Getting Giddy in Glasgow

Liam M., Bachelor of Journalism / Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
University of Glasgow, Scotland (Semester 2, 2016)

There is a saying in french: Il n’y a d’homme plus complet que celui qui a beaucoup voyage, qui a change vingt fois la forme de sa pensée et de sa vie, which means that there is no man more complete than he who has travelled a lot, who has changed the shape of his thoughts and his life twenty times. And to be frank, I think this sums up my exchange experience beautifully.

For me the whole idea of embarking on an exchange program was to broaden my mind and my life through another culture or cultures so that upon my return I could come back enriched with life experience, great memories and stories that I will remember forever. I have been fortunate throughout my life to have travelled with my family, but there is nothing quite like moving overseas by yourself for the very first time. This was my reality on the 23rd of August 2016 as I ventured on a 26 hour flight to Paris, and then eventually over to the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Words couldn’t describe the emotions that I was feeling after spending over a week in Paris, five days in London and then finally arriving in Glasgow. As I hopped out of Glasgow Central train station I arrived in what could be described as typical Scottish summer weather, 13 degrees and raining. However, I couldn’t be more excited to move into my student flat.

Over the coming days and weeks everything seemed to move very fast. From moving in, to making new friends and countless orientation activities and to the infamous “freshers week” everything was great. I couldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world. However, nothing will challenge you more on exchange than being essentially alone, and sick overseas. Halfway through freshers week, I had contracted tonsillitis for the very first time, and it was a very trying time as I attempted to take care of myself, while extremely sick. This is probably one thing you cannot prepare for before going on exchange, as no one can predict how healthy you’re going to be while overseas. However, it taught me that you really have to look after yourself no matter how much fun you’re having, eat good food, get enough sleep and in Scotland, wear the appropriate warm clothes so you don’t get sick. The University of Glasgow had made every exchange student feel extremely welcome by throwing all sorts of events throughout the coming weeks. One particular favourite was the Ceilidh, a Scottish party where traditional dances take place.

Throughout the semester I took three subjects, equivalent to QUT’s four. I probably didn’t enjoy them as much as I should have, but learning about a different country’s legal system was interesting albeit challenging at the same time. I made a lot of friends at GU, who weren’t just exchange students. This is because I joined the legal society and GUSWPC, which is Glasgow Uni’s swimming and water-polo club. This was probably the highlight of my time abroad because I made many local Scottish and English friends that will be in my life for many, many years. This would be my main recommendation to anyone going on exchange and wanting to immerse themselves in their host universities life: join a club or society that you’re interested in, as it is the easiest way to make local friends and to really have a good time. I was lucky enough to be selected on the men’s water-polo and men’s swimming teams. With swimming, I was able to compete at the British National University Championships, local club meets, inter-university league matches and the Scottish National Swimming Championships. I even took part in a swimming camp in the Canary Islands after my exchange had finished, which was the best way to say goodbye to my Scottish friends.

I also got a job while in Glasgow, and this showed me a very different side to Scottish culture and allowed me to experience different things while abroad. I was also able to spend my hard earned Scottish pounds. I made the most of days off uni and weekends when I wasn’t working by travelling around Scotland and England as much as I could. From St. Andrews, to Edinburgh, to the Scottish Highlands and the different Lochs and Isles. Scotland was more beautiful than I imagined. Though, throughout all this travelling I still had to keep up with my studies, and before I knew it, Christmas exams were around the corner and it dawned on me that the end of my time in Glasgow was almost here. I tried to extend my exchange for another semester, but subject approvals let me down. Nevertheless I couldn’t have been happier with how my time in Scotland went.

However, even though my exchange at Glasgow was up, my real travelling time was just beginning. From the beginning of January to the end of February I visited 14 countries throughout Europe and the middle-east, I made lots of friends, had many sleepless nights, ate delicious different foods, got food poisoning, went skiing in the Austrian Alps, visited eastern Europe and made many memories that will be with me forever. I really couldn’t have asked for a better exchange experience, because everything I did, I loved, and I wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe applying for a year exchange instead of 6 months 😛 ). However, I have come back a more mature, sophisticated, well travelled boy who can now share my stories in the hopes that many other future QUT students use their abilities to embark on what really is a once in a life time opportunity to study abroad. Thank you Study Abroad QUT for giving me this opportunity. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Adventure of a Lifetime in Birmingham

Cassandra, T., Bachelor of Public Health
University of Birmingham, England (Semester 1, 2017)

Going on exchange was easily the best decision of my life. Not only did I make incredible life long friends but I also experienced life as a local in a country so far away from home. It is difficult to summarise such an amazing experience that was both as amazing as I expected and even more.

I spent semester 1, 2017 at the University of Birmingham in England. I had visited the country a couple of times before with my family and had fallen in love with the rich history, traditions and culture. After receiving an email from the QUT study abroad and exchange office advertising the exchange program I thought why not give it a shot.

University Life

I was really nervous before arriving at my uni hall as I had never lived anywhere but Brisbane or with anyone but my family. At UoB most of the first years and exchange students live in the Vale. It is a group of residence halls run by the university and has a small community feel. I lived in Mason with 5 other girls all sharing a kitchen and common area. I opted to cook myself instead of having the meal plan. I also had my own private room and bathroom, providing a place to study and call everyone back home.

All my flat mates were very welcoming and we all instantly clicked.  The people I lived with became my closest friends and we did everything together, becoming the envy of other flats that didn’t get along so well with their flat mates. I never once felt alone or isolated as my support network of both international and British friends were always there. During the Easter break I was fortunate enough to stay with some of my friends at their homes in Rochester and Scunthorpe, where I was treated to traditional English pub meals and a classic Sunday dinner, which is actually a roast lunch. We still speak just about every day, the time zones may be difficult but with so many forms of social media it makes staying in contact really easy.

Campus

Getting to and from uni was a lot easier than my one-hour bus ride to QUT, it was only a leisurely 15min walk to the main campus from my uni hall. The main campus was particularly beautiful with many old historic buildings mixed with new state of the art buildings like the new fancy library. In the centre of the campus is Old Joe, the largest free standing clock tower in Europe. Legend has it that if you walk underneath while it chimes you will fail your degree. The Great Hall where I completed one exam looked like it was straight out of Harry Potter. During the spring the campus and the Vale, where I lived, had daffodils and other pretty flowers blooming everywhere.

Study Load

The curriculum set up is slightly different to QUT with most students taking 6 units per semester, the option to take 4 or 5 units per semester is available however this means some units are weighted more heavily meaning more work. Although, the workload was still manageable and I still found time to hang out with friends. I was there for 2 semesters, the spring/summer semesters, as they have 3 semesters per year. The first semester is only 11 weeks long and is the main teaching period. Following that, there is a month long break over Easter, the perfect time to travel and see the rest of the UK and Europe.  The contact hours are slightly more than what I’m accustomed to at QUT with around 2 or 3 lectures a week and a tutorial, seminar or practical. However, they were usually only 1 hour long.

Travel

With the U.K. being a lot smaller in geographical size than Australia it was easy to go on day trips or overnight trips on the weekends to different cities. As Birmingham is only a 2-hour train ride to London, I had many day trips there exploring the city. I also saw many lovely quaint old towns and historical castles such as, Warwick Castle, Nottingham and Nottingham castle, the Cadbury factory, Edinburgh, Oxford, and Blenheim Palace. Train tickets are also super cheap if you buy a 16-25 year old rail pass. I can’t recommend it enough, if you plan on taking trains it is definitely worth the money. Because of this we were able to buy 7 pound return trips to London, bargain! Plane tickets were also cheap if you buy them well in advance and only take carry on luggage. Because of this I was able to travel through Europe during the month break between the semesters. I was lucky enough to visit, Malaga in Spain, Dublin for St Patrick’s Day, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, Iceland, Venice and Rome. It is really difficult to pick my favourite place but Iceland was definitely amazing. The landscapes and natural beauty are unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Why you should go on exchange

I couldn’t recommend going on an exchange enough. This experience QUT has provided me with has made me come out of my shell and realise my aspirations for life. I have learnt life lessons that wouldn’t be taught in a classroom. It may sound cheesy but Birmingham will always be my second home.

The QUT exchange program has really opened my eyes to a world of possibilities and adventures right outside my doorstep. It truly was an experience of a lifetime.

 

A Year in the Land of Hygge!

Marcus F. Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Creative Industries
Copenhagen Business School (Semester 2, 2017) and University of Copenhagen (Semester 1, 2018)

For the past year, I have embarked on a two-semester exchange in Denmark, the home of Nordic Noir, Danish design, pleasing pastries, and the omnipresent ‘hygge’ – or cosiness. Slightly unusually and thanks to QUT’s Exchange Office being very flexible, I was able to attend classes at both Copenhagen Business School and the University of Copenhagen. This allowed me to experience units relating to both halves of my double degree.

At both universities, the classes and standard of assessment I took was relatively similar to what I’ve experienced at QUT. However, in Denmark there is a much greater focus on independent learning and conversational input during class whereby students are encouraged to contribute their opinion on the content raised. Something to note is that the majority of classes are not recorded and so it’s a good idea to try and attend lectures and tutorials as much as possible! Specifically, while away I studied Visual Communication, Marketing: The Essentials and Trend Drivers, Consumer Behaviour and Statistics at CBS and Scandinavian Film and Television, and Digital Strategic Communication at KU.

One real difficulty for many exchange students, particularly in Copenhagen, is sourcing accommodation due to the limited availability of rooms as well as financial cost. Fortunately, I made sure to get onto the booking system as soon as possible and during my first semester I lived at Kathrine Kollegiet in Frederiksberg and Bikuben Kollegiet in Islands Brygge during the second semester. Both rooms were located in close proximity to the universities and were very spacious, containing a small kitchenette and en-suite bathroom. It was really interesting to be able to live with both a mix of different exchange students during the first semester as well as primarily Danish students during my second semester.

Upon arrival in Copenhagen the city’s beauty really struck me, with clean streets and a striking mix of contemporary and traditional buildings stretching as far as the eye could see! After a long and chilly winter, the city really comes alive with everyone leaving work early to enjoy the long summer evenings by the canals or barbecuing in one of the many parks or at the beach.

Like Amsterdam, Copenhagen is a very cycle-friendly city and I would really recommend purchasing a bike at the start of your stay. It’s a worthy investment in the environment and overall fitness (to work off those Danish pastries) with the added bonus of reducing reliance on public transport. One of my favourite experiences was when my friends and I completed a 50km circuit around the outskirts of city to see the ‘Forgotten Giants’ an installation by Danish artist Thomas Dambo consisting of large wooden giants dotted around in a number of spots in the forest.

In my opinion, Copenhagen is a highly liveable city and you are never short of things to do. However, a benefit for me and many of the other students I met was also the ability to travel easily to other destinations in Denmark and Sweden as well as wider Europe. A couple of real highlights for me were an Easter cruise to St Petersburg, via Helsinki which was organised by the Erasmus Student Network as well as a holiday on the small Danish island of Bornholm.

Whilst it may sound clichéd, my year in Copenhagen has truly been the experience of a lifetime. The opportunity to meet such a variety of people and experience life in a completely foreign city has been invaluable to me and undeniably been beneficial for both personal and professional development. I’m really looking forward to going back in future!

Never a Dull Moment: A Semester Abroad

Joseph W., Bachelor of Information Technology
TU Darmstadt, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

Figure 1: Autumn sunset in Darmstadt – from campus main entrance

It all started one day when I was at home thinking about how cool it would be to go overseas to Europe. I thought how cool it would be see and experience the Alps, European cultures, the different languages and, well, whatever else! I thought, “What the heck? I’m going to apply for exchange”, and so I did!

I had some exchange student friends and had often seen the stalls set up for Study Abroad but had always thought “Nah, that’s not me”. I hadn’t travelled much. I had been overseas when I was very young and had more recently travelled for two weeks with my family in Canada and so I was by no means a seasoned traveller. I contemplated the idea of going on exchange for about three weeks and so I knew I could and yet I just keep putting the idea to the back of my head until it could stay there no longer.

Fast forwarding six months later to my arrival in Darmstadt, Germany. The first month was at times challenging as there were so much to do to become registered in the TU Darmstadt and in Germany as well as making financial arrangements. During this time, the TUD exchange team were taking very good care of us to help us sort out everything we needed to do and were hosting social events and parties for us. With over 200 exchange students from everywhere around the globe and the exchange team to meet, there was never a dull moment.

The university exchange team arranged a two-day trip to a beautiful old town in Germany called Rüdesheim along the river Rhine. After a night’s stay in a hostel, tasting local wines, we woke up bright and early the next morning for a boat ride along the river Rhine viewing the many castles that marked what was once a border separating France and Germany.

Figure 2: Tenerife, Spain – Lookout on the way down a narrow two-way road barely wide enough for one car

Figure 3: Rüdesheim, Germany – Looking out over the town, River Rhine and the vineyards

As the Semester started and I settled down to a relatively stable routine, I went on several short trips around Germany and Europe. Laying almost in the very centre of Europe, Darmstadt is a great place to travel from, especially for me, coming from Australia which is far away from everything. Some highlights would have to include a hike through the foggy Black Forest while trying not to take the wrong track, the Miniature Museum in Hamburg, Mount Teide volcano in Tenerife, Spain and my first experience of a snowfall in the beautiful town of Salzburg!

Finally, after an incredible experience overseas, came time to go home. The Last two months had some challenging moments doing a lot of last minute study, getting ready for the final exams. However, without a doubt, the most challenging part about leaving a semester abroad is saying goodbye to friends that I had spent so much time with and done so many cool things with. But it’s okay. I will be back!

Figure 4: Black Forest, Germany – Fighting through the mist trying not to get too lost!

Figure 5: Auerbach Castle, Germany – Enjoying a sunny day with an evening hike up to the Auerbach Castle

Looking for a little adventure? Travel!

Jordan W
(BCI student Majoring in Drama, Minors in Scenography and Literature)
Leeds University, UK

 

It’s been a little over four weeks now since returning from my exchange, and it has given me a lot of time to relish and ponder on the extraordinary opportunity that QUT has provided to students.

I firstly want to say that when people say that a student exchange is a life-changing event –

I want to say it is truly a life-changing event that will hopefully help shape you in years to come.

It really sets the whole motion on how you approach long-distant travel overseas, preparation for a trip, certain requirements that you need to do on your own before leaving your home country and helps you really feel what it is like to be self-sufficient – on your own – progressing into the unknown.

Just some of the friends you will make on exchange

It really is a new chapter in your life. It also helps the students who may not have left the nest yet, to really get a chance to spread their wings and learn how to fly on their own.

I was a person who had already been out of home for quite some time but had never had a travelling to distant sides of the world, jumping head first into the culture of another country, immersing myself for the better part of six months with students that did not know my history, background or culture kind of experience.

By the end, you will wish you could never leave – but that’s okay because at the end you would have made connections and can meet up with those friends again, traveling and searching the world together.

 

 

How was studying at HTW?

Chloe: HTW Berlin, Semester 1, 2016

chloe-mcgovern4

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.