Experiencing Danish ‘Hygge’

Tayen L. Bachelor of Business
University of Aarhus, Denmark (Semester 1, 2018)

International Dinner in Our Backyard

Exchange feedback… Wow! Where do I even begin? First of all, for my exchange experience, I chose to go to Aarhus university in Denmark and I’m so glad that I chose it, as I have met some amazing people and had some really life changing experiences! In my opinion, Aarhus does not get talked about enough! It is essentially a student city where everyone is so welcoming. There are always events happening, so you don’t really have a lot of time to be homesick.

The accommodation

For my student accommodation, I was able to choose what kind of accommodation I wanted to live in. There was a choice between dormitories, apartment styles or living in a house. I remember this being quite a hard choice to make, but because I have lived out of home for many years, I decided on choosing the house option because I didn’t think I would like to live with as many people as dormitory style living offered. I assumed I’d be living with 4 or 5 others in a cute little Danish house. Boy, was I wrong! When I received my housing offer, I was granted my first choice of a Danish house… but there were going to be 12 others living in the same house! Safe to say I was a little shocked that a house could fit 13 people in it and then immediately became concerned as this was essentially what I was trying to avoid when I made my decision.

Lucky for me though, living in a house with 12 others actually turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I have left Denmark, not just having some cool housemates, but with a global family! Everyone was so welcoming and we all soon became very close. Our house was the place to be! We would constantly have people who were living in dorms or in apartments tell us that our place was so much fun and that they were jealous of the close friendships we had all formed as housemates and that they were struggling to ‘mesh’ with their dorm or apartment mates. To any future students, I would HIGHLY recommend choosing the housing option, because the experience is amazing, and it gives you the ability to form friendships like no other! Plus, the house was a 30 minute walk to the business school or a 9 minute ride. And Danes ride their bikes everywhere, so you’ll want to be like the locals and get yourself your own bike! (You won’t regret it!).

My House

The weather

Going to Denmark in the Spring semester was incredible because I not only got to see the entire university covered in snow, but I also got to see it bloom with flowers. Two very different experiences, going from all white to all green! Although it was very cold in the winter, Danes would still get out and do things and go to bars with candles and eat nice food. All of this was a very ‘Hygge’ experience, which is the feeling of cosiness, being with good friends and can only be felt but not really explained. In the Spring, when the sun finally came out, we’d often spend our time down at the beach or going for coastal rides!

The grading system

The university system is so different to Australia, because instead of having assessments due every 6 weeks which are worth a certain percentage of your grade, they have one assignment or exam which is due at the end of the semester and is worth the entire grade. So, if you don’t pass your last assessment, then you don’t pass the entire class! I found this a little bit hard to deal with and ended up failing one of my classes I took while over there, as I’m used to the Australian system where if I don’t do quite as well in one assignment, I have a chance to make up the marks in other assessments. So that was a different experience for me! Having said that, it did allow me to really engage with the culture and enjoy the experience. The mentor program for business students was significantly better than other faculties. We had so many introduction week events and meet ups that made my experience even better!

Campus Grounds

Living in Denmark is fairly expensive, but I did find a lot of things to actually be quite similar to Australia and some things which were considerably cheaper.

TIPS:

Learn some basic Danish

Practice a little bit of Danish with Duolingo or another app that makes it easy & convenient. I can almost guarantee you won’t feel confident in speaking the language, but you will feel less overwhelmed when you walk into a supermarket for the first time as you’ll have a basic ability to read Danish (and Duolingo covers some food and basic greetings which is VERY helpful in your first and future Danish supermarket experiences!) Also, I would recommend not greeting people with “hi” as the Danish greeting is “hej” and it sounds very similar so they will assume you are Danish and speak Danish to you. This leaves the both of you feeling embarrassed when you have to tell them you only speak English! Also not learning the language is totally fine as well, as every Dane speaks perfect English, you just may have to tell them that you don’t understand Danish! So don’t stress if you don’t get a chance to learn it, you’ll pick it up as you go!

Get a bike

Seriously. Danes bike everywhere and you’ll soon learn that your fellow international classmates will always bike everywhere too because it’s easier. You don’t want to feel left out or be the only one not going somewhere because you don’t have a bike. You could always bus but this is expensive and it’s significantly faster to actually just bike to places! Also, be warned that your jeans will eventually give in and rip on the inner leg area from your constant bike rides!

Danish Houses and their Bikes

See the City

Try to get out and see more of Denmark than just the city if you can. Denmark is a really beautiful country and surprisingly has some amazing cliffs and sand dunes (despite the fact that everyone says it is a flat country with no mountains). Hire a car if possible. (Note if you do this, it is significantly more expensive if you tell them you are a temporary resident and have a CPR number, you’re much better off booking the car from your home countries website for Denmark and then applying a student discount- this will allow you to get unlimited mileage when you hire a car and will be MUCH cheaper.

Aarhus Cathedral

Embrace the Hygge

Embrace the feeling of Hygge and you’ll really get to experience what Danish culture is about. It’s a feeling that is hard to explain, but you’ll know it when you feel it. It’s cosiness. It’s friendship. It’s love & warmth. It’s hot chocolates. It’s togetherness and it is just something so hard to explain

Go to international nights & other events

They are a lot of fun and a GREAT way to form some lifelong friendships. Danes can be a little reserved and respect personal space, so going to these events is a great way to mingle with some Danes and learn about their culture first hand

Road trip to the Danish Mon Klints with my exchange friends

Go to the eat street markets

If you go to Aarhus university, Eat Street markets will become one of your go to places for meeting groups of people and enjoying great food together!

Aarhus City Centre

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.

Mountains and the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong

Millie G., Bachelor of Creative Industries
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong (Semester 1, 2017)

Host University

Situated between the mountains behind it and bustling Mong Kok in front of it, HKBU was a wonderful place to undertake my studies in HK. There was such energy about the campus, with market and uni club stalls almost every day of the week, and countless activities to get involved with. The assessment style was quite different to what I was used to doing Creative Industries at QUT. They preferred smaller, cumulative presentations and tutorial involvement to one or two larger pieces of work, and almost all of the presentations and essays were on topics of our own choosing. I was slightly disappointed to find that the units were pretty different to what was described on the syllabus, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

Host Country

I am so incredibly happy with my choice of HK as my exchange destination!!! For such a small place, it’s incredible the variety of things there are to do – from beaches to museums to night clubs to mountain hiking to temples to shopping to amusement parks, there’s something for everyone. Even just walking around and soaking up the atmosphere of the vastly different districts was something I never got tired of. The city never sleeps with malls staying open till 11 and supermarkets and restaurants till the early hours of the morning. I think this is a big reason why I’ve never felt safer out at night before. I could walk back to my apartment at 2am from another district and there’d still be people minding their own business out at bars and restaurants – there were never any strange people wandering the street. Certainly made a change from Brisbane haha.

Being there in the first half of the year was great as I got to experience the more traditional side of HK culture, being right at the front for the Chinese New Year celebrations and Buddha’s Birthday. While people didn’t speak as much English as I expected (particularly in the more traditional Mong Kok district that I stayed in), the locals are incredibly helpful despite the cultural divide. While supermarket and restaurant/bar prices were comparable to Australia, the cost of things like public transport and market stall goods was significantly cheaper – it was less than one Australian dollar to get the subway to university each day! That was another thing that made HK so enjoyable – their public transport system was so amazing. You could get to literally anywhere using the trains and buses, with services coming every couple of minutes. Living off campus, this made exploring and getting around so easy.

Highlights

Man, literally the whole trip was one big high for me. The city, particularly at night, is so aesthetically beautiful. I honestly had the best time just calling the place my home. But if I had to name a few I’d have to say:

  • My exchange group: The guys and girls I met from all around the world who’d come to HKBU were so incredible. We had so many absolutely wild times together – boat parties, hikes, horse races – you name it, we probably did it
  • Disneyland: It’s true what they say – it’s the most magical place on Earth. While there aren’t a lot of thrill rides there, it has such a beautifully nostalgic atmosphere and we easily filled the entire day

The Unexpected

How clean the city was! You’d always see workers sweeping the street and eating on the trains was strictly forbidden. I can’t recall a time I really saw trash in the street. I was also totally surprised at how there wasn’t much of an adjustment period in terms of when I first got there. I began enjoying myself pretty much as soon as I was left to my own devices haha. Similarly, I was surprised that I didn’t find myself counting down the days till I went home the longer I was there. Everyone I talked to on exchange with me felt the same.

Tips & Advice

  1. As soon as you’re accepted by your host university, start doing the housekeeping stuff involved with that university – I missed out on staying on campus as I waited till I’d finished my semester at QUT to start applying
  2. If you’re giving the opportunity/have the funds, I’d actually totally recommend staying off campus. You feel so much more immersed in your country’s lifestyle/culture, there aren’t any restrictions placed upon your stay, and if you’re like me and relish you’re alone time, this will make your time abroad a lot more comfortable. However you have to be a lot more proactive with meeting people and joining in activities
  3. Always keep the QUT exchange office in the loop with what stage you’re at before, during, and after your exchange
  4. Always check your QUT emails while overseas
  5. Keep a record of how much you’re spending on what in the first few weeks and then base your budget on this moving forward
  6. Befriend local students – they know all the places that aren’t in your travel guide
  7. Take any opportunity presented to you!

Skagen, LegoLand and Studying in Denmark

Julie U., Bachelor of Business/Laws
Aarhus Univeristy, Denmark (Semester 1, 2016)

 

My name is Julie, I am a business and law double degree student now in my third year at QUT. In Semester 1 of this year, 2016, I went on exchange to Aarhus University in Denmark. Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark and has a very high student population. The university attracts not only students from all over Denmark, but also from many other parts of the world. There are many exciting museums and historical places to see in Aarhus, including the popular Aros museum with a 360 degree view of the city.

The university campuses of Aarhus university encompass many of the facilities we are used to at QUT, but the buildings and lecture rooms are less modern. Students in Denmark spend a lot more time on Campus then I would say majority of QUT students do. Reasons for this most likely being that Aarhus is a much smaller city, students generally live 10-15 minutes by bike or less from the university, tuition is free and students are paid government grants in excess of AU$1000 per month to study which means less need for part time work. I also found that I had a lot more contact hours in Aarhus, and there was more self-paced work that you don’t receive credit for as the final exams are all worth 100% of your grade.

The international student organization at Aarhus university was really good at running events to keep international students connected, and held weekly parties for to mix and mingle with other international students as well as some Danish students. The introduction week at Aarhus was a blast and the friends I made in that first week were with me through the whole semester.

Accommodation in Aarhus was very varied. Some international students really liked the accommodation that had been delegated to them, and others were less impressed. I had one roommate in a fairly modern apartment building that was a little further away from the center of town than I wanted but the facilities at the apartment were great and I had friends who lived close by.

Denmark is a Scandinavian country, and therefore not a cheap place to live. Not everything is expensive though. Alcohol is ridiculously cheap compared to what we are used to here in Australia. Getting take-away on the other hand is quite pricey, so you need to learn to cook your own meals most nights. Lunch at the University canteen is however good value for money and allows you to try traditional Danish dishes and other warm, home cooked meals that keep you going during the freezing winter months.

 

That brings me onto the next subject, weather. I began my exchange in January, it was very cold compared to what I am used to, but the snow made it an exciting change. After the snow period however came the rainy, dark and cold period. The weather did get a little depressing at times during the winter but the summer time in Denmark and Europe was well worth it. The sun is up until very late in the evenings and there is plenty of things to see and do around Aarhus outdoors.

The highlights of my exchange trip are difficult to narrow down, but would include; Trips to Skagen and Legoland, exploring Copenhagen and traveling around Europe with other exchange students, riding my bike everywhere around Aarhus and finding the love of my life who I convinced to move to Australia with me.

My Dublin Exchange

Jacob Watt, Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 2, 2017)

I arrived in Dublin on the fifth of January not knowing anyone. I was kindly greeted at Arrivals by a representative of Trinity College. We caught the AirCoach into town and he answered any questions I needed answering. My accommodation was an inner-city student housing company about 20 mins walk from Trinity.

Over the next few days I met my four roommates who I would be spending the next 5 months with. I had 3 European students who were studying their masters and were quite a bit older than me (26-27) and also a Texan guy who was around my age. We all got on really well and even had outings and home cooked dinners together. The age gap didn’t really matter and I felt like I had three older siblings! Signing up for the international student start up program was one of the best decisions I made because without it, I wouldn’t have met such a fun group of friends that I spent majority of my time with. We even took a weekend trip to Denmark together.

Eventually the socialising settled down a bit after the first month and Uni turned into the number one priority. The campus was absolutely beautiful and I will never forget the first time I walked through the big front gates. I can see why it is one of the top tourist attractions in Dublin! The classes I undertook were quite challenging so I did my best to keep up with the material.

One of the highlights was St Patrick’s Day and I will always remember how fun that day was. We made our way around to all the pubs in town and met so many locals that bought us Guinness!

The exchange was such an awesome opportunity and I am very grateful to QUT for allowing me to have such a life changing experience.

Exchange at Cardiff University

Jasmin C., Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Creative Industries
Cardiff University, United Kingdom (Semester 2, 2017)

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is a beautiful, old, tiny city with the friendliest people. In the middle of the city centre sits the medieval Cardiff Castle, one of the first things I saw upon arriving. I was so amazed by this castle, sitting right in the town centre amongst the modern shops. Little did I know it would be the first of MANY castles I would see during my time in the UK. Just across from the castle, my favourite store in the entire city; the Welsh cake shop. Absolutely scrumptious. As well as this, the shops in the city are great, lots of art, vintage and old record stores.

Just a few minutes walk from the city centre is Cardiff University. Unlike QUT, Cardiff University does not really have a campus. The buildings are spread out around the city, which wasn’t really a problem because the city is so small anyway. The tutorial and lecture situation was pretty similar to QUT, however most of my lectures were not recorded (yikes) and powerpoint slides were not always uploaded onto blackboard, which meant attendance was pretty crucial. As well as this, unlike QUT where most of my subjects required multiple assessments, all of my Cardiff University subjects had huge (5000 words) 100% assignments due at the end of the semester.

There are many student accommodations around the city. The one I stayed in was called Talybont South, located 20 mins away from the city centre and within proximity to the university buildings. Luckily for me most of my classes were held in the building that was only a 5 minute walk away, however the furtherest buildings were a 20-30 minute walk away. Talybont South was known for being the nosiest of all the student accommodations, it didn’t bother me much but if you’re a light sleeper I would suggest trying for one of the other student accommodations.

I stayed in an ensuite dorm with a kitchen I shared with 7 other people. My roommates were made up of 6 UK locals (4 Welsh, 2 English) and one other exchange student from the USA. Within 24 hours of living together we all became the best of friends. It was great being able to live with locals as I definitely would not have been able to learn and do as much as I did without them. One highlight was being able to spend New Years Eve with one of my roommates and her family in her home in Swansea. In fact, the highlight of my entire exchange was just being able to get to know and hang out with incredible people I never would have been able to meet if it was not for this experience.

There are lots of things to in Cardiff. As I mentioned before, the castle and the shops are great. As well as this there is Cardiff Bay, National Museum Cardiff, and lots of parks and gorgeous greenery, just to name a few. However if you’re wanting to leave the city there are so many places you can go. In Wales you have Swansea, which is only a 40 minute train ride away and lots of tiny, adorable Welsh towns to explore, my favourite being Laugharne (pronounced Larn). Bristol and Bath are only 1 hour away and if you want to go to bigger cities London and Birmingham are only 2 hours away on the train.

Tips and advice! Tip number 1: $$$!! You’ll have to buy a lot of things upon arrival, pillows, sheets, duvet, cutlery, plates etc. Definitely budget each week, you don’t want to have to miss out on doing anything or travelling somewhere due to lack of funds. Cost of living in Cardiff was pretty similar to Brisbane. Other advice would just be to try and stay as calm and positive as possible. You will definitely have a few struggles. Fortunately for me, my only struggles were that the classes I had planned on taking were unavailable which led me having to find other classes to take and the process took a while so I ended up being a few weeks behind in my classes. However, the tutors were very helpful in helping me catch up and it all turned out fine. As well as this, I was lucky that I got along with my roommates and they really made me feel at home, and so I didn’t get homesick at all. Finally, make the most of your time!!! I couldn’t believe how fast the time went. My only regret was that I only stayed a semester and not a whole year!

University of Copenhagen: Units, Accommodation and Tips!

Elizabeth.K, Bachelor of Law (Honours) and Bachelor of Psychology
University of Copenhagen, Denmark (Semester 1, 2016)

 

The Units:

I chose to study at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark because it had the best options for law electives.

I studied International Diplomatic Law and DCC Danish Culture. The subjects were all taught in English and the teachers had a great awareness that a lot of us were exchange students, so they were willing to accommodate us really well. For the law unit we met twice a week for 2 hrs and 3 hours for lectorials. Often I’d have an informal group presentation to do for the lessons that the teacher would email to our group a couple days beforehand. There was only one piece of assessment, which for me was a 3-day take-home exam. I think this method worked really well for me, and as long as you’re prepared it’s not difficult to have 100% assignments.

I also did the pre-semester Danish course which I highly recommend, it’s where I met most of my friends and we stayed together for the whole semester -we even went overseas as a group a few times. Learning Danish was really interesting too, but quite difficult because it’s an oddly complex language.

 

Accommodation:

I stayed in Bikuben Kollegiet on my university’s south campus. There were pros/cons to it but I really loved it. It was really close to my classes, the apartment was gorgeous, and the residents on my floor all did dinner together twice a week so it was easy to socialize with them. One kind-of con was that I was the only international student on my floor, the rest were all Danish.

They were incredibly friendly and open to me and they all spoke fantastic English, but sometimes it was difficult not being able to speak the main language when you’re in a group setting. Also, most of the other international students I knew were at campus a little further away from me. All in all, it was a fantastic way to immerse yourself into the Danish student life.

 

Finances:

Budgeting for this kind of adventure can be insanely stressful. Accommodation was quite expensive for me, it was around $8,000 for 7 months excluding the deposit. Food prices and etc were not that different compared to Australia, and I easily kept up a under $200/fortnight budget. Takeout is really rare in Copenhagen when you’re a student so it’s a lot of buying and cooking, but there’s really good budget stores like Netto to get food at.

Transport can be a bit pricey because they don’t have student discounts. I’d recommend getting a bike, it’s the cheapest and easiest way to get around!

Most of the people I know didn’t get a Danish bank account because we didn’t feel it was really necessary. I used my ING bank card for the whole trip because it had really good exchange rates.

 

Tips:

The best tip I have for you is to get yourself out there when you’re on exchange. Say hi to the person sitting next to you because making friends with other students at the university is easy – you’re all basically in the same boat. I even joined an international choir while I was in Copenhagen and met some amazing people (we even traveled to Vienna together). It’s an excellent way to embrace this adventure!

Adventure of a Lifetime in Birmingham

Cassandra, T., Bachelor of Public Health
University of Birmingham, England (Semester 1, 2017)

Going on exchange was easily the best decision of my life. Not only did I make incredible life long friends but I also experienced life as a local in a country so far away from home. It is difficult to summarise such an amazing experience that was both as amazing as I expected and even more.

I spent semester 1, 2017 at the University of Birmingham in England. I had visited the country a couple of times before with my family and had fallen in love with the rich history, traditions and culture. After receiving an email from the QUT study abroad and exchange office advertising the exchange program I thought why not give it a shot.

University Life

I was really nervous before arriving at my uni hall as I had never lived anywhere but Brisbane or with anyone but my family. At UoB most of the first years and exchange students live in the Vale. It is a group of residence halls run by the university and has a small community feel. I lived in Mason with 5 other girls all sharing a kitchen and common area. I opted to cook myself instead of having the meal plan. I also had my own private room and bathroom, providing a place to study and call everyone back home.

All my flat mates were very welcoming and we all instantly clicked.  The people I lived with became my closest friends and we did everything together, becoming the envy of other flats that didn’t get along so well with their flat mates. I never once felt alone or isolated as my support network of both international and British friends were always there. During the Easter break I was fortunate enough to stay with some of my friends at their homes in Rochester and Scunthorpe, where I was treated to traditional English pub meals and a classic Sunday dinner, which is actually a roast lunch. We still speak just about every day, the time zones may be difficult but with so many forms of social media it makes staying in contact really easy.

Campus

Getting to and from uni was a lot easier than my one-hour bus ride to QUT, it was only a leisurely 15min walk to the main campus from my uni hall. The main campus was particularly beautiful with many old historic buildings mixed with new state of the art buildings like the new fancy library. In the centre of the campus is Old Joe, the largest free standing clock tower in Europe. Legend has it that if you walk underneath while it chimes you will fail your degree. The Great Hall where I completed one exam looked like it was straight out of Harry Potter. During the spring the campus and the Vale, where I lived, had daffodils and other pretty flowers blooming everywhere.

Study Load

The curriculum set up is slightly different to QUT with most students taking 6 units per semester, the option to take 4 or 5 units per semester is available however this means some units are weighted more heavily meaning more work. Although, the workload was still manageable and I still found time to hang out with friends. I was there for 2 semesters, the spring/summer semesters, as they have 3 semesters per year. The first semester is only 11 weeks long and is the main teaching period. Following that, there is a month long break over Easter, the perfect time to travel and see the rest of the UK and Europe.  The contact hours are slightly more than what I’m accustomed to at QUT with around 2 or 3 lectures a week and a tutorial, seminar or practical. However, they were usually only 1 hour long.

Travel

With the U.K. being a lot smaller in geographical size than Australia it was easy to go on day trips or overnight trips on the weekends to different cities. As Birmingham is only a 2-hour train ride to London, I had many day trips there exploring the city. I also saw many lovely quaint old towns and historical castles such as, Warwick Castle, Nottingham and Nottingham castle, the Cadbury factory, Edinburgh, Oxford, and Blenheim Palace. Train tickets are also super cheap if you buy a 16-25 year old rail pass. I can’t recommend it enough, if you plan on taking trains it is definitely worth the money. Because of this we were able to buy 7 pound return trips to London, bargain! Plane tickets were also cheap if you buy them well in advance and only take carry on luggage. Because of this I was able to travel through Europe during the month break between the semesters. I was lucky enough to visit, Malaga in Spain, Dublin for St Patrick’s Day, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, Iceland, Venice and Rome. It is really difficult to pick my favourite place but Iceland was definitely amazing. The landscapes and natural beauty are unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Why you should go on exchange

I couldn’t recommend going on an exchange enough. This experience QUT has provided me with has made me come out of my shell and realise my aspirations for life. I have learnt life lessons that wouldn’t be taught in a classroom. It may sound cheesy but Birmingham will always be my second home.

The QUT exchange program has really opened my eyes to a world of possibilities and adventures right outside my doorstep. It truly was an experience of a lifetime.

 

Walk in the Footsteps of Influential Scholars at Oxford Brookes University

Taylor T., Bachelor of Law/Creative Industries
Oxford Brookes University, England (Semester 2, 2018)

During the second semester of 2018 I went on exchange to Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom. As an exchange student you are given the option to stay at Clive Booth Student Village for the duration of your exchange. This accommodation was fairly standard, with a bed, desk, storage and sink in your room and a shared bathroom and kitchen. The great thing about Clive Booth was that it was very close to campus, so you could walk out the door and be at your class in 10 minutes. It’s also the biggest accommodation option, which means a lot of opportunity to make friends.

The Campus

The campus and facilities were all very modern and provided a motivating environment to get work done. The university also provided a bus pass as part of enrollment that allowed me to get into the city centre for free.

Oxford Brookes University

Oxford city is a beautiful and inspirational location with a lot of history and stunning architecture. One of my favorite past times was grabbing tea and scones at a local coffee shop and walking around the various buildings that make up the Oxford University campus.

Exploring

Considering its close location to London, Oxford can be quite expensive. However, a majority of the population during term time are students so a lot of restaurants and bars offer student discounts that make living more affordable.

Exploring

While there were so many highlights of exchange, like making UK friends that I can go back and visit and getting to travel on the weekends, one of the best parts was getting to walk in the footsteps of so many influential scholars and take in the rich history and culture of learning that Oxford is known for.

Oxford

Adventuring

There is Truly Something for Everyone in Berlin

Ben M., Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)/Bachelor of Information Technology
Technische Universität Berlin, Germany (Semester 1, 2017)

Standing in front of Technische Universitat Berlin

Berlin is the most exciting city I have ever been to, it is so culturally and ethnically diverse and for the last 7 months I’ve been lucky enough to call it my home while I completed an exchange program at the Technische Universität Berlin.

Although I told myself I would do lots of research and find out as much as I could about the city before I left, it became quickly apparent that that was not going to happen. So I landed in Berlin speaking no German, had no idea about the culture or the history surrounding the city.

Was I excited? Scared? Missing home? Lost? To be honest, after over 24 hours in flights and two stop overs, I was tired and couldn’t wait to sleep.

One of the most striking things about being there was, surprisingly, the language barrier. Majority of the population speaks very good English, and 99% of people under 30 will speak perfect English, yet despite this it’s a barrier to work out how to ask someone if they can speak English with you; and it feels somewhat weird to be speaking a Language which is not the main language. Even the little things like buying cheese or milk in a supermarket were made a lot harder by having no idea what was what.

After a couple of days my perspective changed though, with the help of google translate, no more jetlag and lots of hand gestures I started feeling much more comfortable and began to make some friends.

The city has a very dark and interesting past; surviving two world wars, the cold war and from even earlier. This, often incredibly varied history, has created a completely unique cultural blend and sense of freedom through the whole city that I’ve never experienced anywhere else in the world. It feels to a large extent that you can do whatever you would like, however you would like, as long as you don’t hurt other people, or the environment. And that’s how the city lives and the rules its inhabitants respect, which also leads to a complete culture of acceptance of individuality and who people are. In one day you will see goths, businessmen, families and a whole multitude of others, who by normal standards are ‘quirky’ or ‘different’, yet in Berlin no one would blink an eye, everyone and everything is treated as normal.

In central Berlin The Fernsehturm is a must see!

More than that there is truly something for everyone in this city. If you want to experience the worlds best techno clubs (Including places to sleep and buy food inside the clubs) you can, if you want to work for a start up, you can, if you’re interested in business methods, you can learn about that, if you want to do something creative you can do that.

The city and its people are supportive of no matter what you are interested in and no matter who you are, where you come from and what you like to do; which made living there one of the nicest experiences of my life.
That said, the city does definitely has its draw backs, it is an incredibly large and diverse city and its constantly changing which is not for the faint of heart. It is a big challenge to keep up with the city and if you’re not careful you can burn out very easily, which I saw many other exchange students do.

Studying in Germany is also completely different, the education system for University is much more free than in Australia, and for the most part students are given a large range of freedom when choosing subjects and the number of electives they have. This is also reflected in the learning style, which features much more self-directed learning than I was used to. Once I became used to this change it was fantastic, there was significantly less assignments, take home quizzes and some of my units had just one exam at the end of the semester. This did however mean a bit more of a crazy rush at the end of the semester, especially given they have no mid semester breaks.

Riding a bike through Berlin

Most of the universities are also state run and students do not pay for the tuition. This means, usually, less fancy, showy and flashy buildings and technology, but do not let that fool you, the standard of the education is incredible and has some of the best research and professors in the world.

My best takeaway from exchange was to learn German as a second language. Not only is it a great skill to have but it makes life a lot easier. Even the basics of the language instantly meant I could order food, drinks, and go shopping with a lot more ease. Once I began to meet people and have conversations in German a completely new world opened up to me.

Learning the language not only gave me the ability to make new friends but gave me a much greater value and understanding of the cultural norms and differences and allowed me to understand a lot more of the quirks and things that I wasn’t used to.

A great spot to see the Teufelsberg towers

Doing exchange was a fantastic opportunity that I was so fortunate to take, I learnt another language, experienced a city unlike any other and now have friends from all around the world. I can definitely recommend going to a city that is not first language English. Even if you don’t speak the language it will expose you to a completely different culture to what we are used to in Australia and give you many opportunities to learn a lot about your self and other people!

The experiences I had on exchange, and the things I learnt, make me feel like a completely different person. In just 7 months I learnt so much about myself and have memories and life lessons to carry with me for the rest of my life.