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.

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.

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.

Exchange at Cardiff University

Jasmin C., Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Creative Industries
Cardiff University, United Kingdom (Semester 2, 2017)

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is a beautiful, old, tiny city with the friendliest people. In the middle of the city centre sits the medieval Cardiff Castle, one of the first things I saw upon arriving. I was so amazed by this castle, sitting right in the town centre amongst the modern shops. Little did I know it would be the first of MANY castles I would see during my time in the UK. Just across from the castle, my favourite store in the entire city; the Welsh cake shop. Absolutely scrumptious. As well as this, the shops in the city are great, lots of art, vintage and old record stores.

Just a few minutes walk from the city centre is Cardiff University. Unlike QUT, Cardiff University does not really have a campus. The buildings are spread out around the city, which wasn’t really a problem because the city is so small anyway. The tutorial and lecture situation was pretty similar to QUT, however most of my lectures were not recorded (yikes) and powerpoint slides were not always uploaded onto blackboard, which meant attendance was pretty crucial. As well as this, unlike QUT where most of my subjects required multiple assessments, all of my Cardiff University subjects had huge (5000 words) 100% assignments due at the end of the semester.

There are many student accommodations around the city. The one I stayed in was called Talybont South, located 20 mins away from the city centre and within proximity to the university buildings. Luckily for me most of my classes were held in the building that was only a 5 minute walk away, however the furtherest buildings were a 20-30 minute walk away. Talybont South was known for being the nosiest of all the student accommodations, it didn’t bother me much but if you’re a light sleeper I would suggest trying for one of the other student accommodations.

I stayed in an ensuite dorm with a kitchen I shared with 7 other people. My roommates were made up of 6 UK locals (4 Welsh, 2 English) and one other exchange student from the USA. Within 24 hours of living together we all became the best of friends. It was great being able to live with locals as I definitely would not have been able to learn and do as much as I did without them. One highlight was being able to spend New Years Eve with one of my roommates and her family in her home in Swansea. In fact, the highlight of my entire exchange was just being able to get to know and hang out with incredible people I never would have been able to meet if it was not for this experience.

There are lots of things to in Cardiff. As I mentioned before, the castle and the shops are great. As well as this there is Cardiff Bay, National Museum Cardiff, and lots of parks and gorgeous greenery, just to name a few. However if you’re wanting to leave the city there are so many places you can go. In Wales you have Swansea, which is only a 40 minute train ride away and lots of tiny, adorable Welsh towns to explore, my favourite being Laugharne (pronounced Larn). Bristol and Bath are only 1 hour away and if you want to go to bigger cities London and Birmingham are only 2 hours away on the train.

Tips and advice! Tip number 1: $$$!! You’ll have to buy a lot of things upon arrival, pillows, sheets, duvet, cutlery, plates etc. Definitely budget each week, you don’t want to have to miss out on doing anything or travelling somewhere due to lack of funds. Cost of living in Cardiff was pretty similar to Brisbane. Other advice would just be to try and stay as calm and positive as possible. You will definitely have a few struggles. Fortunately for me, my only struggles were that the classes I had planned on taking were unavailable which led me having to find other classes to take and the process took a while so I ended up being a few weeks behind in my classes. However, the tutors were very helpful in helping me catch up and it all turned out fine. As well as this, I was lucky that I got along with my roommates and they really made me feel at home, and so I didn’t get homesick at all. Finally, make the most of your time!!! I couldn’t believe how fast the time went. My only regret was that I only stayed a semester and not a whole year!

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.

 

Walk in the Footsteps of Influential Scholars at Oxford Brookes University

Taylor T., Bachelor of Law/Creative Industries
Oxford Brookes University, England (Semester 2, 2018)

During the second semester of 2018 I went on exchange to Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom. As an exchange student you are given the option to stay at Clive Booth Student Village for the duration of your exchange. This accommodation was fairly standard, with a bed, desk, storage and sink in your room and a shared bathroom and kitchen. The great thing about Clive Booth was that it was very close to campus, so you could walk out the door and be at your class in 10 minutes. It’s also the biggest accommodation option, which means a lot of opportunity to make friends.

The Campus

The campus and facilities were all very modern and provided a motivating environment to get work done. The university also provided a bus pass as part of enrollment that allowed me to get into the city centre for free.

Oxford Brookes University

Oxford city is a beautiful and inspirational location with a lot of history and stunning architecture. One of my favorite past times was grabbing tea and scones at a local coffee shop and walking around the various buildings that make up the Oxford University campus.

Exploring

Considering its close location to London, Oxford can be quite expensive. However, a majority of the population during term time are students so a lot of restaurants and bars offer student discounts that make living more affordable.

Exploring

While there were so many highlights of exchange, like making UK friends that I can go back and visit and getting to travel on the weekends, one of the best parts was getting to walk in the footsteps of so many influential scholars and take in the rich history and culture of learning that Oxford is known for.

Oxford

Adventuring

University Life at Leeds

Chelsie, M., Bachelor of Media and Communication
University of Leeds, England (Semester 1, 2018)

I recently completed an exchange program for one semester at the University of Leeds in Leeds, England. To say it was the best experience of my life is an understatement! I thoroughly enjoyed every part of my exchange, from the city, to the university; the people, to the night life.

My host university, University of Leeds, is one of the most prestigious and internationally recognised universities not only within the United Kingdom, but in the world. However, this does not mean that the students and teachers were pretentious, or that it was extremely strict – it was really quite the opposite! My lecturers, tutors and fellow class mates were all extremely friendly and were willing to help with anything I asked of them, which I am very appreciative of. Leeds is a student city, so it is always full of life and buzzing with activity!

The university itself was established in 1904, so as you can imagine, each building is grand with incredible architectural features. The most recent development to the campus is its student union, which, let me tell you, is probably the most important building a student can know about. Unlike Australian universities, there is an unspoken expectation that students participate in either a club or society. So much so, that it is the minority who do not join in on the student camaraderie. It is in The Union where most social activities for the clubs and societies occur, simply because it is the perfect place to hang out.

Incredible Architecture

There are three bars (which are super cheap and host quiz/trivia nights), a night club for the weekly Fruity events and occasional concerts (I saw Milky Chance there!), a grocery store, cafes, bean bags, lounges and SO much more! During my time there, I joined the hockey society and made so many friends and great memories. We had weekly hockey socials, training and games each week, so you definitely get to form a bond with your team mates! There is definitely a massive drinking culture in Leeds, as I found out when everyone continued to go out rain, hail or snow. 

For my accommodation, I spent the four months at Ellerslie Global Residence. I really enjoyed living here as it is basically on campus, only a 15 minute walk to the city and food is provided for you, so you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping or cooking. Having a catered meal plan is super ideal, especially if you plan on travelling every weekend, like I did.

Idyllic London Street

I could not recommend the University of Leeds any higher for a student exchange. If you are considering them for your time abroad, definitely apply. I can guarantee you will make lasting friendships and memories you will never forget!