Semester 2 at UQ

By Serena Graham (The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

By the start of semester 2, I was feeling much less of a tourist, and Brisbane felt more like home to me. I went into this semester feeling a lot more relaxed now that I already knew my way around, and it was a lot less scary than the start of semester 1. Time had flown so fast, I couldn’t believe that I only had four months left, so I tried to make the most of my remaining time down under. I scheduled my classes so that I was only in uni three days a week, which meant I could regularly go on trips for long weekends!

The first trip I went on was to Moreton Island. Although I had already been last semester I felt like I needed to go again since it was so much fun. We went with Quest (the International Society at UQ) and spent this weekend snorkelling round the shipwrecks, sandboarding, and visited the lakes.

My next adventure was my east coast trip! This is a must-do trip while you’re in Oz. We started by flying up to Townsville and then visited Magnetic Island for the day. Here they have wild wallabies all around the coast which are very friendly if you bring them food. Our next stop was Airlie Beach, which is a very popular place for backpackers and so there’s a lot more to do there. We took a kayaking trip from Airlie Beach and went around some of the Whitsunday Islands, where we also had the chance to snorkel on the amazing reefs. Then we took an overnight coach to Noosa, which is on the Sunshine Coast. Here I finally took some surfing lessons, and after about two hours of constantly falling off my surfboard, I finally caught a wave and managed to stand up! Noosa is also great for its walking trails and the views are spectacular. After Noosa we took a train back to Brissy, and after nearly two weeks of travelling hostel to hostel I was happy to see my bed again.

Regarding university, semester 2 was pretty similar to semester 1. I tried my best to choose modules that didn’t have clashing coursework deadlines, since I knew I was going to do a lot of travelling this semester. UQ is very similar to university in Manchester in the way that coursework and exams are carried out and marked. Each module has a tutorial group which is usually discussion-based, and all lectures are recorded and put on Blackboard.

Here are some photos of Moreton Island and my East Coast trip:

ect1 Kayaking around the Whitsundays  moreton 2 Moreton Island moreton Sandboarding – more scary than it looks!

magnetic island Baby wallaby (Magnetic island)

noosa Noosa Beach (Sunshine Coast)



Summer Holidays Down Under

By Serena Graham (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

P.S. … This blog post is about my summer holidays in Oz (December 2014 – March 2015). I’ve been extremely busy in the past couple of months so I haven’t had the chance to upload it until now!

As the semesters in Australia start in March and July, I’ve had to do semester 2 first and then semester 1, which means I had a three month gap in between semesters. During this time, it was really hot and at times got to around 40 degrees. I seriously regretted choosing a house without air conditioning!

Over the holidays I did a bit of travelling. My parents visited me in Australia and we travelled up to Port Douglas, which is a really cute little town not far from Cairns. Port Douglas has lots of little shops, restaurants and bars that are all really nice and is also close to the Great Barrier Reef. So on Christmas day we decided to go on a snorkelling trip on the Reef, and got to see some turtles and an incredible variety of fish (a few people on the trip were lucky enough to see a couple of sharks). In Port Douglas there is also a wildlife sanctuary where you can see some kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and parrots. Unfortunately, during the summer months on the east coast of Australia it’s jellyfish season so you have to swim within the jellyfish nets and even then some jellyfish can slip through so you need to be careful (or wear a wetsuit). After spending about a week in Port Douglas we returned back to Brisbane and I spent a few days showing my parents around the city. As this was around Christmas time, there were various events on in the city centre such as parades, live music and shows.

After my parents left Australia I decided I needed to get a part-time job if I wanted to continue travelling. After over two months job-hunting I was finally able to get a weekend job in a Chinese restaurant in a nearby suburb. This job kept me busy for the rest of the holidays, and thanks to the generous minimum wage in Australia, I was able to book a few more trips over semester 2 – I’ll talk about these in my next blog!

Here are some pics I took over the summer holidays:

Port Douglas

DSC02354    DSC02423

New Zealand + Fiji!

By Chiara Davies (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

During the summer holidays and over Christmas, I thought I’d make the most of my time on this side of the world… time to visit New Zealand AND Fiji!!!!

I’ve been lucky enough to visit some incredible places around Australia so far, but there’s so much to say about all of them that I’ll have to save those for a different post…


We flew to Queenstown, New Zealand, immediately after our end of semester exams to be greeted by the surprisingly cold sunshine – I had adapted to Australia’s heat a lot more than I thought I had! The temperature dropped more than ten degrees Celsius, from Australia’s forty degrees to New Zealand’s high twenties – it was no wonder we felt freezing. Thankfully, I brought a jumper and a pair of jeans which became my one and only outfit for the duration of my New Zealand trip.

Queenstown was absolutely beautiful. My favourite town in the world and I would love to retire there. It strangely felt homely to be in a colder, greener climate, even though I was completely on the other side of the world. It had a very ski chalet vibe throughout the town with its wooden log-cabin-esque style buildings. This is probably because it doubles as a ski town during the winter months, but it felt equally awesome in the summer. The scenery was amazing.

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

From Queenstown, we went stargazing at the top of one of the mountains and learned about the Southern Hemisphere’s astronomy. We also travelled to Milford Sound on a bus tour with more incredible scenery…

Mirror Lakes, the drive to Milford Sound
Under the waterfall at Milford Sound

Next stop: Auckland!

Auckland city

We stayed with one of my housemate’s school friends who had moved out there with her family. It was lovely to meet them and give us a local’s perspective of the city. From Auckland we visited Waiheke Island which was vastly different to Queenstown’s ski town as it was almost tropical and  complete with great weather, vineyards and beaches.

We then took a tour to Hobbiton, the movie set for the Lord of the Ring’s and Hobbit films! This was a LOT of fun and definitely worth visiting whilst in New Zealand!

Hobbiton Movie Set

We then took another flight to Fiji for a week of R’n’R. The sunsets were beautiful and the islands actually were like paradise.

Sunset in Fiji

An absolutely fantastic trip overall and I would recommend to anyone on this side of the world to check them out – especially New Zealand’s South Island (where Queenstown is). They’re worth saving up for!

My first semester at UQ

By Serena Graham (The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

I wrote this blog just before Christmas but totally forgot to post it – sorry it’s late!

So it’s the end of my first semester here at UQ and it’s been amazing. Time has flown so fast I can’t believe I’m nearly half way through my year here. It’s summer now in Australia and temperatures have reached up to 40 degrees, which was quite unbearable. I’ve had such a busy few months, and have been lucky enough not to experience homesickness (thanks to Skype it’s so easy to get in touch with everyone back home!).

So here’s an update of everything I’ve done so far this semester:

QUEST trips: The International Society at UQ, QUEST is a great way to meet other exchange students, as well as local Aussies. They organise events, nights out, weekly pub visits and weekend trips away. In August, we went to Byron Bay, which is just a short coach ride away from Brisbane. It’s a beautiful place, but we were a bit unlucky with the weather as it pretty much rained the whole weekend. It’s a good place for surfing (but since it was winter here, the sea was just too cold for me!). Despite that, we managed to have a great time and went on a couple of nights out with our fellow Questies. The next trip we went on was to Morten Island, a beautiful sand island (third largest in the world) just off the coast of Brisbane. Here we went snorkelling around a shipwreck, and got to feed some fish. We also saw dolphins! The next day we went sandboarding which was a lot of fun.

Mid-semester break: We had a week off so me and 2 of my housemates decided we would take a trip to Sydney. It’s a much bigger and more touristy city than Brisbane and there’s loads to do there. In the first day we visited the opera house, Darling Harbour, the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Tower Eye. Later in the week we went to see the Blue Mountains and the views were spectacular.

At the end of the semester when our exams were over, me and my housemates decided to go travelling around New Zealand. We visited Queenstown, which is in the south island of New Zealand and has some of the most breath-taking views I have ever seen. We only stayed for three nights, but managed to see some kiwis, go stargazing, and take a tour of Milford Sound. From Queenstown we then flew to the north island to visit Auckland. We then did a coach trip to Matamata, to see Hobbiton (the movie set of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit). After New Zealand we flew straight to Fiji where we stayed on a small resort on Malolo Island for about a week. Despite having rain and storms almost every day, we managed to top up our tans and mostly just relaxed by the pool.

Next semester doesn’t start until March so I have some time to kill! My plan is to (hopefully) get a summer job so that I can save up for doing an east coast trip to visit Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday islands. I’ll keep you updated!


Hobbiton Movie Set, New Zealand
Hobbiton Movie Set, New Zealand
Opera House
Opera House
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand

Australia 2014

By Kate Bowmar (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

So, for one of my final blog posts I have made a video that summarizes what studying abroad in Australia and at the University of Queensland is like. Most of these pictures and videos were taken on field trips with the University and on five-week trip of the east coast.

I hope that this is helpful for anybody wondering about whether to go to UQ/Australia or not, and to anybody who is doubtful, please go! You will have the best time of your life!

Kate Bowmar

East Coast Road Trip (1)

By Kate Bowmar  (The University of Queensland, Australia)

My last five weeks in Australia have been spent doing the classic East Coast road trip. On this trip I travelled the whole length of the Australian East Coast from Cairns to Melbourne, stopping at about 10 places in between. In this first blog, I am going to tell you all about the first leg of my trip, from Cairns to Brisbane..

Cairns – Two days after my final exam at UQ, myself and a friend flew to Cairns to begin our road trip. Cairns is the most northern city in the state of Queensland and about a two hour flight from Brisbane. It has a sub-tropical climate and is most widely known for its easy access to the amazing northern Great Barrier Reef! Being a main tourist spot, Cairns has so much on offer and if you visit I’m sure you will never find yourself bored! Whilst in Cairns I did the world’s fastest jungle swing and dived in the Great Barrier Reef!1391997_10153418408024768_1511854224591684365_nMagnetic Island- Magnetic Island is a small island of the coast of Townsville. It’s a popular tourist destination for backpackers as it’s only twenty minutes from the city. On the island we stayed a the major hostel, which had very cute huts on the beach to sleep in! We also hired a car and drove around the island, exploring all the bays and beaches on offer.

Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays – The next stop was the famous Whitsunday Islands. These are a collection of many islands off the coast of Queensland that are known worldwide for the stunning views of the pure white silica sand. At the Whitsundays we did a two day and two night sailing trip in the Islands. On the trip we snorkelled, sunbathed on the boat, and visited the amazing Whitehaven Beach which is pictured below.10849743_10152669419389473_5461622811354460949_nAgnes Water/1770 – 1770 is a TINY village on the east coast that is famous for CASTAWAYS. If anybody has ever seen the TV show ‘Shipwrecked’, this is basically what ‘Castaways’ is. On the trip, which lasts for two days/three nights, you are stranded on a desert island with fifteen others, kayaks, snorkel gear and rubber dingies. It is basically a two day trip to completely relax and have fun with fifteen other backpackers. Although it is not well known, this trip was probably the favourite part of my whole five weeks away! (Mainly being due to the fact that the flight to the Island is a joy ride flight i.e. the pilot can fling the plane in any way he wants!)





Noosa – Noosa is a town about an hour north of Brisbane and is easily accessible by public transport. It’s mainly just a weekend away for locals, with its beautiful beach and surfing conditions.

Read my next blog for the next part of the trip!
Continue reading “East Coast Road Trip (1)”

UQ Examinations and the Final Month!

By Kate Bowmar (The University of Queensland, Australia)

Hey guys,

So, it’s been a while since my last post as I have been extremely busy finishing my Ozzie life, packing up and moving home! I thought I would backdate my posts and write about my final month at UQ.

After getting back from mid-semester break on Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef (which I wrote about in my last blog post), I only had one month left at UQ. Unfortunately, this final month was mostly spent cramming for the four finals I had in November! In contrast to Manchester, UQ lectures only finished one week before final examinations started, which for me meant one solid week of revision. However, it wasn’t all that bad as the final examinations are only worth a maximum of 50% of your final grade. The examinations at UQ for Life Sciences students are similar to those in Manchester, consisting of MCQ questions and short answer questions.

Thankfully, before all the boring revision started I was able to go on one final QUEST trip ( a society everybody going to UQ MUST join!) to Moreton Island. Moreton Island is only roughly an hour away from Brisbane by ferry and is absolute PARADISE. It is the worlds third largest sand island, meaning the only way you can get around is via 4×4 trucks (which is really fun). The QUEST trip is run every semester and is organised completely through the society at UQ, with about 100 tickets it means a weekend in paradise with 100 of your international besties!  We stayed at a camp site on the Island, which had hostellike dorm rooms of sixteen people. The weekend included sandboarding, snorkelling, sunbathing, games and just an amazingly fun time with so many great people. I definitely recommend this Island weekend for everybody going to UQ next semester. Below are some pictures from the weekend.

Moreton Island

Sandboarding on Moreton Island!
Sandboarding on Moreton Island!







Another day trip in the final month at UQ was to Australia Zoo, the home of the famous Steve Erwin (i.e. the crocodile hunter). Australia Zoo places so much emphasis on the work of Steve Erwin and his contribution to the Zoo and conservation as a whole, it was amazing to see how his legacy has been carried on by the staff and the amount of care that is placed into looking after the animals. The best bit about the day was that it was arranged by the BIOL2001- Australias Terrestrial Environment course, and being a field trip, we were allowed backstage access and extra talks with the keepers and their animals!10659451_10205100318616676_4850337679542561270_n


By Kate Bowmar (The University of Queensland, Australia)

So with only a month left at the University of Queensland, Australia, I thought I would update you guys on what I have been up to in the past month.

Firstly, I just wanted comment on how fast a semester abroad goes. For anybody wondering if they can manage 6 months away from home, YOU CAN! A semester abroad goes buy in a second and you will be wishing you were away for longer (trust me, I’m currently wishing I was in Oz for a year!). So my advice to anybody who just isn’t sure about whether to go abroad… please do! You will love every minute of it, no matter where you go.


Heron Island

So in the mid-semester break I finally went to one of the reasons I came to Australia in the first place – The Great Barrier Reef. At UQ I take a class named MARS 2005, Australia’s Marine Environment; anybody from Life Sciences, I highly recommend you take this course! For 5 days we traveled to Heron Island (i.e. paradise) as a part of the course and spent the whole time snorkeling and sunbathing (with a little bit of work added in). Heron Island is located on the southern Great Barrier Reef and supports a wide variety of marine life. On my many snorkeling trips I saw animals such as sharks, turtles, rays (as shown below), plenty of fish, coral etc. Pictures of my trip are shown below.

Shipwreck on Heron Island - the perfect snorkeling site!
Shipwreck on Heron Island – the perfect snorkeling site!
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Night Snorkeling!
Sting ray on shark bay, Heron Island
Stingray on shark bay, Heron Island

Fraser Island

So after arriving back from the first trip at 6 pm, I had a few hours to wash my clothes, get something to eat and then head back to Uni for 11pm to get the bus to Fraser Island! The second half of mid-semester break was spent on a field trip for a course named BIOL2001 – Australia’s Terrestrial Environment and, once again, for anyone from Life Sciences I highly recommend this course! The course covers all the aspects of Australia’s fauna and the diversity of the animals found. Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand island, found off the coast of Queensland. Each day on the trip we hiked through rainforests and sand dunes, went swimming in fresh water lakes, camped on the beach, and ate the most delicious food!

Lake McKenzie
Lake McKenzie
Sand Dunes!
Sand dunes!
Rainforest hike on Fraser!
Rainforest hike on Fraser!

The best part about these trips is that you get to spend 10 days with exchange students just like you, who want to have as much fun as possible while in Oz!

So now mid-semester break is over, I look forward to a months worth of exams and assessments! (Contrary to popular belief, we do actually have to do some work on exchange).


Month No.1 at The University of Queensland!

By Kate Bowmar (The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

So, officially a month ago today, I had my first class at The University of Queensland, Brisbane. The initial differences between Australian university culture and Manchester were quite striking, so in my second blog I’m going to describe the differences between the two, and also let you guys know about all the other amazing stuff I have been up to.

Key differences between UQ and UoM

  1. UQ start some classes at 8am and studying Biology means I am in these classes!
  2. UQ has no ‘Fallowfield’ – most students live at home or in shared houses that are spread all over the city.
  3. For science subjects, there can possibly be up to 3 lectures AND 3 practical hours per week
  4. Students in Australia are very hard working (some in Manchester are too), but generally, lectures are always full and labs are never missed.
  5. Without disrespecting UoMs campus – UQ has a completely relaxed, much larger and prettier campus. It is not unusual for people to sunbathe in one of the MANY grassy areas whilst waiting for classes.
  6. Science subjects are not 95% final exam at UQ – most of my courses have mid-semester exams, assessments throughout the term and a final exam that is worth at maximum 50% of the final grade.
  7. The pass grade at UQ IS 50%.

With all of that said, there are lots of similarities to Manchester, including the fact that all lectures are recorded and they use similar software including Blackboard and Turn-It-In. Studying at UQ has so far been very refreshing and insightful. With mid-semester exams in a few weeks we will see if that stays the same!

Travelling around Queensland

Brisbane is the perfect location in Queensland to go travelling on the weekends, or during mid term break. It is only a few hours drive away from the border of New South Wales, a short flight away from cairns or Melbourne, or an amazing east coast road trip to the Great Barrier Reef!

In my first month I have already explored so much of Queensland, this was mostly due to a society that everybody thinking about coming to UQ should join –QUEST! QUEST (Queensland University Exchange Student Society) is without a doubt the best society an international student can join at UQ. It will help you meet so many other students from all around the world, and take you on adventures all over, including:  pub crawls, east coast road trips, camping, Byron Bay, island weekend trips, zoo trips and much more (all for a very decent price).

So since i last blogged, i have started university, been to an Aussie rules football match, been to MEKKA WEDNESDAY race day (where we met the cast of the Inbetweeners), sunbathed on Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast) and spent the weekend in Byron Bay, New South Wales.

MEKKA Wednesday Races – A public holiday in Brisbane that celebrates the EKKA festival. These races are a day when almost every student in Brisbane gets dolled up and heads to Doomben racing course!
Myself, and a fellow manchester student at MEKKA Wednesday races!
BYRON BAY! – Byron Bay is one the most stunning places I have had the pleasure of visiting, it is located just inside New South Wales and is known for its surfing and culture.
Aussie Rules, held at the famous ‘GABBA’. Aussie rules is an Australian version of football, and I honestly had no idea what was going on half the time.
Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast. Gold Coast is accessible by train straight from Brisbane, taking only about an hour! Surfers Paradise is a very touristy destination within Oz, and is somewhere you can definitely stock up on Australia merchandise,
Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast. Gold Coast is accessible by train straight from Brisbane, taking only about an hour! Surfers Paradise is a very touristy destination within Oz, and is somewhere you can definitely stock up on Australia merchandise,

My next adventures include Moreton Bay this upcoming weekend, camping in Goombura Valley, Fraser Island for 5 days in mid semester break, and Heron Island (THE GREAT BARRIER REEF!) for the other 5 days of mid semester break. Queensland is the perfect destination for travelling, studying and getting the best value out of your exchange experience, i already don’t want to leave!

Arriving in Brisbane – Hostels, Exploring and Housing!

By Kate Bowmar (The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

So a week ago today, I was boarding my first solo flight from Heathrow to Brisbane, Australia. Therefore, in my first blog post I’m going to talk about my experiences and what I have been doing over this last week!

Leading up to my departure I tried to keep myself very busy – I was lucky enough to be at Wireless festival the weekend before leaving for Australia, which was the perfect way to finish my time in England (until Christmas) and say a tearful goodbye to all my friends and family. My main worry about my time in Australia is being homesick and missing my family too much, which I’m sure everyone can relate to.

I was expecting a grueling 24-hour flight from London to Brisbane – and it actually wasn’t that bad! This was mainly due to the fact that on my longest flight (from London to Kuala Lumpar) the plane was VERY empty and I had a whole row to myself. The in-flight entertainment system managed to keep me mildly entertained, and most of the time I ended up sleeping.

Upon arrival at the airport I was greeted by The University of Queensland’s free airport pick-up service, which included a very welcoming bus driver and a coachload of students, in which I managed to meet some other British girls studying at another university in Brisbane. The coach service dropped me off at the hostel where I met a fellow Biology student at UoM. The hostel was just outside of the city and therefore the perfect location to be in the first few days off my time in Australia.

A view of Brisbane from the rooftop of my hostel.
A view of Brisbane from the rooftop of my hostel.

The first few days in Brisbane consisted of sorting out an Australian bank account, an Australian phone card and trying to find a house! However, I have managed to have a good explore around the city including the main attraction – South Bank Beach.

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Emma (UoM student) and I at South Bank Beach!


South Bank Beach is the city of Brisbane’s main tourist attraction. It is literally a beach right in the middle of the city, complete with lifeguards and BBQ’s!

After the first few days of exploring and letting jet lag pass, I started to think about how I would go about trying to find a house for the remainder of my time in Brisbane.  After one week of being in Australia I am finally writing this blog from the comfort of my new room in my amazing house, however, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to get here. I knew before I came to Brisbane that I wanted to live in a large student houseshare, but compared to Manchester these kind of houses are rare. Most Australian students tend to stay at home for the duration of university and a lot of international students tend to live in small houses of 5 people or less, so initially things weren’t looking too great.

Myself and a few other girls spent a few days going to estate agents and viewing houses (some of which weren’t great) and finally found a modern 7 bedroom shared house in a perfect location. My new home is just 5 minutes walk away from a massive shopping center, 10 minutes on the bus to uni, and 10 minutes on the bus to the city. Its safe to say that I am thrilled with my new house and I’m extremely excited to meet all my new neighbours!

In the next few weeks I will be visiting Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (to cuddle a koala!), starting university orientation and lectures and generally settling into life in Australia.