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.


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.


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!

Campus inside a Castle?

Bridget McNab, Bachelor of Architecture
Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy (Semester 1, 2016)

“Wow, what a great choice for your degree!” and, “the location!” and, “the food!” and, “you are essentially a genius!” (that one was a lie), was what a lot of people said to me when I told them that I’d be studying Architecture in Italy.

Confession: my decision to go to Italy had nothing to do with the assumed romantic ideals. My dream had been to go to France, as I have a meaningful appreciation for soft cheese, wine towns, and the accent. As much as my five years of high-school French may have scraped me through Architecture taught in French, I decided to go with the next best (and taught in English) thing – Italy. Plus, the city I chose, Turin, was in a great location, situated a little bit South of Switzerland, a little bit East of France, and in the very centre of wine towns. I specifically chose Turin because the idea of a smaller city, to me, meant potentially more authenticity. Therefore, the cost of living was less (than Milan anyway). The north of Italy is a little cheaper than Australia, which was good – cheaper (and 157% better) public transport, extremely cheap markets, relatively cheap rent, and cheap pizzas. This allowed for me to save for further travels afterwards, score!

I lived in the medieval square from the time of the Savoy family. Sounds epic?! It was! The location was exceptional. The actual accommodation was okay – it was student apartments where we had a very uncomfortable single bed in an admittedly large room; a tiny, shared kitchen and dining room; and a single bathroom between four (no living room).

As my student apartment was strangely restored from an older building with a much more exciting previous purpose, so was my campus. I studied at Politecnico di Torino, which catered for mostly thousands of strands of Engineering that I didn’t even know existed, and Architecture. When I told people I studied Architecture at Politecnico they gasped in wonder, as the Politecnico Architecture building is Actually. A. Castle. However, (and probably due to some cruel strike of fate), my classes ended up in the furthest campus, that no one really knew where it was, and it wasn’t Actually. A. Castle. It was, however, the original ex-Fiat factory where they’d test the cars on the roof like total rebels: a justifiable alternative, I guess.

Essentially, I studied two subjects (equal to about 3.5 QUT subjects) in the rebel campus – Restoration and Architecture and Urban Economics. These were Masters subjects as well, and as I’m still a Bachelor student, it proved very challenging at times. The logistics of the course were similarly challenging – mostly verbal briefs and no criteria. However, once my friends and I did some detective work and understood their expectations, the assignments ended up being rewarding.

My University experience taught me a lot about patience, flexibility and the importance of excellently minded friends. As well as that, generally living in another country, as far as I found, teaches you a lot about self-reliance, independence, confidence and open-mindedness. Even if you face homesickness, stress, unfamiliarity, and missing out on Actually. A. Castle, you grow. You grow into a person that is largely a result of your experiences. So, if you’re reading this, and wondering whether to do exchange, I say, risk it – travel completely by yourself, go to that party, ski with a stranger, eat gelato daily, … and grow!

Exploring the Architecture of Italy

Audrey Wong, Bachelor of Design

Short-term program: AIM Overseas ‘Rome Architectural Sketchbook’

Italy (June/July 2018)

I found my program through QUT short term program website, and it was organized by AIM Overseas, called Rome Architectural Sketchbook. Our program duration was 3 weeks in Rome, but I’d say the highlight of the program was the after-school life in Italy! On the first weekend, we went to Capri Island and Sorrento, in Southern Italy, and Florence and Pisa on the second. Most of us from the program didn’t know each other beforehand, so the weekend trips were organized only after we met in Rome, and even the train tickets were bought right before the night we go! Apart from the short trips, we also had lots of fun! Our program was about sketching in Rome, so we literally set down on the street and started drawing every day. However, despite such opportunity, there’s just too much to be covered in Rome! For example, the Vatican City, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon were not included in the school schedule. So, we had to squeeze our time to pay them a visit. Another after-school activity we all love is to go grocery shopping! Despite the unforgiving heat condition, we always wanted to go shop at the grocery because the food is cheap and very fresh with lots of varieties. And of course, gelato every day!

GELATO EVERYDAY – you’ll be shocked by the variety of flavour I guarantee.

1st weekend trip to Capri Island and Sorrento

Our Italian tutor (lady with red hair and sun glasses) is the most passionate and enthusiastic lovely lady we’ve ever met!

Touching the columns that was carved in one monolithic one in the Vatican City! Stunned by the architecture there (actually should be stunned by the architecture everywhere in Europe)!

To be honest, this would all sound overwhelming to me before I joined the program. I had quite low self-esteem and self-confidence especially towards socializing. So, I will have to admit that it was quite uneasy to meet new people and make friends at first, but once you’re there in that situation, you realize you actually only have two choices, go and learn to enjoy, or don’t go and regret. So, this was how I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. And I ended up am really proud of myself and really glad that I have met every one of them.

2 Florence and Pisa 2nd weekend trip

Had to go to the Trevi Fountain at 8am coz class starts at 9!

Last day! A group photo finally!

Link to the videos we made for the assignment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5RR-NLt-To

Link to the assignment I presented: https://spark.adobe.com/page/2IYI6rRiKydqA/

Spend your summer exploring Seoul

Jiwon L, Bachelor of Design (Honours)

Korea University – International Winter Campus (Dec 2016– Jan 2017)

Korea University is one of the highest ranked universities in the world in a variety study areas. The campus is filled with historical and incredible gothic-style architecture. As an architecture student, looking around the campus was a great opportunity to experience the sights and also outside of campus there were so many great high-rise buildings I wouldn’t be able to find back in Brisbane, Australia.

Staying at Korea University’s dormitory was very enjoyable, meeting new friends from other cultures. I have built such a strong relationship with my roommates, so we went out to travel Seoul together outside the campus.  We went to Dongdaemoon to see one of my favourite architect’s work, Zaha Hadid, during the weekends and other cities and enjoyed the culture of Seoul. As Seoul is one of the top cities that has highly developed transport, it was very easy to travel inner cities without spending a lot of money.

I have met very warm and welcoming friends from different places and cultures and sharing this experience with them was such a wonderful experience that I am not likely to have in life again. If you are a student who loves travel and exploring busy cities, Korea University in Seoul is the perfect place to be.