Ciao Italy!

Andrew P., Master of Business Process Management
Politecnico Di Milano, Italy (Semester 1, 2016,)

Host University

I went on exchange at Politecnico di Milano (Polimi) in Semester 1, 2016 at the Leonardo campus. It is a widely respected university in Europe with a rich history in engineering.

Note in Europe, their semesters are reversed which means our 1st semester is their 2nd. Polimi semesters start around 3 weeks after the QUT equivalent so you might (will) miss the first few weeks of your next semester when you return.

Most units will consist of two 2hr lectures and one final exam during the exam period. You get 2 attempts to pass the exam. This all-or-nothing final examination approach threw me off compared to how it’s done in QUT so you’ll need to self-manage your own studies from day one (my lectures were not recorded). If you are going in your first semester (QUT), try extending your stay to include their September exam session which will allow you to have 2 extra attempts to pass the exam as a precaution.

I found an apartment before arriving using a website called Uniplaces. They provide an intermediary in case you find the apartment not to your liking. I paid for a single room in a 2-bedroom apartment which cost me 500euro per month. This is average price you should expect to pay. Luckily, I’ve had no problems with my accommodation (and I’ve heard stories).

Host Country

I enjoyed my time in Italy and you can survive speaking only English but I would definitely recommend learning Italian before and during exchange. It definitely makes the experience so much more rewarding. I had a lot of fun interacting with my fellow international students via Polimi’s free language classes.

Milan is an expensive city to live in, compared to Brisbane. Try and buy whatever you need at the street markets scattered throughout the city.

Highlights

  • I’m a football fan and it was great to watch (and attend) quality games within normal hours!
  • The sun doesn’t set until 9pm which allows you to make the most of the day. It’s definitely something I immediately miss upon returning.
  • Joining the ERASMUS group and making new friends. They do plenty of trips and social events. Great fun!
  • Italians have a tradition called Aperitivo. By purchasing a beverage, you have full access to the buffet they set out in the afternoon. It’s a social and financial lifeline for students!

Tips

Before Leaving

  • If you’re planning on taking a credit card (recommended) try getting one that gives you complementary travel insurance if you use the card to pay for your flights or accommodation. I knew a few students who went travelling after the study period.
  • Don’t forget your stationary
  • Pack light, you’ll be bringing back more than you can imagine.
  • A laptop is essential.
  • Try to get as many transfer units as possible. There may be circumstances in which you won’t be able to do some of the units that you applied for. Be prepared to have overlapping units.
  • I used a Citibank Plus account for cash withdrawals and a 28 Degrees account for credit card purchases and highly recommend both.

During Exchange

  • Apply for an ATM Transport Card. Renew every month for 22euro at the Metro Stations.
  • I signed on to Vodafone prepaid plan as it also allows cheap data roaming in other countries (5euro per day). The other big telecoms Wind and TIM do not provide this.
  • Applying for a Permesso di Sogiorno (Permit to stay) is a very daunting experience. I actually got my card a couple of weeks before I was set to leave!

Cheese and Baguettes? Oui Oui!

Relicia G., Bachelor of Fine Arts/ Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Catholique Universitie de Lille, France (Semester 1, 2017)

Exchange is honestly going to be the best decision you ever
make. If you’re going to the Catholique Universitie de Lille,
then there are a few simple things that can help you adjust
to life in France.

Catholique Universitie de Lille

My suggestion, if you want to be close to campus, is to
definitely stay in the AEU student housing. We don’t really
have the opportunity to be completely immersed in student
life this way in Brisbane, so it’s a very unique experience.
More importantly, it’s also where you’ll make most of
your friends, go to fun events sponsored by the AEU
and be involved in a lot of school activities. Plus you
get free breakfast!

Free breaky!

The way the schooling system works is a lot like the
Australian high school, you’ll be at class 5 days a
week and you’ll have a lot of subjects to do. But
luckily, these subjects will not be as difficult as the four units we do at QUT.
So never fear, you’ll have plenty of time to have fun!
There are a lot of multicultural projects that you can be involved in such as
sport, dancing and photography. My favorite was the gastronomy project, where
you can get together with a group of French and
other exchange students, and essentially just eat!
You get to enjoy allot of foreign cuisines, and
learn about culture and traditions from other
nationalities.


There are also a lot of sport teams you can join,
such as basketball, handball and badminton. I
strongly suggest that you get involved in as many of
these projects and teams as possible because that’s
where you’ll get your best experiences!
It’s also a smart idea to familiarize yourself with the
public transport systems, as that is what you will be
primarily using to get around. The metro and bus
systems are pretty cheap, but the train gets very
expensive if you have to use it last minute.

Some funky facts about France:
– There are entire isles dedicated to cheese and wines
– You have to eat the baguettes in one day or else they’ll go off
– Classes usually start at 8am
– It rains constantly (and for some reason only tourists use umbrellas)
– If you’re there during the winter, bring a coat because it’s going to get
REALLY cold
– Everything is closed on Sundays. EVERYTHING.
– You won’t need to buy books, everything is either
emailed to you or given in class (like
highschool)
– Familiarized yourself with bisous, I guarantee
your going to have strangers come up to you
expecting it
– If someone invites you over for lunch or dinner, expect it to take at
least 3 hours minimum
– If you need something done, by any French association, double the
time you’d expect it to take, then add an extra 2 weeks
– Be wary of the smelly cheese

But the most important thing to remember is:
HAVE FUN!

Hej from Sweden!

Jordan S., Bachelor of Engineering
Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden (Semester 2, 2016)

Hej jag heter Jordan Simpson! I undertook an exchange semester at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg (Gothenburg) Sweden during the second semester of 2016!

Host University

Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg

I found that life on campus at Chalmers is quite different to QUT. A few of the main differences I found was the block scheduling of courses, the really cheap lunches they provide, and the amount of leisure activity rooms. I found the block scheduling of classes to be quite good; it meant not having to deal with class registration and ending up with a shocking timetable.  It even usually allowed for one or two free days a week! Chalmers also offered really cheap and decent quality/sized meals each day for 40kr (which is approx. $6.50). Chalmers also had heaps of buildings that could be used for all sorts of leisure activities (indoor soccer/basketball, rock climbing, even a billiard area!).

Accommodation can be quite hard to come by for the local university students of Gothenburg wishing to move out of their parent’s place. These students have to start queuing to find a place when they are in grade 9 or 10 in high school! However, being an international student, Chalmers and SGS Studentböstader (a student housing company) offers priority 1 when looking for accommodation during your stay in Gothenburg.

From an academics standpoint, Chalmers is very different to QUT. The main difference being that instead of taking 4 courses over a semester, the semester is broken up into two study periods. Each study period lasts 8 weeks, and during this time you take 2 courses. This means that the courses are a lot heavier, but leads to a much easier time during exam block period.

Host Country

City of Gothenburg

The cost of living is almost identical to Australia, only major difference being the alcohol prices in their bottle shops. Getting around in Gothenburg is very easy! The public transport system is phenomenal (well almost anything is compared to my hometown, Mackay).  There are many trams and busses running all the time to get you to where you need to go. If you want to see a bit more of Sweden there are also plenty of top quality trains to take!

I found the culture of Sweden to be quite similar to our own. With one notable difference being people keep to themselves at first so you have to really initiate conversation. But once you start to get them talking they are just as friendly and inviting as we are! If you are also wondering how the language barrier is, I can assure you that it is almost non-existent. Almost every Swedish person I met was able to speak English perfectly and switched to it as soon as they knew you only spoke English!

One of the cool things I really enjoyed about my time in Sweden was actually being able to experience the four seasons of the year! My favourite time of the year was Autumn as I found it cool to see everything go orange, and actually see the physical change from Summer.

Highlights/Tips

It’s hard to choose highlights from my exchange as the whole experience has been absolutely fantastic.  One of the many highlights was being able to meet so many people from different countries.  I got to experience bits and pieces of their cultures and share some from mine, while also learning about the Swedish culture with them.  However, one of my favourite times during this exchange was when my mates and I went for a weekend in Stockholm before going on a 3-day cruise to Talin, Estonia.

Northern lights in Lapland

The best tip I can give is get involved with CIRC (Chalmers’ International Student Society), and make sure to go to all of their events during the first few weeks so you can meet heaps of people that eventually make a good group of friends! Also, the one event I highly recommend (which I personally didn’t get to go to but all of my friends did) is the Lapland trip! During this you travel to the far north of Sweden and get to experience ridiculously cold temperatures, go dog sledging, and see the Northern Lights!

 

Everything you need to know about studying in Maastricht!

Kellie Amos
Maastricht University, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2017)

Applying to Maastricht University (UM)

Getting accepted into an exchange program is, naturally, quite a process. There’s a lot of different applications that need to be completed, and you spend equal amounts of time waiting for the approval of these as you do submitting them. Although, for the most part, both QUT and UM were quite prompt in getting back to me, I did have some issues with receiving official acceptance from UM.

Initially, I received confirmation of my registration not long after submitting my application, but this didn’t count as official acceptance. QUT requires a letter from the overseas university stating your acceptance before they can confirm your enrolment and start organising other elements of your exchange. Consequently, a few weeks went by and I started to receive information about visas and classes from UM, but still no official letter of acceptance. It was only after I asked for it directly that I was sent an appropriate form of acceptance to forward to QUT.

So if, like me, a few weeks go by and you’re getting emails about visas and enrolment – but still no acceptance – it’s worth contacting the uni’s International Relations Office (or likewise relative department) for official confirmation. Of course, I don’t know if this is a usual problem with UM, but you’ll want to receive your official acceptance as soon as possible so you can get your visa sorted.

Maastricht Housing & Guesthouse UM

All student housing for UM is organised by a third-party organisation called Maastricht Housing. As the official agency, it’s recommended you find accommodation through them, and after reading some horror stories online, I decided it was worth the €35 registration fee.

Under Maastricht Housing, the UM Guesthouse is the main provider of housing for UM students and has a lot of different buildings/properties to choose from. The main building where you pick up your keys, sign your contract, etc. is actually a hospital where the majority of the complex has been converted to dorms. A lot of the friends I ended up making stayed here, as it’s one of the cheapest options the Guesthouse offers. I decided on pricier accommodation at one of the Guesthouse’s buildings in the centre called Heilige Geest 7B instead.

For me, this was a perfect place to be as I came to know the city extremely well, and my studio apartment felt more like a home, as opposed to a temporary stay. I was also lucky enough to become close friends with the Finnish girl who lived above me and the other people on my floor. In general though, Heilige Geest has no shared or communal areas, so in the early weeks I felt like I’d made the wrong choice given everyone was making friends and hanging out at the Guesthouse. After a while, that all changed as I grew closer to the people in my building and heard about all the issues my other friends were having at the Guesthouse (mostly gross communal areas and unpleasant staff). I paid more for my apartment, but for me and the experience I wanted, I felt it was worth every extra penny!

Maastricht birthplace of the European Union

A beautiful medieval city, Maastricht is home to a large international student population – particularly from the neighbouring countries Belgium and Germany. People from all over the world come to study at the university and improve their English. Given the large student population there’s rarely a time where something isn’t going on in one of the city squares, the Vrijthof and the Markt, especially in the summer. The student organisation ISN regularly puts on events and trips for exchange students, and you can’t miss their infamous CANTUS nights (think karaoke meets Oktoberfest) or their ‘Discover’ weekend trips.

Aside from being full of places to eat, drink, and dance, Maastricht is popular among locals within the region for its shopping. You could easily spend hours checking out all the cute boutiques tucked away in all the winding streets of Dutch houses. There’s also a lot of beautiful parks, and my friends and I would often sit on part of the old city walls overlooking them as we ate our lunch.

In addition to being such a beautiful place to live, Maastricht is also extremely close to other European countries. I walked and biked to Belgium with my friends on many occasions, and catching trains across the border was just as easy. You can catch trains and buses to Germany, France, and Luxembourg with just as much ease but if you’re travelling via the NS (Netherlands railway company) use Facebook groups to find others so you can buy cheaper tickets for €7 (see links at the end of this blog). The closest airport is Eindhoven, which offers really cheap flights, and you can also get some incredibly good value flights from Brussels’ airports.

  Dutch Culture and Carnaval!

In terms of culture, you get a very authentic taste of Dutch life living in Maastricht. The locals in this region love to drink, sing, and dance – as evidenced by the incredible festival Carnaval (not to be confused with the South American Carnival). Although I could never get any one person to tell me exactly what the festival was for, it essentially started as a tradition in the southern parts of Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany where people would fill the streets in elaborate costumes (often gender bended) and drink and eat for 3 days. If you’re planning on going to Maastricht for exchange, you have to go during first semester. Carnaval takes place in March and is truly a sight to behold!

This is the event where I really bonded with my friends and came to know the city, in all its colour. It also introduced me to a fundamental characteristic of the Dutch culture – you can be and do whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. The neutrality of this mindset is something I truly came to admire about the Netherlands.

O-Week & Making Friends

As part of your exchange, UM requires you to participate in a compulsory 3-day introduction to the campus and system of teaching called Problem-based Learning (PBL). In addition to that, ISN runs a series of events throughout the week for you to meet people and introduce yourself to the Dutch culture, including city tours, bike classes, food tastings, and pub crawls. I attended a few of these events, and at the pub crawl met some people who eventually formed my group of closest friends on exchange. It was awkward putting myself out there but all the other students are in the same boat and everyone is extremely friendly. After the first week, most people had found a solid collection of friends and groups began to form. This is why it’s so important to be there for first week and go to as many of the ISN events as you can. By the end of exchange, my friends were like my family, as we had made so many wonderful memories together. Exchange would mean half of what it does if I hadn’t of met them, so take the time to talk to people and I guarantee you’ll form friendships unlike any other.

Cost of Living

For my exchange, I used a Velocity Global Wallet Card, which allows you to load AUD on to it and exchange it into several other currencies, including the Euro and Pound. It works like a normal visa debit card and has no fees for electronic transactions, just a small dollar fee for cash withdrawals. Being a small city, many of the establishments in Maastricht don’t accept traditional credit card providers like visa, so I did have to use cash quite often.

Overall, Maastricht isn’t an overly expensive city if you know where to go! With such a large student population, there are a number of cheap places to eat and groceries were largely cheaper than what you pay in Australia. I went overseas with around $12,000AUD spending money, which was more than enough for 6 months of living and travelling in Europe, leaving me with over a grand leftover. With rent for accommodation, I needed an extra $5,000AUD, so depending on how much travel you do and where you choose to stay in Maastricht, I’d say you should budget between $15,000-20,000AUD for 6 months.

Some Final Advice…

In the span of your lifetime, 6 months might not equate to much, but an exchange feels like you’ve just lived an entire years worth of experiences in half the amount of time. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you can put down roots in another part of the world. I don’t have any regrets about my exchange and I could spend hours telling you more about the things I was able to see, do, and live thanks to this opportunity. Instead, the last piece of advice I give you is to find some way to remember it – whether that’s photos, a journal, a blog, collecting souvenirs, or a combination of all those – I can guarantee you’ll want some kind of physical evidence it wasn’t just a dream.

Exchange isn’t easy, you will have lows along with the highs, but it is so worth your time and effort! Here are some extra links to help—

Facebook group for NS Group Tickets: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1472379199695327/

Facebook group for Second-hand Bikes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/216524551852144/

Facebook group for Bikes and Furniture: https://www.facebook.com/groups/zarurahusam/

 

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!

Jackie’s Exchange in Osaka, Japan

Jackie: Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka, Japan – Semester 1, 2016

Nine months ago, just after Christmas, I was mentally preparing myself to go to Osaka, Japan to study at Kansai Gaidai University for 4 and half months. The whole thing terrified me. The thought of going to an unfamiliar country, where I knew two words of the native language, where I didn’t know a single soul and where I would be on my own for the very first time in my life, gave me so much anxiety.

Me and my New Friends

Me and my New Friends

However, I pushed through and on the 17th of January, with tears in my eyes and butterflies in my stomach, I said goodbye to my parents and went on my way. When I landed in Osaka I was a nervous wreck. I got through customs, pulled myself into the nearest bathroom and had a little cry. Little did I know I was about to embark on one of the greatest adventures of my life.

 

The first people I met at the airport were welcoming and lovely. They were exchange kids from all across the globe and all just as scared as me. There were some from America others from Argentina and myself from Australia (I guess we had an A thing going on?). We all stuck to each other as a survival method and became good friends. We hung out every day, had classes together and explored every inch of Japan that we could. We made friendships that I hope we keep for life.

The schooling was very different from back home. It wasn’t modeled on a Japanese system but rather an American. In a lot of ways it reminded me of high school. jackie_2I saw the same people every day, we all hung out during set lunch times and there were certain classes that were mandatory (Japanese). It was nostalgic but exciting. Sometimes I found the curriculum a little frustrating compared to back home as it wasn’t very academically challenging. I really enjoyed the Japanese classes I took and feel that they helped a lot. (If you are going to KGU, please, please, please take the Kanji class. I get it, it’s intimidating but if you’ve never studied Japanese before it will make your life so much better.)

Want to learn more about QUT’s Student Exchange Options? Click Here…