Travel: Before or After?

Whilst semester one at QUT is yet to start, here at The University of Exeter my fifth week has begun. I’ve been abroad for almost 3 months now, so how has this side of the world treated me so far?

Before I arrived in Exeter I spent a month doing the typical Aussie thing and took a Topdeck Tour around Europe, and what do you know?  Around 3/4 of the group were Australian. Doing a tour before or after my exchange was something I mulled over for quite a long time, but from the moment I got on a bus with a group of strangers I knew I’d made the right call doing it beforehand. My tour group became a second family. You can’t spend 18 days in close quarters with the same group of people and not become close. Together we travelled to 8 different countries and saw parts of the world older than Australia itself.

On my travels I saw the Colosseum in Rome, cruised the canals in Venice and reached Jungfrau, the top of Europe, in Switzerland. This tour enabled me to see parts of the world I wouldn’t necessarily have seen by myself. I climbed the never-ending stairs of the Arc De Triumph, ate snails and avoided Haggis like the plague and explored the nightlife in Edinburgh.

Canal Cruise, Venice

 

Hogmanay Torch Procession, Edinburgh

But it wasn’t simply the sights that had me amazed on the trip. My Trip Leader (don’t ever call them a tour guide), somehow had all of Europe’s history stored in his head. So on the long drives between countries he shared his knowledge and I learnt more on those bus trips than 2 years of high school history could ever teach me.

Because of this trip and with a great deal of help from our Trip Leader I learnt how to integrate myself into other cultures. In most countries I was taught the basics, hello, goodbye and thank-you, other than that however I was on my own. It forced me, along with the help of my new-found friends, to figure out our own way home on public transport in Rome or a walking route in Florence. I learnt the awkwardness of a checkout exchange when the only English the server knew was chocolate and I learnt to become more street-wise in Paris. Being forced into these situations made me so much more aware and appreciative of other cultures, which in turn made me more confident in my abilities to travel alone and study abroad.

Navigating the trains in Paris

The streets of Florence, and its beautiful Cathedral

My trip across Europe will definitely be a highlight of my exchange. It enabled me to see the places I wanted to go back to (almost everywhere) and was the perfect way to become accustomed to different cultures before settling down in England. I felt more excited than ever to start my exchange and even made some friends along the way. So if you’re stuck on the before or after question when it comes to travelling, the answer is before. But, who knows, you could end up doing both!

My incredible tour group in Amsterdam

Thinking About Going on Exchange? Do it.

My final exams are over, Bishop’s is closing for the holidays and by now the majority of my wardrobe is purple, so I guess that means my time here as a student is up!

Applying to go on exchange and choosing Bishop’s has been the best decision I’ve ever made. So I want to take a moment to say to anyone who might be considering going on an exchange (or even if you’re not), do it! There are so many amazing places out there, choose somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or somewhere that looks cool to you and just go for it. Get that second job and start saving, work hard for a scholarship that can get you there, plan a budget that works for you, boost your grades and take the time to put together a great application – whatever it is you can do to make it happen, if you can do it, I guarantee it’ll be worth it.

My advice once you get there? Immerse yourself in the university life, embrace the foreign culture, stay in contact with family and friends back home, study (not too much! but enough to pass), make new friends, party, travel and just have fun with it – it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

What I love about the student exchange program is that it’s more than just travelling and more than just studying. I got the chance to live in another country for the first time, have the ‘college experience’, be the ‘foreign exchange student’, and meet people and learn things I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. If you’re experience is anything like mine, you’ll have the time your life.

I also just want to take a second to mention, it’s ‘pass or fail’. Okay, I’ll leave it at that.

So after all this, if you’re wondering why I’m not an absolute mess right now about having to leave, because I’m so in love with this place and the people in it, I’ll be returning for a visit to Bishop’s in January to say my goodbyes before I fly back home to Australia. Until then – I might not be an exchange student anymore but that doesn’t mean the adventure is over yet! I came all this way, so now it’s time to travel!

How was studying at HTW?

Chloe: HTW Berlin, Semester 1, 2016

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Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)

The university program was very different to what I was used to in Australia. The course had no real structure and the teachers had carte blanche to decide what the content was, what the assessment was and when the assessment occurred. For example, I was doing the same subject as one of my friends and we had completely different content, different assignments and exams and different course time frames. One of my teachers was pregnant so she did the entire course in 6 weeks, so I had already finished one of my classes by mid-May. My friends in the other class had to do the subject for the entire semester with a final exam in July. I found this very strange as the QUT program is so structured and uniform, everyone studies exactly the same thing, does the exact same assessment and all sit the exam simultaneously. No lectures or tutorials in Berlin were recorded, some classes had no lecture slides or overview of content and there were no prescribed textbooks. It was difficult to follow a lot of the content as the teachers had varying levels of English proficiency. Being a native English speaker was a huge advantage, as non-fluent speakers really struggled to understand what was going on. Sometimes it was very difficult to understand what the teacher meant and understand the PowerPoint slides, as a lot of the time it seemed like they had just copied and pasted the German wording into Google Translate and then put it on a lecture slide. This resulted in some very strange sentences and it wasn’t always immediately clear what their point was.

Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)

Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)

The highlights of my experience were being able to travel by myself and see more of Europe, meeting so many incredible people from all over the world along the way. I also

University Building

University Building

enjoyed having so much time to just explore Berlin. I was able to spend an entire day in one museum, perusing slowly and taking everything in, as opposed to rushing through like I had done on the first time I was there. I loved walking around every day in a city filled with so much history and seeing the classic tourist sites like Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall never got old. All in all it was a truly incredible experience and I learnt a lot about myself and how I cope with adversity.

 

Cost of Living in London and Travel

Hannah: City University London, Semester 1, 2016

I did not fully comprehend how much living in London would cost until I got over there, however I had enough savings to not stress about money, live comfortably and enjoy many travel opportunities. This should definitely be communicated to future exchange students, as I met other students who really limited their opportunities until the end before travelling because they were constantly budgeting. Throughout the semester I had time to travel to Iceland, Switzerland, Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Scotland. I did a few trips in England including Nottingham, Peterborough and Cambridge, although I regret not being organised enough to visit some other places.

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The Alps

After my exams finished, my lease also finished and I begin a five-week solo travel experience across Europe. From London I travelled to Norway before visiting Copenhagen, Berlin, Munich, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Venice, Rome, Florence, Milan, Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam. It was such an amazing experience I met lovely people in Hostels along the way and saw beautiful architecture, cities and natural landscapes. Travelling was definitely a highlight of my trip although it was lonely at times I made use of every opportunity and I was able to meet a friend made through the exchange program on my last stop in Amsterdam.

Colosseum

Colosseum

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Travel Pic

City University was different from QUT in terms of diversity of culture; it was so refreshing to be in a country and university, embracing difference and acceptance. London is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, although I felt Australia was quite diverse, London was nowhere I had ever been, it was so exciting to be immersed in culture, language and practices. I was able to develop cultural awareness about different cultures through my classes and interactions with other students. My exchange experience has been a truly rewarding and memorable experience I will always cherish and would recommend it to any student at QUT.

My Glasgow Highlights and Advice

Ashleigh: University of Glasgow, Semester 1, 2016

There are so many things I should put in this section, but my top five highlights (in no particular order) would be going to a beach and hot spa in Reykjavik, Iceland in the middle of Winter, the torchlight procession at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, New Year’s Eve from Westminster Bridge, spending my birthday looking over Barcelona and taking a sunset cruise in Santorini!

Looking over Barcelona on my Birthday

Looking over Barcelona on my Birthday

Sunset Cruise in Santorini

Sunset Cruise in Santorini

Tips and Advice

Firstly, budget more than you estimate you’ll need as a contingency and have some Australian currency spare in case your wallet goes missing or you need more changed over quickly. Then, be flexible when you travel so you can spend as little as possible while still getting the most out of it. Most importantly, no matter where you go or how much travel you do, don’t get stuck with people you find from back home. Go out, get involved in the culture and meet people from everywhere! This is a piece of advice I was given on my flight over and something which I will always take with me because if you stick with the same people, you’ll probably keep doing the same thing and won’t really experience the culture as much as you could.

New Years Eve in London

New Years Eve in London

Seven Reasons Why I’m Continuing My Tertiary Studies Overseas

Studying overseas is one of the most beneficial experiences you can have as a university student – something I was quick to learn. Want to know what won me over? Check out seven of the top reasons I decided to study overseas!
  1. It gives me the opportunity to travel. Student exchange will allow me to travel to another country (England) and explore its culture, traditions and beauties in-depth and over an extended period of time. In addition, studying overseas will also mean that I have the opportunity to travel to other nearby countries. This interests me, as I would like to experience the wonders of the world.
  2. It allows me to experience a different style of education. By studying abroad, I will have the opportunity to experience a style of teaching that I would not be privy to in Australia. Furthermore, I believe this will give me the chance to see a different side of my journalism degree.
  3. It allows me to experience a different side of the journalism profession. As noted in the previous point, studying abroad will allow me to experience a different side of my journalism degree. This is especially notable, as journalism has been a profession in England for over 300 years – before Australia was even colonized!
  4. It gives me the opportunity to gain unique experiences. A lot of my Journalism-student peers have taken a gap year (or gap month/s), in which they went overseas. They have interesting stories, experiences and outlooks from that year (or month/s) abroad, and often times, it even resulted in their decision to purse journalism as a career. Student exchange will allow me to undertake a similar experience while allowing me to complete my degree.
  5. It looks good on my resume. This is especially notable if I manage to pick up any placements or internships while overseas.
  6. It gives me the opportunity to make lifelong friends. While studying abroad, I’ll meet students from my host country who have backgrounds unique to Australia. This will benefit me, as I could potentially establish long-lasting relationships with unique persons, who could also be excellent points of network in the future.
  7. It allows me to achieve personal development. Being in a different country will test my ability to function in a variety of new, diverse situations. It will encourage me to be independent, explorative and self-reliant.

Found the Aussie in amongst France

Last week of the four week University course and my body clock is finally syncing to the 9:45am starts, overload of croissants and bad coffees (for those coffee lovers, the best coffee is found in vending machines…says something). I am also one week into my Digital Marketing course and already feel I have learnt enough to comfortably analyse websites and recommend improvements for website usability. In other words, we are learning so much so quickly and hoping that we are absorbing enough information for our Thursday presentation and Friday exam.

Outside the school walls and since I last posted, I got to enjoy an “eventful” night of go-karting as organised by the school. Based on my past experiences of misbalancing and driving straight into a wall, you can imagine my nerves and hesitation towards this activity. Needless to say, I put on a helmet and got back into the kart, whizzing around the track and feeling as though I owned it. However, experience short lived. A simple go-kart experience seemed to turn into dodgem cars and I was back to my old ways of running into walls. Overall though, the activity was a lot of fun and another great experience in bringing all the classmates together.

I also just got back from a weekend in Lyon, the third largest place in France. With a river snaking through the middle, roman ruins and fantastic shopping, I highly recommend a trip to Lyon. The nightlife in Lyon is also great and out of all the possible places to party, we happened to stumble across an “authentic Australian club” (on a boat). Yes, I will admit, we played the Aussie card but who wouldn’t right when you are surrounded by French people and find out there is only one other Australian person working on the boat/in the club. Again, anyone visiting Lyon, I challenge you to find this Aussie bar (aka Ayers Rock) and be apart of its fantastic atmosphere.

So with only four more days left of University and the farewells drawing closer, it feels as though time has flown by. I have learnt so much both academically but also culturally and been able to make many valuable contacts along the way. Anyway, it is off to bed and I will post again soon about my final days in Grenoble.

Aussie shot at Ayers Rock, France

Aussie shot at Ayers Rock, France

Lyon France

Lyon France

Lyon

Lyon

“Reading Week” aka Mid-Semester Break

The week just gone was mid-semester break at Dalhousie University, or as the professors call it “Reading Week” (obviously hoping to inspire some actual reading to get done.. which of course it didn’t!)
A few weeks ago, the 3 New Zealand girls and 1 Australian girl whom I live with and myself decided we would like a change from the bipolar weather of Halifax, and went into the travel agent with the request for ‘somewhere warm’. We ended up booking a very reasonably priced all-inclusive package at a resort on Grand Bahama Island, in the Bahamas (if that wasn’t obvious from the island title!). All I can say is WOW!
What a world away from snowy Canada.. so amazing that you can jump on a plane in snowy Halifax (-16 degrees that day) and a few hours later arrive in a tropical paradise (23 degrees).


On the bus from the airport we got our first taste of Bahamian people- they are the loveliest and friendliest people, most of whom call all women “baby girl” and who do everything at 2 speeds- sloooooowlyyyy and stop!
But after hectic mid term exams for all the girls except me (but my hectic stress sessions for the upcoming 100% exams) we were more than happy to slow it all down.
The bus driver sung us a couple of hilarious Bahamian songs and on the bus we met a group of 4 other student who were coincidentally also from Dal, 3 boys and girl.
We ended up hanging out with them for much of the week, which was awesome as we have expanded our group of friends in Halifax as well.

During the week we also met a couple of really nice families from Boston and New York state, who have invited us to come stay with them once the semester ends- score! The families taught us how to sail on the resort’s little hoby cats and we spent the rest of the week sunbaking, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, playing beach volleyball and generally eating and drinking too much (all inclusive buffets and bars are not conducive to staying in shape.. everyone came home a good few kilos heavier than they left!)

One of the days we hired a car and drove around the island, visiting the National Park (where there were amazing water filled caves) and Port Lucaya (the main touristy area/ city centre), as well as just driving around and looking at local areas.

I also had a near-death experience with a falling coconut to make the day more exciting! Luckily I didnt need to use my health insurance but it sure was close!
*Note to anyone visiting- don’t sit under coconut trees!*

Mid week we borrowed bicycles from the resort and rode the 5 miles into Port Lucaya and another night we attended a Bahamian ‘Fish Fry’ on the beach.

It was nice to have a real mixture of people to hang out with, some old, some young, some children, and from all walks of life.

All in all it was an amazing trip and such a nice break from the harsh winter of Canada.

Returning home was a cold shock to the system and getting back into the swing of study has been a bit rough, but it makes it easier talking to those at home who are in week 1 and also struggling to get into routines, whilst battling it out in the extreme heat..
Even though I was only in the sunshine 2 days ago (the temperature was a comfortable 23 degrees or so everyday), it feels like a lifetime ago, and walking to ‘school’ today in -2 (but feeling like -16 with wind chill) felt more like home than 33 degrees would..
As we stepped out of the airport into the chilly Halifax air yesterday we all caught ourselves calling this city home.. It definitely has become our home and we will all be devastated to leave.. it was so nice to get back to Fenwick Tower and catch up with the other exchange students and hear about their adventures over the week!

On a more exciting note, the travelling continues next week with 4 of us (including me) from Fenwick heading off to Cancun for a 4 day taste of American spring break.. as we were checking out of our resort in the Bahamas about 600 US spring breakers were checking in so I can only imagine the chaos poor little Freeport is currently experiencing!

If the stories are true I think we are in for one wild long weekend!

Until then though, its head down, bum up, and I am in lockdown in the library to get all my reading done so that I dont fall behind!

I really encourage anyone on exchange to make the most of their exchange city’s proximity to other countries.. it is much cheaper to see them from this end than to go all the way from Australia! All the hard work i endured in the months leading up to this exchange is being converted from dollars to experiences and while I may go home with an empty bank account I will definitely be going home rich in memories of my travels and the friends and contacts we are making around the world!