Studying and Travelling in Japan

Hello again,

Instead of discussing general things about Japan this entry I thought I would detail specifically what studying and travelling within Japan is like. So, this entry will be more interesting to those who want to know more about these two aspects of Japan.

I must admit that studying Japanese has been very difficult. It’s a far more complicated language than I first expected. For example: symbols known as ‘kanji’ can have multiple meanings depending upon the context that they are used within and words that are pronounced the same can have different meanings depending on context and intonations. But, as an exchange student, I have found that work loads are not particularly strenuous and I have very few major assessments. However, this does depend on how good you are at Japanese as friends of mine studying at higher levels seem to have quite intense work loads.

Furthermore, a typical university week will generally involve 5 days of classes. You may get lucky and only receive 4 days, but this is a rare occurrence. Also, you must attend the majority of these classes (at least at my university, Ritsumeikan) otherwise you will fail; but don’t worry, you would have to skip a lot of classes for this situation to become a reality.

Unfortunately, as a result of this, opportunities to travel are limited and can often only be done on weekends. This is what I have done through out my stay here and it has worked out fairly well and has undoubtedly been worth the hassle. However, this means that in order to see all the places I wish to see I have to be as economical as possible with my travel and, unfortunately, travelling in Japan can be very expensive. In particular, the Shinkansens (or bullet trains) are outrageously expensive (but I must say, very convenient). So, for travel, I have been taking overnight buses to all locations. Although these are admittedly very uncomfortable they are cheap (the most important factor of all), especially when you buy a Willer Bus Pass, which is available for all foreigners entering Japan. This link provides all the information you need about the pass: willerexpress.com/st/3/en/e3/buspass/.

I hope that this information will prove to be important to those who are considering an exchange to Japan and if anyone who reads this has any questions about studying and travelling in Japan please leave a comment and I’ll answer it as soon as I can.

Till then, Sayoonara.

P.S. make sure you visit Japan in Autumn so that you can see sights such as this:

 

Salam sejahtera! Snippets from my Surabaya experience.

Scott C, Bachelor of Property Economics
Universitas Surabaya, Indonesia
Semester 1, 2018

First of all, Surabaya has a very culturally rich history and the locals are very proud of this, its best that you at least try to familiarise yourself with some of the historical events and culture customs, as this will help you understand Surabaya’s Identity. You will find most people in Surabaya upon meeting foreign people will be very curious and will ask for pictures and may want to ask you a lot questions, don’t worry or suspect anything, generally this is to do with the fact that they usually don’t get a lot of tourists (especially in the more rural areas), so naturally they are very curious. Sometimes, you can get the reverse because they are shy, this is easy to overcome, a good ice breaker is simply introducing yourself in Indonesian, “Nama Saya *insert your name*”, roughly translates to, “name my”, they most likely will laugh at your terrible attempt and then become more talkative. Try to learn some basic Indonesian, as this will become helpful in negotiations with taxi drivers, store vendors and so on, otherwise you may be given the “tourist prices”, but if you speak a little Indonesian they will likely become a more negotiable.

Photo taken: Borobudur Yogyakarta

Getting started

Getting your phone connected in Indonesia is relatively straight forward, if your accommodation is close to UBAYA (assuming you are on exchange), there is a mall called “Marina Plaza”, this mall mainly sells phones and data sims. Data sims are very widely used in Indonesia, and they are probably the easiest to obtain and recharge. Basically most of the people use Whatsapp to call and text, which the data sim is able to be used for. Regular plans can offer actual calling and texting options, but are very expensive in comparison. $50k Rupiah, should get 5GB of data, which will likely last you over a month. It will allow access to Facebook, YouTube and so on. You are able to recharge the data sims at either alfa-marts or indo-marts, they will require your phone number and clearly state that you are topping up your data, otherwise they might give you a call and text recharge, which is not what you want, most of the time they will understand, but the odd occasion they don’t, just use Google translate, 9 times out of 10 that will solve most miscommunication issues.

On that note, there are also another two apps worth downloading: GoJek and Grab. Grab is a taxi service that is similar to Uber, usually there is a fixed price and this service can be either linked to your debit/credit card or they have a cash option. GoJek is probably one of the most important apps (it will take some time to set this app up properly), as it not only allows you to order taxis (similar process to Grab), but also you can order food. The food options are limitless and cater for most tastes, please note though that there is a delivery charge and also in comparison to local food cost, it is quite expensive.

Photo taken: Heroes Monument

Things to see and do

If you feel like doing some touristy stuff, there is the Heroes Monument and Museum, which celebrates Indonesian independence from colonial rule and the integral part Surabaya played in this war. Ciputra Waterpark and Mount Bromo which isn’t too far from Surabaya are also great attractions. These are the main ones, but there is also a lot more to do and the more locals you meet the more options you will have. There are a lot of old temples and mosques, which date back hundreds of years, that are only minutes outside of the city. It’s suggested that you try to take part in as many events that you get invited to as possible, as it will allow you to mingle with local people and students, which results in invitations to other events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos taken: Borobudar Yogyakarta and Bromo Volcano

Accommodation

In regards to accommodation, here are some points to look out for:

  • Be wary of additional taxes, as these apply to services such as electricity, water and rent, so be polite and ask them to write down or explain the taxes in English and always ask for receipt.
  • You will be required to provide 3-months rent up-front plus bond.
  • Most student accommodation will have a provider for internet, generally it is easier to just go with that option, as the packages are fairly cheap.
  • They do not complete a proper entry report, so make sure and check that everything works.
  • Do not be afraid to ask them to repair pre-existing damages.
  • Not all apartments come with heated water.
  • Not all apartments will have a stove top.
  • Do not expect apartments to have cutlery.
  • There is Wi-Fi in all lobbies.
  • Most staff will speak little English, so Google translate is initially your new best friend until you speak some basics.
  • Water dispensers are a must, not all apartments have them, shouldn’t cost more than $12-$20.
  • Be religiously sensitive, most of the staff and locals in the area are Muslim, so be careful what you say and do, so try to inform yourself about the local customs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo taken: Hand of the Yogyakarta

5 Must-Have Apps When Studying Abroad in South Korea

Marisa K, Bachelor of Journalism / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)

Korea University (Semester 1, 2018)

Travelling to a foreign country for the first time is daunting for anyone. Seoul is a fantastic city that has a lot of delicious food to eat, interesting things to do and beautiful places to visit. However, navigating the city and making plans can be tough, especially if you don’t speak Korean. Luckily, there are several smartphone apps that will make studying and making friends in Korea so much easier.

Here are 5 apps you can download for free that will make your life in Korea infinitely easier!

1. KakaoTalk


This is the number one messaging app in South Korea and it should be one of the first things you download as a newcomer to the country. Everyone and anyone has this app in Korea and trust me, it will become the main way you communicate with your new friends whilst studying abroad.

The app allows you to communicate with other KakaoTalk users through text and call and lets you send photos and videos all free of charge as long as you have an internet connection.

2. Naver Map


Google Maps is virtually inexistent in South Korea – the local version Naver Map is the more reliable and detailed map service to use. This interactive map application also allows you to download the maps beforehand for offline use. It also has a handy feature that lets you save and download locations in Korean which is useful for when you’re lost and want to show the address to a friendly local to get help with directions. The only downside is that you’ll need to be able to read and type in Hangul as the app is only available in Korean.

3. Subway Korea


Korea has one of the most organised and easiest to navigate subway systems in the world. However, the Subway Korea app makes it even easier. This app is available in English and Korean. Download it on your phone to navigate the quickest route to your destination with minimum transfers, receive information on when the next train will arrive, when the first and last trains are for the day, and which carriage you should be on for the quickest transfer. Subway stations in Seoul can be quite crowded and you don’t want to waste time trying to figure out the subway map posters so a few simple clicks are all it takes with the Subway Korea app to get you to where you want to go.

4. KakaoTaxi


Although Korea’s public transportation system is world-class, there will definitely be situations where you won’t be able to use the subway or buses (for example, in the early hours of the morning). KakaoTaxi has you covered for those situations. No matter where you are in Korea, this ride-hailing app is cheap, fast and convenient and will have a taxi dispatched to your location within minutes. The app works similarly to Uber and is a safe alternative option to public transport.

5. Yogiyo


Let’s face it, as an exchange student in Korea there’ll be many times when you find yourself hungry but too lazy to leave your room. Yogiyo lets you easily order anything and have it delivered straight to you – Chinese, pizza, Burger King, and even ice cream and desserts. You can also read recommendations and reviews for restaurants and the app has real food pictures so you can see what you’re ordering.

From towering city streets to ski fields and mountains, cultural and historical experiences, plenty of delicious food to eat there’ll be many amazing memories you’ll make whilst on exchange in South Korea! Just be sure to download these helpful apps to help you make the most of your exchange experience!

Sometimes, you’ve gotta go with the flow on exchange

Yasmine E
Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

 

“You will love Copenhagen”
“Copenhagen is such a great city”
“Everyone in Copenhagen is so good looking”
“You will bike ride everywhere”

These are just a few of the lines I heard over and over again when I told people I was going to Copenhagen on exchange. Of course, this made me overwhelmingly excited! I mean who wouldn’t be right? But there was still this voice in my head saying “how could everyone love one place?” “Can everyone be that good looking” “I never ride a bike at home, I can’t see myself doing it every day there” Boy was I so wrong, so very wrong.

Yeah, so I did end up riding a bike… a lot.

But it wasn’t all roses at the start. Let’s go back to the beginning. I arrive into Copenhagen from travelling around Scotland and England for close to two weeks. I touch down and am instantly blown away by the amount of ridiculously good looking people, I mean everyone everywhere is drop dead gorgeous.

So I continue on in my sheer awe grab my luggage… which I am still feeling smug about getting an extra 7 kgs on for free (winning already) and catch up with my buddy that my uni Copenhagen Business School (CBS) had organised we get chatting and make our way to the Metro, this is by far the most efficient Metro system I have ever seen, there are only 2 lines and they run every 2.5 minutes. So there is no waiting and very little crowding.

We arrive at our stop and walk to the bus located in Copenhagen’s main district Norreport. It is at this point I feel an overload of new information, it is freezing cold, I am looking out for not only cars but pedestrians and now bikes too.

We cross the road and make our way to the bus, which unlike the metro is very busy and only arrives every 15 minutes. We shuffle on with try to find a decent place for all of my luggage without annoying any other commuters. I am in awe of all the buildings. The bus comes to a screeching halt and naturally I fall over all of my luggage, I am shuffling around trying to pick myself up while repeating profusely “undskyld” (pardon me) it is at this point I pull my handbag back to the front of my body and find my zipper open and my wallet was gone… sneaky bugger got me!

Instantly I was devastated and did all the right things like cancelling my cards and going to the police station to report the incident (which was not on the top of my ‘to visit’ list). It took me a few days to settle into Copenhagen after this but once the welcome week festivities began it was like nothing had gone wrong.

Even though it was a rough start, and sometimes things do go wrong, you are going to have the time of your life, trust me!

If you would like to know more or have any questions at all no matter how long or small feel free to add me on Facebook and ask away!

 

Snowball fights and study at Simon Fraser University

Mikaela H
Bachelor of Business (Marketing) / Bachelor of Creative Industries (Fashion Communication)
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

 

In terms of content studied I found SFU’s business units to be on a similar level to QUT’s. However, there were some differences in assessments, grading and how things were taught. For SFU’s business units they are graded on a grading curve, where you marks are determined by how everyone in your class performs too (which can work for or against you). This meant it was quite hard to determine how you were going throughout the semester but worked out for me in the end.

The other thing that was different to QUT for me was class participation marks and the lack of recorded lectures. This meant that class attendance was a must and did mean that I wasn’t able to travel and do as many activities during university as originally planned. Other than this there wasn’t too much of a difference and I really enjoyed studying at SFU.

Well, you just have to get in a snowball fight while in Canada…

Like mentioned earlier my travel was limited due to study but with so many things to do in Vancouver and with Whistler only being 2hrs away I was still able to do a lot of the things I wanted to do. I would however highly recommend having some extra time either before or after study to travel as friends of mine who did not have extra time to travel after study did wish they allowed time to do so. Another tip of mine is take out the extra QUT exchange loan if you feel like you might not have enough money for the trip as it is the worst when you are worried about funds and then are stopping yourself from doing the things you want to be doing.

Overall, I had an amazing exchange, did so many things I’ve never done before like snowboarding as well making some long lasting friendships with people from all over the world as well as Canada.

Snowboarding while on Exchange

Learning and living at Leeds

Jordan W
(BCI student Majoring in Drama, Minors in Scenography and Literature)
Leeds University, UK

 

Leeds University is built on-top of a mountain that looks over the town. It is known to be one of the prestigious universities of England known as the Red Brick Universities. Don’t let this fool you. It’s very much a community, with teachers and academics giving you insight into the living and academics of the institution.

Here, the teachers do throw you in the deep-end. But if you have a level-head ask a lot questions and confer with your tutor teacher specifically tasked with helping your academic needs, you will have a great time. The assignments are much larger than QUT which is around 2500 – 5000 words, so be prepared for more rigorous researching and studying which you can do at three separate libraries on campus, the Laidlaw, Brotherton and Parkinson libraries.

The Brotherton Library

The campus has numerous dorms surrounding it. I stayed in Storm Jameson Court West that was considered the ritzy part of campus, I did not know this at the time. I only wanted a place with an ensuite bathroom. It was a gated complex with its own reception area with two computers, multiple desk areas for work and a free pool table. It made it very fun in with roommates late at night with a cup of hot cocoa.

I enjoyed my time here at the dorm, I was on a floor with seven other occupants, one a friend of mine from QUT which made the trying times without vegemite that much easier to complain about. I had three fellow roommates from the New York City / State area, a Nigerian, and one Londoner who accompanied me on so many journeys around Leeds and the places surrounding such as York, which was magnificent with its old castle wall and cathedrals.

Just some of the friends you will make on exchange

The U.K has so much to offer and so does Leeds University, it is situated in the heart of a town where it is built around student life. Any student will have fun here studying. The dorm life is what you’ll remember, have long chats into the night with fellow strangers as you turn into family.

Experience the Dutch Life

Kellie Amos, Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries
Maastricht University, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2017 Exchange)

Maastricht – birthplace of the European Union
A beautiful medieval city, Maastricht is home to a large international student population – particularly from the neighboring countries Belgium and Germany. People from all over the world come to study at the university and improve their English. Given the large student population there’s rarely a time where something isn’t going on in one of the city squares, the Vrijthof and the Market, especially in the summer. The student organisation
ISN regularly puts on events and trips for exchange students, and you can’t miss their infamous CANTUS nights (think karaoke meets Oktoberfest) or their ‘Discover’ weekend trips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to being such a beautiful place to live, Maastricht is also extremely close to other European countries. I walked and biked to Belgium with my friends on many occasions, and catching trains across the border was just as easy. You can catch trains and buses to Germany, France, and Luxembourg with just as much ease but if you’re traveling via the NS (Netherlands railway company) use Facebook groups to find others so you can buy cheaper tickets for €7 (see links at the end of this document). The closest airport is Eindhoven, which offers really cheap flights, and you can also get some incredibly good value flights from Brussels’ airports.

Dutch Culture and Carnaval!
You get a very authentic taste of Dutch life living in Maastricht. The locals in this region love to drink, sing, and dance – as evidenced by the incredible festival Carnaval (not to be confused with the South American Carnival). Although I could never get any one person to tell me exactly what the festival was for, it essentially started as a tradition in the southern parts of Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany where people would fill the streets in elaborate costumes and drink and eat for 3 days. If you’re planning on going to Maastricht for exchange, you have to go during first semester. Carnaval takes place in March and is truly a sight to behold!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost of Living
For my exchange, I used a Velocity Global Wallet Card, which allows you to load AUD on to it and exchange it into several other currencies, including the Euro and Pound. It works like a normal visa debit card and has no fees for electronic transactions, just a small dollar fee for cash withdrawals. Being a small city, many of the establishments in Maastricht don’t accept traditional credit card providers like visa, so I did have to use cash quite often.

Some Final Advice…
In the span of your lifetime, 6 months might not equate to much, but an exchange feels like you’ve just lived an entire years worth of experiences in half the amount of time. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you can put down roots in another part of the world. I don’t have any regrets about my exchange and I could spend hours telling you more about the things I was able to see, do, and live thanks to this opportunity. Instead, the last piece of advice I give you is to find some way to remember it – whether that’s photos, a journal, a blog, collecting souvenirs, or a combination of all those – I can guarantee you’ll want some kind of physical evidence it wasn’t just a dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exchange isn’t easy, you will have lows along with the highs, but it is so worth your time and effort! Here are some extra links to help —

Facebook group for NS Group Tickets: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1472379199695327/

Facebook group for Second-hand Bikes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/216524551852144/

Facebook group for Bikes and Furniture: https://www.facebook.com/groups/zarurahusam/

A Semester in the True North

Kathryn Frost – Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Ottawa (Semester 1, 2017 Exchange)

I was fortunate enough to spend Semester 1, 2017 completing an exchange at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. Applying for an exchange at the University of Ottawa was definitely the best decision I’ve ever made and my exchange takes the cake as the best six months of my life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studying at Ottawa

I was enrolled in the Faculty of Common Law, but in addition to studying two law subjects, I was also able to study two history subjects within the Faculty of Arts. Whilst the academic system at uOttawa was similar to QUT, I noticed some differences:

  • Class sizes for my law subjects were a lot smaller than at QUT – there were only 20 students in each of my subjects!
  • I had a lot more contact hours at uOttawa than I have had at QUT. As I had to attend two classes per week for each subject, I had classes 5 days per week.
  • Classes aren’t recorded and most professors take attendance, so you really do have to attend classes.

Accommodation

The majority of exchange students that I knew lived in Brooks Residence, which made for a fun living arrangement. I lived in a four-bedroom apartment in Brooks Residence, with an English and Belgian housemate. Some of the highlights of living in residence included many communal dinners, sleepovers and 2am fire evacuations! Living on campus has many benefits, including proximity to university facilities and classes (which is very convenient during winter when you have to trek through very cold and snowy weather on icy footpaths to get to class!) but also the atmosphere and experience of on-campus life is unbeatable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Life & Activities

I attended numerous university events including the annual Capital Hoops basketball game where the uOttawa Gee-Gees face off against the Carleton University Ravens at the Canadian Tire Centre, ice hockey games, as well as the campus Poutine and Snow Festivals and weekly pet therapy sessions! The International Office ran an exchange buddy program, and also organized events for exchange students, including a day trip to Parc Oméga in Quebec, a Canadian-style safari park, and tickets to a NHL game at the Canadian Tire Centre. I attended a weekend trip to Quebec City including a day of dog sledding, snowmobiling and ice fishing, and a 3-day trip to the North of Canada to stay with Indigenous people and learn about their way of life, both of which were organized by the university’s outdoor activities coordinator.

The Weather

One important thing to note about living on the east coast of Canada is the weather! It can get extremely cold in winter. The coldest weather I experienced was -32, with the wind chill factor making it ‘feel like’ -35. Most of the buildings at uOttawa are connected so that students can avoid walking outside on very cold days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Future Students

  • In the semester that I was studying at uOttawa, Law students didn’t have a ‘reading week’ (i.e. mid-semester break), whereas every other faculty did, so keep that in mind when you are making travel plans.
  • I would definitely encourage future students to study a French language subject while at uOttawa. This is something I wish I had done!

 

 

 

 

It is nearly impossible to pick the highlight of my exchange, having experienced so many new and incredible things during my time in Ottawa and throughout my travels. However, the clear winner would have to be the friends I made during my time in Ottawa. I am so lucky to have met so many incredible people from all over the world (including Canada!) who I know will be friends for life. These friends definitely made my exchange experience all that it was and I look forward to meeting up with them again in the future.

 

Norwegian Adventure

Kathleen, O. Bachelor of Business

Norwegian Business School (Semester 2, 2017)

Norway? Why did you pick Norway? – Most common question I received after getting my acceptance letter. Next in line was Australia *shocked face* gosh that must have been a long flight, how long did it take? Really long mostly, but it was definitely worth it.

Snow = Building a Snowman

So why did I pick Norway? Well it was as far away from Australia I could think of, I was getting the opportunity of immersing myself into a different culture (but where they still speak English) and I was guaranteed to see snow. I have seen snow before just FYI but come on its snow, who doesn’t like snow?!Well I got to see snow, sadly only for a couple of weeks but I can now say that I lived somewhere it snowed, so I’m happy.

Host Country:

Norway is a beautiful country with its extremely picturesque mountains and fjords. For my exchange in Norway, I was based in the capital city, Oslo. It was a bit of an adjustment for me because while it’s the capital city, Norway does only have a population of 5.3 million so Oslo wasn’t really a big city.

Christmas markets

It may be a small city but its big at heart, there is always something going on in the city.

 

Like most European countries, transportation in Oslo was great and easy to use, I love ferries and one of my highlights during my stay in Oslo was catching a ferry to the Islands on the fjord, have a picnic, watch the sunset and see some natural wildlife – I was followed around the island by a couple of foxes, so cute. The downside to Oslo and Norway is that the cost of living is high, so be prepared to come home broke like I did. The transportation card for 30 days costs about 70 AUD, rent (I was staying at the student dorms run by the university) including electricity will set you back somewhere around the 600-700AUD a month. I would recommend the student dorms though, because they mostly come fully furnished so you don’t have to buy much.

Host University:

Studying at BI is a bit different to QUT there is a lot more emphasis on independent study. You still have the standard 3-hour contact hours, but instead of a lecture and tutorial, it’s just a 3-hour lecture. Also at least for me my final grade was 100% made of by my final exam or term paper. Which was a bit daunting and I found that it made studying at BI a lot harder than at QUT, as there was no way to assess how I was

Bergen

actually doing with the course content and if I needed to put more study time in. Thankfully, to pass you only require 30%, which was lucky for me as I spend more time travelling then studying.

 

One of the things I really liked abut studying at BI was the events they run throughout the semester focused but not exclusively towards international and exchange students. So there was free weekly coffee days, hiking and activity trips, and free food. Once a month (ish) BI runs a free food night, usually themed, called BI-nner. You have to get in fast though because everyone likes a free feed and tickets sell out in minutes. The University of Oslo also holds free movie nights once a fortnight, in their lecture halls. Its just a 10min train ride to the University from BI, so as ways to save money but hang out with your new found friends, this is a must.

Travel:

While I was living in Norway, I spend some time travelling Norway. I went to Bergen via the train – the worlds best scenic train ride apparently – and they are not wrong.

Northern Lights

Plus side too is that train is a lot cheaper than flying in Norway, downside it takes nearly 3 times as long to get where you are going. I also went to Tromso, saw the northern lights and went dog sledding. As recommendations go, Tromso or the Loften Islands is a must do if you are ever in Norway. I also got to travel around Europe. I went to Amsterdam with the International Student Society at BI. One of my friends and I also spent the weekend in Budapest – such a beautiful city and really cheap. We also spend a week in London after our exams had finished.

View from Buda Castle

We saw the Lion King and Aladdin, saw the sunset over London from the eye and shopped, shopped until our hearts were content.

I could go on about all the amazing things I did and saw while on my exchange but I would be here for ages. So my parting gift – seriously go on an exchange, I can’t recommend it enough! It is worth every dollar of my spend pennies.

Oh Candaaaa!

Rosanna, E. Bachelor of Business and Creative Industries

Ryerson University (Semester 1, 2017)

I experienced my exchange in Toronto, Canada and endured the frigid winter that it put on display. This was the first challenge I faced; the lead up to my exchange was so swift and overwhelmingly busy at times, that I had forgotten to prepare myself for -20 degree days, not including wind chill. I quickly discovered that I am a Queenslander at heart, I became a sun-worshiper and tested my room-mate’s patience with me as I constantly pointed out how cold it was and refused to go outside if it wasn’t a necessity.

Me playing in snow for the first time

I resided in a co-op building which was recommended to all the exchange students who were attending Ryerson University. This was great as it meant practically everyone who was involved in the program also lived, ate and drank together daily. My room-mates quickly became my closest friends which I cherished when battling my homesickness. This was another thing that shocked me and something I really didn’t think I would experience! I hopelessly missed the clear blue skies of Brisbane and the constant stream of vitamin D from the sun; it’s safe to say that I truly experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)! EVERYTHING changed for me though on my mid-semester break, where my French room-mate and I took a spontaneous trip to Mexico. The trip healed my longing for sun while simultaneously changing my perspective on my not-yet enjoyed experience. People who go on exchange do-so for a reason; whether that may be to experience new things, for personal growth, to travel while studying or to drink your way through classes and scrape by with a satisfactory grade. For me, acknowledging that I was homesick and deciding to accept that and embrace the opportunity that I had worked so hard to give myself was the best decision I made.

The Toronto sky line from Toronto Island

I began to embrace the snow and the ice glazed streets and the fact that I could never feel my hands or feet. More importantly though, I embraced the people I was meeting and opened to the idea that my friends back home didn’t have to be my only friends. My greatest joy that the exchange program brought me were the friendships I found. People on exchange generally have this mentality and openness to life that I loved. Everyone is there with the assumption socialising is a priority, thus people had a zest for life and new experiences. It was refreshing and an opportunity to break away from the predispositions I felt held me back in Brisbane and an opportunity for me to become more confident in myself. Exchange gave me the time away from home that gave me the opportunity to be truly isolated from the friends and family that have surrounded me my whole life. I could experience who I was and what I wanted without those external influences and it felt quite liberating!

The Washington sister Women’s March in Toronto

I now have a new fondness and appreciation for home and the people there while also having a lust and excitement for travelling to unfamiliar places. The exchange program created a catalyst for me to be confident in myself and my passions and has enabled me to have a zestiness for life to carry out and achieve big blinding goals that I would never have thought I could achieve before leaving home! I’m very grateful that I took advantage of the opportunity and have signed up for a study tour in Peru at the end of this year to further my personal growth!