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 🙂

Bubblin’ Dublin

Renee G., Bachelor of Business International
University College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 2, 2017)


I began the second half of my full year of study abroad at University College Dublin in Dublin, the capital city of Ireland. The first day that I arrived on campus I was very surprised at the size of the university and a bit in shock about how I was going to find my way around as my previous host university was a lot smaller. I found UCD campus to be very clean and well looked after and goes above and beyond to provide numerous facilities for students including multiple food restaurants, cafes, small supermarket, bus stop within campus, free gym, pool and sport facilities, a cinema, uni bar and a bank. The university itself is almost like a small city and this was very handy for us international students. In terms of buildings/classes, each academic school has its own allocated building for classes, for example I was a part of the Quinn School of Business and therefore all my classes were in the Quinn building. This made finding classes a lot easier and saved time if you had classes back to back. Each of these buildings are fitted with numerous study rooms, printing facilities, support staff and lunch areas to make your academic experience great.

Trinity College Dublin

Whilst at UCD I chose to stay in on campus accommodation for security, the proximity to campus was convenient. Although expensive, I also found this to be the best way to meet other international students as there are many rooms allocated to them in a certain area. When it comes to choosing accommodation, there are about 5-6 different options, some catered and others not. There is also a difference in room size, shared or own bathrooms and number of flat mates. In the end I chose Merville Residences as it was one of the cheaper options that provided a sufficient living environment for the four months I would be there. I shared my flat with three other international students, one girl from New Zealand, one guy from Germany and one guy from America. These students turned out to be very good friends and based on their connections with other students from their home universities and countries, making friends and socialising was made easy.

UCD Residences

During orientation week at UCD, the international society puts on a large range of activities for students to participate in if they like as well as the residences hub Reslife who also organise numerous night and day options for students to get to know each other. These events gave me the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and interact with students from around the world. Additionally, through my flatmates friends and connections I could connect with people who I will now consider friends for life and be sure to catch up with in the coming years. I strongly advise to participate in as much as possible so you are never left to do anything alone as that is not always the greatest idea when in a foreign country.

In terms of Dublin City, there will always be something for you to do. It is full of pubs, restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, great nightlife and the people are the friendliest bunch you will ever meet. The Irish culture is one you don’t want to miss out on experiencing if you have the chance. As Dublin is a large city there are numerous forms of public transport, but most popular is the bus system as this is required to get from the UCD campus into town using the student leap card. If you want to explore the rest of Ireland as well, the train/rail system is also a handy way to get somewhere faster than on a bus, but the cost of transport in Ireland is not cheap. This also goes for the cost of living as groceries and accommodation whether it be on and off campus will be higher than you expect. On a more positive note, the city itself and surrounding suburbs I found to be very safe and I was comfortable whilst travelling alone, but of course always use your common sense and be aware of your surroundings.

Dublin City

Now, much like my first exchange in England, the weather in Ireland can be very unpredictable and you can experience all four seasons in one day. Lucky for me, I was fortunate enough to get numerous sunny days during the four months I was there but as expected there were many cloudy, rainy and windy days as well. Despite the weather, Ireland is a beautiful country with a lot to enjoy and with its proximity to Europe you have the chance to travel to numerous beautiful countries as well on the weekends or whenever you please. My advice to everyone is don’t miss out on taking advantage of Ireland’s location and the cultures you could experience that are only an hours flight away. Try not to stress about money and just make the most of it.

I must say the highlight of my exchange was the people I met and friendships I made along the way as without them my experience would have been a lot different. Of course, the academic side is very important as well and UCD is fortunately a lot like QUT and how everything runs so you shouldn’t have too many issues with settling in. I highly recommend UCD as an exchange destination and you’d be crazy not to go if offered the chance. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way and enjoy the time you have because I can assure you it goes quicker than you would think possible.

Ring of Kerry

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.

The Great Land of Ireland

Sophie R., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries
University College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 2, 2017)

The University College Dublin (UCD) in the Republic of Ireland is a great destination for an exchange. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ireland and would highly recommend it.

Host Country

Irish culture is unique and is largely homogenous and the Irish people are exceedingly friendly, welcoming and resilient. Not many places in the world can one have a lively conversation with a stranger in the supermarket like neighbours or meet people on buses who are happy to chat and interested in a stranger. The rebellious and turbulent history still affects the Irish today, encouraging their resilience, spirit and pride. The landscape has the beauty of quaint rural villages to windswept dramatic coastlines. Dublin is a city with a small-town vibe but the vibrancy of a global hub with headquarters for Google and other multinational corporations being situated there.

Host University

UCD is an organised and modern university with many support-mechanisms for international students. Living on campus provides many opportunities for meeting new people with the Resident Life organisation offering many social events to ensure international students feel included.

Struggles

There was only one major struggle I experienced on my exchange and it was of an administrative nature. I had 18 pre-approved subjects from QUT including subjects that correlated with my QUT business subjects as well as some very interesting electives from other faculties. When I arrived, I discovered I was unable to study outside of the business faculty and I almost did not have enough subjects to complete at UCD. Due to this miscommunication between the universities, my first week in Ireland was stressful. So, for incoming international students, it is best to expect some hiccups with subject enrolments.

Tips

As for my tips for future exchange students going to Ireland, I have five. (1) For on-campus accommodation, be prepared for applications to open late at night. Campus accommodation applications are highly competitive. (2) As for clubs and societies, quality not quantity is the best option. Your time will be divided between travel, university life and study, so sign up for one or two clubs and make a conscious effort to go to their events. One of my favourite experiences at UCD was an entrepreneurship competition at Google as part of the Entrepreneurs and Inventors Society. (3) Make the most of travelling around Ireland. Many students spent all their time travelling elsewhere in Europe and regretted not exploring more local sights. (4) Seek out live music. Venture to Cork and find a small pub to listen to the mischievous Irish music. For a more contemporary repertoire, Dublin is the place to be with the buskers on Grafton Street and the singers in pubs on Temple Bar. (5) There will be highs and there will be lows. That’s just travel, and it is best to be prepared.

Trip of a Lifetime in Canada

Amy T., Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
Simon Fraser University, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)

 

My Canadian exchange was like all my dream adventures combined into one! I arrived in the heat of summer in July 2018 and stayed until mid-January 2019, living on campus, making lots of friends and seeing the amazing country that is Canada.
One of the reasons I travelled to Canada was to visit family that lived in Vancouver, on Bowen Island, a quaint little place, 20 minutes from the mainland by ferry.

Bowen Island

You certainly wouldn’t see a Walmart or a McDonald’s here, only cute little family run stores. Using my uncle’s house as a base for my first month, I managed to tick off all the places on the bucket list I’d made before leaving home. Public transport was great, and I got to see the city sites easily. For the places further away, I travelled with a small bus tour on a 4 day trip to Vancouver Island and an eight day Banff trip.

Exploring Scenic Canada

All thanks to our knowledgeable and energetic tour guide, I got to do things I’d expect most tourists wouldn’t, like scaling a rock face on the side of a road to see a hidden waterfall, hear the history of each town along the way and sit back while someone else did the driving and the time management. I would 100% recommend Moose tours for anyone looking for a fast-paced and fun-filled adventure that is practically stress free.

Burnaby Campus – SFU

After a month of adventuring, it was time for university. The Burnaby campus of Simon Fraser University was on top of a hill that overlooked Vancouver. The sunsets from the lookout were so magical that photos cannot do it justice. My campus was surrounded by maple forest and there were countless walking tracks to explore.

Living there, right on campus, was the best! I stayed in a townhouse with 3 others. Initially we were all strangers but throughout the semester we got to know each other so well! There was always someone to chat with, laugh with and eat with (three of my favourite things). My place was only a 15-minute walk to class meaning I could often sleep in… which is always a good thing.

My dorm room on Campus

There were other things about the campus which were great too, like the family of raccoons I met on my first day at the university! So feisty, so cute… The university had a lot of events such as the winter festival where I collected freebies and learnt how to walk on ice and free s’mores which were available every day. I would often find myself warming up next to a fire pit, roasting a marshmallow. Thankfully, SFU also had a conveniently located gym with fitness classes that I enjoyed daily as well.

Roasting S’mores at Winter Festival

With so much happening on campus, getting involved meant making friends was easy. I joined The Point church which was on campus and consequently made so many Canadian friends!! Getting to know everyone from the church through bible studies and shared local meals made my exchange experience feel so authentically Canadian.

Meeting New Friends

In terms of studying, university was slightly different. Many of my classes had four 1-hour sessions a week. Only one of my classes had recorded lectures. Two of my subjects didn’t even have lecture slides! The marking system was different because they used a bell curve and you couldn’t really predict what mark you were going to get. Luckily, because I was on exchange, I didn’t have to worry. Even though there was always more study to be done, I made time to see just a little bit more of Canada on my weekends!

Travelling on the weekend to see Canada

The Canadian culture was very similar to Australian culture and the accent was one I quickly got used to. Small language differences were always a source of confusion and laughter. “Mince”, “lollies” and “ute” seemed to stump Canadians… while “tuque” (beanie) was hard for me to get used to! Halloween and Thanksgiving were new celebrations for me, and the candy and pumpkin pie were thoroughly enjoyed.

Enjoying a white Christmas

After my exams, my Australian family flew over to join me for a white Christmas. Eating a hot roast for lunch, having a real pine Christmas tree and seeing the sleet outside (not quite cold enough for snow) really made it feel so Canadian. The next month of travel included an American road trip and a flight up north where the days are -34 degrees and the Aurora Borealis is just stunning.

Aurora Borealis

Although I missed everyone from Australia, the time I spent exploring Canada was a time of fun and adventures and also a time of growth. My exchange was the best six months I have ever had!

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.

 

 

A Life in Chicago

William N., Bachelor of Design (Honors)
Illinois Institute of Technology, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

The university…

Going on exchange to Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago last semester was an amazing experience, which I already miss and wish I could repeat all over. As an architecture student, IIT was an amazing place to both visit and live. The campus was designed by one of my favourite architects – Mies van der Rohe – who also started the architecture school on campus, and taught there for a period of time. Because of this, the school has a wonderful architecture program, and great resources for architecture students.

Despite being in a somewhat dodgy area, the campus is only a few train stops from downtown, making it really easy to explore the city throughout my exchange. On top of this, during the semester the university gives you a free travel card, giving you unlimited access to the buses and trains throughout the city. The campus is also within walking distance of the lake which is a really nice place to go swimming.

The on-campus accommodation that I chose was really nice, however the other dormitories I visited were not as nice, which I think would influence the quality of exchange perhaps. I had two randomly assigned roommates, who I didn’t become friends with, but it gave me the opportunity to experience living with strangers, and make me a more tolerant person. My apartment had a kitchen so I cooked most meals, however the university requires you also purchase a meal plan at the cafeteria. The food was not very nice though.

Unexpected…

For future exchange students visiting IIT, don’t expect the university to make much of an effort introducing you to other international students, so make sure you make an effort yourself at the start to introduce yourself to others.

Highlights…

For me, the highlight of exchange was the opportunities I got to travel both within and outside the states. During the semester I travelled to New Orleans, Toronto, and New York – and spent a week in Copenhagen during my Thanksgiving break in late November.

The campus life at the university was definitely not what I expected. I was expecting a very traditional university with frat parties, etc. but was surprised how different it was. The university has very little social or party life, making it difficult to make friends with other students. However, I found a group of other exchange students who I became good friends with, so it ended up not being an issue.

Tips/ advice…

Definitely pack or buy a lot of warm clothes, as it gets very freezing, very quickly. When looking at the weather, always pay attention to the “feels like” temperature, as the wind chill is almost always ten degrees colder in the winter. Do a lot of research before choosing your housing. The university give most if not all exchange students $1500 a semester towards housing – however not all options have kitchens, meaning you may pay more on the cafeteria meal plans!

From Australia to Austria

Taylor K., Bachelor of Business
Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, Austria (Semester 2, 2017)

Vienna is a wonderful city. It’s filled with quirky cafes that serve only the best coffee and delicious Sacher Torte. It is home to some of the greatest musicians in history, as well as one of the most renowned psychologists of all time. The city is said to have the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe. And, Austria shares a border with several amazing countries, some of which cost near nothing to visit and are only a short bus ride away. Needless to say, it’s an ideal location for anyone who has an interest in history, loves the Jolly Holidays, is infected with the travel bug and loves coffee (what student doesn’t?).

Wirtschafts Universität (WU), the university I attended in Vienna, is also fantastic. The campus is modern and bustling with tasty food venues. And, of course, the Library Café serves GREAT coffee. At WU I felt very at home, the campus and university life was similar enough to QUT that it was easy to understand and provided a sense of familiarity; but it was also different enough that I always felt like I was exploring somewhere new. The staff was wonderfully helpful and the course load is easy for any student to manage.

The class timetable, however, is very different to that at QUT. I was required to take five units, which seemed a little daunting at the time, but turned out to be easily manageable. Rather than these five units each having a lecture and tutorial each week, there were classes set for all different times and days of the week. Some units had two classes a week that changed days throughout the semester, others skipped weeks, one course was every day for ten days straight and then it was completely finished, and other classes fall on a regular weekly basis. Having to avoid overlaps made figuring out my timetable and what units to apply for a little more difficult, but it also meant that once my semester started I never felt like I was trapped in a boring routine. Everything was always different. It also meant that I occasionally had four or five day weekends, which were fantastic times to travel.

I travelled to many places while on exchange, but I was particularly keen to visit other cities in Austria. I saw Innsbruck, Salzburg, and my personal favourite, Hallstatt. Every one of these cities were beautiful in their own way and I am so glad I took the time to visit them. The easiest way to get around in Austria, and a lot of Europe, is by train. I caught the ÖBB train to each of these cities. They have an online site and mobile app to make purchases and navigating the train stations easier and not one of my trips took longer than 4 hours (no time at all for us Queenslanders).

So far, all of my exchange sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. I had a few issues with my housing (OeAD dorms) and with the registration authorities. A lot of these issues could have been avoided if Vienna and the ways of doing things there wasn’t so traditional. For example, the housing offices are only open from 8am-12pm Monday to Friday, and the registration office will only send documents via post, not email.

The Viennese, like all cultures, have a different way of doing things. The grocery stores don’t open on Sundays and fish costs a fortune because it’s a landlocked country, but don’t worry, it’s compensated by the amazing range of meats and cheeses. Also, it’s common practice to ignore customers in coffee houses and there is only one cinema in the city that plays English movies in English. But all this is part of Vienna’s charm. It’s what gives it character and sets it apart from being just another city with beautiful old buildings and river canals. Just like Australia wouldn’t be the same without deadly animals and bogans; Austria wouldn’t be the same without the blunt customer service and odd business hours.

Settling into Maastricht

Rachel W., Bachelor of Business – International
Maastricht University, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2017)

As part of the Bachelor of International Business, I chose to attend Maastricht University. It had a different learning approach to my usual university learning. Instead of lectures, we had two tutorials for each subject. During these tutorials we were required to discuss, present or answer questions about the weekly readings. It really forced me to participate more (participation was 30% of my grade!), and stay on top of my readings which really did help my retention of knowledge.

At first, I was really shocked; I was surrounded by students from all around Europe who were really motivated and knowledgeable about the subjects. Luckily the tutors were very understanding of how this was such a shock for me and gave me time to adjust without it affecting my grade.

As the oldest city in the Netherlands, Maastricht is a small university city; it is usually pretty quiet and peaceful except during carnival! Everyone was really friendly and nearly everyone spoke English which helped a lot when shopping! Buying a secondhand bike is essential because nearly everyone bikes everywhere. It is a great way to keep you healthy especially with the delicious Dutch food like kroketten, frites and bitterballen which are all deep fried or their obsession with sweets (even for breakfast) such as stroopwafel and hagelslag. It rains a lot in the Netherlands and is often quite overcast but never fear, it is really light rain, more of a drizzle, just flock to your local bar or enjoy a hot coffee at one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world (it is in an old cathedral). But once the sun does decide to come out, everyone, and I mean everyone, flocks outside to soak in those precious rays. Maastricht is also very famous for its boutique shopping so if you’re into fashion you will feel right at home.

Maastricht University is spread out throughout the city, similarly to Kelvin Grove so some exploring may be necessary to find a different faculty building.

I attempted learning Dutch on my exchange, and while I was pretty good at it, it was hard to balance with all the travel and study I did.

It was definitely a challenge being so far from home but I have some tips on how to make the most of your exchange!

  1. Bring waterproof shoes! (It rains a lot in Europe and you don’t want to be the foreigner with wet feet, especially in winter)
  2. Attend as many events in your universities o-week, you may never see most people again but you might find some great friends to travel with!
  3. Youtube is your best friend. (When you are homesick and dying for some Australian culture, watching old episodes of Australian shows is the best! My favorites were Blue Water High and Thank God, You’re Here)
  4. Most of all have fun, even if you miss home you will still make some great memories

Before my exchange I had only left the country once, now I have travelled to 17! I had a great exchange experience and now I am more confident, extroverted and prepared for whatever life has to throw at me.