Canadian Escapade

Helena J, Bachelor of Engineering/Information Technology

University of Waterloo (Semester 2, 2016)

Deciding to go on Exchange in Canada is the best decision I’ve ever made! In Semester 2, 2016, I travelled to Ontario, Canada to study at the University of Waterloo. Waterloo is amazing and highly ranked engineering school located in the suburb of Waterloo. The campus was gorgeous, with many cool, modern and interesting buildings and recreational spaces.

Outside the University of Waterloo sign on the last day with two of my now best friends.

I lived “off-campus” at WCRI which was located across the road from the Uni. It took me 4mins to walk to class everyday – which was great, especially when it got really cold! It was an older styled accommodation which featured 4 buildings. I had my own little room and shared a bathroom with three lovely girls from Canada. We then shared a kitchen and living area with another 16 people! This made for some chaotic but fun times in the kitchen; including setting off the fire alarm with burnt slice, traditional German meals being cooked for us and communal lasagne nights. Coming from living at home to such a shared environment was awesome and gave me many opportunities to make incredible friends from all over the world.

The Canadian University life was fantastic! I got to go see the school play at their Homecoming CFL (Canadian version of NFL), Ice-Hockey, Rugby and even got involved with school sport myself. I joined an Ultimate Frisbee team with some fellow exchange students, joined the Volleyball club and even played some Squash. The amount of school spirit was something I’d never experienced back home in Australia.

Supporting the Waterloo Warriors at the Homecoming Game.

Subjects at the University were quite hard. The atmosphere was quite competitive and scary at times, especially when compared to the more laidback attitude in Australia. Lectures weren’t recorded and notes were written on a blackboard which sometimes made studying quite hard! The other students thought it was crazy that back home at QUT, all my lectures are recorded and done primarily through a computer. So adapting to academic life at Waterloo was a big struggle for me, as I had never experienced anything like it.

I cannot recommend Canada enough to anyone thinking of going on exchange though! Cost of living was on par with Australia – if not cheaper, which was great for the budget! And with the Australian dollar doing so well, I did not lose much while converting my money. Another great thing is that even though majority of Canadians speak English; we got to meet some Québécois who spoke mainly in French! I also got to do stereotypical Canadian activities like eat poutine (so delicious!!!), have an extremely intense snowball fight (at midnight because the snow started bucketing down!) and celebrate Thanksgiving (the Canadian one, not American; don’t get that mixed up!) and Halloween. An added perk to doing Exchange in Canada was the opportunity to travel. With some of the new friends I made we did many cool road trips; numerous national parks, lakes, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Chicago! I also got to travel around the USA at the end of my exchange; going to places like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Alaska!

Having fun with some friends in Chicago at the Cloud Gate.

With some many new and incredible experiences under my belt it is hard to pick a favourite or highlight of my exchange and travels. However, making so many wonderful, hilarious and beautiful friends for life would take the cake if I had to pick one. They 100% made my exchange everything that it was and opened my eyes to different cultures and ways of life. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to everyone I became friends with at the University of Waterloo as we all shared such a wonderful exchange experiences together.

Me standing on Matanuska Glacier in Alaska in -42°C as the last part of my trip after Exchange.

An Engineer Abroad

Jacob W,  Bachelor of Engineering

Exeter University (Semester 2, 2016)

 

A blog for uni, I must write,

as I sit and wait for my flight.

Home, I am bound,

Now I am out of euro & pound.

An adventure I have had,

soon to see friends and family though, I am glad.

It was July I left, travel and study abroad lay ahead,

though now in hindsight I feel I may have been misled.

A semester abroad can be really great,

unfortunately for me it was not to be my fate,

often you will read and hear,

“Embarking on exchange was the best decision I made this year”

“Don’t think, just do it” was something I read,

take heed! think! before dreams fill your head.

Life in Exeter, day to day

very similar to home though in winter, dreary and grey.

I lived with a lovely brother & sister, just out of town,

my expectations for foreign dorm life meant this was a slight let down.

Weekend trips to the English countryside, I thought there would be many,

lots of assignments ensured there were hardly any.

All-nighters in week two, something must be wrong,

Suddenly my time abroad was seeming very long.

Weeks turned to months and I eventually settled in,

I made a lifelong friend, thank god as things were looking a bit grim.

I did have a lot fun, travelling and meeting people along the way,

     seeing the sights and trying new foods, almost every day.

     Beer bike tours and river boat cruises in Budapest,

     these experiences might have been the best.

Though the delicious Polish sausage in Krakow,

    Chargrilled from a food truck, I wish I had one now.

    However, I can’t forget snowboarding in Norway,

      Amazing Berlin Christmas markets and all the Paris Clichés.

    There are many more highlights and stories to tell,

    Though I’ll wrap up this poem before you’re bored as hell.

So my semester abroad is done,

looking back, mostly I remember the fun.

Contemplating exchange? Here’s my final advice,

Dream big, get inspired but also think twice!

If you decide to go, pack light,

double check your passport before every flight.

Try to see everything but also study hard,

Call your parents and send them a post card.

 

Life in Exeter

To most people, the prospect of living and studying in England isn’t really a challenge and in many ways it’s not. The culture is similar, the language is the same and university assessment is fairly alike. Until you get to a new country however, you have no idea what you’re in for. So… what’s it really like to live in Exeter, England?

Exeter? It’s a uni town. No hour long journeys to get to an 8.30am lecture or city protests blocking your way into campus. It has everything you need to get through uni; shops, clubs, scenery by the Quay and even Deliveroo. It’s a 3hour train from London making it the perfect place to study on the cheap but also close enough to the the big city to make weekend trips away achievable.

Day trip to London, Camden Town

The uni? From the outside it’s like being back at QUT. There’s never enough seats in the library, the food court is a nightmare and getting to the other end of campus is too far for a couch potato like me. What’s different though is the culture. QUT has societies and clubs but they aren’t a big part of student life. At the University of Exeter however, almost every student is a member of at least two societies. There’s a new social on every week and the students thrive on this sense of community. This is definitely something I’d love to bring back home to QUT.

Teaching? Assessment? Less contact hours is something I was pleasantly surprised by. Alongside a completely different teaching timetable. Weeks 1 to 11 are spent teaching, we then have a month break (which has just finished), followed by a month of exams. Assessment is fairly standard but only needing a passing mark of 40% is quite deceiving. Students rarely receive anything over a 65% and getting a 1st (equivalent to a QUT 7) is almost unheard of. So to say it was a shock when I got my first piece of assessment back is an understatement.

My flat? Thank God for uni accommodation; gone are the days when I have to get up early to make it to class on time. My flat overlooks the campus and all classes are a 5-minute walk away. The communal areas are cleaned 3 times a week and I have a bigger room than I did back home (winning).

View of Streatham Campus from my flat window

My flat mates? We have 4 English students, 1 Welsh, 1 Spanish, 1 French and 1 Australian. Living with so many people might seem like a struggle to some, but the only space we share is the kitchen/dining area. It has been the best opportunity I’ve had to meet people and make friends; living on campus is by far the best option when studying abroad.

Choosing Exeter for my study abroad experience is by far one of the best choices I’ve made. With only a month and a half left here I’m devastated at how fast the time is going. It’s made my time in England a home away from home PLUS J.K. Rowling studied here so would I come back? Definitely.

Experiencing Southern charm at USC

Anna H, Bachelor of Journalism/Laws

University of South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2016)

Last semester I studied at the University of South Carolina in the United States. I could not recommend studying abroad more highly to students considering an exchange program.

I arrived in the state’s capital, Columbia, where the USC campus is situated. As soon as I stepped off the plane and was greeted with a Southern accent and smile, I knew I was going to fall in love with the city. The USC International Office had arranged for exchange students to be picked up by volunteer drivers who knew the city and campus. This was a great way to be introduced to Columbia, as my volunteer driver gave me a rundown of the city hotspots and was able to point me in the direction of my dorms so I wasn’t completely lost. Without this, move in day could have been a much more daunting experience with thousands of American students also moving into their dorms at the same time.

On campus at USC

The USC Columbia Campus is picturesque. As you walk in you can’t help but notice the huge Oak trees that line the iconic ‘Horseshoe’. I lived in Woodrow College which is a dormitory located just off the ‘Horseshoe’ and dates back to 1914. Woodrow has apartment-style configurations and houses both international and domestic students. I lived with two girls from Switzerland and Germany, who I now call two of my closest friends.

I had the opportunity to study subjects I wouldn’t normally take back home through my electives. These included American History, Feminist Theory, Introduction to Drawing and Criminal Law. Classes were different to QUT as attendance was compulsory and participation was strongly encouraged. The professors gave you a lot more opportunity to increase your final grade through things like ‘extra credit’ assignments.

Life in college was just like in the Hollywood movies. It was a constant stream of football games, bonfires, and sorority and fraternity parties. College football makes up a huge part of American culture. I was lucky enough to experience this because I studied in the Fall semester. The college football stadium holds 80,000 people and the spirit of USC students is second to none – making every home game an unforgettable experience.

One of the highlights of my trip was definitely Thanksgiving. One of my American friends invited me to stay with him and his family at their farmhouse in West Virginia. They showed me true Southern hospitality – hosting a huge Thanksgiving dinner and not letting me lift a finger.

Experiencing an unforgettable American Thanksgiving

The hardest part of my study abroad semester was saying goodbye to all of the friends I made at USC. I have made not only lifelong American friends but also friends from all around the world. I take comfort in knowing they are all just a Facetime away, and that Columbia will still be waiting for me for when I save up enough funds to go back and visit.

Immersed in Parisian life

Holly T, Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Creative Industries

IESEG School of Management (Semester 2, 2016) 

Returning from exchange, I still have to pinch myself that I spent a semester abroad in Paris (!!!!). It honestly still feels like a dream and was by far the best experience of my life.

Visiting the Eiffel Tower

I attended IESEG School of Management, at their Paris campus. I was the only QUT student to attend this campus (their other being in the north of France in Lille), and when I arrived found out I was also the only Australian at the whole university. Talk about culture shock! There is no sugar-coated way to put it, but at the start of this experience I was extremely overwhelmed. Not only did I underestimate the limited number of people who speak English in France, but also underestimated the cultural difference between my peers and I. I travelled around Europe for a month before arriving in Paris, and thought I had this European thing worked out… however Aussies will always be that little bit different. Fortunately, this grey period only lasted about 2 weeks and after this I felt more at home than ever. Meeting people from all over the world, and having a great group of friends all from the Nordic countries, exchange was nothing like I had ever expected… but even better.

IESEG has a completely different way of functioning to QUT, and I completed 14 subjects over the semester, both masters and bachelor courses, all ranging from 13 weeks to just one week long. It was a SUPER intensive study load, with non-attendance to classes meaning you fail, so the time spent at the campus was quite a lot. That being said, I learnt so much about so many different topics. Doing my QUT electives while I was there meant I had the freedom to pick almost anything from their wide range of courses. My favourites included Parisian contemporary society, retail marketing strategy, online global retail, trends in digital innovation, and market of art. For each class the mark would be based on attendance, an oral presentation and an exam or assignment.

The view from my bedroom window!

IESEG is located at La Defense, in the central business district of Paris, just outside the actual borders. However as the campus accommodation provided was a lot more expensive I sourced my own accommodation through Air BnB. I stayed in an apartment in the 6th arrondissement in Saint Germain that was absolutely incredible and only a 20 minute metro ride to uni. It allowed me to experience a lot more of the culture and environment of Paris, with bakeries on every corner and within walking distance of the Seine river and the Jardin De Luxembourg.  I would highly recommend this option if studying in Paris, as most other students did the same. It was easy to go to each other’s places and also meet up throughout the city. The cost of living in Paris is quite high. Transport with the metro is expensive compared to Australia. There are options for both low and high-priced food… but French food is delicious, and the city is flooding with restaurants and bars, you will eat out a lot more than you think.

La Defense Christmas Markets on Campus – the second-biggest in Paris

 

During my exchange I travelled to many other countries, and having the ability to do so was definitely a highlight of my experience. Meeting with friends on exchange elsewhere in Europe to see their host-cities, and then exploring even more cities together has been the best way to travel for an extended period but also continue my studies. Another highlight of the experience would be exploring France, and seeing the diverse areas of this amazing country. It is by far my favourite place in the world. The people are not what every one says they are – they were friendly and always willing to have a laugh at my poor French or their poor English. The amount of ‘lost in translation’ moments I had were too funny to recount. The cheese and bread is better than what people say, and honestly you will be a foie gras connoisseur in no time at all.

I recommend to everyone to go on exchange. It is quite honestly the best thing I have ever done. Paris is an amazing city, and I felt so at home there.

Merci beaucoup

Study, snow and sauna in beautiful Sweden

Daniel D, Bachelor of Urban Development

Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (Semester 2, 2016)

My name’s Daniel and right now, I am writing this blog looking out at the snow-covered streets and trees below and it’s a bit surreal compared to Brisbane. But I have to say that my semester here at Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (or Royal Institute of Technology) here in Stockholm, Sweden has been amazing.

There are some interesting differences between KTH and QUT though. For a start, the university just north of the heart of the city has some stunning old Harry Potter-like buildings and a beautiful nature reserve right behind it. The semester here is divided into two parts and you finish two subjects completely in part one and the other two in the second part. This means that lectures and tutorials are a bit more intense (halfway through one lot of classes in three weeks!). But there are also similarities, coffee everywhere and at least for my subjects a lot of work on some big but interesting projects.

The main building at KTH after an Autumn snow fall.

Sweden is an interesting country, the stereotype is that they are very introverted but each study area has a social chapter and I got the chance to meet a lot of Swedes who were outgoing and very friendly and so many had been to Australia on a gap year and one of my class teachers actually went on exchange to QUT before they graduated. This chapter also put on some great events like a traditional Swedish Gasque (dinner, drinking and traditional drinking songs) and a sauna and dip in the freezing river as well as sports like Innebandy (floorball).

Most Swedes seemed surprised that an Australian wanted to come over in winter, sub-zero temperatures and 6-hour days but it is these differences that makes Sweden such an interesting place. Christmas was so ‘chrismassy’, for want of a better word, and snow makes it magical.

Christmas Market at Gamla Stan (the old town).

Tips:

Have a backup plan. I went travelling and was unfortunately pickpocketed in Poland but luckily I had all my documents and everything backed up so I got back to Sweden okay and everything was sorted. Also, make sure you have Google Translate; it’s great for finding out what the food is in the supermarket, like sour cream is gräddfil, and filmjölk is not milk and if you don’t know that then your breakfast is going to taste very weird. Which leads to the next thing, stuff is a bit expensive in Sweden and Scandinavia in general, even compared to Australia so be prepared for that. With this in mind, the most important tip is take things as they come and appreciate the whole experience as it will be amazing. 

During a wander through a local national park. That white space is a lake I went to on an excursion in summer.