Travelling has always been a part of life that I wanted to discover. This desire made me decide to travel miles away from Australia to Vietnam – a decision that is without an ounce of doubt one of the best I have ever made. My trip to Danang, Vietnam began on the 29th of July 2019. This two week trip was everything more than I had expected!
Being with people from all over the world not only taught me more about cultural differences but also how diverse our world is! These two weeks were intensely packed with classes and activities which made the trip wonderfully worthwhile. During the first week we went on a city tour to the famous Dragon Bridge, Marble Mountain, Hai Van Pass and the Old Buddha Sanctuary. Seeing these I was amazed at the amount of beauty hidden in Vietnam. To add to my delight, we took part in cooking classes and experienced the vast Vietnamese food culture (I can finally make their Vietnamese rolls, yaay).
A Few of the amazing places: My Khe Beach, one of the main tourist attractions in Danang. Hoi An, packed with colourful ancient night markets all lit up with traditional lanterns, fairy lights and street vendors bargaining to earn their extra bit. The Pottery village in Hoi An, all dedicated to hand made potteries giving that village a rustic ambience.
It was a delight to be in a world full of calmness, living away from the rapid, racing lifestyle that’s very common back at home. I observed how people strongly upheld their roots and traditions that were decades old. Overall, this city that is so full of artistry and tradition is a place worth visiting! Meeting the amazing people around the world makes it even more meaningful. Looking forward to more of such great experiences!
On June 30 2019, 24 UTS Engineering students commenced a brilliant two week course at Shanghai University. With classes in the morning and city exploration in the afternoon, their fortnight abroad went by in a flash!
Here are some short reflections from a few of the students who recently embarked on this terrific overseas experience:
From the 30th of June to 13th of July 2019, our daily schedule consisted of lectures lead by industry professionals from 8:30-11:30am. The content covered a variety of engineering related modules ranging from advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, and city infrastructure which transferred to concepts and trends taught in my own mechanical engineering degree. After lunch, we’d assemble at 1pm for site visits to relevant companies and the opportunity to discuss issues and concerns with international experts in industry. The UTS x SHU trip provided an invaluable academic and cultural experience. I am looking forward to partaking in more BUILD programs and I have been raving to other students to get involved too. – Anika Wenceslao
The comprehensive program enlightened me to a side of China not often conveyed in the Western world and has left me longing to return there and explore outside of Shanghai. I can’t help but smile when reflecting on the entire experience and was genuinely sad to return home after spending two weeks with some truly great people who I got to share the experience of a lifetime with. – Lachlan Derrig
I hadn’t travelled outside Australia in more than ten years. Going to China has been one of my favorite things I have done. Exploring new cities, meeting people, creating memories, sharing moments with strangers and friends, eating, learning. That’s how I would summarise my experience abroad. There was always something to do, to seek, to learn. I’ll admit that I was scared. Scared to leave home, scared to not know anyone, scared to navigate alone. But all things exist in contradiction. I was excited. I was excited to leave home, excited to not know anyone, excited to navigate alone. It was liberating. – Kassem Safwan
Visiting Shanghai was a very insightful and culturally eye opening experience. It was quite amazing to see a city that is almost completely cashless rely on payment methods such as WeChat and Alipay which are phone based applications in which you use QR codes to scan and then pay via an account. The best way I would be able to describe the atmosphere of shanghai, is that it is one giant factory. – Will Lazaris
Despite spending my first night sleeping at Pudong Airport, I only had good moments in Shanghai. From learning some mandarin, walking around the city and making friends with the locals, I had so many eye opening experiences. Everyday became exciting. Shanghai is an incredibly exciting and lively city. From how cheap the cost of food and living is, to how densely packed the cities of China are, you’ll never run out of things to do. I can’t wait to come back! – Nicholas Lukito
Shanghai has been an absolutely unforgettable experience. I was blown away by how much I was able to learn and experience in as little as 2 weeks. Admittedly, I was incredibly nervous before departing. I was about to embark on a trip with people I had never met, in a country I had never been. But as soon as I landed in China, that very quickly changed. From enriching cultural experiences, exploring sites such as Yu Garden and Tian Zi Fang, to insightful lectures paired with relevant company site visits, for example touring FANUC, a global robotics and manufacturing company, I can honestly say this trip had everything and more. I’m beyond grateful that I was fortunate enough to have such an incredible experience with such an incredible group of people. This program has truly exceeded my expectations and I strongly urge for students to take this rare opportunity to experience a BUILD Abroad program for themselves! – Brigitte Zappia
The key thing that I learnt through this BUILD trip is that there is a big wide world out there and that in order to understand and comprehend it, you need to see and experience it! From my journey I had the chance to experience different societal views of government and how different governments influence the lives of the people. This was something I found confronting, especially when I asked some Chinese citizens about their freedoms they either responded with “I’d rather not comment” or “It’s complicated”. All in all, going to China was an experience I will never forget, which has taught me and exposed me to so many new and exciting things and given me a desire to further travel through Asia to countries rich with culture and history. – Callum
Before I left for my trip, I set myself the goal of attempting to make my first video to capture my emotions and experiences of the trip. There aren’t many more words that I can say to do both my trip and Shanghai its true justice. However, I hope that this video does. – David Pangna
Before I left for Shanghai many of my friends and family would ask me, “Are you excited?” I often answered with an uneasy “yes” or a truthful “I honestly don’t know”. As absurd as this sounds, I was truly quite anxious to travel to China as it was my first time travelling alone to a foreign country. To save all the suspense, I had an amazing experience! Looking back on it there was no single factor or event that made this an unforgettable trip but a magical and rare combination of everything. The friendships and lessons I have learnt on this short two week trip will stay with me forever. – Veronica Gorgi
As part of our program, we had the opportunity to visit many popular cultural sites. The Bund was one of these. It is a waterfront area in central Shanghai which consists of buildings that light up at night, creating a beautiful view which cannot be described with words – you just have to be there to absorb its magnificence. We also had the chance to participate in a sight-seeing cruise along the Huangpa River which exposed us to breathtaking scenery. Along this cruise we saw the Oriental Pearl TV Tower which is an iconic tower seen in many western and eastern movies, and we were given the chance to go inside it to see Shanghai from above! – Kelvin Luong
Before visiting China I always had a negative perspective of China and what they have done to the world. But, after this short program I got to listen and learn from the people there and my perspective has changed. I now look at China with an open mind. – Synat
At first I was a little nervous, I have always had a distaste for travelling in groups. There’s always the bickering and the squabbling, trying to decide where to go. But thankfully, once we started the course, our days managed to stay teetering perfectly between everyone’s preferences. One of my favourite days was when went down to Shanghai Pearl Tower. The tower gives a panoramic view of the city, where you can stare down at the people on the city floor below and watch them going about their lives. Overall the trip was super enjoyable and I hope to go on another in the future. – Nadav
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in the future? Perhaps you can visualize a city among a garden? In the winter vacation of 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to a country that most other nations consider as the ‘model city’ – Singapore – an enchanting modern metropolis. A city planned 50 years in the future, and I did not believe that myself until I saw it with my own eyes.
Combine this with the opportunity to study an exchange at one of the world’s best universities, the renowned Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and this trip was even more amazing. Over the 4 weeks in June-July, my 5 friends and I from UTS embarked on a trip of a lifetime, discovering every aspect the tiny nation of Singapore had to offer.
NTU has one of the best campuses of any University, it has its own residential dorms, bus lines, gyms, pools and fast food joints like McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks etc. It was also an incredible learning opportunity to be taught by professors with over 30 years of experience in their respective fields of Cyber Security and Project Management.
One of the most interesting aspects of Singapore was the food. Delicious, cheap, abundant and diverse. It makes me wonder how a country with no agricultural space, hot-humid annual weather and a huge population can have such a huge variety and seemingly endless supply of food. I also got to try the highly anticipated Chili Crab but was left a little disappointed.
Travelling was a breeze. Singapore has developed one of the world’s most technologically advanced and efficient infrastructure for the Metro system (MRT), public buses and ride sharing services – GRAB. Automated trains run from sunrise to midnight at an amazing frequency of 3 mins and buses are not a minute late. Singapore may be small but it is hugely dynamic and fluid.
Singapore does not have the natural beauty that many other countries in the world are gifted with, but oh boy do they impress with their modern architecture. Singapore has a vast indoor, underground and vertical infrastructure rivaled by few cities. One of their most magnificent structures and landmarks is the Marina Bay Sands hotel in the heart of the bay. The huge towers are a symbol of prosperity, art and affluence. At night, water shows, and light shows in the neighboring Gardens by the Bay bring the city to life. It was here I spent a majority of my time exploring and admiring the city. We also spent a lot of our time enjoying the cooler climate in the many shopping complexes around the city which are open till 10pm daily! One of my most favourite shopping destinations were the famous Orchard Road and Jewel at Changi, a new entertainment hub recently inaugurated.
Singapore also has some unique natural attractions to offer such as Sentosa Island and Henderson’s Waves. It was fun to visit the Southernmost part of continental Asia, visiting the largest Merlion on the island and riding on the Luge with friends at Sentosa.
Singapore has a rich history and it was humbling to learn about the birth of a nation through my visit to the National Art Gallery, National Museum and visiting several heritage places such as the Supreme Court, Pulau Ubin, Haji Lane, Little India, Chinese Gardens and so on.
Whether it was attending 8-hour lectures, exploring the city in 35C heat, playing Uno on campus with friends or relaxing at Marina Lighthouse and seeing the city at night, Singapore was a truly fairytale experience and one to cherish for many, many years to come.
If you get the opportunity, do not miss a chance to visit the Garden City yourself!
– Ahnaf Rahman Bachelor of Information Technology Co-op
7pm, my last exam finished. 10pm I was on my flight to Europe. Crazy right? Two weeks before my flight I didn’t even know I was going to Europe, just the casual weekday leading into the exam week when I get an email from UTS BUILD regarding my application from several weeks back, “Congrats!” it says. An opportunity I would not miss, France was a destination I have wanted to visit since I was 3, when I use to live in Talatamaty in Madagascar. French was the language I had picked up first, as a result of living in Madagascar, although leaving all that behind and 17 years on I am now living in Australia, my love for France is still there.Now, 31 hours later, I arrive in Madrid. I spent a few days here before setting off for the summer program in Bordeaux. Europe lived up to my expectations so far, and the excitement only grew as I was travelling to Bordeaux from Madrid on the 29th of June.
The program was for a duration of 2 weeks, and consisted of daily lectures within the topics of ‘Sustainability within Civil Engineering’ which were eased into with an hour of French before it. Every day commenced at 9am, with an hour of French, a lecture, 1.5 hours of lunch break and then either another lecture or a site visit. Site visits were an amazing experience where the entire group got to experience the practical aspect of the lectures, some visits outside the engineering field were wine tours, these involved learning about the French vineyards and details about wine production.
Amongst the educational aspect of the program, the socialising opportunity was a great experience. I was the only student from Sydney, amongst 10 students from RMIT in Melbourne, few Chinese students and a few Korean students from Seoul. Making friends from different places around the world, yet connected by the same discipline of engineering was a unique experience. The usual day would finish at 5pm, after this the others along with myself gathered and went out to the city to soak up some French culture, either indulging in some French food or going to popular bars where we would meet others who are also travelling, or even appreciating the French architecture which was mind blowing as it was very different to what we are used to seeing in Sydney.
Some amazing work in the city I have captured are presented below.
The city of Bordeaux is a great place for students to study as the city is young, plenty of people out and about even until really late we still felt safe walking around the city. Sun set’s really late in Europe, so that was an experience in itself as we had plenty of day time to explore the city. This was weird at first as we’re use to such an early sunset back home!
Most of the city was covered with old French influenced architecture and it was maintained as such to be the centre of attraction in Bordeaux. However if you were to make a small effort to cross the Garonne river via the cities iconic ‘Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas’ bridge you come to discover this magnificent and alluring portrayal of the youth influence within the city. A location known as ‘Le Hangar Darwin’ where every wall boasts an eye catching piece of art through graffiti. The place is not filled with too many people at once however, you will come across a few locals who spend time with friends and of course the odd tourist like us who come to appreciate the contrasting nature of the city from the ‘left side’ to the ‘right side’ as the locals say.
A few of the works in ‘Le Hangar Darwin’ are shown below.
Overall, this short yet meaningful trip has taught me several things. It has shown me how to get through obstacles that you may face small or big, it has allowed me to gain confidence and step outside my comfort zone and do something out there. Most importantly, something I will keep with me for a lifetime; the new friendships and qualities which have been engraved into my personality from the duration of the trip. I strongly recommend this program for future students who seek something outside the normal university life and want to travel whilst adding value to their degree.
In June 2019 I set off to fly across the world to Italy to continue my studies of Italian Language and culture through the UTS BUILD winter program. This intense three-week language and culture course at the University of Bologna allowed me to expand my knowledge of the Italian language in such a short amount of time and immersed me within the culture of the city.
I set off from Sydney three weeks before the commencement of the course to go visit my family who live in Italy. After spending my time travelling around Italy with my relatives I caught the train to Bologna, where I met up with my friend from UTS who I was sharing an apartment with for the duration of the course.
The next morning was the first day of classes, kicking off with a speaking assessment to judge what level of Italian we already had. The first week of classes flew by and the next thing I knew it was our first weekend in Bologna. In true Italian style, my class decided to head out on the Friday night for some traditional Bolognese food; tagliatelle with ragù, mortadella and tortellini.
After sampling the food, wine and gelato and listening to some music across town it was time to start the second week. Although the intensity of the course was sometimes a little overwhelming, the fast pace of the learning allowed me to gain the most amount of knowledge possible in the short amount of time. One of the cultural activities we did during this week was my favourite by far: a traditional cooking class. As a class we made tortelloni (big tortellini) with ricotta, a salad with veal and a panna cotta with caramel.
Before I knew it the last week of the course had arrived and it was time to start studying for the final exam and making the most of the last few days before university in Australia started again. Making the most of the summer warmth, I spent my last days studying in the park and soaking up the sun. Unlike parks in Sydney, the park was filled with people playing soccer, basketball, frisbee, tightrope walking and juggling, with strangers encouraging me to give them all a try.
The last day of class quickly approached and it was time to say goodbye to everyone I had met. We went out in traditional student style watching a band play in one of the many parks of the city on our last night. After many hugs it was time to pack up and leave and head back to Australia. Although I was only in Bologna for a short amount of time, my experiences in this wonderful city improved my Italian language skills to a new level and I now have more cultural awareness of Italian customs and traditions.
Over the winter I went on exchange to Senshu University in Japan and it’s a trip that I’ll never forget! From the friends that I made, to all the new challenges and experiences I faced, I learned so much from this opportunity to study abroad.
The first thing that struck me when I arrived alone in Tokyo, was how foreign everything was and how alienated I felt. Having never been overseas alone before, I’m not gonna lie, I definitely wanted to go home in the first couple of days. It was hard adjusting to not being able to understand or read anything, to not have anyone by my side that I could rely on, from being pushed so far out of my comfort zone.
However, the students at the dorm I was staying at were friendly and encouraging and I’d made some friends within the first few days. The way the dorm was structured was that an international student would room with a local student to encourage us to converse in Japanese and get to know the local students better.
The program that I attended was a 7-week intensive language course at Senshu University, Ikuta Campus in Kawasaki – about a 20-minute train trip from Shinjuku, Tokyo. The first thing I did was take a placement test, then we were placed into the appropriate class level and began our classes! With a small class of 5 people, we had classes every weekday from 9am-1pm with a 10-minute break every hour. In the afternoon, we were left to our own devices, to explore, eat, or study. It was challenging and fast-paced, however I enjoyed the teaching style and learnt so much in that immersive environment. At the end of the 7 weeks, we had to make a 6-minute presentation on a theme that we’d chosen ourselves, and I felt that my confidence and fluency in Japanese speaking had improved significantly.
I enjoyed the lessons we had and the field trips that they took us to – to the Ghibli Museum, to Kamakura, to a tea ceremony and Kabuki performance, it was incredibly fun and eye-opening! These experiences furthered my understanding of Japanese culture and society, as well as exploring nearby neighbourhoods, night trips to Shinjuku, Shibuya, Kawasaki and so many other places, visiting temples and parks, riding public transport – it was all so overwhelming (in a positive way), and I wish I could have stayed longer. I gained so much more confidence from this experience abroad, from learning how to overcome challenges using my own initiative, communicating with a diverse range of people and continuing to challenge myself to venture outside of my comfort zone. It was a dream come true to have studied in Tokyo for those 7 weeks and I would recommend every student to take the opportunity to study abroad 🙂
July 2019 – one of the most riveting months of my entire life so far… was spent doing a legal internship in Shanghai! I certainly didn’t expect to feel this way when I first started my program.
On the night of Thursday 27 June 2019, I arrived in Shanghai after a 10.5 hour flight from Sydney. As I lugged my huge suitcase into my single-bed hostel room, it really dawned on me that I would be spending an entire month in a foreign city with no one by my side. One reason that I chose a hostel to stay in was so that I could meet other travelers like me – so I could feel a sense of familiarity in what was a month of anything but familiar.
Although I had a decent grasp of Mandarin thanks to my parents, I saw it more a curse rather than a blessing. I wasn’t able to express complex thoughts or string together long sentences. Although I was able to ask for directions or order food at restaurants without issue, ‘Add me on WeChat’ and ‘I want to open a bank account with a debit card’ were slightly outside my vocabulary bank. I also felt distinctly like a ‘foreigner’ – I couldn’t even order KFC at one particular restaurant because I didn’t have WeChat Pay, which unfortunately required a Chinese bank account. Paying for things in cash just wasn’t a thing in Shanghai!
As I started with the internship the following week, I slowly but surely began to find my feet. By that point I had secured a Chinese bank account and was living and paying like a local! At Hui Ye Law Firm, I was introduced to the craze that is ordering milk tea (or bubble tea) using delivery services straight to the office. Can you imagine using UberEats or Deliveroo to send a coffee up to your office! I discovered that napping at work was entirely appropriate given Chinese business culture and the expectation to work long hours.
Progressing with the internship, I began to appreciate Chinese cultural values such as ‘guanxi‘ (the relationship) and ‘mianzi‘ (the concept of ‘face’). This meant not approaching shy colleagues for a conversation until they were ready on their own terms to have a meet-and-greet. It similarly meant not bothering my supervisors for more work until they were ready to provide it. Overcoming these initial barriers in understanding a foreign culture was one of the major successes of this internship.
Substantively, I was tasked with drafting various research papers, presenting on ‘Investing in Australian Real Property‘ to my Chinese colleagues and visiting both the Shanghai People’s Basic Court and the Shanghai Commercial Mediation Centre. In the final week, there was a brief change of scenery with a visit to the Nanjing office! None of it felt like I was doing things for the sake of an internship – it truly felt like each task was provided so that I would better understand Chinese culture, Chinese commercial law and Chinese working habits.
Having stayed in a hostel, I looked forward to chilling out in the rooftop bar every evening after finishing work. Unwinding after a long day with a beer and some international friends – I couldn’t have asked for more! In my spare time, I visited the nearby city Suzhou (the ‘Venice of the East’), did tourist-y things around Shanghai and even sat down for a dumpling class! An honourable mention definitely goes to the unforgettable KTV (karaoke) nights!
Striking a balance between work and play was perhaps one of the most enriching aspects of the internship. In some ways, I felt like I was truly an adult managing my own time, relationships, work and travels. Navigating the challenges, highs and lows of Shanghai, I feel like I have taken positive steps to becoming a Global Leader. I have found mentors from Hui Ye and friends across the world that I no doubt will keep for life.
You know that feeling when you just know that in that moment, you were supposed to be at that certain place at that specific time? Well that’s how I felt after a week in Spain.
Prior to my abroad experience I kept thinking “I shouldn’t be going on another holiday, it’s irresponsible… I need to start saving more money” and “What if something happens to me while I’m overseas?!”. Of course I knew I was just being paranoid, but I couldn’t help how I was feeling. The day of my departure, I almost didn’t even make my flight as I was running late, maybe unconsciously on purpose.
All this was put to rest as soon as I landed in Spain. Everything started falling into place. I smiled when I thought about how overly anxious I was just a few days earlier. My trip turned out to be one of the greatest summers and one that I will always cherish (lame & generic sentence, I know)!
I did some solo travelling before I arrived in Granada to study Spanish. Hostels played a major role in helping me to socialise. Some are really social while still providing a certain level of privacy, such as curtains, and same sex dorms.
I slowly made my way to Granada, passing through Albufeira and Seville on the way. For two weeks, we studied four hours a day from Monday to Friday. The beginners language course was harder than I expected. Our teachers started speaking in Spanish from Day 1 and pushed us to use as little English in class as possible. They were hard on us but I guess it worked. I picked up so much in such a short amount of time.
What I also love about Spain in summer is the amount of daylight that you get as the sun didn’t set until 9.30 pm. Every day, we would wake up and go to class in the morning, finish at 1 pm, and then go home to either study or have a siesta (nap). When the sun wasn’t as strong, we would start leaving the house again and meet up with our friends to go sightseeing or have some tapas. Here in Granada, they serve you free tapas when you buy alcohol. Needless to say we drank sangrias and beers everyday to get free food!
The city is even more famous for its medieval architectural masterpiece – The Alhambra. In busy months, this Moorish wonder is booked out for weeks in advance. The fortress turned palace is also just as beautiful from the outside as it is from the inside. Every other day, we would climb up the hill to a lookout, to view the iconic palace from afar and watch the sunset. Every time I saw the grand structure, I was just as impressed as the time before. Granada is honestly the most beautiful city I’ve been to so far in Europe. And I am so glad that I chose to spend the two weeks here.
Although everything worked out for me, it was not always smooth sailing. Fires broke out frequently as it was one of the hottest summers in Europe on record. I almost got pick-pocketed and indecently grabbed by an old man (both situations happening within 24 hours passing through Cordoba). Many other people had similar experiences. Some of my friends got pick-pocketed on busy subways, food courts, one even unfortunately got physically robbed and assaulted late at night, however this is a rare occurrence.
As my trip drew to an end, I looked back at my old self, just a few weeks earlier. Although everything didn’t always go as planned, I smiled again, as I knew that this trip was meant to be.
On 2 July, my second day in Warsaw, I went for a single walking tour to have a browse of the place I was going to live in for the next 2 weeks. And honestly, I was shocked by this ‘re-constructed’ city, it did not wipe out the historical breath of the city, but added more to it.
After a little walk around, I had a fine lunch at Old town square, where this ‘beef tartar’ is one of Warsaw’s signature dish. Quite fresh to me, as this was the first time I ever had a raw beef experience lol
On 13 July, almost the end of the program, SGH took us to Krakow for a 3 day trip. This photo was taken from Auschwitz, the concentration camp. I guess the photo can show the color of our feelings on the day.
To be living now in a somewhat more peaceful world and holding great opportunities for a better future is a blessing.
After this 2 week program, I gained not only the experiences from this overseas adventure, but also knowledge and friendships.
Also it provided a great chance to look over myself, to walk out of my comfort zone. Everybody knows it is always easy to stick to a life where everything is repetitively same. Is it the life I wanted?