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A Comprehensive Guide to Housing Whilst at Lund University

A group of people posing for the camera

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From https://www.facebook.com/LundsMemes/?epa=SEARCH_BOX

For me, finding accommodation for my time at Lund University, initially, seemed like a never-ending endeavour. I would say this is the only negative experience I have had so far with my time in Lund. However, I do also feel that potentially my year was particularly bad. Therefore, I have tried to accumulate all the information I feel is useful and relevant when looking for housing and accommodation for your time in Lund.

As some background on my experience of housing: when I flew out to Lund, I did not have anywhere to live and was staying in a hotel for the first two weeks. So, my first piece of advice is to book somewhere to stay for the first few days/weeks whilst you are getting settled. This could be a hostel (Winstrup Hostel is popular), Airbnb, Bopoolen, Blocket or a hotel. I would recommend doing this early as lots of places get booked up. Also, if you do find somewhere to stay after booking a place to stay, you can always cancel it. However, it is still useful to have somewhere to stay when you arrive in late August as most tenancies do not begin until September, so you would need somewhere to stay for that time anyway. I did not do this as I expected to find somewhere and then paid a higher price for a hotel. Additionally, within the hostels there are often many exchange students staying there so can find friends through this too.

About a week into being out in Lund I found a place in Åkarp, outside of Lund. It is about 5 minutes on the train or 20 minutes by bus. I found it on a site called Boopolen. I did not like this very much as Lund is a very concentrated place, so I felt once you were out of Lund you were out of it. The trains and buses were not very frequent (trains twice an hour and buses 2-3 times an hour). Also, both the trains and buses stopped running to Åkarp at 1am ish, which also meant I had to catch ~£30 taxi home on my own after nights out as a result of missing the last one. Following 2 months here, I found a place on AF Bostader in Lund where I am happy and going to stay for the rest of my time.

  1. Lund University’s Accommodation

Lund University (LU) provides some accommodation for its students. This is distributed through a lottery system and is very competitive to the point I hardly know anyone who stays in these halls. This is aside from a place called Ideon. This used to be a hotel until the summer and this year is just international students who were given it on arrival day. Other than this, I am not sure what the LU halls are like. LU has a guarantee agreement with some universities so their students are prioritised. They are all within Lund so are convenient and I believe are all pretty nice, as most student halls in Sweden are. I know some students from previous years were offered a place within some LU accommodation following some people dropping out throughout the course of the year also.

2) AF Bostader

AF Bostader is also a housing lottery. You can only get a place in their lottery as a student of Lund and being a member of StudentLund (which is how you also become a member of the student nations). No one I have met this far truly understands how this system works; however, I will explain as much as I think is correct. During a week in July, when you sign up for AF, you will be given a time (e.g. mine was about 22:17) through a lottery system and this time is your place in the housing queue. So, the earlier your time is, the higher chance you have of being given accommodation during the novisch period (the so-called fresher period, when AF have set aside so many rooms for ‘novisch’ students). Through AF, you can get a ‘corridor room’ (like a normal halls) or a flat for one or several people. The flats are more competitive.

Once you are in the housing queue, you can sign up for 3 rooms each day, or until the rooms have expired and been given to someone. If you are first in the queue at midnight on the day that the room expires, the room is yours and will receive an email regarding it the next morning. These, like LU accommodation, are very competitive. There is a general rule of being on the waiting list for 6 months before being able to obtain a room. Mine was only 3 months, however. If you are active whilst in the queue, changing rooms when you have a higher place in a different queue, you will take less time. I think this is why mine took less time. Also, I was kind of desperate so wasn’t picky about where I was living, as long as it was in Lund.

One of the reasons these halls are so competitive is all Lund University students can live there. For example, in my corridor there are students who are close to finishing their degrees as well as students who have just started. As students can live in the same room for their whole university careers, rooms will not necessarily be furnished, so this is something to bear in mind when looking for accommodation. This is the case not only with AF but anywhere you look. If it is furnished, generally, it will mean there is a bed, desk, wardrobe as well as cutlery, crockery and kitchen utensils. It is, therefore, quite good to go for a furnished room, not only because then you do not have to buy a bed but also because you do not need to get plates and stuff, which makes it cheaper and less hassle at the end of the year when moving out.

The picture below is what the queue looks like.

Something to note is the ‘party’ halls are Delphi, Parentesen and Sparta. Vildanden is known to be quieter and further out, but that only means it takes 15 minutes to get places rather than 5 minutes, like the rest of Lund. This is because, like I said previously, everything is very concentrated in Lund so as long as you are in Lund, you are not actually that far away from things so I wouldn’t let this particularly tempt you towards one or the other, as it is good to just get one!

These pictures are from my room in Vildanden. It is en-suite, has ethernet connection (as most AF rooms are) and about 4545 SEK per month (around £365).

A bedroom with a bed and desk in a small room

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A bedroom with a bed and a window

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3) Nations

LU has 13 nations associated with it. These are good places to meet people as they do brunches, lunches and general activities as well as being where the majority of Lund’s clubs are. They also have some accommodation but you can only try for accommodation in the nation that you are a member of, and you can only be a member of one nation. There is generally 6 months waiting list for these also. However, some do put some rooms aside for new students, like Kristianstads nation.

There is also Smålands nation which is not directly linked to the university which you can be a member of, in addition to another one. Smålands seems to have pretty regular rooms available that are also a reasonable price and in a good location.

3) Bopoolen & Blocket

Förstasida

Bopoolen is a website, specifically for students, to find accommodation. This is where I found my first place to live in Åkarp. These tend to be apartments sharing with other students or living with the flat owner. It is not unusual for students to live with just normal people in their spare rooms, in their converted basements or something similar. My previous place was a large house, where three other students and I lived. We lived upstairs in the house, which had been converted to a flat, with its own kitchen and bathroom and the homeowner, our landlord, lived downstairs. This was a better set up, in my opinion, than some others I had seen whilst looking for somewhere to live, such as being in the room next door to the landlord. However, I also have friends who have done this and really get on with their ‘landlords’ and it has worked out well for them. It all depends on what you want and are expecting. To find these places, there are adverts on the site and you have to email or ring the landlord. These, again, are very competitive and one advert can have 10+ people coming to look at the housing. They also depend on what the landlord wants from their tennants (long or short stay), whether they took a warming to you etc. Therefore, I would recommend emailing everyone or as many as you would feel happy with. As a result of the high demand for places, it is not uncommon for people to not respond to you also as a forewarning. Also, you are able to email Bopoolen themselves to ask for accommodation if you are feeling time is getting on, but I think this is only really done once in Lund.

These adverts are often outside of Lund, like mine was, and can be in nearby Malmo. I think if you are in the situation of living outside of Lund, I would say it is better to live in Malmo as it is a city and there are frequent trains as well as trains throughout the night to and from Lund. Also, there is also an university in Malmo so there are students there too. Alternatively, someone from Manchester this year is living outside of Lund and not in Malmo and he is loving that. It all depends on you and who you live with.

Bopoolen’s website is useful to look at generally as it has a list of housing sites which are legitimate as well as ways to avoid fraudulent sites/people. Being defrauded can occur as people know that students are in need of places to live. I would not say it is very common and should not happen if you use common sense.

https://www.blocket.se/

Blocket is a similar case in regard to the type of accommodation that is available on it. It is a website for selling things generally. So, there are people selling second hand bikes, sofas and apartments as well as renting them. These are not necessarily specifically for students, so that is something to be aware of too. The same emailing process takes place with this website too.

4) Other ways of getting accommodation

  • Greenhouse

http://www.newgreenhouse.se/

Greenhouse is an eco-friendly accommodation about 15 miles outside of Lund. It is supposed to be quite social as everyone is there together as well as quite cheap.

  • Arrival Day

On arrival day this year, 20th August for reference, there was a housing lottery. This is for international students who did not have accommodation and took place between 9am-10am. Everyone who was there was given a number and then numbers were chosen like a lottery after the hour and these people were given accommodation. So, it also may be useful flying out to Lund prior to the actual arrival day. The accommodations distributed included LU and Greenhouse. We were not informed about this until about 2 weeks before leaving so I had booked my flights and was not able to participate.

There are lots of people there who are there to help you, whatever your situation is, so just talk to anyone and they will try to help or point you towards someone who can. Also, on arrival day you can book some activities for the first few weeks to get to know people, like dinners or sports days.

  • Facebook Groups

There are lots of groups on facebook which advertise housing in Lund also. Some of these are specifically for students and some are general. Again, there is the precaution to be aware of scammers on these as there is not the safety that comes with the other websites. To name a few there are:

  • Lund Student Housing
  • Lund Housing
  • Lund Sweden Accommodation
  • Lund Apartments for Rent

  • Airbnb

There are also long-term Airbnbs you may be able to find to stay in for a few months.

Some things I think are important to note:

  • Your flatmates are not necessarily your friendship group, as is often the case in the UK. This is to do with people of all years living in the same corridor so there is not the same want to get to know each other. I would not take this as a wholly negative thing however, particularly as, an international student as there are so many ways to get to know and meet people. A lot of this takes place in the first few weeks (the novisch period). I would recommend signing up for as many mentor groups and novisch events as you can because it gets you meeting people. There are also the nations novisch week and the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) which does lots of trips and activities.
  • It is good to try and obtain any accommodation until Christmas or for a month/s as the initial craze to get housing will have dropped by then, making it more likely for you to find somewhere later. It also means you have your own space for your stuff, which is important for yourself when you are settling in.
  • Lots of exchnage students leave after one semester, at Christmas, so more rooms will become available around this time.
  • When you come out to Lund it is not unusual to have nowhere to live, if this is you, you will not be alone!
  • Don’t let where you live stop you from socialising and going out.
  • If you don’t have anywhere to live, it can be hard to try getting to know people and socialising but the housing will work itself out, make sure you make the most of your time!

Why joining an international society is worth it!

Some of the best experiences I’ve had at UBC have been through joining the Exchange Student Club (ESC) – I met some of my closest friends, travelled across parts of Canada, and most of all, made some incredible memories. Here are some of my highlights from Semester 1:

SUNSHINE COAST

The first ESC trip was definitely one to remember! We stayed for the weekend at Camp Potlatch on the Sunshine Coast, a boat ride from Vancouver. If you could picture a typical North American-style camp that you often see in movies this was it – wooden cabins with very, very hard bunk beds and no electricity, big communal meals where we all chanted camp songs, and all this whilst being surrounded by luscious green forests and calm, blue ocean.

Nothing like arriving at a beautiful camp in the middle of nowhere and being told about all the bears and cougars you could potentially run into! Wasn’t best pleased to hear about a group of 10 year olds once being chased by a cougar. But luckily they taught us the trusty ‘Go away bear’ technique in which you stand up to the bear, raise your arms with your hands in the shape of claws and loudly say in a low-pitched voice “Go away bear!!”. I was very much hoping I wouldn’t have to test the effectiveness of this method at any point – especially as my cabin was one of the furthest into the forest, up a big rocky hill, where I doubt anyone would be able to hear you if it hadn’t worked. Luckily we all survived!

Of all the trips the ESC run throughout the year, I would say Sunshine Coast is a must because you meet so many people from countries across the world, and some will become your closest friends during your time at UBC. The camp offered a range of fun, buddy-making activities such as canoeing, paddle boarding, hiking, rock-climbing and archery. My canoe partner probably wished they hadn’t ended up with me when I was too busy watching seals instead of paddling! We also had campfires in the evening and all participated in a big showcase where each group had to put on a performance that told us something about the country they were from. This was a lot of fun to watch and it was really cool learning about other national traditions. I also learnt that slip n slides aren’t for the faint-hearted!! You have to cover yourself in washing up liquid and hurl yourself forward onto some wet tarpaulin that stretches downhill and race to win a flip cup battle. I didn’t quite realise how brutal this can be for your body – at the end I had battle scars that looked like I had encountered a cougar after all (see below)!

 ROCKIES

Another amazing trip the ESC run is one to the Rocky mountains in Alberta. As a geographer being able to see these incredible glacial landscapes first-hand was definitely a highlight. The infamous Lake Louise was frozen when we visited, providing this great photo taken just after I thought I heard the ice crack! This is where we also had a very slippery walk up to the Agnes Tea House for a hot chocolate. Who knew snow was so tricky to walk on?! I soon gave up on the way back and slid down the hill on my bottom – something I thought was a great idea at the time but slightly regretted  later when I had to wear wet leggings for the rest of the day! We also got to see the Athabasca-Columbia icefields – huge white glaciers, lakes, and frozen waterfalls. You know, the type of Canada you tend to see on Mac computer screensavers. There were also lots of wildlife spotting opportunities – bears, elk, deer, and a pack of wolves! Definitely worth the 10 hour coach journey to get there!!

THE ‘PIT’

One thing the ESC is known for here at UBC is their every other Thursday Pit nights at the university bar. They’re called YOEOs = You Only Exchange Once! Which I think is a great motto to remember – you have to make the most of everything! Each night has a different theme and they’re a great way to have fun, look slightly silly and meet fellow exchangees. These range from ‘snowpants or no pants’ (pants meaning trousers remember!!), tropical themed, to ‘where your own flag’. If you want to dance to cheesy tunes all night this is the place to be!

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Beach themed pit night!

WINTER GALA

To end the first semester at UBC, the ESC held a winter gala, giving everyone the opportunity to dress up and celebrate the end of the decade. It is crazy how fast time flies here – it felt just like yesterday that I was holed up in wooden cabins with some of my, now, closest friends. Unfortunately not everyone stays at UBC for the year and so it’s a bittersweet evening having to say goodbye to lots of friends. On the plus side now I know people from places like New Zealand, Australia and Brazil (just to name a few!) so I can definitely look forward to future travels where I will be welcomed by some friendly faces.

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Here’s to Semester 2 and the making of more memories!

On the importance (and unimportance) of grades (for me) (in hindsight)

So, I tend to overthink things. A lot. Before coming to Canada, I was worried about how study abroad fit into my university career. Would I be behind when I got to Canada? Would I be behind when I got back? What if I dropped marks? I have the whole of the rest of my life to travel, so maybe I should wait?

Let me take a moment to walk you through a few reasons why I shouldn’t have been too caught up in how study abroad would affect my academics, and why you might not need to worry too much either:

Unsurprisingly, like a good number of other students, I have anxiety and I normally have difficulty giving myself time off. The first advantage of study abroad is that it gives me an excuse (an excuse to myself that is) to take time out to explore. Changing my environment so drastically also gave me an opportunity to change my habits; there were fewer expectations and routines attached to my new space, so I have been able to construct healthier and more productive study habits, based on what I’ve learnt about my learning style in my first two years of university.

Surprisingly, the difference in structure has also been a big help. I was worried before coming to Canada about the heavier workloads and the more frequent assessments, but far from being a problem this has actually been very beneficial; going from 100% exams in Manchester to grades split between finals, midterms, assignments and quizzes has had an amazing effect on my anxiety. I’m much happier, and my grades reflect this. Over this first semester I’ve engaged more deeply with the lectures and understood more as a consequence. I’m still a little nervous that I will struggle when I get back, but I’m hoping I’m putting down a firm foundation to work from when I return for my final year.

Another reason not to worry too much is that grades aren’t everything. In the longer term, study abroad can improve resilience, independence, and the ability to work with diverse groups of people, as well as other skills that employers look for. It also lets you explore the diversity of cultures within your field; if you want to stay in academia, you can use this experience to explore what atmosphere you want to be in. In physics for example, Guelph and Manchester are worlds apart; I’ve gone from a class of 250 to classes of 12-20. I know everyone, and everyone knows me, including the lecturers. I’m much happier asking questions, and when there are four deadlines on the same day and it’s just not going to happen, it can be resolved with a simple conversation.

So far, this experience has had an amazing effect on my anxiety, which has in turn had a positive effect on my grades. Study abroad is an enriching opportunity, and I’m happy I was able to look past my academic worries. Every story is different, but I think there is always a lot you can learn from challenging yourself, even if it’s just that being away from home for so long isn’t your thing. If you have the grades & skills to succeed, and if it feel right, just go for it!

Best Thrift Stores in Montreal

Winona Newman, Concordia University

Montreal’s a pretty expensive city when it comes to bread, butter and beer but you can really start saving money by thrifting. What with the social and environmental implications of fast fashion it can be a really great way of supporting local organisations too. I’m a massive thrift store fan so I was delighted to find thrift stores on a whole different level to those you find in the UK, even in Manchester. Montreal’s thrift stores are massive, almost department stores, carefully organised, well stocked and extremely well priced.

When you’re first moving to a city you’ll probably need some bigger ticket items, especially moving into Canada’s harsh winters. It can be tempting to freak, get ahead of yourself and order things online or buy from well established stores. But if you can bear to hold out slightly longer you’ll find thrift stores starting to fill up with all your winter essentials. I bought myself a massive winter jacket (it feels like wearing a duvet) for £14 and I’ve seen many a pair of snow boot for less than £20 which, when bought from a ‘proper’ store can set you back 100s. Just check the quality of everything you buy, google the makes and check for rips and broken zippers.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite thrift spots here, most of which I’ve bought jumpers, tops, shirts and trousers from all for about £3-4 so they’re definitely worth checking out, whatever you’re looking for.

Fripe-Prix Renaissance

5500 Boul Henri-Bourassa E, Montréal-Nord, QC H1G 2T2

A massive charity shop located in the Plateau. They sell loads of clothes as well as books and home-ware.

L’Armée du Salut

1620 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Quebec H3J 1M1

This Salvation Army thrift store has almost everything you could want, a great place to grab kitchen utensils and furnishings as well.

Eva B.

2015 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2X 2T3

Eva B is more of a vintage shop, they sell really interesting clothes and they have a cool cafe with amazing vegan cake. Definitely pop by, it’s an experience in itself.

La Maison du Chainon

4375 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2W 1Z8

This is a really nice little shop selling a range of interesting clothes for really good prices, including snow coats and boots.

Have fun, shop sustainably and save money:)

Campus vs City life

After spending two years in the bustling city of Manchester and having university buildings spread all along Oxford road, it has been nice to experience life on a university campus. I have listed below a few topics of comparison which have been both positive or negative during my experience abroad.

Campus Halls Vs Fallowfield housing:

After spending my first year in university halls and upgrading (or some would say downgrading!) into private housing in Manchester, I got a good flavour of what living in a city was like. It was an opportunity to live with people you had gotten on well with and be in a house independently without the bother of parents. The freedom of this is great and is the first time your home really feels like home rather than living under the supervision of someone else.

Moving to Calgary was almost a throwback to first year as I decided to move back into university halls on campus. This was a great opportunity for me to meet likeminded exchange students who were in a similar position. My flat consisted of four rooms which were split by a shared kitchen and lounge area in the middle. My halls were quite big with around 25 flats on each floor and 4 floors in the building, presenting the perfect chance to interact with other students and get to know people you were living with. Being close to everyone gave a similar feel to Manchester halls, although the main difference was each hall was a mix of a certain year group rather than purely freshers. My hall was predominantly exchange and international students, which was the perfect chance for me to meet people who wanted to do similar activities. This made it more difficult to meet the local Canadians as most of them lived at home, but I don’t think this was too big of an issue as I met a lot of them through societies such as the bouldering society. I would definitely recommend living in university halls while abroad on a campus, as it gives you the chance to meet people from all over the world who are looking to travel and explore the new city, as opposed to locals who have lived there for their whole life.

Food choices around uni:

As most of the university buildings are along Oxford road, there is a large and diverse range of dining options when around uni. This is great for grabbing a quick coffee or lunch, with a range of different cuisines and styles of restaurants available. The same cannot be said for the food options available on Calgary’s campus. If you don’t have a pre-paid meal plan, the main place for food on campus is in a place called Mac Hall. This consists of quite a few fast food restaurants of different cuisines. Unfortunately, most of these are quite unhealthy and the range of food is not that great. The food here also tends to be quite expensive which I think is something they could look into changing, as they know the only customers are students and staff. A lot of the time I find it easier and cheaper to pop home to make lunch myself, but sometimes this is not possible if I have little time between lectures. Personally, I prefer the larger choice and price range of restaurants around Manchester as it accommodates for a larger audience and can be more economical for money conscious students.

Distance to lectures:

This is a big difference between being on a campus rather than at a city university. In Manchester, I have to travel on a busy bus from Fallowfield to northern campus (where most of my engineering lectures are) most mornings, which takes around half an hour. This can be quite a struggle especially if you have a lot of early 9am lectures. Coming back from uni is also a challenge, as the magic buses can fill up very quickly and you can be waiting to get on a packed bus for long periods of time.

The University of Calgary campus in the fall of 2019.

This hassle is eliminated by living on a campus, as every building is within walking distance from my accommodation. This is great for people who want that extra time in bed in the mornings and means you don’t have to travel far to make those dreaded 9ams. Like I mentioned before, it is also easier to quickly route back to your flat if you have forgotten something or want to prepare some food during the day. I like this aspect of the campus when contrasted to a city but sometimes it can be very tempting to take a quick afternoon nap instead of that extra hour at the library!

Roeterseiland Campus – University of Amsterdam

The University of Amsterdam has four campuses located around the city. As I study social sciences I am located at Roeterseiland campus which is located just East of the city centre, in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam.

Continue reading “Roeterseiland Campus – University of Amsterdam”

Day in the Life – UBC

After having completed 1 semester at UBC (wow time flies!!) I thought I’d share what a typical day looks like (the fun and the not-so-fun bits!)

7:30 am

Setting off for my 8am lecture – yep you heard me right, 8am!! It’s safe to say I now appreciate UoM’s 10am lectures a lot more. But on the plus side it was pretty cool seeing the sunrise over the mountains! The view never gets dull

8 am – 11 am

Time for class! Today I had two 1.5 hour long lectures straight after each other which is quite a lot that early in the morning haha, but you learn to push through (with the help of a big Tim Horton’s coffee!). The classroom style can be quite different to UoM –  it can feel slightly like you’re back at school!

11 am – 12:15 pm

Usually between classes I’d try and catch up on a few readings and eat lunch in the IKB learning centre on campus. This library has a more chilled atmosphere compared to other ones on campus, and it’s nice to study there with friends.

12:15 pm – 2 pm

Last class of the day yay!! I was lucky to finish every day at 2pm last semester leaving my evenings free to explore Vancouver and see friends:)

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2 pm – 4:30 pm

Fitting in a few more hours of studying back in my uni accommodation – Walter Gage! It’s so close to everything on campus which is really useful and plus I lucked out with a pretty incredible view of the mountains and downtown Vancouver! It can make it a struggle to concentrate on work though haha

5 pm – 7 pm

When on exchange you want to try and do and see as much as possible in the place you’re lucky enough to study in. In this case I caught the bus with friends to South Granville to explore some of the best thrift shops in Vancouver – Mintage Mall had lots of great, not too expensive finds!!

 

7 pm – 9 pm

The food Vancouver might be best known for??? Sushi! This was my first sushi experience EVER (crazy, I know) and I have to say it was pretty good:)) The Yam (Canadian for sweet potato) sushi rolls were delicious!! I’ll definitely be visiting more sushi restaurants this term.

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Maryland Dhoom: A home away from home

*Maryland Dhoom is The University of Maryland’s competitive South Asian Fusion Dance Team.*

Dancing used to be a hobby and now it’s a passion of mine. Therefore, before travelling to America, I knew I wanted to join a dance team.  However,  I didn’t know whether to carry on doing Bollywood and Bharathanatyam (Indian classical) or experience every American college girl’s dream- getting on to the cheerleading team.

I decided to audition for a few teams before auditioning for Maryland Dhoom. Pretty much all the teams rejected me because they required at least one year commitment and I am only there for a semester. It was upsetting because I spent so much time and effort to prepare for the audition (especially the cheerleading one) and for that to be dismissed for a reason that I have no control over.

Due to the previous experiences with auditioning, the first thing I asked at Maryland Dhoom’s teaching day was “Can I join even though I am only here for a semester?”

“Of course you can!” said one enthusiastic Maryland Dhoom member.

After this moment, I felt so excited to dance! I took off my hoodie, placed my phone in my bag and started to stretch a bit.

“Before we start teaching you the dance, let’s sit in a circle and introduce ourselves” said one of the captains. I sighed. (There was about fifty people in the hall). When it was my turn: “ Hi, my name is Thul-”, the biggest reaction happened. A lot of gasps, a lot of “oh my gods” and a lot of “ she’s British!” When I tell you the Americans love the British accent, they LOVE the British accent.

Other than that, the audition process went smoothly and our team had our first social the following week. I felt like a grandmother at the social. Everyone apart from the captains were freshmen (first year students). But it felt wholesome. I felt like I was going to be part of a family.

Rehearsals were taken pretty seriously. Every week I had ten hours of dance rehearsals. It was very organised too because usually they use Fall semester to prepare for competition season ( Spring semester). Unfortunately, I would not be able to travel to different states and participate in competitions as I was only in America for the Fall semester. But I still had a few exciting events to look forward to: dance team photoshoot, audition filming day, Dhoom Venmo challenge  and an exhibition performance in Washington D.C.

A few of the photos from the dance shoot.

You’re probably thinking what ‘audition filming day’ is. We dedicate a day to film our audition tape. The audition tape needs to perfect as it determines Maryland Dhoom’s competition season. There are more than 100 bollywood/ fusion competitions in America. And the more you attend and place, the more points you get and the more likely you get to the Nationals (the final stage). This is the overall picture, obviously there are more rules.

Let me be honest, audition day was stressful. If someone made a mistake midway through, we had to start again. And after a few times, it did annoy people. Also, it was humid that day too; that did not help at all. But it was a good bonding experience. * A few hours later * we got two perfect takes!

You’re also probably thinking what is “dhoom vemo challenge”. It’s such an innovative method to raise money. So, Maryland Dhoom came up with a few dares with prices (the more daring the higher the price)  and posted it on their social media. Friends and family of Dhoom members can venmo (the American version of Paypal) money along with the dare and who they’re daring.

Here are a few:

A few of the venmo challenges

When November commenced, rehearsals started to become intense as we only had a couple of weeks left until show day. The week before show day was called ‘hell week’. (Literally hell week for me because I had two mid-terms that week too!) We had practise every evening, and we would rehearse until the captains were satisfied. Ex-captains and the captains’ friends would come in too to help out. A variety of things were involved during hell week: improving stamina by repeating routines with 30s breaks, improving techniques by getting into partners and criticise.. costumes, last min changes to the routine and formation, and a lot of drama ! The hell week was worth it though, I could tell that everyone improved dramatically!

16th November 2019. It was show day! But to me, it felt like a girls’ day trip and night out! It was so fun. We spent the morning getting ready together, drove to get lunch together, and then got to the venue. Everything was going so smoothly, and then it came to our turn to have the stage rehearsal.

A couple of the dancers slipped on stage and injured themselves, formations weren’t perfect, and it didn’t meet the captains expectations. So obviously there was some tension in the room. However, we pulled ourselves together and did last minute touch ups on both our dance routine and make up. We sat in the audience before performing, and boy, I was so excited to see the performers. I was literally on the edge of my seat. The energy levels were INSANE! The costumes and the use of props were too phenomenal. I didn’t want to stop watching but then they called up our team.  I remember being so nervous backstage, especially after watching the other performances. But when I got on stage, the vibes were surreal! Soon after our performance we hurried to get to the after-party. It was a fun night out with the girls but my legs were dead by the end.

Maryland Dhoom doing the “Dhoom face”.
A snapshot of the performance in D.C.

After the performance we did not have any rehearsals but we had a Christmas special social event. It was so wholesome: we watched Wizard of Oz (that’s Dhoom’s competition theme), did Secret Santa and had ordered take away. We undertook secret Santa with a little twist, instead of writing the person’s name on a tag we had to imitate our person and the others had to guess it. When it got to my turn I got so emotional because they gave me a goodbye present too. It was so heart-warming and honestly I will miss them so much.

That’s when I realised: joining Maryland Dhoom was one of the best things I did whilst studying abroad. I made some good friends outside of my class and it made me feel less home sick.  It gave me an opportunity to carry on doing what I love, on campus. Also, in hindsight, I saved a lot of money too, because if I didn’t join the team I would have spent my free time travelling around America, splurging on sightseeing activities. (I have a few friends complaining now that they spent too much on travelling).

I loved being part of Maryland Dhoom and I will cherish the memories I made with my Dhoomies. To those thinking about studying abroad, join a society – it’s worth it!

PS if you want to watch our performance, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7ywDo_K9LU

Goodbye presents from my Dhoomies! ❤
Hope you enjoyed reading my blog!

Before Leaving…

It’s been a while since I last thought about moving to the States. I was 17 when I decided to become an exchange student in a Canadian high school, and since then, I thought my experience abroad was over. But now, once again, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel, to discover a new culture, and to get to know myself a bit better. Isn’t this extraordinary?

In eight days I’ll be on the plane. Destination? Phoenix. No turning back. Me, my luggage, and all my expectations and fears. What if I won’t like my housemates? What if I won’t like the courses? But c’mon, think about all the opportunities you’ll have, all the friends you’ll make. You’ve always watched High School Musical, and you’ve always been dreaming of those lockers, the cheerleaders, the football team! There is more to gain than to lose!

Going abroad is one of those experiences that simply form your person. it teaches you to expect the unexpected! Every day is a different story, and you just have to trust the journey and try out all you can, with no judgment. Eventually, you’ll find out that it’s all you’ve always been waiting for! That for how tough it can get, you’ll always get up and get back in the game stronger, because it’s your game and no one can win it but you.

I’m ready for this, I can do it. What about you?

Student Nations at Lund University

One of the most unique things about studying in Lund is it’s organized student life. Many universities have student unions, however none are quite like Lunds. The first “Nations” were founded in 1668, based on geographic regions in Sweden, and historically students who came from that area would join the according nation. For example students from Halland province would join Hallands Nation, and students from the East would join Ostgota. In the modern day all 13 nations are open to anyone who wishes to join, and offer a wide range of activities to be involved in. This includes putting on cheap student meals and lunches, cinema nights, pubs and clubs, as well as organising day trips such as hikes and other outdoor activities. Whilst every nation will offer the basic activities, each has it’s own speciality, for example Kalmar nation focuses on outdoor activities, whereas Sydskanska nation aims to be the go to place for electronic music. This makes the small town of Lund, with a student population of around 40,000, seem a lot bigger as there is an activity on most days of the week.

 

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Sydskanska Nation (AKA SSK), where I became a Foreman.

 

What makes the nations even more successful is that they are all entirely student run, and rely on volunteers to make their activities happen. This is quite unique and as a British student I found it hard to believe that people would volunteer their time so freely. However after getting involved with a couple of activities, I discovered what makes them so special. I first volunteered as part of a pub team, and the Foreman (the person in charge of the activity) made the atmosphere very social and welcoming for the workers. I ended up becoming very good friends with him, and after taking part in a few more activities, I decided to sign up to become a Foreman myself. In true Swedish tradition, the nation meeting where new Foremen are voted in took around 3 hours, and was conducted entirely in Swedish. Whilst this wasn’t the most exciting start, it was followed by some free food and drinks. I signed up for the Kafe Matine post, a film evening on Sundays, where my responsibilities included cooking a vegan meal for around 40 people, and choosing one of my favourite films to show. This was quite hard work to organise at first, however being a Foreman also brings quite a few perks. 

 

The first of these was a weekend trip, where all the Foremen at the nation were taken to a large cottage 1.5 hours from Lund, in a lovely remote location by a lake. We were cooked a meal, and given a “small” supply of free drinks. An aspect of Swedish social life that is very different from what I had experienced before was the focus on “organized fun”, and an evening with the nation often involves a lot of games and challenges. The cottage also had a sauna by the lake, making the weekend very relaxing and fun. Overall becoming involved and volunteering with the nation was one of the highlights of my time in Sweden, and I would recommend it highly for anyone considering studying in Lund!

THE EAST COAST

By Issy Jackson (University of Sydney, Australia)

THE EAST COAST

Whether you’re going from Cairns to Sydney or Sydney to Cairns, there’s so much to do when travelling the East Coast of Australia. No matter how long you’re planning to go for, here are some of the places that you can’t miss. From North to South, I’ll take you through some of the classic destinations as well as some of the lesser well-known experiences that I heard about from other Backpackers!

Magnetic Island

Just a short ferry off the coast of Townsville, Magnetic Island is the perfect place to spend a few nights to explore. Its small bus system is easy enough to get from one side of the island to the other, but if that’s not your thing then you can also hire one of the infamous open-top Barbie Cars that are so popular! Here, the Base Hostel is one of the nicest I’ve been to with loads of social areas right by the beach. Everyone will be talking about The Forts Walk and how many koala bears they saw!!

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Hellfire Bay, Magnetic Island

Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays

You can’t do the East Coast without going to the Whitsundays – I liked it so much that I went twice! Airlie Beach is a little town that is based on Whitsunday tourism, so everyone you meet will be talking about which boat they’re about to go on which makes a really sociable atmosphere. I recommend doing one of the three-night boat cruises. It gives you the chance to make lots of friends as well as having loads of opportunities to go snorkeling with turtles, banana-boating and even scuba-diving. Of course, you’ll also get to see some of the whitest sand in the world at Whitehaven Beach too!

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Airlie Beach, Queensland

Broken River, Mackay

I heard about Broken River from two girls I met on Magnetic Island. This is not a typical tourist stop on East Coast Itineraries, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. After driving up a beautiful mountain in Eungella National Park land, you can walk along Broken River which is full of wildlife. Not only can you watch turtles swimming, but it’s a platypus habitat! I never thought I’d get to sit and have a picnic in the sun while watching platypuses swimming next to me.

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Eungella National Park, Mackay

Tin Can Bay

Another well-kept secret on the East Coast is Tin Can Bay. This was one of the most surreal experiences of my trip. We heard about Tin Can Bay from a family that we met on Fraser Island and they said it was the highlight of their holiday! Essentially, you drive to Barnacles Dolphin Centre which is a little family-run café right on the Bay that has a resident pod of nine Humpback Dolphins. You can get some breakfast or a coffee while the volunteers stand in the water and share information on each member of the pod. From about 8:00am, the dolphins gradually all come and sit in the water next to the volunteers! There’s no exhibition or captivity. Rather, the dolphins come back every day where they play about in the water with the volunteers and guests get a chance to feed them fish. It was so interesting to hear about the personalities of each dolphin from the volunteers, then actually get to meet the dolphins ourselves!

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Barnacles Dolphin Centre, Tin Can Bay

Noosa

I’ve decided that I’m going to live in Noosa one day. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful National Parks in Australia. One of the best parts about Noosa Heads is the Coastal Walk. You pass amazing bays every five minutes and what’s even better is that they are all great for a surf. The paths are full of both walkers and surfers who use the National Park to access their favourite surf spots. It doesn’t stop there! There’s also barbecues dotted around the walks so there’s always a chance to get a feed in after being in the water! Make sure you follow the walk all the way to Hell’s Gate – the views are amazing.

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Noosa, Queensland

Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is a really interesting city. It’s got beautiful estuaries with hostels dotted around the waters so there’s plenty of chance for fun activities on the water. My favourite part was going to SkyPoint in the Q1 Building – it’s one of the tallest buildings in the world so the views are just incredible. For around $30, you can go up to the Observation Deck and have an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, so you can watch the waves roll in while having your bacon and eggs in the morning from around 70 stories high!

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Sky Point, Q1 Building, Gold Coast

It’s been a year already?!

I hope you appreciate that slice of The Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Juicy’, it took me ages to work out how to do that. It actually reveals a deep suspicion i’ve had for a while now – did I really study abroad? Or was it all a dream?!

It’s been so long since I left for Australia. After a year it seems almost as if I never really went. To have such an intense, unique experience and then almost suddenly leave it behind for your life to continue back home would have anybody questioning what on earth just happened. (Side note; honestly on this freezing cold November afternoon i’m starting to question whether the sun was part of this study abroad dream. Here, in Manchester, I can definitively say that the sun does not exist. I didn’t realise as I flew out of Brisbane airport I would be waving goodbye to both Australia and the SUN). So, in a way I guess studying abroad is dreamlike. For a long time it’s the only thing on your mind. There is preparation, scheduling, excitement and sheer panic for a lot of the time leading up to it. Then the actual experience is intense and fleeting. Finally as if waking up from a dream, life resumes at home. You’re left thinking ‘wow that was pretty cool’, and then dive back in to the business of English life and dreaded final year projects. In this sense the experience builds a degree of mental resilience – it’s a lot to come out of being abroad and carry on studying.

The aftermath of studying abroad isn’t all that gloomy though. There are loads things that have come out of it. For me, i’ve been inspired to travel so much more. It’s mental how flying out to a foreign country once on your own makes you realise how much freedom you have. Just this summer I visited some Dutch friends in Amsterdam that I met in Brisbane (big up foreign friends and free overseas accommodation 😉 ). Afterwards I spent 2 weeks driving around the entire coast of Ireland in a camper with 4 other guys. This is a super corny thought but the good times aren’t over when you come home – it’s accurate to say studying abroad is a catalyst for even more crazy adventures later.

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Silly times climbing the tallest mountain (Carrauntoohil) in Ireland – we left way too late & got lost in the dark trying to get back

My aim in this post isn’t to villainize England. Coming home is necessary! However I think the ‘dreamlike’ nature of going abroad resonates with a lot of the people that have studied abroad themselves. To me it was like a roller-coaster that I decided to just dive off at the end. Theoretically I could have stayed on that ride forever and not bought a return ticket, to become some sort of surfer hermit and live out my days in a beach hut. As much fun as that might’ve been I, unfortunately, had a million good reasons to come home.

Fear not fellow travellers, this isn’t the first and last time we experience the amazingness that is study abroad. It was not some one off dream. There is literally the world to explore and SO much time to do it!

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That’s definitely the back of my head in Australia – we can confirm it was not a dream