Taiwan – the First Month

Taipei 101

Even before I started my first day at university, I was certain one of my goals was to study abroad. Now at the beginning of my 3rd year it has finally kicked off; I am spending an entire semester at the National ChengChi University in Taipei, Taiwan. My choice in coming here was supported by the New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant which will greatly enhance my capacity to experience, engage, and enjoy Taiwan to its fullest potential.

I left home on 12 February and began the 20 hours of travel. Yes, the Asia-Pacific region and it still takes that long. Partially because the cheapest flight had a six hour layover in Singapore (Changi is the best airport in the world, so amongst the movies, butterfly gardens, and sunflower gardens I really didn’t mind).   I also didn’t fully realize until I made the trip how far down Australia is and how far up Taiwan is. It was literally the same flight time as for most of the Europeans. However, when it came to jet lag the time difference was only two hours, so that was a piece of cake.

Some of the other international peeps that are here at NCCU on exchange this semester.

While living here I am staying in the International house run by the university. The location is prime, a five-minute walk from university, and we are at the east edge of the city, bordering the scenic rainforest mountains. The river also runs just by the university, its entire stretch has walkways, parks, and basketball courts every 100 metres or so, hence Wednesday night is progressively becoming Basketball night among the I-house residence. It’s also easy access to the city, provided you take the bus heading in the right direction. I confess the whole ‘driving on the right side of the road’ sent me a long way in the wrong direction on my first attempt at going into the city.

 

Yangmingshan – National Park.

My first week here was great.  I spent a lot of time getting my bearings just by exploring the city. On the first Friday we ventured on our first out-of-town trip.  We took the bus to a town called Jiufen, where the entire city is located on the slope of the mountain. Located to the north-east, the town is famous for its scenery. We spend the arvo roaming the markets followed by hiking to the top of Keelung Mountain. Unfortunately, Taiwan’s rapidly changing weather got the better of us and almost just as we arrived at the top it became a total white out. However, if you do find yourself in Taipei this is 10/10 on the must-do list of places to visit.

Chicken Butt. 5 for the equivalent of $2AUD, and despite my concerned face it turned out to be delicious!

My adjustment to the lifestyle here has been an adventure. With no real cooking facilities at I-house eating out is the norm, and as it turns out that is the Taiwan way, for every meal. The idea of buying breakfast every day sounds like a mortgage in Australia but here, not only is it affordable, but it’s such a social way to start my day. I wander down to the place I’ve picked out as ‘my local’ and grab two of the best Taiwanese omelet pancake things with special soy sauce I’ve ever tried. My other food experiences have all been fabulous, not so stinky-stinky tofu, whole fried squid, chicken butt, lots of dumplings, Baozi and bubble tea! Taiwan has such a diverse range of authentic Asian cuisine available there is no shortage of food to try and enjoy. Not all shopping has resulted in such positive results though. The language barrier caused me some confusion; turns out it was not washing liquid that I bought on my first attempt, but bleach.   I’m sticking to my story that my bleach-splattered clothing is an Australian craze…

Lantern Festival with some of my local buddies.

The highlight of week two was having the chance to experience Taipei’s lantern festival.  We traveled to a neighboring town called Pingxi which is where they hold the sky lantern side of the celebrations. We arrived late in the afternoon and already we could see lanterns flying off sporadically all over the place. We explored the town which was completely taken over by markets and festivities. Eventually we found ourselves at the small show grounds where there was a huge stage with live music. Every half-hour there was a coordinated release of lanterns, sending over 100 up into the sky all at once. What a truly magical sight to see!

Sky Lantern Festival in Pingxi

Now we are well and truly in the swing of a daily routine. Classes have begun and for that I spend four days over at the campus. For the remaining three days of the week I now have access to a motorcycle which has opened up a world of opportunities when it comes to accessibility and traveling about the island. The university social clubs have many trips and camps lined up for our opportunity to meet locals and see the sights. I have done so much in the time here already and I have literally only just begun!

A road map to my first month as an Exchange Student at City University of Hong Kong

My name is Emma Cockburn and I am a 4th year Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/ Bachelor of Business (Economics) undertaking an exchange semester at City University of Hong Kong.

The first month of my semester exchange at City University of Hong Kong has been one of adventure and learning! I was very fortunate to receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant. The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian Government which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study in the region.

The Montane Mansion Building

Where do you live?
The student residential halls are the ideal form of on-campus accommodation. I am in Sir Gordon and Lady Ivy Wu Hall (Hall 9). My roommate is an exchange student from Sydney and we share a bathroom with two Canadian exchange students from Queens University. There is a gym and canteen within the student residence. If you have space in your suitcase it is a good idea to bring your own bedding. I highly recommend applying for the student residential halls as it is by far the cheapest form of accommodation and provides a great opportunity to meet other students and get involved in Hall activities. The Halls are highly sort after by international and domestic students so I would advise to apply as soon as registration is open!

CityU Student Residential Halls

What should I get involved in?
There are so many opportunities to get involved at CityU. Taking advantage of these opportunities will enrich your exchange experience. To find out what is happening you should check your CityU email, look at the notice boards on campus and ask other students.

Clubs, Societies & Workshops
I was selected in the English-Speaking Debating Team and Business Proposal and Competition Club. I will be representing the university at an international debating competition in Macau next month! The College of Business host a range of free workshops. I have attended three of the Career & Leadership Development Programme sessions. In these sessions, I learnt how to create a powerful CV and cover letter to demonstrate your passion, leadership potential, and key competencies such as teamwork, interpersonal communication, problem solving, and business acumen.

Inter-hall Basketball Competition
I was selected in the inter-hall Women’s Basketball Competition. The team is comprised of local and international students. My team progressed to the semi-finals. We were narrowly defeated by Hall 7 who won the grand final. I really enjoyed participating in the inter-hall basketball competition. Each semester they host different inter-hall competitions, such as table tennis and athletics. I would absolutely recommend trialling for a team!

Inter-hall Basketball Competition

CityU International Case Competition Team
Drawing on the training and my experience competing in the QUT Business School International Case Competitions Team, I have worked collaboratively with the academic advisor and taken an active leadership role in developing students in the recently established CityU International Case Competition Team.

Model United Nations Conference
I attended the CityU Model United Nations conference. This conference hosted international and domestic university students from across Hong Kong. I participated in the Social and Economic Council as the delegate for Russia. In this council, we discussed the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis and political relief. After two days of diplomacy, advocacy and heated debate, we proposed a draft resolution and I was humbled to be awarded Best Delegate.

CityU Model United Nations conference awarded Best Delegate

Where should I eat?
There is a huge variety of food available in Hong Kong. The on-campus canteens provide more affordable options, a meal will cost about $5AUD. Western food tends to be more expensive. Each Hall floor has its own kitchen so you can cook food. I have been making oats and bananas for breakfast and cooking brown rice and broccoli for lunches (luckily my roommate brought a rice cooker). I have been using the free sauces available at the canteens. Things like peanut butter and Nutella are expensive so if you would like to bring some with you I would recommend doing that! There are so many great food options and the local street food is also delicious.   

What else is there to do in and around Hong Kong?
Hiking
There are the most amazing hiking trails in Hong Kong. For example, I have hiked Devil’s Peak, Lion Rock, Ng Tung Chai and the Peak. The scenery ranges from peaks overlooking skyscrapers, incredible sunsets, waterfalls with dense rainforest and beaches. It is truly beautiful.

Sunset Hike at Devil’s Peak

Travel
Hong Kong is a great base to travel around Asia. A lot of exchange students travel to places such as Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Cambodia and Thailand. Luckily, I have classes Tuesday through Thursday so I always have a long weekend. So far, I have travelled to Vietnam and I have a trip planned to go to Shenzhen in China.

Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam

I have been enjoying getting to know the local people and culture. The juxtaposition between the colourful housing estates, mountain peaks and modern skyscrapers is breathtaking. There is never a dull moment in Hong Kong. I look forward to what else is in store!

A video of my first week as an exchange student at City University of Hong Kong

A World Class Fashion Experience in Paris

Ashleigh Hobbs, Bachelor of Creative Industries

Short-term program: IESEG ‘Fashion Business in Paris 2018’

France (July 2018)

My name is Ashleigh Hobbs, a second-year student at QUT, majoring in fashion and film. In June/July of 2018, I had the opportunity to go on exchange to Paris, France, and study fashion and business at IESEG School of Management.

The institution I studied at, IESEG School of Management, was in La Défense; the business sector of Paris. We had student residency, only a five-minute walk from the school, and this was shared with other students taking our classes. The residency was fantastic, we each had individual apartments containing a fully equipped kitchenette, bathroom, queen sized bed, TV and wardrobe. In addition to this, we had access to complimentary breakfast, including on the weekends.

Life on campus was incredible; because the program is international and immersive, you connect with amazing people from across the globe. Having these friendships made the course even more so engaging and enriching; not only were you immersed in the Parisian fashion culture but also learning about different international cultures and traditions at the same time.

The program allows you to connect with people from across the globe.

The academic structure was incredibly smooth and well organised, making it easy to follow, but nevertheless, there was a high work ethic and heavy participation expected from each student. The opportunities granted to us students were world class. Not only did we receive tours of major fashion exhibits, but we also got a tour the Ecole Lesage – the company whom work with customers such as Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and thus forth. We got to watch the women hand make the tweed samples for the upcoming SS19 Chanel show; it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Louvre.

I had the most positive experience at IESEG and was exposed to so much industry practice thanks to this wonderful school; I could not be more fulfilled or happier with how the program was.

As one can imagine, the French capital is vastly different to Brisbane, and Australia in general. It is always important to remain extremely aware in the streets, and personally, I would always advise being with company when venturing away from the student residency and university. It makes it that little bit less stressful having two pairs of eyes and ears and is far more enjoyable in company. Site seeing in the main tourist areas is perfectly safe in your own, however make sure you know the areas you’re in and always take caution.

The streets of Paris.

Nevertheless, Paris is world renowned, and for great reason. During our stay we were able to visit places such as the Louvre museum, the Chateau of Versailles, the Louis Vuitton foundation, endless fashion exhibits (including Dior, Museum of Saint Laurent, Maison Martin Margiela and Hermes, etc.) Paris itself was everything I dreamed and more. Generally, when it comes to ‘experiencing’ Parisian culture and the city, Paris can be very costly. Despite this, Paris can still be enjoyed on a budget. There are a large array of grocery stores and local markets, and due to having a kitchenette, it is easy to cook your own meals, and the difference in price is huge. You will save a lot of money by doing this, but I still recommend doing some research and choosing some amazing spots to eat out; for the atmosphere if nothing else.

Versailles.

The Eiffel Tower.

When it came to the cultural aspects of living in Paris, I wasn’t affected too much by culture shock. As you are surrounded by friends from all over the world, you are all able to communicate on your experiences and go through the journey together. Out of respect for the country, however, it is nice to learn a few French phrases to get you by (even if it is just: ‘desole, parlez-vous anglais?’ Meaning, ‘sorry, do you speak English?’).

After partaking in the IESEG School of Management Fashion Summer Academy, I feel so inspired, motivated and refreshed to start back at QUT, and understand further the amazing career pathways that can be undertaken in my industry. Choosing to partake in the program not only made me more academically inspired, but made me so much for worldly, and confident in being associated in the international fashion industry. I cannot recommend doing this program, and going on exchange in general, enough.

Opening My Eyes to the Beauty of Germany

Sophie Heather, Bachelor of Fine Arts

Short-term program: Hessen University ‘Hessen International Summer University – Fulda’

Germany (July/August 2018)

My time in the 2018 ISU Fulda was life changing. It’s hard to find the words that will give justice to the program. I applied not expecting to be accepted, but I was, and I had 8 weeks to get organised! (I didn’t have a passport…eeek!)

Going into the program I hadn’t heard much about Germany aside from it’s infamous history. Friends would ask me if I could speak any German, to which I replied “no, but we learn it as part of the program”. I expected to leave the trip being relatively fluent in German. Haha. The language is very hard as the grammar is very different to English.

I am welcomed into Fulda by the German tutors – students who attend the host university. The tutors ran every activity and were the people we consulted if we had any issues. They were so funny, welcoming and understanding – I hope to see them in the future. They are fluent in English and are just absolutely lovely. I am given directions to my accommodation which require me to take a bus. I learn that public transport is free for university students! This ended up saving me a lot of money.

Brandenburg Gate

There were four types of accommodation; I was lucky to be in the hostel where I had my own room and shared kitchen and bathroom. Instantly, I made friends with the other girls from the program; on the first night they were so welcoming and invited me to go explore Fulda with them! The second I started talking to these girls I noticed how unusual the Australian accent is – it was a really strange moment. I was the only Australian in my hostel, and one out of four in the program! Australians made 1 out of the 15 different nationalities that attended ISU Fulda in 2018.

I made friends from all over the world.

For the seminar, I chose Music Therapy. My class was very small, I was 1 of 8 students! Additional to Australian students there were Portuguese, Russian and Israeli students. The seminar was very fun as we got to play a variety of instruments including rare instruments one wouldn’t typically know. Our teacher, Wolfgang, was highly energetic and took an interest in our cultures; as half our class were from Israel, we learnt a lot about their culture and the Jewish religion which I found fascinating.

Playing rare instruments in the music therapy program.

I was in the Beginner German class and was taught by the lovely Jana – a Russian woman who loved to learn languages! She taught us through singing songs whilst she played the guitar, it was very helpful! There were also days where she took us out blueberry picking, and on the last day to get some cake; she has the kindest heart.

The Mensa is the campus cafeteria – the food is so cheap! Each day there are 8 new meal options and they always tasted so good! You could get a big bowl of pasta for 1.50 Euros! There were lots of salads and snacks as well as vegetarian and vegan options! QUT seriously needs one of these!

ISU really opened my eyes to the beauty of Germany. I had learnt in school the brief history of the country during the World Wars and the Cold War. However, to actually go to the places that were talked about (Point Alpha, The Berlin Wall, concentration camps) it was only then that the history lessons made sense. It was eye opening to learn about the suffrage of people due to power falling in the wrong hands. It was haunting to walk upon grounds where millions were murdered. It was incredible to see modern Germany where the civilians accept the past and continue to create a nation that focuses on love and peace.

Upon returning to Australia, everyone would ask me “what was the best bit?” I can’t think of one particular time, however, my favourite aspect of the trip was that I made so many friends. I was able to walk up to anyone and have a great conversation. I made lifelong friends from all over the globe; my most closest friends live in: The USA, France, Netherlands, Portugal and India. I learnt so much about their cultures, and they were so interested to learn about mine. I still keep in contact with these people and I intend to for a very long time.

The best part was I was able to walk up to anyone and have a conversation.

The trip threw me in the deep end and I am so appreciative QUT gave me this opportunity to broaden my horizons. If anyone is wanting to study overseas but does not want to stay long term, this is your program!

My Short but Sweet Time in the United Kingdom

Su Jin Lim, Masters of Business

Short-term program: University of Exeter ‘International Summer School’

England (June/July 2018)

It had always been a lifelong dream of mine to study in the UK; therefore when I saw QUT’s Global Exchange Portal advertising the International Summer School Program at the University of Exeter, I knew I had to do it.

In order to make full use of my winter break, I made the choice to extend my trip and arrive 2 weeks before summer school began. In that time span, I took the opportunity to sight see around London and the beautiful Welsh countryside. I had the opportunity of visiting, Highgate Cemetery (The burial place of Karl Marx), shopping along Oxford Street, and most importantly going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden (It would have been blasphemous for me not to do so!). I spent one week in Wales with my relatives at their smallholdings estate up in Lampeter. Over there we drove around to different places and visited historical sites and museums.

One of the “must-have” shots for anyone who visits the Harry Potter studios.

I then returned to Convent Garden in London where my summer school program began. By this time, London was experiencing one of the worst heat waves, which really was equivalent to a typical Brissie Summer, except it was a lot more humid. We were scheduled to stay in London for the next 4 days for sightseeing. The summer school coordinators planned the trip such that we had plenty of leisure time to explore the city on our own. Luckily for me, I managed to meet friends on the first day of the program, they became my travel buddies throughout the trip. During our stay in London, we were taken to see iconic places such as Tower Bridge, House of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and the British Museum. The most memorable part of the trip was having the opportunity to watch Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale” at the Globe Theatre just like how people used to watch it back in the day (i.e. standing up for the whole play!). Never have I ever cried and laughed so hard watching a play, the acting and the whole experience of it was honestly quite moving.

Waiting for the play to begin at the Globe Theatre.

Bright and early on our last day in London, we boarded our buses for the 4 ½ hour journey to Exeter. The moment we arrived in Exeter, we were greeted with typical British weather which quite ironically I found to be quite warm and welcoming. I think it was because it was the English weather I was expecting to experience rather than the warm sticky weather. We were all assigned rooms at the on campus accommodation at the University of Exeter. Each of us had our own ensuite toilets, a bed, and a large desk. I technically shared a “flat” with 5 other students and we all had access to a common kitchen. Meals were not catered for, which allowed us full freedom to plan all our meals. Quick tip: I highly recommend you try eating-in when you can; it gives you the opportunity to learn how to cook for yourself but to also to learn the cuisine of other international students cooking in the flat as well. My accommodation was a 10 minute walk to campus and all its facilities which was really convenient for us.    

The Iconic University of Exeter “Rock”.

Class picture on our last day of class with our two module facilitators (Standing on the far left and right).

I enrolled for the “Adapting Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to Improve Accessibility to Psychological Therapies” module at summer school. Classes were 4 hours a day, in 2 hour blocks. Despite the intensity of our classes, I thoroughly enjoyed them as it was highly interactive and very much hands on. I only had 12 other students in my class which gave us the opportunity to really bond with one another and having sessions better tailored to our needs. The assessments for our course were broken down into two parts. Firstly, we had to design a psycho-education leaflet tailored towards international students from a specific country/region. Secondly, we had to give a 30 minute presentation explaining our target sample, design of our leaflet, and how we worked together as a group. 

Visiting the underground tunnels of Exeter.

The town of Bath.

During the two weekends we had at Exeter, we made it a point to do as much sightseeing as we could. We took day trips to the town of Bath (a UNESCO World Heritage site), St. Ives, and we were even adventurous enough to cycle 44km to visit the nearby port town of Exmouth. All of these places were truly amazing and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Overall, I will say that the International School Program at the University of Exeter was amazing such that it allowed you time to learn and having enough time to sightsee, it was really a rewarding experience. Not only did I get the opportunity to visit the beautiful places the UK had to offer, but I was also able to form lifelong friendships with students from all other the globe. To anyone reading this and is interested on going to the UK, I highly recommend applying for this program. You will not regret it, I definitely didn’t J

Everlasting Memories Made at Cambridge

Sabrina Catania, Bachelor of Science

Short-term program: AIM Overseas ‘Cambridge Sciences Summer Program’

England (July 2018)

Life on campus was in itself an amazing experience. All the academics, although kind of intimidating to approach because of how intelligent they were, were so nice and ready to answer any of your questions. This programme brought people from all different organisations to give lectures such as the Gurdon institute and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) which was a major highlight for me. I was unbelievably lucky to be able to visit the BAS twice while I was at Cambridge and has completely influenced my future plans to work overseas.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS)

Queens College.

Making friends from all over the world.

I stayed on campus at Queens’ College where I was in a single Ensuite room. Breakfast and dinner were also provided for me, which was held in dining halls within Queens’. Breakfast was held buffet style which was amazing! Hash browns, bacon, fresh fruit every morning! There was also a different dinner every night with spectacular desserts to end the night with.  I did have to scout around for my own lunch every day, which I was actually happy about as it gave me the chance to taste test food from all over the city.

The view from my room.

Travelling from Heathrow Airport to Cambridge University was a massive culture shock for me. It definitely made me feel out of depth and overwhelmed. I think this was more to do with this trip being my first time travelling alone and to such a far place from home. Luckily, I made friends at the airports on both my trips from and to Australia. I think having an open mind and being open to the idea of meeting new people adds a lot to your experience overseas. However, once I reached Cambridge, everything kind of fell into place and it was so easy to fall in love with the city. England isn’t too different from Australia, so the cultural aspects weren’t much of a shock for me, however not hearing your normal Aussie accent everywhere was a bit weird.

Here I got to go on a beautiful Punting tour that takes you through the heart of Cambridge University along River Cam.

Here I got to go on a beautiful Punting tour that takes you through the heart of Cambridge University along River Cam.

King’s College Chapel, Cambridge

What was also great about this short-term trip was the amazing people that also were attending the same programme as me. So, although there were people from all over the world, I still got to meet so many people from Australia. It was this group of girls that made me feel at home in this foreign country and we are even now planning a trip to meet up. I also became friends with people from America, Pakistan, Hungary and so many other places. So, I think a main highlight of my trip was the friends I made and the everlasting memories that they helped me create.

The famous Mathematical Bridge which is luckily enough located in Queens’ College.

Charles Darwin statue at Christ College, Cambridge.

I think it should most definitely be noted however, how beautiful Cambridge actually is!

Studying in the Heart of Amsterdam

Natasha Phillips, Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology)/Laws

Short-term program: Amsterdam Uni of Applies Sciences ‘Amsterdam Summer School’

Netherlands (July 2018)

My name is Natasha and when I participated in my short term exchange I was half way through my third year of a dual degree of Law and Psychology at QUT. My exchange program was in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and after reflection I can happily say it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I got to explore the history and culture of Amsterdam by studying there.

I studied an architecture course, this is something which is completely different to my degree at QUT but I am so glad I decided to study this course. Studying architecture in an old city like Amsterdam was incredible because by studying the architecture, I got to study the history and culture of the city and explore the city itself. The program and teaching style was very relaxed compared to my classes at QUT but I thought this was brilliant for a course which was so interactive. Each day we would have class in the morning and then in the afternoon we would go out and explore a different area of the city which was related to our morning class. The campus was based in the heart of the city and this was amazing because before and after class we got the opportunity to explore the city and take in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam. The campus was very modern and the support staff were kind, welcoming and helpful.

This program gave us the opportunity to explore the city after classes.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city and by being an exchange student for two weeks, we got the chance to explore the tourist spots like Anne Frank’s House, the canals and the Amsterdam sign but we also go to experience other aspects of the city which some tourists might not. For example, one day my class rented bikes and we cycled to a beach outside the city and got to see the countryside which surrounded the city. Everyone spoke both Dutch and English and were very friendly so I never had any issues with getting lost or any bad experiences in the city.

The highlight of exchange was the people.

My highlight of my short term exchange was the people I met and the friendships I made. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity because as part of my exchange I now have friends in America, Russia, Norway, Germany and of course The Netherlands. I would highly recommend to any QUT student to participate in a short term exchange and gain credits for their course as an elective because it was the best experience.

Exploring the Architecture of Italy

Audrey Wong, Bachelor of Design

Short-term program: AIM Overseas ‘Rome Architectural Sketchbook’

Italy (June/July 2018)

I found my program through QUT short term program website, and it was organized by AIM Overseas, called Rome Architectural Sketchbook. Our program duration was 3 weeks in Rome, but I’d say the highlight of the program was the after-school life in Italy! On the first weekend, we went to Capri Island and Sorrento, in Southern Italy, and Florence and Pisa on the second. Most of us from the program didn’t know each other beforehand, so the weekend trips were organized only after we met in Rome, and even the train tickets were bought right before the night we go! Apart from the short trips, we also had lots of fun! Our program was about sketching in Rome, so we literally set down on the street and started drawing every day. However, despite such opportunity, there’s just too much to be covered in Rome! For example, the Vatican City, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon were not included in the school schedule. So, we had to squeeze our time to pay them a visit. Another after-school activity we all love is to go grocery shopping! Despite the unforgiving heat condition, we always wanted to go shop at the grocery because the food is cheap and very fresh with lots of varieties. And of course, gelato every day!

GELATO EVERYDAY – you’ll be shocked by the variety of flavour I guarantee.

1st weekend trip to Capri Island and Sorrento

Our Italian tutor (lady with red hair and sun glasses) is the most passionate and enthusiastic lovely lady we’ve ever met!

Touching the columns that was carved in one monolithic one in the Vatican City! Stunned by the architecture there (actually should be stunned by the architecture everywhere in Europe)!

To be honest, this would all sound overwhelming to me before I joined the program. I had quite low self-esteem and self-confidence especially towards socializing. So, I will have to admit that it was quite uneasy to meet new people and make friends at first, but once you’re there in that situation, you realize you actually only have two choices, go and learn to enjoy, or don’t go and regret. So, this was how I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. And I ended up am really proud of myself and really glad that I have met every one of them.

2 Florence and Pisa 2nd weekend trip

Had to go to the Trevi Fountain at 8am coz class starts at 9!

Last day! A group photo finally!

Link to the videos we made for the assignment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5RR-NLt-To

Link to the assignment I presented: https://spark.adobe.com/page/2IYI6rRiKydqA/

A Dream Experience in Denmark

Ellie Lawler, Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology)/Social Work

Short-term program: “Experience Summer at Aarhus University”

Denmark (July 2018)

For my short study program, I chose to study at Aarhus University in Denmark. Studying abroad has been on my bucket list for years, but I always thought I’d never be able to do it. Then, I found out about the short study programs that QUT offered. I didn’t even think about it, I instantly told my parents I was going to study overseas and began searching for which country I would go to. Not long after I began my search, I found the AU summer program at Aarhus University in Denmark.

The beautiful city of Aarhus. The view from the ARoS museum.

 

View of Aarhus from the Tivoli Friheden.

 

I studied an intensive class about youth, alcohol and drugs. At QUT, I study psychology and social work, so this subject fit in nicely with my degree’s units.  I had so many expectations in my mind about what the class would be and it beat them all. My class consisted of around 30 students from all different countries. There were at least 10 different nationalities in the classroom. The different cultures made the subjects content even better. Everyone had their own experiences and laws regarding alcohol and drug use in their universities. The atmosphere was open and people weren’t afraid to share their thoughts.  Nearly every day, we had a new guest lecturer come in and present us with new information. Of course, the methods were quite different from QUT so I had to adjust a lot but I appreciated seeing new learning techniques.

A Danish norm… riding bikes everywhere

The array of perspectives was probably the most interesting part of the class. There was never a boring day.  As a short program, the work load could sometimes be intense. Luckily, the staff and other students were supportive and I got through it all.  During my study, I stayed in a University run apartment building near the beautiful harbour of Aarhus. It was a modern building, equipped with everything I needed. The campus had one of Denmark’s biggest libraries, so there was never a lack of study materials. And when studying got too hard, us students just went to play games (like foosball or ping pong) or even do some boxing in the libraries chill out level. Great idea for QUT hey?…

Aarhus university buildings – One of Denmark’s largest library’s, 8 stories.

The summer staff at Aarhus University were amazing. They had created the best social program for everyone enrolled in summer uni. This included events like concerts, day trips to theme parks, food nights and so much more. Basically, anything there was to do in Aarhus, we did it. And there was a lot to do. My favourite day by far was my final day in Aarhus… the Viking Moot! Who wouldn’t love to pretend to be Vikings right? I rode Icelandic horses, shopped in the old-fashioned markets, took some turns at archery and got to witness the ‘Vikings’ battle. And of course, at the end of the day, I had my daily dose of education…. A trip to the history museum.

A shot of the ‘Vikings’ practising for battle during Aarhus’s 2018 Viking Moot.

 Through my class and the social activities, I made so many friends from different countries. I was fortunate enough to have a great group of friends over there. We attended the social programs together, cooked together and tried to figure out the language together. We even travelled to some more of Europe together on our days off. In total, I travelled to four other countries during my holiday (I mean ‘study experience’…). I went to Germany, Sweden, Hungary and Czech Republic. Being in Europe was great. Instead of an hour taking me from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, it could take me to a whole new country. The cultures that I experienced on my travels were so interesting, I tried to immerse myself into every new experience. This mostly means that I ate a lot of food, but also that I became the biggest cliché tourist.

A Danish picnic to celebrate my birthday

Denmark can be a pricey country, but studying abroad is a once in a life time opportunity so I never limited myself to experiencing things. The University made it all as cheap as possible for the students. This included cheap rent and great student deals. Overall, my experience in Denmark was a dream. Aarhus University was an amazing host University and I got to experience so many things. I only wish that it was longer. I know that I’ll be travelling back to Denmark for a reunion one day.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen.

Japan – Settling In

Hello everyone,

I’ve been living in Japan for two months now and I’ve started to settle into a weekly routine. This has proven to be convenient and demonstrates that I have adapted to life here in a somewhat competent manner. Yet, I still miss the excitement of those first few weeks. It has made life here feel slightly more monotonous and the charm of living in a new country seems to have worn off.

I’ve been attempting to offset this feeling by travelling to different places and cities on weekends. For example, the past two weekends I have been to Takayama and Fukuoka. Both of which were interesting cities that contrast greatly with one another; from a quiet city within the Japanese Alps to a sprawling metropolis in the southern sub-tropical island of Kyushu.

(Kamikochi, a valley near Takayama)                                   (Fukuoka)

This travelling has been very rewarding and, come to think of it, the only travelling that I have completely organised by myself. This has been a good learning experience and provides me with a rewarding sense of independence; especially since I have travelled alone on both of these occasions.

I would thoroughly recommend that you work up the courage to travel alone on exchange. I have found that I engage more with my surroundings and have more meaningful experiences. You also learn to think more for yourself and do what you want to do, as opposed to relying on others to make decisions for you or doing things that you yourself find mundane and uninteresting. (Not to mention the amount of difficulties that come with attempting to organise other people)

On the topic of making friends whilst on exchange, it is surprisingly easy. Most people that you will meet on exchange are other international students who are as excited and nervous as you are at the beginning of the semester. As a result, people are, in most cases, more open to socialising in an attempt to off-set those feelings. Currently, I can say that I have met many people from many different places that I will remain in touch with once this exchange ends.

Also, studying in Japan hasn’t proved to be too intensive so far. Coming to Japan, many people would mention the stereotypical notion of Asian study habits and then suggest that this means that Japanese work loads will be ‘extreme’. However, I have found that I do more or less the same amount of work here than I did in Australia. There are more university classes, but this translates to less homework, which I personally find very pleasant.

All in all, life here is great, but inevitably, living overseas loses it’s initial charm after a while. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and if you do experience a similar feeling do not despair. Even the smallest changes can get you out of a rut. I found that travelling got me out of mine, but I could be something as simple as trying new foods. Find the thing that excites you and do it.

Until next time.