Experience Report Study Abroad

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1 Experience Report Study Abroad In the fall semester of 2016 I signed myself up for an adventure: I went on Exchange. And not just an exchange, because I chose a city in a country that was almost as far as I could possibly go: Sydney, Australia. Despite all the preparations, the nervousness and the money, I had the most amazing 6 months of my life. And in this report I am going to tell you all about it. When I got the news from my home university in November of 2015 that I was selected to spend half a year in the most famous city of Australia, I was beyond excitement. It had always been my dream to travel to the other side of the world and to go beyond my comfort zone and beyond everything I was used to in Tilburg. However, after all the excitement, the worrying started: I had to arrange só much, especially since I was leaving in less than a year. From my accommodation till my university acceptance, from my visa till my plane ticket. It was overwhelming. In February of 2016 Tilburg University arranged a Study Abroad-evening, where I could meet the other students that were going to the same university as me, in the same period. I discovered that besides me, six other girls were selected to go to the University of Technology in Sydney, which made things easier since we could discuss all the arrangements we had to do before leaving. We all signed up for UTS Housing, which we had to do in advance, to get a room at the campus from UTS. I booked a plane ticket together with two other girls from the meeting, so I wasn t all alone flying for 24 hours. The visa arrangement was done in less than an hour. We had to hand in a numerous of documents to UTS to get officially accepted, which was quite stressful since it took a long time for us to receive the official letter of acceptance. But when we finally got it, there was nothing that could stop us: we were really going to live in Sydney for 6 months. Woah! The day came on the 20 th of July in My family in friends waved me goodbye, which was quite hard, but I was more than ready to leave. The flight was exhausting. It took 24 hours and I had to transfer in Guangzhou, where it was extremely hot, and my brain was just confused about everything. The upside was that I wasn t travelling alone: 3 girls from Tilburg University took the exact same plane. We didn t know each other at all at that time, but we were going to leave Sydney as good friends. We arrived in Sydney around 10 pm, while it was morning according to our bodies and systems. Because we had already arranged a room at UTS Housing, a shuttle came to pick us up and drop us off at our new home. I was starting to get nervous again: who was I going to live with? We took the shuttle together with other Exchange students, with whom we started to chat. Three of them were Swedish, one was French, one was American. I already really liked all the different nationalities. UTS Housing owns four different buildings where its students are based: Yura Mudang, Bulga Ngurra, Gumal Ngurrang and Geegal. The names descend from the Aboriginal Culture. I had a room in Gumal, but the other two girls were assigned to different buildings. The shuttle bus dropped me and the Swedish people off at Gumal, while it drove

2 further to drop the other students off at Bulga or Geegal. It was finally time to see the place I was going to live for the next few months! It turned out that I lived in the same apartment as one of the Swedish guys, with whom I immediately hit it off. The rest of the flatmates, it were supposed to be 5 more, weren t home at the time we arrived. The apartment was really nice: I had a big room for my own with a closet, bed and desk, and we had a big living room and a nice kitchen with two cooking pits. I would recommend anyone to stay at UTS Housing, since it is nice and it is the best way to meet your fellow Exchange-students. The building also has an amazing roof with barbecues, cool common areas and study rooms. It makes living there the ultimate studentexperience! I decided to go to sleep: it had been a long, long day. Of course the jetlag was bothering me so I didn t fall asleep until 5 in the morning. I got to meet the other flatmates in the next few days and we were extremely widespread in nationality: German, Swedish, Dutch, Austrian, Chinese, American and Brazilian. I thought it was so cool, and as a flat we really got along. We arranged a culture night every Sunday, which meant that one of us had to cook a certain dinner that was typical to our home country. Some of them also became my closest friends there and people with whom I decided to travel. But more about that later on. In the next few days I also got to know the university, UTS. It was a really modern university, based on different places in the city centre. It was also a 5 minute walk from my home. The first week of my arrival UTS Housing arranged a lot of introduction activities, which also got us to finally see some of Sydney. The Bondi to Coogee walk, Darling Harbour, the Botanical Gardens, the famous Opera House, various cheap restaurants in the city, the amazing view of the city from the Yura roof, one of UTS s buildings. The Yura roof was the place for Exchange students to meet and play drinking games before going out. You could find me there almost every Thursday, Friday and Saturday! The activities organized by UTS Housing also made us get to know a lot of the other Exchange students. The first week existed merely of partying and getting to know people, and was just a blast. It introduced us to goon (the disgusting, cheap drink Australians drink because it s cheap), TimTams (typical Australian cookies), all kinds of new drinking games, the fact that groceries in Australia are expensive, Kmart (I still miss this store), and much more. The second week was an introduction from UTS itself, and was much more study-based. We got a tour through the university, a welcome-speech, we saw the library, rented our books. Everything was well-organized for the

3 Exchange students, and I did feel welcome and accepted. We still partied almost every night and I started to find my way through all the new faces and started to form a group with some of the Exchange-students I got along with. We called each other family. I had an extremely laid-back life in Sydney. I went to school for two days of the week and the rest of the week I was just free to do whatever I wanted. I followed three classes: From Dirty Data to Vivid Visualisation, Code as Literacy, Commodity and Infrastructure and Politics, Ideologies and Beliefs. It were random courses I chose for my minor, just because they seemed interesting to me. In almost all my classes I was the only Exchange student, which meant that I had to interact a lot with the local Australian students. They were all very nice and cooperative, but much more active in class than I was used to. In Australia, the classes merely existed of discussions between the lecturer and the students, while at Tilburg University the lecturer just tells a story and the students are quiet en sometimes ask questions. It was something I had difficulties in participating, since English is still my second language. I could follow everything but I didn t really participate in the discussions that were going on during the lectures. During the days I was free I mostly met up with my friends and spend the days at nice places. I joined bouldering group and did that almost every Monday, together with my German flatmate. I went to the Blue Mountains and finally saw some Kangaroos, Wombats and Koalas. I noticed that even though I had difficulties in joining the discussions during class, the academic level was lower than at Tilburg University, because I got high grades on papers and presentations without doing a lot of studying. It was nice because that meant I had a lot of free time, but on the other hand it was a shame since the courses weren t really challenging me on an academic level. The one thing I learnt is that I like to code, and that way know which Masters I want to do in Tilburg. I started to really love Sydney and started to see it as my home. This is strange to say because it was so different than the home I was used to. Walking through Darling Harbour or Circular Quay at night just had something magical. Often when I looked at the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge I couldn t believe I was actually there, it was such a crazy view. The city was so huge and modern, which is a big contrast to Tilburg. My living expenses were also so much higher in Sydney, since it is expensive to live in central Sydney, even if you live at the campus, and groceries and going out were quite expensive. Since getting pre-made food somewhere was almost cheaper as buying groceries and cooking yourself, I almost never

4 cooked and ate só much sushi (yes, this was cheaper in Sydney than in Tilburg), noodles, et cetera. I also discovered the 1$ coffee at 7/11, which became my best friend during exam periods (I still miss it). In October I went on a surfcamp, because you can t leave Australia without surfing a bit! At that time it was still pretty cold and the surfing was hard to learn. I did manage to stand a couple of times and it was overall just an amazing weekend. We stayed at this little camping with an enormous group of young people, all UTS Exchange students, and had heeps of fun. In October we also had springbreak, which UTS referred to as StuVac, in which almost all Exchange students used the free time to travel together. I was no different, and planned a trip together with three of my flatmates and three other students. We planned a road trip along the East Coast, visiting Port Stephens, Port Macquarie, Yamba, Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise. We had a lot of fun, staying in hostels and therefore really experiencing the Aussie-travellife, and I especially loved the laid-back surferstown Byron Bay. I also surfed there, which was quite the failure. Surfing just isn t one of my talents! I already ended my semester in November, which was really early because I planned to return to the Netherlands in January. That meant I had a lot of time to travel, something I was really eager to do! Together with my Danish friend I travelled the East Coast, from all the way up to Cairns till Brisbane. After that I went to New Zealand with six other Exchangestudents, and we did a road trip with two campervans through the North and South-Island. This was an amazing trip and probably the best thing I ve ever done. Staying in a campervan at the coolest places on earth, living minimalistic, hiking the most amazing mountains and being rewarded with the most gorgeous views. What else could be better? After that, I went to Bali to meet up with a friend from home. This whole journey took place from the beginning of November until the end of December, and it was simply amazing. The things I experienced and saw I can t put into words. I am forever grateful that I got to do this and it made me want to travel more and see even more of the world.

5 One other thing that was on my bucketlist was to see the New Years-fireworks at the Harbour Bridge in Sydney. These fireworks are worldfamous and I just had to be there. Of course I wasn t the only one with this plan and it meant sitting in a park for a whole day, just to see five minutes of fireworks when the clock ticked 12. The good thing was that I had a lot of friends there to entertain me during the day, and to celebrate during the night. I will forever remember the annual change of ! For anyone who is thinking about spending a semester abroad, I can only recommend you to do it. It had broaden my view and my life-experience, and it made me more confident. For those who are eager to travel: go to Australia. It is an amazing country with so much to offer, especially for those looking for adventure. UTS as a host university was nice and I would recommend people to go there, even though I think there maybe are universities that are better in their academic level. But on the field of handling their Exchange-students, UTS has it covered. Description of Courses Course Prequisities Exam ECTS Comments Politics, Ideologies and Paper 8 Research into an organization Beliefs Code as Literacy, Commodity and Artifact 8 Infrastructure From Dirty Data to Vivid Visualization Paper 8 2 individual papers, one in pairs

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