A Semester Abroad in Calgary

Brendan S., Bachelor of Information Technology
University of Calgary, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)

Last semester I got the great opportunity to spend four months studying at the University of Calgary in Canada. It was an incredible experience, and in this blog I’ll try to give you some insight into what life was like studying in Canada.

The Uni: The University of Calgary campus is a huge place, with some incredible facilities. Beyond the classrooms, just some of the things you’d find on campus at UofC include: a concert venue, basketball courts, swimming pools, gyms, hockey rinks, an Olympic skating rink, rock climbing walls, a pub, a theatre, restaurants, the list goes on.

There was rarely a dull moment being a student at UofC. The uni is big on campus culture, so if you didn’t have work to do (rare) there was always something happening. Sports, live music, carnivals, bingo nights, free art lessons, car smashing (yeah, the Engineering faculty put on a university approved event where you could smash an old car with a baseball bat to de-stress…), movie nights, you name it. On top of this there was on abundance of student clubs, so you could always find people with similar interests.

University of Calgary Campus

I chose to live on campus, in student accommodation, or “residence” as they call it. Staying in residence was the best choice I made on exchange, and I’d recommend anyone else thinking of going to do the same. All the friends I made at UofC were people I met in my building (Cascade Hall) – there’s a really good culture there which encourages everyone to get out of their rooms and get to know each other. The university also places all the exchange students in residence together. I was annoyed about this at first (I wanted to meet Canadians!) but this turned out to be the best thing about living there. Everyone I met was in the same boat as me, and we were all equally keen to travel and engage in campus life.

Moraine Lake

I found the academic standards at UofC to be quite similar to QUT, but where I found the biggest difference was the way classes were structured. Instead of the standard weekly two hour lectures and tutorials we’re used to at QUT, all my lectures and tutorials were only an hour long, but held three times a week. This meant that even though I was only taking three units, I was in class for a few hours five days a week. The one other difference was in the amount of online content delivered. My lecturers were all different, but I had one who refused to upload absolutely anything online (no slides, no unit outline, no practice exams), so if you have to miss a lecture, you’d miss out on that content completely.

 

The Country/City: I found Calgary to have a really similar culture to Brisbane in a lot of ways. They’re both smaller cities (although Calgary is about half the size of Brisbane) and they sit very similar culturally within their countries – Alberta is very much the Queensland of Canada. Everyone  I spoke to was friendly enough, and I never experienced any real form culture shock, which made the adjustment really easy.

University Drive

One thing that was a shock however, was the cold. I arrived at the start of Autumn, where temperatures were slightly colder than our winters (averaging about 10-20°). This gave me a chance to ease into the weather, so by the time it started snowing in September I was a bit more resistant to the cold.

Calgary is an expensive place to live! Although things like fast food were cheap (I miss Tim Hortons so much), I found myself being shocked weekly at how much groceries and fresh food cost over there – especially chicken! It wasn’t all bad though, being a student you pay $150 and they give you a UPass, which gives you unlimited free public transport for the entire semester.

 

Highlights: We had the chance to see a lot of different sports over there, and though basketball and Canadian football (slightly different to American!) were a lot of fun, the obvious highlight was the hockey. Our residence arranged for us to see our first NHL game our the first week there, and after that we were hooked and went to see the Calgary Flames win five more games throughout the semester. Even if you’re not a sports fan I’d recommend going once just to experience the atmosphere!

Go Flames Go!

Calgary is located close to so many incredible natural wonders, and the trips I was able to go on were definitely the highlight of the semester for me. We did many trips to the Rockies – we had the chance to see Lake Moraine, the mountain town of Banff, Peyto Lake, the Icefields Parkway (the most incredible drive you’ll ever go on!) and Jasper National Park. We also decided to hire cars and do a big road trip into the US to see Yellowstone National Park, which was such an incredible experience.

Jasper

Exchange at University of Calgary gave me some of the best experiences of my life. If you’re thinking about choosing Calgary as your location for exchange, I say go for it. It’s a great city to live in, and there’s nothing quite like the culture of North American universities. You’ll have the chance to see some incredible sights, go on some big adventures, and make some great memories with people from around the globe.

An Amazing Time in Lille!

Amelia O., Bachelor of Business
IESEG School of Management, France (Semester 2, 2018)

I went on Exchange at IESEG School of Management in Lille, France.

IESEG School of Management is not a very big school but it is very spread out over Lille and the buildings can be quite tricky to find if you don’t have a map or a friend who has been there before. The classes themselves are very different from the usual QUT business unit set up. If you are just a regular exchange student like me and can select quite a large amount of units as electives, you’ll have the chance to do both intensive and extensive courses. In total I did 13 classes over the semester. Intensive courses are set up as a one-week class, four hours a day with class spanning four days with normally a presentation on Thursday and an exam on Friday or an assignment due the following week. Extensive classes are just like classes at QUT, lasting 13 weeks with regular classes each week. I really enjoyed intensive classes as they were fast, interesting and over in a week, meaning it was hard to get bored of the class content. I didn’t do all intensives and I probably should have by doubling up intensive classes in the first two weeks. The classes tend to be very interactive and the wide variety of classes actually helped me to narrow down what I wanted to do with my degree in marketing once I finish university. Also, if you have the chance to do Experiential Marketing with Trish Rubin, take this course because I had most fun I think I’ve ever had in a class at university.

Now in Lille unlike Brisbane 1-2km is far and can even take you out of the city centre. I didn’t know this before coming here so my accommodation was further away than I would have originally liked and I needed to take the bus (which became a hassle when I had to organise my bus card). So I would recommend spending the extra money (if you can) and get accommodation as close to the university as you can so everything is in walking distance. Other than that, my roommates were incredible and I was able to meet 4 new people from all over the world.

New Friends in Lille

New Friends in Lille

Lille is a hub for travel; it is not only close to so many countries including England, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany where you can get there by bus, but it is also really easy to get to places like Portugal, Spain and Italy by plane. While I was there I was able to visit all of these countries on the weekends and sometimes during the week if I did not have an intensive course. The university also organises school trips to places like Oktoberfest, Strasbourg for the Christmas markets, Amsterdam and small day trips to places like Dunkirk. These trips are a little expensive but are definitely worth it because 1. You don’t have to organise anything 2. They take you to places that can be quite difficult to organise on your own and 3. You get to go with friends and you’ll end up making so many friends and memories during them. If you are organising the travel by yourself, FlixBus, Oui Bus and the GoEuro are great websites to find tickets and Skyscanner is a great place to find cheap tickets to all sorts of destinations.

In total for the exchange experience I saved $13,000 (including the bursary and loans). This would have been enough if I’d just stayed in Lille and only gone travelling once. However, I did around 2 months of travelling so I did need to borrow some money and luckily my amazing parents were able to loan me the money I needed.

It was one of the best experiences of my life, so if you are thinking of going on exchange to France I would definitely recommend going to Lille.

Oh Canada! University of Guelph (UoG)

Denise N., Bachelor of Biomedical Science
University of Guelph, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

In Semester 2 of 2017, I had the privilege of going on a study exchange to UoG, Canada. This experience involved school, travel, friends and fun. Upon arrival at the campus, one of the things that stood out was how enormous the campus was compared to QUT’s Gardens point. The campus spread out across a large part of the city. Guelph itself was not as developed as Brisbane, it is a small city outside Toronto. Part of what contributed to the size of the campus was the student residencies in all four corners of the university. I resided in the East houses and shared a suite with 11 other students. We had three toilets, two showers and one kitchen.

Academically, there were more differences than similarities between UoG and QUT. Firstly, at UoG, there was very little flexibility for students to organise their timetables due to pre-set class hours. Some classes were as early as 7am. Lecture recording was not common, only one fourth of my classes had recordings. Lecturers were addressed formally as Professors and the longest lecture I had was an hour and thirty minutes. The class periods were shorter but more frequent throughout the week, about 3 times.Living in south-east Ontario made it easier for me to travel to numerous places including Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal as well as crossing over to the USA via bus. The cost of living in Canada was higher than that in Brisbane. This was mainly because of the tax and tips to be added to the advertised prices for goods and services. It took me a while to assimilate to this.

In terms of cultural shock, I didn’t experience it until I travelled to the Province of Quebec where majority of people speak French. Visiting Quebec was one of my highlights because it was very different; being surrounded by people speaking in a different language, viewing public signs mostly in French. I remember when I first arrived in Quebec City and was trying to get a bus ticket, the first 3 strangers I spoke to did not understand English. Some other highlights from my trip include experiencing the beautiful Fall colours at Montmorency Falls, experiencing snow for the very first time and making a snow angel. I was also able to visit NYC, one of my favourite places in the world. Time Square was literally the centre of the universe.

To anyone thinking of going on exchange, I strongly encourage you to go for it. Through experiencing the new school environment, traveling and new friendships, I have learnt more about myself, my values and my goals. Exchange taught me that I know very little and I have a lot to learn. It was without a doubt a learning experience. Advice I would give to future students would be to live off campus, as much as living on campus is an experience in itself, there’s more independence living off campus. Keep in touch with family and avoid making friends from the same country as even though it would be easier, you won’t really benefit out of it in the long run. People from other places have unique experiences that you can learn from and international connections are valuable, especially today.

Make the Leap and Go On Exchange!

Alexandra K., Dual Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and Business
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany (Semester 1, 2018)

Imagine thousands of people sitting by a river, beer in hand, basking in the sunlight or throwing a Frisbee while techno music plays in the background. This is the definition of a Berlin summer. Sadly, my exchange was for the fall semester, where snow and a Glühwein by a fire was more favourable. However, being kept indoors also meant more time to bond with the students who I shared my dormitory with. Students from all backgrounds and languages mingled daily, and there was certainly no shortage of partying. The little things are what makes an exchange so memorable, such as ice skating at the Christmas markets together or using the car seats from an abandoned van in our living room. Some of the people I lived with have made their way into my heart as life-long friends, who I have already visited in their home countries.I attended HWR for one semester with the goal of deepening my knowledge of international management in an international setting. The experiences and lessons I gained from the teachers who are sourced from all round the world were invaluable, and helped to set me apart from the curve. HWR, like most of Germany, is very old-fashioned and traditional in their approach to learning and bureaucracy. No lectures are recorded and you are expected to build a relationship with your teacher. This approach at first seems a bit intrusive or unnecessary, but my teachers were able to connect with me on a personal and professional level. This approach encourages students to develop their own opinion and solutions to issues presented, as opposed to simply memorising content.

Culture shock in Germany was inevitable, but learning the language is the best step towards fitting in and finding your place. Before my exchange, I studied German in Brisbane at the “DerDieDas” school, which was excellent to ensure I was not wasting time on the basics when in Berlin. After my 6 months of exchange, I am currently at a B2 level, and am undertaking an internship in Berlin now. Advice for your exchange I can offer is be prepared to feel lonely, homesick or just displaced. Take the time out of your week to call home, be ready for the shopkeepers to be rude to you, and don’t be afraid to go out alone. One of the highlights of my experience was simply going to a local German-owned café and spending hours preparing for my German exam the next day. This small decision lead to me meeting my now-boyfriend, a Kiwi who lives in Berlin! Just make the leap and go on exchange, but don’t stop there, make the leap and squeeze every last drop out of the experience.

Truly Life Changing Texas A&M University

Cameron S., Bachelor of Business/Information Technology
Texas A&M University, USA (Semester 2, 2018)

“Truly life changing” is often the phrase I use to describe my semester exchange at Texas A&M University. I wanted to go on exchange somewhere fun, unique, and full of culture. I certainly received all of that when I arrived at College Station and became an Aggie for the semester. Texas A&M is a large university that boasts nearly 70,000 students, located in the heart of Texas. I remember constantly being in awe of the magnitude of the campus and the grandeur of the buildings. History and traditions are a big part of student life. One of my favourite traditions to experience was the Aggie Bonfire. A large bonfire is built every autumn around Thanksgiving to signify the Aggie’s desire to beat their long-standing rival, the University of Texas.

Bonfire

Experiencing an American college atmosphere was incredible. Football games, passionate people, and Northgate (the nightlife district) are a few of the things I will never forget. I had the joy of getting to witness one of the best college football games of all time. The game was against Louisiana State University and went to 7 overtimes breaking numerous college football records.

Football Game

Although arriving in a foreign country is a little daunting at first, the people of Texas make you feel right at home. Texans amaze me with their incredibly welcoming manner and friendliness. I decided to live on campus where I met a bunch of other international students that quickly became my friends. I made most of my friends by joining ISMA, an organisation that pairs internationals with local students. ISMA organised road trips around Texas as well as different social events. I would definitely recommend getting involved in organisations while on exchange. The close friends I made through ISMA would often meet up to hang out or go to Northgate. At the end of the semester we took a long road trip through West Texas and New Mexico to go skiing in Colorado.  The enjoyment of the trip was occasionally dampened by thoughts of how my exchange is coming to an end.

Colorado

I had so many unique and incredible experiences during my stay in Texas and traveling to places like Los Angeles and New Orleans. The people that I met and the close friends that I made are what made this trip so special. My only regret is not going for a year. Gig ‘em!

New Orleans

 

 

 

The Best Student City In The World: Experiencing Montreal

Sneha M, Bachelor of Business and Laws (Honours)
HEC Montreal, Semester 2 2017

When I realised I was going on exchange I was a whole lot of excited and a little bit of nervous!

I had never lived overseas before for starters, and cooking skills were limited to toast. My partner institution was HEC (Hautes Ecoles Commerciales) in Montreal, Canada. While my classes were in English, French is the main language spoken in Montreal. Equipped with about three Duolingo lessons I packed my one suitcase and off I went! Luckily however, nearly everyone in Montreal speaks English. In fact, they want to practice English so much you may not always get to try out your French!

Getting There

My experience did not start off on the best note. My flight from Brisbane was delayed by four hours, which meant I missed both of my connecting flights. When I arrived in LAX for a stopover my phone stopped working and my next flight was delayed. On my final leg from Toronto to Montreal, the passenger behind me was severely sick and had to get medical treatment before we could fly out! I ended up arriving in Montreal with no one to pick me up at 4am, a day later than expected. This also meant I spent the first and only day before orientation week getting my phone fixed, getting some warm clothes (as it was -14 degrees) and grocery shopping. The next day Orientation Week began and it was jam packed full of activities including going to an outdoor spa in the snow, laser tag, snow tubing, pub crawls, hikes, ice skating, parties and much more. Needless to say it was really fun, but so exhausting I caught the flu. I think experiencing challenges so early in my exchange made me take initiative and get organised really quickly which made the rest of the trip so much easier.

My home for the semester!

Accommodation and Travelling 

I was really lucky my roommates were also attending HEC. This made the whole experience better because we had similar schedules and could travel together. I definitely recommend going to Montreal if you want to travel. It’s only a short bus ride to New York and Boston and a few hours further to Washington DC. I also got the chance to visit the Rocky Mountains on the West Coast of Canada which was simply breathtaking and even visited Iceland during spring break!

Blue lagoon in Iceland!

Death Valley, USA

The Student Life

Montreal was voted the number one student city in the world for good reasons! It has plenty to do and a great atmosphere. While on exchange I went to Igloofest, a music festival with intricately carved bonfires and great music. It started snowing halfway through the night, which just meant everyone had to dance harder.

A word of caution though, HEC has a very good reputation, but that also means the courses are quite difficult. Instead of using electives, I was able to complete compulsory finance subjects. The format is quite different with no online lectures and three hour classes that combine work as lectures and tutorials together. Take advantage of the consultations and make sure to study throughout the semester as most exams are worth 60%! One elective class I took however was Social Innovation in the International Area. This subject requires us to work with a Social Innovation group or project in Montreal to meet specific aims. It was amazing to see the social enterprises people from across the globe are involved in.

The Weather

It can sometimes be difficult in winter where some days it was -19. It’s really important to layer, because underground and inside it can get really warm with central heating. Montreal has an extensive underground metro system as well as shopping centers and an underground mini city! Good shoes are also a must as you can be trekking through deep snow just to get to class! Canadians are tough and class is hardly ever cancelled unless there is a major snowstorm.

Snow storm!

Notre Dame de Basilica, Montreal

 

The friends, skills and memories I have gained from Montreal and my time at HEC was invaluable. I am so grateful and humbled by exchange experience. I can’t wait to visit again!

Welcome to Hullywood – University of Hull

Clare S., Bachelor of Business / Creative Industries 
University of Hull, UK (Semester 2, 2017)

Host University

Arriving/Campus Life

Arriving in Hull was so easy. The university organised a pickup service from Manchester airport and most of the international students used this. So I got to meet so many people before the semester even started. I flew in from Amsterdam and actually met one of my flatmates who was from the Netherlands on my flight. The university also organised welcome events for international students which was a great way to meet people.

The campus life in the UK is so different than Australia because everyone moves away for university so everyone is open to meeting new people and everyone is super involved in campus life. Hull was also a student city which was awesome as most places had student deals. I was told before I went to the UK that I had to join a Uni sports team and this was the best decision I made. I joined Netball Squad and this was one of my highlights. We played together three times a week but the best part was Wednesday night themed socials. During this every sports team on campus would dress up in the weeks theme and go drinking in a local pub and then head to the nightclub that was on campus. This is where I made most of my closest friends at Hull.

Accommodation

I stayed at The Lawns whilst at Hull which was a short bus ride to Uni. At the Lawns, we got a free meal everyday (expect a lot of potatoes) and a free bus pass. There is also a gym, laundry facilities and kitchens. The rooms and bathrooms were basically what you expect, small but had everything you needed in it. I had just come off three months of staying in hostels so to me it was amazing. The halls I lived in were a mix of international and domestic students, so I lived with Canadians, Americans, Germans (so many Germans), Dutch and Danish people. I was the only Australian at the university which I liked because I know other people who have gone on exchange and only made friends with other Australians.

Academics

The academics were somewhat different, classes are compulsory and they hold your hand a lot more than they do at QUT which I didn’t like. It was a lot of small group assignments and then massive 70% exams in the end. I didn’t go on exchange for the academic aspect so overall, I found it fine.

Host Country

Cost of living

Hull is located really north in England so everything was relatively cheap. Drinks at most clubs are 3 or 4 pounds and basics on Piper Mondays are 1.5 pounds. Food from the shops is also cheap but eating out after the conversion rate is about the same. My biggest expense was trains, they are ridiculously expensive. I caught trains to London and to the closest airports when I was travelling throughout the semester. I 100% recommend buying a rail pass, it makes the trips a lot cheaper.

Travel

I traveled around Europe for 3 months before the semester with other friends that were going on exchange to America. This was another highlight of the trip. We got to go to a music festival in Budapest, go to the Italian Rivera, ride camels through the Sahara Desert and more. I also traveled throughout the semester but how far you can go is is really dependent on your Uni timetable. During the semester I went on multiple trips to London and got to tick going to Iceland off my bucket list. All the flights are so cheap. I paid return to Iceland $80AUD which is cheaper than going to Sydney.

No Worries In Washington!

Julia S, Bachelor of Creative Industries/ Business
University of Central Washington, USA (Semester 2 2017)

It all started on the 31st of July. I left for Italy to meet my friend Clare who was also studying abroad. We planned to travel Europe together for a month before attending our respective Universities. After 31 days of travelling around Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and Germany to name a few, I boarded a plane once again; but this time to the United States. My semester of exchange was to take place at Central Washington University. A small University with a student population of almost 11,000, CWU is in a small town named Ellensburg, just two hours from Seattle.

A few facts about Central Washington:

  • Founded in 1891
  • School Mascot: The Wildcat
  • School Colours: Red and Black
  • Average Class size: 25
  • Homecoming speaker: Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec)

After a two-hour bus ride from Seattle, I arrived at what would be my home for the next 12 weeks, Wendall Hall. I had purposely chosen to live in a suite during my stay. By living in a suite, I was guaranteed three American roommates while also having my own mini room.

What started as a scary, whirlwind three days during commencement and meeting my roommates quickly turned into one of the best times of my life.  My roommates and I were all extremely different – but in the best way possible. Often, we would liken ourselves to the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants; all having our own personalities and interests but able to come together to create amazing memories.

Studying Public Relations overseas allowed for incredible opportunities. One of my teachers (who forced us to create a LinkedIn profile) was former Senior Vice President of A & R Edelman. Edelman is known for handling the communications of top organizations within the U.S, such as Dove. In addition to this, I attended a meeting at WE Communications with CWU’s Public Relations society. WE Communications represents Microsoft.

Leaving exchange was extremely hard. There are many nights where I think back to driving with friends to Seattle just to have a day in the city. I often remember driving through the notorious “pass.” The pass is a long stretch of road through the mountains of Washington. In winter, it is covered with snow and ice and makes for a perfectly nostalgic backdrop for my exchange memories.

Although difficult, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I am confident that the friends and connections I have made overseas will last a life time. This experience has allowed me to see that meeting people from all over the world and learning others’ cultures cannot be undervalued. I now see myself as capable and ready to enter my final year of University; paired with a gained knowledge and a new outlook on my studies.

How to Survive in Canadian College

Reeve D., Bachelor of Business
Bishops University, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

  1. Frosh week / O week

Frosh week started off with team selection day, where you would go around to every team (consisting of older students) and learn a bit about them. There were heaps of teams for people with different interests, with some stressing the fact they love to party and others – being all girl’s teams – centred around making friends. Every team had their own house, which was your meeting point for weekly activities. During frosh week, your aim is to complete challenges to get your team points. One of the challenges I completed was to wear a shower cap of shaving cream on my head for a night, one guy shaved his head and another guy was painted green for the week. However, you definitely aren’t forced into any challenges you don’t want to complete. There were a couple of concerts held in the quad during frosh week and a swamp day where you had to get as messy as possible being covered in gross foods. The week was amazing and was great with helping me make friends instantly. With the week ending with a team performance and football game.

  1. Halloweekend

I definitely consider Halloweekend one of the best events from my time at Bishops. Its three nights of different Halloween parties, all with different themes. The first night consist of everyone going to either the school bar, residence parties or different house parties. Night two was held at Animal House (probably the biggest party house of the university) and night three was the official event held by The Gait (on campus bar).

  1. Residence/Where To Live

I can’t stress enough how important it is to live in Lennoxville. So many exchange students (including myself) originally made the mistake of living a bus ride away from the university in Sherbrooke. Living in Lennoxville is extremely social and convenient. It’s also extremely rare that students don’t live near the university. Bishops campus is practically all of Lennoxville, so even if you are unable to get a spot in residence, living in one of the many party houses or in your own apartment is a great way to still get that real college experience. Join the Bishops housing page and find a couple of other exchange students looking for housing and contact Carl, who is the land lord of all the apartments in Little Forks (circled- I can provide Carls phone number if requested).

  1. Classes

Classes are typically small and don’t consist of a regular lecture and tutorial, instead it’s more like two tutorials a week (this was the case for my business/criminology subjects). I found the work to be much easier than QUT and more interactive, however more class time was required.

  1. Social
    1. The Gait is the student run school bar which host regular happy hours and themed events.
    2. The Lion is a bar (kind of like a pub) off campus in Lennoxville. The lion is super fun and has acoustic Tuesdays where there’s a live band.
    3. House parties: As you can see on the map above each house in Lennoxville has its own name, with the majority of parties being at Animal House, Football House, Haunted or along Reed street. There’s also a huge party at Cool Ranch (which was my frosh house) every year called Luda Christmas, where the whole school is invited.
    4. There are also so many social events for those students not into the party scene such as plays, organised weekend trips to Montreal and Quebec City, talent shows, fashion shows, football games, hockey games, guest speakers, movie nights and many clubs.
  1. Dining Hall / Food

The dining hall at Bishops is called Dewhurst Dining Hall or Dewies for short, and has a great variety of foods available. It has a grill bar where you can order fries/burgers/hotdogs, salad bar, pasta station and many other great foods. Even if you don’t live in residence you can still get a Dewies pass, and it’s definitely worth it!

  1. Travel

I found traveling around Canada easy and relatively cheap. During the semester, I was able to go on a weekend trip to Toronto which was amazing. After the semester finished is when I completed the majority of my travel. I went to Vancouver, Whistler, Ottawa, Montreal, Chicago and New York. Due to the university being in a small town I was able to budget my money super well during the semester, enabling me to have the best time at the end of my exchange. I definitely recommend Vancouver and Whistler, as I was able to experience a non-French side of Canada.

My Exchange Adventure

Mackenzie G, Bachelor of Industrial Design
Aston University, Birmingham, England (Semester 1, 2016)

One of the many trips around the UK. This time a weekend in Scotland with people from all around the world.

My Experience
Do you fancy seeing the world? Feel like shaking things up? Want to make uni a lot more fun? If this sounds like you then go sign up for student exchange!
Student exchange is an opportunity to live and study overseas. You get to meet people from all parts of the globe, see places you never would and have the time of your life all while completing your studies.

Earlier this year I flew over to Birmingham, England to complete my first semester of third year industrial design at Aston University. For four months I lived and studied abroad in a country I’ve never been to. There I learnt about product design, made worldwide friends and had an absolutely great time all the while completing my studies.
Aston University was my uni of choice for its industry backed reputation and central location.

Although the content they taught was more on the engineering side, they provided knowledge that I would likely not learn elsewhere. Submitting assignments, sitting exams and general university life was not so different to how we do it here which made adapting to their system a breeze.

Similarly studying in an English speaking country was not a problem at all. The accents and weather were the biggest difference initially but were soon overcome. So no intense culture shock here compared to the more foreign locations available. That said if you want to take it easy, Canada, USA and the UK are more comfortable options should English be your native language.

Life abroad at university is fun. Aston accommodates foreign exchange students very well with regular events and trips around the country. The majority of exchange students hung out together and with people from all over Europe, South America and just about everywhere else we felt a great sense of community exploring and learning together as foreigners.

For me I chose not to work and relied upon loans and savings to keep myself financially supported. So not needing a job meant I had more time to study and even more time to explore the UK and just have fun. With my crew of international students we visited most major UK cities, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and so on. Unique to the English semester is a three week mid semester holiday. Being so close to France and in the middle of winter that meant skiing was up for grabs. So my mid semester break consisted of a week-long ski trip with the uni and two weeks of hot, beautiful sun in the Canary Islands. Luckily for me it wasn’t all about studying. Maybe your university has something similar. You can make your student exchange custom made for whatever interests you! Something not thought about often when considering student exchange.

The Application Process
Getting sorted for a student exchange is no easy task. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back. A lot of research and hard work is required but the effort is worth the reward. A lot of the time my effort was independent simply because there were questions that only I could find the answers to… mostly specific university queries. Although it was difficult my motivation kept the ball rolling, something we tend to forget when going through this process.

The opportunity to work alongside students from different cultures on the other side of the world is worth every ounce of effort.

Finances
A common concern is money and to how fund such an extravagant adventure. Fortunately there are awesome financial assistance options available from QUT. The OS help loan and the mobility grant made my venture possible. Applying for and receiving these are nothing short of easy. With a minimum of $8000 AUD available anything from your own pocket would only be for an extended holiday!
When it comes to budgeting research is key. Finding everyday living costs is essential especially if you’re thinking of living in the UK, Switzerland or any other expensive locations. The small things really add up.

As far as accommodation goes share houses are the best option. Cheap and entertaining they’re nothing short of fun. My house was intensely multicultural which furthered my travel education but also provided another social circle. Comparatively the on campus accommodation at Aston is rather pricey but more student orientated. Again research is key here.

The appropriate visa will make returning to your host country a breeze. This allowed me to skip between the UK and France with ease.

Visas
Before leaving Australia ensure you have the appropriate visa and ensure your passport meets federal requirements. Ensure in advance so you’re not caught rushing around last minute.

The study visa for the UK was a frustratingly slippery slope. Students who have studied there offered mixed advice and the visa website was just as helpful. Trying to save a few hundred dollars by not getting one is risky business but its best to play it safe. Upon entering the country I was told this wasn’t required but soon after relieved by my enrolling member of staff as she reassured me this was a necessary requirement of the university. Nothing too special with passports, just make sure there is plenty of time left on it before it expires.

Customise Your Experience
One aspect not discussed enough is how you can revolve your exchange around what you want to do. My initial idea was basically studying overseas and seeing the sights. However you can leave home well before semester starts and get into some travelling, complete your semester then top it off with a couple more months of travel. Or do like I did and compete in heaps of skateboard races around Europe! It might sound like a holiday but there is a lot to learn when you’re not at uni.

Once the semester concluded I travelled through Europe and attended many skateboard races. A long time dream now accomplished. (I’m in the grey suit).

If I Could Do It Again
I would be extra adventurous. I would try out a non-English speaking country, somewhere that teaches classes in English but with a culture greatly different to Australia. Unknown to me was how much of the European population spoke English. Knowing this I would have jumped in the deep end for a totally foreign experience.