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.

Chance Encounters in Milan!

Michael C., Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Universita Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, Italy (Semester 2, 2017)

My exchange started with a chance encounter which would later be incredibly beneficial. I had only been in Milan for three days and the apartment I was supposed to move into cancelled my booking. So here I was knowing one person in my building, who had a room for rent but not until the following month and nowhere to sleep in four days.  So after I managed to sort out accommodation, which was incredibly stressful I then began to focus on my studies and travel.

Milan was a fantastic place to go on exchange. The university had a very well organised social club, which for the first two weeks organised a night out every night for the first 2 weeks before class started. It was a fantastic way to meet people and make new friends. I also made some great friends in the language course, because it was full of other exchange students from around the world.

Making friends was terrifying but worth the effort. The friends I made became a big part of my exchange experience. We would study together, go out to dinner, go out for drinks and travel together. One of my favourite stories was where a friend I made in the first week, asked if I would like to go with her to a concert in Prague in November. I had never heard of this band before, but I am so glad I said yes. It was a fantastic concert. I had so much fun, and now this is one of my favourite bands. It just goes to show that you never know what is going to happen on exchange.

Travel as much as possible. An exchange in Europe in not complete without travel. I had so much fun booking flights on a Thursday, flying out on Friday and coming back Sunday night. One of my favourite trips was London. I met a girl in a bar in my first week in Europe, who as it turns out is a huge Harry Potter fan. When she was looking for people to go to the Warner Bros studio in London I eagerly said yes. Brittany became one of my best friends and we had so much fun in the studio. It was one day I will never forget.

My exchange was more fun than I expected. For anyone planning to go on exchange my advice is this; meet as many people as you can and be very organised, because time flies.  Make sure you have the funds to support your exchange because it is expensive and don’t miss home too much because before you know it you’ll be back and wishing the exchange wasn’t over.

“100% Worth It” – University of Leeds Exchange

Natasha L., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Media and Communication
University of Leeds, England (Semester 1, 2016)

I was extremely nervous to begin my university exchange experience. I am quite a shy person and was unsure about how I would make friends, live away from home and navigate myself around a new city. However, going on exchange was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

The University of Leeds is located in the northern region of England called Yorkshire and is known for it’s impressive school of communications as well as an amazing student union and social environment. I chose to study here because of the vast opportunities to get involved in university life and immerse myself in the entire exchange experience. Despite some initial fears, tears and freak-outs, I definitely settled in a lot more quickly than expected and made professional and personal connections that will last.

Walking around and learning the city of Leeds proved to be exceptionally easy from my accommodation, basically following one main street the entire way. I enjoyed exploring the city centre after uni and shopping at the local Kirkgate markets, going to grab a bite from the Corn Exchange or just admiring the old, intricate architecture on most buildings. Despite the fact that many compare Australia to England, I definitely felt that there were many differences and going to Leeds did pushed me to become more confident in new environments.

Staying in “Devonshire Halls” student residence for my exchange was one of the best decisions I had made. A range of exchange students had all chosen this accommodation and we were able to hang out, study and walk the 20 minutes to university together most days. I chose to be self catered but had the opportunity to meet people at special dinners, in the laundry room or at social events that the accommodation put on with live music and free food included!

I found that the cost of living in Leeds was similar to that of Brisbane, but that travelling around Europe in between did take up a huge portion of my savings. I travelled to more than 14 countries in my time away and found that I did need to always budget for more than I needed due to traveling mistakes or slip ups (i.e. missing a flight, booking a flight for the wrong month, booking a flight for the wrong city etc etc).  Many of my friends had the same issue and we all decided that over estimating your budget is a lot more beneficial to prevent stressful situations. I would encourage students to take $10,000 – $12,000 AUD per semester. In saying this, it is easy to stick to a budget when living in Leeds to due the ability to walk everywhere and the general cheap cost of living.

Exchange was an unforgettable experience that helped me grow and develop as a young adult. I gained confidence in social and professional situations and learnt how to handle myself independently when stressed. I made friends that will definitely last a lifetime and was able to meet and connect with people from all over the world. Although pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be daunting, I believe that going on exchange is 100% worth it and it will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

Life in Copenhagen

Victoria K., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (Semester 1, 2016)

Host University    

In 2016 of Semester 1 I went on exchange to the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in Denmark. I chose this uni as it was heavily qualified being the best Business school in Scandinavia and in the top 10 Business schools in Europe. When I first saw the different campuses I was shocked at how much they resembled buildings for small companies rather than a uni!

I took the subjects: Visual Communication, Organising Global Business & Marketing, International Business Law and Marketing: Trend Drivers. I was very impressed to see that all the lecturers had “real world” experience in the subjects that they taught, as they had all held high positions within that area of business. It was this expertise that each lecturer brought to lessons that made my study at CBS very special.

 


 

 

 

 

Social Life
At CBS they have an excellent social package for exchange students which involves a week of activities before semester organised just for exchange students with the main goal of introducing everyone to each other but also Danish culture. The activities included bowling, bingo (sounds boring but they made it a lot of fun!), ice skating and bar/ club nights to name a few. The activity week is optional for exchange students and you have to pay (its quite cheap) but I 100% recommend you go so you can meet as many people as possible.

The social activities were run by current students of CBS so they were all very friendly and approachable. Within the first social event I had already made three or four friends so it was extremely easy to meet people if you attended the social week. CBS also has a buddy system where you are paired up with a CBS student (you can choose the gender). My buddy was amazing, she showed me around the city and introduced me to her Danish friends.

Accommodation
In Denmark it is illegal for a university to own housing but CBS has the rights to quite a few dorms and accommodation. As a result, accommodation spots are very scarce (in very high demand) and it is on a first come first serve basis. Accommodation spots for CBS students become available at a certain date and time. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the time as housing spots will become exhausted within an hr after their release (similar situation to buying Splendour tickets).

Also, make sure you research each dormitory and its situation to CBS. The nicest dormitory in my opinion is Tietgen (mostly Danish dorm) which is a beautiful circular building. The dorm rooms are beautiful and each level has their own communal kitchen where you can socialise with other people. Tietgen also has its own nightclub where it occasionally has small parties and the communal kitchen is also used as a makeshift dancefloor, its great fun! However it is quite far away from CBS (20 mins metro ride + 5 min walk to metro).

Transportation
In my opinion Denmark has the best public transport in the world. They have a metro, train and buses which are always exactly on time, if not 1-3 minutes late (quite rare). Seeing as Copenhagen is quite a small city, the longest it will take you to get anywhere is around 40 mins, but everywhere I went only took me about 10-20 mins.

Everyone bikes in Denmark, there are bike lanes on every road and it is the most popular mode of transport. If you do wish to bike (which is the cheapest form of transport) then you must be mindful of the bike signals (one hand up to signal you slowing down and also to signal when you are turning). There is a Facebook page for the exchange students and many people from the previous semester will be selling a bike so you won’t have to worry about buying one. The prices they are sold for vary from $50-$150 but this will be much more cheaper in the long run; as I’ve said that public transport is very expensive.

Denmark uses a system similar to the ‘go card’ which can be used on all public transport, called the ‘rejsekort’ (pronounced rye-seh-cort). The minimum amount that you can top up is $20 (100 kr) and the lowest amount you can have on it about $12 (60 kr), so this doesn’t get you very far. Going about two stops on the metro (not far) is about $2-3 (10-15 kr) so in a few days you will be needing to top up with $20 to use the card again. I would recommend you buying the rejsekort if you are using a bike as you will need the card to travel longer distances to castles and parks or when you are on your way out clubbing.

If you do not wish to buy a bike you can get something more economically feasible which is the monthly pass. For about $134 (670 kr) you can get a monthly pass to use all modes of transport within a 2 zone area. This is way cheaper than using the rejsekort if you use public transport frequently, which you will if you don’t have a bike!
PLEASE NOTE: Do not chance it by not buying a ticket! The metro do rigorous checks of people on train for tickets, rejsekorts and monthly plans every day. The same is for trains and buses but less intense. The fine is 750 kr ($150) if you are caught so it is definitely not worth it.

Host Country
Denmark is a beautiful country. In winter it can be quite miserable but the spring and summer is well worth the wait! Danish culture is quite similar to Australian in the sense that they love to drink, love their sport and have a great sense of humour. Danish people tend to be quite reserved at first but once you get to know them they are extremely fun and friendly.

As I said summer was the most beautiful season, with longer days and more people getting out and enjoying the sun. There is definitely a more festive and relaxed feel in Copenhagen- some days (at certain hours) it felt as hot as a Brissy day!

Keep in mind though that Denmark has one of the highest standard of living so eating out can be very expensive. An average meal will be between $25-30 (125-150 kr), coffee will be about $7-8.

Highlights
CPH has some amazing sights and places! For food, my friends and I loved going to the Glass markets or the indoor food hall called ‘Paper Island’. On Thursday Paper Island has discounts for students at certain food stalls for certain food items.

A great place to eat which has the lowest prices in CPH is Café Paludan, near Norreport metro station. The portions are really big, the food is delicious and the prices are very cheap for CPH standards. I definitely recommend checking out Ruby, which is among the 50 best bars in the world! The décor is quite decadent and is a very cool and intimate setting with amazing cocktails. CPH is also home to a few Michelin starred restaurants. My friends and I went to the restaurant Relae and had a 5 course meal for only $100.

The Best Thing I’ve Done!

Isobella T., Bachelor of Business
University of Leeds, United Kingdom (Semester 2, 2016)

In January, I left my family and friends to spend a semester at the University of Leeds in England. I was told about Leeds by one of my friends, but I didn’t think much of it until I went to the QUT Exchange Fair, and one of the previous semester’s students told me how great it was, and how much fun he had. That made up my mind.

Leeds is a beautiful campus set between James Baillie – my residence- and the city. It was about 25 minutes walking from James Baillie, and 15-20 minutes from the city, with plenty of sights along the way. The campus contains two bars, the English love a good bevvy between classes, and turns into a three room nightclub on Fridays. Fruity on Fridays along with Otley Runs are staple Leeds outings. The University is big on being social, with heaps of clubs to join, as well as outings around England for exchange students. The city itself is full of different places to eat and drink. There is something on every night in Leeds, so you’re never running short of options, just remember to buy tickets online.

One of the wonderful places in Leeds!

The teaching in Leeds was a little different to QUT. Most lectures only ran for an hour, and none of them were recorded. Three of my subjects only had one piece of assessment that was worth 100%, which I found quite intimidating. Due to the credit transfer difference, I took five subjects, but I found them very manageable, and hardly had any homework, leaving me with plenty of time to travel.

Not much homework left me plenty of time to travel!

I budgeted about $15,000, and usually stuck to my £100 a week budget, depending on whether I went travelling or not. The exchange rate was pretty tragic when I left, but picked up towards the end. I used a Commonwealth Travel Money Card, and never had any problems. It was super easy and cheap to get to Europe, especially if you fly Ryan Air or Easy Jet, and we used Google Flights or Sky Scanner to find the cheapest flights. In March, we had a month long mid-semester break, so it was the perfect opportunity to visit Dublin, Zurich, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow and Warsaw!

Visited Paris in the Mid Semester break

The friends I made on exchange were some of the best people I have ever met, with the majority of them from Canada and America. The first person I ever met in Leeds ended up being my best friend on exchange; we did many solo trips in Italy, The Netherlands, France, and Spain, and luckily, never got sick of each other. The atmosphere in Leeds is super welcoming and friendly, and my friends and I often had dinner together or went to the gym, because we lived so close.

Going on exchange was definitely the best thing I’ve done so far. I got to see Europe, live independently in another country, and meet some amazing people that I plan on visiting soon. It takes a lot of effort and planning in the beginning, but it is so worth it in the end. The only downside is how quick time flies: one moment, you’re arriving at Leeds Bradford airport and the next you’re saying goodbye in Manchester.

Becoming a Part of the Gamecock Family!

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

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

On Campus – Horseshoe

Preparation and Arrival

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

Darla Moore School of Business (DMSB)

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

DMSB

Accommodation

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

Riverside Student Accommodation (Off-Campus)

College Life

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

Football Game at Williams-Brice Stadium

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

Strom Thurmond – Student Gym

Classes

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

Columbia and the U.S.

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

Tubing on the River

Christmas

Halloween

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

Atlanta Skyline

Atlanta – CNN Headquarters

New York

Washington DC

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

– Forever to Thee –

Learn About the World You Live In

Sophie C., Bachelor of Business
Aston University, England (Semester 2, 2016)

It has almost been exactly three weeks since I arrived back in Australia after 182 days (7 months) abroad in the UK. Today was my first day back at QUT after attending university at Aston Business School for a semester in my 3rd year of a business degree, majoring in Marketing and PR. First tip: if you do marketing or PR major, it’s almost impossible to find these subjects in Europe – so definitely stick to England/USA/Canada for that if you can.

Going on exchange was one of the scariest yet most exciting experiences of my life. Having never properly been overseas (or enduring that massive 26 hour plane journey), it was definitely taking a huge leap. But all the anxiety and stress of the preparation involved in exchange is definitely worth it once you arrive and realise just how big and exciting the world is. I landed at Heathrow totally alone in August of 2016 and spent a few days exploring London before embarking on a 24 day Topdeck tour, in which I have made some of my closest friends who I am still in contact with today. I decided to travel before my semester began, as I didn’t want to be worn out or risk running out of money before my tour. Second tip: save save save, exchange is a very different experience on a budget and it will make life so much easier and more enjoyable if you can get involved wherever possible and go on as many weekend trips as you can! Take advantage of being in another part of the world and take time to explore it and learn to appreciate it.

After this I moved to Birmingham in England with two other QUT students who I met at the exchange pre-departure drinks (third tip – go to that, as without these guys I 100% believe my experience would have been so different, we were each others support system the whole way through). We lived together in a dormitory-style accommodation (see photo top left corner in collage) on a student living campus just outside of the city, about a 15-minute bus ride to Uni. It was here that we lived with heaps of other Aston international students from countries like Portugal, Canada, Spain, Singapore, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and so many more. We all became like a tight knit family and I couldn’t have asked for better people. Fourth tip – try and stay in an international dorm/flat/room/house if possible, as I know people had a very different exchange experience just living with other Australians abroad, its better to get the full exchange experience and make international friends as it will open your eyes to so much, but also make friends with the locals!!

I chose Aston Business School and Birmingham due to their central location within England (1.5-2 hour train from London), without the hefty expenses of living in London. This university also perfectly catered for my marketing subjects. London is one of my favourite cities and I loved being able to just book a train the night before and go for weekend trips whenever I could. England was also an awesome base location for Europe travel as flights and trains are generally so cheap. University in England works mostly the same way, in terms of how lectures are delivered and the content. However they do smaller subjects, I completed 5 subjects during my time at Aston, which is 1 under a full-time load. I found that I wasn’t doing anywhere near as much assessment as I do at QUT. The assessment was mostly a 100% final exam, or one piece of coursework (assignment) worth 100%.  This was a bit of an adjustment at first, but really easy to get used to. You start appreciating the education we receive at QUT, as it prepared us Aussies so well for the England tertiary system.

Homesickness is definitely a thing as well, I struggled with it a few times but you just always need to remember that it’s okay and totally normal to struggle. However, so many people have successfully been able to do it, you only really get out of exchange what you’re willing to put in. Before exchange I had only done small travel within Australia and never lived out of home or fully supported myself. After exchange, I have been to a total of 20 countries and 35 cities, lived out of home and supported myself entirely for a whole 7 months, alongside keeping up with the assessment at Aston. I have already booked my flight back to the UK for June 2017, and cannot wait to do more solo travel with plans to move back to England in 2018. Exchange is an absolutely life-changing opportunity and opens your eyes to so much, it was the most enriching experience, I learnt so much about myself and the world and I would so highly recommend it to anyone considering going on a study exchange trip through QUT 🙂

PS: UK/European winter is COLD….bring lots of warm clothes 🙂

Embracing Student Life in Exeter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going International in Historic Poland

Georgia D., Bachelor of Business
SGH Warsaw School of Economics, Poland (Semester 2, 2018)

 

For a very long time, I was conflicted on where I should travel for my exchange experience. The only thing that I knew for sure was that I wanted to take a hold of this opportunity to make my International Business degree truly “international”. My search led me to look at nearly every university and location on offer, but after attending a presentation from a Polish exchange student at QUT (one of many organised through the Exchange Office), I knew it was the place for me.

Palace of Culture and Science

Arriving in Warsaw, I realised early on just how big of a cultural divide there is between Poland and Australia – and I loved every minute of it. Sure, sorting out some of the initial paperwork with my landlord and government departments was made more difficult due to barriers of language/culture, but once I was settled in the city, I instantly thought of it as a second home.

Łazienki Park

I chose to rent a room on a street between the Ochota and Śródmieście districts – both quite central areas of the city that ended up being a perfect location for me as a student at SGH (Warsaw School of Economics). My experience in renting a room within a private apartment was wonderful, as I shared it with 3 other students, but the university offers dorm accommodation as well (which was also a popular option amongst exchange students). The public transport in Warsaw is great (trams, buses and Metro), and it took me less than 10mins to get to the SGH main building from my apartment using the tram system.

SGH Warsaw School of Economics – Main Building G

SGH provided a very different university experience for me, particularly evident in a reduced use of online systems and technology within lectures. I was enrolled in 7 units (as most units are worth about half the credit points of a QUT unit), and I took the opportunity to study a number of units that related to Poland and Eastern Europe, and its economic/political relations with/within the EU. It was a great opportunity as an Australian student to apply what I’ve learnt within my Business degree to an area of the world that I was quite unfamiliar with.

The campus is split over a couple of buildings, all within walking distance of each other, very close to Central Warsaw and serviced by buses, trams and a Metro line. The main building was quite beautiful, particularly the grand ceiling and university library, and most of my classes took place here. The exchange office ran a buddy program with current Polish students at SGH, which was definitely helpful for me initially, and my “buddy” and I became great friends during my time in Warsaw. She was able to show me a number of great places to eat and hang out close to the university, which was great because whilst living in Poland, that was actually something I could afford as a student.

Cost of living in Warsaw is SUPER affordable, and left room for me to spend more on travel and experiences with friends. A lot of local attractions (particularly museums) are free of charge on certain days of the week too, so I got to see and learn a lot without spending a ton of money. As a student all transport is reduced by 50%, and because this included intercity travel, I took a couple of trips to Krakow during my time here.

The food in Poland is also very good, and especially because I was there over the winter, I took advantage of some of the more ‘hearty’ dishes. In Warsaw, there has been a revival of “bary mlecnze” (milk bars) – cafeteria style eateries that were quite prominent in Poland’s communist era – that serve cheap traditional Polish dishes, and I could always get a full meal for under $5. The nightlife is obviously a little busier during the summer months, but there were still some great areas to explore with friends close to campus and city centre, where prices were also super reasonable.

I also found it very interesting to spend my exchange in a city with such an incredible history, as they really make an effort to preserve the memory of events that shaped the area, particularly within the WW2 era. Whilst I was there the country was celebrating 100 years of independence, and it was awesome to see how much pride the Polish people had for their country and its difficult past. I was constantly discovering new things about the city of Warsaw over the entire time I lived there, and I probably only scraped the surface.

I could talk about the positives of an exchange to Warsaw forever, and that’s something that really surprised me: just how much I loved my time there. Before going along to that presentation, I had not seriously considered Poland because I had never really heard much about it as a travel/study destination, and now I can’t understand why, because it’s brilliant. As a student, Warsaw is: cheap, packed with history, well connected by public transport, culturally rich and located very conveniently for travels within Europe during holidays or weekends. To anyone thinking of an exchange in Poland, I would definitely recommend giving it some serious thought. Whilst it might not be the most popular or conventionally easy, in my opinion it is definitely worth it!! I cannot wait to return to Warsaw again, and explore even more of Poland in the future.