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.

True American Experience

Marshall, R. Bachelor of Business

University of South Carolina (Semester 2, 2016)

In the beginning, leaving the comforts of home in Brisbane for a new life in America was extremely daunting. When I applied to University of South Carolina, I didn’t know anyone from the school or anyone going on exchange with me. However, that changed very quickly upon arrival. Since the minute I unpacked my belongings, I began to meet lifelong friends.

I lived in Woodrow College with about 40 other international students as well as domestic freshman students. Woodrow had apartment style rooms which includes a kitchen, so I didn’t get a meal plan whilst undertaking my exchange. This turned out to be a very cost effective way to do my semester abroad as many weekends I was away travelling.

The first few days were filled with exploring the campus and all the facilities that it had on offer. This included over 30 restaurants, two gyms with pools, a rock climbing wall and five squash and basketball courts that are all available to students. After getting my bearings on campus, I began to explore the city of Columbia, where USC is located. Although Columbia is the capital city of South Carolina, it is quite a small city by American standards. This made it geographically manageable since it was walking distance to the restaurant district, the Vista.

In the first two weeks, the school organised many social events to get to know both my domestic and international peers. These events really helped make the transition into college life easier. I wanted to get more involved, so I joined an intramural American football team which was made up of other international students. It was quite a steep learning curve to understand the rules, but we made the grand finals of our pool and it was ultimately a great way to meet people.

Classes were substantially different from those at QUT which forced me to immediately adjust my learning style. The classes met twice a week for 75 minutes in classes of about 40 students and unlike QUT, attendance was mandatory for most classes. Final grades were graded on many smaller assignments along with participation and attendance, so it engaged students a lot more and increased participation.

College football is one of the most important past times to many Americans. Luckily for me, football season occurs in the fall semester, so I was able to experience a completely different environment than the sports we have back home in Australia. Tailgates are lined up for miles while everyone eats in and drinks before cheering on the Gamecocks at Williams Brice Stadium.

There were a lot of opportunities for traveling while I was here which allowed me to explore new cultures of a lot of amazing American cities on weekends and holidays. Throughout the semester I was able to visit Chicago, Athens, Charlotte and Charleston. With Thanksgiving break in November I was invited to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in Philadelphia which was on the highlights of my trip.

Overall, exchange was an unforgettable and life changing experience. While it may seem uncomfortable and scary at first, I urge students to challenge themselves and expand their horizons. The memories, friends, and experiences that exchange gave me are way more valuable than any reservation I had before coming to America. I would highly recommend exchange to every student, especially University of South Carolina. Go cocks.

Cultures of Singapore

Aakanksha, B. Bachelor of Information Technology/Bachelor of Mathematics

Nanyan Technological University (Singapore) (Semester 2, 2016)

In the heart of South-East Asia, Singapore has more to offer than its incredible airport. Spending five months at the Nanyang Technological University as an overseas exchange student, I have learnt an immense amount about Singapore and myself. Singapore has most definitely established itself as being one of the most advanced cities in Asia, if not the world. So much so, it is the preferred location for many leading companies to have their regional APAC headquarters.

If regional culture is what you want to experience, Singapore is where you should end your search. Singapore is home to four main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (which everyone else falls into and is roughly 3.3%). As a result, of these four very different groups, it seems like there is holiday or festival every few weeks. While on exchange, I experienced: Singapore National Day, Diwali and the Hungry Ghost Festival, with each festivity bringing its own traditions. Being originally from India, it was awesome seeing how big a celebration Diwali is outside India. Going to “Little India” on this day, I felt like I was back in any Indian city.

If you are a foodie, or if you just want food that is cheap and tastes good, you can’t go wrong in Singapore. From hawker centres to high end restaurants you will never go hungry. NTU campus had over 19 food courts each having various cuisines. In most cases you may only need to spend $10-$20 a day, even if you are on campus. Cost of living in Singapore can vary. In terms of food and transport, it is significantly cheaper than Australia. The maximum you could pay for a trip would roughly be $4; this would only happen if you go from one end of Singapore to the other (which I had to do when going from NTU all the way to the airport). Transport within Singapore isn’t the only thing that is cheap, even going overseas is. For example, I was able to make a trip to Thailand to see Krabi and the beautiful Phi Phi Islands, which was most definitely a highlight.

Accommodation within Singapore can be very expensive. I was lucky enough to get accommodation on campus and had to pay a full semester rate that was equivalent to that of an apartment for only one month. If you don’t want to stay on campus I strongly recommend finding somewhere close to campus and share an apartment with other exchange students. An advantage of staying on campus is that you save a great deal of time on travel. The NTU campus is located in Jurong, which is located one end of the island. If you want to go the main city, it can take up to an hour by MRT.   

There is one word to describe life on campus at NTU: awesome. As QUT does not offer the choice to live on campus, this was something that I was seriously looking forward to. It is not only the flexibility of being able to walk to class, but the ability to forge friendships with local and international students. With these friends you can go to hall and campus events and even overseas trips. After spending so much time together, you know you have formed friends for a life time.

Saving the serious for last, academics in Singapore is challenging, especially if you are taking core subjects (I was taking four). The thing that is drastically different to QUT is the fact that Singapore grades on a “bell curve”. This means that your grade is scaled according to everybody else’s in the class. I didn’t let this effect me too much and studied hard to ensure I did my best.

If you want to be challenged academically, the opportunity to experience different regional cultures, eat great food, travel within South East Asia at amazingly low fares, Singapore is your place!

 

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.

Ottawa Ontario

Joel, R. Bachelor of Mathematics

University of Ottawa (Semester 2, 2016)

My first night at the University of Ottawa in Canada’s capital city was 30 degrees Celsius and muggy.  Not at all the weather I expected, but perhaps that was simply thanks to my lack of research into my host city.  My housemates were chatting in the lounge as I walked into my new home, a Chilean, Russian and a Belgian rounding out our multicultural apartment, and they made the next 4 months far more welcoming than that first hot night.

Before arriving in Canada I took the opportunity to visit Europe, managing to visit Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna and Munich before finally heading to North America.  I then spent another couple of weeks in Kelowna BC, Canada, a beautiful town which offers a huge amount of outdoor activities and natural beauty.

As the first weeks in Ottawa went by I took the opportunity to explore and meet my neighbours, generally fellow exchange students from places like Ireland, Sweden, England, China, the Netherlands and everywhere in between.  Ottawa is a curious mix between city and town, not as big or busy as Toronto or Montreal, but with just as much history.  Originally a frontier logging town, Ottawa prospered into the home of Canada’s government.  Separated from Quebec and one of its cities, Gatineau, by a large river, Ottawa is a city of beauty and variety as I came to discover during my time there.

Eventually the university semester started and I began my first classes in a new country, an experience that ended up feeling very similar to those I had at home.  Professors used technology to present lectures, answered class questions and gave assignments, just like they do at QUT.  The only major difference was the rack of winter coats hanging at the back of the classroom by the time cold weather came through in about November.  Snow followed soon after, transforming an already beautiful city into a winter wonderland (as corny as that sounds).

My apartment, while not luxurious by any means, was cosy and sufficient enough to keep me alive through the cold weather.  I was relieved to find the cost of living similar enough to Brisbane, with goods roughly the same or cheaper in Ottawa.  My housemates and our neighbours grew accustomed to the idea of spending 15 minutes or more just layering up enough to brave the -25 degree weather to go get some shawarma or poutine from the local store.

Through all the pitfalls of a new country, like dealing with tipping, winter clothes and the rules of hockey, I was lucky to have a tight group of friends to go through the same experiences.  We shared trips to Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls, even managing a week in Cuba, and meeting people like them has been the most important takeaway from my time overseas.  My advice to future exchange students is to focus on that network of friends, push yourself to talk to anyone and everyone.  Any city in the world has things to do, but it’s the people in that city that sets it apart and makes exchange a truly worthwhile experience.

Life of a Travel Blogger

Joel, T. Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design)

Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway (Semester 2, 2016)

Before commencing my venture to Oslo (Norway) I knew a few things, it was expensive, cold and Scandinavian design is what I wanted add to my repertoire. Arriving at Lillestrøm station (10 min train from Oslo central) we were greeted by a young female student how helped us navigate to our Sio accommodation, where we would call home for the next 6 months. The accommodation was basic but what student housing isn’t. I had my own bedroom but shared a kitchen and bathroom with roommate, which just so happened to by my friend and travel partner on this journey.

Tip for future students, be prepared to make a trip to Ikea which is a bit of a trek to get everything. Room has furniture and bed but kitchen literally has nothing except for an oven and cook top. Best preparation would be to try contact residents living there the semester before you go and try and acquire some of their items. This will save a lot of money and time.

Two weeks before classes commenced we explored the city while the summer sun and “warmth” (it was still only 18°C) still filled the air. It was a beautiful day and dockside was a buzz of excitement with cafes and street performers. From here you can also spend the beautiful day, island hopping the little islands situated on the Oslo Fjord – as this is where the ferry leaves. 

Tip for places to visit: North of the Oslo is Holmenkollen, boosting a 60m high ski jump that has hosted ski festivals since 1892.

Norwegians are serious about getting out and enjoying nature, they love nature and hiking mountains. They also love to tell you all about it every minute of every day – just in case you forget *wink wink*. As such the Norwegians love their recently build Opera House where you can actually walk on the roof, via a small hike up the side of the building. I would highly recommend doing so as it has one of the most stunning views of the city and harbour, especially at sunset. 

Uni life….

I studied Product Design during my time at HiOA Kjeller campus. I found it interesting that they only do one subject at a time, it seems a lot less strenuous than QUT. One of the bonuses though was studying at HiOA was the amount of new educational opportunities I received. I learnt how to weld, and also gained numerous skills with ceramics and concrete moulding. Their workshops are first class and even better once you have done a week of inductions, as you are deemed competent to use all the facilities without supervision.

My first group assignment consisted of three girls and one guy. We decided to look into tiny living and the outdoor and active Norwegian culture. We hired a cabin in the middle of the woods with no electricity or running water. It was an hour bus ride and a 6km hike to loose ourselves, but we were alone for miles. We all huddled in a cabin made for two. It was a cosy night, but the experience was a one in a lifetime and a real good look into Norwegian culture.

Highlights …

Travel highlight – Trolltunga, it takes this prestigious role because of how hard I had to work to get there. Five gruelling hours hiking up and five back. Trolltunga aka Trolls Tongue chewed me up and spit me out, but the view from the top was worth it.

HiOA university had many highlights, great people, lifelong friends, workshops. But the ones that stands out is when our concept became a prototype. A finished product made by myself and group, with a lot of the new workshop skills to thank for its polished finish.

This has been a wonderful opportunity for me, I got to travel abroad and this experience has really open mind and broadened my horizons.

Fashion in Hong Kong

Nhu, C. Bachelor of Design (Fashion)

Hong Kong Polythechnic University (Semester 2, 2016)

I studied fashion design at The Hong Kong Polythechnic University in second semester of my second year. The Institute of Textiles and Clothing in PolyU is significantly different to QUT fashion studios as they have a larger number in students, more facilities however the teaching was not as intimate. The institute offered eye-opening subjects such as knitting, colouration, intimate apparel, shoe design, denim design and so on. The teaching staff were also very experienced and supportive especially the pattern maker, knitting technician, colouration and finishing professor that taught me.

During my semester abroad, I made myself at home at the PolyU student accommodation. I paid approximately $1 600 for the whole semester which was significantly cheaper than living outside of the student dorms. It was one of the best decisions I made over in HK as I built strong friendships with my roommate, other exchange students and the workers within the building. It was also near the university, only taking 10 minutes by foot.  Within the student accommodation it provided functional, studying and leisure facilities including a communal gym, swimming pool, snooker pool room, game room, table tennis, dance room, kitchen, laundry room, study rooms and printers.

The cost of living was not as bad as I was expecting. I roughly spent $8000-9000 during the whole 4months (including flights, flights booked in HK, accommodation). Hong Kong is full of culture, mixing both Western and Eastern qualities. I didn’t experience much of a culture shock as my ethnical background is Chinese and Vietnamese.  Hong Kong was my home, the hustle and bustle of the night life and the sensational scenery as you escape the city will forever keep me wanting more. I met and became close friends with many of the locals and exchange students who’ve broadened my perspective on life and design.

My advice for students who are still undecided whether to go or not, I say go!! It’s true when past exchange students say it’s one of the most memorable and best experience. For the future exchange students, my advice is to learn as much as you can and take advantage of your host university’s curriculum but also don’t forget to make time for exploring your host country, be part of their culture, make both local and exchange friends, visit nearby countries and take up every opportunity!

Exchange at the University of Mannheim

John, H. Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Creative Industries

University of Mannheim, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

My time living in Germany was absolutely the best experience I’ve ever had. In the beginning the idea of spending 6 months living in a totally new place with a whole new bunch of people was totally daunting, but when my time was up I left practically kicking and screaming. No other experience has seen be grow as much emotionally and socially, and if I could do it all again I would drop everything and go in a heartbeat.

Life at the University of Mannheim

Studying at the University of Mannheim was excellent. The University has such incredibly rich campus culture, and every single day was packed with activities and parties aimed to bring everybody together. While maybe half of these were for all students, there were also events aimed particularly for exchange students, meaning that we all got to meet in the end, all the other exchange students. The university holds a reputation for its parties, its famed “Schneckenhof” party- a weekly event held in the very heart of the campus, attended by vast numbers. As well as this, the organisation called “Visum” (Visa in German) threw parties for the exchange students called “Stammtisch”, also weekly. Visum were the ones responsible for the immersion of exchange students, and it was with them that I got to experience the magnificence of Munich (including Oktoberfest) and Berlin. While its parties may be one of the factors that makes it a really attractive choice, the University of Mannheim also boasts an incredible academic reputation, especially in the field of business. While I was undertaking Law units, for which it is not as renowned, the law faculty’s success in international competitions filled with me with great confidence, and indeed my expectations were met and surpassed. The structure was a little different to what I was used to, in fact the workload was a little less per subject, but most German Students undertake More units than we would in Australia.

Life in Germany and Highlights

I’ve combined this section as one page really isn’t enough to sum up my time, but in short living in Germany was of itself a highlight. Aside from the aforementioned parties, living in Germany was incredibly easy. The people come across as cold at first meeting, but as you get closer to them are incredibly friendly, warm and have a wicked sense of humour. German people are not shy in any regard, and I guess rather stereotypically, are very short in conversation, never exaggerating and often speaking in exact terminology. But they always want to hear more about you, and are so incredibly genuine. Germany is also famous for its music culture, one of the reasons why I chose it as a place, and I was not disappointed. While the average person doesn’t listen to Beethoven or Wagner as their regular taste (nor is that to be expected) almost every German person has an appreciation for the fine arts that many people in Australia lack. The cost of living in Germany is incredibly low, with groceries costing me less than 30 Euro a week, and rent 280 Euro a month.

Germany is super central in Western Europe, and especially the cities of Mannheim and Frankfurt, is a hub for transport. Thus, it would be remiss of me to say that travelling was not a highlight for me. My favourite trip outside of Germany was to Vienna, an 8-hour train journey, though travelling within Germany itself was fantastic. The city of Heidelberg is a must for anyone staying in the region. It’s a gorgeous, untouched medieval city with an incredible castle ruin. The historic City of Strasbourg is also a mere two-hour bus ride away, across the border in France. Other highlights were definitely the aforementioned trips to Munich and Berlin.

My experience in Mannheim is one that I will never forget. If you want any further details, I have a more detailed blog on this link.  https://fergusabroad.wordpress.com/

Why study abroad?

Going abroad for a semester has taught me so much about the world and about myself, and I really would recommend it to anyone that has the opportunity. Some of it has been really hard, I will admit. But it has all been worth it.

The biggest problem I had was with my units when I got here. This really stressed me out because I was worried I would lose my scholarships since I would only be enrolled part time at QUT. Another big challenge I had was home sickness; it took about 50 days before I realised I was home sick. Iceland is pretty much exactly on the opposite side of the world from Brisbane, so the time difference was really difficult to deal with, not being able to talk to my friends or family during the day because everyone is asleep. I dealt with it by talking more to my family and friends back home whenever possible. Something else that was really well timed were some road trips I went on with some new friends I’d made here. They really helped remind me why I was here, on the other side of the world; to see this beautiful country.

Lanmannalaugar is in the highlands. I took a Greylines tour (~$300AU) and it was pretty great. The bus drive was about 3 or 4 hours, a lot of this was off road so it was a bit exciting. We stopped every hour or so for food or toilet breaks or to take photos of some beautiful landscapes. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life and I highly recommend going here if you get the chance (they close down the place in winter I believe). When we arrived we took a 2 hour hike through the dried magma fields, then we had a bit of time to go swimming in the geothermal hot springs. It was so beautiful and the land was so diverse and different around every corner. This was one of my favourite places, and my first time outside the city.

Ljotipollur Lake; a lake inside a crater in the highlands

Gljúfrabúi


I also drove the south coast along the ring road with some other exchange students. It only took us a few hours to drive there, not including

all the stops along the way. We saw a lot of breathtaking waterfalls, including Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi, Skógafoss and Svartifoss (Black Waterfall). We also visited the black sand beach and the glacier lagoons. One of the more memorable places we went to on this trip was the first swimming pool in Iceland. We had to hike about 10 minutes to get to a small concrete pool, natural heated by the geothermal hot water, and pitch black with moss. Getting changed into our togs felt like a race against the cold, but you were more concerned about accidental dropping your clothes on the mud covered floor.

The black sand beach, Reynisfjara

 

Svartifoss (Black Waterfall).

Another wonderful road trip was to the north of Iceland, Akureyri. This trip was more about the landscape, and involved a lot more driving but was just as amazing. While in the north I went whale watching, but this was a huge mistake since I didn’t realise how sea sick I would be until we left the harbour. So I spent the next 3 hours with my head between my knees. We also saw more waterfalls and canyons and swam in the “Blue lagoon of the North”.

We ventured a bit out of our way to find the cave where a scene from Game of Thrones was shot

So it’s safe to say I had a few “wow” moments. I just couldn’t believe I was all the way over here in this beautiful country; a year ago I would never have guessed this is where I’d be.

It’s also pretty convenient for other travelling around Europe or America. I went to Copenhagen for a week and the flights were only $200AU. I’ve heard flights to New York are about the same price.