Australia | Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

BY MONICA MARTINEZ

The week has been consumed by massive thunderstorms, but the weather here in Brisbane is under 80! To say I am happy would be an understatement. I completed my first week of classes at UQ and I could not be more excited with the courses I am taking (Environmental Policy, Gender and Global Politics, Global Population Crisis, and Australian Foreign Policy). I am fortunate enough to have class only on Tuesday and Wednesday (meaning I have a five-day weekend) but it is definitely a major challenge to have 12 hours worth of class in two days. Keep reading to gain an insight into daily life as an official student at UQ.

Pre-Departure Enrollment

Prior to arriving, I had to enroll in classes using the my.UQ.edu.au system (you receive your student login information on your Unconditional Offer for Incoming Exchange Program). Although enrolling classes while in California went smoothly, I found the task to be confusing (and a little intimidating) because of the of steps you need to take to enroll.

Here is a step by step guide to ensure you classes you are interested in:

  1. Begin by looking at the list of Courses and Programs offered during your semester abroad. Under refine search, select ‘Undergraduate’ and ‘Internal.’ Most importantly, under the course option select the ‘Show only pre-approved courses for Study Abroad students’ to ensure the courses you take will transfer over to your home university for academic credit.
  2. After selecting the courses you are interested (write down the course code for each), log in to your my.UQ portal. Select mySI-net on the left side of your screen to be redirected to the enrollment page. The page will first prompt you to provide your personal information (address, contact number, email address) before allowing you to enroll.
  3. On the main page, select Add Course and enter the course code (for example, POLS3115). Click the ‘Add Course’ button and you are all set! Continue to do this step until you have included all the courses you need.
  4. Important Note: In terms of enrolling in the class, you are done. But, you will need to enroll in your discussion sections (at UQ, these are referred to as tutorials or workshops). Return to the main page on mySI-net and click the Sign On button. The page will list the classes you have chosen to enroll in, while listing the respective enrollment dates/times for your tutorial/workshop. If under SignOn Status you see ‘Not Applicable,’ you are all done!
    1. If you need to SignOn (enroll) in a tutorial/workshop, note the date/time listed is based on Brisbane time. Make sure you are on the page and it is fully loaded at least 10 minutes before your designated time because spaces go fast. One neat thing about class enrollment is there is no cap (meaning as many students interested can enroll) but tutorials/workshops are limited.
    2. Do not freak out (as I did) if you see your enrollment for a tutorial/workshop is after your first lecture. This is normal for popular classes!

One of the most helpful resources in picking your courses for your time abroad is the Electronic Course Profile (EPC). You can find the Course Profile for each course on the Courses and Programs website. On each EPC, you will find all the information you need: course syllabus, date of assessments, weekly learning activities, and contact information. Moreover, if you are wondering how I ended up with four classes and three tutorials in two days, here is your answer. When enrolling in classes on mySI-net, the day/time the class takes place is not provided. You will only be able to see when your class meets if you add it to your timetable on your my.UQ portal – DO THIS BEFORE ENROLLING TO AVOID CLASHES BETWEEN CLASSES.

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

Daily life at UQ is not much different than daily life at UCLA (except for the absence of the hill and Janss Steps). Depending on how far from the campus you live, you can either walk, ride the bus, or take a ferry (yes, you read that right). To take either a bus or ferry to campus, all you need is a GoCard. A GoCard can be purchased at any convenience store on campus and then registered online to secure student concession prices. To use you GoCard, you tap on when entering and tap off when exiting the bus/ferry, it is that simple!

Classes are held in lecture theatres and tutorials/workshops are held in group learning rooms or computer labs. The only noticeable difference between how classes function compared to UCLA is that classes here are recorded. If you are sick and cannot attend lecture or if you missed an important part of the lesson, you can view/hear the lecture online on your my.UQ portal at your disposal. Lecture recordings are uploaded on the site and will be available until the end of the semester. Use these to supplement your learning! Professors are more than available after class and during office hours to discuss assignments and in-class material.

After class, you can find a plethora of study spaces and restaurants to meet your needs. From Indian Feast to Burger Urge, you will find anything and everything. One important note to the future student who seeks iced coffee – do not, I repeat, do not order an iced coffee at a café. An iced coffee is equivalent to a coffee milkshake (it literally has a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream). If you are looking for iced coffee, order an iced latte! Additionally, the student government graciously provides free breakfast at the UQ Union Student Hub on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Free dinner is also provided on Wednesdays. Take advantage of these opportunities and save money every week!

20 Minute Getaway

If you need to destress or need a phenomenal study spot for a major exam, head to Brisbane CBD or Southbank. At Southbank, you can dive into the beach (man-made, of course), visit the Queensland Museum of Art, or ride the Wheel of Brisbane with some friends. Brisbane CBD is filled with stores, restaurants, live-music, and a bowling alley (similar to Santa Monica Pier but with a more intimate feel). The largest Brisbane City Library is also located along the riverbank and offers a perfect study spot!

Monica Martinez studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia in Spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/australia/Pages/host_Queensland_AustraliaImmersion.aspx

Thailand | First Week at Thammasat University

BY RACHEL TANG

This past week, I started school at Thammasat University under the Faculty of Political Science. Although I had almost two months worth of winter break, it was refreshing being back at school again. I am taking five courses here (the majority of them focused on international relations). I was able to fit all of these classes from Wednesday to Friday, therefore I will have four day weekends. A good thing about having classes only three days a week is the fact that I won’t have to go to campus as often. My apartment is a 25-minute walk away from campus, which can be uncomfortable when the weather becomes even hotter and more humid. I also have the option of taking a ferry to class, which is fun but it takes about the same amount of time to walk. If I’m running late to class, I can take a taxi but try to avoid using it every day, since it is the most expensive option. The cafeteria food at Thammasat is very delicious. There are many options and all of them are cheaper than most street food, which is already quite inexpensive. Although all of my classes are three hours long, each one of my professors allow 15-25 minute breaks. I will usually have lunch in the cafeteria in between my morning and afternoon classes, and then return to the cafeteria for a snack between each break.

I also met my Thai buddy this past week. Her name is Belle and she has been extremely kind and helpful. We decided to go to a shopping plaza in central Bangkok. She showed me how to take a speedboat (which is a faster version of the ferry aforementioned) and the sky train (which is like the metro but it’s elevated above ground-level). The shopping plaza was called Siam and consisted of over 4 different shopping malls/areas. The malls here are beautiful and remind me a lot of home. I’ve noticed that a lot of Thai students enjoy going to malls after class, where there is so much shopping and a wide variety of food options in the food courts.

Rachel Tang studied abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, in spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/thailand/Pages/thammasat_univ.aspx

Australia | Orientation Week

BY MONICA MARTINEZ

The first week here in Brisbane, Australia can only be described in one word: brutal. The spirits of Brisbane surely wanted to provide me with the warmest welcome, hence the 90F weather the week I arrived. One would have guessed I would have adapted well to the weather, but nope – I ended up getting heat stroke the second day here (absolutely amazing and possibly record breaking, I know). Anyway, here is a little insight into UQ’s O-Week.

Orientation

Prior to arriving in Australia, I received an email from the UQ International Student Office with information on the compulsory Incoming Study Abroad and Exchange Orientation. The session would take place on Tuesday, February 21 at 8am in Building 50. The day before orientation, a plethora of questions ran through my mind:

             “How many students would attend?”

            “Would I be one of the only Americans/Californians there?”

            “Would I feel intimidated, welcomed, or a mixture of both?”

The next morning, I arrived early to the lecture hall to secure a seat in the first row. When I arrived, the total number of students in the room did not exceed 20. But each passing minute introduced a new wave of eager, diverse, and nervous group of students. By the start of the first presentation, the lecture hall was overfilled with more than 300 students. The director of the office kicked off the session by asking students to cheer for their respective region/country. After cheers for Asia, Europe, South America, and Canada, the biggest roar erupted when she said “America.” More than half of the room erupted into a massive and load “WOOOO” and it was truly extraordinary (and a little painful).

After a general introduction informing us about the academic, career, and health services available on campus, a professor from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Department led us in a traditional Australian chant. Performing the chant with hundreds of students from all over the world was one of the greatest experiences and to hear the words “Welcome to UQ, this is your new home” was the ultimate cherry on top. At the conclusion of the orientation session, student ambassadors from the center divided students into little clusters for a campus wide tour. I remembered viewing the campus from the airplane, looking at how the Brisbane River provided the perfect border. I did not, however, anticipate the size – a campus filled with over 89 buildings, nine libraries (five are open 24/7 hours and are fully equipped with sleeping pods, showers, a kitchenette, and vending machines with packages meals), nine playing fields, and a lake. To say it differed from UCLA would be a major understatement. I also got to get my University of Queensland student ID, making the exchange tangibly real.

Following the tour, the Queensland University Exchange Student society (QUEST) hosted a Welcome Sausage Sizzle to end orientation day. Other than hearing the phrase “Shrimp on the barbie” in reference to Australian food, I had absolutely no idea of what an authentic meal would be. After patiently waiting in line for 15 minutes, I received a sausage placed diagonally on a single slice of white bread (yes, you read that right) topped with caramelized onions and ketchup. I initially concluded that given the size of the group, the club ran out of hotdog buns, but nope – this was it. I tasted the sausage sandwich and it was fantastic. Also, the greatest part (by far) about the Sausage Sizzle was the mini farm featuring llamas and baby pigs. SO CUTE!

Market Day

The day following the International and Exchange Student Orientation, an event known as Market Day consumed the Great Court. Market Day transformed UQ into a festival filled with stalls, giveaways, and performances. All of the clubs and societies at UQ had a booth set up and eagerly tried to encourage students to become a member of their organization. From the UQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Society to the UQ Surfers, the range of clubs extended every social, departmental, cultural, and sporting interest. As I walked toward the Great Court, I felt overwhelmed by the hundreds of clubs and thousands of students there. I surveyed the major tents at the center of the Great Court because of the giveaways available. UQ Union, the largest student organization on campus, provided students with welcome totes containing school supplies, a planner, and information pamphlets outlining the host of student support services. Before moving on to the clubs, I picked up a reusable water bottle from the UQ Sustainability department and a free University of Queensland t-shirt from UQConnect.

After circling the Great Court and talking to representatives from clubs I felt interested in, I officially became a member of UQ Volunteers, the UQ Latin American Student Association (LASA), the Queensland University Exchange Student Society (QUEST), and Law Society. Here lies a major distinction between joining a club at UCLA versus joining a club at UQ. While at UCLA’s Enormous Activities Fair, a student can simply fill out an information sheet to be added to the club’s mailing list, a student at UQ must pay for their membership in a club. The price varies depending on the resources/benefits the club promises to provide to members and its overall popularity. To gain membership into the clubs listed above, I paid a total of $15 (which is equivalent to $11.50 USD). Although the idea of paying to join a club/society seemed strange, the cost ultimately is returned through club activities throughout the semester.

UQ Union’s Ignition Party

O-Week finished off on Friday night during UQ Union’s Ignition Neon Party. Held on the Forgan Smith Lawn, the party featured live acts, lots of neon paint, and free food. Tickets for the party sold for $10 and students were encouraged to purchase neon paint. Comparable to UCLA’s Bruin Bash, the festival was an equally massive success. To paint the picture for you (pun intended), you are alongside hundreds of students on a large lawn on campus, dancing to the music of up and coming artists, while getting drenched in neon paint. The paint gets everywhere– (hair, shoes, mouth, eye, etc.) and no place is safe.

Reflecting on orientation week, I can genuinely say UQ does its best at ensuring every single student feels welcomed and supported. Although I am more than seven thousand miles from UCLA, I truly feel at home here at UQ.

Monica Martinez studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia in Spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/australia/Pages/host_Queensland_AustraliaImmersion.aspx

Thailand | First Two Weeks in Bangkok

BY RACHEL TANG

My name is Rachel Tang and I am currently participating on a UCEAP in Bangkok, Thailand. I will be studying at Thammasat University for the spring semester of 2017.

It has been exactly two weeks since I’ve arrived in Bangkok and I could not be happier with my decision to study abroad here. What compelled me to move halfway across the globe was a different way of learning that combines the traditional academic setting with real world experiences. As a Political Science major with a particular interest in Southeast Asia, I chose Thailand due to its unique history and culture. I am eager to learn as much as I can within the next several months and hope to inspire others to see the world and study abroad as well.

My pre-departure experience was quite smooth. Submitting the required materials was simple and I was off to Thailand sooner than I knew. Once I arrived, however, navigating my way from the airport to my apartment was slightly more challenging. The taxi is one of the common modes of transportation in Bangkok, which is something that I was unfamiliar with before. Regardless, I was lucky enough to encounter friendly Thais who assisted me in finding my way.

Once I arrived at my apartment, I began to settle into my spacious single (moreso a studio than an apartment). There is no kitchen, but it works out quite well because eating out at restaurants and vendors here is delicious, convenient, and inexpensive. I didn’t know anyone prior to arrival, since I was the only UCLA student participating on this program; however, I met many other UC, out of state, and international students the following day at the first orientation. It has only been two weeks, but I can say that I have befriended such great individuals who all have similar interests to learn, travel, and contribute positively to this world.

There were three mandatory orientations: one for all spring international students, one for all UC students, and one for your respective department. Although they seem overwhelming, each one was particularly useful, ranging from basic cultural knowledge to enrollment of courses. My favorite was the UC orientation, where we got to meet our abroad liaison, Professor Thanet. He was extremely kind and helpful, going as far as setting up internship opportunities for us.

I had my last orientation only several days ago, as my official first day of classes don’t begin until this Wednesday. I’ve had quite a bit of time to settle, in which I chose to travel and explore. My friends and I have made a trek last week to Chiang Mai and Pai up north, and to an island called Ko Samet this past weekend.

There is so much to do and so much to see in this country—several more reasons as to why I chose to study abroad here. I’ve had an incredible time exploring caves, waterfalls, canyons, snorkeling, etc., all in the span of one week. My friends and I are already planning our next few trips on our weekends and holidays.

Despite all of my adventures that I have been enjoying, I am excited for classes to start. I will be taking 4 Political Science courses and 1 Thai language course. I’m very interested in learning not only about Thai government and politics, but also politics of other regions through a Thai perspective. I also am eager to practice my humble Thai language skills. Through my experiences so far, it is fun and rewarding when you make an attempt to speak in your host country’s language. For the remainder of my time here, I am making it a goal for myself to seize any opportunity to learn and immerse myself.

Rachel Tang studied abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, in spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/thailand/Pages/thammasat_univ.aspx

Australia | Getting Settled in Brisbane

BY MONICA MARTINEZ

My name is Monica Martinez, I am a current second-year double majoring in Political Science and Geography/Environmental Studies. I am the lone UCLA Bruin studying at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia for Semester 1, 2017. Born and raised in the city of Los Angeles, I was more than excited to travel internationally for the first time, especially to a country (and continent) that is seven thousand miles away. I arrived in Brisbane three weeks ago and I have had the greatest experience thus far! Reflecting on my own experience, I would highly recommend that you take the time to plan and budget now, to ensure your time abroad is as stress-free as possible.

FLIGHTS

Flights to Australia can be expensive, reaching prices over $1,000. While it is important to secure your arrival to Brisbane by the mandatory date set by the university, I found there is no immediate need to purchase your plane ticket right away. I searched for months on STA Travel, a flight agency that provides discounted fares for students, and I noticed sudden fluctuations in prices depending on the month of purchase and day of departure. While I did see prices go up to $1240, I purchased a round-trip ticket two months in advance for only $735. Although not having a flight months ahead of your program can be frightening, I suggest investing time to search for the best deal because it can result in you saving money (in this case hundreds) that can be used later towards other expenses.

After securing your flight, take the time to check your baggage allowance and required travel documents to guide your packing. An important note: LESS IS MORE. Flying with Virgin Australia, my baggage allowance provided two 23 kg (50lbs) checked bags and one 7kg (15lbs) carry-on bag. While the combined allowance of 115lbs seems plentiful, everything does add quickly.

PACKING

DO take your most essential items (medication, passport, electronics) and then move on to clothes. I arrived in Brisbane in February and I planned to stay here until July – although this time frame is equivalent to Spring/Summer in Los Angeles, it is equivalent to Fall/Winter here in Australia because it is located in the Southern Hemisphere. MAKE SURE TO TAKE NOTE OF THE WEATHER or else you will find yourself wearing a jacket when it is 90F (from personal experience, I can tell you that this is not fun!) Pack clothes that you would typically wear every day to school, while also remembering to add a business-casual outfit for a future presentation or university-sponsored event, an outfit (or two) for a night out with friends in the city, and outdoor/swim wear for when you go sightseeing. The same idea would apply for shoes (take what you need rather than taking your whole closet).

A crucial piece of luggage that you need to bring before you come to Australia is an outlet adapter. I heard the words adapter and converter interchangeably, which was rather confusing, but they do not mean the same thing. You only need a converter if your appliances/chargers are not listed as 120-240V (which most American devices are). Purchase an adapter, either one strictly for Australia or an international adapter if you plan on visiting other countries during your time abroad. Additionally, IF YOU CAN feel free to bring toiletries, school supplies, cosmetics (makeup is SUPER expensive here, I recommend stocking up before arriving), and a first-aid kit. If you are reaching the weight limit, feel free to skip these as these can be bought here at a local department store.

TRANSPORT

From the Brisbane Airport (BNE), the main UQ campus is located in the suburb of Saint Lucia. While you can either get a taxi or Uber to take you to your accommodation, UQ provides a free service for international students known as the International Student Airport Reception. After receiving your my.uq.edu.au login, you can access the portal to sign up for a free airport pick up (you will quickly learn that free things are the best things). At the airport, student ambassadors from the university welcome you, answer any questions you may have, and even provide a few freebies to make your transition to Brisbane stress-free. The service collects all international students arriving in Brisbane between the designated time frame, making this a great opportunity to meet other students who are on the same journey as you. I found it comforting to find other students who shared the same anxiousness and excitement I did. From here, your driver will take you to your accommodation and you will be ready to settle in!

ACCOMODATION

Now, you are probably wondering what the word accommodation means: Accommodation = housing. On your pre-departure checklist, #3 states “Please note that you must arrange and pay for your semester housing. It is not included in the fees you pay to UCEAP and is not reserved or arranged for you.” This is where UQ Student Accommodation steps in! The website lists a host of housing options for prospective students, ranging from on-campus colleges (dorms) to UQ rentals. Living on-campus is a great opportunity for you to meet others, especially because each individual college is themed and hosts events throughout the year to make your experience memorable. BUT, be aware of the cost because securing your space in a college can cost a minimum of $10,000. To reiterate, you are looking at spending $10,000+ just for housing.

I chose to arrange my housing for the semester through the UQ rental option, selecting to live in a shared-house with other international students. This option provided me with the opportunity to meet other students, while living on a budget. Again: invest, invest, invest! Invest time in looking through the rental options to find the best fit for you! My accommodation is located a 10-minute walk to campus and 15-minute ride to the Brisbane Central Business District (CBD). I have my own individual room, bathroom, while sharing the kitchen, living room, and laundry room with three other students. The process was not easy, especially because the notion of having to pay rent every week instead of month was intimidating and because I was so accustomed to heading down to BPlate for food instead cooking my own, but it was so worth it!

I absolutely love it here in Brisbane! For anyone reading this and is nervous to go abroad, do not be because it will be the greatest experience of your life.

Stay tuned for the next post to read about my adventures here in the land down under!

Monica Martinez studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia in Spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/australia/Pages/host_Queensland_AustraliaImmersion.aspx