Experiencing Danish ‘Hygge’

Tayen L. Bachelor of Business
University of Aarhus, Denmark (Semester 1, 2018)

International Dinner in Our Backyard

Exchange feedback… Wow! Where do I even begin? First of all, for my exchange experience, I chose to go to Aarhus university in Denmark and I’m so glad that I chose it, as I have met some amazing people and had some really life changing experiences! In my opinion, Aarhus does not get talked about enough! It is essentially a student city where everyone is so welcoming. There are always events happening, so you don’t really have a lot of time to be homesick.

The accommodation

For my student accommodation, I was able to choose what kind of accommodation I wanted to live in. There was a choice between dormitories, apartment styles or living in a house. I remember this being quite a hard choice to make, but because I have lived out of home for many years, I decided on choosing the house option because I didn’t think I would like to live with as many people as dormitory style living offered. I assumed I’d be living with 4 or 5 others in a cute little Danish house. Boy, was I wrong! When I received my housing offer, I was granted my first choice of a Danish house… but there were going to be 12 others living in the same house! Safe to say I was a little shocked that a house could fit 13 people in it and then immediately became concerned as this was essentially what I was trying to avoid when I made my decision.

Lucky for me though, living in a house with 12 others actually turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I have left Denmark, not just having some cool housemates, but with a global family! Everyone was so welcoming and we all soon became very close. Our house was the place to be! We would constantly have people who were living in dorms or in apartments tell us that our place was so much fun and that they were jealous of the close friendships we had all formed as housemates and that they were struggling to ‘mesh’ with their dorm or apartment mates. To any future students, I would HIGHLY recommend choosing the housing option, because the experience is amazing, and it gives you the ability to form friendships like no other! Plus, the house was a 30 minute walk to the business school or a 9 minute ride. And Danes ride their bikes everywhere, so you’ll want to be like the locals and get yourself your own bike! (You won’t regret it!).

My House

The weather

Going to Denmark in the Spring semester was incredible because I not only got to see the entire university covered in snow, but I also got to see it bloom with flowers. Two very different experiences, going from all white to all green! Although it was very cold in the winter, Danes would still get out and do things and go to bars with candles and eat nice food. All of this was a very ‘Hygge’ experience, which is the feeling of cosiness, being with good friends and can only be felt but not really explained. In the Spring, when the sun finally came out, we’d often spend our time down at the beach or going for coastal rides!

The grading system

The university system is so different to Australia, because instead of having assessments due every 6 weeks which are worth a certain percentage of your grade, they have one assignment or exam which is due at the end of the semester and is worth the entire grade. So, if you don’t pass your last assessment, then you don’t pass the entire class! I found this a little bit hard to deal with and ended up failing one of my classes I took while over there, as I’m used to the Australian system where if I don’t do quite as well in one assignment, I have a chance to make up the marks in other assessments. So that was a different experience for me! Having said that, it did allow me to really engage with the culture and enjoy the experience. The mentor program for business students was significantly better than other faculties. We had so many introduction week events and meet ups that made my experience even better!

Campus Grounds

Living in Denmark is fairly expensive, but I did find a lot of things to actually be quite similar to Australia and some things which were considerably cheaper.

TIPS:

Learn some basic Danish

Practice a little bit of Danish with Duolingo or another app that makes it easy & convenient. I can almost guarantee you won’t feel confident in speaking the language, but you will feel less overwhelmed when you walk into a supermarket for the first time as you’ll have a basic ability to read Danish (and Duolingo covers some food and basic greetings which is VERY helpful in your first and future Danish supermarket experiences!) Also, I would recommend not greeting people with “hi” as the Danish greeting is “hej” and it sounds very similar so they will assume you are Danish and speak Danish to you. This leaves the both of you feeling embarrassed when you have to tell them you only speak English! Also not learning the language is totally fine as well, as every Dane speaks perfect English, you just may have to tell them that you don’t understand Danish! So don’t stress if you don’t get a chance to learn it, you’ll pick it up as you go!

Get a bike

Seriously. Danes bike everywhere and you’ll soon learn that your fellow international classmates will always bike everywhere too because it’s easier. You don’t want to feel left out or be the only one not going somewhere because you don’t have a bike. You could always bus but this is expensive and it’s significantly faster to actually just bike to places! Also, be warned that your jeans will eventually give in and rip on the inner leg area from your constant bike rides!

Danish Houses and their Bikes

See the City

Try to get out and see more of Denmark than just the city if you can. Denmark is a really beautiful country and surprisingly has some amazing cliffs and sand dunes (despite the fact that everyone says it is a flat country with no mountains). Hire a car if possible. (Note if you do this, it is significantly more expensive if you tell them you are a temporary resident and have a CPR number, you’re much better off booking the car from your home countries website for Denmark and then applying a student discount- this will allow you to get unlimited mileage when you hire a car and will be MUCH cheaper.

Aarhus Cathedral

Embrace the Hygge

Embrace the feeling of Hygge and you’ll really get to experience what Danish culture is about. It’s a feeling that is hard to explain, but you’ll know it when you feel it. It’s cosiness. It’s friendship. It’s love & warmth. It’s hot chocolates. It’s togetherness and it is just something so hard to explain

Go to international nights & other events

They are a lot of fun and a GREAT way to form some lifelong friendships. Danes can be a little reserved and respect personal space, so going to these events is a great way to mingle with some Danes and learn about their culture first hand

Road trip to the Danish Mon Klints with my exchange friends

Go to the eat street markets

If you go to Aarhus university, Eat Street markets will become one of your go to places for meeting groups of people and enjoying great food together!

Aarhus City Centre

Waking up to England!

Gina O’Donnell, University of Leeds, England (semester 1 2017)
Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries

Upon my exchange at the University of Leeds, in semester 1 of 2017, I learnt many things about myself and the world surrounding me. Going on exchange with a friend from Queensland University of Technology, I felt at ease having a friendly face with me on this epic journey. But soon learnt that being a duo may have been our downfall as people assumed we did not need to be invited to halls events etc. But I was able to overcome this by putting myself out there, making sure I was out of my comfort zone and made life long memories with amazing people.

A lot of these people however were themselves exchange students, I found myself shocked at the little interest the local people in Leeds had in people from other countries. An interesting prospect considering majority of their population is immigrants. It became more prominent as well after beginning my classes and I started to realise that the classes I did not have my exchange friends with were hard to make friends in. People had already formed their own group of friends and were exceptionally unwelcoming to newcomers. As I had already made my own group of friends this did not worry me, you can’t please them all.

What I did enjoy about my classes was experiencing the different teaching styles offered at the University of Leeds. One lecturer in particular absolutely astounded me going above and beyond any other undergraduate level of teaching I had experienced. This particular lecturer really shone through and definitely made me happy with my choice of host university.

Another great aspect of my exchange experience was staying on campus and in the Halls. Not only could I get up 5 minutes before a lecture and take naps in between classes, but I was also surrounded by interesting people. We did lots together dinners, birthday parties, party, errands and most importantly TRAVEL.

I cannot begin to tell you what it was like to travel to a different country nearly every weekend, other than it’s a worthwhile experience. The reason I chose the University of Leeds is because it had it’s own airport and it was close to pretty well everything in Europe.

Also the town of Leeds itself is BUZZING. A small University town with your rival University being Beckett, but it’s also a lot of fun. They always have something going on in the centre and great student deals pretty much everywhere.

I’m not trying to talk up the University of Leeds, but simply the whole exchange program. You get the proper opportunity to live and study in a different country, with government support. WHY WOULDN’T YOU. Wake up, this may be the best thing you ever do.

Aussie among the Brits: My semester abroad

Sarah K. – Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2016)

I had the time of my life studying at the University of Leeds during Semester 2, 2016.

Leeds is located at the centre of the UK in the Yorkshire region, about 315km North of London. It is an awesome student city which meant cheaper living costs (especially compared to somewhere like London!) and the opportunity to meet heaps of university students.

The University of Leeds was really great, and incidentally while I was there, it was awarded University of the Year 2017. It was my main choice because it provided a lot of subject options which allowed me to match up all of my law and business units. It was also interesting listening to lecturers with English, Irish and Scottish accents. Different to QUT, lectures are compulsory and your timetables are configured for you, there is no option to design your own schedule. The university also offered hundreds of different clubs! I joined a number of societies, notably the ‘Leeds Snowriders’ skiing and snowboarding society. Being a member allowed me to go on the university ski trip to Andorra, located on the border of France and Spain, which was an absolute blast.

In England, after graduating from High School, most students will move cities and live in on-campus student accommodation Halls for their first year of university. During my semester, I opted for catered living in Devonshire Hall, which was only a 15 minute walk from campus and looked a lot like Hogwarts. I cannot recommend student accommodation enough – you’re living with hundreds of other students just like yourself, which makes it so easy to make friends!

Devonshire Hall consists of several houses with both catered and self-catered students. My house had 10 people in it including myself, one other Australian exchange student, one American exchange student and the rest were all English students. Being catered at Devonshire Hall (or ‘Dev’ as it was quickly termed) meant that breakfast and dinner were always social occasions used to catch up with friends and plan weekend adventures. The food was pretty good but prepare yourself…England LOVE potatoes! Dev was also a really social Hall with frequent social events, quiz nights, movie nights, hall sports teams and drama and music groups. University accommodation allows you to meet so many different kinds of people from your home country as well as international students. Besides connecting with a lot of Aussies, some of my closest friends came from various places around England, New Zealand, Iceland, Netherlands, Japan, Denmark and many more.

I chose England for the location of my exchange because of its location within Europe. Other than the friendships I formed, travelling was what I loved most about exchange. I managed to fit in travel before, during and after my semester. I loved the ability to meet people from different countries and experience a variety of cultures. Exchange allowed me to be independent and self-sufficient whilst also completing my studies and it’s something that I think everyone should experience – you won’t regret it.

“Oh sorry, I don’t speak Danish!”

Savannah H, Bachelor of Business
Aarhus University, Denmark (Semester 1, 2016)

I spent 5 amazing months in Aarhus, Denmark and spent a total of 7 months abroad. As cliché as it sounds, exchange really was the best time of my life.

I studied at the Business and Social Sciences (BSS) faculty at Aarhus University. Aarhus is the second biggest city in Denmark after Copenhagen. Aarhus University was amazing, and BSS was great! BSS ran a really great introduction week, which meant I got to meet a lot of other exchange students in my first week. I lived in one of the furthest accommodations, but it still only took me about 20 minutes on bus to the campus and about 25 minutes to the city centre. The campuses were great (despite the buildings being named/numbered a bit confusingly!) The facilities were great (and it had an excellent canteen). One word I would use to describe Aarhus University and Denmark and my whole time abroad in general is “chill”. Everything was so chill.

Aarhus City Centre

Aarhus University, unlike QUT, only has final exams that count towards your grade. So no mid-sem’s. Which had its benefits and its drawbacks. One benefit being, I was able to travel throughout the semester without having to worry about assessment. The main drawback was I was pretty stressed in the last month with 3 exams all worth 100%, but overall it was fine, and let’s just say, that all you need to do on exchange is pass.

Aarhus BSS

Living in Aarhus was amazing! It is such a student city and due to the amazing introduction week, I was able to meet and constantly catch up with so many friends! I found that cost of living in Aarhus was pretty similar to Australia. I paid about $600 a month for my accommodation (private studio apartment with kitchen and bathroom located about 25 minutes by bus to the city centre). Groceries were comparable to Australia and I got a phone plan for $20 a month!

Kapsejladsen (Northern Europe’s biggest Student Party) held at Aarhus University

I found Denmark to be culturally pretty similar to Australia, but they do drink a lot of beer! People were nice, but sometimes seemed a bit standoffish, but as I learned, they just wanted to give you your own space. However, as soon as you asked for help or said “oh, sorry! I don’t speak Danish”, they couldn’t have helped you faster! I personally didn’t experience any culture shock or homesickness, but I know a few who did, I think to help avoid this, it’s really great if you can find a group of really close friends and try to be really active and see lots of both your host city and do a lot of travel!

Aarhus, a classic Danish scene: grey skies, a bike and colourful houses

I travelled a lot! I mean a lot a lot! Any long weekend I got, I was gone! I ended up visiting 20 countries and 36 cities. Skyscanner and RyanAir were basically my hobbies. The longest flight I took was from Billund (middle of Denmark) to Malta (small island south of Italy), and even this was only about 3 hours and we literally flew north to south over Europe! Flights were so cheap as were buses and trains and hostels! A quick tip: If you want to travel through central Europe (France, Germany, UK, Austria, etc) do so in their Winter, hostels are almost a third cheaper than travelling in their Summer. In Summer, I tried to travel though Eastern Europe where things are generally cheaper anyway. However, I did do Italy and Greece in Summer (bye money, but 100% worth it!).

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

My Maastricht Journey in the Netherlands

Weining K., School of Business and Economics
Maastricht University, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2016)

In Semester 1, 2016, I spent my time studying in Maastricht, one of the most historical cities in the Netherlands. Although Maastricht is a small city, it buzzes with life and energy, which gave me lots of great memories living there.

Maastricht city center during winter – majority of the population are able to communicate in English.

 

Reflecting on my journey, I am proud of myself for overcoming my fears and working towards becoming a better person in terms of personal development and also academic experience in an unfamiliar setting. I would like to share you some key reasons why I choose Maastricht University (UM) as my exchange destination.

Orientation Week: Maastricht University School of Business and Economics.

 

  1. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) system

The PBL system offered by UM was very intriguing when I was applying for exchange as I had never heard about this learning method. This learning method requires students to take the initiation for their own study outcomes. Instead of attending usual lectures delivered by professors, students have to prepare all the assigned materials before attending class and are to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the group discussion. This involves approximately 15 -20 students in the tutorial and each person will be assigned as a discussion leader on a scheduled date. First of all, the discussion leader will lead the group to review the required materials and follow up by addressing the potential problems and an appropriate solution will be formed within the group. Most of time, we had to analyze the problem and figure out the possible solutions by ourselves and the tutor only acted as an assisting role if there are issues to be clarified, allowing us to be really engaged and proactive in our problem solving skills.

My experience of the first tutorial, I did not speak for whole class because I had no idea how to start the discussion topic. But I had to present my finding and learning thoughts in class in order to get a mark for class performance. Luckily, our tutor and local students were very patient and friendly guiding me through the process and listened to my ideas as well as giving me some helpful feedback. At the end of my exchange, I can proudly say that I have gained more confidence in my public speaking skills.

  1. International Environment

Maastricht University is one of the most internationally renowned universities in Netherlands and most of the courses are taught in English. As 90-93% of Dutch population are able to speak in English and almost half of the students come from abroad, English is the official language on the campus, therefore, I didn’t need to worry about learning a new language from scratch, which made my transition and experience abroad a seamless one.

In terms of accommodation, I chose a guesthouse which was recommended by the university. This provided so many opportunities to meet new friends from all over the world and share our experiences. We had Friday night ‘international dinners’ where we took turns cooking cuisines from our home countries which was a memorable experience.

  1. Great Location to travel

Maastricht is a Dutch city that is located southeast in the Netherlands, it is far away from its other main cities like Amsterdam. Usually it takes 3 hours from Maastricht to Amsterdam by train. However, it is an easier location for travelling to other neighboring countries like Germany and Belgium. It only takes 45 minutes by bus to cross German and Belgian borders, making these countries convenient destinations for weekend visits. The Eindhoven airport, which is an hour commute by train from Maastricht is the most convenient airport to take the planes to other European countries. Most of them providing budget airline carriers such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Transavia.

Ryanair offers great deals and discounts for your travelling needs within Europe!

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It must be noted however that tickets for public transport are quite expensive in the Netherlands. For example, it costs €27 one-way ticket from Schiphol airport to Maastricht. In order to save, I always bought NS group return tickets, which work for people who are traveling together for that day. Good thing about this group ticket is that I do not need to travel with other group members and the lowest fare is €7 for return tickets if there are maximum 10 passengers. Students in the Netherlands usually pool the tickets through a Facebook group if they are travelling to the same destinations on the same day. I highly recommend future exchange students to find out the group ticket information if you plan to go any cities in the Netherlands.

 

Students can coordinate group discounts through Facebook groups and save big!

 

During my exchange, I have traveled to nearly 10 countries in Europe and experienced different cultures and food. Some countries in EU do not use euro as their official currency and sometimes it is hard to estimate the amount of money needed during the trip. Personally, I have created a local ING bank account with a debit card while staying in the Netherlands. I can use debit card in all EU countries and withdraw money from the local ATM whenever I want. Therefore, I didn’t need to take risk of bringing cash when traveling from one city to another. One credit card from home is required because many of online purchase like flight tickets only allow for credit card transactions.

 

Going on exchange was one of the best things in my life. Being abroad and meeting different people has made a significant impact on how I see the world today. I became more open-minded to accept other people’s perspectives and respect their different opinions. Although there were many challenges throughout the exchange journey, I have gained self-confidence by tackling and resolving them and learned a lot about myself during those hard times. I strongly encourage everyone who is dreaming to see different parts of the world by applying to Outbound Exchange Program. You only live once and do not regret missing this great opportunity when you have the chance. If you get the chance, go for it. Finally, I would like to say thank QUT and International Student Mobility Office for all the support through my whole journey.

 

Tips and Tricks for your Exchange in England!

Kristina Hiratos, Bachelor of Business (Accounting)
Aston University, England (Semester 1, 2017)

Some tips and advice for future students heading on exchange:

  • The biggest tip I can give to any student looking to go overseas on exchange is to just go with the flow, you never know what curveballs are going to be thrown at you and what people you will meet as a lot of plans can and will be made at the very last minute and these will often end up as your favourite memories.
  • If you get the opportunity to connect with other QUT students going to your exchange university then please do as I ended up making the closest friends with my fellow QUTie travelling and going on way too many runs to get noodles!
  • Make sure you keep in contact with friends and family back home! Even though time zones can be a challenge I made sure to keep up with everything that was going on, even being skyped in to sing happy birthday to my cousin and skype calling the whole family after they had midnight mass for Easter while I was travelling Europe which made the exchange not so daunting.
  • Carry a portable charger and actual plugs and cords with you everywhere! You never know when your phone will run out just when you need to take that perfect photo or you are lost in the wilderness of another city in another language.
  • If you have the chance try and stay on campus!!! There are some universities, like Aston, that say they won’t let 6 month exchange students stay on campus which isn’t true, do your research and if you are going into someone like Europe where it is the second half of their academic year some students will be leaving so you can take over their contract. Living on campus makes likes extremely easy in terms of studies and getting to know other students without having to go very far.
  • Make sure you have allowed for recommended amounts of money then some more and a little more than that! You never know what can happen and the travels you will do and things you will buy so it is always good to be prepared; however, if you are on a more strict budget like I was it is very wise to set up a weekly spending amount to make sure you have enough money to buy that snow globe you have always wanted as well as your groceries and pay for your bills.
  • Do your research on clubs and societies as it took me months into my exchange to even find out certain groups exist and I ended up going to one of their balls around half way through the semester which was awesome.
  • Try and make some connections outside of the exchange students through people you may end up doing group assignments with or have classes with as these friendships are invaluable when it comes to getting any sort of help in and out of classes, plus it makes the experience around campus when you have some familiar faces to reach out to and see around
  • Get a sim once you arrive in the country you will be going on exchange to as it will be a lot cheaper and especially in Europe data you get on your sim is now international roaming so being able to keep in contact with anyone and finding your way around foreign places becomes very easy. If you have the chance to get an international sim before you go over it becomes good to use while you transition between countries in airports if you can’t get onto wifi and need to contact anyone.

Great food and great friends in France!

Brad S., Bachelor of Business and Engineering                                                            Toulouse Business School, France (Semester 1, 2017)

My name is Brad Saunders and I spent a semester at Toulouse Business School (TBS) in the South of France. This is was one of the best decisions I have made in my life and I have created memories that will last a lifetime.

LIFE IN TOULOUSE

I first arrived in Toulouse on the 30th of August 2016, unsure of what to expect. I felt nervous stepping off the plane from Toulouse-Blagnac Aeroport. A few things passed through my mind; including how I would make friends, and whether I would adjust to a foreign language and culture. This was the first time I had moved out of home. Moving into a student residence with a fellow QUT student Peter, was a liberating experience as it allowed me to live a French lifestyle.

I was immediately shocked about how slow the people do things in France, it was more laid back than even Australia! They summed it up perfectly for me while I was there, “It’ll get done when it gets done.” A helpful hint would be to always be prepared for the fact that this is a French speaking country and English comes second. Even if you aren’t proficient in French, just try, effort can get you a long way with the people.

Making friends in the residence and checking out the nightlife at the famous St Pierre really put France into perspective for me. The French are socialites, even on a Tuesday night; people of all ages would be out socialising with food and drink. This night really set the tone for the rest of my experience in Toulouse. There are three things you must do: eat cheese, drink wine and socialise as often as possible.

UNIVERSITY EXPERIENCE

A few days later my true university experience was going to start, it was time to start classes. I was immediately shocked by the amount of international students and how small the classes were at TBS. Coming from QUT, where I sat in grand lecture halls such as Z411, I was suddenly in a classroom with 40 other people for the whole semester. There was no hiding, no looking at your phone or not socialising with other students. These classmates would later become my social group at TBS, some of which were French, but the majority being international students like myself.

The best part of my exchange can be summed up simply; by the connections you make along the way. My best recommendation for any student on exchange, is to talk to everyone you can at your host university. Memories are best shared with the others you meet along the way, it is tough to leave them behind when it is time to return home; but it is motivation for you to return again and continue your travels.

I urge you to take the plunge and give an exchange a go. It will be a memory that you will take with you forever.

Skagen, LegoLand and Studying in Denmark

Julie U., Bachelor of Business/Laws
Aarhus Univeristy, Denmark (Semester 1, 2016)

 

My name is Julie, I am a business and law double degree student now in my third year at QUT. In Semester 1 of this year, 2016, I went on exchange to Aarhus University in Denmark. Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark and has a very high student population. The university attracts not only students from all over Denmark, but also from many other parts of the world. There are many exciting museums and historical places to see in Aarhus, including the popular Aros museum with a 360 degree view of the city.

The university campuses of Aarhus university encompass many of the facilities we are used to at QUT, but the buildings and lecture rooms are less modern. Students in Denmark spend a lot more time on Campus then I would say majority of QUT students do. Reasons for this most likely being that Aarhus is a much smaller city, students generally live 10-15 minutes by bike or less from the university, tuition is free and students are paid government grants in excess of AU$1000 per month to study which means less need for part time work. I also found that I had a lot more contact hours in Aarhus, and there was more self-paced work that you don’t receive credit for as the final exams are all worth 100% of your grade.

The international student organization at Aarhus university was really good at running events to keep international students connected, and held weekly parties for to mix and mingle with other international students as well as some Danish students. The introduction week at Aarhus was a blast and the friends I made in that first week were with me through the whole semester.

Accommodation in Aarhus was very varied. Some international students really liked the accommodation that had been delegated to them, and others were less impressed. I had one roommate in a fairly modern apartment building that was a little further away from the center of town than I wanted but the facilities at the apartment were great and I had friends who lived close by.

Denmark is a Scandinavian country, and therefore not a cheap place to live. Not everything is expensive though. Alcohol is ridiculously cheap compared to what we are used to here in Australia. Getting take-away on the other hand is quite pricey, so you need to learn to cook your own meals most nights. Lunch at the University canteen is however good value for money and allows you to try traditional Danish dishes and other warm, home cooked meals that keep you going during the freezing winter months.

 

That brings me onto the next subject, weather. I began my exchange in January, it was very cold compared to what I am used to, but the snow made it an exciting change. After the snow period however came the rainy, dark and cold period. The weather did get a little depressing at times during the winter but the summer time in Denmark and Europe was well worth it. The sun is up until very late in the evenings and there is plenty of things to see and do around Aarhus outdoors.

The highlights of my exchange trip are difficult to narrow down, but would include; Trips to Skagen and Legoland, exploring Copenhagen and traveling around Europe with other exchange students, riding my bike everywhere around Aarhus and finding the love of my life who I convinced to move to Australia with me.

My Dublin Exchange

Jacob Watt, Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 2, 2017)

I arrived in Dublin on the fifth of January not knowing anyone. I was kindly greeted at Arrivals by a representative of Trinity College. We caught the AirCoach into town and he answered any questions I needed answering. My accommodation was an inner-city student housing company about 20 mins walk from Trinity.

Over the next few days I met my four roommates who I would be spending the next 5 months with. I had 3 European students who were studying their masters and were quite a bit older than me (26-27) and also a Texan guy who was around my age. We all got on really well and even had outings and home cooked dinners together. The age gap didn’t really matter and I felt like I had three older siblings! Signing up for the international student start up program was one of the best decisions I made because without it, I wouldn’t have met such a fun group of friends that I spent majority of my time with. We even took a weekend trip to Denmark together.

Eventually the socialising settled down a bit after the first month and Uni turned into the number one priority. The campus was absolutely beautiful and I will never forget the first time I walked through the big front gates. I can see why it is one of the top tourist attractions in Dublin! The classes I undertook were quite challenging so I did my best to keep up with the material.

One of the highlights was St Patrick’s Day and I will always remember how fun that day was. We made our way around to all the pubs in town and met so many locals that bought us Guinness!

The exchange was such an awesome opportunity and I am very grateful to QUT for allowing me to have such a life changing experience.

Adventure of a Lifetime in Birmingham

Cassandra, T., Bachelor of Public Health
University of Birmingham, England (Semester 1, 2017)

Going on exchange was easily the best decision of my life. Not only did I make incredible life long friends but I also experienced life as a local in a country so far away from home. It is difficult to summarise such an amazing experience that was both as amazing as I expected and even more.

I spent semester 1, 2017 at the University of Birmingham in England. I had visited the country a couple of times before with my family and had fallen in love with the rich history, traditions and culture. After receiving an email from the QUT study abroad and exchange office advertising the exchange program I thought why not give it a shot.

University Life

I was really nervous before arriving at my uni hall as I had never lived anywhere but Brisbane or with anyone but my family. At UoB most of the first years and exchange students live in the Vale. It is a group of residence halls run by the university and has a small community feel. I lived in Mason with 5 other girls all sharing a kitchen and common area. I opted to cook myself instead of having the meal plan. I also had my own private room and bathroom, providing a place to study and call everyone back home.

All my flat mates were very welcoming and we all instantly clicked.  The people I lived with became my closest friends and we did everything together, becoming the envy of other flats that didn’t get along so well with their flat mates. I never once felt alone or isolated as my support network of both international and British friends were always there. During the Easter break I was fortunate enough to stay with some of my friends at their homes in Rochester and Scunthorpe, where I was treated to traditional English pub meals and a classic Sunday dinner, which is actually a roast lunch. We still speak just about every day, the time zones may be difficult but with so many forms of social media it makes staying in contact really easy.

Campus

Getting to and from uni was a lot easier than my one-hour bus ride to QUT, it was only a leisurely 15min walk to the main campus from my uni hall. The main campus was particularly beautiful with many old historic buildings mixed with new state of the art buildings like the new fancy library. In the centre of the campus is Old Joe, the largest free standing clock tower in Europe. Legend has it that if you walk underneath while it chimes you will fail your degree. The Great Hall where I completed one exam looked like it was straight out of Harry Potter. During the spring the campus and the Vale, where I lived, had daffodils and other pretty flowers blooming everywhere.

Study Load

The curriculum set up is slightly different to QUT with most students taking 6 units per semester, the option to take 4 or 5 units per semester is available however this means some units are weighted more heavily meaning more work. Although, the workload was still manageable and I still found time to hang out with friends. I was there for 2 semesters, the spring/summer semesters, as they have 3 semesters per year. The first semester is only 11 weeks long and is the main teaching period. Following that, there is a month long break over Easter, the perfect time to travel and see the rest of the UK and Europe.  The contact hours are slightly more than what I’m accustomed to at QUT with around 2 or 3 lectures a week and a tutorial, seminar or practical. However, they were usually only 1 hour long.

Travel

With the U.K. being a lot smaller in geographical size than Australia it was easy to go on day trips or overnight trips on the weekends to different cities. As Birmingham is only a 2-hour train ride to London, I had many day trips there exploring the city. I also saw many lovely quaint old towns and historical castles such as, Warwick Castle, Nottingham and Nottingham castle, the Cadbury factory, Edinburgh, Oxford, and Blenheim Palace. Train tickets are also super cheap if you buy a 16-25 year old rail pass. I can’t recommend it enough, if you plan on taking trains it is definitely worth the money. Because of this we were able to buy 7 pound return trips to London, bargain! Plane tickets were also cheap if you buy them well in advance and only take carry on luggage. Because of this I was able to travel through Europe during the month break between the semesters. I was lucky enough to visit, Malaga in Spain, Dublin for St Patrick’s Day, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, Iceland, Venice and Rome. It is really difficult to pick my favourite place but Iceland was definitely amazing. The landscapes and natural beauty are unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Why you should go on exchange

I couldn’t recommend going on an exchange enough. This experience QUT has provided me with has made me come out of my shell and realise my aspirations for life. I have learnt life lessons that wouldn’t be taught in a classroom. It may sound cheesy but Birmingham will always be my second home.

The QUT exchange program has really opened my eyes to a world of possibilities and adventures right outside my doorstep. It truly was an experience of a lifetime.