Simone: Finishing at UQ and Post-Exam Travels

Hi there, I am now down to my last 3 weeks in Australia and am sure making the most of my time, as well as having some time to reflect on my exchange experience holistically.

I had to knuckle down for 2-3 weeks from late October to mid November as I had final assessments for two of my psychology courses and final external exams during the exam period. The final exams were quite challenging as the assessment style was quite different to the University of Auckland but I finished feeling accomplished and proud that I was able to complete the exams to the best of my ability. After I had finished I took the weekend off to fully relax and unwind from the weeks of consistent studying. In South Bank where I live there is a large public lagoon called Streets beach and spent most of the weekend there as Brisbane’s temperature rises dramatically in October and November to above 30 degrees.

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I attended the UQ ball last Saturday night and had a blast! If you have the opportunity while on exchange to get a ticket to your University Ball, I highly recommend you go if you are interested. The theme was a Midsummer nights dream, so the venue (Hillstone Golf link) was decorated with fairy lights, people dressed as mystical creatures and doing gymnastics/acrobatics which was exciting to see! There was a live band playing all of the classic songs which was really enjoyable to listen to. The food was gourmet and delicious, and constant refills of champagne were given all night. I went with a Canadian girl who was also on exchange and we had such a good time dancing all night and taking photo booth photos. It was truly a magical night I’ll never forget!

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The past week I have spent exploring Brisbane with my friends before they left to go home back to the United States or Canada. It was hard to say goodbye but I know I’ll see them again soon and keep in touch. The friends you make on exchange are for life and teach you a lot about the world and other cultures. I went to some neighbouring suburbs called Bulimba, New Farm and Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, taking the ferry to get there. The Ferry is a great way to travel around Brisbane as it’s quick and really enjoyable to see the city from the water.  Bulimba had some really nice Cafes, Boutiques, restaurants and Gelato places, as well as a nice suburban feel. New Farm had a huge historical park and many old ‘Queenslanders’ which is a term used for old historical houses. Fortitude Valley had many shops and a huge Chinatown. I noticed it had many bars and nightclubs as well.

I also managed to visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is a must do if you love animals or want to see the native animals of Australia (they can be rare to see around Brisbane unless you visit rural areas). The sanctuary had a large area of Koalas of all ages, babies, mothers and retired Koalas. There were around 8-10 enclosures which housed 5-6 koalas each and so if you visit you will get to see an abundance. The sanctuary also had other native animals such as Kangaroos, some platypus, Wombats, Tasmanian Devils and an array of native birds. There are wild lorikeet feeding, opportunities to hold or touch koalas, feed kangaroos and watch a native bird show. The entry fee is affordable and makes for a fantastic day out.

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I was very fotunate to have a friend from New Zealand come to visit the Gold Coast with her family for a holiday and was able to train down to the Gold Coast to see her. It was so good to be reunited with a friend from back home and explore the city with her. She wanted to see surfers paradise so we met for Coffee at Max Brenner and the coffee there is excellent if you love sweet treats. We had a nice walk along the beach and unfortunately it was very windy and a little chilly so we took a bus back to Cooloongatta where she was staying. I hadn’t been that far south in the Gold Coast before, so it was exicitng to see a new place. She showed me around the little town which had a very relaxing and quiet beach with a great boardwalk that wrapped around the cliff displaying great views of surfers paradise highrises. She took me to Point Danger which was a great lookout on the border of NSW and QLD which was quite funny as our time kept changing on our phone as we crossed the border (NSW has daylight saving and QLD does not). I took my camera and have many photos from this day so I will never forget it.

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Keep an eye out for my next post where I will wrap up my exchange experience and tell you all about my trip to melbourne, as well as my 1 week holiday in the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast with my sister, before flying back to Auckland.

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Simone: Mid-Semester Break Travel

Hey everyone! Time has really flown in the past month for me here in Brisbane, Australia. While spending 5 months in a new country felt like a long time to me when I left Auckland, it’s now 6 weeks till I fly home.

I have really been studying hard for the past few weeks, with many assignments due and final tests for two of my courses as I do not have any final exams for these courses (Psyc2030-Developmental Psychology and Psyc2020-Neuroscience). I now have one week left of class till the exam period begins. You may be wondering why I am studying so hard, since my grades won’t be shown on my transcript (only a pass or fail will be shown for my UQ courses). I want to do further study beyond my conjoint Bachelors degree in either an honours/masters in Psychology, Masters in Social work or a Masters of Marketing, and in the admission application they will look at my academic transcript from UQ so I still want to do well in my courses here.

During my Mid semester break I went to Bali, Indonesia to get away from study for a few days and to enjoy a well-needed relaxing holiday.

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Elephant camp at POD Chocolate factory in Badung Regency, Bali
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Seminyak Beach and local restaurant
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Water Palace Temple Ubud

Two other American exchange students who I met in the orientation week had asked me in August if I was keen to go to Bali with them for the mid-semester break and I worked out I had enough savings to go and we booked the 4-day trip shortly after. We flew over at the very beginning of the mid semester break and it was a very short flight from Brisbane (only 6 hours) I must say! I was instantly hit with the culture as soon as I stepped off the plane in Denpasar! The airport is decorated with temple shaped terracotta roofs and cultural sculptures everywhere. The heat hit as soon as we stepped out (20-25 degrees in September) and it was nice as Brisbane had been pretty cold. We used the Grab app to get a local cab driver (similar to Uber) and we set off for our 1-hour drive to Ubud. Ubud is in the middle of the island and is surrounded by rice fields, lush greenery and local villages which is exactly what us girls wanted to see. I highly recommend Ubud as a place to stay in if you go to Bali as you can really immerse yourself in the local culture and way of living. We visited Kuta and Seminyak for a day and realised it was pretty touristy! It’s still a nice place to visit as its right by the beach and has many cool beach cafes, restaurants, beach clubs, bars and markets. I really enjoyed exploring Ubud’s centre where there was an abundance of temples, markets and boutiques. The girls and I booked a couple of tours before we left Australia such as ATVing through the rice fields and local villages, and hiking up Mount Batur. That hike was one of the most incredible things we did! We had to get up at 1:45am and did a 2 hour hike up the mountain from 3-5am and watched the sun rise over the mountains. I have never seen a more beautiful sunrise, it was unreal.

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Mount Batur Summit, Bali

We also managed to visit a coffee plantation which had such amazing, fresh, raw coffee and visit the POD chocolate factory, where they make chocolate from scratch. We got to sample many different chocolates and see the elephants at the elephant camp they had there. We got to touch the elephants, feed them, and interact with them which was an amazing experience as well.

A couple of days after I returned back from Bali, I went to Maroochydore with an Australian friend of mine from UQ for two days. We stayed at an air bnb for a night and it was great because the host recommended a place for us to eat dinner and told us where we should visit. The Sunshine Coast is an hour and a half away from Brisbane city so we had a decent ride up there, blasting our music in the car and catching up (I was super lucky my friend had a car and could drive us, public transport takes 2-3 hours to get there). Unfortunately, there was really bad weather the first day we went, so it was raining and cloudy the whole drive up. We stopped at the Maroochydore surf club for lunch (they have amazing food for a reasonable price, so highly recommend you check one out when you visit) and spent the rest of our day driving around the town and then relaxing at the accommodation. We decided to go out to one of the local bars and have a few drinks which was a lot of fun because the NRL final was on, so everyone was cheering and engrossed in the rugby. It was really cool to experience rugby support across the ditch! Australians really like rugby and actively support their local teams.

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Coolum
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Maroochy River

Look out for my next post where I talk about how my exams went, the end to the semester at UQ (the University of Queensland) and how the start to my holiday is going (I have a full month to explore Brisbane and its surrounding cities).

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Simone: Exchange Student Life in Brisbane

Hey there, I am checking in for my second blog post about living as an exchange student in Brisbane, Australia. I have really immersed into the Australian University lifestyle and am now settled in South Bank, Central Brisbane. I can say that after two months the initial novelty wears off and you have a feeling that you are really living in a new country. Everything starts to feel familiar and you feel confident going to new places as you understand how things in the country works. For the first month it hadn’t set in that I was living in a new country, it just felt like a long holiday. For the past month I have been really getting into University life at UQ (The University of Queensland) by attending the UQ Psychological Association Society club events, making new friends and exploring the campus.

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The UQ Psychological Association Society holds many events throughout each semester and last month I attended an Industry networking night. This event allowed me to network with professionals in the field and fellow students who have a strong passion like me. It was a great place to meet new people and find out about the industry in Australia. I learned how it differs from New Zealand in that there is a different career pathway process (you must complete an honours year before applying for a master’s programme) and engaged with representatives from an organisation called AIESEC. This organisation allows students from all over the world to undertake projects, entrepreneurship and work overseas in internships in their area of interest. After hearing that they had a project teaching English to autistic children and the purpose of the project was to spread awareness for Autism and improve English teaching in more remote areas of China, I decided to apply to get involved. I was fortunate to be selected for this program and now will be going to China over the summer before semester 1 starts in Auckland University next year. Going on exchange can open your eyes to new experiences you never thought of before and can give you access to many new opportunities. I strongly encourage you to get involved with the University’s networking events as I have found them very informative, enjoyable, and beneficial for my future in the Psychology industry.

I have been socialising quite bit outside of University in my spare time as I want to make connections in Australia and from people all over the world. I have managed to make quite a few friends that are exchange students through attending QUEST (UQ’s Exchange Student Society) events and a few Australian friends in my Psychology and Management courses. There is a surprisingly large exchange and international community at UQ. We have formed an exchange group and we hang out whenever we can. This has been a great support network for me as being away from friends and family back home can be hard, but they understand this completely.  I have also made a few Australian friends in some of my classes. They are very similar to Kiwis in that they are down to earth, friendly, and humble. It can be easy to gravitate towards other exchange students but I would suggest you try mingle with the locals as you’ll learn a lot more about the country you are in, the people, and their culture.

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Some of my friends mentioned that there was a big fireworks show on the Brisbane river to end the Brisbane festival which ran from the 8-29 September, which sounded fun so I decided to go. A few friends and I walked down to the river and were amazed at how many people there were! It felt like the whole of Brisbane had come down to the river to witness this event.

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The fireworks display ran for 20 minutes with music in sync with the different firework timings and displays. There were fireworks on many points of the river, coming of buildings and off rooftops. It was by far one of the best fireworks displays I have ever seen, so if you come to Brisbane in semester 2, it is a definite must see.

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I have also attempted to get a part-time job because having a little money on the side and gaining more work experience is always a plus. I have only heard back from a couple of places but the interview I had went well and the managers I talked to were friendly. I was offered a brand promotion position, however they needed me to work 4 full days a week as the bare minimum. Unfortunately, I had to reject this job as University is a priority for me over work at this point in my life. I managed to get an online teaching job, teaching English to Chinese children between the ages of 5-12.  I also was able to get a casual job at an Australasian marketing company, after applying online from a recommendation of a friend I had met. Both jobs have flexible schedules and allow me to work around my busy University schedule. I recommend that if you are on exchange in Australia and want to get a job, apply for casual jobs because they University workload and schedule can be very difficult to work around (if you want to aim for good grades).

Well, that’s all from me for this post. Look out for my next blog post where I will talk about what I got up to in my mid-semester break (travelling to Bali and Maroochydore on the Sunshine coast)!

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Simone: First Week in Australia

Hello everyone! As this is my first blog I will introduce myself. My name is Simone Wielenga and I have gone on exchange to the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I study a Bachelor of Arts and Commerce conjoint majoring in Psychology, Criminology, Marketing and Management.

I’ll tell you a little bit about my first week in Australia. When I first arrived, I could immediately feel the climate difference. Queensland has very mild winters compared to New Zealand with their average temperature sitting between 21-24 during the day and on hotter days it can reach 28-29 degrees. I flew in on a Sunday and had orientation on the Monday and Tuesday, so we had a relaxing afternoon/evening so I could get up early the next day.

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Orientation

I highly recommend you attend as many orientation sessions as possible because the information they provide can be very useful both when you start out at a new university but also further into the semester. The sessions covered things like Australian native animals on campus (so you knew they weren’t dangerous), how to enrol, how to make friends, who to go to for help, where international students can hang out and many support services available on the campus. They had an ID printing centre which you could go to on your first day to get your ID card automatically printed within seconds! I thought this was pretty cool technology because back in Auckland we have to wait to get it mailed to us.

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The University of Queensland’s Campus is beautiful! It is the biggest campus I have ever laid eyes on and to me it felt like a community. Everything you need can be found on campus, from doctors to dentists, multiple cafes and restaurants, multiple sporting facilities, endless areas to study, a newsagent, flight centre and more. The St Lucia campus is located 15 minutes away from the city and has many lakes surrounding the outskirts of the campus and a lot of bush everywhere which was a nice environmental change for me as I am used to studying on the City campus at Auckland University. My parents flew over with me for the first week of orientation before the semester began to help me settle in to my apartment and so I was able to travel along the sunshine coast and visit my hometown region for a few days.

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The Sunshine Coast

After two days of Orientation in Brisbane, my parents and I drove up to the Coolum Beach, stopping at Caloundra, Kawana, Mooloolaba and Maroochydore on the way. My hometown is Caloundra where I spent 4 and half years growing up (from the ages of 7-11 and a half) and going back brought back many good memories from my childhood. We stopped there for a couple of hours and had a nice walk along the boardwalk by the beach. I spent 3 nights in Coolum and explored Noosa on the first day. Noosa is one of the larger towns in the Sunshine coast with many suburban areas with canals and along the Noosa river. It has many beautiful beaches to visit and nice boutique stores (mainly in Noosaville and Noosa Heads). My parents and I visited the Eumundi markets which has been around long before I even went as a young kid. The Eumundi Markets is one of the largest markets in the Australia with over 600 stalls!

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At Coolum beach

The Markets have almost anything you may be after, like Jewellery, herbal medicine, clothing, food stalls, homeware, art, crafts and much more. We also had a gourmet restaurant style meal at the Surf Life Saving Club in Coolum. These Surf Life Saving Clubs are usually established in most towns by the sea in Queensland and have amazing food for a reasonable price. I highly recommend you check them out if you come to Queensland! The other two days were spent exploring Coolum and relaxing by the beach. Coolum is a very relaxed beachy town with a smaller population of residents with many boutiques and cute cafes. Believe it or not but it is warm enough to swim and sunbathe on the beach during winter here!

That’s the end of my first week’s experiences in Australia. Keep an eye out for my next Blog where I’ll talk about my trip to Byron Bay for a weekend and about Industry nights I’ll attend through the UQ Psychology Students Association and the UQ Criminology and Criminal Justice Society clubs.

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