Blossoming in Sweden

Hayley W., Bachelor of Urban Development
Kungliga Tekniska Hogskolan, Sweden (Semester 1, 2017)

For my semester abroad I attended KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm City, Sweden. It was by far the best six months of my life. I was challenged in many different ways, given the most insane opportunities and experiences, met people from all over the world that I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I was pushed out of my comfort zone in terms of learning. Living in a different city provided me with many differences to Brisbane that I had to deal with, one particular aspect being the cold. I had never seen snow before going to Sweden and had never experienced a proper winter! At first I found it extremely hard to adjust to the short days (5 hours of sunlight) and the freezing temperatures in conjunction with not having any friends or knowing many people. This caused me to become very homesick at the start of my exchange, spending a lot of time in my room alone. However, the staff at my host University were amazing and made me feel very welcome, they hosted numerous events to encourage other international students to meet each other and this is how I made my friends (from Turkey, Brazil, England and Ireland!). In hindsight, the challenges I faced at the beginning of my exchange taught me so many lessons in life – it taught me lessons about being grateful (grateful for where I am lucky enough to live, and how I grew up) and also lessons about myself (such as I now realise how weather can effect my mood, and every day I wake up and it is sunny, I am grateful!). By the end of my 5 months in Sweden it was Spring and I had felt like I had blossomed along with the seasons – going from a shy girl spending most of my time in my room to a fully bloomed flower with heaps of friends out enjoying the sunshine and everything the city had to offer me! By June I did not want to leave Sweden, but I was so thankful for all of the opportunities I had received and the people I had met.

I am so thankful to the QUT mobility team who encouraged me to put in my application and assisted me at all stages of my application to ensure that I had the opportunity to go on exchange.

Hej from Sweden!

Jordan S., Bachelor of Engineering
Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden (Semester 2, 2016)

Hej jag heter Jordan Simpson! I undertook an exchange semester at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg (Gothenburg) Sweden during the second semester of 2016!

Host University

Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg

I found that life on campus at Chalmers is quite different to QUT. A few of the main differences I found was the block scheduling of courses, the really cheap lunches they provide, and the amount of leisure activity rooms. I found the block scheduling of classes to be quite good; it meant not having to deal with class registration and ending up with a shocking timetable.  It even usually allowed for one or two free days a week! Chalmers also offered really cheap and decent quality/sized meals each day for 40kr (which is approx. $6.50). Chalmers also had heaps of buildings that could be used for all sorts of leisure activities (indoor soccer/basketball, rock climbing, even a billiard area!).

Accommodation can be quite hard to come by for the local university students of Gothenburg wishing to move out of their parent’s place. These students have to start queuing to find a place when they are in grade 9 or 10 in high school! However, being an international student, Chalmers and SGS Studentböstader (a student housing company) offers priority 1 when looking for accommodation during your stay in Gothenburg.

From an academics standpoint, Chalmers is very different to QUT. The main difference being that instead of taking 4 courses over a semester, the semester is broken up into two study periods. Each study period lasts 8 weeks, and during this time you take 2 courses. This means that the courses are a lot heavier, but leads to a much easier time during exam block period.

Host Country

City of Gothenburg

The cost of living is almost identical to Australia, only major difference being the alcohol prices in their bottle shops. Getting around in Gothenburg is very easy! The public transport system is phenomenal (well almost anything is compared to my hometown, Mackay).  There are many trams and busses running all the time to get you to where you need to go. If you want to see a bit more of Sweden there are also plenty of top quality trains to take!

I found the culture of Sweden to be quite similar to our own. With one notable difference being people keep to themselves at first so you have to really initiate conversation. But once you start to get them talking they are just as friendly and inviting as we are! If you are also wondering how the language barrier is, I can assure you that it is almost non-existent. Almost every Swedish person I met was able to speak English perfectly and switched to it as soon as they knew you only spoke English!

One of the cool things I really enjoyed about my time in Sweden was actually being able to experience the four seasons of the year! My favourite time of the year was Autumn as I found it cool to see everything go orange, and actually see the physical change from Summer.

Highlights/Tips

It’s hard to choose highlights from my exchange as the whole experience has been absolutely fantastic.  One of the many highlights was being able to meet so many people from different countries.  I got to experience bits and pieces of their cultures and share some from mine, while also learning about the Swedish culture with them.  However, one of my favourite times during this exchange was when my mates and I went for a weekend in Stockholm before going on a 3-day cruise to Talin, Estonia.

Northern lights in Lapland

The best tip I can give is get involved with CIRC (Chalmers’ International Student Society), and make sure to go to all of their events during the first few weeks so you can meet heaps of people that eventually make a good group of friends! Also, the one event I highly recommend (which I personally didn’t get to go to but all of my friends did) is the Lapland trip! During this you travel to the far north of Sweden and get to experience ridiculously cold temperatures, go dog sledging, and see the Northern Lights!

 

The Realities of Studying in Gothenburg

Lydia W., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Gothenburg, Sweden (Semester 2, 2017)

My time in Gothenburg can be summed up in one word: memorable. The city of Gothenburg is an incredible city, and my little dorm room will always be considered my second home. For any of you who are considering journeying to the wonderful land of Sweden, or the city of Gothenburg, here are some of the things you may wish to know.

Gothenburg’s famous Hagabullen (cinnamon bun)

Studying at the University of Gothenburg

The University of Gothenburg allowed me to experience a completely different style and atmosphere towards learning. The different faculties of the university are spread out around the city of Gothenburg and I was lucky enough to study in several of them, including Handelshögskolan, the School of Business, Economics and Law. All of the buildings are easily accessible by bus, tram or by bike. In regard to learning, Gothenburg was very different to QUT. My subjects included 3 hours lectures and lecture information is not as easily accessible. More emphasis is placed on group work and discussion in lectures. Also, Gothenburg students are lucky enough to have 5 hour exams where food and drink is allowed.

University of Gothenburg buildings

University of Gothenburg buildings

Student Living in Gothenburg

During my time at Gothenburg, I lived in student housing at Helmutsrogatan which provided me with my own dorm room that included both a kitchen and bathroom that were furnished with basic essentials. Also, right next to my housing was a 7-Eleven which was my saviour every day and night. I was a 5 minute tram ride from the centre but could also walk if I felt like it. I was also a 5 minute walk from the main student shared housing area of Olofshöjd which is convenient as most of your friends will probably be living there. For those of you who are sporting fans, my housing was also a 5 minute tram ride from the Ice Hockey stadium, Liseberg Amusement Park and the football stadium.

My student housing

My student housing

The City of Gothenburg

I loved living in Gothenburg and it will always hold a special place in my heart. The city itself is quite small and you can easily walk to most places. Also, Gothenburg has an advanced and easy tram and bus system which makes it so easy to travel around the city. The reason I mention transport is that Gothenburg has so much to offer. You can catch the tram to archipelagos; you can visit the Liseberg Amusement Park; you can discover the many museums and galleries all over the city; you can go to the opera, concerts and trivia nights; you can go hiking up a mountain; or you can even do my personal favourite and go see the Frölunda Indians play ice hockey! There is always something going on in Gothenburg so there are plenty of chances to get out and enjoy yourself!

Highlights

Obviously, living in a different country was a highlight in itself for me. Not only did I develop more confidence in myself and my abilities, but I had the opportunity to discover a completely new culture. I spent most of my time on exchange travelling all over Europe to countries I did not ever think I would explore. My absolute favourite thing about exchange was meeting people from all over the world; I met people from America, Canada, Sudan, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Spain, Greece, China, Japan, India, Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Slovakia… and this isn’t even every country! Also, I was very excited to have my photo taken for the University of Gothenburg magazine; I have no idea what the blurb meant in Swedish, but it definitely was a highlight knowing random Swedish students would see a little Aussie!

Things I Didn’t Expect

As with any experience in life, there are things that you entirely do not expect to happen to you. I did not expect how difficult it would be to be to motivate myself to study whilst exploring another country. I did not expect how much time I would actually spend alone. I did not expect how little interaction I would have with Swedish people, nor did I expect how much interaction I would have with other exchange students.

My Tips and Advice

  • Have an idea of your priorities for exchange and tailor the subjects you choose to that. If your priority is to travel and explore as much as you can (as I did), I recommend doing 2-3 subjects maximum!!
  • Just because you’re on exchange does not mean less is expected of you in regard to assessment – find a balance early on where you can have fun but still pass your subjects!
  • If you have the chance to go to Munich for Oktoberfest, do it!!

Just remember, there will be aspects of your exchange that you hate or that you become really stressed about; get over them! Don’t let them ruin your time on exchange because it will be over too soon!

 

 

 

Study, snow and sauna in beautiful Sweden

Daniel D, Bachelor of Urban Development

Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (Semester 2, 2016)

My name’s Daniel and right now, I am writing this blog looking out at the snow-covered streets and trees below and it’s a bit surreal compared to Brisbane. But I have to say that my semester here at Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (or Royal Institute of Technology) here in Stockholm, Sweden has been amazing.

There are some interesting differences between KTH and QUT though. For a start, the university just north of the heart of the city has some stunning old Harry Potter-like buildings and a beautiful nature reserve right behind it. The semester here is divided into two parts and you finish two subjects completely in part one and the other two in the second part. This means that lectures and tutorials are a bit more intense (halfway through one lot of classes in three weeks!). But there are also similarities, coffee everywhere and at least for my subjects a lot of work on some big but interesting projects.

The main building at KTH after an Autumn snow fall.

Sweden is an interesting country, the stereotype is that they are very introverted but each study area has a social chapter and I got the chance to meet a lot of Swedes who were outgoing and very friendly and so many had been to Australia on a gap year and one of my class teachers actually went on exchange to QUT before they graduated. This chapter also put on some great events like a traditional Swedish Gasque (dinner, drinking and traditional drinking songs) and a sauna and dip in the freezing river as well as sports like Innebandy (floorball).

Most Swedes seemed surprised that an Australian wanted to come over in winter, sub-zero temperatures and 6-hour days but it is these differences that makes Sweden such an interesting place. Christmas was so ‘chrismassy’, for want of a better word, and snow makes it magical.

Christmas Market at Gamla Stan (the old town).

Tips:

Have a backup plan. I went travelling and was unfortunately pickpocketed in Poland but luckily I had all my documents and everything backed up so I got back to Sweden okay and everything was sorted. Also, make sure you have Google Translate; it’s great for finding out what the food is in the supermarket, like sour cream is gräddfil, and filmjölk is not milk and if you don’t know that then your breakfast is going to taste very weird. Which leads to the next thing, stuff is a bit expensive in Sweden and Scandinavia in general, even compared to Australia so be prepared for that. With this in mind, the most important tip is take things as they come and appreciate the whole experience as it will be amazing. 

During a wander through a local national park. That white space is a lake I went to on an excursion in summer.

Austria: Centrally Located, Great for Travel

Exchange isn’t only about living in a new city, a long way from home. It’s about seeing as much of the world as you can that is now suddenly at your doorstep.

Vienna has many perks. A historical and cultural hub, a lively city and a wonderful coffee culture. For this post, however, the most important perk is its central location in Europe.

Whilst my classes were on, I have been incredibly lucky to have been able to take five subjects, one pre-semester language course, and still have been able to travel to 12 cities in 9 countries.

Devin Castle

 

Bratislava, Slovakia 

Likely to be the first international trip for many of Vienna’s exchange students,

Bratislava is a mere 45-minute train ride away (literally less time than it takes me to get to uni from home in Brisbane). The city itself is small, but the food is cheap. My tip: take a bus out of town to Devin Castle (pictured). It’s a 6th Century ruin that sits at the fork of two rivers, and it undoubtedly adds to the Bratislava experience.

The Chain Bridge and Parliament

 

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is about 2.5 hours away, and a very historical, interesting city. There’s quite a bit to see and do in Budapest, and a free walking tour is a great way to see a lot of it (they’re great in every city, not just

Budapest!), as well as hear stories about what you’re looking at. I also loved the tranquility of the thermal baths.

Graz, Austria

If you do the pre-semester orientation and cultural program, you’ll go to Graz, but because my friend and I didn’t, we took a spontaneous day-trip instead. Although it’s one of Austria’s largest cities, we managed to see most things, including climbing the hill to the Uhrturm (clock tower) in that time.

Porto, Portugal

Whilst I was on exchange, I was lucky enough to be selected and compete for QUT at

the University of Porto’s International Case Competition. While this involved being locked in a room for 34 hours to solve a case (albeit with 3 fantastic friends), it also involved meeting some amazing people from all over the world, and getting a guided tour by local students around the beautiful city of Porto. The comp was easily one of the highlights of exchange.

Team QUT in front of the Faculty of Economics, University of Porto

 

 

Douro Valley, Portugal

After the competition, QUT and several other teams went on a day trip to the world-renowned Douro Valley.  The valley was absolutely beautiful, and it was very refreshing to see such incredible scenery after Vienna’s relatively low tree-to-building ratio.

 

Inside the Sagrada Familia

Barcelona, Spain

(Unfortunately?) There are no direct flights between Porto and Vienna, so budget airlines tend to stop in Barcelona. We booked a couple of nights there on our way back, and got to experience some Spanish culture via sangrias, several walking tours, tapas, and paella. We were also very lucky to be able to spend time with people we’d met at various competitions (including Porto), and on exchange. Be sure to book online beforehand for Park Guell or the Sagrada Familia if you’d like to enter those, because they often sell out of tickets at the venue!

Berlin, Germany

I’d been interested in travelling to Berlin for a little while, but sadly I did it the disservice of not having enough time to truly explore the city (I would recommend 2-3 nights there, minimum). In the short time that I had there, I saw the East Side Gallery (pictured), the Brandenburg Gate, and visited the museum dedicated to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

The East Side Gallery, a large remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall decorated by street artists from around the world

 

Krakow, Poland

Inside the Basilica of St Mary

 

One year ago, if you were to ask me which countries I imagined myself visiting whilst I was on exchange, Poland probably wouldn’t have made it on my list. Enticed by my friend’s stories, 5 euro bus tickets, and a very large gap in my timetable, I decided to see Krakow for myself, and I was pleasantly surprised. The city has very student-friendly prices, and the old town square is bustling at all times of day. While I was there, I took a guided tour of Auschwitz, which was hauntingly moving.

 

 

Copenhagen, Denmark

I flew from Krakow onto Copenhagen to visit friends and see a beautiful city, and I was not disappointed. We ate authentic

Danish pastries, climbed the spire at the Church of our Saviour to watch a beautiful dusk and wandered through Nyhavn and Paper Island at night. Although Copenhagen is very beautiful, it is also quite expensive, and a surprisingly small city: my tip is that you only really need 2 full days to explore it.

View from the spire of the Church of our Saviour

 

Malmo, Sweden

The main square in old town Malmo

Many of the ‘Things to do in Copenhagen’ lists suggest ‘Take the train to Sweden’ – and

with my friend’s recommendation, I did. For the same price as entry to Copenhagen’s Tivoli you take the train across the bridge (famous in the TV series ‘The Bridge’) to Malmo.   Unfortunately, it was cold, windy and rainy for my daytrip, so most of my sightseeing involved comparing Swedish and Danish aesthetic (a little more colourful, but just as expensive), eating a delicious soup in a café that was also a record store, and eating New York cheesecake (thanks globalisation!).

 

Innsbruck, Austria

This trip was meant to be a trip to Milan with three other people, but ended up as a trip

to Innsbruck with one other person. It also ended up being one of the most beautiful trips I have ever taken.  We stayed at an Airbnb in Innsbruck, and our three days there

were filled with my friend and I turning every corner and gaping at the incredible scenery. One thing we did that I thoroughly recommend to anyone who’s interested in seeing Innsbruck is to not limit yourself to just the town.

View of Innsbruck

We took a “regional” bus, and stayed on until the end (approx. 20 minutes). Because the tickets are day passes, we wandered from one small town to the next (at most it would have been a kilometre between towns), and hopped on and off the bus as we pleased. It allowed us great freedom, and some amazing views (as seen in the photo below).

A stunning panorama outside the tiny town of Rinn

 

Vienna’s location allowed me to easily travel to all of these places with whilst studying. The question isn’t “Why Vienna?” It’s “Why NOT Vienna?”

 

 

 

Life in Sweden & at KTH

Peter: Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden, Semester 1, 2016

Through the QUT Exchange program I had the opportunity to spend not one, but two full semesters abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. I had done some backpacking through South East Asia in the past, but I had never left Australia for more than two months and I had never called another country home. Looking back on it now, I didn’t exactly realise the size of the challenge at hand – moving across the planet to a place where I don’t know anyone or understand the language – but that challenge along with every amazing experience has made it the best year of my life. Aside from learning the ins and outs of Stockholm, by the end of my exchange I had the opportunity to visit 17 countries and meet some incredible people.peter_davis1

My host university in Stockholm was Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan. Sound like a mouthful? Thankfully it’s also called the Royal Institute of Technology in English, but let’s just call it KTH. KTH was founded in 1827 and today is one of the largest and most prestigious technical institutions in Scandinavia. Universities work a little differently in Sweden and don’t tend to offer the same courses in competition with each. In Stockholm, Karolinska acts as the main medical school, Stockholm University specialises in subjects like Law and Business, and KTH is full of the country’s brightest engineers, programmers and scientists (among other things).

Europe has a bachelor-master system in which most people complete five years of study. In Sweden, all students are required to study their bachelor’s degree in Swedish, and their two year masters degree in English. Because of this, I was able to study equivalent units for my four year degree in Australia from fourth and fifth year units in Sweden. The KTH Main Campus was built over 100 years ago and is filled with beautiful red brick buildings, with the main courtyard being something akin to Hogwarts.

peter_davis2Our accommodation was organised through KTH and provided by the state-run SSSB (Stockholm student accommodation). Lappkärsberget or ‘Lappis’ as it is so affectionately known isn’t located on the KTH campus, but is a short walk away from the campus of Stockholm University, which is only one subway stop away. The area houses several thousand people, mostly in corridor rooms. My room was spacious and had its own bathroom and a lot of storage, and each corridor has a kitchen and common area shared between 13 people. In true Swedish style, my neighbourhood was not only near a subway stop, but also surrounded by forest and a short walk from the lake.

Discover more about QUT’s Student Exchange Programs here!