Student Leadership conference 2017: Transform

QUT hosts one Student Leadership conference per semester, that is run by students for students. This semester’s conference ran over two days; the first day focused on introspection and assessing our values and strengths and the second day focused on using these values and strengths to inspire and spearhead change in our community.

Unfortunately, I was able to attend only day one due to other obligations, but it was entirely worth it.

Each conference focuses on a new theme, and seeks to galvanize the leader in each of us. This is apparent by the fact that the organizing committee of the conference consists of students only and the conference itself runs workshops facilitated by fellow students. The learning experience is somehow more thought-provoking and relatable when I see my friends and colleagues running the show.

This year, for the first time ever, QUT invited students from other universities to attend and participate in our conference, with the aim of building leadership communities across Australian universities.

To anyone who hasn’t yet attended any of the conferences, please do. It might consume your whole day but it’s definitely worth it. It’s all the knowledge you get outside of your classroom that makes you a well-rounded person.

Besides, food is free!! Who doesn’t love free food amirite? Make sure you come along to the next conference!

Riverside at the Gardens – Sunday market

Having lived in Brisbane for a little over a year, one of it’s many little quirks I’ve found are it’s abundance of fairs and markets. You can find plenty of them right in the city and in the suburbs around the city.

I recently discovered the Sunday market that happens at Riverside at the Gardens, every Sunday of the month and decided to hop down there to relax during my mid-semester break. It’s located at the Botanical Gardens entrance right down Alice Street. (Pro-tip: if you find yourself at uni on a Sunday want to get out of uni for a rash shopping trip or to grab a bite, just walk down Alice street to this market. You’ll love yourself for it. Promise.)

My first experience at this market happened to the special Easter edition of the market, as it was happening on Easter Sunday, so there were some fun competition, an egg hunt and a raffle draw also happening.

There were not many vendors, but there were a generous variety of things on sale: sweet/savoury cuisine from different parts of the world, clothes, handmade jewellery, wooden crafts, soaps/bath bombs and even make-up.

My sugar-rush inducing, cookies and cream doughnut.

The best part of the market is it’s location – you can grab a bite and head over to sit under the shade of the trees in the garden and enjoy your food.

The prices were all very reasonable for the food. The clothes were on the pricier end.

There was great fresh produce at better prices than you would find at the supermarkets, so I would highly recommend taking a bag along for grocery shopping.

Brisbane’s markets are something you should definitely try out if you’re living here. Maybe we’ll run into each other sometime. 🙂

College of Excellence Networking Dinner

The College of Excellence hosts an annual networking dinner for its members, where CoE members from all years at uni come together for a formal, sit-down dinner.

This year, the dinner was hosted at 66 on Ernest, with a price tag of $25 per head. However, the CoE launched a “Buddy System” this year (where a senior is matched up with a Junior, in an informal mentoring relationship), so if you could come to the dinner with your buddy, the price would be halved for both of you so you could receive tickets at the price of two-for-one.

The 3-course meal that was served was definitely worth the money we paid, and the dinner was a great way to reconnect with some of my friends amidst my busy semester schedule. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pics of my beautifully plated food, but rest assured it was pretty good on the taste buds and aesthetically pleasing to look at (clearly, because I was so excited to eat it, that I didn’t stop to take pics).

Before the dinner, members are asked to attend a Networking and Etiquette workshop from CoE, where we are taught about dinner table etiquette and the art of networking. We are encouraged to practise our networking skills at the dinner and meet new people.

We were given a little checklist to ensure we met people from different faculties, from different year levels and with different paths into the College.

All in all, I would definitely go to the dinner next year as well. See you there!

Getting yourself organized at uni

I somehow miraculously managed to pull through my entire first year by solely keeping events of the day and week in my head, and setting the occasional reminder or alarm.

Now that I’ve started my second year, it would be joking if I told you I could survive using the same tactic.

Enter the ultimate tool *drumroll*: Google Calendar. Seriously, this is a gem of an app. Don’t wait until your second year to use this – star using it as early as you can to get yourself organised smoothly.

Basically, Google Calendars is a daily/weekly/monthly planner. All you need is a google account and a smartphone. You can set up events and reminders for your entire year as you please. Seeing it on an interactive interface will easily let you know when you’re free and will prevent you from being double-booked.

The best part is you can export your class timetable to Google Calendars, and BAM! You have your whole day on your phone, literally. It will show you your class name, time and location from the information on your QUT virtual Calendar. How awesome is that?!

You can export your class schedule as an iCal file and import it online (on a laptop or desktop, not a mobile phone) and then you’re all set to go. It will alert you on your mobile app before you’re due at an event.

You can think of it as a central scheduler for your day – your work shifts, meetings, classes and other commitments all in one spot that you can see on the go. You can set up customised alerts to remind you of your events.

This is handy tip which I would have benefitted from knowing sooner. So there you go!

My trip to Gold Coast

After a year of hearing about the infamous Gold Coast and its beaches and absolutely dying to go there, I finally made it!

What nobody told me about Gold Coast was that, in fact, it is not one long stretch of … a coast. TheGC has many beaches and you have to choose which beach you want to visit. So yeah… there’s a little fun fact for you – that Gold Coast is not in fact one long beach.

By far, the most famous of GC’s beaches would be Surfer’s Paradise. So I went there first.

Undoubtedly, it was rather crowded on a Sunday. So I hopped on the G Link tram service and moved South to Broadbeach. It was only slightly less crowded than Surfer’s paradise but there was more shade to camp under, so I decided to stay there.

Broadbeach is lined with a market on Sunday afternoon so you easily get cheap food, fresh juice and little trinkets there.

Getting to GC via train and bus took me a total of just over $10 only for a round trip, which is really cheap. Alternatively, if you’re not comfortable going there via public transport yet, there are guided tours hosted by QUT ISS (International Student Services) for around $50 for a round trip. It’s a really good place to start looking if you want to start seeing more of Queensland’s beaches and wildlife spots. ISS will give you a detailed itinerary of your trip so you’ll be able to judge if the price you pay is worth it. A definite plus side is you won’t have to go alone as it will be a big group.

My advice is you pack and bring your own food and drinks if you’re short on money, rather than rely on the shops around the beach and they can get quite pricey.

Don’t forget to take a towel, sunglasses, your bathing suit, a large beach mat or blanket to spread and sit on, and HEAPS OF SUNSCREEN. I applied sunscreen religiously and yet suffered from a vicious sunburn. Use SPF 50+ always and stay hydrated. If your phone drains battery make sure you bring along a portable charger. Bring a nice book to read on the beach as you chill with your coke and chips.

 

 

Research Internships for Science Undergraduates

It’s almost a rite of passage for the current day for undergraduate students to do a summer internship for at least their last two years of study.

As international students we may have the slight disadvantage of not having any connections in the industry for us to land an internship – we often require more effort and time compared to that required by a domestic student.

However, QUT has in place a Vacation Research Scheme (VRES) for which all QUT students can apply! You will usually get an email in your second semester giving you more details about the VRES projects available and the supervisors in charge of each project.

The projects are categorised by school so it is easier to find a project that suits your interests and academic field. I come under the School of Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences, so I skipped over all the other projects to look at the projects listed under this school because they would be more relevant to me.

You are required to choose and nominate three projects that interest you, in order of preference. You must email the supervisors of each of the three projects and meet up with them beforehand. This allows you to show interest in the respective project and to also get to know about the nitty-gritty of the projects. After your chats with them, your order of preference may change. So this needs to be done before you submit the application.

As per usual you need to state why you want to take part in VRES. As places are limited, the entry to this is very competitive. The supervisors have high expectations of the students who do get into VRES, and you get paid for each week of research you do.

In general, it is rather uncommon for a first year to get in, although you’re more than welcome to apply. Most supervisors prefer students from the second year and upwards due to the simple fact that by the end of the second year, you would have more knowledge and experience in the field, so the project would be more beneficial to you. However, a few first year students do get into VRES each year, so don’t let that discourage you from applying.

Read the details early on so that you can organise a time to meet up with the supervisor easily, because they tend to be very busy and often don’t have time to see you on short notice.

Keep in mind, this is just one of many opportunities that will come your way. Check in other places such as Engineers without Borders and CSIRO for other internships that maybe available to you. VRES is really good place to start looking, because it is from QUT itself.

A Book lover’s paradise: Lifeline Bookfest!!

I did not know about the existence of bookfest until it had already started and gone halfway through its scheduled dates for January 2017. I have to thank my lovely friend Ashlee for enlightening me about this. Being the massive bookworm I am, I love nothing more than cheap books. If you happen to share the same endearing quality, then Lifeline Bookfest is your slice of paradise!

Lifeline is an Australian charity that provides crisis support and suicide prevention services to Australians. It plays a pivotal role in supporting the mental wellbeing of people throughout Australia. Thus keep in mind that every purchase you make at bookfest is going towards a worthy cause.

How it works: people from everywhere donate their books (from all kinds of genres, even textbooks), stationery (that is in good condition) and even CDs and DVDs to Lifeline; a bunch of volunteers and lifeline staff congregate and categorise them and sell it at bookfest. All funds generated go towards supporting Lifeline.

That is all the background info in a nutshell. Feel free to do some of your own research. Now to the fun bits and pics.

All the six books above, I got for a total of $9. HOW COOL IS THAT??? I would imagine each of those books to cost a minimum of $15 bucks at a bookstore. You’ve got to admit that it’s a real steal.

My only problem at bookfest was that I wanted to buy half of the books displayed there, which would mean I have to sell my soul. So naturally, I had to limit my spending.

As you can possibly gauge from the above pictures, there’s an almost impossible number of books to navigate through, so if you’re as into books as I am, then be prepared to come in multiple days. Do not fret, as bookfest runs for over a week, so can come in every now and again.

Pro tip: bring a sturdy grocery bag with you. You’ll love yourself a little more if you don’t have to balance 20 books in your hands on a 40-minute bus ride.

Look at that BARGAIN!!!!! *insert heart eye emoji*

The books are divided off into 3 sections: $1 section, $2.50 section and the ‘High-quality books’ section. The ‘High-quality books’ are priced anywhere at and above $4  and this is usually where you would find some useful reference books. Inside each section the books are arranged into tables labelled fiction, hardback, paperback, biographies, rare & collectables, etc. There’s a lot more sections than I can remember, I’m afraid.

After you’re done in each section you have to pay for your books at the checkouts pictured above, where they will put your books in a plastic bag and seal it. Do not break this seal until you’re done with bookfest for the day. This seal helps prevent books from different sections from getting mixed up.

You can always google up Lifeline bookfest for more information. Don’t forget to like their facebook page as this will give you updates on their events.

Bookfest happens twice a year and couldn’t happen without the lovely volunteers or patrons, so feel free to volunteer at the next bookfest.

 

Who is a Deans’ Scholar? How do you become one?

At QUT, Deans’ Scholars is a program that you can get into with outstanding academic achievements and consistent engagement with the university community.

To be considered for entry into this program you must be a first-year student, studying a degree that comes under the Science and Engineering faculty, and be holding one of the following scholarships already:

You must also have a GPA of 6.0 or higher in your first semester, be a member of the College of Excellence and have completed at least 2 LDI units (one core workshop and one non-core workshop). If you meet the above requirements, you will be invited to apply for the program and you will be selected on a competitive entry basis.

To maintain your membership in the program, you will have to continue to have a GPA of 6.0 or highers each semester and be actively involved in the university community.

If you are considering applying to the Deans’ Scholar program, you do need to build a good relationship with at least one of your lecturers or tutors, as you will need a letter of recommendation from one academic staff to complete your application.

There are some advantages to being a Deans Scholar: You get exclusive networking opportunities with university students and staff and industry employers. You have the added benefit of meeting like-minded peers, and you maybe assigned a mentor – a senior Deans’ Scholar from the same degree and major or with similar interests to you.

So work hard in that first semester and try and get into the program. It’s definitely worth it, as it’s a smaller community of like-minded people within our big university and you get an opportunity to meet lots of new people.

Choosing accommodation Part II

As promised in my previous blog post on choosing accommodation, here I am with a follow-up post.

Regardless of how much time and thought we put into choosing our respective abodes, we always end up compromising on something. The trick is to identify your deal-breakers and your perks – feel free to compromise on your perks.

For example, if you would like to be near a supermarket or shopping centre for convenient shopping, but being near public transport is crucial to you, then it’s alright if you settle for a place that has a bus-stop right outside your house, and the bus takes you to a supermarket in 15 minutes.

Consider the size of the room you would like – space is not major factor for me, but I have friends who cannot stand to be in a small room.

Consider natural light – I have visited many student share houses and other accommodation where the rooms are sold at a cheaper price because there is very little sunlight in the room or no sunlight at all! This is a deal breaker for me as I need natural light to function. My previous room had no windows in it and I suffered a lot because of that.

Think about your surroundings if you can afford to – would you like living in an apartment-style accommodation or a house surrounded by a small garden?

Last, but definitely not least, consider the lease terms before you sign the lease. If possible, send it over to an attorney-at-law and get it checked, especially if the jargon is hard to navigate.

Student accommodation agencies vary in flexibility and this is evident in their different lease terms. Carefully read the house rules and any other specifications put in your lease. Some accommodation agencies can be very strict; some do not permit any alcoholic drinks on the premises at any time, have strict rules on visitors and sometimes even on internet usage.

I have had to let go of many places that I liked because their rule on internet usage was that it could only be used for study purposes and not entertainment – everyone loves an occasional movie, right?

I hope you find satisfactory accommodation through your house-hunting ventures! Don’t forget to get in touch with QUT accommodation service for help and advice on accommodation and housing!

Choosing accomodation

Having never been to Australia before, I was not pleased to know QUT did not have on-campus accommodation because it seemed every other university within my knowledge had on-campus housing for students.

However, QUT does have an Accommodation Service that helps you with settling down, and it’s free! So make use of it, because they provide you with reliable information regarding which realty agents to use and help you find a property within your budget. They may also assist you with going on inspection rounds to visit different property until you find something satisfactory.

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On choosing accommodation here’s a few points for consideration:

  • Firstly, set a budget. A reasonable budget for weekly rent would be between $150-$250. A room for less than $150 is rather difficult to find and if you do find one, it’s often not worth the price. Work out your weekly pay, or if your parents are sponsoring you talk to them, and set out an appropriate budget. I’d advise you to have some degree of flexibility over this as it is rare to find a room we like for the exact price we want
  • See as MANY houses as possible before settling on one. There is no rush! Please see lots of property before settling down
  • Consider things other than just your room: what amenities does the weekly rent cover? How long does it take to get to uni? How far is the nearest public transport and how frequently do buses/trains arrive? Where is the nearest supermarket or grocery shop? Is the house in a remote/isolated area?
  • The housemates – who are they and where are they from? Do they speak English? Is it a single-sex or mixed house? How many housemates do you have? Does anyone smoke/drink and are you OK with this?
  • Carefully consider if you need a single/shared room. If your budget is super tight and you need a room for less than $150 a week, you may have better luck finding a shared room. If your budget is not constrained, I would HIGHLY recommend a single room. From personal experience, I implore you to meet your roommate BEFORE you sign the lease and talk to them. Set some ground rules – ask if they have any conditions that you must comply with, set your own conditions. DO NOT MOVE IN BEFORE MEETING YOUR ROOMMATE if it’s a shared room
  • Try and get a 6-month lease, because personalities clash sometimes and breaking the lease is expensive. Your loss will be less if your lease term is shorter.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or talk to someone. If you would like to talk to another international student and chat with them about their accommodation experiences, contact QUT and ask them if they can put you through.

I promise to follow up on another post with more accommodation advice for you guys. Happy house-hunting!