My winter experience in Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ljubljana: a City of Rich Culture and Traditions

Aside

Nadia L., Bachelor of Business / Mass Communication

University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (Semester 1, 2019)

 

In early February I left my job, my friends and my family behind to study for a semester in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Known as a ‘student city’ for its young population, lively events and student perks I am so glad for the time that I spent there. I made many lifelong friends from all over the world and was able to become more confident and independent.

Academic Life

When the semester first began, I felt overwhelmed with assessment. While QUT generally requires two or three key assessments per unit, many of my Slovenian subjects involved a presentation or essay each week. Although highly involved, these tasks only accounted for 50% of your grade in total, with a big exam making up the other half at the end. The curriculum had a big focus on group assignments, in-class participation and presentations. However, I quickly learned that despite the extra workload, a less rigorous marking process meant it was much easier to get a good grade. Once I learned this, my exchange became much less stressful and I was able to enjoy time at events and exploring the country with new friends.

Exchange Orientation Day at Faculty of Business and Economics

Leisure

Ljubljana at Sunset

 

Ljubljana is a city of rich culture and traditions. On a sunny day it’s common for people to hike to the Castle for a picnic overlooking the city, or to enjoy drinks and a meal along the river with friends. There were also regular events for exchange students organised by two student associations. These included trips to Prian, Lake Bled, skiing in the mountains, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and more. They also organised a student party every Tuesday and Thursday night – and karaoke Wednesdays. There was definitely never a dull moment!

 

Food

Exploring the City Centre

 

All students in Slovenia are eligible for BONI, a Government subsidy for 2 meals per day, or 30 meals per month. This meant students could get discounted meals from anywhere in the city, ranging from completely free to just 4 euros for an entire meal. Think a burger and chips, or a whole pizza, plus soup and salad! This was many of our exchange student’s favourite part of exchange and it was common for friends to eat out regularly for lunch or dinner.

 

Exercise

With such cheap food many of us were worried about gaining weight. The Faculty of Business and Economics offers a range of free athletic programs that you can join at the start of semester including basketball, boxing, football, volleyball and aerobics. These classes were quite far from my accommodation, so I didn’t end up participating. Instead, I joined a nearby gym.

All gyms in Ljubljana were considerably cheaper than in Brisbane. The two main ones near the business faculty are Alpha gym and Gym24. I went to the latter and would highly recommend it – the classes, equipment and facilities were all great. Free gyms are also available at the dorms.

Hiking mountains near Ljubljana

Travel

Ljubljana is quite small so almost everything is within walking distance. There is also a decent bus system which costs 1.20 euro for a one-way trip. You will need to use a machine to get the equivalent of a go-card first as they don’t accept cash on board. However, myself and many other students opted to purchase a second-hand bike for the duration of our stay. I highly recommend this option. Ljubljana is pretty flat across the whole city and has a great infrastructure for bikes – plus you don’t need to wear a helmet!

Given its central location it was easy to travel to other European countries from Slovenia. Flixbus was the cheapest, easiest and most popular way to travel. I got pretty lucky with my accommodation, which was super close to the central bus stop. From there I was able to travel to cities in Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia with ease. However, if you want to travel a bit further away, flights from the Slovenian airport were quite limited and expensive. In most cases I’d recommend taking a Flixbus to a bigger airport for cheaper flights!

 

My time in Ljubljana was really special. I made so many fun memories and lifelong friends from around the world that are already planning their trips to Australia! Despite the difficulties of being away from home I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I really recommend that everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to study abroad!

 

Ljubljana City Centre

Ljubljana City Centre

 

 

 

 

 

My Thai Experience: Study Abroad Done Right

Elliot B.
Thammasat University, Thailand (Semester 1, 2019)

My last post on QUT Gone Global was back in January, so I apologize for not posting sooner. Back then, I had just settled in and begun my first week of classes at the Rangsit campus.

What I loved about studying at Rangsit was that each time I went into Bangkok, it felt just as exciting as the first time. If I was studying at the city campus, I would get used to living in Bangkok and the excitement would eventually subside. But by only getting to see Bangkok on the weekends, the thrill of driving through the city and walking around the different areas was still there, even near the end of my exchange.

I found university life in Thailand completely different to university in Australia. Thai universities feel a lot like school: you have lots of homework; you are asked to participate in class discussions; and you have the same classes with the same people. Most classes have between 30-50 students, but in one of my classes, Advanced News Reporting, there were only 10 students. This was great because I could really get to know everyone, and could develop a good relationship with my teacher. You also take between 6-7 subjects, so you get to know the other students very quickly because you see them so regularly.

My class for JM310 – Editorial and Article Writing

The highlights of my trip include spending Songkran in Chiang Mai. Songkran is the Thai New Year holiday, famous for water fights that are held all over the country. People of all ages wear colourful Hawaiian shirts, arm themselves with water guns and buckets, and spray water at each other. Chiang Mai is known as having one of the country’s biggest Songkran celebrations.

Drenched on the streets of Chiang Mai

Another highlight was getting to know so many Thai students. I’m a massive food lover, so I found getting along with Thai students super easy. We would talk about food all the time. One friend invited me over to his house to cook with his family and have dinner with them. We cooked up a huge feast of traditional Thai dishes including kai palo (sweet and sour pork soup), red curry of duck, dry-fried prawns in garlic and chili, and the best fried rice ever!

The huge meal we cooked!

One last highlight would have to be a trip with my closest exchange and Thai friends where we took to an island in Southern Thailand called Ko Phi Phi. We spent an incredible day on a boat and visited some beautiful beaches. These are memories I’ll never forget.

My friends and I on a boat somewhere in the Andaman Sea

I feel very fortunate to have had this amazing experience, and implore others to go on exchange. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan. More information available here.

Exchange in the Historic City of Lisbon, Portugal

My main highlights during my exchange semester were: the history and architecture, the amount of cultural activities available in the city and being pushed out of my comfort zone and immersed in the Portuguese culture.

Campus

The Universidade Catolica Portuguesa campus is located approximately 30 minutes by underground metro from Lisbon’s city centre. This is a very easy commute once you have a monthly transport card set up. The campus is near a Hospital and other universities so it feels safe to walk around, even when you finish study later at night. I had a very positive experience with Universidade Catolica Portuguesa. They were highly organised making it easy to find most information out by myself online. There were good contacts in person if required as well. They had a student association which helped with queries and organised welcome events and social activities particularly for international students. I was the only Australian and amongst very few native English speakers in my cohort. This was not a problem at all though and I ended up proof-reading a few students’ assignments and resumes to help out.

 

Language Barrier

Overall, most people in Lisbon speak English well and were very friendly. Approximately half of the Catolica University cohort were international students. Mainly from European countries such as France, Italy, Germany and Netherlands which meant they often spoke between themselves in their own languages. But as all business masters courses were taught in English, they were also very comfortable in speaking English and appreciated having a native English speaker in their group assignments. I completed the Portuguese Language Crash Course at Catolica which ran for 6 hours per week for 5 weeks. Personally, I found this course unstructured and difficult to follow. It also took a lot of time during the first few weeks when I was trying to find housing etc. For people that learn languages easily, this course would be great but for others, I would recommend going to a privately-run language school.

 

Accommodation

I stayed in a hostel for my initial arrival in Lisbon and used a student housing agency called InLife (inlifeportugal.com) to find permanent housing. This worked well for me as you can book in for a housing tour on your desired date. During the tour, you are shown 3 apartments and if you would like one then you can sign a contract on the spot. This was convenient but my apartment turned out to be premium price rates compared to other students. I did have to stay in a hostel for approximately 6 weeks until the house was ready though which was difficult during summer peak holiday season. For noting that many other students had issues pre-booking with Uniplaces (uniplaces.com). For example, being unhappy with the other housemates, contracts being difficult to exit from, the apartments looking different to the photos online and requiring to pay a lot upfront without seeing the apartment.

 

Culture

Lisbon is a very creative city with lots of start-ups moving to Lisbon (the new Berlin), and as a result there are always plenty of cultural activities happening. For example designer markets, music festivals, dance lessons, seminars on start-up culture. The history of the city and coloured tiles were a major highlight for me. The city centre is easy to walk around. It is very hilly but most restaurants, cafes, bars are very easy to reach by metro, walking or by a cheap uber ride. There are a lot of affordable events on and other key European experiences include surfing, going to the Football, having an espresso and pastry at bakeries or joining along the activities running in the city squares.

No Stress in New York

Julia M., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries
Fordham University, USA (Semester 2 2017)

The experience of university in America is extremely different to that of QUT. Everything from the method of teaching, grading and assessment to the college spirit and club involvement was entirely different. My favourite aspect of life at Fordham University was the spirit and enthusiasm that students had towards their school. The campus was covered with flags and statues of the school mascot (a ram) with the huge football field covered in maroon and white (the university’s colours) branding. They even had a store with everything you could ever think of (including baby clothes and dog bones) Fordham branded. People were proud to wear these items, in contrast to at home where you rarely see people in QUT outfits. It was awesome to experience this first hand, and you really felt like part of a community where everyone knew each other and people cared.

The biggest and most challenging difference was the way in which assessment was completed and graded. At home, we usually have 2-3 large assessments for each subject, whereas at Fordham we had a very small assessment due almost every week. Although there was more assessment, I found it easier to get good grades, as the teachers were more lenient with their marking. They do not use criteria sheets and just mark off what they think you should get. There is also no moderating, which caused students to prefer certain professors to others as they marked the work easier. I found this very unusual and strange to deal with at first, as it was hard to know what the professors were looking for when marking my work. I quickly got used to it and found that it was easy to get an A with a little effort. Attendance was also very important. In one of my classes, attendance counted towards 25% of my final grade. If you missed more than 2 lessons unexcused then your final grade would drop one full letter. I found this very stressful as if I was sick I still had to go to class or risk losing a grade.

Overall I had an amazing experience going to Fordham university and would definitely do it all over again if I could. I made amazing friends that taught me about American culture and let me into their lives. The experience of living in New York City was amazing, and being able to explore the 5 boroughs at any time was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would definitely recommend exchange to anyone, as it helps you develop as a person and gain full independence. Being so far away from home makes you appreciate what you have and learn how to truly look after yourself.

Making Friends for Life

Heidi F., Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
State University of New York, USA (Semester 1, 2016)

Studying at State University of New York

University

I loved studying at SUNY. It was such a different experience to anything that I had been used to previously. It was awesome to be living on a campus where it was snowing almost every day, so much so that we sometimes had snow days where university would be cancelled for the day (where we then went out sledding behind our dorms). Not to mention the time when I ran out into the snow in my bikini! (Just to say I had done it). The university as a whole was all quite expensive but worth it I think. The meal plan was compulsory (and super expensive!!) but I’m glad I had it as it made everything a lot easier. It was a lot of fun having an ice skating rink on campus as we did that quite a bit as well as watched a lot of ice hockey matches which I loved. I joined a lot of sporting groups and I also did a lot of on campus activities which kept me busy. They were a lot of fun! Academics wise – it was quite easy compared to QUT. It surprised me how much easier it was than what I was used to but it was good as I was able to get pretty good marks without placing much stress on myself.

 

America

It blew me away how bad the currency exchange rate was. I lost a lot of money when I exchanged my AUD dollars to the US currency. It was super sad seeing how many thousands of dollars I was losing but I just kept telling myself that it was all going to be worth it! And it totally was. One I travelled quite a bit to New York City as well as around New York State and up to the Thousand Islands. At the end of my uni semester, I also flew across to California and spent quite a lot of time there. It was exciting to get some sunshine and beaches there after such a long time without! One thing about America that was a little tricky was the ability to adjust to the different foods. I often found myself feeling a little sick as I wasn’t used to it. After a while my body adjusted I think, and I was feeling a lot better.

 

Highlights

There were so many highlights, obviously. I had a great time experiencing new things such as skiing and snowboarding as well as getting into new sports like ice hockey and American football. The ‘touristy’ things were also a blast such as the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood sign, Hollywood boulevard, Santa Monica Pier etc. I did and saw so many things! Looking back on it all though, I definitely think one of the best things about my exchange was just living on campus and meeting so many amazing people. I have now made friends for life and so many of these guys are already heading over this way soon!

Happiest Time of My Life

Jade P., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Strathclyde, Scotland (Semester 1, 2016)

What a task – asking me to reflect on my exchange experience in less than one page, where to even begin?

Semester 1, 2016 was the happiest six months of my life.

I did my exchange at the University of Strathclyde in the oh-so-sunny Glasgow, Scotland. That was typed with the heaviest sarcastic tone FYI, I think I had about seven days’ worth of sun during my time in Glasgow – I even had to go out and buy a lighter foundation!

I lived on the top floor of the second-cheapest accommodation option, with seven other girls. For six of which, English was their second language, so anytime the American girl or I noticed a mistake in their English, we had to write it out on ‘the fridge’ (cue: dun-dun-duuun). After 4 and a half months the fridge was filled with the most hilarious out of context sentences and embarrassingly enough even something I had said managed to make it there. In my defence, Australian English okay! And that’s another thing I had to learn, to make fun of the country that I’m so proud to call home. I don’t know why, but Europeans don’t quite consider us a real country yet; you should have heard the sassy comments on the night of Eurovision! I’ve heard it all from riding kangaroos to buying my groceries with monopoly money – people will laugh at us and our “what is a bogan?” accent, but at the end of the day you will be their favourite international drinking bud – take it all in pride.

I am so relieved to report that I did not have any Scottish teachers, except for one guest law lecturer, and yes – I did not understand a single word he said. We call ourselves multicultural; wait until you go to school in Europe. I’ve learnt from people all over the globe, Egyptian, Greek, Spanish, African, Lithuanian, you name it. Their teaching staff were so globally experienced, name a country and they’ve worked there.

Moving onto the most important part of the exchange, Spring Break (sorry Mum). 3 girls, 6 countries, 10 cities, 5 flights, 1 overnight bus, a cross-country drive, a night on an airport floor, countless hostels, and endless coffee, all in 15 days. Now I can officially say I’ve walked to the smallest country in the world! I’m not even going to try and dive into this trip because there are too many stories for one page, and it’s something you just have to go out there and experience for yourself.

I honestly cannot even begin to explain how amazing my exchange was – I will always be so grateful for this experience and the support QUT offered from beginning to end. Being able to live, and study abroad with the administrative and financial help from your university isn’t an opportunity you should just let pass you by. My advice to those considering an exchange, go to virtual>study>open exchange application and submit. To those that are eagerly counting down the days until their flights, boy do I envy you! Just take each day as it comes and make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Don’t waste your weekend’s Facebooking friends from your dorm room – RyanAir is your new best friend. Book those $15 6:50am flights and go out and get a taste of the world! Everything will still be waiting for you when the dreaded day comes and you have to make your trek home. Then you’ll be where I am now, wishing more than anything that you could wake up and do it all over again.

Campus Life in America

Novita.R, Bachelor of Business
Illinois University of Technology, USA (Semester 1, 2016)

 

Campus and facilities

             

  • My favourite building is called MTCC. It is a big building that has cafes, dining area, study/conference rooms, Starbucks, Bookstore and the Students Support office.
  • In MTCC, every fortnight has a music night. Good place to make new friends.
  • Library is 24 hours only on weekdays.
  • Has a late-night car service for dropping students who live nearby campus.
  • Has a 24-hour seven eleven just next to dorms.
  • Post office is located in MTCC whereby it is a very centralised spot.
    • Good for those online-shoppers (e.g. AMAZON)
  • The campus is just next to Chinatown.
  • Red line train operates 24 hours and it is only 10 mins walking from the campus.

 

Accommodation

For exchange students, it is compulsory to live on-campus.

  • All the residence halls are generally shared-rooms basis.
  • Residence Halls: SSV, MSV, Carman and Gunsaulus

 

SSV MSV Carman Gunsaulus
·         The most expensive housing hall.

·         Approx. US$4,590/sem

·         Not eligible for housing scholarship.

·         Next to the bus stop and train station (1-2 mins walk)

·         For undergraduate and graduate students

·         I lived here

·         Eligible for housing scholarship (US$1,500/sem)

·         Housing rate US$3,000/sem

·         Walking distance to:

·         Bus stop 2 mins

·         Train station 6-7 mins

·         For undergraduate and graduate students

·         For undergraduate and graduate students above 23 years old, also for students with children

·         Very quiet dorm

·         Spacious room (incl. bathroom and small kitchen)

·         Located next to MSV

·         Eligible for housing scholarship (US$1,500/sem)

·         Housing rate (US$3,692)

 

Academics

  • IIT is very well known with its Engineer School.
    • FYI: First phone Motorola was created by IIT Alumni.
  • The classes tend to be smaller than QUT.
    • Attendance was compulsory. So it was easy to make friends in the class.
  • They call the lecturer by Professor followed by their name.

Cost of Living

  • The cost of living is similar to Brisbane.
  • The transportation is paid altogether prior to semester begins. So during the semester you can just tap whenever you want.
    • Students: US$175 for the U-PASS (e.g. like GoCard) and valid for 4 months.
    • Non-students: $2.25/travel (bus and train) regardless the distance.
    • A one-off tap (e.g. hop on only) unlike Brisbane.
  • Meal plan is organised by the University.
    • For on-campus students it is compulsory to have (depends on your degree level)
    • Buffet system.

Cultural Aspects

  • People do go for Starbucks. It is everywhere in Chicago.
  • Multicultural
  • Free Wi-Fi is almost in everywhere: Shopping centres, Cafes.
  • Majority of people study in the Cafes.
  • Use “What’s up” for a greeting.

 

Highlight of the Exchange

  • Traveling around United States:
    • West coast road trip
    • Did the Route 66
    • New Year’s eve in New York
    • Spring break in Miami
  • Strong friendships that will last forever with people from:
    • Germany, India, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, France, USA, Africa.

Tips and Advice

  1. Use the Travel Card from Commonwealth Bank (this is would be my first top advice!)
  2. Ensure you get the Health Insurance from your host Institution
    • Beforehand I used to think that it was very unnecessary, however, I went to Hospital, a week after my semester ended. It was very unexpected. I paid the insurance around US$800 and it covered my expenses for about US$3,000.
  3. Ensure you that the unit that you would be taking overseas is not a non-credit in order to prevent any issues when returning home for credit transfers. Be really careful with units that you’ll be undertaking, do regularly check with QUT.
  4. Be mindful of job opportunities around your host campus by talking with one of the staff.
  5. Become the member of Sorority or Fraternity!
    • Great ways to make friends and to experience the American college life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hej from Copenhagen!

Margaux O., Bachelor of Biomedical Science / Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (Semester 2, 2017)

Landing in Copenhagen was probably close to the scariest things I’ve ever done. However, I was greeted by a smiling Dane who my host university, Copenhagen Business School, set up for me. It was a scary but exhilarating moment being thrust into a whole new continent, let alone city, to live for the next 5-6 months.

Looking back on my exchange to Copenhagen, I don’t think I would or could change one thing about it. Every day I was out meeting other exchange students while exploring every little thing this amazing city had to offer.

The turning on of the Christmas lights in Stroget

The halls of my accommodation

Copenhagen Business School was incredibly accommodating for every exchange student. They helped exchange students with everything, from subject selection to being a shoulder to cry on for those homesick. The campus, although spread out across Frederiksberg, was beautiful, modern, and old. For me, teaching styles were reasonably similar to QUT, having a tutorial and a lecture for each subject each week. Also the standard of work is very similar to QUT, I did not struggle at all. Although the Danes may seem reasonably held back, they are very approachable and I felt very comfortable attending class every day. Much like QUT, there are many clubs and societies to join, such as the Wine Tasting club, and the Swedish Student Society!

Next to campus: this is the suburb where Copenhagen Business School is in

If you are heading to Denmark (or Scandinavia in general), be prepared for the cost of living. I was lucky enough to live in exchange student accommodation on campus, which was a bit expensive but so worth it. I lived right next to Frederiksberg Gardens (like botanic gardens but with a castle), and the area itself is very pretty and safe. There are so many grocery stores to choose from in Copenhagen, so you will not fail to find the cheaper deals. However, be prepared to spend a fair bit if you want a coffee (average around $6 for a coffee) or to eat dinner out (about $30 for a meal). However, just like home, you won’t fail to find cheaper restaurant alternatives.

I can’t say I really experienced culture shock. I think I was just too excited to be in Denmark. It is an incredibly easy culture to get used to, and most important, everyone speaks English impeccably! There was not one moment where I struggled with the culture or interacting with the Danes. Definitely get used to bicycles everywhere – do not step on the bike track or you WILL get yelled at in Danish. We have all been there, trust me. Besides this, I honestly never felt so safe in a major city – everyone is so nice!

Here are some general tips for Copenhagen:

  • Shop at Netto or Lidl for groceries
  • Buy a Rejsekort for public transport OR a monthly pass (if you are going to use public transport often)
  • OR rent a bike! Copenhagen Business School have a group of students to rent bikes to Exchange students for the semester for about $100
  • Hit up Malmo or Lund in Sweden for lunch
  • Definitely visit Aarhus
  • Norrebro, Vesterbro, Ostebro are all worth visiting
  • If you are doing fall semester – buy a yearly Tivoli pass. Trust me you will want to see it in Halloween and Christmas.
  • Have a picnic on the canals of Copenhagen by renting a Go Boat
  • Hit up Bastard Café – a board game café!
  • Try their delicacies – Smorrebrod, Danish Rye bread, and street vendor hot dogs!

    My bright red bike!

Honestly, it feels like all of exchange was the most memorable experience. Copenhagen was actually my second preference, but I could not be more pleased that I went to Copenhagen. I cannot explain how much I loved the city and how much I want to still be there with every single person I met. Everyone says this, but you do definitely make some life long friends – and lucky for me some of them are Australian!

A friend of mine I met in Copenhagen once emotionally described his exchange experience to us as “a complete dream, like it never actually happened.” Since coming home, I couldn’t agree with him more. A dream too good to be real, but a dream that did actually happen.

Things I did in Madrid!

Olivia H., Bachelor of Mass Communication
University Carlos lll de Madrid, Spain (Semester 2, 2017)

My exchange semester in Madrid was great. Although it had its ups and downs I learnt so much that I will take with me through life. I studied at Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3m) in Getafe.

Most subjects I wanted to do become filled up so I was left with limited study options. The teachers are not very willing to help; however, this is just the Spanish way; they are laid back. Some of the subjects are quite boring and you’re only given one week of classes before you can change/ pull out making it difficult to enjoy the semester. However, the benefits far outweigh these negatives.

It is incredible meeting people from all over the world and learning new things about different countries/ cultures. Exploring Spain and learning about the country and its culture and history is fascinating. I used a group called Smart Insiders who were great with day and weekend trips. They provided fun weekends for really low costs and no hassles.

Now for the practical stuff like budgeting, accommodation, your phone plan and most importantly, language. If you’re concerned about money here is my guide. You could easily do an exchange semester for less than $10 000 if you do not want to travel too much. For the whole semester September through to mid December I was using the QUT bursary and the government loan. With good research on apartments and being good and sometimes frugal with food costs, weekly living costs can be under 50 euros!

I lived in Getafe which although was cheap and convenient to get to uni four days a week, was inconvenient whenever I wanted to go out clubbing or into the city in general. I was paying at least 150 euros per month cheaper than anyone I knew but I either had to ask a friend to stay at theirs or stay out until the trains started again at 5am. When looking for an apartment, make sure all bills are included so you know exactly what you have to pay and can get a better deal. As for a phone sim, I would go into CityLife Madrid or Smart Insiders as they can help you set up with Lyca or Lebara mobile.

You can get by fairly easily without knowing Spanish and you definitely pick it up along the way. However, it is tricky in the first few weeks when you are trying to do things like get your transport card and a phone sim. For the transport card, I would order it a week before you leave for Madrid and deliver it to your accommodation. This is the easiest way and it means you can begin exploring the city right away.

The transport system is very confusing when you first arrive, but you get the hang of it quickly. The main type of transport in the city is the metro. However, to get to places like Getafe (where UC3M is located) you need to get the train, Renfe cercanias. Transport is much cheaper than Brisbane, like anywhere else in the world. Each month you load 20 euro onto your public transport card and it gives you unlimited access to all of the metro, cercanias and bus lines within Madrid.

Finally, travel which is hands down the best part. I went before, after and during my semester and although tiring it is so worth it. I used the semester for travel within Spain and the Summer holidays before and Winter holidays after to explore Europe! Below are some photos of my trip. Thanks for reading!