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Student Testimonials

UNIVERSITY

University of Ottawa

NAME

Daisy

YEAR

2019

DEGREE

Bachelor of Science with Honours – Catalyst Program

UNITS TAKEN OVERSEAS

  • Population Genetics
  • Genomics
  • Animal Physiology
  • Evolutionary Biology

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

Since hearing about the exchange opportunities at UTAS in the first semester of my first year, I was determined to study overseas. Having chosen to go directly into university rather than take a gap year, the idea of combining travel with my studies seemed perfect.

I chose to head to Canada largely because it had been my dream since I was twelve to visit its national parks and insanely blue lakes. It was then a matter of finding the partner university that offered the right courses and seemed right for me. The University of Ottawa turned out to be the perfect fit!

What was your host university like?

Initially, I was quite taken aback at how different the tertiary education system was in Canada. The lectures often involved mandatory student participation and were not recorded, assessment was much more exam-based, and I found that my professors were less inclined to provide resources online. However, that being said, my experience at uOttawa was extraordinary. It was an incredibly beautiful campus, full of energetic and lively students and lecturers, and finishing my semester there left me with a huge sense of accomplishment.

What was your accommodation like?

Without a doubt, finding accommodation proved to be the most challenging hurdle I had to overcome. My host university seemed overwhelmed with the sheer number of incoming exchange students. As a result, most were unable to secure housing before arriving in Ottawa and were only offered accommodation through the university after physically meeting with the international office.

Much to my disbelief, I ended up finding off-campus housing through Facebook. I connected with a group of fellow incoming exchange students and we managed to find a seven-bedroom house to rent. For the four months my rent was just over $2000 Canadian dollars in total, which turned out to be significantly cheaper than the on-campus accommodation options I was originally hoping for. Even including the cost of groceries, utilities, internet and transport, it was much more budget-friendly for me to find my own housing.

Although I was originally so eager to live on-campus, I’m thankful my housing situation turned out the way it did. I got to live with people from all over the world and gain a real sense of independence that I wouldn’t have been able to if I had lived in a residence.

How did you budget for your exchange?

I prepared a rough budget before I left – mainly to ensure that I would have enough savings to last the entire semester. As I didn’t find accommodation until the day I arrived in Ottawa, I couldn’t figure out my exact expenses until the semester began. However, I spent less than I was expecting to, especially in regard to housing.

My main advice for future exchange students would be to take more than you think you’ll need (as it’s better to be safe than sorry) and to save on the boring things like groceries so that you can splurge on the fun things. Also, don’t be afraid to spend! You’ll regret not going on a day trip to that wildlife park in Quebec just to keep that extra hundred or so dollars in your bank account, trust me.

How did you get around locally?

Locally, I travelled either by foot or public transport. I was able to walk to my classes and most of the places I needed to visit on a daily basis. However, I also paid for a public transport pass through my host university, which provided me with unlimited trips on buses and the light rail trains. While the pass itself wasn’t cheap, it was more cost effective than paying for each individual trip, especially when the winter began and it became unbearable to walk to my classes every day.

I was lucky enough to travel before, during and after my semester both within and outside of Canada. Prior to arriving in Ottawa, I travelled to Vancouver and Banff with friends who were also heading to Canada on exchange. I then also met up with the same friends after our semesters had ended to spend Christmas in Quebec City, visit Montreal and celebrate New Year’s Eve in New York. During the semester, I spent my weekends and free time camping in national parks, hiking through forests, exploring Toronto and Montreal, canoeing on lakes, and visiting cute little ski villages.

What was the social life like?

I found it surprisingly easy to adjust to life in Canada and make new friends. I suppose living with six other incredible exchange students played a large role in that. We did everything together, which meant we also faced culture shock and overcame the difficulties of adapting to life in a new country together. We went to all of the events organised by uOttawa and the international office in the first few weeks and managed to create a fairly large circle of friends, including both Canadians and other exchange students. I found that going to these events and the football and hockey games throughout the semester proved to be the best way to meet new people and experience the social life in Ottawa.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

It’s impossible for me to decide on just a single highlight of my exchange. It was such a surreal, wonderful and crazy experience. However, ending up living in a cute pink house with six of the most amazing people I’ve ever met would have to be fairly close to the top of the list. Having the opportunity to make friends with people from all over the world and travel around Canada with them will be something I’ll never forget.

All the places I visited will also always hold a special place in my heart – from touring Banff and hiking through the Rocky Mountains to experiencing a white Christmas in Quebec City and celebrating New Year’s in New York.

What is your number one piece of advice to students thinking about exchange?

Don’t be afraid of well and truly leaving your comfort zone. If you’re thinking about going on exchange, just do it! Try not to let the stress and difficulty of organising it deter you – it will be so worth it in the end.

Has going on exchange influenced your future plans?

I think exchange has definitely shaped my plans for the future. It has shown me which areas of my field I’m not passionate about and which I am, made me more confident in my own ability to succeed, and helped me to better balance study with my social life. Exchange inspired me to decide to take a year off after honours to travel and visit the friends I made while on exchange, to give me time to really think about what I want for my future. I also believe that studying overseas has provided me with skills that would have otherwise been unattainable, hopefully making me more employable than before.

UNIVERSITY

Masaryk University

NAME

Anna

YEAR

2019

DEGREE

Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science

UNITS TAKEN OVERSEAS

Anthropology of Consumption and Consumer Society

Dissolution of Yugoslavia

Melanesian Society and Politics

Studying Local Rural Systems

Czech Language (no credit/equivalent)

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

I always wanted to go on exchange. It appealed to me as a fantastic way of experiencing life in a different culture, and the Student Mobility program makes it all so easy to organise.

Central Europe appealed to me, as it is very interesting region, with diverse cultures, and rich in history, architecture and nature. Daisy from the Student Mobility Office suggested Masaryk, as many returning students had given it great reviews and I liked the look of it!

What was your host university like?

Masaryk University has campuses across the city. My classes were held in either the Faculty of Social Studies or the Faculty of Arts, very close to the city centre.

The Faculty of Social Studies is in a fantastic 1920s modernist building, with a central atrium, high ceilings, sweeping marble staircases, and big windows in all rooms. It is beautifully maintained and has wonderful facilities, including an extensive library, staffed by very helpful and patient librarians, with multiple options of areas to study in and comfortably furnished common areas.

The Arts faculty also has wonderful, much more modern facilities, and there is a 24/7 library and study space in the main administration building.

The courses I took varied considerably in quality, but overall, they were not demanding and assessment was light on. Most courses involved 1hr40min lectures or seminars, and 30-50 pages of reading weekly. Some of these sessions were very interactive, others less so, but none were particularly formal. Class sizes were small, and all the teachers were very approachable and helpful. Resources available were great. Most of my classes were held in the evenings, from 5pm onwards. While I did enjoy several of the courses I undertook at Masaryk, I find UTAS courses to be far more challenging. However, given the light load at Masaryk, I was able to go out and explore the region more.

What was your accommodation like?

I looked into finding a room in a shared apartment, but this appeared to be a little difficult, so I settled for one of the university dormitories. This was very cheap (less than $50 per week), and I was able to check in as soon as I arrived, despite it being late on a Sunday night.

I had a private room, with a single bed, wardrobe, desk and mini-fridge. I shared a bathroom (toilet and basin), with one other female student, and there was a shared kitchen and 2 shared shower blocks on the floor. I mostly catered for myself, or with friends, and occasionally ate in one of the many student canteens affiliated with the university, or in cafes in the centre.

I am happy with my choice. I met a number of other students, locals and internationals. The kitchen was a very social place, we frequently got together for communal meals or would meet there and go out. There were a number of shops and bars nearby, and it was near the river and the canal, both of which had bike and walking trails along the banks.  It was 30-minute walk to the city centre, 40 minutes to my faculty. I would recommend the dormitory to others, especially after hearing about the hassle other friends had with finding an apartment.

How did you budget for your exchange?

I receive AusStudy and that was enough to live on in Brno. I worked and saved leaving up to my departure, but most of those funds I spent on travelling before and after the exchange program.

I had intended to find a job when I got there, but was told I couldn’t on my visa, and when I realised I would probably manage fine on the Centrelink payments I decided I would keep my free time for exploring and did not bother to investigate it further.

  • Accommodation in the dormitory was less than   $200AUD/month.
  • A 3-month public transport pass was about   $80AUD (~$40 for students <26yo).
  • A takeaway meal is about $5 and a sit-in meal   about $6-10. A pint of beer is $2-3.
  • Obviously, self-catering is cheaper again.
  • There were substantial student discounts for   cinema, theatre, transport and in many cafes/restaurants/bars.
  • I found it to be cheaper than I had expected.

How did you get around locally?

Getting around Brno was very easy, and I mostly walked or cycled. I used the public transport a lot too, especially at night and in bad weather. The public transport is excellent, it is punctual, frequent and reaches all parts of the city at any time of day or night.

I went on several day trips to visit surrounding towns, returning before my evening classes. Some weekends I went away to other cities, in Czech or neighbouring countries (Prague, Budapest, Vienna…).

Other weekends I went on day walks in the surrounding forests with friends, and we had dinners or parties or went out. Pubs and bars stay open late, some don’t close at all.

During the Easter break I went to Krakow, and on to Zakopane to go walking in the Tatra Mountains.

I travelled before and after the exchange program, visiting old friends and family in other parts of Europe, and exploring a few new places.

What was the social life like?

I found living in Czech to be very easy and enjoyable. It is easy to get around, public transport is excellent. There are nice parks, great cycle paths, several public swimming pools, and bouldering gyms in Brno. While people are initially reserved, consistent with all other former communist countries I’ve visited, they are very helpful and hospitable as soon as you form any sort of connection or even just ask for help.

Being vegetarian, some menus were fairly limited, but there were a few great vegetarian cafes/restaurants, and most places had at least one vego dish on the menu. Czechs do live up to their reputation as big beer drinkers, and the beer is very good.

The local independent cinema is in a beautiful old theatre and shows a wide range of international films. There are numerous live music venues. There are multiple theatres, from the grand old 5 tier theatre which has brilliant plays and operas from all over, to the small, experimental theatre houses. The philharmonic orchestra was also wonderful. Student discounts for all these events are substantial – a ticket to the philharmonic or opera was usually about $3! Through the warmer months there are lots of free public music and arts events in parks, squares and streets.

I met most of my friends either at the dormitory, at jam sessions at ‘Expedition Club’, or through friends and in Czech language classes. These friends are a mix of Czechs, expats and other international students. We’d go to each other’s places for dinners and film nights, or go out, or go on day trips together and walks.

The Erasmus Student Network is very active at Masaryk and frequently organises events. I participated in a few of these – day tours to nearby UNESCO sites and film screenings, but mostly my social life was busy enough anyway, with the friends I’d made.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

Train travel! I love travelling by train and being able to nip away to other beautiful old towns in Czech Republic, and over into other countries, on day trips and weekends away, was so luxurious and exciting. It’s such a relaxing and civilised way to travel, and in Central Europe train travel is very affordable, and fast and smooth.

The wealth of world class theatre and live music performances in Brno, is a real treat, and tickets are very cheap for students.

I really enjoyed the weekly jam sessions at Expedition Club. I am not a musician myself, but I loved being surrounded by like-minded, open, interesting people in a comfortable and welcoming setting. It was very social and relaxed, and over the course of the semester I got to know the people who ran it and many of the regular participants.

It was also wonderful to have the opportunity to go walking in the Tatra Mountains in Poland again, and the Dolomites in Italy. I love mountains, and these two ranges are particularly spectacular.

What is your number one piece of advice to students thinking about exchange?

Do it! It’s an amazing opportunity, I think everyone who can ought to, and if they don’t, they will probably regret it. It’s a wonderful way to gain a new perspective, meet people from all around the world and broaden your horizons. Participating in an exchange program throws you directly into a community, which is invaluable when moving to a new place. Experiencing another tertiary education system is also very interesting.

Has going on exchange influenced your future plans?

I had already lived and worked abroad for much of the decade preceding this exchange program, so having had those experiences I cannot say that the exchange program influenced or changed me all that much. However, it was wonderful to gain an insight into other education systems, undertake a range of units that are quite different from what is offered at UTAS, and study alongside students from such different backgrounds.

I enjoyed the challenge of trying to learn Czech. It is the most complex language I have tried to learn and though I cannot say much, I do understand a bit, and can now understand a little more of other Slavic languages. I also learned a lot more about linguistics in the process. I expect the experience looks good on a CV, and that it would enhance job prospects.

 

UNIVERSITY

University of Copenhagen

NAME

Victoria

YEAR

2018

DEGREE

Bachelor of Media

UNITS TAKEN OVERSEAS

  • Analysis of Digital Media
  • Danish Architecture and Urban Design
  • Danish Culture (Student Elective)

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

I decided to go on exchange for several reasons. Firstly, it gave me the opportunity to travel without staying in a hostel and backpacking for the entire duration (which I am not a fan of!). It was also a great opportunity to live abroad as I received a scholarship, OS-HELP loan and Centrelink payments which was very, very helpful.

Studying in another country also guaranteed that you were going to make friends and make the most of living in a foreign country as time was limited. I also believe my exchange will increase job opportunities for me in the future and give me a competitive advantage.

What was your host university like?

I had an amazing university experience at the University of Copenhagen. I was based at the South campus (one of four around the city) and even though I could be biased, I absolutely loved it. It was built in 2012 so the architecture was contemporary and had many modern facilities. There was even a vegan restaurant!

The classes were very relaxed and although the teachers were quite laidback in their style of teaching, their experience in the field was obvious and inspiring as they taught with genuine passion about the subject. There wasn’t a hierarchy between students and teachers and forming your own opinions about the topics was actively encouraged and explored.

What was your accommodation like?

I stayed in student accommodation called ‘Dyrlævegej’ in Frederiksberg, which is about 20 minutes from the city centre. It exceeded my expectations of what student accommodation is like, it was very modern, and I had my own kitchen and bathroom which I liked. I catered for my own meals, which I am used to after living out of home for a few years now, so it wasn’t an issue.

If I had my time again, however, I would either choose student accommodation closer to the city OR find my own e.g. sharing an apartment with others. Even though my room was very nice, I really missed living in more of a domestic and bigger space. I think it also would have been a good way to connect with local Danes, or other international students on a closer level.

How did you budget for your exchange?

I didn’t prepare a strict budget while I was away because I decided to make the most of the opportunity of living overseas and I didn’t want to limit my experiences, whether they be travelling outside of Copenhagen or meeting up with friends for a coffee and cake.

However, I ensured I spent as little as possible on things like grocery shopping so that I could spend money on experiences that I would remember and treasure. I originally investigated some babysitting work using the website care.com, but that didn’t work out. I think it would have been a great experience to work with a local family while making a little bit of extra cash – the work would also be irregular/occasional instead of being locked into hospitality or retail work.

Copenhagen was fairly expensive compared to typical cheap European cities.

How did you get around locally?

Copenhagen has incredible infrastructure for cycling, so it was very easy to hop on a bike to get around the city. The buses and Metro system were also very easy to use and covered the inner and outer suburbs. Because the city was so small, everything was in walkable distance. In Copenhagen, I spent my weeks visiting my friends, public spaces, art galleries, museums, bars, cafes etc. There’s an endless number of things to do.

Before I started my semester, I travelled to Portugal and Morocco. I travelled frequently to other countries over the weekends to meet friends who were studying elsewhere. I was lucky enough to visit Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden and Italy. I also visited a couple of other major cities around Denmark, but I definitely think I should have done more. After the semester, I went to German and Austria to celebrate Christmas and New Years with a German friend.

What was the social life like?

I had a great social life, I met some incredible international friends through my courses at university and housing accommodation. I was able to extend my friendship group by interacting with their friends, too.

I found it difficult to make friends with the Danes because my classes and accommodation only had international students. It is also known that the Danish people are notoriously hard to make friends with – they are lovely people who are friendly and will offer help, but they tend to be reserved when it comes to getting to know people outside of their own long-term friendship group. Apparently, the average Dane doesn’t move more than 25km from where they were born!

What were the highlights of your exchange?

I had many highlights…. I absolutely loved living in Copenhagen to begin with. The fashion, culture, architecture, food and ‘hygge’ is something that will stick with me forever and I miss being immersed in it all.

I was also so fortunate to have the opportunity to visit as many countries as I did, and I had an unforgettable experience in every city I visited. I know I’ve made international friends for life who mean a lot to me.

What is your number one piece of advice to students thinking about exchange?

I would 100% recommend it. It may be slightly scary entering a new culture, but it is an incredible experience that will be a part of me forever. It’s important to take a chance like this because it may never happen again in your life time, and it’s a great way to experience living abroad while being guaranteed an exciting social life.

I think it’s also given me more of a ‘can-do’ attitude when opportunities arise, and it has made me more confident in making decisions and everyday life.

Has going on exchange influenced your future plans?

I think it’s made me more open to the idea of moving cities to take up opportunities that may not be offered otherwise. I think (and hope!) it will increase my chances of finding future employment because it’s improved my communication and organisation skills, adaptability to different situations, and being able to offer a different point of view.

UNIVERSITY

University of Strasbourg

NAME

Keygan

YEAR

2017

DEGREE

Bachelor of Arts

UNITS TAKEN OVERSEAS

  • French as a Foreign Language (grammar,   writing, speaking)
  • German (grammar, writing, speaking)
  • History of the American Constitution

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

I study languages so I figured that the best way for me to improve my language skills was to live in the country of the languages I was learning, and to change up my study format a bit.

I chose the University of Strasbourg because of the location. Strasbourg is located immediately on the French/German border and so is rather well suited to the study of both German and French (the two languages I study). It is also in the state of Alsace which, historically, has swapped between French and German control multiple times, giving it a long history of language diversity.

What was your host university like?

The famous University of Strasbourg is a little bigger than the Sandy bay campus of UTAS. Assessments are a much more casual affair than they are in Australia. Students are permitted phones to tell the time throughout the duration of exams. There are also many smaller assessments which are not graded but are simply for practice and feedback.

Lecture styles are rather similar to Tasmania, however, if you are planning on studying in France, be prepared for a shock when it comes to confidentiality of results. The cultural difference meant that I was rather surprised when my teacher announced my grades to the entire class.

What was your accommodation like?

Along with my online application, I had to complete an accommodation form. This form gave me the option of approximately 20 different accommodation venues available to students in Strasbourg. I had to detail my order of preference, every option included and then I was allocated accommodation. I was granted my third choice...not bad really.

My room was quite small and cost me 258€/month. That equates to roughly $400AU. It was only a small room, at 9m². For Strasbourg, I think that my accommodation was about as good as you could get. My room included internet but not meals. We had a kitchen at our disposal, but it was quite small and relatively basic. I prepared my own meals, but they were relatively simple and not particularly high quality because of the limited time and resources available.

How did you budget for your exchange?

I didn’t really prepare much of a budget; however, I broke my leg, and my computer and phone both decided to die on me and that resulted in various extra costs. I also found that I just spent more money in general. You tend to get it in your head that its “basically just a holiday anyway so…” and that leads to a lot of extra purchases.

Had I done a budget, I believe I still would have gone well and truly over it because I would never have thought to factor in such things as buying new bedsheets and linen and cutlery upon arrival. These had quite a substantial effect on my finances, especially at the beginning of my stay. Overall though, everyday items such as groceries are much cheaper than in Australia so that makes a difference, but I spent more than I intended.

My budgeting tip to other students would be to MAKE ONE. And to ask as many former exchange students as possible about those unexpected or less obvious costs that they might have had.

How did you get around locally?

Transport in Strasbourg was surprisingly good. it cost 26 Euros per month for unlimited access to trams, busses and to some public bikes. There are also other bikes for rent for a relatively low price. I travelled mainly by tram to get around.

Strasbourg is quite centrally located so trains are very accessible for international travel. Mind you from Strasbourg, you don’t need to go very far to be “international”; my accommodation was closer to Germany than to the city centre.

Weekends and breaks we often travelled to neighbouring countries. I visited other parts of Alsace (the region of France in which Strasbourg is located) and  to Switzerland and Germany multiple times each. There were quite a few exchange students who made trips to Austria and Czechia and all sorts of other countries.

Before the semester began, I travelled with my family for several weeks through Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium and France. Afterwards, I revisited Denmark and Germany over Christmas and New Year’s and then returned to Strasbourg to arrange all of my stuff in preparation for leaving and then visited a friend in Italy. I had bought a substantial amount of ‘stuff’ so it was necessary for me to ship a box home.

What was the social life like?

Life in France is rather similar to Australia in many ways. However, I feel as if no other nation is as friendly as Australia. For me, I always wanted people to smile more, to be a little happier. But on the whole it was a pretty easy adjustment.

The best way to meet new people would be to just try to speak to people in your classes. Often the French can seem rather scary (due to that apparent lack of happiness) but when you actually start to converse with them, they are lovely people who tend to be super happy with any attempt made at speaking their language-something of which they are extremely proud.

I participated in several university events but did not join any societies. I did, however, join the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), a network for all Erasmus students (something I was not, although they allowed me in as the only Australian) which organises day/weekend trips to places in the region and also puts on games evenings and other social events.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

The highlights were probably the friends I made whilst away. I also got to see some lovely places. Strasbourg is a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL city and I really enjoyed the culinary experiences I had across the continent. The Christmas markets of Strasbourg and even some in Germany were absolutely amazing and unlike anything we have here.

What is your number one piece of advice to students thinking about exchange?

Ask lots of questions before you go! Try to seek out former exchange students and pick their brains as much as you can. Go to the exchange fair and ask people there. There are so many things that you don’t know you don’t know.

Has going on exchange influenced your future plans?

I don’t know if it has changed much. For me, it was supposed to help me with my self-confidence when speaking and to help me understand what I wanted to do with my life a little better. However, I feel as if maybe I’m more confused than ever after this trip! But that doesn’t mean it was not worth it! On the contrary, I am simply confused because I now see so many other, new options.

UNIVERSITY

University of Paderborn

NAME

Stephanie

YEAR

2018

UNITS TAKEN OVERSEAS

  • German C1
  • Introduction to Cultural Studies
  • Reading Popular Fiction and Film

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

I decided to go on exchange because my major inmy arts degree is German so I thought living abroad in Germany would be an amazing experience to develop my German and learn more about the culture at the same time. Plus, I have always had a passion about learning about other cultures so knew I would meet people from all over the world through this experience. I also wished to learn life skills through challenging myself to live independent overseas.

What was your host university like?

My host university was the university of Paderborn. The university here is a very social one with lots of events happening on campus almost every week. The classes I chose were large compared to the UTAS ones with one of them having 300 students, so the lecture halls were huge. The classes are only on for 1.5 hours a week and the rest of your time is independent study at home and readings. I found this to be very different to my classes in Tasmania. There is a large library with recourses to access to help with this independent style of learning. The assessments for my classes were two large term papers due after the semester ended, and I also had a written exam for one of my classes however it was only 45 minutes and you didn’t need to write full sentences. I chose classes taught in English. One was cultural studies and the other a class called popular media and fiction and we addressed topics such as gender, class and age in popular media. I took an intensive German course at C1 level which is the highest one they had on offer. It really helped with my grammar.

What was your accommodation like?

There was plenty of student accommodation on offer with varied price ranges. I opted for the cheapest option of a single room with private bathroom and shared kitchen in an apartment style building with 5 floors. I chose this because I wanted to save my money for day to day life rather than choosing the fancier accommodation. I would recommend Mersinweg apartments instead. Exchange students staying there had great facilities and more peaceful living space. All the housing is very centrally located at the campus however which also meant all exchange students were close by for social life. None of the housing includes meals but there are plenty of affordable food options on campus and lots of supermarkets nearby.

How did you budget for your exchange?

I had a rough budget before leaving in terms of how much rent and living costs would be. I spent a lot less than I planned despite travelling a lot all over Europe. The cost of living in Paderborn is extremely affordable. I had lots of treat yourself moments due to this without ever going over my budget. Supermarket prices and food/drink prices in restaurants and bars in particular were very cheap compared to Australia! I did not work overseas as I had saved enough in advance, I also took out the OS-HELP Loan, plus was awarded a scholarship which I was very grateful for. I recommended working out what you have leftover for social life after removing the amount for rent/bills every month, then you can use that to plan travel and fun things!

How did you get around locally?

In Paderborn students can pay the administration fee to a student organization which then provides you with free public transport in the whole state of NRW (large area in German including Cologne, Dusseldorf and Dortmund.) This was great and we traveled so much on our student ticket system. The local bus routes were running frequently from university and into the night allowing for easy and free travel around the town. We never had to worry about tickets just always needed our student IDs on us.  I lived roughly 10 minutes from the city center by foot too so chose to walk most of the time. The pub we always visited was only a 25 minute walk too. I did lots and lots of travelling as flights within Europe can be find very cheap especially from Germany as its very central. There is a company called Flixbus which does cheap journeys in Germany from major cities and also to neighboring countries. On the weekends if we were not travelling we would hang at the local swimming pool, have cultural nights learning about each other’s cultures and go on day or overnight trips together. I travelled to Mallorca (Spain), Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, London, Scotland and Budapest. In Germany I visited Cologne, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Sylt, Hamburg and Frankfurt.

What was the social life like?

The way of life as an exchange student in Paderborn was incredibly fun. It felt like a family of people from all over the world. There were many greet and meet events upon arrival. There was an exchange student organization called Eurobiz they put on so many events for us and organized weekend trips. Everybody was very social and eager to get to know each other and we all became close friends within a few weeks. I must admit due to the large amount of exchange students (around 150 from memory) I didn’t meet many local students or participate in the local lifestyle but rather in an international way of life blending all the cultures into one. I mainly became friends with people from Finland actually, probably the furthest point almost from Tasmania! But I learnt so much about their culture and language. On Tuesdays all international students met up at an Irish pub for a weekly catch up which was always something to look forward to! Almost every 2nd week we had a night where people would present food from their home country, present their way of life and then we would dance the night away in the international office. It’s easy to meet people if you open yourself up to learning about new cultures and asking questions.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

I have so many highlights it’s hard to choose but here is one of my best memories:

We had an exchange student trip to the island of Sylt off northern Germany. We all watched the sunset off the coast and drank/sang and danced the night away together. It was in this moment I realized how lucky I was to be surrounded by such close friends in such a short amount of time. We all were in a circle laughing and chatting to one other as it was our last weekend trip together. As cheesy as it sounds it felt like these people had become my best friends and there was so much happiness and laughter that night. I never thought I would become this close to so many people from all over the world and I feel truly grateful to have been able to.

We also had a huge student summer festival called ASTA festival with plenty of bands and DJ’s. Roughly 12’000 students attended it on campus which was right outside my apartment. It was so much fun!

What is your number one piece of advice to students thinking about exchange?

If you are thinking about it this is your sign, just do it! It Is life changing and the best experience you can get out of your degree in my opinion. You will be amazed at how much you can achieve when you take a risk and put yourself out there to new cultures and countries. Go explore the world and all the amazing people it has in it!

Has going on exchange influenced your future plans?

I think my experience overseas changed my future plans as it made me certain I wish to work in a job which allows me to travel more and interact with a lot of cultures. I am looking into immigration or customs work. Otherwise also working in hotel brands. Regardless I think showing I have experience living and studying abroad will give me life skills I can put into future employment. I have more knowledge of how to connect and interact with different cultures regardless of differences. The exchange also pushed my social skills and personal self-esteem and made me very proud of how much it changed my usual shy personality. It helped me to become more confident to speak in front of groups and to new people. This is a skill I will be able to present in job interviews or new work environments.

UNIVERSITY

Tsuru University

NAME

Acacia

YEAR

2019

DEGREE

Bachelor of Arts

UNITS TAKEN OVERSEAS

  • Japanese Language 1 to 5:   Intermediate
  • Japanese Studies 1 to 3
  • Japanese Internship
  • Film Studies

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

As a student Majoring in Japanese, I made the decision to go on exchange to Japan with intention of improving my Japanese Language skills and learning more about Japanese culture. Japan has been a country of my interest for many years and to be able to have the opportunity to go on exchange and study through UTAS has been an enriching experience.

What was your host university like?

The University that I attended in Japan was Tsuru University, a small University located in Tsuru City, Yamanashi Prefecture. I chose this specific University because it is in a small country town and I believed it could provide me with a more genuine and unique experience of the Japanese lifestyle. I also chose Tsuru University as it offered a special intensive studying program (JAST program) that none of the other partnered Japanese Universities offered. For the first 7 weeks of my exchange I did daily three-hour Japanese classes as a part of the intensive program. In this program there was only one other student from America taking it at the time, so the teachers were very attentive to the two of us and were able to gage our abilities and teach accordingly. Almost once a week the University prepared a cultural learning activity for us to be involved in.

Because the school year calendar is different to Australia, Semester 1 did not begin until early April and ended in mid-July. During the semester period, I was required to take six classes and two electives of my choice. The classes were three Japanese Language classes, three Japanese Studies classes, a Film Class and an internship at a local high school. As I was taking the JAST program, my required classes and internship were special classes not with the regular University students. However there were regular students in the Film Class.

Regarding resources I was provided with most readings by my teachers, but I did have to buy a few textbooks. The textbooks were inexpensive and easily found on Amazon.

Compared to UTAS, the teachers definitely contacted via email less frequently and the University’s online student portal was rarely utilized which often made things difficult.

What was your accommodation like?

As a part of the JAST program I was offered cheap accommodation at the University’s Dormitory (International Exchange Hall). For the roughly six months that I was living at the dormitory, it cost about $1600. This included electricity, water and internet like most dormitories, and of course as well as a bed and a desk etc. It did not include meals but the University had a cafeteria/food hall which offered breakfast for about $3, and lunch meals were on average $5. I occasionally ate lunch at the University but most of the time I would buy groceries from the local supermarket and cook my own food, or eat out at a café or restaurant.

How did you budget for your exchange?

I had written out a rough budget for what I intended to spend, however my spending did not go as planned. For the most part the cost of accommodation, transport, groceries and everyday necessities were as I thought they would be. The conversion rate from AUD to YEN was unfortunately not to my benefit and at times I was spending more than I thought, but it was not a big issue. I did more travel and eating out than what I had intended to/budgeted for, so I spent more. It was an issue at times, but I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the way I did without much stress.

When you are preparing your budget before your exchange, I recommend leaving ample room for the possibility of costs being higher (if possible). If you will be on a tight budget, then be sure to stick to it. Also, if you can I recommend finding part-time work. I did not work while I was on exchange, and it is something that I regret. Not only would it have been a good experience to have worked in a foreign country, but it would have been very reassuring to have been earning money.

How did you get around locally?

I was very fortunate that I lived in a small city where most places like University, grocery store etc., were all within walking distance. Japan has a very reliable train system and I would use the train for all my out of town travelling. Tsuru City is about 40 minutes away from Mt. Fuji by train, and 2 hours away from Tokyo by train. On most weekends or on the Semester breaks, I would travel to either of these places, or surrounds. To Mt. Fuji area and back, it would cost about $20 and to Tokyo and back, it would roughly cost $50.

My first week in Japan I stayed in Tokyo for a week and explored some tourist areas before going to Tsuru City and settling in. After the intensive course, I had one week break before the Semester started. In that week I travelled to six different cities with two friends from Tasmania who happened to be in Japan on a working-holiday visa at the time. During Golden Week (an annual holiday in Japan), I went to the city next to Mt. Fuji and to Tokyo with the student from America also doing the JAST program and some of our Japanese friends. I did not travel at the end of my exchange as I had already done ample travelling during my exchange and just wanted to have time to relax and prepare to come back to Tasmania.

What was the social life like?

I had watched many YouTube videos and read many blogs of people who had done exchange, lived in or travelled to Japan before my trip. I did this out of personal interest, but it was also a very useful way to prepare for my exchange experience. It could be because of that and my open-mindedness, but I fortunately did not have any difficulties adjusting to the new lifestyle. It was very interesting and fun to learn about Japanese culture and the Japanese lifestyle.

Because I lived in a dormitory, I was able to meet many people and often would spend time with them, whether that was cooking and eating together or going out to a bar together.

The university had organised for the other exchange student from America and me to have four Japanese students to be our tutors for our exchange. They did occasionally assist us with our Japanese study, but they very quickly became our friends and we did many activities and often travelled together.

I did not join any clubs as I was not particularly interested. I play the violin and do orchestra in Tasmania, and I would like to have joined the orchestra at Tsuru University, but I was not able to take my violin on my exchange. However, I did attend some of the club orientations and was able to make a few friends. I would often eat lunch with them at University.

Clubs are a very important part of student life in Japan, so I do recommend joining a club if there is one you are interested in. I do believe they are a great way to make friends and experience an important cultural aspect of Japanese student life.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

It is definitely hard for me to pick one specific moment of my exchange as I thoroughly enjoyed most of my exchange. I really enjoyed studying at Tsuru University and having my exchange experience there. All the teachers were very kind and skilled, and the students were just as kind and welcoming. Tsuru was a very small city, but it was endearing and beautiful as it was in a very mountainous and nature rich area, the scenery was extraordinarily stunning and something I enjoyed seeing every day. The convenience of trains to all the places I travelled, 100yen stores and convenience stores in general are things that I enjoyed and will miss having access to. The contrast between lush green forests and mountains with rice fields and small villages to the hustle and bustle, bright lights and lively atmosphere of big cities like Tokyo, constantly impressed and enthralled me. These were all aspects of Japan that I loved and appreciated.

But it was the times that I spent with my friends that I loved the most. We would often cook together in the dorm, eating and chatting. We would often go to Tokyo, eat our weight in good food and explore the city by shopping, or doing karaoke or playing games in one of the many arcades. We would often explore the areas surrounding Mt. Fuji and enjoy the beautiful nature and visit the temples and shrines. It is all these times that I appreciate the most. Just enjoying time spent with friends.

What is your number one piece of advice to students thinking about exchange?

Really make the most of your time. Going on exchange is such a unique experience and very different to travelling and living in the country. Exchange is an experience that most of the time you can only experience once in your life. You will make new friends, experience new things and learn and grow so much, in such a short amount of time. Study hard but make time to explore and immerse yourself in the new culture and lifestyle.

Has going on exchange influenced your future plans?

My time in Japan has been an incredible experience and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go one exchange in such a beautiful country. I felt I greatly improved my Japanese Language proficiency, but I was also humbled with how difficult the Japanese Language can be and have been motivated to continue to study and improve. I hope that I can go back to Japan in the future for work and continue to study the language.

UNIVERSITY

Tilburg University

NAME

Victoria

YEAR

2017

UNITS TAKEN OVERSEAS

  • International Company Law
  • Compliance in International and EU   Law
  • European Migration Law
  • Introduction to Dutch Law

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

I chose to go on exchange because I felt it would be a very rewarding experience and a good opportunity for personal development. The thought of going to the other side of the world and knowing no one, was very scary but also very exhilarating. I knew it would be a wonderful chance to make new friends from around the world, develop resilience skills and adapt to a new culture and way of life. Having now completed my exchange, I now know I can achieve a lot more than I originally thought I could.

What was your host university like?

Tilburg university is a great university and I am glad to have studied there, but there are some differences to UTAS, which took a little bit to get used to. First, I had a lot fewer classes and assessments than I do at UTAS. I had 4 classes per week (one for each unit), so I had a lot of free time. I also had 100% exams, which I have never had before, so no continual assessments throughout semester. This was fab, but also difficult to get used to as I always felt I should be doing something, as that’s what I normally do. It was great for travel though!! The lecture styles were not dissimilar to UTAS. One thing I didn’t like was the lack of structure university wide. I like how at UTAS we have weeks 1-13 which is the same for everyone, there is a set exam period, and a specific date in which results are released. At Tilburg, the start and finish dates of classes varies, as do exam periods and results are released basically at the discretion of each teacher. So that was a bit annoying. But on the whole, it was a great university!

I also loved the coffee machines that were everywhere on campus, where the coffee was only 40c and you paid using your student card…I will miss that!

What was your accommodation like?

I lived in ‘Verbs’ (Professor Verbenelaan) during my stay in Tilburg. This is the student accommodation at Tilburg University, and is about a 2-minute bike ride from campus. I highly recommend staying here as it is such an easy way to make friends, but it is highly competitive so difficult to actually get a room. The cost is about €360/month, inclusive of all bills, so for me, it was cheaper than my housing in Hobart. On each floor, we had a big kitchen, so we all cooked our own meals, just like we would at home. It was a really great set up! There were also numerous supermarkets close by, making it easy to get groceries.

How did you budget for your exchange?

I didn’t really prepare a budget. I just saved a lot so I could spend money while away and do things without worrying. I spent a lot, but it was cheaper I suppose than what I thought it would be. I didn’t ever worry about money or that I was going to run out. My advice would be to save heaps before you go, so you don’t have to worry too much while away and can just enjoy all the opportunities and experiences over there.

How did you get around locally?

Being in the Netherlands, obviously a bike was my main mode of transport, and I loved it. I wish I could ride here, but it’s just too hilly! On weekends we would try to do trips, even just a day trip sometimes. Some of my friends from other parts of Europe drove to the Netherlands, so we could do road trips in their cars, other times we took trains, and planes if we travelled outside the Netherlands. The public transport system is great in the Netherlands, and they have a great app as well so you can plan out your trips. It is also easy to get to Eindhoven airport or Schiphol Airport, making air travel easy too.

What was the social life like?

Tilburg has THE BEST exchange program in regard to the social events they organise. Well, I*ESN is a European wide program, but the Tilburg component is run very well. We had TOP week at the start of semester, which was an orientation week but full of fun activities, dinners and parties…OMG it was crazy fun!! We were also assigned to ‘mentor groups’ of about 20 exchange students, and we had 3 mentors. We did lots with these groups and they end up becoming some of your closest friends. Each Tuesday we would have mentor dinners, where a few groups would come together and then we would have a party afterwards at our club in the city. They really go to great lengths to ensure throughout semester you are looked after and have fun; the activities don’t end after the first week. We would even often organise dinners and trips with the group because we became such good friends. It was fabulous and I am very thankful for this.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

Oh wow, this is tricky.

Definitely TOP week was incredible. We were all dead at the end of the week, and had to seriously catch up on sleep and get some fruit and veg into our bodies, but it was so worth it. The final party on the Friday night was epic and something I still think about a lot.

We also had an international cantus where everyone dressed up in their country’s flags, costumes etc. and there was a live band, and lots of beer and that was incredible fun!!

What is your number one piece of advice to students thinking about exchange?

Definitely go on exchange! It is a great opportunity and is something that differentiates you from other students in terms of employment opportunities. However, understand that you will feel homesick and that is normal. But be prepared for it, because it isn’t a nice feeling.

Has going on exchange influenced your future plans?

It hasn’t changed my future plans for now, although it has made me appreciate being home a lot more. As amazing as the experience was, there is nothing like your own bed!

UNIVERSITY

Cracow University of Technology

NAME

Marion

YEAR

2019

UNITS TAKEN OVERSEAS

Urban Design

Building Surveying

History of Polish Architecture

CAD II

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

I wanted to go on exchange to experience a different culture, travel and live outside of Australia. I was unable to go to my first choice for exchange. Cracow was my second choice because other students had recommended it and it allowed me to easily travel around Europe. Also, other students from University of Tasmania were going on exchange to Cracow, which I thought would help with settling in and exploring the city.

What was your host university like?

Crakow University of Technology (CUT) was a good university with a very large range of classes and small courses. The classes were different to UTAS classes. Only one of my classes had a lecture with the others only having tutorials. The assessments were also different, at UTAS every class has three assessments per semester, whereas CUT only had one or two assessments per semester.

It was a different university experience as I had multiple campuses to go to and the class times were different to my classes at UTAS.

What was your accommodation like?

Originally, I moved into a dormitory because it was an easy option set up by both universities. I did however move out of the dormitory because it was quite far away from all my campuses and the city. Also, the facilities at the dormitory I was placed in were average. Meals were not provided at the dormitory. I moved into a flat in the city, which was more expensive but walking distance to two of my three campuses and closer to supermarkets and shops. I cooked for myself or went out for my meals.

How did you budget for your exchange?

I prepared a rough budget before my trip but didn’t follow it. I spent a bit more than I planned to, with travel and day to day costs. Polish prices for food and drinks are cheaper than in Australia so I think I spent more just because I knew it was cheaper but then in the end bought a lot more on food than if I was in Australia. However, rent was cheaper here, and I had no petrol costs. I didn’t work in Poland because I did not have a visa that permitted working and because of the language barrier.

My budget tip for other students is to make a rough budget for the start of exchange then access it after a few weeks to make it more precise. I did find it hard to budget for travel because I hadn’t previously planned the travel I was going to be doing while in Poland.

How did you get around locally?

In Cracow there is reliable and affordable public transport. I got a student transport pass on my student card for the semester which allowed me to travel on trams and buses. Because of my living location I was also able to walk to a lot of places.

On semester breaks and before and after the semester I went travelling both around Poland and to surrounding countries. Some weekends I was also able to travel to countries close by.

What was the social life like?

Cracow is a very big student city and CUT has a lot of exchange students and therefore a lot of social events for meeting people and getting to know the city. Each week there were from 3 to 6 social events ranging from day trips to parks and museums to night time parties.

I didn’t have trouble adjusting to a different culture as I think I had prepared myself for being completely open and willing to learn and be a part of a different living culture for 6 months.

The best was to meet new people is to go to as many events as you can during orientation week. They organised a range of day and night activities so there was something for everyone. I participated in a lot of university event run by the Erasmus Student Network as they had event all the way through the semester. I didn’t join any clubs but took part in small university run competitions.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

Being able to travel to many different countries. I was able to travel by myself, with new people I met on exchange and on a school trip.

Meeting so many amazing new people and getting to know them, where they were from and why they chose Cracow. I think it is very important to meet people and be open to many new friendships because for me it helped for culture shock and homesickness which I rarely felt.

What is your number one piece of advice to students thinking about exchange?

Be open and willing to try new things. Go into all new experiences with positivity and excitement and you will have the best time because all the students I met here had the same mentality as me for exchange.

Has going on exchange influenced your future plans?

Yes, I definitely think it was. I have always wanted to live outside Australia and exchange has been a great taster and will definitely make it easier for me to move and live overseas in the future.

I hope the experience will increase my chances of future employment as I have grown a lot as a person and have a more life experiences then just staying in my home state and country. Exchange is something different that not everyone does so hopefully employers will find it interesting and intriguing when hiring.

UNIVERSITY

Linnaeus University

NAME

Fleur

YEAR

2019

UNITS TAKEN OVERSEAS

  • Intro to Swedish
  • Sustainability and Multilevel Governance
  • History and Religion of Sweden
  • Transformation of the World’s Economy

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

I have never been on an overseas holiday or left the country before, but I have always wanted to see Europe, but I never had the chance to go prior to my exchange. I wanted to see the places that were shown in documentaries and that made the “top 10 attractions you must see before you die” style of lists. I thought it was the best time for me to go abroad considering all the grants and financial support options available.

I was not picky to where I wanted to go so when it was suggested that I go to Sweden I jumped on the opportunity. The main thing that got me interested in the university I went to was the fact that it had a castle on campus that you were allowed to study in.

What was your host university like?

Linnaeus University (LNU) is so much more relaxed than UTAS. I only have 1 class at a time, with classes running for 5 weeks before we have an exam. The teachers have so much passion for their area of teaching and try to share their enthusiasm with the class. Class sizes are small which makes getting to know other students very easy, especially with all the group work you have to do.

The library offers services that coach you on improving an oral presentation, grammar and essay structure. There is a café inside the library where a lot of student go to grab some Fika and study. The library itself is clean and bright with plenty of areas to study (either in silence or not) and they offer lots of computers if you need to borrow one.

There are lots of options for lunch on campus; 3 food trucks, 1 restaurant, 1 café and 1 take away style store. In the warmer months you can sit outside on the grassy areas, sit in the mini forest and take a walk around the giant lake.

What was your accommodation like?

The contract with LNU stated I would be guaranteed accommodation, which was super helpful considering how hard accommodation is to get. Most of the accommodation was on campus but I was placed in accommodation closer to the city centre. You don’t get to choose where you are placed, but generally you won’t be spending much time in your room anyway.

You have to pay upfront for your accommodation with 5 months rent costing me $3,500 (considerably less than what I was paying in Australia). If you got the choice of where you were going to live, choose on campus. There are so many more opportunities to socialise and the accommodation seems cleaner.

Meals are generally not included so you have to make your own meals. If you make dinner with friends the act of cooking is much more fun.

How did you budget for your exchange?

I didn’t have a budget, but I was conscious of my spending. I planned to spend under $400 a week which was easy enough to achieve. Most of my spending came from eating out and doing events with friends. There were aspects that were cheaper than Australia, for example the alcohol and accommodation. Majority of the items were more expensive from the groceries, household items and bus passes. Overall mentally converting between currencies incorrectly cost me more money than I realised.

My budget tip is to always plan to spend way more than you think you will need. This way you will be covered if you have unexpected costs, if you don’t spend it all you can save it for a trip to explore your new country.

How did you get around locally?

Around Vaxjo I travelled mostly by foot and bus. Public transport is very reliable and always on time. The most affordable way to travel was to get a student monthly bus pass, you can travel as many times in the month as you like without having to pay any more than 405SEK.  Sweden is known for people riding bikes so to keep costs down you can cycle everywhere instead of buying bus tickets. Most weekends friends and I would go exploring the area, the rest of Sweden or find cheap airfares and travel to close by countries. Ryan Air is the cheapest Airline and if you join the student Union you get a discount and free luggage. If we weren’t travelling, we frequented the bars and clubs on campus or spent time in the shopping areas of town. Vaxjo is pretty small so more often than not we were travelling.

The train systems within Europe are very easy to understand and there are always people who speak English if there is an issue. You can always find discounted train tickets if you are travelling last minute and you get an additional discount if you are under the age of 25. Flying to other countries can become very expensive if you are travelling to the UK, Paris, Italy etc however flying to the western European countries is always cheap.

What was the social life like?

The first week of semester the university hosts events every night of the week, making it very easy to meet new international students. If you live on campus you have more opportunities to be surrounded by students and visit all the student hang out spots. Living off campus makes it a little more challenging however you become good friend with people living on your floor and generally socialise with them. Swedes love to go for Fika (coffee and cake) which is acceptable at any time of day. Most large stores, libraries and the campus have places where you can go and get Fika with your friends. To make life easier I joined the international society, the student union and the ‘nation’ Norrlands. If you want to have access to the bars and clubs on campus you MUST be a member to the student union and a Nation. You have to pay for membership and each membership costs between $10 - $25 for a semester.

The international society hold trips to Russia and Lapland, I would recommend these to anyone. These trips offer you the best time to really bond with other international students while experiencing other areas of Europe. I visited Lapland and I made more friends in a week then I had in a month because of the environment the international society created.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

There are so many highlights!

  1. The first highlight was my trip to Lapland! I went swimming in -3 degrees, saw the northern lights, drove a sleigh pulled by huskies and got my reindeer driving license.
  2. Travelling in general. I was able to visit multiple countries including Denmark, Finland, Norway, The Netherlands and the UK.
  3. Christmas. I love Christmas anyway but being able to experience different cultures Christmas traditions was really cool. I had a lot of Swedish Christmas foods, visited Danish Christmas Markets and was invited to a German Christmas dinner.

Has going on exchange influenced your future plans?

I am now thinking of going abroad to complete my Masters, something I had never considered doing previously. I also would love to come back to Europe and work internationally.

I think the skills I’ve practiced in Sweden have improved my employability. Sweden places a huge emphasis on group work and presentations which translated into public speaking abilities and teamwork, both are qualities employers look for.

Interacting with international students and learning to overcome language barriers and cultural difference also is a desired skill as it shows cultural acceptance.

My exchange abroad has also provided me with international connections, and as employers look at your ‘friends’ on LinkedIn I think this will help as I can offer then contacts to people all over the globe.

UNIVERSITY

Colorado State University

NAME

Tim

YEAR

2019

DEGREE

Bachelor of Business & Bachelor of Economics

UNITS TAKEN OVERSEAS

  • Intro to Econometrics
  • Health and Wellness
  • Intermediate Macoeconomics
  • Natural Resource History and   Policy

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

I had a few close mates go on exchange at UTAS. Seeing their photos and hearing their stories filled me with excitement and anticipation, as the prospect of embarking upon my own exchange adventure loomed nearer to the forefront of my mind. After consulting my finances and researching what adventures lay beyond Australian shores, I decided it was now or never and it would be an experience I would never ever regret.

Colorado has some of the world’s best mountain biking, snowboarding, hiking & climbing. It is renowned as the adventure capital of America. This was a huge draw card, and what made the landlocked Midwest state of the USA so appealing.

As predicted, it was by far and away the single best decision I ever could have made. I only wish that I elected to do 2 semesters and not 1!

What was your host university like?

Colorado State University (CSU) is located in Colorado, about an hours drive directly north from the capital, Denver. The campus in Fort Collins is huge, green and has an incredibly vibrant student life. In the heart of the northern adventure town the university culture was something I was quite unprepared for. The sheer level of loyalism to the ‘CSU Rams’ and support from student to university was outstanding. As soon as I had my ‘RamCard’ (CSU student ID card), I felt I was part of a loyal support team 35,000 members strong. The president of CSU, Tony Frank, reiterated speech after speech; “Rams take care of Rams”. This phrase hit home and made me feel that despite only knowing a total of about 20 of the 35,000 students there, I was being looked after and everyone had everyone elses backs.

Generally speaking the classes were relatively similar to back home. All of my classes had lectures only, and class sizes varied from 12 – 240 students and from small classrooms to large lecture halls. In week 1 I was introduced to this wonderful concept employed throughout the US college system called ‘extra credit’. There are usually only so many graded questions on each assessed piece of work, but there is also often ‘extra credit’ questions at the end of the piece of work. This allows you to essentially make up for marks you may have lost during earlier assessments. It also means that you can get up to 120% on a test or assignment. This was greatly reassuring.
The exam structure was very different to what I had been exposed to previously, too. The grading for each unit is usually left entirely up to the professor, with them deciding how many points / %’s to allocate to each assessment piece. One of my units’ final grade consisted of 540 potential ‘points’, where each assignment was worth 50 points, tests 100, homework 10-60 etc. Another one of my units final grades consisted of 1250 points and each piece of work was worth 100 points. It is quite arbitrary. It often means that the final exam however is usually worth no more than 25% of your total grade. (If that’s not incentive to study in the states I don’t know what is).

Overall I think I prefer the way CSU structures their classes and assessments. Sure, there are generally more assignments and tests, but they only serve to reinforce the content you’re learning throughout the semester, rather than cramming a large part of your courses content into your mind the night before an exam. I feel I have learnt more from the CSU courses, rather than simply being able to remember it from the Australian exam styles.

What was your accommodation like?

There was about 4 immediate accommodation options available to me at CSU; Halls, Aggie Village, Rams Village or the District. They all seemed great, but Aggie Village (Aggie) seemed the best in terms of the size of my (private) room, proximity to campus and social life within the apartments. My application was approved for Aggie, and I was put in a 3 bedroom unit with 2 other guys that turned out to be my best mates for the 6 months to come. My time in Aggie was nothing short of awesome, as our apartment was the primary social hub for all 20 of the exchange students. It was rare for a day to go by where there wouldn’t be a friend of visitor in our apartment. Aggie accomm is $720USD a month and does not include meals, but they do have a well equipped kitchen in each apartment. My room mates and I would do the groceries each week, split the costs 3 ways and take it in turns cooking for the apartment. It was a great system and worked really well. Any additional treats or foods I ever wanted (mostly bananas and cereal) I’d buy myself and store in my own little pile in the kitchen.
The halls option was very popular among other exchange students. That involves living in an apartment complex where you share a single room with 1 randomly allocated person and eat all your meals in the dining halls. This didn’t particularly appeal to me as I like my own personal space and enjoy cooking. From all accounts they all had a pretty good time in the halls though, but most of them said they would rather stay in Aggie if they had their time again.

How did you budget for your exchange?

I have been saving my whole life, despite not knowing what those funds would ultimately be allocated towards. So when exchange time came around I had a pretty sufficient stash of funds to support me. Additional to this, I took out the OS-Help loan, which was great as it allowed me to live in more comfort and to be able to say yes to any trips. (Including a 6 week road trip from San Francisco to Alaska at the end of semester). I probably did spend more than I planned to, however I don’t regret that for a second. I wouldn’t sacrifice any of the experiences I had on my time away just to have a little more money upon arriving back home.
Due to Visa regulations in the US, I was not allowed to work there.
My suggestion for someone embarking on a similar trip is analyse the exchange rate and when it’s good, transfer a bulk amount of money across. (Usually around $3,000 AUD or so). Leave home with more than you expect to spend, and be frugal to begin with. Learn how much it costs you to live by yourself, and allow yourself to indulge if you know you have enough money to live comfortably until you get back home.

How did you get around locally?

I rode my bike a lot of places, but that is something inherent in my nature. The public transport was OK, but any time we wanted to go skiing / camping / climbing etc, hiring a car was really the only option. I had a few American friends with cars which was handy, but most weekends we would just hire out our own car. You can get a truly awesome Ford F-150 pick up truck for the weekend for around $200USD or so. They’re insanely fun to drive and a great experience. They take 6 people + heaps of gear, so it comes out to be around $40pp (including fuel) for a weekend away skiing, which is a bargain. But most rental agencies require you to be 21 or older, and in possession of a credit card. If you lay on a thick accent and give them some tim tams, most places will accept a debit card with a $250 refundable hold provided you’re 21.
Most weekends we would go skiing, however other weekend adventures included; road trip to Utah X2, mountain biking trips, NBA & ice hockey games in Denver, and other trips to Denver to see bands or dj’s. We went skiing at Whistler, Canada, on spring break which was fantastic. At the end of semester, 5 of us embarked on 6 weeks of road tripping from San Francisco to Alaska visiting some incredible places along the way; Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Lava Beds National Monument, Crater Lake, Bend, The Redwoods National Park, Portland, Colchuck Lake, Seattle, Vancouver Island, Mt. Denali, and Alaska. This was an incredible experience I will never forget.

What was the social life like?

The transition from Australian uni life to American uni life for me personally was a pretty smooth one. Everything was new and big and exciting, but not too far astray from home. Sure they drive on the other side of the road and the pizzas are twice the size of ours, but everyone still speaks the same language and I found they were generally more friendly than people back home.
My main social group was really the other CSU exchange students. This was great as I met other people from America, India, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Because everyone is essentially in the same boat as you, they are generally keen to do whatever and always wanting to go out and see more things which is really motivating.
Most of the American people I met throughout the semester was primarily through the CSU cycling club. I also met people by just chatting to them at bars or being introduced by other people. I found Americans are generally super accepting of ‘foreigners’, and really actually enjoy just having a chat with you. 9/10 times you say g’day to an American they’ll want to hear more and have a good chat. I wish I knew this at the start of my time at CSU because it does seem daunting meeting new people, but it nearly always results in making new friends. Don’t hold back, just launch in and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to make new mates. At the end of my road trip I went on a rock climbing camping trip with one of my American mates, who introduced me to 7 other American people my age. (See attached photo). These 7 people over the course of just 2 nights became some of my closest mates, and people I will definitely meet up with again next time I’m back in the states. It only takes 1 or 2 friends to expand your friendship group massively, so it’s always worth grabbing all opportunities with 2 hands as you never know what may become of it.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

I seriously cannot narrow down my favourite highlights to just 1. Probably not even just 5! The entire experience has seemingly moulded into 1 unforgettable incredible experience with so many highlights in between.

If I HAD to narrow it down to just 5, in no particular order;

  1. Seeing   Florence and the Machine perform at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
  2. Snowboarding   world class soft and dry knee deep powder at Park City, Utah.
  3. The   entire 6 week road trip at the end of semester! Namely Yosemite and Alaska,   but the whole thing was just so incredible.
  4. Downhill   Mountain biking for 3 days at Whistler, Canada. That place more than lives up   to its hype.
  5. The   CSU undie run. A mass group jog around CSU campus with around 5,000 CSU   students all wearing nothing but their undies. An experience so outlandish   yet amazing that words cannot explain it.
  6. 4th July rock climbing / camping   trip in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I know that’s 6 but hey, the whole experience was just too good to be true.

If you ask me again next week, this list probably will have changed, but these memories I’ll take with me to the grave as the best I’ve ever had.

What is your number one piece of advice to students thinking about exchange?

Without a doubt the best thing you can do is just go for it! Don’t overthink it. It’s very easy to be daunted by the prospects of arranging Visa’s, foreign accommodation, transport, currency exchange etc. Don’t dwell on these mere speedbumps on your road to one of the best experiences you’ll ever have. Although it may be hard to envision, try to imagine what epic things you could be up to while on exchange. Here’s some hints; you’ll likely be part of a friendship circle so tight you’ll stay in contact with your new mates forever. You’ll partake in crazy, unimaginable experiences you didn’t even know existed with these new friends (see above undie run for example).You will see views you’d think you’ll only ever see on tv or on postcards, and you’ll be amazed when they’re so much better in real life. There is no possible way of predicting what amazing experiences you may have. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. So just jump on into it ready to take on whatever life throws at you and buckle up for the ride of a lifetime.

On an organisational note, use your contacts and your resources! They’re there to help, and it’s their job to do so. At any stage if you get stuck with something, there will always be someone there to help you out and send you in the right direction.

Just bloody do it, it’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done.

Has going on exchange influenced your future plans?

From an academic perspective my exchange experience may have slightly increased my chances of future employment in my ideal field, however I know for a fact that my chances of future employment have increased greatly from a social and an experience based perspective. The places I’ve been and the people I’ve met have taught me things that really cannot be taught you in school. Exchange provides you with first hand, pristine quality life experience; something employers consider nearly as important as your academic qualifications. Completing exchanges proves you have what it takes to deal with adversity, overcomes issues and enjoy and celebrate the good times for all they’re worth. Being on the job hunt now will be less of a dreaded process and more of a chance to show off the shiny life skills I’ve learnt over the past 6 months.