Marleen's Exchange in Brisbane, Australia October 29th, 2017

When I came from the plane to Brisbane (around 24 hours and 3 seconds after finishing the second year project) the first thing I noticed was the weather. Everyone seemed to be very cold and to be fair, it was winter. Also, everyone seemed to feel very sorry for me when I told them the summer in the Netherlands is not that much different from the winter in Australia. Overall the weather has been great, it has not been beneath 20 degrees during the day including the ‘winter’. At night it can become pretty cold, so make sure you bring a jacket for these moments, because I did not and that was stupid. Please learn from my mistakes. They say that the sun shines in Brisbane 300 days a year, but at the time of writing it has been raining for a week straight since it is rain season now. Because it was winter when I came here, I haven’t been eaten by a spider yet, but maybe that will happen in the summer when all the insects come out. Another thing you will directly notice when you land in Australia is that the people are very nice. It is normal here that strangers start talking to you when you are walking somewhere and everyone will stop to help you if you look like you are lost (which happens to me regularly).

Brisbane itself is a really lively city and there is always something going on during the weekend. It ranges from food festivals to rugby games and they even had an Oktoberfest here. The city also contains numerous places worth visiting, such as the lookout point at Mt. Coo-tha and Eat Street, a place in the north of Brisbane where they sell almost any kind of food.

Because university starts early in Australia (you have to sacrifice your summer holiday but in return you get a really long winter holiday around Christmas, so it is worth it), it did not take long before university and the orientation week started when I arrived. The orientation week mainly consisted on telling students how to write essays and how to not lose your laptop in the library. However, there was enough time to discover the campus of the University of Queensland. The campus offers a lot for students. For example, the campus has their own hairdresser, pharmacy, at least 5 coffee places (yay), a lot of food stores, a post office, around 6 libraries (some of them which are open 24/7), and the great court, which is a large grass patch in the middle of the university. In the orientation week the different clubs and societies of the university introduced themselves as well. UQ has over 250 clubs which range from the socialist club to the quidditch club. I still have not figured out what they do in the second one since people cannot fly, but I guess they figured something out. One of the clubs that UQ has in the international student club, called QUEST. This club offers a lot for exchange students. I went to Byron Bay and to the middle of nowhere with this club and it is a great way to meet new people all around the world and to discover Australia. They also arrange weekly events like pub nights and pub crawls, which are fun as well. There are a lot of sport clubs as well where you can be part of if you are a sporty person. I personally do not have experience with that so I cannot tell you how they are unfortunately. I do know some crazy people who do sports at 6 am, so that is a thing that is possible if you want.

UQ offers a lot of different courses, but not that many econometrics related courses. I followed one of the econometric courses, which I followed with 9 other students. I also followed an advanced finance course which I followed with 350 other students. In general the courses are not too difficult, but some courses can be a lot of work because you need to submit a number of assignments. UQ gives you a lot of time to choose courses. You can switch courses until August, which is almost halfway through the semester.

The main reason I went to Australia is to see the country since I always wanted to go to Australia since I was little. There are endless options to travel to when you are in Brisbane. One of the most visited places by students from Brisbane has to be Cairns, which lies north of Brisbane. I went here in the mid-semester break with friend I met at university and it was really nice to see. When you drive up to Cairns you come across many beaches, the rainforest, the Whitsunday Islands and also a lot of red sand. Closer to Brisbane there are also a lot of places you can make daytrips to, like Noosa or the Gold coast. Because university ends in mid-November, you will have time enough to travel around in the country or even New Zealand and Asia. The places that I have been to in the mid-semester break include: Cairns, Cape Tribulation (this is in the middle of the rainforest but also near the beach, so if you are near Cairns I can recommend to visit this place), Port Douglas, The Whitsunday Islands, 1770 (Yes that is the name of the place, very confusing) and the Sunshine Coast. Despite the name, it was raining when we were visiting the Sunshine Coast (one of the 65 days it rains here).

If you decide to travel in Australia you quickly notice you are not the only one. Because a lot of students travel in Australia, there are many options regarding hostels and car rental. Additionally, the domestic flights can end up being relatively cheap, if you take some time to figure out what the cheapest flights are. Another option is taking the train but the trains here are even worse than the NS. The bus can be a good alternative. Although, the busses do not tell you were you are so it is easy to get lost on the bus. I am halfway my semester abroad and I have still not figured out how Australians deal with this situation. My strategy is to take a random bus stop and just hope it is closer to where I have to be than where I started.

About housing, there are options to live on campus at UQ. In these dorms the food is included and you live with a lot of other students all with different nationalities, but this option can be really expensive. The most people who go to Australia seek their own accommodation outside of university. In Brisbane this is not that hard to find. I would suggest to come here two weeks earlier than orientation week. When you do this, you have more than time enough to look for accommodation. I live in a student house with 5 other roommates, mostly students at UQ as well. Most of the other people I know arrived at least a week early and they all could find a place to live that is not too far from university and not too expensive. I can really recommend living in a student house since I have had a great time here so far.

I have had a great time in Brisbane so far and I can really recommend studying here or Australia in general! But if you are not going to Australia I can still guarantee that your exchange semester will be awesome and that you will have lots of fun!