A semester at Leeds

It was quite late in my degree by the time I decided to do a student exchange, but I’m so glad I did because it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I chose the University of Leeds due to its academic reputation and atmosphere.

Culture

Before arriving in Leeds, I didn’t think there would be much of a cultural difference between England and Australia. But after living there for six months, and immersing myself in the community, I definitely noticed a few stark cultural differences. From simple things like what’s available at supermarkets, to how the locals interact with you and each other – sometimes their English accents are so difficult to understand it sounds like they’re speaking another language!

The University

Within the university, there was such great community spirit with a seemingly endless number of clubs and societies for literally any activity you could imagine! In terms of study, I found Leeds to have a reasonably similar teaching style to QUT. However, Leeds was very strict and rule-abiding about a lot of things. Attendance for tutorials was compulsory and recorded, so if you missed more than two or three classes you were contacted by the unit coordinator. They also took down lecture attendance! Lectures were sometimes recorded (depending on the subject) but the slides were always available online.

Travel

The UK is a fantastic base for easy and cheap travel throughout Europe. There is a small airport at Leeds but I preferred to use Manchester airport (1 hour train away) because flights from there were usually cheaper and more regular. My main mode of transportation throughout the UK however was buses. Although they do take a bit longer, they’re so much cheaper and I didn’t find them too uncomfortable! Transportation is something to consider early on though, because if you’re planning on catching trains then it’s definitely worth investing in a discounted rail pass from the beginning.

Accommodation

I stayed in student-based accommodation at Mary Morris House – a student apartment block in a nearby suburb of Headingley. There were frequent buses to the city but I usually just walked for 30 mins. Headingley was a lovely suburb to live in though – it mostly consisted of students and the main street was primarily full of pubs and op-shops! In terms of cost of living, it was quite similar to Brisbane, slightly more expensive due to the exchange rate at the time but very doable to stick to a limited budget for day-to-day living.

Leeds

Yorkshire is such a beautiful part of England- from York itself to surrounding towns; the country is full of such rich history. As an architectural design student, I was just in love with the ancient buildings and gorgeous streetscapes as well as the landscape in the nearby moors. Leeds is such a massive student city and has so many international exchange students who are always looking to make friends and have a good time. The city is full of gorgeous old buildings and there are always activities on a daily basis!

Overall, this experience was even better than I’d hoped for! Meeting so many incredible friends and travelling so frequently, I loved every minute of it and would absolutely recommend doing an exchange!

Kassel – a European Experience

Wenona C, Bachelor of Information Technology / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Short-term program: Hessen International Summer University – Kassel
Germany (June/July 2019)

My highly anticipated four-week exchange to Kassel, Germany has greatly impacted my life. I loved my time inside the classroom as I socialised with students from the U.S.A, Russia, China, Italy and Taiwan. I capitalised on the opportunity to mix with students who had different perspectives. This experience has significantly altered my views about different cultures and current world politics.

The International Summer University program at the University of Kassel was taught by leading professionals. I took three classes: German language, Intercultural Communication, and German History and Politics. Outside of the classroom, the program leaders took us on excursions to Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Berlin and Marburg. The scenery was stunning, particularly in Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. This World Heritage site consists of a palace (which doubles as a museum) that displays artworks by Anthony van Dyck and Rubens. The palace is surrounded by acres of gardens and the Hercules monument.

Hercules monument, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe

History came alive through the scenery, palaces and museums. I walked the same steps of previous Kings and Queens, stood on the ground where WWII was fought, and visited a working camp where people were imprisoned. The visual impact and sensory overload of European and German history needs to be experienced in person, and not just by studying the pages of a history book.

The culture and education in Germany were not what I expected. The professors and educational facilities were world class. However, technology wise, I felt like I had taken a step back into the 1990’s. Public transport relies on a cash and paper ticket system. There is limited electronic integration in shopping centres. Germany is in many ways, a contradiction. Germany has the largest economy in Europe and is an international leader in medicine, health, education and car manufacturing. On the other hand, our lecturer’s used butchers paper to write learning materials.

It was daylight in Germany from 5:00am to 9:30pm. This enabled people to partake in activities after work. As well as this, many of the historic sites are close to the city centre. People spent more time outdoors than using technological devices. I could identify how these factors contributed to a healthy lifestyle. Whilst overseas I certainly encountered difficulties. I found it difficult to communicate with my host family who did not speak English. I also struggled with the food provided and the limited portion sizes.

This program has contributed to my understanding of German culture and the importance of Kassel in Germany’s history. I have learnt about racism, discrimination, the European Union and the global impact of refugees on the European economy. I have also been educated about the history surrounding WWII from a German perspective. I have developed strategies to overcome culture shock and have improved my intercultural communication skills. I will undoubtedly use these skills in my future career in a diversified environment.

Going on an exchange was completely outside of my comfort zone. I did not speak German and had never travelled to Europe. I had no family in Europe to rely on for assistance or help me along the way. I have been challenged and at the same time, have discovered a sense of self-reliance and confidence in myself that I did not possess before I embarked on this journey.

I am grateful and appreciative for the opportunity to go on an exchange and improve my university experience. Participating in an exchange has altered my world views and broadened my career possibilities. I will take from this experience wonderful memories and friendships that will impact my academic future, choices and goals. Thank you QUT.

Ljubljana: a City of Rich Culture and Traditions

Aside

Nadia L., Bachelor of Business / Mass Communication

University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (Semester 1, 2019)

 

In early February I left my job, my friends and my family behind to study for a semester in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Known as a ‘student city’ for its young population, lively events and student perks I am so glad for the time that I spent there. I made many lifelong friends from all over the world and was able to become more confident and independent.

Academic Life

When the semester first began, I felt overwhelmed with assessment. While QUT generally requires two or three key assessments per unit, many of my Slovenian subjects involved a presentation or essay each week. Although highly involved, these tasks only accounted for 50% of your grade in total, with a big exam making up the other half at the end. The curriculum had a big focus on group assignments, in-class participation and presentations. However, I quickly learned that despite the extra workload, a less rigorous marking process meant it was much easier to get a good grade. Once I learned this, my exchange became much less stressful and I was able to enjoy time at events and exploring the country with new friends.

Exchange Orientation Day at Faculty of Business and Economics

Leisure

Ljubljana at Sunset

 

Ljubljana is a city of rich culture and traditions. On a sunny day it’s common for people to hike to the Castle for a picnic overlooking the city, or to enjoy drinks and a meal along the river with friends. There were also regular events for exchange students organised by two student associations. These included trips to Prian, Lake Bled, skiing in the mountains, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and more. They also organised a student party every Tuesday and Thursday night – and karaoke Wednesdays. There was definitely never a dull moment!

 

Food

Exploring the City Centre

 

All students in Slovenia are eligible for BONI, a Government subsidy for 2 meals per day, or 30 meals per month. This meant students could get discounted meals from anywhere in the city, ranging from completely free to just 4 euros for an entire meal. Think a burger and chips, or a whole pizza, plus soup and salad! This was many of our exchange student’s favourite part of exchange and it was common for friends to eat out regularly for lunch or dinner.

 

Exercise

With such cheap food many of us were worried about gaining weight. The Faculty of Business and Economics offers a range of free athletic programs that you can join at the start of semester including basketball, boxing, football, volleyball and aerobics. These classes were quite far from my accommodation, so I didn’t end up participating. Instead, I joined a nearby gym.

All gyms in Ljubljana were considerably cheaper than in Brisbane. The two main ones near the business faculty are Alpha gym and Gym24. I went to the latter and would highly recommend it – the classes, equipment and facilities were all great. Free gyms are also available at the dorms.

Hiking mountains near Ljubljana

Travel

Ljubljana is quite small so almost everything is within walking distance. There is also a decent bus system which costs 1.20 euro for a one-way trip. You will need to use a machine to get the equivalent of a go-card first as they don’t accept cash on board. However, myself and many other students opted to purchase a second-hand bike for the duration of our stay. I highly recommend this option. Ljubljana is pretty flat across the whole city and has a great infrastructure for bikes – plus you don’t need to wear a helmet!

Given its central location it was easy to travel to other European countries from Slovenia. Flixbus was the cheapest, easiest and most popular way to travel. I got pretty lucky with my accommodation, which was super close to the central bus stop. From there I was able to travel to cities in Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia with ease. However, if you want to travel a bit further away, flights from the Slovenian airport were quite limited and expensive. In most cases I’d recommend taking a Flixbus to a bigger airport for cheaper flights!

 

My time in Ljubljana was really special. I made so many fun memories and lifelong friends from around the world that are already planning their trips to Australia! Despite the difficulties of being away from home I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I really recommend that everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to study abroad!

 

Ljubljana City Centre

Ljubljana City Centre

 

 

 

 

 

London Living

Alexander Aikman., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries

University of Westminster, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2019)

The University of Westminster is located in central London. The campus is compact and modern in its layout. One of the best parts about university life for me was playing rugby for Westminster. Joining a sports team was a great way to connect with people and I would highly recommend it for anyone going on exchange.

As expected, the cost of rent and groceries within London was steep. However, there are a lot of discounts on offer for students. Including a discounted travel card for the tube and bus services. There were also a lot of free attractions to be taken advantage of during my exchange. These included the British Museum, Borough and Camden Markets as well as Hyde Park to name a few.

Another one of London’s perks is the travel. Trains from London go across the UK. Allowing for easy exploration across the country on weekends. Better still were the cheap flights across Europe. I spent much of my free time travelling to other countries. Every holiday and long weekend I would travel somewhere new. Travelling to Norway with friends from Uni and travelling solo across southern Europe were true highlights of my trip. And I would encourage anyone to try travelling both in a group and on your own.

The exchange program is an opportunity to try new experiences. The best advice I can offer is explore as much as you can. Travel to someplace different. Meet new people from other countries and experience their culture. Finally, if you’re going to a big city such as London, then be travel smart. A healthy dose of paranoia and scepticism will save you a lot of grief. But above all, make your exchange memorable.

My Learning Experiences in Tainan, Taiwan

Sean W., Bachelor of Industrial Design (Honours)

National Cheng Kung University Taiwan, Semester 1 2019

Coming from Australia, and not speaking any Chinese before arriving in Taiwan, I found the process quite easy to get the accommodation and basic university things sorted out. Class registration and department registration is a tedious paper-based process where you run around to every department giving copies of the same form and collecting stamps no one seems to understand! This is something that I hope they will be improving in the coming semesters.

Once settled into NCKU, I was offered some really amazing academic opportunities from the weekly College of Planning and Design lectures, the Industrial Design and Architecture final presentation/graduation exhibitions and the Aerospace research pathways lecture weekly series. At the same time there were also fun activities: attending the dragon boat festival, going to all-you-can-eat barbeque (its near the canal in the West District – you must go!) and experiencing the local alleys and markets scattered throughout Tainan.

As part of the ICID (Creative Industries) department, I joined two team projects with local and international students, organised and hosted the POINTS Data Visualisation Exhibition in April 2019 (http://news-en.secr.ncku.edu.tw/p/404-1038-193895.php?Lang=en), attended the International Conference of Planning and Design (https://2019icpd.com/about) at NCKU and was part of the Hong Kong-Tainan Design Thinking Workshop as part of Professor Yang’s annual university study tour (https://www.comp.hkbu.edu.hk/designworkshop/index.php).

Finally, the student societies at NCKU are numerous and so interesting! While many of them will be in Chinese, they all seemed willing to find someone who could Chinese-English as their way through to teaching you how to join in. Some really memorable clubs for me were the Architecture Society (C-Hub café!!! <3), the MAGI CLUB – NCKU’s maker club for students who want to build stuff for fun and the NCKU Pottery Club who were all so generous letting us get involved and helping us out when we were struggling.

Societies:

MAGI Club – NCKU Maker’s Club:

https://www.facebook.com/MagiTaiwan/?ref=br_rs

NCKU Pottery Club:

https://www.facebook.com/NCKU.pottery/

C-Hub Café:

https://www.facebook.com/chub.cafe/?__tn__=%2Cd%3C-R&eid=ARDXYOEDDrUX96pQ4pF2PfYR_-Ge-dW58emSqinGwzlNa7C69KjfKiKEDKVAeUhvxdszCHKJlvI1me6h

Thank you Tainan and thank you NCKU for giving me such an awesome exchange journey, I hope to see you soon!

Cheers,

Sean Wanna