Satakshi Gupta, UQIDAR PhD student, shares the experience from her journey at UQ. Satakshi is working on her PhD project ‘Unravelling the charge generation pathways in organic and hybrid solar cells’. 

Satakshi Gupta, UQIDAR PhD student

Even after a year into the pandemic, it seemed like no end was in sight. After living through multiple lockdowns, my life was stuck in a mundane cycle that severely impacted my progress. However, around the beginning of November, news started to fly that Australia would soon open its borders allowing international students to resume their on-campus life. And shortly after, the decision came into effect, bringing joy to all the anticipating students, including me.

Finally, I could begin with the next phase of my PhD project to be executed at UQ. Given it was my first overseas travel, I was anxious and ecstatic, but assured it would be an experience of a lifetime. Little did I know that it would turn out to be an adventurous one right at the beginning when I landed in the midst of the devastating floods of Brisbane. I could only catch a glimpse of the enormous, beautiful, green campus with a blend of historical and modern architecture before it had to be closed down due to the flood water submerging a part of it. But thankfully, I didn’t have to face the fury of the Brisbane River and survived the floods safely while waiting for the campus to reopen. The situation improved after a week, and I visited the University again to start my campus journey. 

To smoothen the settling-down process of international students, the UQ St Lucia campus has a Student Central where student volunteers help incoming students with all their queries, and one even gets an arrival bag with some guides and goodies. It is a go-to place for all the students to obtain information about various services and their ID cards. During the first week, there are orientations and inductions that provide helpful information about the campus life and facilities available to students. Safety is given a very high priority at UQ and, therefore, to access the laboratory, I had to go through numerous online modules for safety induction and training. The process is meant to familiarise and make one aware of all the possible hazards and how to deal with them in case of any mishap. Most facilities here can only be accessed through swipe cards, making the campus very secure.

There are many student-friendly practices adopted by the University that promote a nurturing environment. Further, the initiatives like free food (breakfast and dinner meals on certain days of the week) and free safety bus drop-offs on all weekdays (which can be availed during late hours by all students, irrespective of their gender) ease the life of students. The academic facilities are top-notch, with multiple library buildings (which have sleeping pods for a quick nap) and study/ meeting rooms that students can book free of cost for group study and/or discussions. There are study spots all around the campus with charging docks allowing students to take their work outdoors in the lap of nature. Besides, some schools offer interested PhD students an opportunity to work closely with faculty members through paid casual staff positions, preparing them for a future career in academia. 

Life at UQ has not only been about making academic and professional growth but also at a personal level by engaging in extra-curricular activities and using their world-class sports facilities. I like the social gatherings/events that happen regularly which help me unwind after long working hours. UQ is home to many quaint and pleasant cafes that are perfect for hosting these events. Bonus points there!

The campus also boasts representation from all over the world. Regular events are hosted to celebrate diversity, like Asian week, which was held in the last week of May to showcase the culture of Asian countries. The multicultural setting has enhanced my knowledge of various cultural practices and shattered the stereotypes I had developed due to past ignorance. I am learning as I go and hope to gather many more delightful and exciting experiences. Lastly, a piece of advice to take away is, “When in Brisbane, always carry an umbrella.”