“100% Worth It” – University of Leeds Exchange

Natasha L., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Media and Communication
University of Leeds, England (Semester 1, 2016)

I was extremely nervous to begin my university exchange experience. I am quite a shy person and was unsure about how I would make friends, live away from home and navigate myself around a new city. However, going on exchange was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

The University of Leeds is located in the northern region of England called Yorkshire and is known for it’s impressive school of communications as well as an amazing student union and social environment. I chose to study here because of the vast opportunities to get involved in university life and immerse myself in the entire exchange experience. Despite some initial fears, tears and freak-outs, I definitely settled in a lot more quickly than expected and made professional and personal connections that will last.

Walking around and learning the city of Leeds proved to be exceptionally easy from my accommodation, basically following one main street the entire way. I enjoyed exploring the city centre after uni and shopping at the local Kirkgate markets, going to grab a bite from the Corn Exchange or just admiring the old, intricate architecture on most buildings. Despite the fact that many compare Australia to England, I definitely felt that there were many differences and going to Leeds did pushed me to become more confident in new environments.

Staying in “Devonshire Halls” student residence for my exchange was one of the best decisions I had made. A range of exchange students had all chosen this accommodation and we were able to hang out, study and walk the 20 minutes to university together most days. I chose to be self catered but had the opportunity to meet people at special dinners, in the laundry room or at social events that the accommodation put on with live music and free food included!

I found that the cost of living in Leeds was similar to that of Brisbane, but that travelling around Europe in between did take up a huge portion of my savings. I travelled to more than 14 countries in my time away and found that I did need to always budget for more than I needed due to traveling mistakes or slip ups (i.e. missing a flight, booking a flight for the wrong month, booking a flight for the wrong city etc etc).  Many of my friends had the same issue and we all decided that over estimating your budget is a lot more beneficial to prevent stressful situations. I would encourage students to take $10,000 – $12,000 AUD per semester. In saying this, it is easy to stick to a budget when living in Leeds to due the ability to walk everywhere and the general cheap cost of living.

Exchange was an unforgettable experience that helped me grow and develop as a young adult. I gained confidence in social and professional situations and learnt how to handle myself independently when stressed. I made friends that will definitely last a lifetime and was able to meet and connect with people from all over the world. Although pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be daunting, I believe that going on exchange is 100% worth it and it will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

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.

The Best Thing I’ve Done!

Isobella T., Bachelor of Business
University of Leeds, United Kingdom (Semester 2, 2016)

In January, I left my family and friends to spend a semester at the University of Leeds in England. I was told about Leeds by one of my friends, but I didn’t think much of it until I went to the QUT Exchange Fair, and one of the previous semester’s students told me how great it was, and how much fun he had. That made up my mind.

Leeds is a beautiful campus set between James Baillie – my residence- and the city. It was about 25 minutes walking from James Baillie, and 15-20 minutes from the city, with plenty of sights along the way. The campus contains two bars, the English love a good bevvy between classes, and turns into a three room nightclub on Fridays. Fruity on Fridays along with Otley Runs are staple Leeds outings. The University is big on being social, with heaps of clubs to join, as well as outings around England for exchange students. The city itself is full of different places to eat and drink. There is something on every night in Leeds, so you’re never running short of options, just remember to buy tickets online.

One of the wonderful places in Leeds!

The teaching in Leeds was a little different to QUT. Most lectures only ran for an hour, and none of them were recorded. Three of my subjects only had one piece of assessment that was worth 100%, which I found quite intimidating. Due to the credit transfer difference, I took five subjects, but I found them very manageable, and hardly had any homework, leaving me with plenty of time to travel.

Not much homework left me plenty of time to travel!

I budgeted about $15,000, and usually stuck to my £100 a week budget, depending on whether I went travelling or not. The exchange rate was pretty tragic when I left, but picked up towards the end. I used a Commonwealth Travel Money Card, and never had any problems. It was super easy and cheap to get to Europe, especially if you fly Ryan Air or Easy Jet, and we used Google Flights or Sky Scanner to find the cheapest flights. In March, we had a month long mid-semester break, so it was the perfect opportunity to visit Dublin, Zurich, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow and Warsaw!

Visited Paris in the Mid Semester break

The friends I made on exchange were some of the best people I have ever met, with the majority of them from Canada and America. The first person I ever met in Leeds ended up being my best friend on exchange; we did many solo trips in Italy, The Netherlands, France, and Spain, and luckily, never got sick of each other. The atmosphere in Leeds is super welcoming and friendly, and my friends and I often had dinner together or went to the gym, because we lived so close.

Going on exchange was definitely the best thing I’ve done so far. I got to see Europe, live independently in another country, and meet some amazing people that I plan on visiting soon. It takes a lot of effort and planning in the beginning, but it is so worth it in the end. The only downside is how quick time flies: one moment, you’re arriving at Leeds Bradford airport and the next you’re saying goodbye in Manchester.

Becoming a Part of the Gamecock Family!

Marianne J., Master of Business
University of South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

Going to Columbia and University of South Carolina (USC) gave me so much: the ultimate American college experience, friends for a lifetime and experiences I will never forget.

On Campus – Horseshoe

Preparation and Arrival

Once I got my official “Letter of Acceptance” from the partner institution I could start the visa application. As compared to applying for an Australian visa this process takes more time and effort. First, you need to apply online, pay fees, get approved, set up an interview date and then go to the actual embassy. Be aware that, upon your interview they will need to keep your passport for a maximum of two weeks in order to insert the visa, so be sure to have enough time before departing.

Darla Moore School of Business (DMSB)

When I arrived in Columbia, South Carolina, a friendly, old couple picked me up as a part of the airport reception provided by the university. I highly recommend everyone to attend orientation week, not only are some events compulsory, but this is where you`ll have the chance to meet with your fellow students and professors and a lot of useful information will be given. This is where I met most of the people that I become close to and hung out with the most the rest of the semester. Including that, there are loads of events that offer free food, and as a poor student you don`t want to miss that! I arrived just in time for the solar eclipse, where Columbia was in the zone of totality. I also arrived in time for hurricane Irma, and quickly got an insight into the natural disasters that can occur on this side of the world.

DMSB

Accommodation

As for housing, postgrads usually cannot live on campus, but there were plenty of other off-campus student communities. Unfortunately, all the short-term leases fill up rather quickly. I went onto the USC website and found students who were subleasing, and ended up staying in a four-people apartment at a place called Riverside – a ten minute drive from campus. Most of the off-campus communities have a shuttle running to and from campus every 30 min on week days, all with a common stop on campus. This made it easy even for international students to get around. Riverside apartments came fully furnished and are very conveniently located next to a Bi-Lo (grocery store), bowling alley, and restaurants. In the USA you pay rent monthly, and living in a student accommodation is usually very cheap. I paid approximately $610 AUD a month, excluding utilities.

Riverside Student Accommodation (Off-Campus)

College Life

Columbia is a major college town and the whole city is proudly supporting and representing USC and the Gamecock (school mascot). I was there in the fall semester and got to experience football season, which entailed a weekly game where 80 000 people came to cheer for the Black & Garnet. The team and school spirit that you will experience here is like nowhere else. USC is also lucky enough to have the biggest college gym in southeast America; Strom Thurmond; a three-level playground for athletics and free of charge for all students. I can honestly say that this is the best and nicest gym I have ever been to.

Football Game at Williams-Brice Stadium

Further, USC offers heaps of clubs to get involved with, no matter what interests you, they have it. I played indoor soccer and used the student gym and its amenities frequently, and personally thought it was fun to see what all the fuss about sororities and fraternities were all about.

Strom Thurmond – Student Gym

Classes

I had to have my study plan ready before going overseas but couldn’t officially enroll until I got to Columbia. To pass the requirements from QUT I had to enroll into four units at USC, where 48 Australian credit points were equivalent to 12 U.S. credit points (3 per unit). You are being told from the beginning to save your electives and I would really recommend doing so. Some of the classes I wanted to enroll in were either full or not available to exchange students, so having mostly electives left when going abroad made the process of choosing new ones, and having them approved, much easier. Bear in mind that attendance is compulsory in the States and can, along with participation, be a part of your end grade. The postgrad classes were relatively small, ranging from 15-30 students. Some classes could be challenging, but they were all achievable.

Columbia and the U.S.

Columbia has a climate that is a little similar to Brisbane. The summers are hot and humid, and long-lasting, while the winters can get chilly and sometimes below 0, but only for a few months. Throughout the semester you had plenty of time to explore. Columbia has a river that runs straight through the city, where tubing is a very common activity, especially on those hot summer days. Five Points and the Vista are the famous areas for restaurants and night life. This is where students usually come together to socialize.

Tubing on the River

Christmas

Halloween

Although, Columbia, or ‘Cola’ as the Americans call it, isn’t the biggest and most exciting city there are many places worth seeing only a few hours away. We went to Atlanta and saw the World of Coke, to Savannah – the 7th most haunted city in the U.S., Charleston –home of all Nicholas Sparks movies. Including bigger trips to NYC, DC and I even had time to go see my host family in Utah over Thanksgiving. It is also an experience in itself to celebrate the different public holidays like Labor Day, Halloween, and Christmas.

Atlanta Skyline

Atlanta – CNN Headquarters

New York

Washington DC

I really enjoyed my time at USC and am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to go abroad and become a Gamecock! I can`t say it enough, but if you have the chance – take it. Going abroad and all it implies is so worth it!

– Forever to Thee –

Learn About the World You Live In

Sophie C., Bachelor of Business
Aston University, England (Semester 2, 2016)

It has almost been exactly three weeks since I arrived back in Australia after 182 days (7 months) abroad in the UK. Today was my first day back at QUT after attending university at Aston Business School for a semester in my 3rd year of a business degree, majoring in Marketing and PR. First tip: if you do marketing or PR major, it’s almost impossible to find these subjects in Europe – so definitely stick to England/USA/Canada for that if you can.

Going on exchange was one of the scariest yet most exciting experiences of my life. Having never properly been overseas (or enduring that massive 26 hour plane journey), it was definitely taking a huge leap. But all the anxiety and stress of the preparation involved in exchange is definitely worth it once you arrive and realise just how big and exciting the world is. I landed at Heathrow totally alone in August of 2016 and spent a few days exploring London before embarking on a 24 day Topdeck tour, in which I have made some of my closest friends who I am still in contact with today. I decided to travel before my semester began, as I didn’t want to be worn out or risk running out of money before my tour. Second tip: save save save, exchange is a very different experience on a budget and it will make life so much easier and more enjoyable if you can get involved wherever possible and go on as many weekend trips as you can! Take advantage of being in another part of the world and take time to explore it and learn to appreciate it.

After this I moved to Birmingham in England with two other QUT students who I met at the exchange pre-departure drinks (third tip – go to that, as without these guys I 100% believe my experience would have been so different, we were each others support system the whole way through). We lived together in a dormitory-style accommodation (see photo top left corner in collage) on a student living campus just outside of the city, about a 15-minute bus ride to Uni. It was here that we lived with heaps of other Aston international students from countries like Portugal, Canada, Spain, Singapore, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and so many more. We all became like a tight knit family and I couldn’t have asked for better people. Fourth tip – try and stay in an international dorm/flat/room/house if possible, as I know people had a very different exchange experience just living with other Australians abroad, its better to get the full exchange experience and make international friends as it will open your eyes to so much, but also make friends with the locals!!

I chose Aston Business School and Birmingham due to their central location within England (1.5-2 hour train from London), without the hefty expenses of living in London. This university also perfectly catered for my marketing subjects. London is one of my favourite cities and I loved being able to just book a train the night before and go for weekend trips whenever I could. England was also an awesome base location for Europe travel as flights and trains are generally so cheap. University in England works mostly the same way, in terms of how lectures are delivered and the content. However they do smaller subjects, I completed 5 subjects during my time at Aston, which is 1 under a full-time load. I found that I wasn’t doing anywhere near as much assessment as I do at QUT. The assessment was mostly a 100% final exam, or one piece of coursework (assignment) worth 100%.  This was a bit of an adjustment at first, but really easy to get used to. You start appreciating the education we receive at QUT, as it prepared us Aussies so well for the England tertiary system.

Homesickness is definitely a thing as well, I struggled with it a few times but you just always need to remember that it’s okay and totally normal to struggle. However, so many people have successfully been able to do it, you only really get out of exchange what you’re willing to put in. Before exchange I had only done small travel within Australia and never lived out of home or fully supported myself. After exchange, I have been to a total of 20 countries and 35 cities, lived out of home and supported myself entirely for a whole 7 months, alongside keeping up with the assessment at Aston. I have already booked my flight back to the UK for June 2017, and cannot wait to do more solo travel with plans to move back to England in 2018. Exchange is an absolutely life-changing opportunity and opens your eyes to so much, it was the most enriching experience, I learnt so much about myself and the world and I would so highly recommend it to anyone considering going on a study exchange trip through QUT 🙂

PS: UK/European winter is COLD….bring lots of warm clothes 🙂

Made Friends for Life!

Heidi F., Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
State University of New York, USA (Semester 2, 2016)

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.

One of the sporting groups I joined

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. I traveled 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.

Snow days happened all the time

New York City!

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!

Santa Monica Pier

Bubblin’ Dublin

Renee G., Bachelor of Business International
University College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 2, 2017)


I began the second half of my full year of study abroad at University College Dublin in Dublin, the capital city of Ireland. The first day that I arrived on campus I was very surprised at the size of the university and a bit in shock about how I was going to find my way around as my previous host university was a lot smaller. I found UCD campus to be very clean and well looked after and goes above and beyond to provide numerous facilities for students including multiple food restaurants, cafes, small supermarket, bus stop within campus, free gym, pool and sport facilities, a cinema, uni bar and a bank. The university itself is almost like a small city and this was very handy for us international students. In terms of buildings/classes, each academic school has its own allocated building for classes, for example I was a part of the Quinn School of Business and therefore all my classes were in the Quinn building. This made finding classes a lot easier and saved time if you had classes back to back. Each of these buildings are fitted with numerous study rooms, printing facilities, support staff and lunch areas to make your academic experience great.

Trinity College Dublin

Whilst at UCD I chose to stay in on campus accommodation for security, the proximity to campus was convenient. Although expensive, I also found this to be the best way to meet other international students as there are many rooms allocated to them in a certain area. When it comes to choosing accommodation, there are about 5-6 different options, some catered and others not. There is also a difference in room size, shared or own bathrooms and number of flat mates. In the end I chose Merville Residences as it was one of the cheaper options that provided a sufficient living environment for the four months I would be there. I shared my flat with three other international students, one girl from New Zealand, one guy from Germany and one guy from America. These students turned out to be very good friends and based on their connections with other students from their home universities and countries, making friends and socialising was made easy.

UCD Residences

During orientation week at UCD, the international society puts on a large range of activities for students to participate in if they like as well as the residences hub Reslife who also organise numerous night and day options for students to get to know each other. These events gave me the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and interact with students from around the world. Additionally, through my flatmates friends and connections I could connect with people who I will now consider friends for life and be sure to catch up with in the coming years. I strongly advise to participate in as much as possible so you are never left to do anything alone as that is not always the greatest idea when in a foreign country.

In terms of Dublin City, there will always be something for you to do. It is full of pubs, restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, great nightlife and the people are the friendliest bunch you will ever meet. The Irish culture is one you don’t want to miss out on experiencing if you have the chance. As Dublin is a large city there are numerous forms of public transport, but most popular is the bus system as this is required to get from the UCD campus into town using the student leap card. If you want to explore the rest of Ireland as well, the train/rail system is also a handy way to get somewhere faster than on a bus, but the cost of transport in Ireland is not cheap. This also goes for the cost of living as groceries and accommodation whether it be on and off campus will be higher than you expect. On a more positive note, the city itself and surrounding suburbs I found to be very safe and I was comfortable whilst travelling alone, but of course always use your common sense and be aware of your surroundings.

Dublin City

Now, much like my first exchange in England, the weather in Ireland can be very unpredictable and you can experience all four seasons in one day. Lucky for me, I was fortunate enough to get numerous sunny days during the four months I was there but as expected there were many cloudy, rainy and windy days as well. Despite the weather, Ireland is a beautiful country with a lot to enjoy and with its proximity to Europe you have the chance to travel to numerous beautiful countries as well on the weekends or whenever you please. My advice to everyone is don’t miss out on taking advantage of Ireland’s location and the cultures you could experience that are only an hours flight away. Try not to stress about money and just make the most of it.

I must say the highlight of my exchange was the people I met and friendships I made along the way as without them my experience would have been a lot different. Of course, the academic side is very important as well and UCD is fortunately a lot like QUT and how everything runs so you shouldn’t have too many issues with settling in. I highly recommend UCD as an exchange destination and you’d be crazy not to go if offered the chance. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way and enjoy the time you have because I can assure you it goes quicker than you would think possible.

Ring of Kerry

Embracing Student Life in Exeter

Matilda P., Bachelor of Mass Communication
University of Exeter, England, (Semester 2, 2016)

I started the process of applying for exchange two years ago. A friend had recently returned from Exeter University and ignited my interest in that particular university. I had previously lived in the UK a few years ago and was thrilled with the opportunity to return. The culture and history of the UK, and my friend’s recommendation of the vibrant student city of Exeter, propelled me into action and solidified my decision.My first impression of Exeter was a lovely city filled with old buildings and lots of green spaces. I arrived at my college in the morning sunshine (unusual for England!) , met my college roommates and settled into my room which featured an en-suite, which I had never had before, so I was thoroughly excited! Our college or “halls” as it is referred to in the UK, was located approximately 20 minutes from the central university campus, along a leafy path dotted with old houses. We ventured into university during ‘freshers” week and I was impressed with the extensive modern facilities the university provided staff and students. As a recognised university within the UK, known for its high academic achievements and sporting honours, the societies, clubs and teams available were extensive compared to that available to QUT. There is a culture within the UK university system, particularly with recognised universities where being a part of a sport, a society and playing an instrument is encouraged, and many students partake in this. Much like Australian high school culture, which I found to be similar in the class rooms as well. Tutors were generally lecturers as well, and had very small class sizes, and independent learning was generally kept to a minimum. This culture was hard to adapt to, as I had always thrived as an independent learner at QUT, and encouraged and provided with the resources to do so. However, I credit this way of learning to Exeter University’s academic success, and along with its extensive sporting culture, were definitely the university’s strengths. University of Exeter is known for a breadth of studies, particularly the arts, law, and business. I took advantage of this, and studied art subjects in art history and visual art as electives.

Accommodation wise, most international students were placed at James Owen Court, a brick college of four stories, with approximately 6 roommates on each floor in separate bedrooms. The college was centrally located on the main street of Exeter, joked about by students for its location near the ‘dodgy’ end of town, where in fact it was just close to the shopping mall, and many bars and restaurants. All bills were included in our accommodation, and our facilities featured ping pong tables, an outside grassy area with picnic tables and a laundry.

Budgeting was one of the hardest parts of exchange, and I budgeted between five and seven thousand dollars, as recommended from another friend. The cost of living was pretty comparable to Brisbane, but having to transfer Australian dollars to the pound (nearly half) made budgeting difficult and I struggled in the first month to stick to my budget. I used both my Australian bank cards and an international money card, and split my finances across both quite evenly.

I was lucky to experience little culture shock, as I had previously lived in the UK, and was well versed in English culture. For future exchange students, I am confident the culture shock will be limited in the UK due to the country being English speaking; however, the weather always takes time to adjust to. To ensure my safety overseas I joined International SOS which sends emails and texts about terrorism, natural disasters, strikes and anything that could disrupt your travel, which occur more in Europe than in Australia, and is something to be aware of. I also made sure to email my parents where I was going and who I was with just in case of emergencies.

My “must have” item on exchange was my international money card which you can upload numerous currency’s on, my laptop, and copies of documents such as my passport, and birth certificate; in case of loss or damage. I would highly recommend the Cash Passport multi-currency card, as a bank card of choice, and EasyJet for flights within the UK and around Europe.

On return to Australia the hardest part for me was trying to capture and describe my journey to friends and family, and adapting to life as it was before, after you have been through all these life changing experiences. Academically, the different styles of learning in the UK really opened my eyes to how other countries learn and what they require academically from their students is very different from that in Australia and at QUT. Professionally, the ability to travel, and to have lived in another country is highly regarded by employees and is only beneficial for future employment opportunities. I would highly recommend university exchange to anyone with the optimism and desire to learn and experience a different culture, I would also recommend them to be diligent and persevere with their exchange application process in order to achieve their goals. University exchange is so valuable for students, you can spend weekends at Stonehenge, study breaks in Paris and meet people from all over the world while gaining real world experience in another country, and I am so thankful to QUT for that opportunity.

The Great Land of Ireland

Sophie R., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries
University College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 2, 2017)

The University College Dublin (UCD) in the Republic of Ireland is a great destination for an exchange. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ireland and would highly recommend it.

Host Country

Irish culture is unique and is largely homogenous and the Irish people are exceedingly friendly, welcoming and resilient. Not many places in the world can one have a lively conversation with a stranger in the supermarket like neighbours or meet people on buses who are happy to chat and interested in a stranger. The rebellious and turbulent history still affects the Irish today, encouraging their resilience, spirit and pride. The landscape has the beauty of quaint rural villages to windswept dramatic coastlines. Dublin is a city with a small-town vibe but the vibrancy of a global hub with headquarters for Google and other multinational corporations being situated there.

Host University

UCD is an organised and modern university with many support-mechanisms for international students. Living on campus provides many opportunities for meeting new people with the Resident Life organisation offering many social events to ensure international students feel included.

Struggles

There was only one major struggle I experienced on my exchange and it was of an administrative nature. I had 18 pre-approved subjects from QUT including subjects that correlated with my QUT business subjects as well as some very interesting electives from other faculties. When I arrived, I discovered I was unable to study outside of the business faculty and I almost did not have enough subjects to complete at UCD. Due to this miscommunication between the universities, my first week in Ireland was stressful. So, for incoming international students, it is best to expect some hiccups with subject enrolments.

Tips

As for my tips for future exchange students going to Ireland, I have five. (1) For on-campus accommodation, be prepared for applications to open late at night. Campus accommodation applications are highly competitive. (2) As for clubs and societies, quality not quantity is the best option. Your time will be divided between travel, university life and study, so sign up for one or two clubs and make a conscious effort to go to their events. One of my favourite experiences at UCD was an entrepreneurship competition at Google as part of the Entrepreneurs and Inventors Society. (3) Make the most of travelling around Ireland. Many students spent all their time travelling elsewhere in Europe and regretted not exploring more local sights. (4) Seek out live music. Venture to Cork and find a small pub to listen to the mischievous Irish music. For a more contemporary repertoire, Dublin is the place to be with the buskers on Grafton Street and the singers in pubs on Temple Bar. (5) There will be highs and there will be lows. That’s just travel, and it is best to be prepared.

Making Hearty Friends Abroad

Fraser B., Bachelor of Media and Communication / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Leeds, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2017)


January 15th, 2017 I packed my bags and headed for the UK. I hadn’t been to the UK since the summer Commonwealth game of 2002 in Manchester, and I was certain it had changed a little since then!

After spending a week in London seeing high school friends, I journeyed north to Leeds where myself and 500+ other exchange students settled into one of many student residences across the town. It took the better half of a week just to get familiar with faces, let alone knowing names. However, it didn’t take long before the international students formed one big group, the likes of which I’d never been a part of.  It was interesting watching all these different cultures assimilate in such a bizarre setting. The north of England, housing those from countries, which covered all continents. But, we made sure our time spent with each other was worth it, studying, travelling and creating friendships that will last much longer than our mere six month semester abroad.

I was very lucky to travel the European continent, to destinations I’d never been before. It was a priority of mine to not just go and see sights, but rather spend my time in these new destinations doing what the locals do. Because that’s how you assimilate and diversify yourself as a person, you learn from those who are native and can convey to you their culture and the way they live. You learn about the country itself, not just what it has to offer in aesthetics.

One blog post simply cannot encompass my exchange in semester 1 of 2017. There are simply too many memories, experiences and events that I’m sure all other students can relate to. The pictures, although pretty, do not do each destination justice. As to completely experience something, you must do so in the flesh.