Isabelle Tilsley touched snow for the first time at the base of the Jungfrau in Switzerland and 'nearly passed out with amazement at how beautiful it was'.
Isabelle Tilsley touched snow for the first time at the base of the Jungfrau in Switzerland and 'nearly passed out with amazement at how beautiful it was'.

Europe exchange puts Macquarie student on top of the world

Eating Portuguese tarts in Portugal? Touching snow on a mountain in Switzerland? Travelling through the Scottish highlands with loud Canadians? Bachelor of Arts student Isabelle Tilsley did them all while on exchange to the University of Zurich!

“It’s hard to summarise in such a short amount of words my exchange experience at the University of Zurich, except by saying how absolutely wonderful it was.

I started this whole exchange application process in August 2012, which, considering it’s 2014, just seems like a lifetime ago. When people say ‘do exchange, travel, make the most of being young’, you often just hear it but never do much about it. I realised, on hearing that so often that I was going to seize the opportunity and do something that would be truly amazing. What a great opportunity it was. To live in such a wonderful city as Zurich, to be in a student house with 60 people from all over the world, to travel almost every weekend, and to experience so much was the biggest blessing.

So on thinking back to everything, here are a few highlights:

  • Eating the most wonderful sandwich in the streets of Florence while a busker played Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Time to Say Goodbye’.
  • As sad as it was, visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp and being reminded about the events in history that we cannot let happen again.
  • Travelling through rolling green hills in the Scottish highlands with a group of loud but hilarious Canadian girls I met on the bus.
  • Standing on tables singing and dancing with thousands of rowdy Germans at Oktoberfest.
  • Eating my weight in freshly baked Portuguese tarts… in Portugal.
  • Rooftop bars, Turkish baths and standing inside the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
  • Standing on the shores of Gallipoli. As an Australian, this was certainly an experience that will live with me forever.
  • Touching snow for the first time on a mountain in Switzerland and nearly passing out with amazement at how beautiful it was.

I have come out of this experience with a whole new level of confidence. Confidence that had me rocking up to strange places alone, booking a wine tour in Tuscany that I didn’t realise was for couples (relatively awkward for a single woman), catching buses, trains and planes all over Europe alone (considering I was nervous about public transport in Sydney this was a great improvement).

Learning what you can do is so rewarding and will grant you skills that you can use in life. All I can say is carpe diem – seize the day!”


Macquarie students are encouraged to add international exchange or short-term international study to their degrees. Find out where you can go and how the University supports you with a generous travel grant scheme.