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From St. Gallen to Sydney: My Covid-19 Experience

Hi there! My name is Nicole and I’m a study abroad student from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, where I’m currently doing a Master’s in Banking and Finance.

Initially, I was set to do an exchange semester at the Tsinghua University in Beijing, but it was cancelled in January due to Covid-19. As around 30 students from St. Gallen spend a semester abroad at UTS each semester, I had already heard many exciting stories and read experience reports about the University. To my surprise, when I asked at rather late notice whether I could apply, the UTS Study Abroad Office was very understanding and flexible. With their seamless and competent help, after only two weeks I was set: I would go to Sydney instead.

Before Social Distancing

Although my exchange experience was cut short and turned out to be quite different to that of previous students, I had a great time in Sydney and made unforgettable memories. In March, I participated in various activities such as a tennis tournament, a meeting of the food appreciation society and beach trips. What I really enjoyed about UTS is that the university offers a wide range of programs, meaning that the student body on campus is very diverse, making for interesting conversations.

Living in a big city such as Sydney is quite an adventure for people used to crossing their own country in only 4 hours. In my view the location of the university is perfect and gives you easy access to all parts of Sydney - from the thriving CBD and Darling Harbour area to the scenic beaches like Bondi, Manly, and Coogee. In addition, I found the food in Sydney amazing. Influenced by Asia, the city offers a huge variety of cuisines, such as Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Malaysian food. Particularly around Ultimo, there are some very tasty Asian restaurants. Be sure to try the dumplings opposite the library!

After Social Distancing

The situation changed drastically for me by the end of March, with all of my courses being moved online and lockdown restrictions being imposed due to Covid-19. In April, I took the decision to fly back to Switzerland and complete my courses at home, as many of my fellow exchange students had also left. For me, the transition of my courses to the platform Zoom was relatively smooth, and I was surprised by how well everything worked out. In our tutorials, we were able to have interesting and engaging discussions. I also formed two different teams for group work with other students who I hadn’t met in person. Both of these groups turned out to be great, and the different time zones didn’t have an impact, as we were able to hold the online meetings during evenings in Sydney (being morning in Switzerland). At the end of the semester, after having successfully completed a project, I even had celebratory Zoom drinks with some of the group members.

With more time on my hands than usual due to social distancing, I had the opportunity to try many new things at home. One of these was cooking. Inspired by the diversity of cuisine in Sydney, I tried cooking many new Asian dishes.

Overall, I truly enjoyed my (although rather short) stay in Australia and the subsequent completion of my online courses, made countless new experiences that I will never forget and was able to make new lifelong friendships.

Name: Nicole Brunner

Course of Study: Master’s in Banking and Finance

Country: Switzerland

Home University: St. Gallen

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