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‘I still call Australia home’: My QUT Exchange Experience

Hi, my name is Byron, and I was an inbound exchange student to QUT in Semester 1 (2020). Back in Scotland, I’m an International Business student at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and now that I’m home – I’d like to share some of my amazing experiences in studying and living in Brisbane.

Surfing with the QUT Surfers club

Coming to O-Week this ‘arvo’?

Stepping off a 14-hour flight from Dubai, me and my friend Anna (also on exchange from Strathclyde) were whisked away by a free transfer, organised by QUT. It was only a short 20-minute drive from the airport, and we were told all about ‘Brissy’ and the Australian culture along the journey by our friendly driver. Our accommodation was right in the middle of the Central Business District of Brisbane (or simply called ‘the city’ by locals) and I was impressed at how big and modern it looked. Studying abroad also marked my first occasion of living truly independently and before leaving home, I had a fair idea of how I pictured my experience would be. However, because I had arrived so early (at least 2-weeks before uni was going to start), I felt that my time so far didn’t live up to my first expectations.

At the airport ready to board

This quickly changed when ‘O-Week’ at QUT finally happened! The week-long event was in many ways similar to ‘Freshers Week’ back at home (except hotter and much better outside). O-Week allowed me to engage with different clubs, societies and organisations, as well as an excuse to explore QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus and the Gardens Point campus (where all my classes were based).

With an orientation specifically for exchange students, the QUT Global team told us more about Brisbane, ‘Aussie slang’ (‘arvo’ is slang for ‘afternoon’!) and university systems. It was here, I learned about how much QUT want their students to succeed and the different things they have for this. I was also pleased to kick off my exchange experience being selected as a QUT Global Student Ambassador, where I volunteered to help the university to promote international study to others. During O-Week, I had the opportunity to meet my fellow ambassadors and learn more about the role during an orientation event. Tasked with answering general queries from students and assisting with QUT Global events, I also had the pleasure of further promoting Strathclyde and Scotland as a destination to study!

Beach weekends with friends

I LOVED the atmosphere of O-Week and was completely different to what it was like during the previous weeks. Having a lively atmosphere and getting the chance to meet so many people was amazing, as well as interesting. Experiencing and inter

acting with different cultures first-hand, this is what I pictured life in Australia as and was really happy to finally experience this!

 

Home or away: Glasgow or Brisbane?

Being more than well-settled into my new home, I found that living in Brisbane’s CBD meant that I had the freedom to do a lot more and have no time limits on when I could do them. Living at home back in Glasgow meant that most of the time, I’d be bound by the train timetables and being constantly wary of how I would get back home after doing something in the city centre. This for sure was not an issue in Brisbane! For example, ever wanted pancakes at 3 am? Say no more – one of my favourite restaurants, ‘Pancake Manor’ was only a 2-minute walk away from my accommodation.

 

Going on exchange, it is sometimes easy to forget why you are actually abroad – to study. It was interesting to meet and work with Australians, and note their different attitudes towards learning, life and work. I was able to experience this by interacting with the lectures, ‘tutes’ (tutorials) and campus life in general.

With Strathclyde being the ‘place of useful learning’ and QUT the ‘university for the real world’, you’d think that teaching styles would be similar. However, what I found is that where I would have a balance of learning academic literature and how to put it into practice at Strathclyde, QUT is different.  The university actively encourages assessments that are similar to what people working in the field actually do (e.g – working on a live business project for a real youth services social enterprise, as part of my Strategic Marketing class) – something which encourages me to stay focused in and enjoy my studies. I had around 5 weeks’ worth of traditional face-to-face teaching at QUT and was previously told about the Australian system. Described as a ‘liberal approach’ by the International Team during orientation, it was during these 5 weeks that I found out the extent that some Australians take it. Despite this, it meant that the other students that did go to classes were very engaged with the content, being keen to take part in discussions (especially Aussies).  Aside from all the interest I’d get about my Scottish accent (!), hearing others naturally joining in class discussion also motivated me to also do so.

 

Australia Zoo with mates

Over and out for now, QUT 🙁

Hopefully, you were able to gather that I LOVE Australia and Brisbane and was very sad to have my experience come to an end. I made so many friends for life and I can’t wait to pester them all again soon on my next world tour! I learned that although Australia is a vast country, it’s fairly well connected. And so, with restrictions being lifted early during the semester, I was able to live my best life and conquered 5 out of 8 Australian states/territories during my travels! Of course, COVID-19 impacted my exchange experience, however, I learned that this wasn’t something I could control. Studying abroad on the other side of the world and doing it during a global pandemic certainly helped me to learn what resiliency really is – better than what any old PowerPoint could ever do.

Uluru

Overall, I am glad that Australia handled the situation well and meant that I felt it didn’t drastically change my student experience. With the support from my friends that I made (from Australia and beyond) and QUT, I feel lucky to have been able to stay longer than planned and make the most of my time abroad. I wouldn’t change anything about my experience, and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat!

Australia and Brisbane, you’ll always be my second home and I’ll be back before you know it – love, your biggest fan and newest Queenslander.

Byron x

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