Nell Jonnieaux – Film & Media – Level 3

Griffith University, Australia

Down under during an upside down world: exchange programme in Australia

On February 19th 2020, I woke up at 6am, ordered an uber, kissed my girlfriend goodbye, and left for the airport. Ahead of me was a long journey of flying and waiting at the airport, but it would all be worth it, despite my trip being cut short due to covid-19. My stay in Australia might have only lasted for a bit over a month a half, but I carry with me those nice memories.

Image of Nell with a Kangaroo

Landing in Australia itself was an experience. The heat was overwhelming in a funny way – as a European, it’s indeed quite special to end up in 34°C heat in February. Being an exchange student, I was entitled to a free shuttle service to my accommodation by Griffith university. I stayed on the university’s campus (Nathan) – I was in a 6-person flat with 4 other girls, the 6th one never showed up. The flat was okay, though it didn’t really look like the ones advertised on their website – the block hadn’t been renovated yet, and it particularly showed in my room. I have to admit that upon arrival, after hours of traveling and some stress, it did sadden me. I was worried about not being able to call this place home, but fortunately, after moving in and decorating, that proved itself wrong.

Image of a koala

I had classes in both south bank (20 or 40 minutes by bus) and Nathan, having to commute turned out to be fun. I had my Television Journalism class in Nathan, and the rest, Post-production, Screenwriting and Directing, were all in South Bank. Getting to places was quite easy as the bus service was very reliable. And it was way cheaper as well. Though I found things weirdly priced; groceries are more expensive than eating out and tech is cheaper than regular appliances. Very random fact but it did surprise me so now have this knowledge as well! During my time in Australia I had the chance to visit the Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, where, you guessed it, there was a ridiculous amount of cute koalas. I also managed to pet a Kangaroo and chill around them. I also went down to the Gold Coast with some friends and we went to Burleigh Beach, where the wind allowed for huge waves. It was definitely one of my favourite days.

Image of beach

In terms of university and classes, I loved how much tech and equipment Griffith had to offer. High-end Mac computers all equipped with the full Adobe Suite, multiple libraries, varied camera equipment, a wide range of different places to eat at,… Griffith feels like a colourful university with its student’s comfort in mind. It was easy to feel included. The teachers were helpful and the rest of the uni staff was friendly. I had some initial issues with my classes, but it was very quick and easy for me to be redirected to the right person. They helped me in a matter of minutes, getting me into the right class at the right campus. There is also a lot of events happening around uni, with clubs and societies and also thanks to speakers and workshops, which I thought were great opportunities for students to get involved. Thanks to daily university emails, I got an interview with a graduate and managed to get myself on the marketing team for a short film by a talented film director, and I am currently working as graphic designer for them. It has definitely been more than a studies exchange, and I am hoping for this marketing and design experience to stand out on my CV.

Image of South Bank - Flower decor

Image of South Bank

When it comes to the social life at university and on campus, I was quite satisfied. I don’t think Australians are as open as Scottish people, they’re very friendly don’t get me wrong but in my Belgian opinion, the Scottish are still the O.G. I was close to my flatmates, we spent evenings together watching bad TV and talking about our days. I made some good friends in my classes, and it was easy to hang out after class. I think I was closest to some other exchange students, just because they also lived on campus. I liked this mix of people, and I’m still in touch with some of them.

Then finally, covid-19 kinda took over the world and everyone entered a frenzy. International students were fighting to find their way back home as flight companies were increasingly shutting down. University closed and so did a lot of places in the city. I decided to go home at the end of March. It was sad and even writing it now makes me feel blue and I wonder how much more fun I could’ve had if I had stayed until June. I followed classes from Edinburgh, watching the replays of the online lectures since the time difference was hard deal with. Queen Margaret University was very helpful with both my settling in and my early departure – I was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s fund, and the money was used to pay for my flights, and when I decided to go back home QMU made sure to check in with my situation every few days.

All in all, I’m happy I got to go, I discovered a new way of teaching and I do apply it to my work right now. The experience has given me a better understanding of what’s important in life, and to follow my gut.

Semester Abroad Experiences

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