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.

St Lucia Campus

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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