Becoming a Part of the Gamecock Family!

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

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

On Campus – Horseshoe

Preparation and Arrival

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

Darla Moore School of Business (DMSB)

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

DMSB

Accommodation

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

Riverside Student Accommodation (Off-Campus)

College Life

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

Football Game at Williams-Brice Stadium

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

Strom Thurmond – Student Gym

Classes

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

Columbia and the U.S.

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

Tubing on the River

Christmas

Halloween

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

Atlanta Skyline

Atlanta – CNN Headquarters

New York

Washington DC

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

– Forever to Thee –

Embracing Student Life in Exeter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Land of Ireland

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

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

Host Country

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

Host University

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

Struggles

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

Tips

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

Trip of a Lifetime in Canada

Amy T., Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
Simon Fraser University, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)

 

My Canadian exchange was like all my dream adventures combined into one! I arrived in the heat of summer in July 2018 and stayed until mid-January 2019, living on campus, making lots of friends and seeing the amazing country that is Canada.
One of the reasons I travelled to Canada was to visit family that lived in Vancouver, on Bowen Island, a quaint little place, 20 minutes from the mainland by ferry.

Bowen Island

You certainly wouldn’t see a Walmart or a McDonald’s here, only cute little family run stores. Using my uncle’s house as a base for my first month, I managed to tick off all the places on the bucket list I’d made before leaving home. Public transport was great, and I got to see the city sites easily. For the places further away, I travelled with a small bus tour on a 4 day trip to Vancouver Island and an eight day Banff trip.

Exploring Scenic Canada

All thanks to our knowledgeable and energetic tour guide, I got to do things I’d expect most tourists wouldn’t, like scaling a rock face on the side of a road to see a hidden waterfall, hear the history of each town along the way and sit back while someone else did the driving and the time management. I would 100% recommend Moose tours for anyone looking for a fast-paced and fun-filled adventure that is practically stress free.

Burnaby Campus – SFU

After a month of adventuring, it was time for university. The Burnaby campus of Simon Fraser University was on top of a hill that overlooked Vancouver. The sunsets from the lookout were so magical that photos cannot do it justice. My campus was surrounded by maple forest and there were countless walking tracks to explore.

Living there, right on campus, was the best! I stayed in a townhouse with 3 others. Initially we were all strangers but throughout the semester we got to know each other so well! There was always someone to chat with, laugh with and eat with (three of my favourite things). My place was only a 15-minute walk to class meaning I could often sleep in… which is always a good thing.

My dorm room on Campus

There were other things about the campus which were great too, like the family of raccoons I met on my first day at the university! So feisty, so cute… The university had a lot of events such as the winter festival where I collected freebies and learnt how to walk on ice and free s’mores which were available every day. I would often find myself warming up next to a fire pit, roasting a marshmallow. Thankfully, SFU also had a conveniently located gym with fitness classes that I enjoyed daily as well.

Roasting S’mores at Winter Festival

With so much happening on campus, getting involved meant making friends was easy. I joined The Point church which was on campus and consequently made so many Canadian friends!! Getting to know everyone from the church through bible studies and shared local meals made my exchange experience feel so authentically Canadian.

Meeting New Friends

In terms of studying, university was slightly different. Many of my classes had four 1-hour sessions a week. Only one of my classes had recorded lectures. Two of my subjects didn’t even have lecture slides! The marking system was different because they used a bell curve and you couldn’t really predict what mark you were going to get. Luckily, because I was on exchange, I didn’t have to worry. Even though there was always more study to be done, I made time to see just a little bit more of Canada on my weekends!

Travelling on the weekend to see Canada

The Canadian culture was very similar to Australian culture and the accent was one I quickly got used to. Small language differences were always a source of confusion and laughter. “Mince”, “lollies” and “ute” seemed to stump Canadians… while “tuque” (beanie) was hard for me to get used to! Halloween and Thanksgiving were new celebrations for me, and the candy and pumpkin pie were thoroughly enjoyed.

Enjoying a white Christmas

After my exams, my Australian family flew over to join me for a white Christmas. Eating a hot roast for lunch, having a real pine Christmas tree and seeing the sleet outside (not quite cold enough for snow) really made it feel so Canadian. The next month of travel included an American road trip and a flight up north where the days are -34 degrees and the Aurora Borealis is just stunning.

Aurora Borealis

Although I missed everyone from Australia, the time I spent exploring Canada was a time of fun and adventures and also a time of growth. My exchange was the best six months I have ever had!

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.

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.

What One Can Do Tomorrow, One Can Do Today

Harry B., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

The task of conveying my experience on exchange feels somewhat futile, for what made the experience unforgettable – the people met, language learnt, and culture lived – cannot, without losing something of its charm, be neatly distilled into a blog post. Can my friends, my parents, really understand just what it was that I underwent, why it was that I relished my time overseas; the experience and memories being so subjectively and personally my own. Perhaps this scepticism is shared by the exchange faculty, who advised in the writing of this post I focus on the university, facilities, costs, campus life and general tips – in short, just the most useful and easily digestible snippets of information addressed to the palate of the reader who is preparing, or contemplating, their own experience, not so much yours. So it is this I have attempted in the following few paragraphs.

The Berlin School of Economics and Law, where I studied, is in German classified a Hochschule – something of a university, but on a smaller scale, with smaller class and campus sizes. My lectures rarely had more than 30 people, my tutorials even less. This is vastly different to QUT and, I discovered, quite to my liking. For it was because of this the students became better friends, and the learning experience more intimate. Downsides do exist, but are not sufficient, surely, to hamper things: the library was to my mind under resourced, having neither enough places to study, nor computers to use. But I am guessing those reading this, if they’re on exchange, will not frequent the library all that often. My chief gripe, which is to the detriment of us internationals, is the absence of a well organised and supported club for exchange students. Although some effort was being made to remedy this towards the end of my stay, this was of no help to me, whose efforts to meet people would have been greatly assisted by an organisation, like QUT Exchange Buddies Club here, which organised bar nights and activities. Again, given the city in which you live, Berlin, is not short of entertainment, you may not find this gripe as deleterious as did I. But certainly one has a far better time gallivanting around with friends, than without, and it is through clubs run for the benefit of exchange students you meet such comrades.

I resided in private accommodation, which was quite expensive. Places in Berlin are becoming dearer and harder to find, so ensure you secure a place to live –using, say, AirBnb or or the fantastic WG-gesucht.com – well, well, in advance. Alternatively, one could through the university apply for a room in a student dorm, run by the organisation Studentenwerk. Though in general further out from the city centre, they are very affordable and populated with students. You will find, I am told, that the commute is not prohibitively long (especially biking to the train station) – at least not so long as to negate the other, sizable benefits of staying there.

Berlin, apart from the sometimes high cost of private accommodation, is affordable. We live in an expensive country, so I suppose wheresoever we go we will be pleasantly surprised, but everything – public transport, food and groceries, alcohol, entertainment, health insurance – is markedly less expensive than Brisbane.

As to the culture of the place, I have been on a previous exchange to Germany, that time to Mannheim, and must say, the feel of Berlin is itself unique; it has no counterpart, I do not think, across country or even Europe. Frankly, I can imagine few places where a student exchange would be more fitting. There is plenty to do and see – which you probably did not require my assurance of. I recommend learning the language: there is an intensive class offered in the month preceding the commencement of classes. It helps to know a few words. Culture shock, to be honest, is not the problem it may have been in other Germany cities and towns. Berlin is extremely cosmopolitan, an unbelievable melting pot, and it is not uncommon to hear many different languages spoken in cafes and trains. To be sure, there are many locals earnestly going about their business, whose sensibilities you ought not to disregard. But on the whole, people tend to coexist in acceptance of and harmony with everyone else.

Tips:

  • Should you have the money, get German health insurance (80 Euro per month) – this will save you some hassle.
  • Ration your money, spent wisely and be resourceful.
  • Without being reckless, take risks: you are, for a short period, incognito.
  • Meet people and make friends as quickly as possible, organise outings.
  • Improve your cooking, stay healthy, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and take vitamin pills.
  • Above all: do not waste what little time you have. You will be on your long haul hour flight back to banal Brisbane before you know it, so hit the ground running, be prepared and make no excuses for yourself. What one can do tomorrow, one can do today.

Getting Giddy in Glasgow

Liam M., Bachelor of Journalism / Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
University of Glasgow, Scotland (Semester 2, 2016)

There is a saying in french: Il n’y a d’homme plus complet que celui qui a beaucoup voyage, qui a change vingt fois la forme de sa pensée et de sa vie, which means that there is no man more complete than he who has travelled a lot, who has changed the shape of his thoughts and his life twenty times. And to be frank, I think this sums up my exchange experience beautifully.

For me the whole idea of embarking on an exchange program was to broaden my mind and my life through another culture or cultures so that upon my return I could come back enriched with life experience, great memories and stories that I will remember forever. I have been fortunate throughout my life to have travelled with my family, but there is nothing quite like moving overseas by yourself for the very first time. This was my reality on the 23rd of August 2016 as I ventured on a 26 hour flight to Paris, and then eventually over to the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Words couldn’t describe the emotions that I was feeling after spending over a week in Paris, five days in London and then finally arriving in Glasgow. As I hopped out of Glasgow Central train station I arrived in what could be described as typical Scottish summer weather, 13 degrees and raining. However, I couldn’t be more excited to move into my student flat.

Over the coming days and weeks everything seemed to move very fast. From moving in, to making new friends and countless orientation activities and to the infamous “freshers week” everything was great. I couldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world. However, nothing will challenge you more on exchange than being essentially alone, and sick overseas. Halfway through freshers week, I had contracted tonsillitis for the very first time, and it was a very trying time as I attempted to take care of myself, while extremely sick. This is probably one thing you cannot prepare for before going on exchange, as no one can predict how healthy you’re going to be while overseas. However, it taught me that you really have to look after yourself no matter how much fun you’re having, eat good food, get enough sleep and in Scotland, wear the appropriate warm clothes so you don’t get sick. The University of Glasgow had made every exchange student feel extremely welcome by throwing all sorts of events throughout the coming weeks. One particular favourite was the Ceilidh, a Scottish party where traditional dances take place.

Throughout the semester I took three subjects, equivalent to QUT’s four. I probably didn’t enjoy them as much as I should have, but learning about a different country’s legal system was interesting albeit challenging at the same time. I made a lot of friends at GU, who weren’t just exchange students. This is because I joined the legal society and GUSWPC, which is Glasgow Uni’s swimming and water-polo club. This was probably the highlight of my time abroad because I made many local Scottish and English friends that will be in my life for many, many years. This would be my main recommendation to anyone going on exchange and wanting to immerse themselves in their host universities life: join a club or society that you’re interested in, as it is the easiest way to make local friends and to really have a good time. I was lucky enough to be selected on the men’s water-polo and men’s swimming teams. With swimming, I was able to compete at the British National University Championships, local club meets, inter-university league matches and the Scottish National Swimming Championships. I even took part in a swimming camp in the Canary Islands after my exchange had finished, which was the best way to say goodbye to my Scottish friends.

I also got a job while in Glasgow, and this showed me a very different side to Scottish culture and allowed me to experience different things while abroad. I was also able to spend my hard earned Scottish pounds. I made the most of days off uni and weekends when I wasn’t working by travelling around Scotland and England as much as I could. From St. Andrews, to Edinburgh, to the Scottish Highlands and the different Lochs and Isles. Scotland was more beautiful than I imagined. Though, throughout all this travelling I still had to keep up with my studies, and before I knew it, Christmas exams were around the corner and it dawned on me that the end of my time in Glasgow was almost here. I tried to extend my exchange for another semester, but subject approvals let me down. Nevertheless I couldn’t have been happier with how my time in Scotland went.

However, even though my exchange at Glasgow was up, my real travelling time was just beginning. From the beginning of January to the end of February I visited 14 countries throughout Europe and the middle-east, I made lots of friends, had many sleepless nights, ate delicious different foods, got food poisoning, went skiing in the Austrian Alps, visited eastern Europe and made many memories that will be with me forever. I really couldn’t have asked for a better exchange experience, because everything I did, I loved, and I wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe applying for a year exchange instead of 6 months 😛 ). However, I have come back a more mature, sophisticated, well travelled boy who can now share my stories in the hopes that many other future QUT students use their abilities to embark on what really is a once in a life time opportunity to study abroad. Thank you Study Abroad QUT for giving me this opportunity. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Time Of My Life In Nagoya

Christina Z., Bachelor of Creative Industries / Bachelor of Law (Honours)
Meijo University, Japan (Semester 2, 2018)

I never thought in my entire life that I would ever do karaoke. Before my exchange I was quite shy; a little quiet around people I didn’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I love singing, just not in front of other people. I was afraid that people might judge me and that I wasn’t good at it. However in Japan I found my voice, literally and figuratively. If it is one thing that Japanese people do well it is karaoke. It doesn’t matter if you are bad, average, or sound like Whitney Houston. It just matters that you put yourself out there and that you enjoyed the experience.

Meeting new friends!

Life on campus was fairly good for the most part, however being one of three Caucasian students in the whole school definitely made you stand out. It was a bit strange at first but you get used to the staring and such. Meijo University also set me up with a job in an area of the university that they call Global Plaza. This area was where students could come to study English and practice conversation. Through being a conversation partner I was able to make a lot of friends and get more involved with university life. The facilities were quite well kept, there were even tennis courts, a gymnasium and computer labs. Accommodation wise the room I stayed in comes with everything you will need – bathroom, kitchen, mini fridge, desk, and bed and storage space. It was small but honestly you don’t need that much space, and an added benefit was that you got to live alone too. It was great being so close to the university (a three minute walk), the train station, bank, restaurants and convenience stores. The study aspect of my exchange was surprisingly quite simple and definitely not as busy as QUT. I only had to go in once a week for one class and the assessments were generally not stressful.

Nagoya and surrounds

Placing myself in a completely new environment with different customs and a completely different culture was very eye-opening. People would always tell me that going on exchange changed their lives, and I would always nod along even if I didn’t quite believe them. Well, I should have. Now I can truly say that going to Japan and studying abroad has definitely changed me forever. I have met so many different people while I was over there. They came from places such as France, Austria, Turkey, America and even Korea. I have a lot of friends in different places now, and being away from them has taught me about how important making connections is. With them I got to experience the wonders of Japan; from New Year’s shrine visits, autumn leaves and hot springs, all the way to snowboarding, all you can drink izakaya’s, and the infamous 24 hour convenience stores. Japan is very big on their nightlife. Even in Nagoya people stay out quite late to socialise and drink. There is a reason why those convenience stores are open at all hours.

Friends at a local Pub

Another fantastic thing that happened was that I got to see snow for the very first time. I felt like a child when I woke up that morning and looked out my window. I didn’t even take time out to have a shower before I dressed and left my room. I spent two hours outside that day playing in the snow with my friend Stone. We made snowwomen, threw snow balls off the rooftop of our apartment building and overall just had a great time being 5 years old again.

First time seeing snow

Despite the big cultural differences I didn’t have the huge culture shock that everyone was expecting me to when I first arrived. However as I spent more time integrating into the culture there were a few things that surprised me. In my case, Japan had such a lack of cultural diversity that I found it hard to blend in. I would stand out wherever I went and people did treat you differently because they knew you weren’t from there. However that is not always a bad thing. Another thing I did not expect was the separation of sexes at a university level. Usually, that happens in primary school and sometimes high school but it dissipates as you get into university. In Japan, however, there are no co-ed sports teams, friends sit apart in class (boys with boys and girls with girls) and no one really hugs over here. Finally, Christmas is another occasion that has a completely different meaning in Japan than it does in Australia. Everyone still goes to work and school on Christmas Day, in fact, it is seen as a day for couples. However New Years is when everyone has time off and goes to be with their family.

Exploring Nagoya with friends

For anyone looking to go overseas and study, I would say to go without expectations and keep an open mind. That way you can really be involved in things you might not have thought you would be. I loved my life there and I was very sad to leave it behind, but I am so grateful I got to experience Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

Aussie among the Brits: My semester abroad

Sarah K. – Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2016)

I had the time of my life studying at the University of Leeds during Semester 2, 2016.

Leeds is located at the centre of the UK in the Yorkshire region, about 315km North of London. It is an awesome student city which meant cheaper living costs (especially compared to somewhere like London!) and the opportunity to meet heaps of university students.

The University of Leeds was really great, and incidentally while I was there, it was awarded University of the Year 2017. It was my main choice because it provided a lot of subject options which allowed me to match up all of my law and business units. It was also interesting listening to lecturers with English, Irish and Scottish accents. Different to QUT, lectures are compulsory and your timetables are configured for you, there is no option to design your own schedule. The university also offered hundreds of different clubs! I joined a number of societies, notably the ‘Leeds Snowriders’ skiing and snowboarding society. Being a member allowed me to go on the university ski trip to Andorra, located on the border of France and Spain, which was an absolute blast.

In England, after graduating from High School, most students will move cities and live in on-campus student accommodation Halls for their first year of university. During my semester, I opted for catered living in Devonshire Hall, which was only a 15 minute walk from campus and looked a lot like Hogwarts. I cannot recommend student accommodation enough – you’re living with hundreds of other students just like yourself, which makes it so easy to make friends!

Devonshire Hall consists of several houses with both catered and self-catered students. My house had 10 people in it including myself, one other Australian exchange student, one American exchange student and the rest were all English students. Being catered at Devonshire Hall (or ‘Dev’ as it was quickly termed) meant that breakfast and dinner were always social occasions used to catch up with friends and plan weekend adventures. The food was pretty good but prepare yourself…England LOVE potatoes! Dev was also a really social Hall with frequent social events, quiz nights, movie nights, hall sports teams and drama and music groups. University accommodation allows you to meet so many different kinds of people from your home country as well as international students. Besides connecting with a lot of Aussies, some of my closest friends came from various places around England, New Zealand, Iceland, Netherlands, Japan, Denmark and many more.

I chose England for the location of my exchange because of its location within Europe. Other than the friendships I formed, travelling was what I loved most about exchange. I managed to fit in travel before, during and after my semester. I loved the ability to meet people from different countries and experience a variety of cultures. Exchange allowed me to be independent and self-sufficient whilst also completing my studies and it’s something that I think everyone should experience – you won’t regret it.