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!

Urban Transformation Study Tour: Day Four

Day 4 of the trip was a later start for many of us including me due to sore feet and exhaustion. After getting up some of the girls and I headed for breakfast at fun toast and got the biggest iced coffees I’ve ever seen.

After breakfast we meet the rest of the group and Wilford Loo at the Housing and Development Board (the HDB Hub). Here we had a tour learning about the history of Singapore planning, how Singapore are creating liveable and vibrant towns and communities. The hub was first established in 1961 and the first project was completed in 1966. It houses more than 80% of the Singapore population. Singapore has some very interesting planning concepts such as the checkerboard concept, the neighbourhood concept and the concept of hierarchy. The Hub displayed many future developments one included the 3D virtual interactive map with lights highlighting the five districts in the town of Tengah these included plantation, garden, park, brick land and forest hill. There were also 3D structures of other future urban structures within Singapore. Another interesting plan included the Plan of Punggol. In this plan all the roads connected to the water, everything was within a walking distance of 500m and the LRT. Due to the HDB Hub being the place to buy public housing there were show flats of up to five bedroom much like IKEA.

The HDB Hub

We then went to the Pinnacle at Duxton an urban structure consisting of five 50 storey separate buildings connected by a skybridge on the top and middle floors. From the top we had an amazing view of Singapore. Along the sky bridge there were various seating areas, a beach that wasn’t really a beach and a rock-climbing structure.

The Pinnacle at Duxton

Our last stop for the night was the Gardens by the Bay. The first dome we went into was the flower dome. It contained many different gardens from all around the world. The other dome we went into was the cloud forest. This had a massive waterfall in it with many rainforest plants surrounding. The dome also consisted of various sky and tree top walks over the plants and waterfall. Lastly, we went to the light show at the outside gardens which was amazing seeing the structures change different colours to synchronised music.

Gardens by the Bay

After we headed back to our pods for a good night’s sleep and to prepare for our early flight the next morning.

NCP Sri Lanka/Singapore Urban Transformation Study Tour

Day 2 (the first full day in Singapore) of the Sri Lanka/Singapore NCP Study trip started off with breakfast at Maxwell food Centre. We then headed to meet with Peter Hyland, a urban land-use strategist, from Cistri. Cistri represents URBIS Australia’s International Business an Urban Development Firm.

Cistri: Meeting with Peter Hyland

From a student’s perspective that hasn’t completed their work placement yet, meeting with an industry professional was a great opportunity to get an insight to what the workplace would hold and especially from an overseas country. Peter Hyland is a very welcoming person, who’s presentation on the Planning of Singapore was fantastic. It was an eyeopener to see how much the country has changed over time, how it all interconnects and what they have implemented to continually improve the city. As Peter described, “Singapore is A Planning Utopia” and that is exactly how it is perceived, everything is planned with a purpose. A nice little surprise was actually meeting a current QUT student undertaking a placement/internship in Singapore, also under the NCP exchange but for 6 weeks. This was a great way to understand from another student’s perspective, how work placement is and what sorts of things are involved (and also the fact that they were completing the placement overseas made it very interesting). She joined us for the meeting and the rest of the day, and took us to her apartment where we met her to other roommates who, coincidentally were also completing the NCP exchange.

The rest of the afternoon was blocked out because we were unsure how long the meeting would go for. The meeting did end up finishing at around 12:30pm so it was perfect timing to go and grab some lunch. The Lau Pa Sat, food market was just a few hundred meters down the road which was perfect because, well Singapore in the middle of the day is very humid/hot.

Yummy Pho

From here we made our way to Chinatown. It’s fascinating to see the little hubs Singapore has created, just like in Australia. Being Chinese New Year soon the streets of Chinatown were filled with stalls selling decorations. This part of the city was a little more run down so it was great to compare the two parts of the city. To top off the visit to Chinatown a few of us decided to try Durian, and for those who don’t know what it is, Durian is the world’s most smelliest fruit and banned on parts of public transport, hotels and restaurants purely because of the stench. Let’s just say that it tastes just as it smells!!

After Chinatown we walked to the Urban Redevelopment Centre where we were able to have a look at a model of the whole of Singapore. Being able to see the whole city in one go is very cool and you to can gain a sense of perspective on everything. It allows you to see where you have travelled in comparison to the city centre and sometimes finding places we have visited and being surprised as to where they are located in the city. Past Master Plans and Concept Plans were also available for the public to view which was very educational. It was remarkable to see how the plans were put into action and the detail that goes into them is incredible.

Urban Redevelopment Centre: Model of Singapore

The night consisted of meeting the other QUT students that were over here on a NCP for 6 weeks short exchange. As they were staying in a unit we decided to go to their pool, because after walking around all day in the humid environment of Singapore the pool sounded fantastic. After the pool we caught the MRT to Marina Bay to watch the light show on the bay and boy was the light show an experience. The planning of the Marina Bay is truly incredible. One thing that stood out to me was the walkability distance between sites being so close. Light shows, a shopping centre, carnival, hotel and the gardens all being within a radius of approx 1km, and well we just had had to visit all of them.

After the first FULL day in Singapore you start to realise how lucky you are to have been selected to go on such a trip/study tour. Just after one day you start to bond with the group of students you are travelling with and the inside jokes start, you experience things that you may not have experienced if you were not with this group of people and last of all you make friendships that will continue once back at uni. The best part for this, is knowing we haven’t even started the Sri Lanka part of the trip and that will be one eye-opening experience.

E

Re-imagining India: Three Parts Exhilarating, One Part Exhausting

Alicia Shorey, Bachelor of Design

Short-term Program: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program

India (December 2018)

What can I say other than it is an experience of a lifetime. The Re-imagining India program is 3 parts exhilarating and one-part exhausting, but amazing none the less.

Taj Mahal

Over the course of two weeks I was submerged into Indian culture and dipped into a world so full of vibrancy that it allowed me to open my eyes up to so many different ways of thinking. The photos showcase a glimpse of my journey through Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur which consisted of morning yoga and Bollywood classes, industry and NGO visits, cultural sites and beyond.

Vibrant Elephants in India

A highlight of mine was Jaipur Foot which is an organisation which provides free prosthetic limbs to those in need. While there, we were able to see how the organisation operated and see first-hand how this organisation is restoring faith in many people. Being able to watch a limb being fitted and its instant effect on a person’s life was indescribable and something I’ll never forget.

Jaipur Foot

The program overall was jam-packed with a variety of activities to fit all interests. Delicious meals were provided every day and the overall cost of the trip excluding flights is next to nothing. What are you waiting for?

The program had activities to suit all interests

Every day was filled with content that provided us with different takes on India!

Sally Boden, Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program

India (December 2018)

The experiences, learnings and connections I made on my trip to India through IndoGenius’s Reimagining India Dec 2018 program will stay with me forever.  Travelling to India to learn from successful entrepreneurs, top universities, locals, politicians and my peers was such an immense privilege and an honour.  The schedule planned by the IndoGenius team was beyond incredible.  Every day was filled with content that provided us with different takes on India.  In addition to outings and activities, we were taught yoga, Bollywood dance, Hindi and Indian cooking which really helped immerse ourselves and engage with Indian culture.  I was privileged to have successfully received the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan funding to participate in this program.

The IndoGenius team who hosted us were inspiring, dedicated and passionate about India. The friendships I made on this trip made such a huge difference to how I was able to enjoy it.  Making friends allowed me to share what I saw and learnt, allowing me to reflect at the time on the over-load of information and experience of India, including experiencing eating curries for two weeks!  The numerous curries and naan’s I tried were delicious, although some curries were very spicy, and my new favourite dessert is ‘gulab jamun’, a heavenly melt-in-your-mouth doughnut ball soaked in syrup!

From Delhi to Jaipur to Mumbai, the learning and immersion was constant.  The first day in Delhi involved the centuries old, Hindu Havan fire ceremony, which was followed throughout the trip by several temple and religious site visits, each one representing a different religion.  When comparing the vivid, monumental and constant celebration of worship in India to Australian’s commitment to worship, there is a striking difference, generally, between our core values, resulting in a fundamentally different lifestyle and a bit of a culture shock for me.  The temples, forts and mosques we visited were breath-taking architectural achievements, my favourites including the Taj Mahal, Lotus Temple and Amer Fort.

The businesses and start-up companies we visited in all three cities widened my views and awareness as to how India will be the next global super power.  From small start-ups to global companies based in India, we witnessed how clever and quickly these companies found solutions to local problems and their passion for helping India move forward, internally and on a global scale, was impressive.  Several Indian companies are now aiming to move towards environmentally friendly solutions.  I was shocked at how bad the pollution levels were in India, to the point of physically feeling the smog in the early morning and at night.  An unexpected highlight of the trip for me was our tour through the Dharavi Slum in Mumbai.  Walking through narrow, odorous, dark and dirty alleyways and peering into resident’s small abodes provided me a true insight into their lifestyle.  Whilst the living conditions were substandard compared to Western living, Dharavi boasted a strong community feel in both the residential and industrial sections of the Slum.  Dharavi receives over 70% of all rubbish in Mumbai and recycles majority of it to reduce the exorbitant amount of waste that is produced in Mumbai.  I have my doubts as to whether many Westerners would be able to work the same 16 hour days in the same conditions as the locals.

This study tour exceeded all my educational expectations.  The personal, academic and professional growth I experienced during my time in India was unlike any other growth I’ve ever experienced in a two-week period.  The benefit of immersion into another culture to gain insight proved wholly engaging and educational.  I would love to travel back to India one day to continue exploring and experiencing India’s incredible landscapes, people, food and culture.

New Colombo Plan Internships in Tokyo and Seoul

 

After completing my language training and study component in Seoul, I began the internship element of my New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship. I undertook internships with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) in Tokyo and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) in Seoul.

I had a short break between the conclusion of my exchange at Korea University and the beginning of my internship with SMBC. I took this opportunity to explore Japan as it was my first time there. I flew straight into Osaka and immediately realised how much my Korean language skills had progressed when I found myself in a country where I struggled to remember basic hello and goodbyes. After a short stop in Osaka I caught a train to Kyoto, which was full of culture and history. It was great to learn about Japan and enjoy Kyoto’s stunning temples and landscape – a little hot though at 41 degrees Celsius with little to no wind!

(Temple in Kyoto)

I then got my first experience with the legendary bullet train from the somewhat sleepy Kyoto to the bustling Tokyo with over 9 million people living in Tokyo’s 23 wards. Despite being packed in tightly, I got to travel around and see some of Tokyo’s best sites, meet up with other NCP scholars and even drive around the streets of Tokyo in a go kart dressed as Mario.

 

(Go karting around Tokyo)

Soon enough, it came time to start my internship at SMBC. As one of Japan’s three largest banks, they were more than accommodating by allowing me to see various legal and financing departments, as well as sit in on conferences and meetings. I had some trepidation surrounding what I would be doing and how the cross-cultural communication would work, but everyone I met, both in and out of the office, was warm and welcoming. It was truly a fantastic experience!

(SMBC headquarters in Tokyo)

I then flew back to Seoul just in time to begin my internship with HSF. I was thoroughly welcomed by everyone at HSF and looked forward to working with them every day. I truly believe that most of the value you get out of an internship correlates to how much you want to put in. At HSF that was certainly the case and the lawyers were always willing to help you and give you interesting and challenging work. I would highly recommend future Korean scholars who are interested in commercial law explore an internship with HSF. Overall, I was very fortunate to have two wonderful internship experiences thanks to the NCP scholarship.

(Herbert Smith Freehills office in Seoul)

Thinking about the New Colombo Plan?

I am a 2018 New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholar who was based in Japan and South Korea. If you are considering applying for the NCP scholarship, I have outlined a few pointers from my time both as an NCP scholar and going through the application process.

1. Make sure that you have a focused proposed program before you write your application

If you have a thoroughly researched proposed program, it shows. A great thing about the NCP scholarship application process is that it makes you truly examine what you want to do and why you want to do it. If you have taken the time to create a well thought out program,  then you will have a much stronger application

2. Seriously consider undertaking a mentorship and a language program

Undertaking a mentorship and a language program will not only help you expand your global network and integrate into the culture, but it will also help you to get the most out of your experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Yonsei University and felt that it helped me settle into my new environment immensely.

3. Don’t limit your options before you are fully informed about all possibilities

The NCP scholarship allows students to study in a wide variety of countries, all of which have varying degrees of popularity, university choices, culture and opportunities. I would recommend that you take a serious look at all countries that the NCP allows students to travel to before narrowing down your options.

4. Reach out to previous NCP scholars

Before I went through the QUT interview stage for my application I reached out to two previous NCP scholars to know more about their program, the opportunities available to them as NCP scholars and any tips on the application process. Both scholars gave me great insight and helped me craft the best proposed program to achieve my goals. NCP scholars have all been through the application process, so I would highly recommend you try and get in contact with one or two.

5. Consider what you want to achieve from the scholarship

I would encourage you to take some time to think about the personal, educational and professional goals you want to achieve through the NCP scholarship and how the fulfillment of these goals will help the government accomplish its goals into the future.

Good luck!

(Attending the Embassy of Australia in Seoul as a 2018 NCP scholar)

 

 

 

Beginning Exchange Semester at Korea University

As part of the New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship, I completed a three-week Korean language intensive program at Yonsei University in Seoul before undertaking a semester exchange at Korea University (KU). At the end of my studies I undertook internships with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Tokyo and Herbert Smith Freehills in Seoul.

My time at South Korea was extraordinary. I arrived in winter and was able to enjoy a totally different climate to Brisbane. Just after I moved into the dormitories at KU we had a week of snow – which I thoroughly enjoyed. I then spent the last few weeks of winter taking advantage of the snow season skiing on the slopes of nearby Jisan Resort.

(First snowfall since moving to KU)

KU is an excellent university, offering a diverse range of subjects to exchange students taught by encouraging lecturers and support staff. During my time at KU I studied International Economic Law, Korean History & Culture, International Organisations, International Dispute Settlement, and I completed additional Korean language classes. KU has an encouraging atmosphere, allowing students to connect and gain an appreciation of Korean culture.  KU’s buddy program includes at least three social events held every week. I’ve found this to be a great way to meet other students and participate in activities that I ordinarily wouldn’t.

(Dressing in the traditional Hanbok 한복)

Additionally, KU’s rivalry with Yonsei University results in many events that the whole university participates in, including Ipselenti which is held in May and the Korea University vs. Yonsei University tournament. These are wonderful opportunities to get involved in the KU community, indulge in unique street food and practice university chants (including the infamous Yonsei Chicken song every KU student learns during orientation week).

For my semester exchange at KU I decided to apply for dormitory accommodation. There are two main dormitories. I was fortunate enough to stay at CJ International House. This dorm is more geared towards international students. There were three types of apartments available and you may end up in a single, double, or quad room. All apartments have ensuites and each floor has two kitchens available. I was lucky enough to live in an apartment on the sixth floor that had four single rooms, two ensuites and a living room.

(My dorm room in CJ International House)

I used my free time to explore Seoul and travel around Korea. If you find yourself in the region, I would highly recommend looking into a temple stay and taking a trip down to Busan or Jeju Island. Busan is a coastal city in the bottom right corner of Korea and is easily accessible by train from Seoul Station. I thoroughly enjoyed the difference in atmosphere and architecture between Seoul and Busan – plus I had a chance to have the live octopus dish!

(At Amnam Park in Busan)

Off to Shanghai!

Hi everyone!

My name is Jemma, and I’m a travel-bug-bitten 2ndyear business (and mandarin language) student. After many months in the making, tomorrow morning is the morning when my alarm will sound at the lovely time of 3:30am, and I will board a flight bound for one of China’s most exciting cities, Shanghai! Armed only with my limited mandarin and one incredibly heavy suitcase, the excitement and nerves have definitely started to kick in.

Before I even started university, I always knew I wanted to do a semester overseas. I’m a person who loves change, finding nothing more exhilarating than touching down in a foreign city. Honestly, the bigger the culture shock, the better! This is all much to my parents dismay of course, who would love nothing more than if I were to move out one street over and live in Bris-Vegas for the rest of my days. However much I love this river city though, that simply won’t be happening (sorry dad!).

This will be the first time I’ve ever set foot in the city of Shanghai, or even mainland China. Aside from the fact that the local street vendors serve up the tastiest xiaolongbao known to man, there’s really not a lot I know about this ever-changing place. They celebrate holidays I’ve never heard of, eat foods I’ve never tried and speak a language I’m still struggling to grasp. I really wouldn’t want it any other way, however I can admit I’m a little sad about having to celebrate my first Christmas away from home. Oh well, small sacrifice.

For those of you also contemplating spending a semester in this exciting country, allow me to give you a quick run-down of some key pre-departure info. Firstly, my advice would be to make a list of what you need to do, and DON’T leave it to the last minute. There will be mountains of forms you will need to fill out, and all will have a deadline. Trust me when I say the last thing you want to do is wake up and realise you’ve missed something important, like the date to book your dorm room. Not speaking from personal experience, but I do know someone who had to endure the last-minute struggle finding off-campus accommodation, and it isn’t fun. Secondly, when you apply for your visa, you will have to leave your passport with the consulate for a couple of days. This in itself was a little nerve-wracking, heightened by the fact the man next to me was being informed by frantic staff his passport may or may not have been misplaced. Luck was on my side however, and I received mine without drama. Just a heads up. Lastly, check out youtube to find some videos that cover student life in the city you want to travel too. They’re full of handy hints, from budgeting to local transport.

That’s all I have for you so far. So, until I hit the dorms of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 再见!

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

Starting my New Colombo Plan Program in Seoul!

I am currently in my fifth year of a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Business  (Accounting) degree and one of 120 university students to receive the 2018 New Colombo Plan Scholarship. The New Colombo Plan scholarship has allowed me to undertake a Korean language intensive program for three weeks at Yonsei University, followed by a semester exchange at Korea University and then two internships.

Yonsei University Intensive Language Program:
I completed my Korean language intensive program at Yonsei University in February 2018. The New Colombo Plan scholarship encourages and funds scholars to complete full-time language programs in order to not only connect with the local culture, but also to assist scholars on a practical level by giving them the skills needed to undertake basic tasks such as navigating the city.  This is especially important when there is not a lot of English available and it helps scholars settle into their new environment.

I arrived at my new home in Seoul on 1 February 2018 on a crisp winter night. During my program at Yonsei University I stayed with several other students at off campus accommodation arranged by the university. Whilst the accommodation was great, after all we were living in a serviced apartment, this did make it difficult to get to know the other students in the program. Lucky, as soon as classes begun, some four days after my arrival, I was able to get to know a range of amazing people from all across the world. Fortuitously, I also met a student from El Salvador that would be going to Korea University with me.

(Outside the front of Yonsei University during my last week of the intensive language program)

The Yonsei University program is certainly intense, but very rewarding. Already, I can see the benefits of this language training coming to fruition through the little things, like reading bus timetables and menus that are written only in Korean. Unlike some international summer or winter schools, the focus of Yonsei’s program was to learn Korean rather than foster relationships between students. Although this means that your language skills progress rapidly, it also reiterated a notion I found to often be true, you have to be the driver of your own participation. As there are little to no social activities set up for students, you have to be responsible for how involved you will be in the culture and how much you want to get out of the experience.

With the support of the NCP scholarship, I was able to make the most of my winter in Seoul by undertaking activities that I would otherwise be unable to participate in. Particularly, this applied to learning how to ski – a goal I have had for a while. I found my Korean ski instructor to be so helpful that I became somewhat overconfident and ended up on a slightly too advanced run for my skills set. Fortunately, I walked away only damaging my pride. Overall, I had a wonderful experience at the Yonsei University language program.

(Learning to ski at Jisan Resort)

You can follow my experience as a New Colombo Plan scholar on Instagram at travel_life_sarah.