In mid-January 2018 I went from Düsseldorf via Bali to Melbourne to start my semester abroad at Swinburne University of Technology (SUT, see AbbreviationFinder). I also spent the previous semester abroad at California State University Fullerton (CSUF) in the USA. At the time of my semester abroad in Australia, I was in the fourth semester of my master’s degree in psychology with a focus on personnel and business psychology. At the SUT, I took the Talent Management, Human Capital Analytics, and Introduction to Forensic Psychology courses. I completed my last exam on June 6th, 2018 before I flew back to Düsseldorf via Gold Coast, Brisbane, Cairns and Dubai on June 23rd, 2018.
The SUT is one of many universities located in multicultural Melbourne. So for five months I was a real Melburnian, as the people of Melbourne are called in English. Melbourne is the capital of the state of Victoria and with almost five million inhabitants, after Sydney, the second largest city on the Australian continent. Due to the rivalry between the two cities, the capital of Australia is Canberra, which is located between the two cities, with just 400,000 inhabitants.
Compared to my semester abroad in Los Angeles, Melbourne was a blessing as a city. Melbourne has a very well developed public transport system for non-European standards, consisting of trains, trams and buses. That made it much easier for me to move freely in and around Melbourne and I was able to explore the city better than LA, where public transport was practically non-existent and every excursion had to be paid for with an expensive Uber and a long traffic jam. Nevertheless, in my opinion Melbourne stands out too much with its public transport network and especially the Free Tram Zonein the CBD. On the one hand, there are still many construction sites that mean that routes are being replaced by buses rather poorly organized, and on the other hand, the Free Tram Zone is more apparent than real. In the debate about free public transport in Germany, I had already heard of Melbourne as a great example and I was therefore happy to see it now. Ultimately, however, the Free Tram Zone is small and most of the routes covered are doable on foot. On the other hand, only a small part of the population lives in the CBD, so you first have to drive in and out of the free tram zone. After two trips, however, the costs for using public transport are capped, so that the trams, even if they were actually chargeable, would not be charged any further. For me, the Free Tram Zone turned out to be a disappointment.
You should also watch out for the weather in Melbourne, which is known as the “city of the four seasons in one day”. Accordingly, the weather in Melbourne tends to change from warm sunny weather to a cold rainy day within a short period of time and does not necessarily correspond to the image that many Germans have of the beautiful weather in Australia. Aside from these minor difficulties, Melbourne was a great city with, as many Melburnians say, “Berlin vibes”. I particularly recommend exploring the Fitzroy, Brunswick and St. Kilda neighborhoods, which are full of street art, vintage shops and street food from all over the world. A trip to Brighton Beach should also be made.
The SUT is a young Australian university with currently around 23,500 students. The Academic Ranking of World Universites as well as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University Rankings rank the SUT among the top 400 (top 3%) universities in the world. So the SUT is a solid university. However, one should be aware that the SUT is not an elite university and even in Australia not part of the Group of Eight Australia, one of the eight leading universities. Everyone has to decide for themselves how important a university’s reputation is among other factors such as location. Personally, I wanted to go to Australia and either Melbourne or Sydney and the SUT was the first choice, which also fit into my limited budget, as I had already been to the USA for a semester. The tuition fees at the SUT were a little under € 5,000 (that’s cheap). If only one semester abroad is planned, I would rather recommend the University of Melbourne, University of Sydney or Monash (also in Melbourne). Nevertheless, in my opinion, the SUT is recommendable. The campus and equipment are state-of-the-art and far ahead of most German universities in terms of design and architecture. The lecturers were also significantly more professional than was the case during my semester abroad in California.
Planning my foreign project
I organized my semester abroad independently and was once again actively supported by MicroEDU , as was the case during my semester abroad in California. Overall, I was very satisfied and grateful with the help from MicroEDU , which is why I decided to plan my second semester abroad again in cooperation with MicroEDU. However, I would like to draw your attention to always getting in touch with MicroEDU first before you start to delve too deeply into a university or compile application documents. Unfortunately, the information on the website is not always 100% correct or up-to-date and you should always check whether your own degree program at the university of your choice abroad is actually open to international students.
Planning steps and tips
I only started planning my foreign project in mid-October 2017, i. e. only about three (!) Months before my final departure to Melbourne and thus also while I was still in the USA. At first the idea came up to extend the semester abroad in California by another, but I quickly discarded it and decided to spend another semester abroad, but to change location. Unless you plan to complete an entire degree abroad or write your master’s thesis, I would recommend a change of location to everyone, as it means more organizational effort, but you benefit from numerous new experiences.
The application to the SUT went smoothly and very quickly. In mid-October I contacted MicroEDU and after some back and forth the choice fell on the SUT. At this point, I can recommend not only looking around for courses in your own degree program, but also to find out which courses fit or are of interest in terms of the description. For example, I did not take two of my courses in psychology, but in human resources management, which in terms of content were better suited to my focus than the psychology courses offered. At almost all universities it was possible and often even desirable to include courses from neighboring disciplines in the course selection and I found this option to be enriching.
It was easy to put together the application, especially since MicroEDU had many of my application records for California on file and had access to them. Therefore, I recommend taking a look at my other field report for additional information on this process. In particular, this time there was no financial evidence to be provided, which cost me a lot of nerves, time and money for the USA.
The DAAD language test was accepted again, which was now almost a year old for me, but was accepted by the SUT as proof of language proficiency without any problems. One advantage of applying to Australian universities was that they usually do not charge application fees, which is handled differently in the USA, where applications start at a fee of around € 300. Because of this, I applied to Deakin University in Melbourne alongside the SUT and received an acceptance there as well. However, due to the courses and the location of the campus within Melbourne, I ultimately decided to join the SUT and have definitely not regretted it (Deakin is just too far outside).
It was no problem to prepare my documents from the USA and I submitted my complete application documents to MicroEDU on October 21, 2017. On November 16, 2017, I received the final approval from the SUT. Immediately afterwards I applied for my student visa, which fortunately only happens online for Australia. In particular, a visit to the Australian embassy is not necessary, as was still necessary for the visa in the USA. The visa was processed in a flash and was approved within a few days. In contrast to the USA, no documents are sent to you, but the visa is only confirmed by e-mail and linked to the passport number, so that you do not need to take anything with you to the airport. (except for the passport, of course).
Now that the visa was in the dry, I booked the flights about two weeks in advance at the travel agency STA Travel in Germany. I have already booked my flights to the USA with this student travel agency and I was satisfied with their performance. There is more information in my previous experience report. Despite the short lead time, I was still able to get hold of comparatively cheap flights that were cheaper than anything I had previously looked for on the Internet. In addition, I recommend possible routes on both a stopover appeal. These usually do not cost more money or, as in my case, are even cheaper, help to get used to the time change and thus avoid jet lag and bring you to places in this world that you might otherwise never have seen. So I spent ten beautiful days on the outbound flight in Bali in Indonesia and on the return flight five days in Dubai and even paid 100 € less than for any alternative flight without stopovers.
I started looking for an apartment from Germany. Just like in CaliforniaI decided against on-campus housing, although this time it was not as overpriced as in the USA. However, since I lived with my girlfriend and wanted to find something cheaper, it wasn’t an option for me. I found it a shame that the on-campus people were offered an additional orientation week, from which all other international students were excluded. That annoyed me, especially since the actual orientation week at the SUT was quite empty and the on-campus people were supposed to have got something from the SUT. Ultimately, my friend and I found an apartment in a student residence that was recommended by the SUT on their website. The Hawthorn House, where we stayed, was directly across from campus and only a minute’s walk away. So it was very similar to on-campus housing. We shared an apartment for two people with our own kitchen and bathroom and paid around € 630 per person per month including water, electricity, gas, internet, etc. In my experience, we were in the middle of what the other international students paid, and because of the excellent location of our apartment, I was also satisfied with it. Of course, this cannot be compared with German rental prices.
I took the three courses Talent Management, Human Capital Analytics and Introduction to Forensic Psychology. After choosing a course from Germany was a bit exhausting, there was no more course crashing, as is often done in the USA, but all international students really had their courses safe. The evidence of at least three courses is prerequisite to the Master to apply a full-time student important to keep to his visa.
Now that I was able to gain study experience in Germany and the USA, it was very exciting for me to find out how the studies in Australia are organized and how I would do well. I chose the Introduction to Forensic Psychology course out of pure interest. The SUT is one of the few universities in the world that offers a master’s degree in forensic psychology. This course was held in the classic lecture style and was quite similar to my classroom experience in Germany. What was different, however, was that a lecture was only given once a week, but lasted three hours. I consider this concept to be extremely questionable, as people are simply unsuitable for such long lecture times with high phases of concentration. So I had the feeling that I had covered a lot more material in the German lectures, despite two lecture periods in Australia. Prof. Pfeifer, however, was one of the didactically the best professors I have met so far and who have been very sympathetic to me, as he is very behavioristic and trusts everyone to be able to achieve everything in life that he intends to do.
The other two courses came from the field of human resources management and involved a lot of work. As in the USA, I expected myself to get the top grade in all courses, which in Australia was High Distinction(HD). For both courses, three assignments had to be handed in, and in total I came up with nine assignments or exams during the twelve weeks of study. If you leave out three weeks for the introduction to the semester, on average I had to hand in an exam or a term paper per week. While in my experience in Germany teaching is more focused on quality, in the USA and Australia I had the feeling that the focus was very much on quantity. I think that ultimately both aspects are important and that is why I learned a lot during my semester abroad. Due to the numerous taxes, it was particularly important in Australia to keep a cool head, to be very well organized and to work effectively and efficiently. Since the semester break was always available for doing homework in Germany, the workload was better distributed, which, however, also meant that I approached the work a little more slowly. During my time in Australia I learned to change this and to work more focused, especially since I had allocated a lot of time to travel during the semester.
I was amazed at how difficult it is to get the top grade in Australia, even though an HD in Swinburne is awarded after reaching 80%. While I currently have a grade point average of 1. 0 for my Masters in Germany and also got an A in all three courses in the USA, I had expected that this would also be the case in Australia without any problems. So far I haven’t received my final grade, but I expect only two HD and one Distinction(D). Apparently the assessment standards in Australia are different and it certainly has to do with the fact that as an exchange student in Australia you don’t have a “bonus”, as may be the case in the USA. In Australia, the majority of the students are from Asia and therefore also international, which is why there are no differences in language skills or the like when you go to the SUT as a semester abroad or exchange student from Germany. I think that’s right, but you should be aware of it, especially if you’re going abroad as a psychology student and want to have courses in Germany recognized. Since grades are inflated in psychology, crediting Australian achievements may have a negative impact. Because while an HD is still translated with a 1. 0 in Münster, there is already a 2. 0 for a D, which would probably noticeably reduce the average of most ambitious psychology students. In my opinion, a D on the Swinburne should be translated with a 1. 3 in Germany, because even the D on the Swinburne is more difficult to achieve than the 1. 3 in Münster. The translation into a 2. 0 is, in my personal opinion, almost a cheek, as it in no way does justice to the service provided. because even the D on the Swinburne is more difficult to reach than the 1. 3 in Münster. The translation into a 2. 0 is, in my personal opinion, almost a cheek, as it in no way does justice to the service provided. because even the D on the Swinburne is more difficult to reach than the 1. 3 in Münster. The translation into a 2. 0 is, in my personal opinion, almost a cheek, as it in no way does justice to the service provided.
Finally, I also rate the improvement of my English skills as an important professional asset. After two semesters abroad, I now feel very comfortable with the language and speak fluent English. These language skills are of great benefit to me both for a future doctorate and for entry into an international management consultancy.
One advantage of a semester abroad in Australia compared to the USA is that the student visa allows you to work up to 20 hours per week. I have had numerous part-time jobs since I graduated from high school and find that these are an enrichment anyway. In particular, I consider these impressions important for prospective HR managers in order to be able to reflect on experiences on the employee side. It is all the better if you are entitled to work abroad. You should try to get an Australian tax number as soon as possible, which can be applied for online. During my semester abroad I worked six hours a week as a gardener for an elderly couple, tearing down old wooden stairs in the garden and building new ones. I found the advertisement for the position on the website of the SUT, which offers a small job exchange for student jobs. The reason for the classification as a special win is the hospitality with which I was received at Kate and Rob. During my lunch breaks the three of us ate and over the months we had interesting conversations and made friends. My girlfriend and I were invited to a typical Australian barbecue at the weekend and we got to know Kate and Rob’s family. While we were traveling, they also invited us to take our suitcases with them and spend the last few nights with them instead of staying in a hostel. As in the USA, I have an extraordinary level of trust and a willingness to help for people you don’t really know yet. In my experience, most people in Germany are more cautious and cautious about this, but this can also take away valuable opportunities to meet new people and to build friendships. I really enjoyed the hospitality of Kate and Rob and I look forward to visiting them if I should ever be in Melbourne again.
In general, I consider the successful completion of a semester abroad to be proof for yourself and also to future employers that you are motivated and able to quickly find your way in foreign environments and that you have a certain degree of adaptability, which is becoming more and more important in our society today. Thanks to the two semesters abroad, I have the feeling that I am staying calmer in challenging situations and looking for solutions more efficiently. Problems that I now encounter are less likely to throw me off track and I have developed a certain resilience, more self-confidence and effective coping strategies.
In the end, I was able to learn a lot from traveling through foreign countries and cultures. I experienced Melbourne as a multicultural city, explored rice fields in Indonesia, marveled at singing Maoris in New Zealand, surfed in Surfers Paradise (where else?), Snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef and went camel riding at 45 degrees in the desert of Dubai.
The last year was so special that it already seems like a dream to me. A dream that I will never forget. This year I will look back all my life with happiness and a little wanderlust. Whereby this wanderlust almost feels like homesickness.