Making Friends for Life

Heidi F., Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
State University of New York, USA (Semester 1, 2016)

Studying at State University of New York

University

I loved studying at SUNY. It was such a different experience to anything that I had been used to previously. It was awesome to be living on a campus where it was snowing almost every day, so much so that we sometimes had snow days where university would be cancelled for the day (where we then went out sledding behind our dorms). Not to mention the time when I ran out into the snow in my bikini! (Just to say I had done it). The university as a whole was all quite expensive but worth it I think. The meal plan was compulsory (and super expensive!!) but I’m glad I had it as it made everything a lot easier. It was a lot of fun having an ice skating rink on campus as we did that quite a bit as well as watched a lot of ice hockey matches which I loved. I joined a lot of sporting groups and I also did a lot of on campus activities which kept me busy. They were a lot of fun! Academics wise – it was quite easy compared to QUT. It surprised me how much easier it was than what I was used to but it was good as I was able to get pretty good marks without placing much stress on myself.

 

America

It blew me away how bad the currency exchange rate was. I lost a lot of money when I exchanged my AUD dollars to the US currency. It was super sad seeing how many thousands of dollars I was losing but I just kept telling myself that it was all going to be worth it! And it totally was. One I travelled quite a bit to New York City as well as around New York State and up to the Thousand Islands. At the end of my uni semester, I also flew across to California and spent quite a lot of time there. It was exciting to get some sunshine and beaches there after such a long time without! One thing about America that was a little tricky was the ability to adjust to the different foods. I often found myself feeling a little sick as I wasn’t used to it. After a while my body adjusted I think, and I was feeling a lot better.

 

Highlights

There were so many highlights, obviously. I had a great time experiencing new things such as skiing and snowboarding as well as getting into new sports like ice hockey and American football. The ‘touristy’ things were also a blast such as the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood sign, Hollywood boulevard, Santa Monica Pier etc. I did and saw so many things! Looking back on it all though, I definitely think one of the best things about my exchange was just living on campus and meeting so many amazing people. I have now made friends for life and so many of these guys are already heading over this way soon!

Happiest Time of My Life

Jade P., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Strathclyde, Scotland (Semester 1, 2016)

What a task – asking me to reflect on my exchange experience in less than one page, where to even begin?

Semester 1, 2016 was the happiest six months of my life.

I did my exchange at the University of Strathclyde in the oh-so-sunny Glasgow, Scotland. That was typed with the heaviest sarcastic tone FYI, I think I had about seven days’ worth of sun during my time in Glasgow – I even had to go out and buy a lighter foundation!

I lived on the top floor of the second-cheapest accommodation option, with seven other girls. For six of which, English was their second language, so anytime the American girl or I noticed a mistake in their English, we had to write it out on ‘the fridge’ (cue: dun-dun-duuun). After 4 and a half months the fridge was filled with the most hilarious out of context sentences and embarrassingly enough even something I had said managed to make it there. In my defence, Australian English okay! And that’s another thing I had to learn, to make fun of the country that I’m so proud to call home. I don’t know why, but Europeans don’t quite consider us a real country yet; you should have heard the sassy comments on the night of Eurovision! I’ve heard it all from riding kangaroos to buying my groceries with monopoly money – people will laugh at us and our “what is a bogan?” accent, but at the end of the day you will be their favourite international drinking bud – take it all in pride.

I am so relieved to report that I did not have any Scottish teachers, except for one guest law lecturer, and yes – I did not understand a single word he said. We call ourselves multicultural; wait until you go to school in Europe. I’ve learnt from people all over the globe, Egyptian, Greek, Spanish, African, Lithuanian, you name it. Their teaching staff were so globally experienced, name a country and they’ve worked there.

Moving onto the most important part of the exchange, Spring Break (sorry Mum). 3 girls, 6 countries, 10 cities, 5 flights, 1 overnight bus, a cross-country drive, a night on an airport floor, countless hostels, and endless coffee, all in 15 days. Now I can officially say I’ve walked to the smallest country in the world! I’m not even going to try and dive into this trip because there are too many stories for one page, and it’s something you just have to go out there and experience for yourself.

I honestly cannot even begin to explain how amazing my exchange was – I will always be so grateful for this experience and the support QUT offered from beginning to end. Being able to live, and study abroad with the administrative and financial help from your university isn’t an opportunity you should just let pass you by. My advice to those considering an exchange, go to virtual>study>open exchange application and submit. To those that are eagerly counting down the days until their flights, boy do I envy you! Just take each day as it comes and make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Don’t waste your weekend’s Facebooking friends from your dorm room – RyanAir is your new best friend. Book those $15 6:50am flights and go out and get a taste of the world! Everything will still be waiting for you when the dreaded day comes and you have to make your trek home. Then you’ll be where I am now, wishing more than anything that you could wake up and do it all over again.

Hej from Copenhagen!

Margaux O., Bachelor of Biomedical Science / Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (Semester 2, 2017)

Landing in Copenhagen was probably close to the scariest things I’ve ever done. However, I was greeted by a smiling Dane who my host university, Copenhagen Business School, set up for me. It was a scary but exhilarating moment being thrust into a whole new continent, let alone city, to live for the next 5-6 months.

Looking back on my exchange to Copenhagen, I don’t think I would or could change one thing about it. Every day I was out meeting other exchange students while exploring every little thing this amazing city had to offer.

The turning on of the Christmas lights in Stroget

The halls of my accommodation

Copenhagen Business School was incredibly accommodating for every exchange student. They helped exchange students with everything, from subject selection to being a shoulder to cry on for those homesick. The campus, although spread out across Frederiksberg, was beautiful, modern, and old. For me, teaching styles were reasonably similar to QUT, having a tutorial and a lecture for each subject each week. Also the standard of work is very similar to QUT, I did not struggle at all. Although the Danes may seem reasonably held back, they are very approachable and I felt very comfortable attending class every day. Much like QUT, there are many clubs and societies to join, such as the Wine Tasting club, and the Swedish Student Society!

Next to campus: this is the suburb where Copenhagen Business School is in

If you are heading to Denmark (or Scandinavia in general), be prepared for the cost of living. I was lucky enough to live in exchange student accommodation on campus, which was a bit expensive but so worth it. I lived right next to Frederiksberg Gardens (like botanic gardens but with a castle), and the area itself is very pretty and safe. There are so many grocery stores to choose from in Copenhagen, so you will not fail to find the cheaper deals. However, be prepared to spend a fair bit if you want a coffee (average around $6 for a coffee) or to eat dinner out (about $30 for a meal). However, just like home, you won’t fail to find cheaper restaurant alternatives.

I can’t say I really experienced culture shock. I think I was just too excited to be in Denmark. It is an incredibly easy culture to get used to, and most important, everyone speaks English impeccably! There was not one moment where I struggled with the culture or interacting with the Danes. Definitely get used to bicycles everywhere – do not step on the bike track or you WILL get yelled at in Danish. We have all been there, trust me. Besides this, I honestly never felt so safe in a major city – everyone is so nice!

Here are some general tips for Copenhagen:

  • Shop at Netto or Lidl for groceries
  • Buy a Rejsekort for public transport OR a monthly pass (if you are going to use public transport often)
  • OR rent a bike! Copenhagen Business School have a group of students to rent bikes to Exchange students for the semester for about $100
  • Hit up Malmo or Lund in Sweden for lunch
  • Definitely visit Aarhus
  • Norrebro, Vesterbro, Ostebro are all worth visiting
  • If you are doing fall semester – buy a yearly Tivoli pass. Trust me you will want to see it in Halloween and Christmas.
  • Have a picnic on the canals of Copenhagen by renting a Go Boat
  • Hit up Bastard Café – a board game café!
  • Try their delicacies – Smorrebrod, Danish Rye bread, and street vendor hot dogs!

    My bright red bike!

Honestly, it feels like all of exchange was the most memorable experience. Copenhagen was actually my second preference, but I could not be more pleased that I went to Copenhagen. I cannot explain how much I loved the city and how much I want to still be there with every single person I met. Everyone says this, but you do definitely make some life long friends – and lucky for me some of them are Australian!

A friend of mine I met in Copenhagen once emotionally described his exchange experience to us as “a complete dream, like it never actually happened.” Since coming home, I couldn’t agree with him more. A dream too good to be real, but a dream that did actually happen.

Life in Copenhagen

Victoria K., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (Semester 1, 2016)

Host University    

In 2016 of Semester 1 I went on exchange to the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in Denmark. I chose this uni as it was heavily qualified being the best Business school in Scandinavia and in the top 10 Business schools in Europe. When I first saw the different campuses I was shocked at how much they resembled buildings for small companies rather than a uni!

I took the subjects: Visual Communication, Organising Global Business & Marketing, International Business Law and Marketing: Trend Drivers. I was very impressed to see that all the lecturers had “real world” experience in the subjects that they taught, as they had all held high positions within that area of business. It was this expertise that each lecturer brought to lessons that made my study at CBS very special.

 


 

 

 

 

Social Life
At CBS they have an excellent social package for exchange students which involves a week of activities before semester organised just for exchange students with the main goal of introducing everyone to each other but also Danish culture. The activities included bowling, bingo (sounds boring but they made it a lot of fun!), ice skating and bar/ club nights to name a few. The activity week is optional for exchange students and you have to pay (its quite cheap) but I 100% recommend you go so you can meet as many people as possible.

The social activities were run by current students of CBS so they were all very friendly and approachable. Within the first social event I had already made three or four friends so it was extremely easy to meet people if you attended the social week. CBS also has a buddy system where you are paired up with a CBS student (you can choose the gender). My buddy was amazing, she showed me around the city and introduced me to her Danish friends.

Accommodation
In Denmark it is illegal for a university to own housing but CBS has the rights to quite a few dorms and accommodation. As a result, accommodation spots are very scarce (in very high demand) and it is on a first come first serve basis. Accommodation spots for CBS students become available at a certain date and time. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the time as housing spots will become exhausted within an hr after their release (similar situation to buying Splendour tickets).

Also, make sure you research each dormitory and its situation to CBS. The nicest dormitory in my opinion is Tietgen (mostly Danish dorm) which is a beautiful circular building. The dorm rooms are beautiful and each level has their own communal kitchen where you can socialise with other people. Tietgen also has its own nightclub where it occasionally has small parties and the communal kitchen is also used as a makeshift dancefloor, its great fun! However it is quite far away from CBS (20 mins metro ride + 5 min walk to metro).

Transportation
In my opinion Denmark has the best public transport in the world. They have a metro, train and buses which are always exactly on time, if not 1-3 minutes late (quite rare). Seeing as Copenhagen is quite a small city, the longest it will take you to get anywhere is around 40 mins, but everywhere I went only took me about 10-20 mins.

Everyone bikes in Denmark, there are bike lanes on every road and it is the most popular mode of transport. If you do wish to bike (which is the cheapest form of transport) then you must be mindful of the bike signals (one hand up to signal you slowing down and also to signal when you are turning). There is a Facebook page for the exchange students and many people from the previous semester will be selling a bike so you won’t have to worry about buying one. The prices they are sold for vary from $50-$150 but this will be much more cheaper in the long run; as I’ve said that public transport is very expensive.

Denmark uses a system similar to the ‘go card’ which can be used on all public transport, called the ‘rejsekort’ (pronounced rye-seh-cort). The minimum amount that you can top up is $20 (100 kr) and the lowest amount you can have on it about $12 (60 kr), so this doesn’t get you very far. Going about two stops on the metro (not far) is about $2-3 (10-15 kr) so in a few days you will be needing to top up with $20 to use the card again. I would recommend you buying the rejsekort if you are using a bike as you will need the card to travel longer distances to castles and parks or when you are on your way out clubbing.

If you do not wish to buy a bike you can get something more economically feasible which is the monthly pass. For about $134 (670 kr) you can get a monthly pass to use all modes of transport within a 2 zone area. This is way cheaper than using the rejsekort if you use public transport frequently, which you will if you don’t have a bike!
PLEASE NOTE: Do not chance it by not buying a ticket! The metro do rigorous checks of people on train for tickets, rejsekorts and monthly plans every day. The same is for trains and buses but less intense. The fine is 750 kr ($150) if you are caught so it is definitely not worth it.

Host Country
Denmark is a beautiful country. In winter it can be quite miserable but the spring and summer is well worth the wait! Danish culture is quite similar to Australian in the sense that they love to drink, love their sport and have a great sense of humour. Danish people tend to be quite reserved at first but once you get to know them they are extremely fun and friendly.

As I said summer was the most beautiful season, with longer days and more people getting out and enjoying the sun. There is definitely a more festive and relaxed feel in Copenhagen- some days (at certain hours) it felt as hot as a Brissy day!

Keep in mind though that Denmark has one of the highest standard of living so eating out can be very expensive. An average meal will be between $25-30 (125-150 kr), coffee will be about $7-8.

Highlights
CPH has some amazing sights and places! For food, my friends and I loved going to the Glass markets or the indoor food hall called ‘Paper Island’. On Thursday Paper Island has discounts for students at certain food stalls for certain food items.

A great place to eat which has the lowest prices in CPH is Café Paludan, near Norreport metro station. The portions are really big, the food is delicious and the prices are very cheap for CPH standards. I definitely recommend checking out Ruby, which is among the 50 best bars in the world! The décor is quite decadent and is a very cool and intimate setting with amazing cocktails. CPH is also home to a few Michelin starred restaurants. My friends and I went to the restaurant Relae and had a 5 course meal for only $100.

Trip of a Lifetime in Canada

Amy T., Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
Simon Fraser University, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)

 

My Canadian exchange was like all my dream adventures combined into one! I arrived in the heat of summer in July 2018 and stayed until mid-January 2019, living on campus, making lots of friends and seeing the amazing country that is Canada.
One of the reasons I travelled to Canada was to visit family that lived in Vancouver, on Bowen Island, a quaint little place, 20 minutes from the mainland by ferry.

Bowen Island

You certainly wouldn’t see a Walmart or a McDonald’s here, only cute little family run stores. Using my uncle’s house as a base for my first month, I managed to tick off all the places on the bucket list I’d made before leaving home. Public transport was great, and I got to see the city sites easily. For the places further away, I travelled with a small bus tour on a 4 day trip to Vancouver Island and an eight day Banff trip.

Exploring Scenic Canada

All thanks to our knowledgeable and energetic tour guide, I got to do things I’d expect most tourists wouldn’t, like scaling a rock face on the side of a road to see a hidden waterfall, hear the history of each town along the way and sit back while someone else did the driving and the time management. I would 100% recommend Moose tours for anyone looking for a fast-paced and fun-filled adventure that is practically stress free.

Burnaby Campus – SFU

After a month of adventuring, it was time for university. The Burnaby campus of Simon Fraser University was on top of a hill that overlooked Vancouver. The sunsets from the lookout were so magical that photos cannot do it justice. My campus was surrounded by maple forest and there were countless walking tracks to explore.

Living there, right on campus, was the best! I stayed in a townhouse with 3 others. Initially we were all strangers but throughout the semester we got to know each other so well! There was always someone to chat with, laugh with and eat with (three of my favourite things). My place was only a 15-minute walk to class meaning I could often sleep in… which is always a good thing.

My dorm room on Campus

There were other things about the campus which were great too, like the family of raccoons I met on my first day at the university! So feisty, so cute… The university had a lot of events such as the winter festival where I collected freebies and learnt how to walk on ice and free s’mores which were available every day. I would often find myself warming up next to a fire pit, roasting a marshmallow. Thankfully, SFU also had a conveniently located gym with fitness classes that I enjoyed daily as well.

Roasting S’mores at Winter Festival

With so much happening on campus, getting involved meant making friends was easy. I joined The Point church which was on campus and consequently made so many Canadian friends!! Getting to know everyone from the church through bible studies and shared local meals made my exchange experience feel so authentically Canadian.

Meeting New Friends

In terms of studying, university was slightly different. Many of my classes had four 1-hour sessions a week. Only one of my classes had recorded lectures. Two of my subjects didn’t even have lecture slides! The marking system was different because they used a bell curve and you couldn’t really predict what mark you were going to get. Luckily, because I was on exchange, I didn’t have to worry. Even though there was always more study to be done, I made time to see just a little bit more of Canada on my weekends!

Travelling on the weekend to see Canada

The Canadian culture was very similar to Australian culture and the accent was one I quickly got used to. Small language differences were always a source of confusion and laughter. “Mince”, “lollies” and “ute” seemed to stump Canadians… while “tuque” (beanie) was hard for me to get used to! Halloween and Thanksgiving were new celebrations for me, and the candy and pumpkin pie were thoroughly enjoyed.

Enjoying a white Christmas

After my exams, my Australian family flew over to join me for a white Christmas. Eating a hot roast for lunch, having a real pine Christmas tree and seeing the sleet outside (not quite cold enough for snow) really made it feel so Canadian. The next month of travel included an American road trip and a flight up north where the days are -34 degrees and the Aurora Borealis is just stunning.

Aurora Borealis

Although I missed everyone from Australia, the time I spent exploring Canada was a time of fun and adventures and also a time of growth. My exchange was the best six months I have ever had!

The Best Student City In The World: Experiencing Montreal

Sneha M, Bachelor of Business and Laws (Honours)
HEC Montreal, Semester 2 2017

When I realised I was going on exchange I was a whole lot of excited and a little bit of nervous!

I had never lived overseas before for starters, and cooking skills were limited to toast. My partner institution was HEC (Hautes Ecoles Commerciales) in Montreal, Canada. While my classes were in English, French is the main language spoken in Montreal. Equipped with about three Duolingo lessons I packed my one suitcase and off I went! Luckily however, nearly everyone in Montreal speaks English. In fact, they want to practice English so much you may not always get to try out your French!

Getting There

My experience did not start off on the best note. My flight from Brisbane was delayed by four hours, which meant I missed both of my connecting flights. When I arrived in LAX for a stopover my phone stopped working and my next flight was delayed. On my final leg from Toronto to Montreal, the passenger behind me was severely sick and had to get medical treatment before we could fly out! I ended up arriving in Montreal with no one to pick me up at 4am, a day later than expected. This also meant I spent the first and only day before orientation week getting my phone fixed, getting some warm clothes (as it was -14 degrees) and grocery shopping. The next day Orientation Week began and it was jam packed full of activities including going to an outdoor spa in the snow, laser tag, snow tubing, pub crawls, hikes, ice skating, parties and much more. Needless to say it was really fun, but so exhausting I caught the flu. I think experiencing challenges so early in my exchange made me take initiative and get organised really quickly which made the rest of the trip so much easier.

My home for the semester!

Accommodation and Travelling 

I was really lucky my roommates were also attending HEC. This made the whole experience better because we had similar schedules and could travel together. I definitely recommend going to Montreal if you want to travel. It’s only a short bus ride to New York and Boston and a few hours further to Washington DC. I also got the chance to visit the Rocky Mountains on the West Coast of Canada which was simply breathtaking and even visited Iceland during spring break!

Blue lagoon in Iceland!

Death Valley, USA

The Student Life

Montreal was voted the number one student city in the world for good reasons! It has plenty to do and a great atmosphere. While on exchange I went to Igloofest, a music festival with intricately carved bonfires and great music. It started snowing halfway through the night, which just meant everyone had to dance harder.

A word of caution though, HEC has a very good reputation, but that also means the courses are quite difficult. Instead of using electives, I was able to complete compulsory finance subjects. The format is quite different with no online lectures and three hour classes that combine work as lectures and tutorials together. Take advantage of the consultations and make sure to study throughout the semester as most exams are worth 60%! One elective class I took however was Social Innovation in the International Area. This subject requires us to work with a Social Innovation group or project in Montreal to meet specific aims. It was amazing to see the social enterprises people from across the globe are involved in.

The Weather

It can sometimes be difficult in winter where some days it was -19. It’s really important to layer, because underground and inside it can get really warm with central heating. Montreal has an extensive underground metro system as well as shopping centers and an underground mini city! Good shoes are also a must as you can be trekking through deep snow just to get to class! Canadians are tough and class is hardly ever cancelled unless there is a major snowstorm.

Snow storm!

Notre Dame de Basilica, Montreal

 

The friends, skills and memories I have gained from Montreal and my time at HEC was invaluable. I am so grateful and humbled by exchange experience. I can’t wait to visit again!

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.