Terrifying, amazing. Difficult, worth-while.

Jordy K., Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)/Bachelor of IT
Politencnico di Milano, Italy (Semester 1 2018)

Europe in general is so different to Australia, and then Milan in Italy is so different to the rest of Europe.

When I arrived I was shocked by the landscape, architecture, people, and weather. Milan is a flat city and, I know it sounds like a small detail, but it’s odd to see straight streets go on forever. The people feel less caring, and more cool. Things are open at seemingly odd hours and that’s just how it is. It’s weird but nonetheless, Milan is probably the best student city in Italy. It’s overall just a cool place once you get to know it, and I recommend it for an Italian exchange. Rent is expensive but living costs are cheap. Roughly 600 euros a month for rent and 60 euros a week for living quite comfortably.

Host University

The uni I studied at was Politecnico di Milano (PoliMi), because it’s largely a non-English speaking institution make sure you do the easiest subjects you can and prepare for the teaching style to essentially be lectures only with a big exam or project at the end. The campus itself is cool because it’s old. Overall I’d say PoliMi is ok, decent it if you want to study in Italy, which is more the worthwhile experience.

Things I Didn’t Expect

One thing I didn’t expect was that, 90% of the time you have no idea what people are saying or what the writing around you means! The first month living in a foreign language country (especially if you’re there by yourself) feels like living on an alien planet. It’s so weird. Eventually though you get used to it and I ended up enjoying it as like a simple ambient noise. You become entirely comfortable being clueless.

What’s more in Italy, expect things to happen slowwwwly. Especially with big institutions or government. This can be annoying and sometimes feels like everything is of lesser quality because of it. You eventually get used to these slightly chaotic long waits when dealing with these things though.

Highlights

I still highly recommend exchange for everyone! Why? Travelling to new countries and gaining new perspectives simply outweighs all the downsides. Experiencing the highs and lows that this world has to offer is a phenomenal personal growth experience for anyone. Studying in Europe is awesome too because it’s so cheap and easy to fly to so many different countries and cultures. It’s this sort of stuff that really changes your perspective on everything forever, I know it has for me, and that’s why I highly recommend doing it!

The Ultimate Guide to the University of Leeds

Katie, Nichola and Molly – Inbound students to QUT
University of Leeds, England (Semester 1, 2019)

We may be biased, but we love the University of Leeds. It is rated one of the world’s top 100 Uni’s and is right in the middle of one of the UK’s most vibrant cities – what more could you want?! It’s part of the Russel Group (a group of UK universities than engage in intensive research) and so you can guarantee you’ll be in safe hands. In 2017, The Sunday Times voted Leeds the University of the Year, joining the award for 1st in student satisfaction in the UK. If the numerous awards and rankings are enticing you to consider an exchange here, keep reading our ‘Ultimate Guide to the University of Leeds’ for more information, from academia to nightlife – we’ve experienced it all!

Academia

The University of Leeds is one of the biggest and most acclaimed universities in the UK and is famous for its teaching and research – providing lots of different academic opportunities and ways of learning. You can study almost everything at Leeds including Medicine, Art, Law and everything in between.

Academic life at the University of Leeds is somewhat different in comparison to QUT. A full workload is 120 credits per year – the number of modules (this is what units are called in the UK) required to be studied varies between each faculty and unlike at QUT each module may be worth different credits. For example, there are 10 credit modules, available for just one semester or there are 20/30 credit modules which are studied for the full year. This means that you will find yourself studying more than the workload is required here at QUT – for the most part at least 6 modules per semester is the norm. This may seem like a lot, but all the modules offered at Leeds are truly interesting – there are both compulsory modules and discovery modules (depending on the faculty), so there really is something to suit everyone’s academic needs. For instance, I am a Law student and my very varied modules last year included – EU law, Criminal Law, Employment Law, Land Law, Torts Law and Constitutional.

Teaching at Leeds is also very different to my experiences at QUT – we have shorter, more frequent classes (most students live on to or very near to campus) so the timetable is a lot more full on. Lectures tend to be 50 minutes, supplemented by seminars, which can be anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2 hours or labs/tutorials for sciences. Classes run between 9am and 6pm – so the academic day is condensed into this.

Academic life at Leeds will keep you busy but it is always fun, engaging, practical and interesting but you will certainly still have time to explore the wonderful city of Leeds!

Parkinson Building – the most famous building on the Leeds campus and the location of Brotherton Library

 

Accommodation in Leeds

As an exchange student in Leeds, you are guaranteed University accommodation regardless of whether you are studying for one semester, or the whole year (as long as you apply before the deadline). There are both on and off campus options with varying layouts from shared bathrooms to en-suites. There is also choice of catered or self-catered options. You will have your own bedroom in a flat shared with other Leeds students. This means it is so easy to make friends as there are so many people around, both home and international students.

The view from Charles Morris Hall

Typical lounge at Mary Morris Halls of Residence

A basic membership to the on-campus gym, The Edge is Included if you stay in University accommodation too.

The Edge gym

There is information about each of the residences here: https://accommodation.leeds.ac.uk/residences

Alternatively, there is the option to live in private accommodation. Unipol is a charity which works with students to help you find suitable private accommodation. Hyde Park is an area a 10-15 minute walk away from  c ampus and is filled with students.

A typical house in Leeds

A typical street in Hyde Park

The Union

A huge part of my student life at Leeds is centred around the union, which you will automatically become a member of as a student at the uni. The University Union is a charity that is run for students by students, helping provide opportunities, help create change and really allow students to love their time at Leeds! Activities are run throughout the year, enabling you to have fun and try something new, including specialised events for international students. The building itself, which is right in the centre of campus, contains shops, bars, cafes, nightclubs and study areas, to name a few. It is also home to the 350 societies the university has on offer. From football to food and wine, as well as every course having its own society, there really is something for everyone!

The Union building, right in the heart of campus

I myself am part of Leeds Modern Dance Society, where weekly classes are held for all levels of ability in tap, jazz and contemporary. Dancing with this society really has completely enhanced my university experience, from weekly socials to all the different friends I have made, and so to have 350 societies to choose from, Leeds is pretty special! I’ve put some pictures below of the type of events held by societies, including competitions and weekly socials at bars and nightclubs. This part of Uni is quite different to QUT – there is a much bigger sense of community and much more emphasis to join as many societies as you can! Here’s a link to the union website so you can browse all the things it has on offer! https://www.luu.org.uk/

Modern Dance Society at Newcastle Dance
Competition in Feb 2018!

The annual dance show held in the Union!

 

The City and Social Life

Leeds is located in Northern England with great transport links to other parts of the country – only 2 hours from London and 3 from Edinburgh by train. There is also an airport close by where you can find cheap flights to Europe for the holidays, making it the perfect destination for your semester abroad!

The city itself is a vibrant, multi-cultural haven that will draw you in with its wide selection of shops, restaurants, music venues and nightclubs. There is always something going on and so you’ll never be bored, and because Leeds is such a cheap city, you’ll be able to take part on a budget! Despite the hustling bustling city being the location of most students’ free time, the Yorkshire countryside is also right on your doorstep and so you can easily visit beautiful country villages if you fancy a change of scene.

With multiple colleges and universities in Leeds the student population is HUGE! It’s very different to Brisbane student life, and sometimes it’s quite easy to forget that others’ lives there too (maybe don’t go shopping on a Saturday afternoon if you want to miss the mad family rush!). The city has adapted to the student body well, with so many facilities catering to student life.

Leeds is such a great city for a year abroad!

Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre – the biggest shopping centre in the city which is home to more than 120 national and international brands as well as cinema’s, bars and restaurants.

Leeds city centre – a haven of activities!

Ilkley Moor – a peaceful destination only 40 minutes away for
when you want to escape the busy city

We hope this has given you just a little idea about what life in Leeds is like. We truly love it there and hope this has inspired you to consider it as your study abroad option!

Hope to see you in Leeds sometime soon!

Katie, Nichola and Molly x

Cultural Differences and People Management

Ok, so I’m enrolled in a unit called Cultural Differences and People Management. A lot of the course work revolves around writing about our feelings and such (BSB124 anyone?). It has a lot of self-reflection. I’ve just completed the homework for the first seminar (their version of tutorials). To describe it in a few words, I went from being very reserved in my answers to listing every difference or issue I have noticed/experienced since being here. I think it sums up well the time I’ve spent here so far, and thus I shall replicate it for all of your amusement (?):

“Seminar Week 2 – Cultural Management

1. From French, 2010:45: “How useful is it to view culture in Hofstede’s term as ‘the collective programming of the mind’”? Give examples of such ‘collective programming’ from your own cultures.

By assuming national cultures share common characteristics that are a part of their “programming” it allows managers and business professionals to make realistic assumptions about the people they interact with. It assists in both management of, and interaction with, people from other cultures. It also removes the barrier of cultures and ensures and insures human interactions are unhindered by cultural differences/biases.

What Hofstede provides is a way to examine culture in a general sense. Whilst he notes not all people, within a culture are the same, and that personalities/unique traits have a high variation within a population, he believes that there are certain core elements of a culture that are shared among its populace. As such, to think of it as a collective programming of people’s minds allows people to interact with another culture in an effective (and non-offensive) manner.

Examples of Cultural Programming within our own culture:
• Mateship – Australians are for the most part, all friends with one another, regardless of whether or not we know each other or are strangers. We will greet strangers on the street, ask them about their day, and offer assistance on trivial things if needed.
• Empathy – Australia is a very compassionate nation. In times of crisis, we will go above and beyond to help a fellow man
• Fairness – Australians operate on a fairness basis. To put simply, we believe in “a fair go” and that all people should be given a chance when it is due to them. We believe also in the fair value of things, that is, we believe that in all things there should be an equivalent exchange. For example, the Australian public believes we should not pay more for something if it isn’t worth something, we will pay only if the price is fair. We will complain about the rate of tax if our governments are not providing adequate services for the money we pay. We will voice our objection to any political policies that discriminate against the Australian people, and the concept of “a fair go”. On a side note, most Australians will look down on ANYONE who doesn’t contribute to society in some respect, as it violates this policy of fairness and equivalent exchange. We have a name for these people.
• Respect – We have a deep respect for our history and those who serve the country in some way.

2. What is meant by’ Culture Shock? Can you give any examples of it from your own experience?
Culture shock is the dissonance felt when experiencing a culture that is not one’s own. It manifests in a number of ways, most commonly feelings of anxiety and feelings of alienation within the foreign culture because you are operating within an environment that conflicts with your own perception of what is a “normal” society.

Some examples from my own experience would be some of the etiquette differences between Australia and the UK. Australian people will say hello to people on the street. That does not occur here. Other minor differences that made me feel a little alienated included the rearrangement of goods on supermarket shelves, not seeing familiar brands from back home, being scolded for things that are considered a must over here, but no one cares about in Australia (e.g. Over here it is expected you place a barricade between your food items and someone else’s. In Australia, we rarely use this, as we just leave a space for those behind us. I was scolded because I OFFERED the person behind me the use of the barrier). Other minor differences I’ve noticed include:
• Australians walking up stairs/escalators on a different side than the British
• The amount of foods British people smother with butter
Some minor things that I’ve been annoyed with since being here:
• The assumption that all Australians cannot be well spoken. No offence to any British people reading this, but I’ve seen more Australians that have a higher mastery of the English language than I have within the population of the UK itself, in fact, we butcher the language to a lesser degree than a lot of the locals within this country.
• We do NOT ride kangaroos to school
• We are NOT all uncivilised. Education has gotten better since federation
• We are NOT all convicts. Hell, a vast majority of people who were sent to Australia were jailed for stealing bread to support their families, because lord knows the UK’s economy couldn’t support them at the time.

3. Is ‘Culture Shock’ inevitable when you encounter a new or different culture?

After the above examples, I’d like to say yes to this question, however, just because I have noticed these differences/had these scrutinies, it does not mean I have not been able to cope, and for the most part, get along swimmingly with a lot of people. I have made a vast majority of friends since being here, and my interpersonal skills are just as effective in this country as they are in my own. I’d also like to note the best people I’ve met whilst in the UK, so far, are the French.

4. Describe some strategies that are useful in avoiding or minimising culture shock.
• Cross-cultural training or some program that enforces learning in diversity – To help understand that there are differences among cultures, and to harbor respect for all people
• Living in a multicultural society – Australia being largely multicultural, we don’t have an issue with being surrounded by multiple cultures, in fact as a general rule, we embrace having so much cultural diversity, as it forces us to understand that we are not the greatest culture in the world, nor the worse, and that all cultures should be respected.
• Researching the culture before entering the country – It may not be possible to know ALL the nuances in another country before arriving, but it definitely can assists in avoiding any largely awkward situations.”

I’ll admit it gets a tad whiney at the end. But it felt so good to voice those opinions on paper format. ALL IN ALL though, I am loving my time here. And I’ve made sure to correct many people about any misconceptions they have about Australia.

Stay classy Aus,

Tom