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.

5 Tips for Studying Abroad at Queens University!

Sidney A., Bachelor of Business/Laws
Queens University, Kingston, Canada (Semester 1, 2017)

 

Firstly, I must say that my decision to go on exchange was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my time at QUT. What you learn in a classroom setting at university is important, but there are so many other skills that you learn outside of the classroom (for example, on exchange) that are just as equally valuable.

 

Tip #1: if you are going on exchange to Queens, only book your flight to Toronto and then catch the train/bus to Kingston as the plane going between Toronto and Kingston is the size of a small bird and the experience is quite unnerving.

 

Tip #2: you don’t HAVE to have your accommodation booked prior to arriving in your host city.

If you don’t handle stressful situations well, I would recommend doing it a couple of months prior; however, I arrived in Kingston with 5 nights temporary accommodation pre-booked and 4 days to find somewhere to live. This forced me to get out and explore the city and get my bearings, find the best coffee shops in town to search for housing and meet lots of helpful Canadians. On the second last day, I had the perfect little carriage house all to myself and a friend over to celebrate. From that night, I knew it was going to be an amazing 4 months.

The first week, known as NEWTS (our leaders were Geckos) week was like O-week at QUT, but crazier! The entertainment, parties, games, social activities, chanting, dancing, dressing up, and eating was non-stop! In this week, I was allocated into a group and, naturally, the students in my group (called Food Newtwork) became some of my closest friends throughout the semester.

A bit about the university…the facilities are incredible! You think of a sport, and they’ve got it! That goes for food as well; but everyone seems to stick to PitaPits and Tim Hortons coffee and donuts. There are also plenty of clubs to join including outdoors club which organize weekly hikes and allow you to borrow their camping equipment.

One of my favourite thing about Queens was the camaraderie and the university spirit. Most of the residents in Kingston were Queens students and by the end of the semester, just about everywhere you went, you would run into a friend or a professor or tutor.

 

Tip #3: when looking for accommodation, try and get a room in the student Ghetto. I would suggest Frontenac St (or Aberdeen st if you really like to party). This is walking distance from the uni and close to all of the facilities, so you basically won’t leave the area.

In terms of the academics, I must admit that the four finance courses I took were much more challenging than those I’ve taken at QUT. The student intake at Queens Business School is quite limited, so the Canadian students that are accepted are mostly all high-achievers and have very high expectations. So whilst I probably spent the same amount of time studying overseas as I do at QUT, I do not regret at all, because I learnt so much and developed skills that I probably wouldn’t have, had I chosen first-year subjects.

Tip #4: if you want to do a really challenging finance subject, I dare you to take Professor Bill Cannon’s class.

 

On the weekends, most of the exchange students would organise camping trips, hiking trips and road trips to new cities and go exploring. During my time in Canada, I was fortunate enough to travel to Quebec City, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver/Whistler on the West Coast on my way home. My favourite city was definitely Montreal, despite that I cannot speak one work of French; but I would recommend trying to get to all of these cities. They were all unique and worth spending a weekend exploring.

The cost of living was fairly similar to Brisbane, however, in Kingston there were lots of student discounts that you could take advantage of. Travelling in a group also lowered the costs. For example, hiring a car and splitting it between 5 people reduced transport costs considerably.

Tip #5: in Ontario, they have quite strict regulations with regards to hiring cars, so I would highly recommend checking out one of their policies before leaving Australia and trying to meet all of the insurances etc if you’re interested in doing a bit or travel, or buddy up with someone that does.

Personally, the only cultural shock I experienced was with the food. Be prepared to carb-load. Everything has potatoes, bread and chips included.

Reflecting on all of these things really makes me miss my time at Queens. I would do it 100 times over and cannot recommend study abroad highly enough to my peers!

The American College Experience

Bridgette V., Bachelor of Journalism / Law (Honours)
San Jose State University, United States (Semester 2, 2017)

Host University

Life on campus at San Jose State University (SJSU) was a fantastic experience. While the on-campus accommodation was very expensive, like anything in Silicon Valley, the student apartments were very well arranged and provided a great atmosphere to meet fellow exchange and domestic students. The resident facilities gave us lots of opportunities to meet new people and attend events, especially at the start of semester.

SJSU provided a great American college experience. During my time on exchange, I got to attend many sporting events, pep-rallies and tailgates and other school based events which allowed me to get involved in the SJSU spirit. As I don’t live on campus at home, it was great to see how many opportunities there were to become involved.

Academics at San Jose were very different to that back at home. We had at least one piece of assessment every week throughout my exchange. However, each piece of assessment was not weighed as heavily as they are at QUT. For instance, for one subject, we had five quizzes throughout the course of the semester, each worth 10-15%. While it was frustrating at times having constant assessment, it helped me to stay on top of the content and reduced the stress at the end of semester. The mid-terms and finals at SJSU also only assessed parts of the course we had learnt since the last piece of assessment. This lack of cumulative assessment made it easier to revise and prepare.

Host Country

The lifestyle in America was very similar to that in Australia. While the stereotype typically depicts Americans as less friendly than their Canadian neighbours, I didn’t find this to be true. They were always willing to go out of their way to help you and to show you around. Everyone was very hospitable and welcoming. The only main difference was tipping and the exclusion of tax in the advertised prices.

Highlights of exchange

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on exchange and would recommend study abroad as something everyone should undertake during their degree. It is a fantastic way to meet new people and explore new places while also gaining credit towards your degree. My main highlight was meeting and spending time with all the new people I met. While San Jose was a great place to explore, it was the people that I met along the way that definitely made my trip. The things we did, places we saw and things we experienced will be memories I cherish forever.

Things I didn’t expect

I was surprised by the number of international students I became friends with. Initially, I assumed I would become friends with mainly American students. However, understandably, they spend a lot of time studying and working, as I would do back at home. The international students on the other hand were all there with similar goals and attitudes. As such, we were all keen to explore and try new things and so we often grouped together to adventure around the place.

Tips and advice

My main tip would be to enter exchange with an open mind. Being open to new experiences allows you to do things and meet people you would never have expected to. Don’t be afraid to try new things and be ready to go with the flow. Often exchange is a waiting game, so be patient and be assured that it will all work out in the end.

A Guide to Life at Aarsus University

Mathew Verwater, Bachelor of Business/laws

Short-term program: “Experience Summer at Aarhus University”

Denmark (July/August 2018)

Host University

  1. Academics

Aarhus University similarities with QUT:

–          Summer course classes are similar to workshops (where lectures and tutorials are combined into one class and where the lecturer asks students question and discusses the topic and thoughts on news relating to a topic),

–          Summer courses required students (in law) to read the articles and textbook readings,

–          No mandatory class attendance

Aarhus University differences with QUT:

–          Classes are not recorded and thus, not attending lectures is disadvantageous as some important information id discussed in the subject,

–          Students are required to complete out-of-class work (I completed 3 or 4 different out-of-class work throughout the course)

Attending the summer course classes at Aarhus University, I think, felt very similar to high school classes as the lecturer would ask the students questions and to discuss a topic and thoughts on news

  1. Accommodation

When I was in Denmark, I stayed in the Snogebæksvej dormitory. The dormitory, I think, is like most Australian dormitories.

List of facilities in the Snogebæksvej dormitory:

–          It had a communal kitchen (residents were expected to prepare their own meals),

–          Kitchen, you share your mini fridge with one other person, thus, if you cook a lot it may be difficult to fit both your food and the other’s

–          14 rooms per floor (two floors),

–          Toilet, shower and bedroom with two tables, one cupboard, a desk lamp, and bed (without sheets, blankets, and pillow protector.

–          There was also an apple tree outside the kitchen, so you can get apples for free.

  1. Life on Campus

Aarhus University is a very large university and has buildings located throughout Aarhus. Similar to QUT giving each building a letter, each building at Aarhus University is numbered (for example, mine was number 1451). Each building has about three floors and access to the roof. Classes were three to four times a week (from 9am – 1pm) Each campus, unlike QUT, has its own self-serve cafeteria serving breakfast and lunch. Similar to a buffet. Each plate of food costs approximately $8 and coffee costs approximately $5.50. Once, during each summer semester, the university hands out ice cream to everyone at the university. Life on the campus is similar to life at QUT. So, it’s not that different from what you usually would do at QUT.

It is a large university with buildings throughout Aarhus.

A beautiful Country

Host Country

Denmark is a beautiful country, Aarhus is similar to Brisbane in terms of a mix between nature and city. There are a lot more brick houses and apartments compared to Brisbane. Aarhus also has a lot of places to visit such as the deer park, Moesgaard museum, and the beach. Also, everyone besides senior citizens can speak English so it’s very easy to get around or buy things. However, I do warn that Denmark is quite expensive, so make sure you bring a lot of cash.

There are a lot more brick houses in Aarhus compared to Brisbane.

Aarhus has a lot of places to visit, but it is quite expensive.

Highlights

Visiting Copenhagen and the Viking moot were definitely the highlights of the trip. Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and has many beautiful sights and places to visit, such as Nyhavn, the Opera House, Christiansborg Palace, and the National Museum of Denmark. The Viking moot was an amazing social program. The Viking moot consisted of watching re-enactments of battles and horse riding. There was also a lot of cool things to buy for friends and yourself at the Viking moot.

Nyhavn in Copenhagen.

The Twin Cities!!

Eliza Blanch, Bachelor of Business (International)
University of Minnesota, USA (Semester 1, 2018)

I didn’t originally choose the University of Minnesota but as I was unable to go to my first choice, it seemed like the next best fit. The campus is huge and a little overwhelming at first but you soon find your way around and meet new people, making it the new normal. Everything about the school is a lot like you see in the movies. With sporting matches where everyone gets involved and college traditions, such as homecoming, it’s something that you may have never experienced before.

The university is located right near the city centre of Minneapolis. It is a quiet, nice town which I believed was great for a college student. This was especially for business students as there are many Fortune 500 companies who base themselves in Minneapolis and the school gives you a lot of opportunities to learn about what they do.

Although QUT and the University of Minnesota are both located in the city, due to their size they have completely different teaching styles. This is because you will attend two classes a week for the same subject which are a mixture of tutorials and lectures. You will also do a lot of compulsory homework for these classes but this was a good way to remember what you were learning.

The university had many strengths especially with the business school as it is highly regarded and well known in the country. Also, the exchange group that they have for business students is a great way to meet fellow exchange students and Americans.

During my stay, I stayed in off-campus housing where a lot of American college students stayed as it was cheaper than what the university offered and had better facilities. The facilities included my own room and bathroom, a desk, a swimming pool, gym and basketball court.For the year, I saved over $25,000 and tried my best to stick to a budget of around $1,500 a month. I would say that the cost in comparison to Brisbane would just be a little bit cheaper. However, it was very hard to stick to the budget because there are so many activities that you can do but they do cost money and sometimes it was easier to eat out. Whilst away I used a commonwealth travel card for most of my transactions but opened an American bank account to pay my rent as I was charged a service fee for using a foreign card.

I didn’t experience much of a culture shock due to the similarities between our two countries. But to ensure my safety whilst over there I made sure I didn’t put myself into dangerous situations and if out late at night made sure I always walked home with someone.

Some tips that I would give is to always have a can-do attitude whilst away and always say yes to new experiences that you might not do at home. If travelling within America I would suggest having a good size carry-on bag so that you don’t have to pay for check-in luggage. For travel insurance, I would recommend Travel Insurance Direct as they cover all you need and are reasonably priced. When flying I highly recommend Delta as they were always a good airline and provided free carry-on luggage and entertainment.

Coming back from the exchange I feel as though I am more independent and confident in the things I do. Academically I have broadened my knowledge of American business procedures, which will only help me develop my skills professionally back home. Going on exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you meet so many people from all around the world who in the end become lifelong friends.

Viva L’Italia!

Giulia Marrama, Bachelor of Laws
Universita Luigi Bocconi, Italy (Semester 1, 2018)

In Semester 1 2018, I travelled to Milan for a six-month exchange at Universita Luigi Bocconi. Milan is an incredible, vibrant city filled with history, amazing food, people, and fashion. Milan has the benefit of being a modern, metropolitan city while maintaining the classical Italian-styled architecture. The transport both within Milan and around Italy is very efficient and you can travel almost anywhere with the tram and train. I would recommend taking a tour with the Erasmus Student Network Body (ESN) at the beginning of semester, as this will allow you to connect with other exchange students and create strong friendships from the start.

When it comes to accommodation I decided to stay in an apartment with other Italian students. I had been accepted into the university’s Arcobaleno dorm but had been advised by previous students to try and find alternative accommodation. I was able to get an apartment with other Italian students in the suburb of Porta Romana. If you are thinking of getting an apartment I would highly recommend looking for one around this area. It was a perfect location that was only a 20-minute walk to the university and a 20-minute to the city centre. It was full of restaurants, bars, metro station, markets and everything you would need within a short walking distance.

Some of the tips that I would give include:

  1. Get involved in the events that ESN/University offers
  2. Be prepared to adapt to the Italian culture and lifestyle
  3. Keep in mind that the University does not alter their examination or course structures for exchange students and pass/fail is 60%
  4. Have fun and enjoy the remarkable ride that you have embarked on!

Onto Ontario!

Sebastian Voges-Haug, Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Creative Industries
Queens University, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

I had an amazing semester of exchange attending Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. It was definitely a worthwhile experience and if I had the chance I’d do it again. Being on the other side of the globe, attending in the winter term in which the country experienced one of their harshest winters in decades could have been a setback, but it didn’t stop me from having the best time in true Canadian conditions.

Studying at the Smith School of Business (Queen’s University)
Classes at Queen’s were different with the university approaching their teaching style in a different way. Firstly the majority of my commerce classes required participation, of which consisted of 5-10% of your grade. This not only meant attending every class (even the early 8:30am sessions) but actively engaging in discussion with your professor and classmates. Nothing is recorded so you are unable to watch lectures online, however all my professors supplied the powerpoint slides on their version of Blackboard. This may be a turn-off for some students used to the QUT arrangements, but in attending one of Canada’s leading and most competitive business schools, the professors were some of the best in the country and were all actively engaging and friendly. You will most likely end up building a great rapport with them and they are always happy to help when needed – they especially like Australians.

Living at Queen’s
Life at the university was comparable to a lot of the college stereotypes. I lived in a great share house which was only a 2 minute walk from my classes. My housemates were really welcoming and the students you meet are definitely professionals at balancing their busy academic and social lives. Queen’s definitely has the best student culture I’ve ever witnessed and it won’t take long to feel right at home. The only thing that took some getting used to was the weather – one day it would be -25C with snow and wind chill, the next it would be raining with sleet and dangerously slippery ground. Coming from the sunshine state of Queensland it was definitely different, but it was great to experience something different from the norm.The Exchange Program
The ETC (Exchange Transfer Committee) at Queen’s were extremely well-managed, who truly integrated foreign exchange students from all around the globe into the country hosting multiple events to meet other students who are in the same shoes. The executive committee is partly run by students in their 4th year, each of which became some of my best mates. They arranged multiple events and trips, from visiting Montreal and Ottawa for weekend visits, viewing live hockey games, maple syrup farm visits and overall a tonne of social events. They also have a buddy program where you’ll get to meet more local Canadians who can provide local information for anything from class registration to travel tips.

Finances
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of a budget on exchange. The cost of living in Canada on face value is very similar to Australia, however after currency exchange, you will end up losing a fair bit of money outside of your allocated budget. Tax isn’t included on price tags and tipping is expected in multiple venues, this took some getting used to. Rent and utilities are often around $600-700 a month depending on the house, and I often used $85 CAD a fortnight for food. Most grocery stores offered cheap Tuesday/Thursdays for students, so I saved my shopping for then. Health insurance is a compulsory offering by the university however it is extremely affordable, you’ll have to pay for this on the first month of visiting. The two main setbacks are phone plans and transport – both in Ontario are extremely expensive so budgeting for their payment was vital.

Important Tips for Incoming Students:

  • Join the ‘Queen’s University – Off campus Housing’ Facebook page prior to arriving. New share house listings are posted daily, often providing details and photos of the house, as well as the tenants. Every commerce student goes on exchange in their 3rd year so there are multiple places open to lease, especially in their winter term.
  • Save your winter shopping for Canada – clothes and accessories are far cheaper within the country, and are far better designed for the climate than anything we sell. One winter jacket should suffice to get into the country.
  • Sign up for a travel card with your bank– it allows you to exchange funds on the fly and I used it to pay for the majority of items.
  • Set up a Canadian bank account – Rent is oftentimes only payable through e-transfer. On orientation, multiple banks will visit the university such as Scotiabank or CIBC who can set you up free of charge.

Benefits
I had the chance to experience a lot of what Canada has to offer, from Toronto and Montreal on the Eastern side, to the Banff/Alberta and Vancouver on the west. Each region has a tonne to see and do, from camping/hiking in the Rockies to enjoying poutine and Canadian drinks in the French Quebec area. Overall exchange in Canada was the most worthwhile experience, and having made close mates from all around the globe, I would recommend it to anyone.

Living in Italy

Alexandra Bell, Bachelor of Design
Politecnico Di Milano, Italy (Semester 2, 2017)

Polimi, Polimi, Polimi… where to begin. Good facilities (not the most flexible opening hours), and lovely and warm people, but the university was significantly less organised (which I chalked up to cultural differences). Be prepared for your lecturers and fellow students to always be late, and don’t rush into the classroom while your lecturer is speaking because they definitely won’t appreciate it.

The facilities opening hours are 9am to around 9pm, however, for practical course-takers, the workshop rooms are from 9am to 6pm. Don’t forget the hour lunch break too! Lunch breaks apply to the whole country, with many shops, cafes, and businesses shutting their doors to eat and take a break – this can last multiple hours, so be prepared.

HIGHLIGHTS
Gosh – everything? I made excellent friends with my roommates and peers and got to experience and learn about their cultures. I even met a guy who stood through two hurricanes! I travelled so much – the cheapest website is goeuro.com and also look out for the blablacar car app. I am so grateful for my whole experience and can confidently say that my point of view of the world has become significantly more open to different pathways and values in life. And how could I not mention; the wine is so cheap my friends. Make use of it!

THINGS I DIDN’T EXPECT
All the professors will most likely revert to speaking Italian! For you to learn a little is a huge advantage as this also applies to grocery shopping. Also, the language is pretty fun to learn and everything is pronounced exactly as it is spelt (for example, they wouldn’t say the girl’s name is Selene as in ‘Seh-leen’ but as in ‘Seh-leh-neh’, capisci?)

ADVICE
Go ham on the food! The pizza there is the best thing I’ve ever tasted, and the gelato makes me want to cry. Try to say yes to every social event and opportunity (while taking your studies seriously enough). Be friendly and you will most likely make lots of friends with other exchange students (and a few Italians). The best website for looking for housing is uniplaces.com, but there are a lot more too! Finally, be organised, think big, and get excited!

Top tips for Copenhagen

Yasmine E
Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

 

Need a go-to guide to Copenhagen?

Yassi’s Top CPH tips:

  • Buy a good quality bike
  • Learn the basic phrases
  • Go out and enjoy everything Copenhagen has to offer, trust me there is loads
  • Grocery shop at Lidl and Netto before Fotex
  • When it’s sunny have a day on the Go Boats
  • Eat at Paper Island, Moller and Grod
  • Spend time cycling around the cool little areas like Ostebro, Norrebro and Frederiksberg

  • Use a travel card such as the QANTAS card, it’s the cheapest way to spend money, Copenhagen uses card for everything, very few places will take cash only but many are card only. I would also recommend having multiple cards in different places in cases one is lost or stolen. No need to open a Danish bank account it will be more of a struggle and it’s super easy to just use your Australian bank card it will just charge you a few cents every time you make a purchase.
  • When you arrive in Copenhagen go to Central Station and talk to the people there about what is your best option for a transport card. I personally had 2, one monthly pass that required a passport photo and it would be a once a month payment for unlimited rides on all transport in Zone 1 and 2 but I also had a Rejsekort card which is kind of like a Go Card which I would use if I was going into Zone 3 and 4. Always make sure you pay for transport because the fines are huge!
  • Get a really great everyday backpack
  • Get comfy fashionable sneakers

  • If you are going to make any big purchases make sure they are done within 3 months of leaving Europe to get your tax back at the airport
  • Go for lunch in Sweden… literally it’s like 50 minutes away!
  • Visit other cities in Denmark like Aarhus it’s a really cool town
  • The Danes are not rude just private, don’t be offended if they seem like they are keeping to themselves but if you do need anything they are really lovely.
  • Make your room feel homely, take a trip to IKEA and get little things that will make you feel more at home.
  • PORTABLE CHARGERS!!!! They will save your life! Because it gets so cold your phone will freeze and just shut down so always have a charger with you.

If you would like to know more or have any questions at all no matter how long or small feel free to add me on Facebook and ask away! You are going to have the time of your life, trust me!

Leeds Survival Guide, Part 4: Travel

I’m now one week away from travelling back to Australia and I realise that I’ve picked up a lot of great advice in regards to travelling while studying in the UK. Take it from someone who spent her birthday in Paris, Christmas in Amsterdam and New Year’s in Edinburgh, I have done my fair share of travelling, and I have the pen collection to prove it:

From York, Manchester, Lincoln, Wales, Durham, Paris, Lake District, London, Tenerife, Amsterdam, all the way to Scotland

So, here are some of the top travel tips that I have learned so far.

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