A Life in Chicago

William N., Bachelor of Design (Honors)
Illinois Institute of Technology, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

The university…

Going on exchange to Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago last semester was an amazing experience, which I already miss and wish I could repeat all over. As an architecture student, IIT was an amazing place to both visit and live. The campus was designed by one of my favourite architects – Mies van der Rohe – who also started the architecture school on campus, and taught there for a period of time. Because of this, the school has a wonderful architecture program, and great resources for architecture students.

Despite being in a somewhat dodgy area, the campus is only a few train stops from downtown, making it really easy to explore the city throughout my exchange. On top of this, during the semester the university gives you a free travel card, giving you unlimited access to the buses and trains throughout the city. The campus is also within walking distance of the lake which is a really nice place to go swimming.

The on-campus accommodation that I chose was really nice, however the other dormitories I visited were not as nice, which I think would influence the quality of exchange perhaps. I had two randomly assigned roommates, who I didn’t become friends with, but it gave me the opportunity to experience living with strangers, and make me a more tolerant person. My apartment had a kitchen so I cooked most meals, however the university requires you also purchase a meal plan at the cafeteria. The food was not very nice though.

Unexpected…

For future exchange students visiting IIT, don’t expect the university to make much of an effort introducing you to other international students, so make sure you make an effort yourself at the start to introduce yourself to others.

Highlights…

For me, the highlight of exchange was the opportunities I got to travel both within and outside the states. During the semester I travelled to New Orleans, Toronto, and New York – and spent a week in Copenhagen during my Thanksgiving break in late November.

The campus life at the university was definitely not what I expected. I was expecting a very traditional university with frat parties, etc. but was surprised how different it was. The university has very little social or party life, making it difficult to make friends with other students. However, I found a group of other exchange students who I became good friends with, so it ended up not being an issue.

Tips/ advice…

Definitely pack or buy a lot of warm clothes, as it gets very freezing, very quickly. When looking at the weather, always pay attention to the “feels like” temperature, as the wind chill is almost always ten degrees colder in the winter. Do a lot of research before choosing your housing. The university give most if not all exchange students $1500 a semester towards housing – however not all options have kitchens, meaning you may pay more on the cafeteria meal plans!

Settling into Maastricht

Rachel W., Bachelor of Business – International
Maastricht University, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2017)

As part of the Bachelor of International Business, I chose to attend Maastricht University. It had a different learning approach to my usual university learning. Instead of lectures, we had two tutorials for each subject. During these tutorials we were required to discuss, present or answer questions about the weekly readings. It really forced me to participate more (participation was 30% of my grade!), and stay on top of my readings which really did help my retention of knowledge.

At first, I was really shocked; I was surrounded by students from all around Europe who were really motivated and knowledgeable about the subjects. Luckily the tutors were very understanding of how this was such a shock for me and gave me time to adjust without it affecting my grade.

As the oldest city in the Netherlands, Maastricht is a small university city; it is usually pretty quiet and peaceful except during carnival! Everyone was really friendly and nearly everyone spoke English which helped a lot when shopping! Buying a secondhand bike is essential because nearly everyone bikes everywhere. It is a great way to keep you healthy especially with the delicious Dutch food like kroketten, frites and bitterballen which are all deep fried or their obsession with sweets (even for breakfast) such as stroopwafel and hagelslag. It rains a lot in the Netherlands and is often quite overcast but never fear, it is really light rain, more of a drizzle, just flock to your local bar or enjoy a hot coffee at one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world (it is in an old cathedral). But once the sun does decide to come out, everyone, and I mean everyone, flocks outside to soak in those precious rays. Maastricht is also very famous for its boutique shopping so if you’re into fashion you will feel right at home.

Maastricht University is spread out throughout the city, similarly to Kelvin Grove so some exploring may be necessary to find a different faculty building.

I attempted learning Dutch on my exchange, and while I was pretty good at it, it was hard to balance with all the travel and study I did.

It was definitely a challenge being so far from home but I have some tips on how to make the most of your exchange!

  1. Bring waterproof shoes! (It rains a lot in Europe and you don’t want to be the foreigner with wet feet, especially in winter)
  2. Attend as many events in your universities o-week, you may never see most people again but you might find some great friends to travel with!
  3. Youtube is your best friend. (When you are homesick and dying for some Australian culture, watching old episodes of Australian shows is the best! My favorites were Blue Water High and Thank God, You’re Here)
  4. Most of all have fun, even if you miss home you will still make some great memories

Before my exchange I had only left the country once, now I have travelled to 17! I had a great exchange experience and now I am more confident, extroverted and prepared for whatever life has to throw at me.

Time Of My Life In Nagoya

Christina Z., Bachelor of Creative Industries / Bachelor of Law (Honours)
Meijo University, Japan (Semester 2, 2018)

I never thought in my entire life that I would ever do karaoke. Before my exchange I was quite shy; a little quiet around people I didn’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I love singing, just not in front of other people. I was afraid that people might judge me and that I wasn’t good at it. However in Japan I found my voice, literally and figuratively. If it is one thing that Japanese people do well it is karaoke. It doesn’t matter if you are bad, average, or sound like Whitney Houston. It just matters that you put yourself out there and that you enjoyed the experience.

Meeting new friends!

Life on campus was fairly good for the most part, however being one of three Caucasian students in the whole school definitely made you stand out. It was a bit strange at first but you get used to the staring and such. Meijo University also set me up with a job in an area of the university that they call Global Plaza. This area was where students could come to study English and practice conversation. Through being a conversation partner I was able to make a lot of friends and get more involved with university life. The facilities were quite well kept, there were even tennis courts, a gymnasium and computer labs. Accommodation wise the room I stayed in comes with everything you will need – bathroom, kitchen, mini fridge, desk, and bed and storage space. It was small but honestly you don’t need that much space, and an added benefit was that you got to live alone too. It was great being so close to the university (a three minute walk), the train station, bank, restaurants and convenience stores. The study aspect of my exchange was surprisingly quite simple and definitely not as busy as QUT. I only had to go in once a week for one class and the assessments were generally not stressful.

Nagoya and surrounds

Placing myself in a completely new environment with different customs and a completely different culture was very eye-opening. People would always tell me that going on exchange changed their lives, and I would always nod along even if I didn’t quite believe them. Well, I should have. Now I can truly say that going to Japan and studying abroad has definitely changed me forever. I have met so many different people while I was over there. They came from places such as France, Austria, Turkey, America and even Korea. I have a lot of friends in different places now, and being away from them has taught me about how important making connections is. With them I got to experience the wonders of Japan; from New Year’s shrine visits, autumn leaves and hot springs, all the way to snowboarding, all you can drink izakaya’s, and the infamous 24 hour convenience stores. Japan is very big on their nightlife. Even in Nagoya people stay out quite late to socialise and drink. There is a reason why those convenience stores are open at all hours.

Friends at a local Pub

Another fantastic thing that happened was that I got to see snow for the very first time. I felt like a child when I woke up that morning and looked out my window. I didn’t even take time out to have a shower before I dressed and left my room. I spent two hours outside that day playing in the snow with my friend Stone. We made snowwomen, threw snow balls off the rooftop of our apartment building and overall just had a great time being 5 years old again.

First time seeing snow

Despite the big cultural differences I didn’t have the huge culture shock that everyone was expecting me to when I first arrived. However as I spent more time integrating into the culture there were a few things that surprised me. In my case, Japan had such a lack of cultural diversity that I found it hard to blend in. I would stand out wherever I went and people did treat you differently because they knew you weren’t from there. However that is not always a bad thing. Another thing I did not expect was the separation of sexes at a university level. Usually, that happens in primary school and sometimes high school but it dissipates as you get into university. In Japan, however, there are no co-ed sports teams, friends sit apart in class (boys with boys and girls with girls) and no one really hugs over here. Finally, Christmas is another occasion that has a completely different meaning in Japan than it does in Australia. Everyone still goes to work and school on Christmas Day, in fact, it is seen as a day for couples. However New Years is when everyone has time off and goes to be with their family.

Exploring Nagoya with friends

For anyone looking to go overseas and study, I would say to go without expectations and keep an open mind. That way you can really be involved in things you might not have thought you would be. I loved my life there and I was very sad to leave it behind, but I am so grateful I got to experience Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

Nice – a nice change from Brisbane

Thomas M., Master of Business (Applied Finance)
EDHEC Business School, France (Semester 2, 2016 & Semester 1, 2017)

Over nine months, I spent two semesters in France at the EDHEC Business School campus in Nice from September 2016 to May 2017, completing the dual master programme in applied finance/corporate finance and banking. During this time, I lived in central Nice and studied at the EDHEC campus about 5km out of the city centre. The classes, assessment, academic organisation, cohort and campus at EDHEC were all quite different to my studies in Brisbane at QUT, with both advantages and disadvantages.

Firstly, at many French colleges, class attendance is mandatory and unjustified absences can result in academic penalties. However, the system of marking attendance is somewhat inefficient as it relied upon a sheet of paper circulated throughout the students and as a result, incorrect and unchangeable class absences are a somewhat regular occurrence. The campus itself is quite nice and modern but is much smaller than that of QUT Gardens Point or Kelvin Grove, lacking sports fields, bars or study rooms and having only a single canteen. The library is also quite small and finding a desk can be very competitive so many students tend to study inside vacant classrooms or at home.

Outside of the administrative aspects, the content and assessment of classes was overall more challenging than that at QUT and very case study-based. This was useful in gaining more knowledge in applicability of theoretical concepts to actual business cases. The school has quite a strong focus on case studies and recruits many lecturers from corporate positions for short stints of teaching, including from accounting and law firms, investment and corporate banks and consultancies. I found this a great way of teaching because it helped me to gain insight into the work-life practices of people within these careers and see what their roles really entailed, and it offered good opportunities for networking.

Living in Nice was obviously quite a large change from Brisbane in several ways. Firstly, it is much smaller in size and population than Brisbane making it quite easy to get around town without a car. While the general culture is also different, I found it generally pleasant and a fun place to live and didn’t experience much of a “culture shock”. The cohort of international students often has similar backgrounds and interests and there are often student-led functions and events, so socialising with other exchange students is easy and fun. While I tried to improve my French, nearly everyone understands English so getting around and meeting people is often easy. The city of Nice itself is also a great holiday destination and really fun to live in as there are numerous restaurants, bars and public gardens to explore, and the French Riviera has some great beaches and views of the Mediterranean.

Moving to France was daunting at first but overall, a great experience that helped me to meet people, make lots of new friends and learn finance from a European perspective. Finding a job in Europe is also far easier with a European qualification and while living in the region, which is something that wouldn’t have been as easily available from Australia.