The City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has exceeded my expectations. The view of the high rises from the University excited me so much when I saw them and now they are constant reminder of where I am.
Arriving was daunting as you are constantly asking yourself – will I like it, is it worth it, WILL I MAKE FRIENDS? After the first 48 hours in Hong Kong these worries were put to rest. The University, even now three weeks in, is constantly a-buzz with exchange students planning activities, meals and their next adventures.
It was hugely beneficial to arrive one week prior to the start of semester as every day is needed to start getting your grips on this big crazy city. The University was helpful in getting us settled in with organised trips to IKEA, Campus Tours and Orientation meetings. They even gave every new student a Portable charging pack and a Universal Adapter (very helpful after buying the wrong adapter not once but TWICE).
CityU has around 450 inbound exchange students this semester so there was no shortage of friends to be made. Over the past few weeks there have been huge community beach and park trips which has made everyone grow close.
In only this short time that I have been here I have also fallen in love with Hong Kong itself. There is an abundance of restaurants, cafes, landmarks, locations that will keep me very busy for the next five months. What I have loved most about Hong Kong, so far, is that for such a tiny area (approximately one 8th of the size of Brisbane) there are mountains, quaint fishing villages, parks, sky scrapers, beaches (of a high quality I might add as this is always important to an Australian) and trendy shopping and nightlife areas.
In terms of the more practical aspects of change I think it was a great decision to start on campus. Primarily, it is a hub for meeting people and only a short walk away from Uni. Financially, you are receiving a much better end of the stick. My room is bigger and cleaner than those paying 5 times what I am to live off campus and the fact that Hong Kong is such a small, dense area means that you don’t need to be living ‘in the centre’ to still enjoy all the benefits of city life. You can also more easily take advantage of the cheap cafeterias that that University offers (both western and asian cuisines). I highly recommend!
I have now booked a weekend away in Taiwan and a trip to Cambodia having only been here for three weeks! I cannot wait to see what the next few weeks have in store and will report back!
Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Bachelor of Mathematics
This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan. More information available here.
It has almost been two weeks since I first touched down in Thailand. Although I haven’t been here long yet, I have already faced so many challenges and have discovered many fascinating things about life in Thailand.
As this is my first blog post I think I am going to answer one of the most common questions I have been asked “why did you choose to study abroad in Thailand?” as well as how settling in to a new and very different home has been so far.
When I decided I wanted to go on exchange I spent a long time working out where exactly I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to go somewhere very different from Australia. I also knew that I wanted to travel quite a bit while I was away so finding somewhere affordable and close to other countries was also important. The last criteria I had was I wanted to be able to receive credit for core subjects while I was abroad. Out of all the options I was given Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand was able to tick the most boxes. Whilst for me Thailand seemed to be the best option it was quite clear that for most other students at QUT it was not. The lack of previous students having attended Thammasat University made it difficult to talk to someone who knew exactly what life would be like there. Also, due to the language barrier, many aspects of the university website were confusing and unclear. The lack of information about my studies and other things like how easy it would be to make friends and the best places to live was quite frankly a bit terrifying.
I arrived in Bangkok on the 2nd of January hoping to relieve some of my concerns during orientation week. The first event that I attended was uniform shopping. Yes, that is correct, in Thailand university students generally wear uniforms. I began to get a better picture of how the university and Thai student life worked after speaking to some of the Thai students that helped us buy our uniforms.
- The faculty I was in meant that I only had to wear a uniform when I was having mid-semester or final exams.
- Out of the 80 odd new exchange students only one other would be up at the Rangsit campus (just north of Bangkok) with me because most of the English programs were at the campus in the city.
- Thai people are really friendly and helpful people.
The university also paired me up with a couple of Thai students who studied up on the Rangsit campus. Both girls that I was paired up with were very lovely and helpful. They guided me on everything from how to get around to where to live. Although I was fortunate to have such supportive people helping me out I still struggled with simple things such as reading and signing the lease of the apartment I am living in. It may have been translated into English but the sentences did not make much sense. Since I was no longer in the tourist area asking a taxi or motorbike driver to take me somewhere was very difficult and it helped me realise how important learning some Thai would be for survival while I am studying here.
I have had one week of classes and so far, I have had a mixture of teachers. Some have been extremely charismatic, and good at English. Whereas others have been quite strict or had to ask other students to help translate some sentences into English for me. Either way being in journalism and communication classes have already proved to be a great way to get an inside look at different issues in Thailand and aspects of Thai culture that are not as obvious. I am very interested to see what the rest of the semester holds.
Although I came to Thailand with a bunch of concerns I have been able to work through all of the challenges and so far I am very happy with how everything is going. Being at Rangsit campus has turned out to be a positive. It has helped me to be able to befriend more Thai students than I would have been able to otherwise. I am also really lucky that the other exchange student in my faculty is really awesome and it has been great to have someone to travel to places near our campus and places closer into Bangkok with. I have learnt so much about Thailand and myself already and cannot wait for the next four and a half months here. I am going to try and post as much as I can on Instagram so if you would like to see more of my travels follow gabcarter.
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy
My exchange program was placed and set in the northern part of Italy, Trento, a small city town that is located in the gulf between two mountains. Initially I had chosen this partner university by its impressive range of subjects that it offered in the field that interested me, biomedical engineering.
At this point I had no idea how things functioned overseas in a different culture and found myself in a new position of having to adjust myself. First arriving to meet my professors and colleagues I was nervous being relatively young and with the most minimal experience in comparison to those within the laboratory. This led me to the feeling as if I was inadequate to be there among everyone else as, I believed, the skill gap was too big for me.
However the hospitality, warmness and kindness of those within the laboratory aided me into being confident and strengthen myself immensely with how the exchange would progress.
Trento in itself, is a very small town located 100km above Verona (between Venice and Milan) and still holds dear the architecture, customs and style of a town well aged. The noticeable different between QUT and the University of Trento was the campus, unlike QUT where faculties have their respective buildings (P Block – Engineers, D Block – Design, etc) Trento had the faculties located around the town, with the major campus being in the city centre and the others in the surrounding suburbs. The University of Trento is a very beautiful and well-functioning university. The facilities that are offered are extremely well thought out and also aesthetically pleasing bringing a lighter to mood to things.
In addition to this, there were cafeterias. This was something totally foreign to me but as I visited it daily, I found myself enjoying it and soon enough become accustomed to it.
Dylan, S. Bachelor of Science
University of Wyoming (Semester 1, 2017)
Going on exchange at the University of Wyoming in the USA was far and away the best thing I have ever done in my life. The people I met on exchange will be friends for life and the experience and sights I saw and shared with them I will never forget! From the minute I jumped off the plane over I was a mix of nerves, fear, excitement and Taco Bell and I can honestly say that If you’re not scared it’s not something worth doing.
Wyoming is the state in the US with the smallest population and it is smack bang in the middle of nowhere but it honestly has so much to offer. The national parks are beautiful & there is world class skiing so close as well. If you love hiking and anything outdoors UW has the most insane outdoor program with trips every few weeks and it is so easy to make friends with people who are constantly getting out and doing exciting things.
UW itself is a pretty small school with the best sense of community. It’s in a town called Laramie which has some really cool little food spots and a lot of places that sell camo. Recommendation, I would have try and listen to a little country music before you leave Australia, because you will listen to it a lot and eventually begin to love songs about your tractor and southern girls.
Some of the people in Wyoming can have pretty different values and political beliefs from home and at first that could be hard to swallow for a lot of people but if you have an open mind you will grow to love them.
The best advice I can give you is to get out of your comfort zone and try as many new experiences and meet as many new people as possible. Some of the other highlights of my trip apart from at UW included traveling to New York, New Orleans, road-tripping the west coast and going to Mexico for spring break.
I tried to have a ‘true’ American college experience and lived off campus in a house with people I had never met. This lead to the majority of my friends being Americans and not being other international students. While this may be scary, I went over there wanting an authentic experience and I truly am thankful for getting that. Everyone I met was so open and fun that I wouldn’t change it for the world. If you wanted the more standard exchange experience though UW still has a great international program and they will look after you so well!
I would 100% recommend going to the university of Wyoming and to America on exchange. It is such a great country and you will have memories you will never forget, it was by far the best thing I have done in my life and I want to go back every day!
Going global with QUT was amazing and even though it’s a long application process it is so worth it and the study abroad team is so helpful.
Aakanksha, B. Bachelor of Information Technology/Bachelor of Mathematics
Nanyan Technological University (Singapore) (Semester 2, 2016)
In the heart of South-East Asia, Singapore has more to offer than its incredible airport. Spending five months at the Nanyang Technological University as an overseas exchange student, I have learnt an immense amount about Singapore and myself. Singapore has most definitely established itself as being one of the most advanced cities in Asia, if not the world. So much so, it is the preferred location for many leading companies to have their regional APAC headquarters.
If regional culture is what you want to experience, Singapore is where you should end your search. Singapore is home to four main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (which everyone else falls into and is roughly 3.3%). As a result, of these four very different groups, it seems like there is holiday or festival every few weeks. While on exchange, I experienced: Singapore National Day, Diwali and the Hungry Ghost Festival, with each festivity bringing its own traditions. Being originally from India, it was awesome seeing how big a celebration Diwali is outside India. Going to “Little India” on this day, I felt like I was back in any Indian city.
If you are a foodie, or if you just want food that is cheap and tastes good, you can’t go wrong in Singapore. From hawker centres to high end restaurants you will never go hungry. NTU campus had over 19 food courts each having various cuisines. In most cases you may only need to spend $10-$20 a day, even if you are on campus. Cost of living in Singapore can vary. In terms of food and transport, it is significantly cheaper than Australia. The maximum you could pay for a trip would roughly be $4; this would only happen if you go from one end of Singapore to the other (which I had to do when going from NTU all the way to the airport). Transport within Singapore isn’t the only thing that is cheap, even going overseas is. For example, I was able to make a trip to Thailand to see Krabi and the beautiful Phi Phi Islands, which was most definitely a highlight.
Accommodation within Singapore can be very expensive. I was lucky enough to get accommodation on campus and had to pay a full semester rate that was equivalent to that of an apartment for only one month. If you don’t want to stay on campus I strongly recommend finding somewhere close to campus and share an apartment with other exchange students. An advantage of staying on campus is that you save a great deal of time on travel. The NTU campus is located in Jurong, which is located one end of the island. If you want to go the main city, it can take up to an hour by MRT.
There is one word to describe life on campus at NTU: awesome. As QUT does not offer the choice to live on campus, this was something that I was seriously looking forward to. It is not only the flexibility of being able to walk to class, but the ability to forge friendships with local and international students. With these friends you can go to hall and campus events and even overseas trips. After spending so much time together, you know you have formed friends for a life time.
Saving the serious for last, academics in Singapore is challenging, especially if you are taking core subjects (I was taking four). The thing that is drastically different to QUT is the fact that Singapore grades on a “bell curve”. This means that your grade is scaled according to everybody else’s in the class. I didn’t let this effect me too much and studied hard to ensure I did my best.
If you want to be challenged academically, the opportunity to experience different regional cultures, eat great food, travel within South East Asia at amazingly low fares, Singapore is your place!
John, H. Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Creative Industries
University of Mannheim, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)
My time living in Germany was absolutely the best experience I’ve ever had. In the beginning the idea of spending 6 months living in a totally new place with a whole new bunch of people was totally daunting, but when my time was up I left practically kicking and screaming. No other experience has seen be grow as much emotionally and socially, and if I could do it all again I would drop everything and go in a heartbeat.
Life at the University of Mannheim
Studying at the University of Mannheim was excellent. The University has such incredibly rich campus culture, and every single day was packed with activities and parties aimed to bring everybody together. While maybe half of these were for all students, there were also events aimed particularly for exchange students, meaning that we all got to meet in the end, all the other exchange students. The university holds a reputation for its parties, its famed “Schneckenhof” party- a weekly event held in the very heart of the campus, attended by vast numbers. As well as this, the organisation called “Visum” (Visa in German) threw parties for the exchange students called “Stammtisch”, also weekly. Visum were the ones responsible for the immersion of exchange students, and it was with them that I got to experience the magnificence of Munich (including Oktoberfest) and Berlin. While its parties may be one of the factors that makes it a really attractive choice, the University of Mannheim also boasts an incredible academic reputation, especially in the field of business. While I was undertaking Law units, for which it is not as renowned, the law faculty’s success in international competitions filled with me with great confidence, and indeed my expectations were met and surpassed. The structure was a little different to what I was used to, in fact the workload was a little less per subject, but most German Students undertake More units than we would in Australia.
Life in Germany and Highlights
I’ve combined this section as one page really isn’t enough to sum up my time, but in short living in Germany was of itself a highlight. Aside from the aforementioned parties, living in Germany was incredibly easy. The people come across as cold at first meeting, but as you get closer to them are incredibly friendly, warm and have a wicked sense of humour. German people are not shy in any regard, and I guess rather stereotypically, are very short in conversation, never exaggerating and often speaking in exact terminology. But they always want to hear more about you, and are so incredibly genuine. Germany is also famous for its music culture, one of the reasons why I chose it as a place, and I was not disappointed. While the average person doesn’t listen to Beethoven or Wagner as their regular taste (nor is that to be expected) almost every German person has an appreciation for the fine arts that many people in Australia lack. The cost of living in Germany is incredibly low, with groceries costing me less than 30 Euro a week, and rent 280 Euro a month.
Germany is super central in Western Europe, and especially the cities of Mannheim and Frankfurt, is a hub for transport. Thus, it would be remiss of me to say that travelling was not a highlight for me. My favourite trip outside of Germany was to Vienna, an 8-hour train journey, though travelling within Germany itself was fantastic. The city of Heidelberg is a must for anyone staying in the region. It’s a gorgeous, untouched medieval city with an incredible castle ruin. The historic City of Strasbourg is also a mere two-hour bus ride away, across the border in France. Other highlights were definitely the aforementioned trips to Munich and Berlin.
My experience in Mannheim is one that I will never forget. If you want any further details, I have a more detailed blog on this link. https://fergusabroad.wordpress.com/
Morgan K, Bachelor Business – International
Internship with the Japanese Football League (June – July 2017)
New Colombo Plan mobility and internship grant recipient
In the second semester of 2016 I took the opportunity within my BS08 degree to exchange to Rikkyo University, Ikebukuro, Japan. This study aboard experience will last for 11 months. For my exchange I was lucky enough to be awarded the New Colombo Plan mobility grant. The New Colombo Plan is an Australian Government initiative to support Australian undergraduate students to study aboard and take internships within the Asian Pacific Region. This opportunity has allowed me the prospect of undertaking an internship whist studying full time.
I am presently interning within the Japanese Football League (J. League), in the Sales Management and Marketing division. As my major is within International Business, I have always wanted to see first-hand how business is conducted in Japan. The internship position interested me as this organisation is world renowned, would allow me the opportunity to learn first-hand about management and operation of the professional football league and how to engage a multitude of stakeholders.
The J. League is a multifaceted organisation whose mission is to enhance the level of Japanese football by the diffusion of the game through Professional football. Therefore, helping foster a sporting culture which contributes to the broader international exchange and friendships.
Throughout my internship I was based in the J. League office in Tokyo only a 15-minute journey from Ikebukuro station. I undertook this internship opportunity part time as still completing studies at Rikkyo University full time. The J. League division where very flexible and enabled me to intern two days a week allowing me to balance my busy student schedule in association to the tasks given to me.
This opportunity has allowed me to use my analytical skills taught to me throughout my degree in this work environment. The tasks given to me to date include the opportunity to see a live match between Japan versus Syria and write a report on match day experience, research tasks into sporting industries and analysis of present market forces. I have always had an active interest within sports and have played soccer throughout high school and enjoy cheering for our national side the Socceroo’s. The J. League internship to date has allowed me to see, engage and give my input into this rapidly changing dynamic environment.
On my second day into the internship I was given an amazing research task opportunity. Whereby I could see live, Japan’s national team, Samurai Blue verses the Syria national team in a friendly match at Ajinomoto Stadium. It was an amazing experience whereas 43,000 people were in attendance, the roar and chants of the fans, organisation of the event and stadium facilities where beyond my expectations and gave me a unique insight into the Japanese sporting culture.
By taking this extraordinary opportunity it has given me a new awareness into the tireless, passionate and hardworking dedication by the staff in the J. League. I have a new found respect and admiration and am personally looking forward to the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in August between Australia and Japan.
Find out more about how to apply for a New Colombo Plan mobility grant at QUT here.
Chanelle J, Bachelor of Business
Rikkyo University, Japan (Semester 1, 2016)
New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient
My decision to do exchange in Tokyo was influenced by my love of Japanese design and architecture, and also because I was interested to learn more about the culture. I was excited for a challenge to live in a country with a different language and way of life to me. And what a challenge it was, but I loved every minute of it!
Rikkyo university in Ikebukuro is a beautiful campus, though much smaller than QUT. The gym, swimming pool, tennis, basketball facilities are amazing and free for students to use. The orientation process to use these facilities is a bit tedious, especially for non-Japanese speakers, but well worth it!
The university system is very different to what I was used to. Attendance is compulsory and counts towards your final grade. We were required to do a minimum of 7 subjects to be on a student visa. This was a lot more work than I was used to at QUT, however the assessment items were much smaller.
The international office staff were very helpful and organized many free events for exchange students. I always felt like I had somewhere to go for help and someone to talk if I had a problem. Every day would bring new challenges, like receiving mail in the post I couldn’t understand, so it was a lifesaver to be able to take this to the international office for help.
I chose to live in an apartment in Zoshigaya, which is about 15min walk away from Rikkyo. I really enjoyed this location because I didn’t have to rely on the train. I bought a 2nd hand bike to get around the city. I recommend this to everyone!
Renting an apartment by myself was a huge expense at approximately $2000 AUD. It came completely fitted out with everything I needed for my stay, which is very different to the dormitories where you need to buy everything. If I had my time again I would prefer to stay somewhere cheaper.
My living expenses (excluding rent) were around $1500 per month. It is really cheap to eat out and drink. There is a very cheap cafeteria style dining hall at university where you could get basic Japanese food for around $4 to $5.
My highlights were climbing Mt. Fuji, Go-Karting around Akihabara and shopping for vintage clothes in Shimokitazawa.
Overall, I loved my experience at Rikkyo and would recommend it to everyone!
Anna B, Bachelor of Creative Industries
Aalto University, Finland (Semester 2, 2016)
Ten tips for anyone ready to go on the ride.
- Consider your options. I wanted to go to Leads England and ended up at Aalto University Finland. A huge blessing
- Take risks
- The people you meet on exchange will change your life. Make the most of every moment last
- Be who you want to be on exchange. You are in a new place you can test a new version of you.
- Get dirty. Travel to the small places they are always the best. Be a traveler not tourist. Experience a place don’t just visit it.
- Find snow it is great
- Take advantage of the experiences this new university offers you. You never know the impact it has on you till when you get back.
- Embrace change it’s all part of the ride.
- Student discounts are life use it.
- The ride will be over before you know it. Enjoy it