dormitory in particular, all my facilities are shared, with my only private space being my room with my bed, study desk, shelves and a sink to wash up. Due to this, every step in my daily routine is filled with interactions with the people in my dorm. Living on the 5th floor I have to go down to the first floor to cook my meals, have my showers and do my laundry. A simple day at home is filled with many human interactions, which at first was very intimidating, but soon became the reason for us becoming one big family. Spending my every moment of the day, including studying, with friends became natural and comfortable to the point that being alone felt odd.

The hard part of this was that most of these friends I made, chose to make the duration of their exchange as one semester rather than the two semesters, which I had chosen to take. This resulted in us having to part our ways. To be honest, I struggled at first with being left behind in the dorm as all the members of my newly made family left. But as I looked back on our time together and my reasons for coming on this exchange, I quickly picked myself up and am continuing with my determination to continue improving my Japanese studies and making the most of this exchange. Now I have made connections all over the world and whether I want to visit Switzerland, America, England, Indonesia and many more countries, I have a place to stay and arms that I know will be open to take me in on my travels. Not only this, but with a majority of us exchange students at Rikkyo being business students, this contributes to my worldwide networking which I believe will be of assistance to me in my International Business major. My eyes have been opened to all our cultural and language differences, and with this I feel like I have improved as a person.

With one semester left, I can already genuinely say I would never trade this experience and the things I have gained from this exchange for anything in the world.

A Life of Leisure in Vienna

Naomi M, Bachelor of Nutrition Science
Vienna, Semester 1 (2017)

Sleeping in late, lazy weekends, enjoying a melange (Viennese coffee) and apple strudel in Freud’s favourite coffee house, picnics in the park, sunset drinks by the Donaukanal, summer walks through the vineyards, schnitzel, potato salad and a midnight käsekrainer (Viennese sausage with melted cheese in the middle).

These are all what it means to live in Vienna (Wien). No one else lives leisure like the Viennese. Every step outside surrounds you with century old architecture that makes you feel like the royal family will appear at any moment. The city is obsessed with green too. Every corner has a park and there’s no greater place to sit down and read your favourite book or people watch. No one is afraid to express themselves in public. From fashion to loud conversations; There is never a dull moment.

The atmosphere is welcoming and exciting for students in Vienna. There are always events designed to bring everyone together, so making friends was never hard. Although the class structure was different, it was easy enough to find your way through the many campuses spread across the city, thanks to the great public transport. The main campus felt like an Austrian medieval Hogwarts, which is not surprising as it is the oldest German speaking university in the world. Most students lived in private dorms but I shared a room. My roommate could not speak English, so we communicated mostly with embarrassed laughs, hand gestures and Google Translate.

Everywhere you go in Vienna is beautiful. I had the most fun exploring the city with my friends, always an ice cream in hand. One of my favourite past times was catching the tram out of the city to the vineyards and exploring the lusciously green forests that overlooked the city. Other days we would all venture to Prater, a theme park right next to the city, where we would ride old rollercoasters and eat fairy floss on the stick until the sun went down and the park lights lit up and welcomed the night to come. Vienna is located centrally in Europe, so weekend trips to Budapest, Prague, Germany, Poland, Slovenia and Serbia were common for my friends and I. Vienna felt so safe and welcoming; it was always so comforting to arrive back from travel to the beautiful city I had made my home.

 

 

Forever Hungry in Hong Kong

Quote

“You may never go hungry in Hong Kong; however, you will feel the perpetual desire to eat being surrounded by delicious food” 

As a cultural hotpot, Hong Kong boasts a vast array of cuisines and delicacies unlike anything I have previously seen. If you decide to undertake your academic exchange in Hong Kong, you can expect the whole Asian continent on the menu. Restaurants are scattered all around Hong Kong – even in places where you wouldn’t expect a restaurant. Precariously sandwiched between soaring high-rises and glitzy, boutique clothing stores, it seems as though every third shop on Hong Kong island is a restaurant.

During my time in Hong Kong, there were some definite standout dishes. This included Poke, Dim2 Sam1, soup-dumplings, open-air eating and Portuguese egg-tarts.

Poke is a dish which originates from Hawaii and consists of seasoned shashimi grade fish. Customers at Pololi, one of the poke shops in Hong Kong and my favourite Poke shop so far, can choose to pair the fish with rice or salad and top the dish off with a variety of sauces. The result is a creamy, fresh and very filling meal.

A very filling bowl. You can find Pololi here: 35 – 39 Graham Street Central

Dim2 Sam1 has a very long history, dating back to the height of the Silk Route trade. Literally meaning “to touch the heart”, small dishes in Dim2 Sam1 allows diners to enjoy a variety of dishes and flavours. In Hong Kong, you will be spoilt for choice with the innumerable Dim2 Sam1 houses.

For me, Lin Heung tea house was a standout. Established in the 1980’s, Lin Heung is widely known for its traditional style and delicious food. At Lin Heung you are not given a menu sheet. Rather, you must chase after the ladies pushing the carts containing the dishes.

Don’t look for love, look for the cart with the delicious food.
Lin Heung – 162 Wellington St, Sheung Wan

Wrapped within a delicate casing, soup dumplings are a perfect blend of meat and delicate soup. Every bite is almost a complete meal by itself. There are several places where you can find soup-dumplings, you can find a full list here.

The perfect bite everytime. Soup dumplings.

Dai pai dongs are open air food stalls that usually set-up tables and chairs on the street. I’ve often heard that dai pai dongs are becoming increasingly rare due to governmental regulations.

If you are looking for a cheap, no-frills meal, then look no further than the humble dai pai dong. The dai pai dong featured below was located at the corner of Stanley St and Cochrane St in Central Hong Kong. However, there are many more located throughout Hong Kong, you can find a full list here.

In stark contrast to the high-end fashion, the space-aged cars and the suits, dai pai dongs offer a down-to-earth perspective to Hong Kong.

A sweet buicuity base, creamy custard filling and a sticky sugary glaze, each egg tart is a littble bit of happiness. Although this picture was taken in Macau, there are an abundance of places in Hong Kong where you can get your hands on one of these cups of joy.

Baked Happiness.
Portugese egg tarts.

 Tips before eating: 

Money matters: You would not want to be caught having finished a meal and not being able to pay for it, so make sure to always bring sufficient cash with you at all times. Many food stores in Hong Kong only take cash. 

Hygiene: If you choose to eat at a street stall in Hong Kong, a good rule of thumb to follow is to follow the crowd. A crowded stall is usually a good sign as it shows that food will be in constant circulation.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to wash your eating utensils. Restaurants will usually provide you will a large bowl big enough to fit all utensils inside and hot tea. Simply place the utensils in the bowl and wash it with the tea. Please don’t drink the tea afterwards. If you are unable to do so, cleaning your utensils with clean bottled water will also do.

Christjan C.

Bachelor of Justice / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan.

Oh Candaaaa!

Rosanna, E. Bachelor of Business and Creative Industries

Ryerson University (Semester 1, 2017)

I experienced my exchange in Toronto, Canada and endured the frigid winter that it put on display. This was the first challenge I faced; the lead up to my exchange was so swift and overwhelmingly busy at times, that I had forgotten to prepare myself for -20 degree days, not including wind chill. I quickly discovered that I am a Queenslander at heart, I became a sun-worshiper and tested my room-mate’s patience with me as I constantly pointed out how cold it was and refused to go outside if it wasn’t a necessity.

Me playing in snow for the first time

I resided in a co-op building which was recommended to all the exchange students who were attending Ryerson University. This was great as it meant practically everyone who was involved in the program also lived, ate and drank together daily. My room-mates quickly became my closest friends which I cherished when battling my homesickness. This was another thing that shocked me and something I really didn’t think I would experience! I hopelessly missed the clear blue skies of Brisbane and the constant stream of vitamin D from the sun; it’s safe to say that I truly experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)! EVERYTHING changed for me though on my mid-semester break, where my French room-mate and I took a spontaneous trip to Mexico. The trip healed my longing for sun while simultaneously changing my perspective on my not-yet enjoyed experience. People who go on exchange do-so for a reason; whether that may be to experience new things, for personal growth, to travel while studying or to drink your way through classes and scrape by with a satisfactory grade. For me, acknowledging that I was homesick and deciding to accept that and embrace the opportunity that I had worked so hard to give myself was the best decision I made.

The Toronto sky line from Toronto Island

I began to embrace the snow and the ice glazed streets and the fact that I could never feel my hands or feet. More importantly though, I embraced the people I was meeting and opened to the idea that my friends back home didn’t have to be my only friends. My greatest joy that the exchange program brought me were the friendships I found. People on exchange generally have this mentality and openness to life that I loved. Everyone is there with the assumption socialising is a priority, thus people had a zest for life and new experiences. It was refreshing and an opportunity to break away from the predispositions I felt held me back in Brisbane and an opportunity for me to become more confident in myself. Exchange gave me the time away from home that gave me the opportunity to be truly isolated from the friends and family that have surrounded me my whole life. I could experience who I was and what I wanted without those external influences and it felt quite liberating!

The Washington sister Women’s March in Toronto

I now have a new fondness and appreciation for home and the people there while also having a lust and excitement for travelling to unfamiliar places. The exchange program created a catalyst for me to be confident in myself and my passions and has enabled me to have a zestiness for life to carry out and achieve big blinding goals that I would never have thought I could achieve before leaving home! I’m very grateful that I took advantage of the opportunity and have signed up for a study tour in Peru at the end of this year to further my personal growth!

Taco Bell, Country Music and Southern Accents

Dylan, S. Bachelor of Science

University of Wyoming (Semester 1, 2017)

Going on exchange at the University of Wyoming in the USA was far and away the best thing I have ever done in my life. The people I met on exchange will be friends for life and the experience and sights I saw and shared with them I will never forget! From the minute I jumped off the plane over I was a mix of nerves, fear, excitement and Taco Bell and I can honestly say that If you’re not scared it’s not something worth doing.

Wyoming is the state in the US with the smallest population and it is smack bang in the middle of nowhere but it honestly has so much to offer. The national parks are beautiful & there is world class skiing so close as well. If you love hiking and anything outdoors UW has the most insane outdoor program with trips every few weeks and it is so easy to make friends with people who are constantly getting out and doing exciting things.

UW itself is a pretty small school with the best sense of community. It’s in a town called Laramie which has some really cool little food spots and a lot of places that sell camo. Recommendation, I would have try and listen to a little country music before you leave Australia, because you will listen to it a lot and eventually begin to love songs about your tractor and southern girls.

Some of the people in Wyoming can have pretty different values and political beliefs from home and at first that could be hard to swallow for a lot of people but if you have an open mind you will grow to love them.

The best advice I can give you is to get out of your comfort zone and try as many new experiences and meet as many new people as possible. Some of the other highlights of my trip apart from at UW included traveling to New York, New Orleans, road-tripping the west coast and going to Mexico for spring break.

I tried to have a ‘true’ American college experience and lived off campus in a house with people I had never met. This lead to the majority of my friends being Americans and not being other international students. While this may be scary, I went over there wanting an authentic experience and I truly am thankful for getting that. Everyone I met was so open and fun that I wouldn’t change it for the world. If you wanted the more standard exchange experience though UW still has a great international program and they will look after you so well!

I would 100% recommend going to the university of Wyoming and to America on exchange. It is such a great country and you will have memories you will never forget, it was by far the best thing I have done in my life and I want to go back every day!

Going global with QUT was amazing and even though it’s a long application process it is so worth it and the study abroad team is so helpful.

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.

 

Beautiful Italy – Milan Exchange

Catlin, B. Bachelor of Design (Fashion)

Politecnico di Milano (Italy) (Semester 1, 2017)

I completed my exchange semester in Milan at Politecnico di Milano, Bovisa Campus.  Politecnico have two campuses in Milan – Bovisa and Leonardo. In comparison to QUT Politecnico is very, very different.

Avoiding pigeons at Duomo di Milano

The Bovisa campus is considerably smaller with most classes being in one block only, where they have all the design labs; including but not limited to fashion, knitting, prototype, photography, etc.  I found the facilities were quite limited compared to QUT in most aspects, but they also had facilities that QUT does not have – such as a knitting lab.

 

The classes and how they are run is also extremely different to QUT, being very heavily centred around group work.  This may be due to the limited facilities and surplus of students, however I did not like the dynamic of the classes at all. That being said I also completed some masters subjects which were taught in English and they adopted a much more individual centred approach to the assignments. They are also very strict on attendance, it can sometimes be worth up to 30% of your final grade, which I find unnecessary and not conducive to productivity with some classes being up to 9 hours in length.  The general level of academics that was being taught I didn’t find challenged me at all, and was at a much lower standard to that of QUT.  In general I didn’t learn anything really from the actual classes and found them to be extremely easy – another reason I found the attendance rule so frustrating.

Sunrise from our apartment in Montalbino

Accomodation wise, I personally stayed in an AirBnB with another girl from my class at QUT; we originally weren’t going to stay for the whole trip, however, we were finding it very difficult being so far away and being able to find reliable and affordable accomodation so we decided to just book our apartment through AirBnB for the entirety of our semester.

 

This worked well for us but after meeting other exchange students from around Europe we realised we probably could’ve gotten a much better place through sites that they used such as Uniplaces, Easystanza or Erasmus. On the flip side of that, I have also heard that the Politecnico dorms are quite nice as well and they’re a great way to make friends and meet new people, just make sure you apply for them in advance as they do fill up!

Milan in general to live is again very different to Australia.

Lunch break at Polimi 1-2pm

The cost of living was mostly a bit cheaper; groceries, transport, etc were all cheaper (even considering the terrible exchange rate at the time which was 0.66c to our dollar) but rent in Milan can sometimes be quite pricey.  Milan has a great underground Metro system as well as many busses and trams to get you around.  The university will give you information about an ATM (Milan’s equivalent of Translink) travel card, which is like a go card however there is a reduced fee for students which is paid monthly and gets you unlimited travel with all of Milan’s transport systems.

 

The culture is also very different and I found the biggest culture shock for me was getting used to how Italians work – mostly very disorganised.

I also found that there seemed to be (especially at the university) a quite prominent language barrier – not because they couldn’t speak or understand english (because the vast majority of people all across Europe know English to some degree), but because there seemed to be a prejudice towards the exchange students as they did not speak fluent Italian.

Picnic with other exchange students in Parco Sempione

I knew some Italian going over, as did my friend, however a lot of the time we were treated like we didn’t know anything simply because we didn’t speak their language. It was quite a frustrating experience in that sense.

 

The main highlights from my exchange was obviously the ability I had to easily travel around Europe, but also the friends I made from all over the world. At first I was afraid I wouldn’t make any friends, but honestly they were what made it so worthwhile. Looking back there were a LOT of ups and downs but I’m happy that I did it because whilst the university wasn’t what I expected – I gained invaluable life skills, confidence, independence and a new perspective of the world.

My main tips (also known as – the things I wish someone had told me before I went) are these:

  • Italians are some of the most disorganised and frustrating people to deal with – the sooner you know that the better
  • Don’t expect everyone to be as openly friendly as Australians – a lot of the time people aren’t being rude they’re just not used to our vivaciousness

    Navigli canal

  • Don’t choose where you live based on the campus, chose a nice area as you will probably be spending more time at home than you think – places like Isola, Citta Studi, Porta Venezia or around Navigli, Cadorna or most places closer to the centre are pretty safe bets.
  • Speaking of Navilgli – make sure you pop by on the last Sunday of the month, there is an awesome flea market that runs down the whole canal
  • People are generally pretty nice in regards to the language barrier, but please try and give Italian a go – people appreciate the effort and the basics aren’t that hard.
  • Get an Italian SIM as soon as you can – google maps is your saviour
  • Coffee – order espresso, macchiato or cappuccino.  Their cappuccino is basically a latte and if you ask for “latte” you will get milk.
  • Most importantly:
  • Don’t pay more than three euro for a two scoop gelato!

Good luck!

Highlands, Bagpipes and Everything Scottish

Lateisha, A. Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology)/Bachelor of Justice

University of Glasgow (Semester 2, 2016)

Being able to go abroad and study for a semester in Glasgow, Scotland, has given me the opportunity to learn much more about myself and the world than I thought possible. I would (and plan to) do it all again as it was one of the best experiences and recommend it to everyone that gets the chance. Though being honest it wasn’t all smooth sailing, there were some hiccups along the way, but that was all part of the experience!

My first day on campus

The first problem I encountered was that I missed the registration for events during O-week and fresher week meaning I couldn’t go. This made meeting people and making friends a little tricky as these events were where the majority of people met each other and made friends. The next issue I had was with

November Snow!

my units which was stressful. The units I had initially planned were cancelled and not run during the semester I was there so I had to find new ones last minute. Through the help of the staff at both QUT and UofG I was able to quickly find alternative units. The final challenge I experienced was the weather. The weather in Glasgow is very, very different from Brisbane. It was cold dark and damp for the majority of the time I was there, so after growing up on the Sunshine Coast and coming from Brisbane it took some time before I adjusted and accepted that seeing the sun only happened on rare occasions. Though it did snow one night in November which I was very lucky to witness as it was quite early for snow!

 

I lived in university accommodation, which was dorm style living. I had four other roommates, we each had our own rooms with communal living spaces. The hall was about a 15 minute walk away from campus through Kelvin Grove Park, and around a half hour walk from the city centre. The lectures I had were quite similar in style to those at QUT, however the tutorials and lectorials were generally smaller in size and felt more like large discussions, which I found interesting as that isn’t really something I’ve come across at QUT. The campus itself was absolutely stunning! The architecture of the buildings was amazing, it looked like something plucked straight from the past or out of a movie. I thought parts of the campus looked like something from Harry Potter which to be honest was part of the reason why I chose Glasgow!

Going on exchange allowed me to be 100% independent, which is something I haven’t experienced fully. It was a little daunting to begin with in the sense that I didn’t really have a family member or a friend who I could rely on, it was all up to me. After a while though I got used to it and really enjoyed having to be independent. Exchange in Glasgow also allowed me to travel around Europe and the UK, which is something I’d been wanting to do for a long time. I travelled Europe before my semester began with a tour company, and then towards the end of and after the semester I travelled by myself around the UK, which is something I would never of had the confidence to do without exchange. (I would add some snapshots but I couldn’t choose only a few).

Exchange has enabled me to find myself as a person in a time when I really needed to, as cliché as it sounds. My self-confidence has grown, I’m able to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself, I was able to immerse myself in a culture similar yet also quite different to my own and I made some really good friends.

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.