Learn About Other Cultures

Samantha D., Bachelor of Creative Industries
Bath Spa University, England (Semester 2, 2017)

I attended Bath Spa University as an exchange student in September 2017. This experience opened me up to the world and I believe I have grown as a person due to it and my travels before and after.

I lived with other exchange students from around the world in an eight-person female dorm on campus. Living on campus alone was very different from my experiences at QUT as I have lived in private house-shares the whole time I have been at university. Between the eight of us we shared the kitchen and one bathroom, we were unlucky and had just one bathroom rather than the two the other dorms had. The girls I lived with were from Germany, Finland, Spain, China and America, I was the only Australian doing exchange at Bath Spa at the time. It was an amazing way to learn about other cultures.

I was only in Bath for approximately three months rather than the five I had expected when I first applied for exchange. I would recommend to anyone looking at studying in England to go in the Australian Semester One as if you go in the second your exchange will end half way through the semester, right before the Christmas break. I had a difficult time when I arrived as there was an ongoing misunderstanding between institutions and professors about how many units I was meant to do, due to only being there for a half semester. I was also in my final year and ended up doing some very high contact hour final year units which took most of my time, so I couldn’t do as many outside activities as I would have liked.

The grading system in England is vastly different to Australia and took a lot of getting used to. For example adjusting to knowing that a sixty-five is a great result when at home it would be disappointing is an odd feeling and I had to keep that in mind.

A highlight of my exchange was a lifelong friend I made, whilst everyone in our dorm got along I became especially close to one of the girls I lived with. We really clicked, and I ended up going to Finland with her over Christmas to spend Christmas with her family. Meeting her and having such a good friend throughout the exchange experience was absolutely amazing and I’m so privileged to have had that.

Another highlight for me personally was the quality and variety of classes I took. I was able to take classes in subjects which are not taught anywhere I know of in Australia which really enhanced my learning and I feel will benefit me greatly in my future career.

Bath is quite an expensive town in England, so our cost of living was a little higher than expected. We split some grocery costs and bought individual crockery (spoons, plates and cutlery) but split the cost of cookware between everyone in the dorm. The campus was on a farm, so it was really nice to be able to walk over and buy fresh local produce.

As a dorm we wrote down every birthday and important holiday at the beginning of term and celebrated each of them as a group. We also tried to attend things that our roommates were in such as drama or dance performances. Over the course of the 3 months we celebrated multiple birthdays, Thanksgiving, Finnish Independence Day and Chinese National day. On each occasion we tried to eat relevant cultural food. It was amazing to experience how other cultures eat and celebrate and appreciate new things.

Some tips and advice for future exchange students:

I will reiterate, if going to England on your exchange go during Australia’s first semester to get a full experience.

Don’t let your schoolwork build up, whilst it may feel like a holiday it is still university and if you stay on top of your work you will enjoy it more. Try forming study groups to get to know other students in your class and combine study and socialising.

Be a tourist! Some of the most fun I had was exploring my host town. It is a new place and it’s great to get to know it.

It is living in another country and you may be homesick or not 100% all the time, that is okay. It’s all a part of the experience and you can grow from it. Also, your idea of fun doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s, just find people you have similar interests to. Some of my best nights were at home lounging around with my friends or eating together rather than out partying.

The most important thing is to be open to new experiences. An exchange will be great for your confidence and life skills.

No Worries In Washington!

Julia S, Bachelor of Creative Industries/ Business
University of Central Washington, USA (Semester 2 2017)

It all started on the 31st of July. I left for Italy to meet my friend Clare who was also studying abroad. We planned to travel Europe together for a month before attending our respective Universities. After 31 days of travelling around Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and Germany to name a few, I boarded a plane once again; but this time to the United States. My semester of exchange was to take place at Central Washington University. A small University with a student population of almost 11,000, CWU is in a small town named Ellensburg, just two hours from Seattle.

A few facts about Central Washington:

  • Founded in 1891
  • School Mascot: The Wildcat
  • School Colours: Red and Black
  • Average Class size: 25
  • Homecoming speaker: Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec)

After a two-hour bus ride from Seattle, I arrived at what would be my home for the next 12 weeks, Wendall Hall. I had purposely chosen to live in a suite during my stay. By living in a suite, I was guaranteed three American roommates while also having my own mini room.

What started as a scary, whirlwind three days during commencement and meeting my roommates quickly turned into one of the best times of my life.  My roommates and I were all extremely different – but in the best way possible. Often, we would liken ourselves to the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants; all having our own personalities and interests but able to come together to create amazing memories.

Studying Public Relations overseas allowed for incredible opportunities. One of my teachers (who forced us to create a LinkedIn profile) was former Senior Vice President of A & R Edelman. Edelman is known for handling the communications of top organizations within the U.S, such as Dove. In addition to this, I attended a meeting at WE Communications with CWU’s Public Relations society. WE Communications represents Microsoft.

Leaving exchange was extremely hard. There are many nights where I think back to driving with friends to Seattle just to have a day in the city. I often remember driving through the notorious “pass.” The pass is a long stretch of road through the mountains of Washington. In winter, it is covered with snow and ice and makes for a perfectly nostalgic backdrop for my exchange memories.

Although difficult, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I am confident that the friends and connections I have made overseas will last a life time. This experience has allowed me to see that meeting people from all over the world and learning others’ cultures cannot be undervalued. I now see myself as capable and ready to enter my final year of University; paired with a gained knowledge and a new outlook on my studies.

My Exchange Adventure

Mackenzie G, Bachelor of Industrial Design
Aston University, Birmingham, England (Semester 1, 2016)

One of the many trips around the UK. This time a weekend in Scotland with people from all around the world.

My Experience
Do you fancy seeing the world? Feel like shaking things up? Want to make uni a lot more fun? If this sounds like you then go sign up for student exchange!
Student exchange is an opportunity to live and study overseas. You get to meet people from all parts of the globe, see places you never would and have the time of your life all while completing your studies.

Earlier this year I flew over to Birmingham, England to complete my first semester of third year industrial design at Aston University. For four months I lived and studied abroad in a country I’ve never been to. There I learnt about product design, made worldwide friends and had an absolutely great time all the while completing my studies.
Aston University was my uni of choice for its industry backed reputation and central location.

Although the content they taught was more on the engineering side, they provided knowledge that I would likely not learn elsewhere. Submitting assignments, sitting exams and general university life was not so different to how we do it here which made adapting to their system a breeze.

Similarly studying in an English speaking country was not a problem at all. The accents and weather were the biggest difference initially but were soon overcome. So no intense culture shock here compared to the more foreign locations available. That said if you want to take it easy, Canada, USA and the UK are more comfortable options should English be your native language.

Life abroad at university is fun. Aston accommodates foreign exchange students very well with regular events and trips around the country. The majority of exchange students hung out together and with people from all over Europe, South America and just about everywhere else we felt a great sense of community exploring and learning together as foreigners.

For me I chose not to work and relied upon loans and savings to keep myself financially supported. So not needing a job meant I had more time to study and even more time to explore the UK and just have fun. With my crew of international students we visited most major UK cities, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and so on. Unique to the English semester is a three week mid semester holiday. Being so close to France and in the middle of winter that meant skiing was up for grabs. So my mid semester break consisted of a week-long ski trip with the uni and two weeks of hot, beautiful sun in the Canary Islands. Luckily for me it wasn’t all about studying. Maybe your university has something similar. You can make your student exchange custom made for whatever interests you! Something not thought about often when considering student exchange.

The Application Process
Getting sorted for a student exchange is no easy task. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back. A lot of research and hard work is required but the effort is worth the reward. A lot of the time my effort was independent simply because there were questions that only I could find the answers to… mostly specific university queries. Although it was difficult my motivation kept the ball rolling, something we tend to forget when going through this process.

The opportunity to work alongside students from different cultures on the other side of the world is worth every ounce of effort.

Finances
A common concern is money and to how fund such an extravagant adventure. Fortunately there are awesome financial assistance options available from QUT. The OS help loan and the mobility grant made my venture possible. Applying for and receiving these are nothing short of easy. With a minimum of $8000 AUD available anything from your own pocket would only be for an extended holiday!
When it comes to budgeting research is key. Finding everyday living costs is essential especially if you’re thinking of living in the UK, Switzerland or any other expensive locations. The small things really add up.

As far as accommodation goes share houses are the best option. Cheap and entertaining they’re nothing short of fun. My house was intensely multicultural which furthered my travel education but also provided another social circle. Comparatively the on campus accommodation at Aston is rather pricey but more student orientated. Again research is key here.

The appropriate visa will make returning to your host country a breeze. This allowed me to skip between the UK and France with ease.

Visas
Before leaving Australia ensure you have the appropriate visa and ensure your passport meets federal requirements. Ensure in advance so you’re not caught rushing around last minute.

The study visa for the UK was a frustratingly slippery slope. Students who have studied there offered mixed advice and the visa website was just as helpful. Trying to save a few hundred dollars by not getting one is risky business but its best to play it safe. Upon entering the country I was told this wasn’t required but soon after relieved by my enrolling member of staff as she reassured me this was a necessary requirement of the university. Nothing too special with passports, just make sure there is plenty of time left on it before it expires.

Customise Your Experience
One aspect not discussed enough is how you can revolve your exchange around what you want to do. My initial idea was basically studying overseas and seeing the sights. However you can leave home well before semester starts and get into some travelling, complete your semester then top it off with a couple more months of travel. Or do like I did and compete in heaps of skateboard races around Europe! It might sound like a holiday but there is a lot to learn when you’re not at uni.

Once the semester concluded I travelled through Europe and attended many skateboard races. A long time dream now accomplished. (I’m in the grey suit).

If I Could Do It Again
I would be extra adventurous. I would try out a non-English speaking country, somewhere that teaches classes in English but with a culture greatly different to Australia. Unknown to me was how much of the European population spoke English. Knowing this I would have jumped in the deep end for a totally foreign experience.

Uni at the Top of the World

Kieren Q., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
BI Norwegian Business School, Norway (Semester 1, 2017)

My name is Kieren Quach and I spent a semester abroad in Norway. During this time, I studied at BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, the capital city of Norway. I lived at Boligstiftelsen Nydalen (BSN) which was one of the main student accommodation sites available to us exchange students. The photo below is the main office of where I lived, where I signed my contract and received my keys.

Accommodation

I don’t have any good photos of the inside of the dorms, however each room is equipped with a window which is seen above the main office. Each room is also equipped with a bed, table, chair, bedside table, closet, and bookshelf. A good thing to note is that items such as pillows, blankets, sheets, wifi router, and other luxuries must be purchased elsewhere. Another thing to note is that previous tenants may leave some of these stuff behind so be sure to check before you go buying your own stuff and you may be as lucky as I was. For us exchange students we could only pick to live in a two-person apartment so I had a Scottish roommate who was a blast to have. You’d share a bathroom and kitchen with them meaning you had to divide who had to clean and when. Enough about accommodations, I didn’t even spend that much time there.

How was BI different to life at QUT? For starters, BI Oslo is just one big building, almost like a cube. Everything is indoors, probably as shelter to the inconsistent weather there. This made it simple because everything was within walking distance: food, gym, office supplies, etc. In terms of academics, 35% of the total 100% for the unit is enough to pass making things a lot less stressful. Below is an image of me at the main sign outside the university.

I forgot there was a page limit to this so I’ll cut things short. Going on exchange was the best decision of my life. Sure the culture is different BUT THAT’S THE POINT! To be able to experience the other side of the world like that was enlightening and if I had the opportunity to do it again I would take it in a heartbeat. Tip for future students – always take care of your stuff because I had my phone stolen in Stockholm.

Fall in Love with Copenhagen

Vicky Z., Bachelor of Creative Industries
Danish School of Media & Journalism, Denmark (Semester 2, 2017)

Host University

The Danish School of Media & Journalism (DMJX) is seriously a great school, and SO different from QUT. It’s academically intense and the students are older (23-30, since most have already completed a past degree in design) and very talented and serious, yet the classroom had a relaxed and family-like vibe. The school is really hard to get into and its students are sought-after in the design industry!

DMJX

I had class Monday to Friday, from 9am to about 1pm, although in busier times we’d all stay until 4pm or even 10pm, working. The class had 23 students, and we were in the same room every day. The best parts were that we each had a desk and Mac (like a studio!), and the canteen was amazing and affordable.

We would have the same teacher for 2-6 weeks, and guest lectures/presentations/briefs from small and large companies all the time. We had Volvo, DR (Denmark’s largest TV Radio Media company like the ABC), Bennybox (an animation company in Copenhagen), and many more. A lot of time was self-directed learning and working on assignments, with lectures being casual.

DMJX

We only worked on one assignment at a time, which I really liked. At the end of each task, there was no criteria sheet or marking. Instead, we’d give a short presentation to the class, and receive feedback from the teacher, guest, and each other. It was inspiring and I learned a lot from seeing other students’ work.

Accommodation

I applied for housing through DMJX, and they offered me a room at Hjortespringkollegiet in Herlev. It was a 30 minute bike ride from school and about an hour from the city center, which was a little far, but bearable. My room was huge by dorm standards; I had my own bathroom and balcony, and shared a clean, large kitchen with 10 others. Around 1 in 12 students are exchange students; the rest are Danish. I recommend living here — I really loved it and made many friends. The dorm bar was open once or twice a week; it’s easy to meet people and make friends there.

Accommodation

Accommodation

Accommodation

Host Country

Denmark is such a wonderful country. The cost of living is similar or a little higher than Brisbane. Public transport and eating out are expensive, but if you ride your bike and cook more at home, it’s not too bad. Copenhagen is hip and I loved the fashion, jewelry, art, and Scandinavian style.

Denmark

Danish people are really easy to get along with. They’re really friendly, although some may warm up to you a bit more slowly. And there are almost no language barriers as they are all very good at English (even grannies speak fluently).

Denmark

Some differences I noticed were that when people get off the bus, they don’t say ‘thank you’, and paying at supermarkets is a very fast, impersonal, brisk process. No small talk. They scan your items ridiculously fast, you kind of just get out as soon as possible. But in smaller shops and boutiques, they’re super friendly.

Denmark

On almost every street you will find a plant shop (flowers, succulents and whatnot), a pay-by-weight candy store, a hairdresser, kebab store, and bakery!

Highlights of exchange

Meeting so many people was amazing, and seeing so many cities was wonderful. I loved that I could call Copenhagen my home for five months, and become familiar with all the stores, brands, suburbs, streets, and the city as a whole.

Denmark

Denmark

Things You Didn’t Expect

Everyone’s naked in the communal showers and change rooms.

When I went on the school camp, and to a public swimming pool, the girls’ showers had no cubicles! It was just one big room with shower heads in a row. At first I was very reluctant, but then I decided to just suck it up and embrace the Danish way of life. I highly recommend this experience. It’s only awkward if you make it awkward.

Another thing I didn’t expect was how depressing and energy-sucking the cold darkness can be. In January, the sun rose at 8.30 and set at 4pm. The short, cold days and lack of sunshine made me feel tired and a lot drearier than in summer. I wish I could’ve been more positive and taken initiative to do fun things and socialized and continued exploring the city, but honestly I just wanted to crawl into a hole and lie there most days. In Summertime the sun sets at 9pm though, and it’s the bomb dot com.

Danish Food!

Tips & Advice for Future Students

  • You must get a bike. It’s the easiest, cheapest, most fun way to get around. Make sure you lock it every time though. Biking around the city and surrounding suburbs is super easy and so beautiful, especially during summer.
  • If you try to learn Danish, make sure you practice speaking early on! Danes love helping and correcting you and teaching you phrases.
  • Get a Citibank no fee debit card. The exchange rate is good and there are no fees. I used this card for all my travels and time in Denmark.
  • Try the ‘ristet pølse med det hele’ from the hotdog stand behind the Vesterbro train station. It’s a hotdog with mustard, ketchup, remoulade, raw onions, fried crispy onions and pickles.
  • Zaggi’s cafe near Nørreport does 15kr (3 aud) coffees and cakes!
  • Many of the museums and galleries are free on certain days of the week, be sure to visit them because they are all very cool! Especially the National Gallery of Denmark.
  • Try to visit Dyrehaven — this park used to be the royal hunting grounds and now it’s where adorable deer roam free!
  • Not to be mixed up with the park, Cafe Dyrehaven does excellent smørrebrød for ~$10 aud each. The chicken one and potato one are nice.
  • If you visit Malmo (the Swedish city across the bridge from Copenhagen), try to take a daytrip to Lund as well. It’s a small, cute town.
  • Shop at Flying Tiger and Søstrene Grene for cute, cheap homewares when you first move in. They’re a bit like Kmart.
  • Do lots of outdoor stuff in summer! Fælledparken (park), Superkilen (park), the lakes, Dyrehaven, paddleboating, the beach, botanic gardens, FLEAMARKETS, Kongens Have (the King’s Park)… there is so much to do and it is so so so beautiful.
  • Fall in love with Copenhagen and go back one day :’)