Oh Canada! University of Guelph (UoG)

Denise N., Bachelor of Biomedical Science
University of Guelph, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

In Semester 2 of 2017, I had the privilege of going on a study exchange to UoG, Canada. This experience involved school, travel, friends and fun. Upon arrival at the campus, one of the things that stood out was how enormous the campus was compared to QUT’s Gardens point. The campus spread out across a large part of the city. Guelph itself was not as developed as Brisbane, it is a small city outside Toronto. Part of what contributed to the size of the campus was the student residencies in all four corners of the university. I resided in the East houses and shared a suite with 11 other students. We had three toilets, two showers and one kitchen.

Academically, there were more differences than similarities between UoG and QUT. Firstly, at UoG, there was very little flexibility for students to organise their timetables due to pre-set class hours. Some classes were as early as 7am. Lecture recording was not common, only one fourth of my classes had recordings. Lecturers were addressed formally as Professors and the longest lecture I had was an hour and thirty minutes. The class periods were shorter but more frequent throughout the week, about 3 times.Living in south-east Ontario made it easier for me to travel to numerous places including Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal as well as crossing over to the USA via bus. The cost of living in Canada was higher than that in Brisbane. This was mainly because of the tax and tips to be added to the advertised prices for goods and services. It took me a while to assimilate to this.

In terms of cultural shock, I didn’t experience it until I travelled to the Province of Quebec where majority of people speak French. Visiting Quebec was one of my highlights because it was very different; being surrounded by people speaking in a different language, viewing public signs mostly in French. I remember when I first arrived in Quebec City and was trying to get a bus ticket, the first 3 strangers I spoke to did not understand English. Some other highlights from my trip include experiencing the beautiful Fall colours at Montmorency Falls, experiencing snow for the very first time and making a snow angel. I was also able to visit NYC, one of my favourite places in the world. Time Square was literally the centre of the universe.

To anyone thinking of going on exchange, I strongly encourage you to go for it. Through experiencing the new school environment, traveling and new friendships, I have learnt more about myself, my values and my goals. Exchange taught me that I know very little and I have a lot to learn. It was without a doubt a learning experience. Advice I would give to future students would be to live off campus, as much as living on campus is an experience in itself, there’s more independence living off campus. Keep in touch with family and avoid making friends from the same country as even though it would be easier, you won’t really benefit out of it in the long run. People from other places have unique experiences that you can learn from and international connections are valuable, especially today.

Taiwan, A Country of Warmth

Yuheng L., Bachelor of Business (Dean’s Honours)
Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan (Semester 2, 2017)

I have always imagined Taiwan to be a warm little country which is often neglected by the international society. Due to political reasons, Taiwan is isolated internationally. It is not part of the UN and has only 20 countries of diplomatic relations (FYI: China has 175). However, Taiwan is not an underdeveloped country of any sort. Taipei has a well-built metro system and there is a High-Speed Rail throughout the west coast of Taiwan. By car, it takes 4 hours to get from Taipei to Kaohsiung but it only takes an hour and a half on the HSR. It is very convenient to travel around Taiwan where many people travel around the island as a challenge (mostly on a bicycle) every year. For me personally, one of the places I loved the most was Tainan (South Taiwan). It is an amazing city with great food and a lot of historical sites, mostly from the era when they were ruled under the Japanese Empire. It has a lot of cultural characteristics unique from other cities.

Taiwan also has a comparatively low cost of living. Dining out can be very cheap (it can be very expensive too, if you choose to do so), where a meal could be around AUD $3-4. Their wages, however, is much lower than Australian standards. Their minimum legal hourly wage is roughly $6, which makes things much cheaper than Australia. I lived in the campus dormitory for the entire semester and it only cost me around AUD $380.

It was not long until I faced difficulties. Immediately on the day after my arrival, a lady shop owner began speaking Taiwanese Hokkien to me. Luckily, I was with my exchange buddy (whom FJU has arranged before my arrival) at that time and he was able to communicate with the owner on my behalf. I am very grateful for my exchange buddies and my dorm roommates who helped me out a lot upon my arrival. I immediately felt the warmth and helpfulness of the Taiwanese people on my first couple of days. Listening to my roommates’ stories was very interesting as they all came from different backgrounds, one being in the army for 5 years after high school, another being a Bruneian of Taiwanese descent. Having chats and laughter, with the occasional disagreement, every night was definitely a memorable experience – something that I won’t experience at home.

One of the things that I really enjoyed is joining the basketball team of my faculty. There are yearly tournaments between faculties and between departments. Our team trained regularly and apart from having fun, I believe it is a great way to develop relationships. It shows that the university culture there is quite different too. Sports and other club activities are a vital part of their university life, where people gather together. I could see evidence of a more collectivistic society based on their university culture. Apart from that, the close relationship between classmates is something special. It feels exactly like high school where classes are held in small classrooms rather than large lecture halls. The teachers know every student, therefore, as soon as she saw my unfamiliar face I was immediately asked to introduce myself. They welcomed me and invited me to have lunch together on the first day of class. I felt like I could blend in to their culture instantly with their friendliness.

There is no way I could talk about Taiwan without mentioning food. There is so much food around campus to the point I could even get hot food at midnight. The entire campus is approximately the size of the Kelvin Grove campus, however, there are 5 different blocks of canteens! Plus, with the number of restaurants outside of campus, there is absolutely no need to worry about what you need to bring for lunch.

Taiwan is a country with a lot of warmth. There is a common saying of ‘The Most Beautiful Scenery in Taiwan is its People.”, and I recognized that it is true throughout my journey. I have made great friends during these past few months and I surely miss the moments I had with them. If you are looking at going to the Asia-Pacific region, or if you would love to pick up the Chinese language, I would surely recommend Taiwan as an exchange destination.

My little escape to Oxford

Alexandra C., Bachelor of Law (Honours)/Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology)
Oxford Brookes University, England (Semester 2, 2017)

For semester two of 2017 I undertook an exchange to Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England. Oxford is a beautiful city and is very well connected to London and Birmingham which is great if you’re planning on escaping to Europe throughout the semester. I would highly recommend taking a walking tour when you first arrive, especially if you are a Harry Potter fan, as many iconic scenes from the films were shot in Oxford. It is also a great way to get orientated with your new home as you can learn where the best shops and restaurants are.

In regards to accommodation, I stayed at Clive Booth Student Village, which is one of the on-campus colleges and is closest to the main campus, Headington. The college is divided into several blocks that all contain a number of connected flats, with each flat being shared by between five and six students. I would highly recommend applying for on campus accommodation as it is a great way to make friends very quickly and meet students not only from Oxford but from around the world.

One of the strengths of Oxford Brookes is their clubs and societies. Not only were they really easy to sign up to but all the students were incredibly welcoming and there was always a huge variety of events happening each week throughout the semester. The university also provided the opportunity to take part in weekend trips that took you to many of England’s infamous sites and cities for example, Stonehenge, Brighton and Bath.

Overall, my time in Oxford was an amazing experience and I would recommend anyone thinking about doing an exchange to take up the opportunity, you won’t regret it.

Viva L’Italia!

Giulia Marrama, Bachelor of Laws
Universita Luigi Bocconi, Italy (Semester 1, 2018)

In Semester 1 2018, I travelled to Milan for a six-month exchange at Universita Luigi Bocconi. Milan is an incredible, vibrant city filled with history, amazing food, people, and fashion. Milan has the benefit of being a modern, metropolitan city while maintaining the classical Italian-styled architecture. The transport both within Milan and around Italy is very efficient and you can travel almost anywhere with the tram and train. I would recommend taking a tour with the Erasmus Student Network Body (ESN) at the beginning of semester, as this will allow you to connect with other exchange students and create strong friendships from the start.

When it comes to accommodation I decided to stay in an apartment with other Italian students. I had been accepted into the university’s Arcobaleno dorm but had been advised by previous students to try and find alternative accommodation. I was able to get an apartment with other Italian students in the suburb of Porta Romana. If you are thinking of getting an apartment I would highly recommend looking for one around this area. It was a perfect location that was only a 20-minute walk to the university and a 20-minute to the city centre. It was full of restaurants, bars, metro station, markets and everything you would need within a short walking distance.

Some of the tips that I would give include:

  1. Get involved in the events that ESN/University offers
  2. Be prepared to adapt to the Italian culture and lifestyle
  3. Keep in mind that the University does not alter their examination or course structures for exchange students and pass/fail is 60%
  4. Have fun and enjoy the remarkable ride that you have embarked on!