Living in France

Sophia A., Bachelor of Law/ Behavioural Science
Catholic University of Lille, France (Semester 1, 2017)

My name is Sophia Armitage and I am a 20 year old QUT student who just finished her semester abroad! At QUT, I study a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Behavioural Science; however, I used my free electives to do my exchange as it made it easier to pick classes. I went to the Catholic University of Lille (France) and I cannot recommend it enough!

Accommodation

The university was always happy to help me with any questions I had; there were even students who showed me around and to my residence (which was right across the street). The campus at the university was a bit Harry Potter like as it is an old set of buildings (mainly). The first thing I had to get used to was the million stairs around the building and the hectic security, but after I got the hang of that it wasn’t too dissimilar to QUT. My residence was very close which made my midday naps easy! But it was also right where all the student eating areas were (there are specific places where a whole meal is only 3.25 euros). I stayed at the Teilhard de Chardin and it was clean, quiet, but still lively. There are allocated study rooms in the building too, which were useful throughout the semester. The style of the classes was more similar to high school as it’s about 15 different subjects and one class each week of each. There was a lot less direction from the teachers and sometimes it was really hard to understand what I needed to do (even though all my classes were in English) but I soon realised that it was pretty simple if I just treated it like high school.

Culture Shock

As I’ve never really travelled before, this was a fairly big culture shock. Six months in a different country is pretty insane, let alone somewhere that is all terrace buildings and cute cobble stone roads. The cost of living was very low; food and drink was inexpensive as was clothing and bedding. Lille is in a perfect spot because it’s cheaper to live than Paris but it is still very easy to travel from. There are buses and trains that go to major airports and that even go to the UK. The only thing that was very strange to me was that on Sunday everything is closed. Also, that after around 2:30pm all the cafes close their kitchens. Other than that, and other than the language barrier, the culture shock wasn’t too extreme.

Some of the best parts of my exchange were just the regular parts of the day. The only other QUT student and I made a friendship group very early on and we had regular catch-ups at a local pub (La Faluche) and went to restaurants regularly. I also had a group of French friends who showed me the local hang out spots. I also really enjoyed my subjects that I was studying in the FLCH faculty (mainly humanities and literature).

Adjusting, Homesickness and Budgets

I really didn’t expect to be so homesick at the start of the exchange, even though many people told me it would happen. Luckily, I made a friend who had been through a similar thing when she did her exchange and she helped me through it. I also didn’t expect to make such fantastic lifelong friends. We made a Facebook group chat that we all still use; I now have a place to stay in all of their home countries. My main tips for doing the semester abroad is to pack lightly clothes wise because there are loads of things you’ll want to buy. Pack a towel, pillow, and a blanket of some sort for when you first get there because you’ll be tired and just want to rest. Definitely make a budget for your expenses so that when the holidays come you have enough to travel around. Another thing that I wish I had done was to set up some realistic goals for how often I would communicate with people in Australia so that I wasn’t pushing them too much and they had a realistic idea of how often I would be able to contact them. The mentality the international students have is different to how we all are usually; this impacted the relationships I had in Australia and I wish I had had the foresight to plan around that.

I would 100% recommend a semester abroad to anyone, the experience was once in a lifetime and the things I learnt are invaluable. Where there is a will there is a way; there are so many things that QUT, the government, or your host university can help you with. I only wish I had more electives so I could go again!

My Irish Pot of Gold: Part 2

Elizabeth B., Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries
University College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 1, 2017)

A three-day road trip around the east coast of Ireland

If I could give any advice it would be to take advantage of every opportunity, and learn to say ‘yes’ to everything, especially things that are out of your comfort zone. This
is where some of my best experiences began, including exchange. This
means travelling with people you may not know very well, and doing trips that you may not normally think of doing. For me one of the best things was going over
with a very loose plan! Don’t be afraid to have very little planned before you leave, including a return date because I was able to travel with friends I met on exchange afterwards, and I was glad that I did not have a huge amount that I had committed to prior to leaving.

Lisbon, Portugal

While in Ireland I tried my best to learn (a very small) amount of Gaelic through some of my Irish friends, which is an incredibly hard language to learn. It was
fascinating learning about the Irish culture, and really getting to know some Irish people, and where they come from. While it can be difficult to meet Irish students while abroad, I was fortunate to meet quite a few Irish students through my external accommodation. I also found doing social sport was a good way to meet Irish students. I was a part of the social netball team while in Ireland, and was fascinated to find out that Netball is not a widely known sport in Ireland. There was only one team on campus and half the team consisted of Australian or New Zealand exchange students. I was incredibly lucky to be able to completely immerse myself in Irish culture, and experience life living and
studying in another country, which gave me a completely different experience to what I would have got being a tourist. Reflecting on my time in Ireland, while I visited some pretty incredible places, I wish I had focused a bit more of my travels around Ireland, and attempted to visit more pubs. I only went on four trips around Ireland, which meant there was a lot of the country I didn’t see such as the cliffs of Moher. I will definitely have to make a trip back to Ireland soon!

Finally, I would definitely recommend going on exchange to anyone considering it. It is a once in a lifetime experience, and you will grow so much, meet some incredible people and experience some life-changing events and opportunities. While I am nearing the end of my degree, this trip has made me realise my potential and has made me eager to plan my next trip!

My Irish Pot of Gold: Part 1

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

One thing I did not anticipate leaving Australia is I don’t think I will ever feel completely at home again; part of me will always belong some place else, but that is a small price to pay for loving and knowing people and places all around the world.

If you had asked me 18 months ago that I would have had seven months abroad, visiting 12 countries, and meeting some of the most amazing people, I would not have believed you. The decision to go on exchange was not one I took lightly.

River Liffey at Dusk – Central Dublin

It required dedication and patience to the process, many hours per week of casual work to save up a decent travel fund, and a huge amount of independence. Leaving everything and everyone you know for seven months is an incredibly intimidating thought, and one that weighed heavy on my mind in the months leading up to my departure to Ireland. While there were moments during the beginning of my arrival to Dublin where I was uncertain I had made the right decision, and moments where I missed my family and friends immensely, the support and encouragement I received back home helped me get into the swing of my Irish lifestyle very quickly. I got to meet the amazing people I now call some of my best friends, and I am so thankful for my decisions to study abroad.

 

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

In those months abroad, I was based in the rainy but gorgeous Dublin, Ireland, however I got to travel to many other places on weekends and breaks. I also spent 7 weeks after my exchange travelling to some other incredible places like Greece and Croatia. I attended University College Dublin (UCD). While UCD was not central to Dublin like Trinity, it was only a short 15 minute bus trip to the city center. The campus was large but beautiful. It had modern sandstone buildings, big grass areas, and two main lakes, where Irish students would gather every time the sun was out. There was also a gym membership included for all students, which was a good destressor, and helped me regain some aspects of normality and routine. The gym was on campus, and included free classes and consultations. I did five subjects while abroad in Ireland, with three of them being direct credits to QUT subjects. I found the workload to be quite heavy, but without a job in Ireland, I managed to juggle travel, work and social life quite well.

Barcelona, Spain

My favourite and most unique escape while in Dublin was Iceland. A few other international students and I hired a car, booked some cabins in the middle of the Icelandic countryside and did a four-day road trip to some of the most fascinating, and ‘off the map’ places. The natural beauties of Iceland were breathtaking, and we got to do things I never thought I would be able to do. If you are okay with eating hot dogs for breakfast lunch and dinner (a meal at a restaurant is often about 35-40 euros for a burger), and splashing out on flights and accommodation, then I recommend Iceland to anyone. It was a trip that I will never forget!

A Semester Abroad in Leeds

Kate M., Bachelor of Creative Industries/Laws
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2018)

 

When I embarked on my 7 month long exchange adventure, I was nervous, teary eyed (from saying goodbye to the family), anxious but so damn excited! Ever since high school, I knew I wanted to do an exchange program at University. When the opportunity arose in the second semester of my fourth year, I took it!

I was on my way to North England, to the University of Leeds. My original plans to head to Berlin didn’t quite work out for me but I had heard incredible things about the student lifestyle in Leeds. I left a month early, dropped my suitcase off at a friend’s house in London and went on a month long summer trip around Portugal, Spain and Italy. I had never been to Europe or England so travel was my goal – I wanted to see as much as I could!

Abseiling in Ilkley Moore

After a month in the sun, I headed up to Leeds to begin my semester abroad. Unfortunately, I was not given the accommodation I applied for so I was hesitant upon arrival. However, I was thrown into two weeks of Freshers! It was a wild, exhausting and great two weeks and it really helped me kick start my friendships with my new flatmates.

The Parkinson Building – Leeds

After two weeks of partying, it was time to hit the books. I had chosen to study two languages and some other elective subjects… so to be fair, I didn’t have to hit the books too hard. Classes were really interesting and it was great exploring the amazing campus of Leeds. The university environment is very welcoming and it is easy to feel comfortable all around the campus.

The city of Leeds is quite small but there is so much to see in Yorkshire. I went on many weekday and weekend trips to nearby castles and abbeys, other cities and also did many hikes! I would definitely recommend getting out and seeing the region you choose to stay in because, lets be real… study can wait!

Kirkstall Abbey

After a few weeks settling into Leeds, making new friends, partying and exploring, I was getting restless and decided to book a last minute bus to Edinburgh. I spent the weekend sightseeing and meeting even more people. As soon as I got back to Leeds, I scheduled two more trips within the semester – one to Ireland and a week trip to France. I loved living in Leeds because it was a good cheap base and there are so many easy travel options nearby ie. Leeds Airport, Manchester Airport or London.

The main reason I went on exchange was to travel and so I made sure I planned my trips strategically so I didn’t skip too many classes. After classes for the semester ended, my boyfriend flew over and we travelled for a month around mainland Europe and Eastern Europe and also made it to the Ukraine (which I highly recommend). I popped back up to Leeds for exams and travelled again for another month before flying home.

Streets of Leeds

My biggest advice for exchange is make sure you save up some money so you can enjoy, have a good time and travel to new places! Also, be confident, put yourself out there and say yes to new experiences! As long as you have your wits about you and stay safe, you will have some life changing experiences and it will open your eyes to a whole new world. You should probably do a little study while you’re over there too!

 

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

From big city Brisbane to small town Trento

The currency in Italy is the Euro which is generally about one third stronger than the Australian dollar. This was a bit of a blow as the money from the scholarship (9.5k) became lesser than anticipated and in this regards the concern of converting it all in one swoop or continuously was a dangerous risk as in some instances (what happened personally) the Australian dollar consistently dropped in strength meaning that when converting you were losing money comparatively if you had converted it all in the beginning.

Compared to Brisbane there prices are rather, odd. Expensive things in Australia would be really cheap in Italy and vice versa. This made a bit of an issue on then seeing the necessity of certain products.

This made having a budget key,

there were three major bills the pay and consider; accommodation rent, phone bill and public transport bill. These monthly would chew a large chunk of your budgeting expenses and didn’t leave much wiggle room, however, after consideration it is reasonably prices putting considerations into effect and made budgeting an easier very serious thing to do.

Personally I used a travel visa card which helped and lessened the need to withdraw money which would have a standard fee to do so and so the travel card was accepted in essentially all cases (besides a flea market).

Trento being a lovely place was easy to settle in and understand how it functioned, it being a small town made it feel safer comparatively to Brisbane big metropolitan city lifestyle. Although I had taken precautionary methods to ensure my safety I found myself being too critical of the locals and the people who were there and decided to present myself to strangers, saying hello, talking, interacting and to my surprise everyone was willing to stop and have a small dialogue.

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy