Things I did in Madrid!

Olivia H., Bachelor of Mass Communication
University Carlos lll de Madrid, Spain (Semester 2, 2017)

My exchange semester in Madrid was great. Although it had its ups and downs I learnt so much that I will take with me through life. I studied at Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3m) in Getafe.

Most subjects I wanted to do become filled up so I was left with limited study options. The teachers are not very willing to help; however, this is just the Spanish way; they are laid back. Some of the subjects are quite boring and you’re only given one week of classes before you can change/ pull out making it difficult to enjoy the semester. However, the benefits far outweigh these negatives.

It is incredible meeting people from all over the world and learning new things about different countries/ cultures. Exploring Spain and learning about the country and its culture and history is fascinating. I used a group called Smart Insiders who were great with day and weekend trips. They provided fun weekends for really low costs and no hassles.

Now for the practical stuff like budgeting, accommodation, your phone plan and most importantly, language. If you’re concerned about money here is my guide. You could easily do an exchange semester for less than $10 000 if you do not want to travel too much. For the whole semester September through to mid December I was using the QUT bursary and the government loan. With good research on apartments and being good and sometimes frugal with food costs, weekly living costs can be under 50 euros!

I lived in Getafe which although was cheap and convenient to get to uni four days a week, was inconvenient whenever I wanted to go out clubbing or into the city in general. I was paying at least 150 euros per month cheaper than anyone I knew but I either had to ask a friend to stay at theirs or stay out until the trains started again at 5am. When looking for an apartment, make sure all bills are included so you know exactly what you have to pay and can get a better deal. As for a phone sim, I would go into CityLife Madrid or Smart Insiders as they can help you set up with Lyca or Lebara mobile.

You can get by fairly easily without knowing Spanish and you definitely pick it up along the way. However, it is tricky in the first few weeks when you are trying to do things like get your transport card and a phone sim. For the transport card, I would order it a week before you leave for Madrid and deliver it to your accommodation. This is the easiest way and it means you can begin exploring the city right away.

The transport system is very confusing when you first arrive, but you get the hang of it quickly. The main type of transport in the city is the metro. However, to get to places like Getafe (where UC3M is located) you need to get the train, Renfe cercanias. Transport is much cheaper than Brisbane, like anywhere else in the world. Each month you load 20 euro onto your public transport card and it gives you unlimited access to all of the metro, cercanias and bus lines within Madrid.

Finally, travel which is hands down the best part. I went before, after and during my semester and although tiring it is so worth it. I used the semester for travel within Spain and the Summer holidays before and Winter holidays after to explore Europe! Below are some photos of my trip. Thanks for reading!

 

A Canadian Experience

Lachlan L., Bachelor of Engineering/Mathematics
University of Calgary, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

My name is Lachlan Leech and I study Electrical and Aerospace Engineering and Computational and Applied Mathematics at QUT and I was fortunate enough to go on exchange for one semester to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I attended the University of Calgary (U of C) as of September 5 to December 21, 2017. However, before arriving at my new home I spent a month travelling around Eastern Canada to experience the best that Canada has to offer. That being, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montréal and Quebec City!

Upon reflection, living and studying in Canada for six months was without question the best time of my life; I can finally understand why everyone who has been on an exchange has similar thoughts! Based solely on my experience, even though Canada is a Commonwealth country and therefore has a lot of similarities with Australia, there are still vast differences. These differences ranged from architecture, costs of living, climate and people to people culture. I found that in Canada, their architecture ranges from technologically advanced buildings to historical chateaus and castles such as their Fairmont hotels and French buildings, whereas Australia mainly has modern buildings as seen in Downtown Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. I found their cost of living to be similar to Australia however their housing, food, gas, and transport is cheaper. The only shock I found about Canada, even though I was expecting it was the climate. In Calgary, the climate was constantly fluctuating due to the Rockies to the West and the farm lands to the East, to the point whereby one day could see temperatures of 10 degrees and then go to -20 degrees the next! I experienced an amazing culture shock which was evident in their citizens. Canadians and Calgarians in particular are without question the most amazing and kind-hearted people in the world; always kind, respectful and always helping their follow citizens and tourists through any situation.

In terms of the U of C, I found that life on campus was quite similar to QUT with respect to class sizes, rooms and the method as to which a unit and degree is delivered and taught by professors. However, there were vast differences that were evident between both universities. I found that the U of C is more like a mini city due to the fact that they allow boarding on campus, whereas QUT doesn’t. With this, the students are more connected and are seen as more of a family. They also have all amenities on campus such as Dentists, Doctors, Convenience Stores, Restaurants, Stadiums, etc which was amazing. In terms of Academics, Canadians are expected to get grades greater than a pass (>= 60%) to proceed to new units and as a result of this system, they bell curve! I found that to be a big difference and quite harsh on students considering that they usually take 5-6 units per semester and not 4 like at QUT!

The greatest highlight I had in my time in Canada was meeting people that I know are going to be lifelong friends. From frosh week they were all so fascinated with Australia and all wanted me to experience the best of Calgary, from seeing Hockey matches to exploring Downtown Calgary; the University of Calgary, whether it was going ice skating at Olympic Stadium or seeing their Dinos play football; even to close by places such as the Rockies (hiking around Banff and seeing Lake Louise).

Obviously, my advice to students considering going on exchange is to go. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that will change the way you look at the world as you’ll be immersed into another culture that will surpass all your expectations!

 

American College Life at Fordham

Julia M., Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries
Fordham University, United States (Semester 1, 2018)

The experience of university in America is extremely different to that of QUT. Everything from the method of teaching, grading and assessment to the college spirit and club involvement was entirely different. My favourite aspect of life at Fordham University was the spirit and enthusiasm that students had towards their school. The campus was covered with flags and statues of the school mascot (a ram) with the huge football field covered in maroon and white (the university’s colours) branding. They even had a store with everything you could ever think of (including baby clothes and dog bones) Fordham branded. People were proud to wear these items, in contrast to at home where you rarely see people in QUT outfits. It was awesome to experience this first hand, and you really felt like part of a community where everyone knew each other and people cared.

The biggest and most challenging difference was the way in which assessment was completed and graded. At home, we usually have 2-3 large assessments for each subject, whereas at Fordham we had a very small assessment due almost every week. Although there was more assessment, I found it easier to get good grades, as the teachers were more lenient with their marking. They do not use criteria sheets and just mark off what they think you should get. There is also no moderating, which caused students to prefer certain professors to others as the marked the work easier. I found this very unusual and strange to deal with at first, as it was hard to know what the professors were looking for when marking my work. I quickly got used to it and found that it was easy to get an A with a little effort. Attendance was also very important. In one of my classes, attendance counted towards 25% of my final grade. If you missed more than 2 lessons unexcused then your final grade would drop one full letter. I found this very stressful as if I was sick I still had to go to class or risk losing a grade.

Overall I had an amazing experience going to Fordham university and would definitely do it all over again if I could. I made amazing friends that taught me about American culture and let me into their lives. The experience of living in New York City was amazing, and being able to explore the 5 boroughs at any time was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would definitely recommend exchange to anyone, as it helps you develop as a person and gain full independence. Being so far away from home makes you appreciate what you have and learn how to truly look after yourself.

Leeds Survival Guide, Part 3: The Studies

Having just finished my final class for the semester, I now have a one month break before exams and so, I decided to let you all know what the studies here at Leeds have been like.

To get an idea of where I’m coming from, I did the following three modules this semester:

  • Understanding the Audience
  • Beginners French
  • Career Development

Here are some of the differences I’ve experienced between studying at QUT and the University of Leeds:

1. I received a lot of handouts at Leeds

  • For every class I received at least one piece of paper per lesson, which rarely happens at QUT
  • Buy yourself a display folder before leaving because they are extremely hard to come by in Leeds for some unknown reason
  • They’re also handy to keep your travel documents in while travelling

2. Referencing is different to QUT 

  • I recommend downloading EndNote (A free referencing software) because Leeds has their preferred referencing method available to be downloaded and it makes referencing so much faster and easier
  • QUT has this available too if you didn’t know!

3. Most classes take attendance

  • The amount of times you can miss class depends on your course but for media, missing 5 classes resulted in being contacted and questioned
  • Be careful with planning big trips during class time; I recommend travelling before the semester starts or during December before the exams

4. Not all lectures are recorded

  • None of mine were, which meant I had to actually pay attention
  • It was definitely difficult not being able to go back and rewatch lectures, but this just made me listen harder and take more notes

5. A passing grade is 40/100

  • This changes depending on what you study but this is the passing grade for most courses
  • It’s definitely a lot easier to pass at Leeds, but from my experience, it’s a little more difficult to do well

6. For all my media students out there, be aware that media at QUT is a lot more modern and practical whereas at Leeds it’s a little more traditional

  • You’ll most likely find powerpoint slides with plain black text on white background and no pictures or videos
  • For the assignments, Leeds wanted a lot of academic study examples, whereas QUT usually prefers that students find their own examples from tv shows, articles or other media
  • With that being said, Axel Bruns who works at QUT did make an appearance in my reading list one week for his work on convergence, so the content isn’t that different from QUT, it’s just a little more bland

7. Finally, less of a difference but a great recommendation, if you have a free elective, do Career Development

  • Career development is a 20 credit module (60 credits makes up 48 QUT credits) so I only had to do 3 units to get a full study load (this left me with time to travel on weekends!)
  • It was pretty much a big reflection unit on what I want to do in the future
  • Along with it being quite easy it was actually pretty useful in helping improve my resume and my interview skills

Even though it’s been different here in Leeds, it’s definitely been a worthwhile experience, mainly because I get to study in buildings such as this:

So, I highly recommend you come to the University of Leeds to experience studying here yourself.