Hermann is in the final year of his degree at the University of Applied Sciences in Ulm, Germany. He is studying International Energy Economics, and spent a semester at Western Sydney University, in Australia, studying business.
Getting the show on the road (and abroad)
At Western Sydney University, Australia, I studied at the Parramatta Campus where I took mostly business classes: modules such as ‘Creating Change and Innovation’, ‘Business, Society and Policy’ and ‘Psychology: Human Behaviour’. Although those units are not necessarily related to my field of study back home in Germany, where I’m an engineering student, I just wanted to try out something new so I thought about technology and business as some interesting subjects.
When I was doing my research on studying abroad, I came across Western Sydney University which I liked the look of and which offered some good scholarships as well. I was using an organisation called GOstralia that helps students to travel to Australia and New Zealand to study, as I was keen to do a semester overseas. I didn’t want to stay in Europe. And having decided on Australia, the city became important and I knew I wanted to be either in Melbourne or Sydney.
I was using an organisation called GOstralia which helps students to travel to Australia and New Zealand to study, as I was keen to do a semester overseas. I didn’t want to stay in Europe.
The application process was pretty straightforward. You send them all the application forms and they work through them to check everything is right, then they send everything to the university. And afterwards, I got my letter of acceptance. Western Sydney University contacted me directly via email, then I was able to say yes or no. So, pretty simple. Then I just had to pay the tuition fees and choose my units. Afterwards I had good support from Isis Kowaliauskas and Rohan McCarthy-Gill in the International Department at the uni, which provided video conferences explaining everything about the university: what we need to take into account, what stuff to bring with us from home and so on.
Zooming in on the course and the teaching system
In terms of the course, there was a wide selection of units to choose from and I wanted to use that semester abroad to do something new, working in areas that I’m not that confident in yet and which might be useful in the future. For instance, I’m really interested in the field of entrepreneurship so I thought those two units, ‘Business, Society and Policy’ and ‘Creating Change and Innovation’ might be really handy and really interesting because I’m interested in that field.
The courses I chose were really good and really interesting. They were delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars and tutorials. But besides that, there were a lot of assignments such as writing essays, group reports, quizzes, doing presentations, etct. You actually have to do a lot of work throughout the semester, which we don’t necessarily do in Germany, but it was actually quite good because they encouraged you to learn. In Germany, it usually isn’t the case because you just have one exam at the end of the semester and everything depends on that single exam.
You actually have to do a lot of work throughout the semester, which we don’t necessarily do in Germany, but it was actually quite good because they encouraged you to learn.
The teaching staff and the organisation were good, but very different compared to the bigger universities in Germany, where you’re sitting in the lecture theatre with 300 students right next to you and you don’t have that interaction with the professor, you are more afraid to ask questions because of the group size. So, at Western Sydney it was a really nice experience, similar to being back in school with smaller groups of 30 or 40 people. The professors were also different; in Germany, for a lot of professors, their main objective at universities is doing research, so their teaching styles are not that good. In Australia, or Western Sydney University, you really could see that the professors cared for you and they wanted you to learn – a slightly more personal touch.
Making myself at home (on campus)
I lived at the students’ dormitory which was five minutes away from the South Campus, with City Campus only a 15-minute walk. The accommodation was really good. It was called Western Sydney University Village and it was literally a small village. We had our own common area with a TV room, a pool table, table tennis, a gym facility, a pool and our own barbecue area.
All our buildings were arranged like a small village where all the internationals lived along with the Australians who lived there. There were people from all over the world, so it was really easy to meet new people. We had barbecues every Wednesday which was really cool.
They have a thing called Vegemite which Australian people grow up with. I thought it was just chocolate like Nutella. So I took some bread and then put all this Vegemite on my bread and tried to eat it. It was really disgusting and all the Australian people around me were just laughing.
What was really, really cool was the free breakfast on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the university campus. It was lovely and not only because of free food (everybody loves free food, I would say), but also there were other people you could interact with. For instance, they have a thing called Vegemite which Australian people grow up with, and they love it. In my first week at uni I joined other students for breakfast and there was this Vegemite. Initially, I thought it was just chocolate like Nutella, basically. So I took some bread and then put all this Vegemite on my bread and tried to eat it. It was really disgusting and all the Australian people around me were just laughing and they told me that you usually just put on a little bit. We had a lot of fun.
My university agenda: events, programmes and then some
There was a programme called LEAD, which supported young leaders. It was initiated by Western Sydney University and I think it’s led by students mostly. They also organise events for young leaders and try to promote leadership skills and encourage young people to become new leaders. I participated in that and also by the end of the semester there was a big event called Uni Games. It’s a big sports event and I played for the Western Sydney University futsal team.
During the semester we had some training sessions, once a week, and then at the beginning of July, over five days, they hold Uni Games. I competed in the futsal competition, but there was also basketball and volleyball and so on, mainly indoor sports until September when it goes outdoors.
Working at Sydney’s Bavarian
Australia can be expensive – at least, the living expenses – so I took a job. On a student visa you’re allowed to work 20 hours during the semester and you can work full time during the semester break – during the holidays. I got a job as a bartender at a German restaurant called The Bavarian in Parramatta. A little bit clichéd, I know, but it was actually another really cool opportunity to get to meet new people, especially local Australians. My colleagues were really nice, really kind people – all open-minded so I felt welcome from the very beginning. And it was quite handy for a German guy to be working in a German restaurant: they liked that, asking me about the German beer and German food. We actually imported food as well as beer from Germany, so a lot of the food was authentic and prepared to German recipes although there were some local variations that we wouldn’t do back home – Canadian and Hawaiian schnitzel for example!
It was quite handy for a German guy to be working in a German restaurant – they liked that, asking me about the German beer and German food.
My semester at WSU: a real blockbuster
Overall, I think the two most memorable aspects of my time in Western Sydney University were the Uni Games and the travelling I did when I first arrived, a month before the studies started. We were just chilling by the pool when one group started planning and someone who later became a great friend suggested that we just join them and do the same and I said, yeah, sure, why not? We ended up as a group of 11, hiring two campervans together and went on a road trip from Sydney to the Gold Coast and back. I think it was around 10 days in total, along the Pacific Coast Touring Route, stopping at places like Port Stevens, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay.
And then all the way back with some new stops. That was a really cool experience. Plus,I got close to a lot of amazing people. I also used my trip to the region to do some travelling in Asia, which you can read about in my personal profile. I highly recommend that!
The good thing was, at least from my point of view, that the Australian education system was easier for me compared to the German one. I still got good grades by the end of this semester which was an integral part of the international element of my degree in Germany, along with English studies which, of course, it was really useful for.
My Top 3 for Western Sydney Uni
1. The free breakfasts: everyone loves free food but it was also a great social forum for meeting people from all over the world.
2. The Uni Games: we got to the final of the futsal tournament and it was close (5 – 3), but I think we could have won it.
3. The accommodation: living in the students’ dormitory where II met so many cool new people We did so much cool stuff together and now I can call them my friends! I literally now have friends all over the world.
My top 4 for Sydney and Australia as a study destination
2. The Blue Mountains World Heritage Area: they are pretty close to Western Sydney Uni, at the most, a three-hour journey on the express train. It’s an area of natural beauty and a World Heritage Site. You could say it’s a paradise for people who love doing outdoor activities such as hiking.
3. The beach: even by the end of my semester, it was still 20 degrees in Sydney.
4. Sydney nightlife: we’d get together in one apartment and then just play drinking games, talk and listen to music. Afterwards, we used to take the train or bus into Sydney. For clubbing, we went to places like The Ivy or Home Bar (real name: Home the Venue) and there was always a night bus home if we stayed out really late.
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