Absolutely incredible snowy winter in Canada

Rick Somers, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), University of Calgary, Canada, Semester 1, 2019

It is difficult to put words; just how incredible the exchange experience was for me.

How does one begin to summarize the best semester of one’s life?

I went on exchange to the University of Calgary in Canada for the 2019 Winter semester. I’ll start by saying that you haven’t experienced Winter until you’ve been in a Canadian Winter. My definition of ‘cold’ definitely changed. You begin to feel very Canadian when you start to look at -10°C as “not that cold.” One of my most vivid memories of this climate was when Spring finally arrived and the temperature rose to a lovely 10°C. The normal attire across the city quickly became t-shirts and shorts, just like the summer wear of Brisbane.

Of course, there’s snow. Yes, it’s absolutely everywhere. Snow can fall in Calgary for 6 months of the year. Slipping and falling on icy pathways became somewhat of a regularity for me and my uncoordinated self, but this only added to the experience.

As for the Uni, it definitely has a very unique feel, atmosphere and culture. Buildings are connected via tunnels, so you don’t have to go out into the cold between classes. Since lectures aren’t recorded here, people actually show up to classes and the university is bustling with activity because of it. On top of this, there are heaps of awesome facilities on campus that are free to use for students. I made frequent use of the bouldering wall and rock-climbing gym, as well as the ice-skating ring and the gym. Skiing, sporting and other outdoor equipment can be rented for cheap at the uni as well!

The university provided plenty of opportunities to meet with other exchange students and I quickly found myself among a large group of friends from all around the world. Most exchange students stay on-campus in the Cascade hall. All the on-campus housing blocks are right on the university grounds and are connected via tunnels. I decided to stay off-campus, in a share house with some Canadian students.

I would recommend this route, only if you’re within walking distance of the uni; waiting in the freezing cold for public transport really isn’t fun. It was with these Canadian students that I really got to understand what being a Calgarian was all about. Lots of ice hockey was both watched and played, and I gained a real affinity for country music and poutine. Also, with Banff and the Rocky Mountains being an hour drive away, I found Calgary to be perfect for the outdoor loving, adventurous side of me. Nothing compares to the exchange experience, it was absolutely incredible!

London, Tehran, and Back

Holly C., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
A Legal internship at Lawyers Without Borders, United Kingdom, October 2019

 

Hello! I’m Holly, a Law and Business student passionate about advancing human rights.

Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) seemed like the perfect home for my International Legal Placement. Like all other LWOB outlets, the London office is dedicated to protecting marginalised persons across the globe through advocacy and legal aid. LWOB’s purpose is simple: support organisations that provide justice for those who cannot access it.

I joined LWOB on board as a legal researcher; I was promptly tasked with researching and creating a memo for marginalised Iranians who have had their personal property confiscated on account of human rights violations.

Over the course of this internship, I canvassed legal precedent in other Islamic Republics, investigated societal and political constructs that perpetuated such violations, and provided advice as to how non-governmental organisations could assist victims in recovering assets.

Throughout law school, we are constantly asked ‘why’ we do what we do. But we are infrequently asked ‘for whom?’.

This internship was an immense challenge and privilege. I felt honoured to be assisting individuals who had faced adversity that we cannot fathom in the West; yet, I was daunted at the responsibility of playing a part in shaping their future.  The fact that these people had already endured so much only increased the pressure. I was amazed at how the staff at LWOB worked so tirelessly for their clients in a resource-constrained and high-pressure environment.

Amidst a backdrop of a cold, grey and busy London, our decisions at a desktop dictated the outcomes of people’s livelihoods, homes and property on the other side of the world.

In many ways, my days looked like that of any other law student. However, rather than researching contract law precedent, I was scouring cases for rulings on governmental victimisation of LGBTIQ communities; rather than accessing Austlii, I was downloading a VPN to search Iranian, Iraqi and Pakistani legal databases.

This experience no doubt developed fundamental legal research capabilities. More importantly, though, I built a tolerance for risk, learning invaluable problem-solving techniques in situations that were rife with legal uncertainty. I learnt how to make decisions about what course of advice to include in my task memo. This, in turn, fostered my ability to discern reason from irrational fear in high-pressure situations.

More broadly, I was exposed to a novel culture, language and social structure. In this way, I developed an appreciation of the complexities in navigating to cross cultural communication during delicate legal proceedings.

Finally, I learnt the importance of ensuring all material is appropriate for the client in question. The humanitarian and legal aid sector has a reputation in some parts of the world for generating solutions without consulting those who will be most affected – that is, solving the problem from a Western perspective which fails to appreciate local customs and norms. As such, the advice provided for this groups must differ greatly if it is to be effective. Cases such as these demonstrated the crucial importance of always keeping the client front and centre, even when they are more than 5000 kilometres away.

My placement at LWOB in London was formative, both personally and professionally. Yet, development did not come in the way I expected. This internship was a valuable stepping stone towards a career within humanitarian law. Yet, it also illustrated the limitations of providing aid within the legal system. If we are to achieve meaningful improvements in access to justice for marginalised groups, I am now of the firm belief that legal professionals must engage in structural and political reform within the countries from where their clients originate.

My winter experience in Canada

Teagan Braysher, Bachelor of Justice, University of Calgary, Canada, Semester 1, 2019

Hi! I’m Teagan and I went on exchange for semester one this year to the University of Calgary, located in the city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

I lived on campus in the university accommodation, I was staying in a four-bedroom apartment (pictured below) and had three roommates, two were other exchange students and the other was a Canadian student. The campus had a lot of facilities, like a gym that was free for all students, a dining centre, a library, and lots of common spaces for students. The only issue I had with the university itself was the lack of communication from them regarding the important exchange information- e.g. where to go on the first day, what was and was not provided in the accommodation, university cards and expenses.

I found the academics of the university very different to QUT, the biggest difference being that they did not record their lectures or make resources readily available online. Another difference was that their academic semester starts in September, so even though I was doing my first semester of the year as per QUT’s academic calendar, it was semester two at the University of Calgary.

I found Canada to have about the same cost of living as Australia but maybe slightly more expensive for meat and produce, the only real differences being that it is customary to tip and that the sales tax is added on rather than being included in the price.  I feel that culturally Canada was very similar to Australia as well and my biggest shock was the obviously weather difference. The lowest recorded temperature when I was there was -32◦C on February 12th and the highest temperature was 20◦C on May 5th. So it was a little bit colder than Australia.

I was surprised to experience severe home sickness during my time in Canada, while I tried to not let this disturb my experience, being so far away from home was difficult to manage. Luckily, I was able to video chat with my family and friends often and talk about it with other exchange students who were feeling the same. I found that I was also quite anxious about money as I was unable to get a job in Canada due to their rules and the time of year I went.

The best highlights of my exchange were making new friends from around the world and going to live sports- especially seeing hockey games and lacrosse games. Another highlight was when the university organised for the exchange students to go to Banff where we walked across a frozen lake, saw some Canadian wildlife and drove through the Canadian Rockies. I was also able to travel around Canada and see places like Drumheller, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, and how they compared to both Australia and Calgary.

I had a fantastic time on exchange overall, it was well worth the money and time spent and I would definitely recommend going on exchange. I would advise anyone looking to go on exchange to carefully look at the host university to what they offer and possibly try to contact any current students for their opinions and feedback.

My incredible 6 months experience in Paris

Caitlin Watt.,  Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws (Honours)  Paris Dauphine University, France, Semester 1, 2019

I just finished my semester abroad where I studied at Université Paris-Dauphine in Paris! It was an incredible experience to be able to spend 6 months immersing myself in the French culture and I would highly recommend Paris as an exchange destination.

The University

Paris-Dauphine is quite a big university in the 16th arrondissement in Paris. I found it very easy to navigate and the facilities were pretty good (especially the cafeteria). I used my electives while on exchange so I was able to choose a range of subjects which I found it very interesting and I particularly enjoyed Marketing in the Luxury Sector and French. I found that the university was much more disorganized than QUT, which was frustrating at times and the classes were very different. For each subject, there was a 3 hour workshop which is held once a week and most of my classes had final exams which was worth 80-100% which was a little bit stressful.

The City

Paris is a beautiful city, fill with good food and amazing architecture. It is possible to spend hours walking around the city and admiring all of the amazing buildings, parks and the river. There is always something to do in Paris, be it going to a museum, sunbaking in the park with the locals (as soon as the temperature goes below 20 degrees) or enjoying the amazing food and nightlife. A highlight of my commute to uni each day was seeing the beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower as my metro line crossed the river. This is definitely something I have missed since coming home. If you don’t already know some basic French I would definitely recommend learning some before going to Paris, as often Parisian people are not very helpful or accommodating unless you at least try to speak French to them first! Paris is such a great exchange destination as it is amazing to explore but it is also very easy to travel to the rest of Europe and there are always cheap flights/trains from Paris.

Accommodation

I lived in a student residence in the 14th arrondisment while studying in Paris. The 14th is a very quiet arrondisement with a lot of residential buildings and I had a 45 minute commute to uni by 3 different metro lines which was a hassle, but there were other international students in the residence that I became very close with so overall I am very glad I stayed there. Paris is a very expensive city so the student accommodation is a very good option if you don’t want to spend all your money on rent!

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

My Exchange in Texas: A&M University

Isaac Farrell, IX30 Bachelor of Business and Mathematics

Host University: A&M University, Texas, USA (Semester 2, 2019)

My exchange was arguably the greatest experience of my life to date. Living in a completely different culture is something that I would recommend everyone to do at some point in their life. It takes you well outside of your comfort zone and makes you grow up fast. In terms of my experience, I found that living in Texas was interesting. The people aren’t all rednecks as many of us believe, but they are some of the nicest people on this Earth.

Texas, USA

Texas A&M University is in a small Christian town called College Station. Its Christian roots are the basis of everybody’s day-to-day life, and it is why they are so kind and caring. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just met someone, you are already friends. An amazing example of their kindness is my friend Mimi’s roommate. Mimi had just moved into the dorm and had known her roommate for 4 days before her birthday came. Not only did her roommate buy her presents, but Mimi’s roommate’s parents also bought her a gift and a surprise birthday cake. Their kindness is unprecedented.

Another amazing part of living and breathing the Texas lifestyle was their love for all thing’s sports. Whether you were interested in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, or anything else, there was always games being played, and always people that wanted to talk with you about it. Their passion for their teams and their university is amazing. If you love sport, you will LOVE Texas A&M.

Football Field, Texas

The last thing I want to reflect on is the country bars. These bars are like the movies. You’ll go out with some of your exchange friends or American pals to these bars multiple times a week. They are the best place to relax and hang out with people. Instead of flashing lights and dance music, Texas opts for a more old-fashioned approach, with country music, line-dancing, and Texas two-stepping flooding out the doors. It is truly an amazing atmosphere to be a part of.

I don’t regret one second of my exchange at Texas A&M and I encourage every single person to go on exchange because (whilst it sounds cliche) it will change your life.