About us

Returning home and thoughts for my final year

It’s taken a few months to readjust to life since returning home, partly due to the time difference but mainly due to the lack of independence since moving back with my parents. Although the grass is always greener on the other side, with home cooked meals and a clean house being two things that are greatly missed as a student, I’ve always greatly enjoyed the freedoms of student life particularly after living 5000 miles from home.

London life is so vastly different from Vancouver’s slow-paced and outdoorsy lifestyle which I found suited me well. It’s taken a while to remember the things I love about suburban life in West London and not wince at the cost of transport every time I hop on a train. However, after catching up with close friends and heading up to Manchester to hear all the stories I’d missed while away, I’ve noticed how the year abroad has benefitted me in terms of my motivation and positive outlook on life. After living somewhere where mountaineering sports and coastal walks were a regular part of my free time, I’ve found myself prioritising daytime activities over nights out (potentially a sign of old-age) which has helped me to cope better with work-related stress and anxiety.

As the summer flies by I’m having mixed emotions about returning to uni. While the prospect of the final year work-load is daunting, I can’t wait to be properly reunited with my uni family and also with those Manchester students I’ve become close with in Vancouver. Given the regular assessment at UBC, I feel I’ve developed a stronger work ethic and an ability to manage multiple deadlines which has equipped me well for fourth year. Furthermore, the ethos at UBC to become an active member of the community has inspired me to get involved with student volunteering groups and, in turn, utilise student resources to build my CV and career prospects.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my year abroad and can safely say it has benefitted me in ways I cannot begin to list. I’ve found writing these blogs a helpful way to summarise the highlights of the year and am sure I’ll take pleasure reading back on them in years to come. I hope that after speaking to UBC students about UoM more positions become available to go on exchange to Vancouver as it’s such an inspiring city that provides an ideal environment for student life.

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Touchdown in Singapore

By Harry Forster, National University of Singapore

I touchdown in Singapore sleep deprived and baggage-less after taking 2 connections, 3 planes and visiting 4 airports all within the space of 20 hours… not the most ideal way to be starting your year abroad!

Jewel Changi Airport – for those that don’t know it’s the world’s largest indoor waterfall which is surrounded by a tropical forest!

After a lengthy queue at immigration and a long exchange with the lost luggage services, I slowly start to question Changi airport’s reputation for being the best airport in the world…

Then, as I start making my way out of the airport I get a glimpse of what I thought might be the famous Jewel Changi… then I realised I’ve come to the right place!

All in all, I probably spent over 2 hours in this airport! (and could have spent even longer in there)

Step 2: Find Utown

The next obstacle was locating my student accommodation and I had two choices from Changi:

The first option was to grab a taxi that costs about S$30 ≈ £18, and the other alternative was to get the MRT (train) across Singapore that costs less than S$2.

Despite the MRT’s efficiency and affordability (just like in the UK… ha) a 30 minute taxi drive takes nearly 1h 30 by MRT. And because of my hectic arrival experience I decided to opt for a taxi for ease and comfort – this turned out to be a smart decision as the nearest MRT station is a 15 minute bus ride from the accommodation.

*my advice would be to get a Grab (Asian Uber) as it’s much cheaper than your standard airport taxi plus you’ll get your first proper feel of the Singaporean cityscape

Meeting Flatmates & the ‘Welcome Party’

The first people I met and the first friends I made were my flatmates Jaehan and Seung su who are both from Seoul in South Korea (later I met Dongwon who I’m also sharing with and is also from South Korea)… as you can probably guess there’s a lot of Korean students at NUS!

FYI: In Utown everyone shares a 4-bed apartment within one of the two tower blocks. I would highly recommend choosing Utown and a room with air con if you don’t like waking up soaking wet everyday (I’m speaking from personal experience).

Then pretty much straight away everyone went to the Utown residence welcome party. Rather than the typical freshers events in the UK, in Singapore I’ve come to realise that there is clearly some cultural difference over the phrase ‘welcome party’. Here we had a series of talks about the residence including a lot on health and safety – which is important don’t get me wrong, but just wasn’t what I first had in mind.

However, it was a great party in terms of meeting other exchangers and we all bonded over what ‘welcome parties’ we have back at home! From the intel I gathered the UK’s welcome events seem to involve the most alcohol which wasn’t much of a shock to anyone…

Top tip before arriving

I highly recommend getting any medical check-ups and vaccinations back in the UK as a lot of the free services back at home definitely aren’t free over here…

Singapore’s healthcare is super expensive as you’d probably expect. However, speaking from experience it takes you to the point where you actually consider keeping your money rather than your health.

Till next time…

Top 5 reasons to study in New Zealand

Emily Barnes // University of Auckland

If you’d have told me two years ago that I would have just got back from studying abroad in New Zealand for a year, I would have thought you were crazy. I’d always known I wanted to go on a study abroad exchange year, but for some reason, I always imagined myself studying in the USA. However, it wasn’t until I started the application process that I even realised New Zealand or Australia were options for me. I then began researching the two and decided, despite never having even been remotely close to that part of the world before, that I wanted to study in New Zealand. And now, looking back on my year, I’m so glad I did. So, here are my top five reasons for why you should choose New Zeland for a year abroad.

1) Excellent Universities

A bit of an obvious reason, but the main purpose of the year is to experience studying in a different country, so it’s important that the universities are good. Auckland University is New Zealand’s largest and most prestigious university and I really enjoyed studying there. There was a wide range of module choices, the lecturers were really good and the campus was also really nice, with a modern science centre and new business school.

2) A Year Long Exchange

The university year starts in March for New Zealand and Australia, so for an exchange year, you head out in July and do semester 2, followed by a four-month long summer, and then semester 1, finishing at the end of June a year later. This means you get a full year away, rather than the nine months or so you’d get with a northern hemisphere exchange, to explore New Zealand and its surroundings.

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Franz Joseph glacier just around the corner

3) Amazing Country

 I think it’s fair to say New Zealand is one of the most stunning countries in the world, with an amazing landscape filled with diverse flora and fauna. It’s also really achievable to visit the whole country during a year, with the long summer and 2x two week-long mid-semester breaks ideal for travelling. Getting around the country is also really easy, with cheap hire cars, frequent airline sales and multiple intercity buses.

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A mystery machine van my friends hired for their road trip

4) The People and Culture

All the people I met in New Zealand were so friendly and welcoming. It was so easy to make friends and everyone seemed genuinely interested in getting to know you. My course mates were always asking what I’d been up to at the weekend and giving me tips on where to go next. I was also surprised at the huge range of nationalities within New Zealand and met so many people from different places all over the globe. The university was also great at highlighting specific culture/nationality weeks, such as Maori week or Samoan week, from which I learnt loads.

5) New Zealand’s Location within the Pacific

Whilst a world away from the UK, New Zealand has a prime location within the Pacific, with close proximity to Australia, the Pacific Islands, and parts of Asia. Cheap airline tickets and the long summer holiday means lots of opportunities for travel and I knew people that went to Bali for mid-semester break, or the Cook Islands for a week during summer. I went to Australia for a month back in November, taking advantage of an airline sale so my plane ticket there only cost $150 (£75)!

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View flying into Queenstown in the South Island

 

These are only the beginning of a very long list as to why New Zealand is an amazing study abroad destination, but hopefully they’ve inspired you to consider it yourself!

“Great things never came from comfort zones”

Today marks two months since I returned from my year in Amsterdam, which has made me reflect on my time there. The experience has been one the most rewarding things I have done in my life, and I would highly recommend it.

The idea of going on a year abroad was always appealing to me, however it was not something I seriously considered because I was enjoying university so much that I didn’t want to leave it. I was afraid of missing out on living with my friends in third year and graduating together. The idea of starting something new abroad wasn’t what was putting me off, it was leaving the bubble I had created for myself in Manchester. Knowing that if I stayed, I was guaranteed to have a great final year, but if I left there was the potential to miss out, which scared me from applying. 

I eventually realised that I was looking at it from the wrong perspective, and that when else in my life would I get the chance to study abroad. Once I committed to the application process, and got my acceptance, I was suddenly desperate to go and ready to experience something new. 

Arriving in Amsterdam and becoming a new student in an unfamiliar city hit me hard. I was expecting it to be a relatively smooth transition because I had found starting in Manchester easy. I realised that moving from a house with ten of my best friends to living with just one other person was the main reason for feeling lonely, so I decided I had to ‘put myself out there’. This didn’t come naturally to me and I found the making friends process more difficult than I thought I would, not because there weren’t lots of great people around, but because there were almost too many people to choose from.

However, as the weeks moved on and school started, I began to settle in. I met some great friends, who were quite different from my friends at Manchester. It was so refreshing to meet people from all over the world, making friends from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between. I loved the city, the feeling of making my home in a new country was exciting. Cycling around at night with my friends, exploring restaurants and bars, visiting places I had never heard of before all contributed to my fantastic time there. I’ve made some amazing memories and friends for life (who right now, I am very much missing).

Looking back on my year, despite the tough start and ups and downs along the way, I truly did have such a fun, happy year. I discovered new passions, grew in confidence and developed my love for travel. As cliché as it sounds, living abroad has changed me for the better. 

As the quote says, “great thing never came from comfort zones”; if I had stayed in Manchester, I’m sure I would have had a fine year, but I would have missed out on all the great things that my year abroad gave me. 

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if you are considering going on study abroad don’t let your comfort zone convince you not to. 

Melbourne Made Easy

By Lauren Howie, The University of Melbourne

Time has soared by since I first set foot in Melbourne. Now 8 weeks into the Aussie dream (and loving every second of it) I’ve decided to put together a list of 5 life hacks that made settling into this fantastic city a lot less daunting!

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Continue reading “Melbourne Made Easy”

Preparation is key

Why preparing financially, logistically and mentally is crucial before going abroad.

By Sally Lord, North Carolina State University

It has been one year since I embarked on my journey to the US and so after some reflection, I thought I would share some tips on how to prepare to go abroad. There are so many things you have to think about before you leave like visas, accommodation, what to pack, which courses to take, which flight to take – the list feels endless! However, I would say that there are three key ways, in which you must prepare for your trip, and that is financially, logistically and probably most importantly mentally.

Preparing Financially

So it might seem obvious that of course you will have to think about your finances before you go abroad, especially if you want to fit some travelling into your budget. However, as much as I tried to budget before I went abroad, I had no idea of half the things I would end up spending my money on. First of all, I had no idea of the sheer volume of ubers I would end up taking, which are not cheap! However, there isn’t much you can do to avoid this because the public transport is non-existent and the distances are so large that if you tried to walk it would take you half the night. An uber costs between $7-$15 dollars, depending on where you want to go, which doesn’t sound much but adds up when you are taking a few a week and people forget to pay you back. It is also a cost that I don’t have in Manchester, since the buses run frequently, and so I hadn’t anticipated it. Secondly, were there were sooooo many travel plans! A lot of the exchange students I was living with, were only there for one semester and so obviously they wanted to make the most of their limited time, by travelling a lot. However, what I failed to realise at the time was that they only had to make their money stretch one semester, whilst I had to make my budget last a year. So, in fear of missing out I tried to keep up with their travel plans and ended up spending way too much money in the first semester. I had a great time, and visited a lot of great places but it meant that during the second semester I had to be much more careful about my spending. So be weary of that; keep in mind how long your budget needs to last and try to stick to it a bit better than I did. Thirdly, don’t expect things to be priced the same as in the UK. Again this might seem obvious, but I was caught out by the extreme prices of some items, which are relatively cheap in the UK, like deodorant. I would never have thought that a can of deodorant could be as expensive as $8 when it is only £1 in the UK. However, it isn’t all that bad because it balances out, with some things being much cheaper than they are at home. I think the most important point though is be flexible and wait until you have got to your host country to make a final budget. It will be so much easier to have a budget you can stick too once you have sussed out the prices of things. So make a rough budget before and then a better one after you’ve been there a couple of weeks, and always remember how long you are going for!

Preparing Logistically

I think the most important thing to say about logistics is UNDERPACK!!! I cannot express enough how important I think it is to not pack too much. I packed way too much. I was going for a year and so I took so many things but, guess what, I ended up buying so many things too! So when the time came to pack up my room, I had about an extra suitcase worth of stuff, and no extra suitcase to put it in. You will amass so much stuff during your time abroad, so take as little as possible. I took two big suitcases and a backpack and I wish I had only taken one big suitcase. Yes, you might not have absolutely everything you need, but how much stuff do you really need. I would say pack once, then take out half your stuff and pack again. You are still going to have a great year if you take three jumpers instead of six, plus you’ll have more room to bring things home.

Preparing Mentally

I think this is definitely the hardest way in which you will have to prepare for your time abroad. You have to come to terms with the fact that you will be away for an extended period of time and that things might be different when you come home. The world keeps on moving and whilst you might be worried about missing out on things at home, you will be having new adventures of your own. You have to get used to the fact that you won’t be able to stay completely up-to-date with your life at home, but that doesn’t matter. Home will always be there, it is always a place that you can come back to. Your year abroad, on the other hand, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you probably won’t be able to have so easily again. So you need to prepare yourself for how to deal with your new ‘dual life’. I would say the best thing to do is leave home behind, as much as that is possible. Tell your friends and family that you will aim to keep them updated but that you won’t be able to talk 24/7 because you’ll be too busy. It is very tiring trying to keep up to date with your life at home, whilst also living a whole new life, half way across the world.  Also you want to have the best experience possible and if you are constantly in contact with your life at home, you won’t be able to fully immerse yourself in this new life. I know the idea of cutting off regular contact with home and flying half way around the world, with little idea of what to expect, is daunting but that’s why it is key to prepare. Prepare yourself  with the idea that you won’t be coming home for a while and work out a communication plan with your friends and family. This will make it much easier to get your head around going away and will let you live your new life, without constantly worrying about keeping up with your friends at home, since you’ve told them you’ll be going off grid for a while!

 

Life in the Six

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Living in Toronto has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Its a diverse city with an abundance of culture, food, nightlife, attractions and hidden treasures, but it has also been a second home to me. Because of this, I want to not only talk about what makes life in the Six fantastic for anyone, but also what made Toronto special for me during my time there.

Location

I cannot communicate just how important where you live in Toronto is to your experience of it – living near wonderful restaurants, bars and public transport links makes all the difference when strolling outside means facing -40c and 20 inches of snow on the ground in the depths of the Canadian winter around early February!

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Walking to class in January and February often looked like this!

I lived in a shared apartment in a student housing building that also happened to double up as an Estonian cultural centre (I really can’t explain that one) in Downtown Toronto on Bloor-Spadina. Firstly it was what I, or indeed I think anyone, would call ‘a steal’ in terms of rent for Downtown or the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) – around $500 cheaper or more than the average per month – while secondly being on an intersection such as Bloor-Spadina placed me right in the heart of ‘The Annex’, a bustling student area of the city – similar to Fallowfield in Manchester.

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Bloor Street hosts hot dog stands (on the right) alongside a world famous shoe muesuem (on the left), whats not to love?

Bloor Street itself has also been dubbed Toronto’s ‘Cultural Corridor’ due to the sheer volume of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and niche artisan and ‘thrift’ stores, all designed for a student population on a budget in an otherwise expensive city. Also boosting the profile of Bloor-Spadina is its proximity to not one, but two Toronto Subway (TTC) stations, making it an ideal base to explore and navigate the city from as well shielding you from some of its pricier and wintery elements.

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I think I took this photo of the St. George campus as it was the first time no snow or ice had been on the ground since I’d been there as Winter turned to Spring!

Alongside all of this, and of course most importantly, my apartment building lay a short 5-10 minute walk from the University of Toronto (U of T) main Robarts Library and the downtown St. George Campus, although the exact time this journey took during much of my time in Toronto depended on the strength of the wind and the level of snow being blown in my eyes, ears and any other crevice of my body the weather found its way into.

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Robarts Library, where I’ll admit I spent more than one night typing away under the shadow of a deadline!

However for daily commutes, late night study sessions and last minute ‘I just woke up and class is in five minutes’ sprints to campus, living on Bloor-Spadina was ideal, allowing me to mostly move around the city on foot if I wanted to, a rarity in Canada and even in some parts of Toronto, liberating me to leave the Uber bills to nights out and days where the winter cold got the better of me.

Things you should, could and definitely will do

As I’ve already partially mentioned, my location in Toronto meant I was close to so much in the Six and I think that now qualifies me as a expert as to the ins and outs of what, as a student there, you should, could and definitely will do if you end up hopping over the Atlantic for exchange at U of T.

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The quirky wall murals and street art of Queen Street.

Bloor, as well as surrounding streets such as Queen, King, College, Harbord and Dundas West host a fantastic array of cheap eateries, attractions and spots for a memorable night out. My recommendation for an all out 24 hour tour of Toronto would be to start by going for breakfast or brunch at The Federal on Dundas West, before browsing various art, craft and music stores on Queen Street, hopping onto College in order to allow yourself to fall into the fantastic, hippie-style chaos of Kensington Market.

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The Federal – A breakfast and brunch heaven.

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The wonderfully bizzare entrance posts to Kensington Market.

Proceed then to pop into Papa Ceo’s on Harbord for a gloriously delicious and highly affordable Pizza experience for lunch, friendly staff thrown in, heading afterwards as the sun dips in the sky to the intimate and quirky ‘Red Room’ bar on Spadina to enjoy your favorite tipple (not neccessarily alcoholic!), finally finishing your whirlwind of a day by going long into the night within the confines of CODA on Bloor-Bathurst, or alternatively getting a good nights sleep.

Sports

So people that know me well, or indeed to any extent at all will gasp at the title of this section. Sports is usually my last port of call in life, understandbly if you’ve ever seen me play/attempt to play pretty much anything, however in Toronto you can’t help but be sucked into the reality that sports is a way of life, and I’m not just talking about Hockey!

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My first Varsity game at U of T, which fittingly we lost.

Firstly at U of T we have ‘Varsity’ level sports, where Universities from across Canada and the USA come to see what they’ve got against Toronto’s ‘Varsity Blues’, with games being free for current U of T students and heavily discounted for visiting family and friends; I attended Hockey and Basketball Varsity events during my time in Toronto but Swimming (Competitive and Sychronised), Water Polo, and I’m sure a million and one other events were also crammed into a single semester at U of T!

Varsity events are fantastic way to integrate yourself into life at U of T and into that of Toronto itself as the University, along with its younger downtown rival Ryerson University, go a long way to giving Downtown Toronto a student-heavy and busy atmosphere, dominating the cultural and demographic environment and forming a major component of life in the Six.

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I genuinely have no idea why I’m trying to be a pirate in this photo from a Blue Jays game?

Alongside Varisty sports at U of T, be sure to check out sports within Toronto itself; A Maple Leafs hockey game is obviously the golden ticket, but unfortunately it is quite literally that and so didn’t fit into my student budget. However, you can go see the MLB Toronto Blue Jays play baseball at the Rogers Centre (the big stadium next to the CN Tower) from March onwards for $15 for the cheapest tickets, which are some of the best if you ask me!

Things to look out for

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Signposts on the Toronto Islands pier act as instagramable attractions rather than giving actual directions!

To conclude I want to mention a pair of things I particularly loved about Toronto that you might not think or even hear of on a typical tourist whirl around the city.

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Be at the back of the ferry to the Toronto Islands to glimpse the postcard view of the skyline!

Firstly, make sure to head over to the Toronto Islands about a 1km off the city shoreline in Lake Ontario; an oasis of calm in a busy metropolis and a great place to take a leisurely walk or cycle looking across the water to the USA or back towards the Toronto skyline, especially once Spring has sprung, catching a 5 minute ferry from Front Street.

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By the time we’d looped around the rink for an hour, my rookie skater friend was already better than me?!

Secondly head on over to the Bentway overpass just back from Front Street to ‘Skate the 8’! Skate round a figure of eight ice rink completely for free, skate hire included, in January or February – great fun whether you’re a Robin Cousins style skate pro or taking to the ice for the first time, as my friend in the middle of the photo above was!

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I loved my life in the Six, and I encourage anyone who goes to embrace this wonderful, albeit often cold city and the University of Toronto within it with both hands. I hope this can be a small guide for when you do go, from one part-time Torontonian to another.

Final reflections: post-year abroad survival

What a year.

Mexico has brought me intense happiness, challenges, new understandings, questioning, all among its colours, smells, music, arts, joy, volcanoes, beaches, deserts and jungles. But it hasn’t all been rosy! I have been tested in friendships and relationships, in Mexico and the UK to push my mental strength to its limit – and been pushed possibly most of all by my return to the UK. 

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Guanajuato

It’s been said before, I’ll say it again. Reverse culture shock is worse. Coming “home” is an odd sensation: things are the same but different. Also: what is home? You’ve changed but many things, many people and many places are mostly the same. This can be hard to get to grips with, and doesn’t really seem to get easier the more it happens. But there are definitely ways to deal with it, and work towards adapting. The main point that I have realised over the last 3 weeks is that: it’s okay not to be okay. In my case I have felt lost, sad, confused, anxious, ungrounded – but also happy, fulfilled and excited for the future: it’s a very turbulent time, which when you think about it a little bit more is very reasonable, considering the huge amount of change, upheaval, learning, growing and living that has happened in the last year. Frankly, if I felt great, then I would be more worried. So give yourself credit! And embrace the sadness, nostalgia or melancholy that you may have, because there is an awful lot of processing, reflecting and learning to be done, and it’s definitely not an easy nor a quick process. 

With that in mind, be kind to yourself. Listen to your mind, embrace the difficulty, sadness, happiness, all the emotions. You have every right to feel however you do (and maybe you feel completely fine, and things were harder when away – that’s cool too!). But what you feel is valid and there is a reason you feel it. So be kind, take your time, talk it out with friends, family, your partner – and you can start to work through it. It will take time. You’ll get there. You’ll get through it.

But it wasn’t my first choice?

How to overcome any initial disappointment and realise you are still going to have a great year!

By Sally Lord, North Carolina State University.

There is always a mix of anticipation, excitement and maybe some ‘fear of the unknown’ in the lead up to the day, on which, you will depart to your new home. This is normal, we are all nervous when we embark on something new. But if you are heading off to somewhere you hadn’t first planned to, perhaps you might be feeling these nerves a little bit more strongly. Most people, when they apply to study abroad, think really hard about what to put for their top three choices or maybe top five but think a lot less about the other remaining choices. That’s why when the day comes, and you find out you’ve been selected to study abroad but NOT at one of your top choices, you might feel a little disheartened. It might be that you haven’t done much research about this university, or it is in a place that is not well-known or maybe it is somewhere that doesn’t have the most positive reputation, like the southern states of the America, for example. However, panic not! I am here to tell you that wherever you have been assigned, and however deflated you might have felt when you found out – you are still going to have the BEST YEAR EVER!

My top choices were all in Canada and I ended up in North Carolina, a state that, firstly, most people don’t know where it is and secondly, when you tell them its in the South of the US they don’t seem to have much good to say. I was initially a bit upset when I found out that I hadn’t got into a Canadian university but after accepting it, I started to research North Carolina and was very pleasantly surprised with what I learnt about it. It was not a state that I had ever had reason to research before and since it is not a particular tourist destination, I didn’t know much about it. But having spent a year there, I think this is what makes it so special and such a great place to really immerse in American culture. 

I think the main benefit of studying somewhere, that you don’t know much about, is that you really won’t know what to expect. This is so good because you won’t have any preconceived ideas, to compare to the reality of what it is actually like; you can just live the reality! Rather than becoming hung-up on comparing your expectations with what its really like, you can just dive right into getting to know the new culture. Furthermore, having little knowledge of the place, where you will be living, will encourage you to learn as much about it as possible, through meeting new people, trying new things, tasting new foods etc. etc.. And this is the whole point of studying abroad, to learn about a new culture, something which I think will seem even more appealing when you don’t know anything about the place to begin with! It will be a much more educational experience if your initial knowledge of the place is zero. There are also likely to be a lot less international influences, if the place is less well-known, and so you will end up getting a more authentic representation of what your host country is actually like.

Secondly, if your exchange location is somewhere unfamiliar to you, the chances are that it isn’t a place that you have thought about visiting. This means that your exchange really will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because you will be visiting a place that you might not have had the idea or opportunity to visit otherwise. It will be a chance to travel and experience things that you may never of heard of, but which may become some of the best places you have ever visited. I know that I had never imagined visiting North Carolina but now I can’t wait to go back and explore the parts of it I didn’t get a chance to visit. I didn’t imagine I’d be spending Christmas in the Smokey Mountains or Easter on the beach near Wilmington but I wouldn’t change either experience. Some of the best beauties in the world are the lesser known ones and going somewhere off the tourist track will mean that you will be able to discover your own special places, in your new home.

So, don’t despair if you don’t get your first choice, you will find a home in wherever you end up. It will all be new and exciting, and there will be so many things to discover! I even bet that by the time you leave, you will be thinking to yourself, why didn’t I put that place as my first choice?

 

Recommendations for the Netherlands

As you can imagine, living in Amsterdam is pretty cool. However, the hustle and bustle of city life can be pretty exhausting, especially when trying to explore the city at the weekend. There are HUGE amounts of tourists cycling around with no clue where they are going…and booking up lots of the museums far in advance. So, I decided to explore some of the less ‘touristy’ places in the Netherlands – they are well worth a visit!

Continue reading “Recommendations for the Netherlands”

The End of a Chapter: Coming Home and Reminiscing

By Claire Muller (University of Sydney, Australia)

Hey Guys!

As of Wednesday (24th), it’s officially been a week since I left Australia and ended my study abroad year at USYD (University of Sydney). As sad as I was to leave Sydney, my friends and the wonderful memories I’ve made over the past year behind, I’ll admit that I am quite relieved and excited to be back home. A year can be quite a long time.

However, the thought of this chapter of my life finally coming to an end still saddens me a little. I will miss the friends I’ve made, who helped make my study aboard experience so much more fulfilling & excited as well as helped me become a more confident & life-loving individual. The fact that we are now on either side of the world, instead of on either side of a corridor, did put a damper to my mood a couple days before leaving. However, with the presence of Facebook and Facetime, I could easily have a chat and catch up with them, keeping the friendship going strong. Traveling to Australia from Europe, though expensive, is always a possibility to visit everyone back there. In my opinion, the thought of being able to keep in touch with everyone back in Australia helped with the somewhat sorrow I felt of leaving everyone behind.

There was a quote that I found whilst scrolling through Instagram that really hit home. It’s a quote by Thomas Wilder:

‘It’s hard to turn the page when you know someone won’t be in the next chapter, but the story must go on.’

I really could relate to the quote, particularly whenever I looked back on the adventures I had followed over the past year. As much as I will miss the people I’ve met there, the story must go on and my time in Australia is temporarily over for now.

Even though this chapter in my life has finally come to an end, I can rest assured that I have ended the chapter with no regrets. Before coming to Australia, I told myself that I wanted to leave with no regrets about my year abroad experience. I told myself that I would try to get out of my comfort zone, in any manner that I could; which I did through multiple ways (e.g. skydiving, bungy-jumping, getting a tattoo, driving on the wrong side of the road). I can honestly say that I have left Australia as a completely different person to who I was when I first arrived (in a good way), and I am so proud of myself for the accomplishments that I have been able to complete over the past year. I can only hope that I will look back on my time in Sydney with nothing but a smile.

I will always have fond memories of my time in Australia, because I was able to cross out quite a few bucket-list items (e.g. swimming along the Great Barrier Reef, holding a koala at Australia Zoo, witnessing sunset/sunrise at Uluru, seeing Tasmanian devils in the wild) as well as created many memories (e.g. Witnessing the Sydney New Year’s fireworks with my best friend, driving along the Great Ocean Road, walking through a rainforest surrounded by hundreds of birds, visiting old friends, spending my 21st birthday in New Zealand, etc.).

I will also have memories that I am not so fond of, some that I wish I could forget (e.g. having a Huntsman spider crawl up my leg whilst watching Harry Potter, queueing for 24hours in sun/rain/storm to see the New Year’s fireworks, walking up the Giant Staircase in Katoomba and finding out that there are actually 900+ steps to reach the top). However, even though I look at these memories negatively, I do not regret them because they made my time in Australia so much more interesting and livelier.

Honestly, as weird as this might sound to the majority of people returning from their time abroad, I am actually looking forward to returning back to Manchester for my final year, especially getting to see everyone again and catching up with their adventure. I actually have quite a bit planned for my final year at Manchester (e.g. society committees, internships, etc.), which probably helped with the blues I was feeling about leaving Sydney behind.

To sum my experience up, I don’t have any regrets and I’m happy about it.

Thank you for keeping up with my adventures! See you back in Manchester!

Claire