From Germany to Melbourne – studying on exchange at VU

Business exchange student Maximilian Kafanke from Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen, Germany tells us what it's been like studying at VU.

Going abroad

Going abroad has been one of the best decisions of my life.

Leaving Europe for the first time, going to an unfamiliar city without knowing anyone here, I faced a lot of new challenges and a journey into the unknown.

Coming from a small but nice student town in Germany, Melbourne was undoubtedly the best choice possible. I’ve always wanted to live in a big city and this was the perfect opportunity to try just that for a semester. I’ve enjoyed it very much so far, especially because the metropolis has so much to offer and it’s so easy to find like-minded people here.

VU Block Model®

Studying at VU with the VU Block Model® is very different from my home university. These four-week blocks let you focus on one topic at a time and really concentrate on it. The learning model is very intensive, with tests and assignments starting in the first week. This really taught me to learn constantly from the start of a semester.

I chose to take units from different courses from what I usually study, so I could broaden my view and see things from a different perspective. My first unit, called international design, was one of my favourites. I could use my creative side which is usually not the case in business units. Everyone had to develop an idea and the design for an app. I really enjoyed the small size of the classes.

What I have learnt

Moving to a different country can be very hard at first. You have to find accommodation, make new contacts and adapt to a lot of new situations.

On the other hand, this is a great opportunity to learn about cultural differences. Melbourne is very multicultural, which makes it easy to make a lot of international friends. I participated in V4U Day 2019 and I had an amazing time supporting the Friends of Stony Creek Project.

Furthermore, you start to appreciate things that you took for granted before. You start to realise what is special about Australia but also about your country of origin.

One thing that my semester abroad has completely changed is my connection to my passion -  photography. I‘ve got to meet so many inspiring photographers here. I’ve taken more than 4,500 photos in about three months.

Studying abroad has taught me a lot: how to plan big projects, how to adjust to new situations, how to handle stress more effectively and ultimately how to be more creative.

A little more about me

I share a flat in West Melbourne, very close to the CBD, with three international students; two Dutch DJs, and a Swiss computer scientist. We spend a lot of time together and it’s a lot of fun.

As I love to cycle I bought a bike here and I usually cycle everywhere, as long as it’s not raining heavily. I cycle to Footscray Park every week. On my way back I usually cycle through Footscray Park along the Maribyrnong River. I try to go to the aquatics centre every now and then.

I’ve been a wedding and business portrait photographer for the last couple of years and moving here has really ignited my creativity, especially because I‘ve met so many other photographers here. I take photos every week. I head out with my bike and my camera around sunset to capture the orange-lit skyscrapers and stay until late in the night if I meet other photographer friends.