As I was nearing the completion of my bachelors’ degree, I was reflecting on how I wish I applied for t the opportunity to go on exchange and study in a foreign country. I was excited to discover BUILD exchange and how I could take a short course and embrace a new and exciting cultural experience.
I chose to study at Aarhus University in Denmark. The subject taken over two weeks was ‘Climate Law’ with a focus on the operation of the EU and European climate policies. The classroom environment was small, relaxed and friendly with interesting lecturers. The information was a bit overwhelming for such a short amount of time but everyone was so helpful and supported each other. All other students in the course were Australia so there wasn’t really any cultural diversity between students. However, the university organised Danish activities for us to learn about the culture and Aarhus. Some of these included walking tours of the charming city, welcome breakfast and dinners, tours of ‘Den Gable’ (Old Town), art museums and campus tours. All extra curricular activities were so enjoyable and worth attending!
The city of Aarhus is the second largest in Denmark and extremely charming! Beautiful houses and streets, delicious food markets, cosy botanical gardens and amazing outdoor activities. Some of the highlights include going to the deer park where we were able to feed and pat free-roaming deers and going to Moesgaard Museum where we were able to see one of the famous Bog Bodies and learn about Viking history. Marselisborg Palace was also a highlight! The city was so safe and cosy! Staying in a suburb with a Danish family through Air bnb truly enhanced the cultural experience. One of the hardest parts was dealing with the weather, with temperatures always being less than 1oC and a light snow, wind or rain nearly everyday. I was blessed to see the sun for two days in a row otherwise it is cloudy every single day in Denmark. The other challenge was the high cost of living. Transportation is expensive, as was food and basically everything in Aarhus and all of Denmark.
Despite the challenges, I would not trade my time in Aarhus for anything. It was a perfect way to complete my final subject for my degree. Exchange is amazing and a great excuse to speed up your course, travel and make new friends! Aarhus will always be of special meaning to me and it is a beautiful charming town. Despite loving this little city, I don’t see myself visiting again as I believe I experienced everything it had to offer! I do believe Denmark and other Scandinavian countries are well worth the visit. Overall, BUILD programs are a great opportunity to do short term exchange courses or internships and enhance your skills while creating unforgettable memories!
Over the summer holidays I studied abroad at Korea University. I really enjoyed my time there for anyone who is thinking about doing a summer abroad trip…
If you would like more information on my summer abroad at Korea University, or to ask any questions, check out my blog at http://www.lifestylust.com
We woke up, grabbed some food at the convenience store, and made our way to the beginning of the trail by 8 am. We were going to take the most popular trail until one of us suggested another hike that was more scenic and took us to multiple peaks. We agreed to take this trail since it leads to Baegundae Peak, the highest point in Bukhansan. The path ended up taking us to temples, gates, the fortress wall, and four other peaks.
J: There’s a hike that’s more scenic, and it takes you to many peaks. B: Sure, how long does it take? J: 4 hours.
“4 hours,” he said…
It took us 7 hours to reach the last and most well-known peak and then another 2 hours to get back down. What was supposed to be a 4-hour hike turned out to be 9 hours on the mountain. Not sure if the quoted time was for expert hikers with no breaks in between or if we didn’t stick to the designated hiking route. With that being said…
LESSON 1: Familiarise yourself with the hiking route and download or bring a map with you.
We had maps on our phone, so we kind of knew where we were. Although, most of the time it just felt like we were hoping for the best and walked spontaneously in the direction of the intended landmarks.
We started from the Gugi ticket booth area and walked uphills tirelessly for a good hour or two until we reached Bibong Peak. Ascending to the peak was the hardest part of the entire hike. The slopes were as steep as it gets without needing to crawl up the mountain. Every time we turned a corner and thought there would be some flat ground, there were more slopes. When we finally reached some flat ground, we were again presented with more slopes. It was relatively flat once we reached the peak with a few sharp inclines here and there where you had to pull yourself up with a rope.
On the way to the second peak, one of us slipped and started sliding down the mountain for a good two seconds. Now I know that doesn’t sound long, but when you are at the summit of a national park with only amateur hiking experience and no clue what to do if your friend dies, that is two seconds too long. Time felt like it slowed down. The incident unfolded in front of me in slow motion. Loose rocks were rolling down with him as he was sliding. Interestingly, just moments earlier I saw a sign that read “beware of falling rocks”, so I knew to be cautious. I guess my friend didn’t get the memo. Luckily, he managed to stop sliding and got back on his feet.
LESSON 2: Wear proper hiking shoes.
We then ventured deeper into the national park and walked past a few more landmarks. Since we only planned for it to be a four-hour hike, we stupidly realised in the fourth hour that it was going to take a lot longer than previously anticipated, and that we didn’t bring enough water.
LESSON 3: Always bring a lot more water than you need.
We ran out of water on our way to the last peak. Luckily there was a medic located just before the incline to Baegundae Peak. We asked the medic for water. By this time we were getting desperate. We even considered to abandon the climb up to the last peak, and instead make our way off the mountain. They gave us a small cup to share between three since they only had limited supplies (we weren’t complaining, there was even ice!). Not wanting to miss out on the highest peak in the mountain, we started climbing up to the summit. The climb to the peak took us twenty-five minutes. On our way down, we walked past the medic again. I overheard the staff telling another hiker (who also ran out of water) that there was a convenience store five minutes walk down the trail. I excitedly told my friends the good news.
Nevertheless, don’t take any chances and bring more water than necessary. The climb back down wasn’t bad, but it still took longer than we expected. We started hiking at 8 am and got down at 5 pm. Looking back, if we didn’t find the medic or the convenience store, it would have been really unpleasant and possibly dangerous.
Two guys from my summer exchange program hiked it a few days later and also decided to do a spontaneous hike. They ended up getting lost in the national park with no water left and zero battery.
LESSON 4: Make sure your phone is charged and bring a battery pack if necessary.
The two thought it would be a good idea to watch the sunset on the highest peak in the mountain. They ended up trying to make their way down in the dark with just the torchlight on their phones. The two went down rocks that weren’t part of the trail and stayed on the mountain for 13 hours. They, like us, also did not bring enough water. Luckily they came across a local professional hiker who drove them back home.
LESSON 5: Stick to mountain rules. Hiking at night is prohibited. There is no hiking after dark or 2 hours before sunrise!
Overall, hiking Bukhansan has been one of the highlights of my Seoul trip thus far. It is suitable for beginners as long as you take some precautions.
Going to Tokyo, Japan this summer was one of the best decisions I have ever made. No warning could have prepared me enough for the for the humid and muggy heat, but the exploration of the experience that I was able to do independently gave me some new insight and perspective.
During my three weeks in Tokyo, I had the opportunity to visit the countryside with my Japanese friends to see the sunflower blooms, visit the cute, themed cafe’s that are popular in Harajuku, Tokyo. I also had an incredible time during the Meiji University Summer Program. During the two weeks studying, I was able to meet many people from all over the world, where we had many differences in culture but all shared the commonality of studying Japanese Language. We learnt a lot during our classes but also had fun while studying (WHAAAT?!) A highlight would have to be the kimono dressing experience. I would recommend this program for anyone who is studying Japanese at UTS. Now I feel prepared to take on my one year In Country Study for 2019.
This was a short three week program at Saga University in Japan. Although it was a short period of time we still learnt a lot and made many unforgettable memories. The first day involved meeting all of the group members. As everyone came from different backgrounds and spoke different languages, it was very interesting for our first few conversations.
For the three weeks we explored the surrounding areas including Saga Castle and Saga Shrine, traveled to Ogi and Ureshino, took Ofuro (a special type of Japanese bath), joined a Japanese tea ceremony and traditional Yosakoi dance, and of course we attended Saga University for some study.
We became friends with our Japanese partners and other university students. At the farewell party, we did not want out trip to end, so we organised to meet each other either in Australia or Japan. This trip was so special as it was definitely a once in a life time experience.
Through UTS BUILD, I participated in the Drishtee Immersion Program (February 2018). The program facilitates empowering immersive experiences in rural India. I was based in Soda Village, sixty kilometres from Jaipur in India’s desert state of Rajasthan. It is a sprawled-out community whose residents share a rich culture and a way of life so unique and vastly different to one I have in Australia.
My Drishtee immersion was raw, deeply humbling and inspiring. I will never be able to truly describe what I experienced or the emotions I felt and ultimately the cherished memories that will have a lasting effect on me. The incredible people I met helped me learn and discover more about myself and what I would like to accomplish in the future. The program focused on developing empathy and cross-cultural ability through authentic encounters and assisting in creating innovative and sustainable positive impacts. The experience had 3 phases: firstly, entering the community and participating in village life, then secondly participating in workshops and thirdly, the innovation stage where we took part in co-creation with the village partners.
I thought the best way to describe my experience was to share my favourite memories and highlights from the trip. First of all, every day was unique whether it was visiting a school or hospital, or witnessing a religious festival, chopping wheat in the fields with the farmers, or just walking around the village all of which made for a very dynamic and intense three weeks.
One highlight was our first day where we were welcomed into the village and greeted with traditional customs, loud music, decorated horses and dancing women. The ceremony gave me the opportunity to meet children, mothers and many influential community leaders. The cultural customs and generosity of the welcome was incredible, and I have never felt so overwhelmed by positivity and love. Despite the language and cultural barriers, I was able to connect with people purely by building story-telling techniques or simply by sharing a moment together where words were not necessary. Some of my favourite memories are when I was simply sitting in people’s homes, sipping masala chai talking and listening about their families, work, experiences, their hopes and dreams or telling them about my life and where I came from.
It was from these conversations I was able to build authentic and meaningful connections with people. Simply walking around the community and observing daily life was fascinating and I felt thankful of the opportunity I was given. Watching men huddled in groups played cards, children running and yelling playing cricket, women herding their goats and cows to the fields or cooking fresh chapati over a fire or even watching the sunset on the rooftop were some of my favourite memories.
Another highpoint was during the final phases where we began workshops with our village partners exploring and producing exciting ideas. The specific area I focused on was women’s empowerment, a very broad, complicated and sensitive issue which proved to be quite a challenge. However, my passion for gender equality combined with village collaboration created a journey of understanding of this multi-layered issue. It involved talking many different women in the community, visiting schools, hospitals, spending a day with a family or going out into the agricultural fields. The root of many community issues is entrenched within historical, environmental and cultural foundations. Consequently, we needed to create ways of slowly releasing empowerment and independence for women whilst preserving culture and livelihood.
My partner Anastasia and I closely examined women’s needs such as earning an alternative income, building self-confidence, creating social support and breaking down of firmly entrenched gender roles. Our idea was an all-women’s sewing group which utilises a skill which is already within the community and is easy to learn for the untrained. This would give them the ability to earn extra income which is directly given to them. The sewing group would also assist in preserving and enriching social bonds and give a sense of community to these women.
One of the inspirations for our project was a lady who faced many problems and challenges which we decided to address in an initial proto-type. The lady owned a shop but had recently become a widow and expressed to us that she now needed extra income and wanted to utilise her sewing skills with other women in the community. We also came across many other hard-working women eager for extra income, particularly those whose main source of income was working in the fields.
Finally, another highlight was sharing these experiences with other UTS students and the Immersion Facilitators. Although we had not met prior to the Immersion, we all bonded and gave each other support either through our projects, laughing and exchanging stories at mealtimes or playing a quick game of frisbee in our spare time. I was so impressed and inspired and by the work everyone was involved in. I will never forget the friendships and the connections we made together. My time in India and my Drishtee Immersion experience was a very special opportunity which I would highly recommend to other students. I would like to say thank you to UTS BUILD, Drishtee Immersion, the Facilitators and Organisers and the UTS students who joined me for making this experience one I’ll always treasure and will never forget.
Over January I went to Timor-Léste with the group Project Everest. The main purpose of the trip was to work with a team on Project Everest’s Timor Energy Assessment project whose task is to establish a sustainable solution to energy problems in Timor-Léste. However, this trip was about more than just the project, it was an opportunity to jump into a brand new situation, navigate through and challenge myself. Throughout the month we were given the opportunity to plan our own days and work schedules. Although we had group leaders to guide us, we were expected to work independently to achieve the goals we set ourselves.
The first week in country had some of the most stressful moments. On my first day I learnt about the microlet transport system around Dili, dealt with taxi drivers trying to rip me off and learnt how to set my phone up with a local sim card. I met some very nice people including Robby the Scotsman; Kyle, the woman running the backpackers at the time; and Chris, a fellow Project Everest trekker on my team. We began project with an introduction day and some workshops setting goals for the month.
The next few weeks went much smoother, with everyone in the team getting more used to each other and what we needed to do. The previous team had established connections with a supplier in Timor-Léste and we were worried at the start of the project that we would just be sales people. In actuality we ended up solidifying the arrangements with our supplier and forged good connections with customers. Although we didn’t make any sales we were confident in where the project had progressed.
The month wasn’t all work, there was plenty of time for socialising. Most evenings after dinner we played cards, either with normal playing cards, UNO, or Exploding Kittens (I won the first 3 games of Exploding Kittens I played and became a little infamous for it). The leaders also had activities organised for us some afternoons. We visited the Resistance Museum to learn about the history of Timor-Léste and the long running conflicts that have shaped the country. We undertook an amazing race around Dili which involved completing tasks to gain points. Some things we did included: doing yoga in a milkshake shop, running to the top of Christo Rei and finding a concrete frog. As well as the in-week activities we went on three amazing weekend journeys. The first was a trip to Mt Ramelau, the highest mountain in Timor-Léste. Incredible views and the surreal feeling of standing in 7ºC weather in the tropics. Our second trip was a drive from Dili to the eastern most point of Timor-Léste then spending a day on Jaco island for plenty of beach fun and reef snorkelling (we needed a lot of sunscreen for this day, I managed to get through with only a small sunburn patch, others had sleeve tan lines). Our third trip was to Atauro island, off the cost of Dili. For this trip we trekkers had to organise the logistics of getting to the island and staying there for the weekend. This was personally a leadership development exercise for me as I managed to get everyone together to work out what we wanted to do to get there and stay there. The initial accommodation we planned fell through but fortunatelly the best place to stay on the island, Barry’s Place, had a large group cancel soon after we arrived.
I feel that this has been an amazing and unforgettable month. I’ve had such wonderful experiences from living and learning about this new culture through my experiences here. I’ve made new friends, learned new skills for leadership and public speaking, and had a month I hope to never forget.
By Carl Hemsworth
Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronic Engineering) Bachelor of Science (Applied Physics)
My BUiLD abroad trip was my first time to Europe it was definitely an awesome way to wrap up five years of hard work on my undergrad in law and business (economics). In January I went to Berlin to study ‘Introduction to International Economic Law’ at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (I’ve been told that the name isn’t translated into English normally).
Three weeks flew by much too quickly with classes, cultural programs and meeting people from all over the world. In my class there were 6 Australians (5 from UTS) as well as people from Indonesia, Poland, Switzerland, South Africa, Brazil and India. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly and by the end of the program we were definitely very sad to part ways.
Classes ran for about 3.5 hours four times a week with a break during each class. Despite the limited time, the classes were well paced and did not feel rushed. The instructor, Hanno Meyer, was excellent and very knowledgeable and created a very open and welcoming classroom atmosphere. The class covered a broad range of international content and included basic economic principles as well as the law. No prior knowledge was needed for this class. It was especially interesting learning about how the civil law system operates. One thing I found extremely surprising is that international laws are binding in Germany and many other civil law countries and is actually higher on the hierarchy than domestic laws.
The program at Humboldt also included a range of cultural activities including a day trip to Potsdam, ice skating and tours of museums, galleries, the Bundestag (Parliament) and the German Chancellery. As a bonus, Hanno also threw in a trip to the German Historic Museum for us during class time. The cultural activities were a great way to get to know our class mates and learn about German history and culture.
I also got a chance to experience the famed German rail network with a weekend trip to Prague and day trips to Dresden, Hamburg, Erfurt, Hannover and Leipzig with a fellow UTS student. Each and every trip was memorable filled with UNESCO world heritage sites, mediaeval towns and snow (though sadly not as much I thought there would be). Although speaking of snow, it was definitely fun telling ‘horror stories’ to my European class mates about regular 35C+ weather and Sydney recently being the hottest place in the world.
For anyone concerned about the language and cultural differences, Germans are very friendly and willing to help out a lost tourist, just don’t forget a friendly ‘danke schön’ (thank you) afterwards. A friendly local once noticed that I couldn’t understand the train announcements while I was on the high-speed ICE train and translated them for me. The classes are also taught entirely in English and while travelling I was able to get around with English and only a limited grasp of German. In saying that, enjoy the fact you’re in a different country and embrace all the differences you will encounter. There is also no better way to learn a language than being immersed within in it so take advantage of it and expand your horizons. However, I do have to warn you, public toilets invariably require payment and in Germany, as well as some other European countries, unleashed dogs are allowed in most places including inside shopping centres, restaurants and on public transport. Personally, I loved seeing all the dogs but take care if you have any allergies or are scared of dogs (though every dog I met was extremely friendly and obedient).
My experience at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin was amazing and unforgettable and I highly recommend the program. The university also offers a range of other programs in both the winter and summer school for anyone who would prefer something other than Introduction to International Economic Law.
“It was these little flashes, those little instants, that will forever stay in my heart.”
My experience of India throughout my three-week program with Drishtee Immersion was – trying not to exaggerate – almost indescribable. Whether it was the team I met up with at the airport, the people we learned more about during our journey, to simply the culture of India itself. At times it can be overwhelming, like a torrent of information bombarding and drowning my mind with thoughts and memories. I’d often have to take a step back and pause for a moment just so I could digest everything being thrown at me. From the differing cultural norms, the stories and experiences you would hear that can break your heart, or just the environment. But without this challenge, I wouldn’t be where I am now, a much stronger mentally and emotionally prepared person with the clear understanding of what true empathy can bring.
We started our journey in Delhi, where we met two of the best organisers you could hope to ask for, simply the best captains to control the ship which was the Drishtee team. From there we drove through the organized insanity known as Indian traffic to Jaipur and passed out at the hotel in the early hours of the morning. Once we woke up we stocked up on some Kurtas and other pieces of Indian clothing then drove onto Soda, a rural village housing approximately 7000 people near Malpura.
As an aside, I’d love to point out how outstanding the leader of Soda was, Chhavi Rajawat. Listed as one of the most influential young Indians by GQ magazine, and honoured by multiple Indian presidents in her time, Chhavi was an individual with an amazing presence. As the youngest person to hold office of Sarpanch, and the first woman Sarpanch in India with an MBA degree, she would often control the room and the flow of conversation in subtle yet friendly ways. Chhavi helped us tremendously throughout the project and provided us insights which we simple never would have attained during our time at Soda.
From there we spent the next week getting to know the people of Soda with the help of some amazing translators, one of which provided us with some early morning yoga sessions that I plan to continue doing for many years. Each day the group would focus in on an area, whether that be education, health, sports, and a few others. In these days we would do some basic investigation into the area with the focus being on slowly building connections and friendships with people. Some people latched onto an area and some villagers relatively quickly. I felt like I was one of the last people in the team to do this, with this causing me to feel like I was a little behind the rest of the group despite this not being the case at all.
The area which interested me the most was in leisure and sports, essentially what do people do for fun during their spare time. This came about during the Indian Independence Day, which happens to coincide with Australia Day (January 26th). One of the local schools in Soda invited us down for a special assembly which celebrated this day. During the festivities I became transfixed by the Judo portion which consisted of many students doing some basic judo drills in a very militaristic manner. This was the moment which piqued my interest.
One major aspect of Drishtee Immersion program was the notion of empathy. Although we can come into a place such as Soda, travel the village and identify a problem, then come up with a potential solution, the issues arise when this solution is implemented. More often than not, the solution is introduced and simply does not work, or only worsens the problem. This is usually since the people coming up with the idea do not understand the people affected by the problem and the little nuances a person not from the situation could find through basic investigation. This is where empathy comes in. Empathy bridges that gap as the person takes their time to connect to the groups or individuals directly affected by the issue. Thus, creating a potential solution that not only solves the problem at hand, but also considers the people related to the issue and alters the solution accordingly.
After spending the first couple of days doing general investigation in areas of the village, we then focused in on an area of choice and investigated that further with another team-mate who shared the same interest. This comprised of further, more in-depth interactions with individuals directly connected to the area of choice.
One of the people I decided to spend more time was one of the people who worked as helping hand for us at the place we stayed known as Ganesh. The man, constantly wearing either yellow or a pure white jacket with the Bosche logo emblazoned on the left breast, was noticeably friendly and would go out of his way to make sure that we were okay at all times. He was also known as the guy who would be one of the last three people in games of Uno but never took it to heart and was always eager to play.
We were taken to his village, a fifteen-minute motorcycle ride away, and given a guided tour of the hamlet by Ganesh himself. From here we learned how entrenched and important family values were for not only him but for Soda at large. Major slights like running away, stealing land, unknowingly selling off property, were forgiven simply to ensure that the family was kept together. We also learned how much Ganesh has sacrificed for his family, who left a steady job at Jaipur and came back home to tend to his ill parents. He spent much of the savings too on private hospital care for the parents.
If there was only one person I wish to meet again from my time in Soda, it was Ganesh. His generosity, friendliness, and father-like watch over us during the trip was something I rarely find in the people I meet back home. I hope to one day at the very least emulate some of the elements Ganesh displayed and spread his positivity that he always brought.
For my friend and I, we decided to get into further contact with the judo teachers of the village and soon discovered how important the sport was to the village. One judo teacher we spoke to had major success and climbed all the way to the national level, and multiple other students had reached the state level. However, we noticed that the equipment available for the students although adequate, were only accessible from one school and only during school hours.
It was also at this point in the program that we noticed how segregated the genders were in the village. The boys would only hang out with boys and the girls stayed with the girls regardless of the situation. This even included the husband and wife, where during our interactions with people would rarely – if at all – interact with each other except when they needed the significant other to do a task for them. This is a stark contrast from Australia where there can be groups of just ‘the boys’ or ‘the girls’, but both genders would often and inevitably interact in social gatherings.
The final stage of the trip we created a program or potential solution for a problem that we found during our investigations. Our solution was a sports center located in the middle of the village which stored and provided access to sporting equipment for several sports such as Judo, cricket and badminton. This was then combined with a sporting program similar to external sporting programs in Australia, where teams would be formed. Students could then play and practice a sport against each other. Outside of a few high contact sports, all training and some games are played with boys and girls together.
The sports centre and program idea were formed using the method of co-creation. This method is a variant of prototyping where you create the outline and details for the idea then work hand-in-hand with the stakeholders directly connected to the problem to refine the solution down. We found out quickly how important co-creation was for the program as certain features of the solution would not have been included had it not have been for us showing the idea to some of the judo teachers. They pointed out areas of concern in the early forms of the project and we adjusted accordingly, creating a program that would solve these issues.
The goal of this program was to not only help cultivate and create sporting success within the village but to also encourage interaction between both genders from the youngest age. By increasing contact between genders from a younger age, the barriers and stereotypes which might start to occur over time are slowly broken down and removed entirely. This leads to these kids treating each other as friends rather than something they are not allowed to communicate with. Moreover, this also can help end gender stereotypes around sports and that only men can play. This stereotype has already ended in Soda at least for judo, where there are also female judo students, with one competing in the state level.
Reactions to the program were positive by each and every person we had the chance to show the idea to regardless of their age, including the main presentation to the village at the end of the project. Although my team-mate and I will not be present for when the program gets pushed further into development in a months’ time by someone else, from the bottom of my heart I hope the program is a major success.
My time in Soda was something that I will never forget. It wasn’t the big moments such as the presentation to the village, nor the Independence Day assembly at the school which made my travel worth it. It was the small moments. The kids calling out your name on the street as they spot you walking around the village after spending a day playing hand games with them earlier. The reactions you would receive from people when you would say “Ap ke se ho” to them during your introductions. When someone in the village who was shy and reserved at the start of the program, slowly came out of their shell and even started learning my language and speaking it back. It was these moments, though small in comparison to the big picture, were special in their own manner. Although I could talk to people in Australia about the program and the great things we achieved during our time in India, it was these little flashes, those little instants, that will forever stay in my heart.
I really enjoyed my time in Berlin at Humboldt University.
The course ‘Introduction to International Economic Law’ was extremely interesting. Our teacher, Hanno, delivered the content in a very enjoyable and understandable way. The classroom atmosphere was relaxed and open, and our classmates gradually became our friends. There were students from all over the world including Indonesia, India, Poland, South Africa, Switzerland and Brazil. In a class of 15 students, there were 6 Aussies and 5 of them from UTS (easily could have formed a voting bloc with these kind of numbers). It was educative to listen to economic issues from the perspectives of different countries and highly entertaining to listen to personal stories of people who have lived such different experiences. I really hope we have a chance to catch up one day and see if our dreams and aspirations have been realised.
I also enjoyed the cultural aspects of the program including the tour to Potsdam, tour of the Chancellery and the Bundestag, and outdoor ice skating at night. It was a fun way to get to know our classmates better and students in other courses. Of course, we also learnt a lot about German culture and history…and German humour.
Germany is very different to Australia in many ways and the most obvious one was the weather. I got to escape the series of heat waves of the Australian summer as it was winter in Germany. It’s easy to ‘brag’ that Australia was the hottest place on Earth when you’re far, far away. Watching the snow fall through the classroom window was a simple but mesmerising pleasure on the dew days we were lucky enough to experience snow. One thing I did not enjoy was that you have to pay to use the public toilets in Europe. Also, do not assume that ‘office hours’ means Mon-Fri 9am-5pm because it might mean 8am-9am Tues-Fri (yes I’m looking at you, Janitor of student accommodation).
I highly recommend this program to anyone who is looking to do a short exchange overseas (or is just looking for an excuse to get away). The program is well structured with classes (3.5 hour classes x 4 days per week) with many cultural activities that you can sign up for if you are interested. You have plenty of free time to go out with your new friends and also travel to neighbouring countries during/ before/ after the program. I travelled with another UTS student to the top of Germany, Zugspitze, and saw some really cool dogs!
Overall, the BUILD program has heaps of different programs on offer so definitely take the opportunity to get out there!
In January, I was lucky enough to study abroad at Humboldt University in Berlin, thanks to BUiLD. It was an incredible adventure that I wouldn’t have experienced if I had just travelled there for a holiday.
At UTS, I study forensic biology but the course I chose to complete in Germany was “Human Rights: Gender, Racism and Social Justice”, which was definitely challenging considering how different it is to science. However, I don’t regret it at all – in fact, I learned so much and I feel far more aware of the issues relating to human rights which I would have otherwise been unaware of.
Humboldt University also organised cultural activities for all students and it really exposed us to Germany’s history and culture. Our timetable allowed us to learn and explore without any stress, which definitely made this trip extremely worthwhile.
I would highly recommend students to participate in a study abroad experience when given the opportunity as it’s a great way to become more independent and learn about different cultures. If you are curious as to what kind of places you can visit in Berlin, click here to watch a video I made about my experience.