About us

Five things I wish I knew before studying abroad

FROM A STUDENT WHO ALMOST DIDN’T GO


To those students going abroad in Semester 2 just as I did, the long wait between receiving your placement offer and that eventual flight out can feel endless. There were many times I found myself frantically trying to recount why I’d wanted to go abroad in the first place – the initial excitement now wearing off and the reality of the wait ahead sinking in.

But as a student who DID go, and who found herself lying awake on one of her last nights at the National University of Singapore, thinking – almost alarmed – about the fact she’d nearly cancelled her placement; here are the five things I wish I knew before studying abroad, which would have made that wait easier.

1. There really is nothing quite like studying abroad

There’s summer travel, sure, but being in a foreign place and living like a local with a stream of new friends at your disposal, and plenty of pastoral and financial support? Now that’s something I could do with more often! While abroad I became so aware of how unique this experience was. Having the support from a university (particularly in a pandemic) in this process was invaluable, and knowing I had assistance should I have run into difficulty mean’t I was able to enjoy the experience so much more fully. It’s an opportunity I would recommend to anyone, and one I feel sad I won’t be able to replicate again.

2. Your university friends won’t move on without you

This is the hard part. Many students worry about this! Although you’ll be gone a long time and life can get busy, stay in touch with your uni friends. Find out what’s happening back home and share with them what new things you’re trying. When you come back, if you find you’re not as close to some people as when you left – that’s okay! It’s a normal part of life! But those core people really do stay with you. My study abroad came as a time where I felt my social life was peaking, I was growing closer to new friends, and I couldn’t see why I’d ‘ruin’ a good thing. All I can say is: take the plunge! It feels crazy in the moment, but a second semester in Manchester, although fun, never really could have challenged and enriched me like a semester abroad did.

3. A little bit of uncertainty does you good

Studying in a foreign country can seem incredible daunting. New people, new routines, new food – but if anything, being abroad made me so much calmer and far more adaptable to unfamiliar situations – without me even realising it! There are moments you feel homesick, or caught unawares, or out of your depth – but they pass, and leave you a little bit more resilient each time. There’s no growth without a bit of challenge.

4. You’ll learn to become a tourist in your own city

It really did take spending three months studying 10,841km away from home to remind me how thrilling it is to be a tourist. When I returned that summer that feeling stayed, and I found myself really taking in the places I grew up in, but seeing all the usual details I’d usually miss. Even the most mundane things fascinated me whilst abroad – all those little cultural differences we aren’t even aware of. Coming home, I paid more attention to them and more so in my final year at Manchester.

5. You really won’t stop talking about it when you come home

Everyone always jokes about the gap year students who talk non-stop about the time they spent abroad – but that’s for a reason, and it’s going to become you! Your friends might roll their eyes, but so many little things back home home will remind you of what you miss about your time abroad. It could be an inside joke no one understands, or an insatiable craving for those amazing paratha in the uni canteen you now need to replicate, or being able to sit outside on warm evenings with friends now scattered across the globe. These things stay with you, and although sometimes missing them hits hard, I really do feel so lucky to have something to miss!

Returning to Budapest and having to quarantine!

By Nicolas Purslow, ELTE University

Coming back to Budapest in February 2021 was a little tricky, as it was right in the middle of the third COVID wave. Hungary was only allowing people with certain exemptions to enter the country, and one of those justifications was if you were returning to study. To prove this, I had to get a certificate of student status from my ERASMUS coordinator in Budapest and then apply for permission to cross the border from the Hungarian police. Thankfully, the process was pretty straightforward, and I received my permission the day after applying for it.

At the airport, I just had to show my permission slip and sign a couple of forms, and there were no issues in getting through customs.

I was required to quarantine in my flat for 10 days upon arrival, which obviously wasn’t ideal as I was looking forward to seeing my friends (you were allowed gatherings of ten people at the time). However, my courses were well underway (wholly online) and I also had a part-time job that I was doing remotely, so I had plenty to do. It was a bit frustrating not being able to go outside when the weather was nice, but it was worth it when I was able to enjoy the sunshine when my quarantine was over.

For anyone in a similar position, I’d recommend having an understanding of the administrative requirements for getting into the country (your coordinator in your host country should be able to help with this). I’d also suggest that you have something that will keep you busy during your quarantine, whether that’s academic study, remote work or something else that you can focus your attention on!

Budapest Airport – Covid travelling measures
Temperature checks at the airport
ELTE University

Chapter Three: Places to visit in Canberra

Even though Covid-19 restricted me from flying to different places in Australia, I have been actively finding places in Canberra to make up for the travel losses. If you are a student coming to ANU in the future, you are lucky because you will have a plethora of stunning places in Australia to visit, and the following recommendations will help you catch some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Canberra.

  • Mount Painter Nature Reserve

Mount Painter Nature Reserve has a beautiful sweeping view of north Canberra with easy access paths. People love to walk dogs and enjoying nature there. I got my favourite pic here!

  • Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

A big big nature reserve in Canberra with plenty of wildlife. Instead of paying for an expensive ticket to the zoo, you can visit the Koala attraction. Also, keep an eye for different types of kangaroos on your venture in this reserve. They have picnic spots and BBQ facilities. Remember to be extra time cautious as it will determine your ability to see most of the place before it turns dark. For your notice, private vehicle access only. 

  • Lake Burley Griffin

This is the lake that is popular among every ANU student for its convenience in terms of going for a walk, jogging, and picnic spots. It is just 15mins walk from campus. It takes about 8hrs to walk around the lake, where you will pass by the Australian national parliament, the national gallery, and the national library. The Canberra Balloon Speculator and Canberra Fireworks night (both in March) are some of the major events that are set beside the lake. Definitely recommend visiting the lake before sunset. It is AMAZING.

  • Red Hill Nature Reserve

Another beautiful and accessible reserve in Canberra. Lots of eye-catching rocks along the tracks and an overarching view at the top. What makes this reserve distinctive is not just its view, but also it has an aesthetic fine dining restaurant which has got one of the most spectacular views and a team that brings a unique mix of culinary and beverage experience to offer quality food and wines from independent makers worldwide. This restaurant is called the Onred restaurant and I definitely recommend this for a special occasion.          

  • Yarralumla suburb

Last but not the least, Yarralumla is a beautiful suburb with one of the best real estate in Canberra (Most of the rich people from Canberra own the estates there). It’s very pretty!! 

Pre-pandemic adventures – Spring Break!!

In the midst of the COVID-19 blues and being stuck at home I thought it would be fun to reflect on one of the highlights of my year abroad…Spring Break! For a week in February students across Canada finally get to have a rest from all the hard work at university and the vast majority spend it going away somewhere. I hadn’t really thought much about what I would do with Spring Break until a couple of my friends started excitedly talking about finding really cheap plane tickets to – drum roll please – Hawaii!! Yep, you heard right, we were going to be spending a week on the tiny island of Oahu in the Pacific Ocean (aka paradise) 6 hours away from Vancouver. If someone had told me before I had ventured on my year abroad that I would get the chance to visit somewhere as cool as Hawaii I would have split my sides laughing. But there ya go, year abroads are full of surprises!

 

We stayed in a lovely little hostel which was about a 5 minute walk away from Waikiki Beach, a beautiful sandy beach dotted with palm trees and surrounded by clear blue ocean. When we arrived we spent the first day walking around pinching ourselves that this was real. I have never seen so many stunning sunsets and rainbows. We soaked up the atmosphere in the evening watching a local hula dance show on the beach front, with each dance telling a different tale.

 

We made sure to pack the week with day trips to explore the island as much as we could – which did mean a lot of long hot bus journeys! It’s safe to say public transport in Hawaii is not as reliable as the Oxford Road bus route in Manchester – but exploring the island is doable without having to hire a car! We visited Pearl Harbour and learnt about the role of Hawaii in WW2; wandered around the botanical gardens and Chinatown in Honolulu; snorkelled in the crystal blue waters of Hanauma Bay where we spotted parrot fish, a Hawaiian Monk Seal and the famous Humuhumunukunukuapua’a fish (and if that’s too much of a mouthful, the Reef Triggerfish!); walked along the Makapu’u lighthouse trail in search of whales; and stuffed our faces with the local Asian-influenced cuisine.

 

One of the highlights for me was waking up at the ungodly hour of 5am to hike up Diamond Head (a volcanic cone) in time for sunrise. We hadn’t realised quite how busy it would be at this time but once we reached the summit and saw the sun rising over the ocean we understood why it was so popular. It was hands down one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. And soooo worth the 5am start!

 

I also loved spending a day in the town of Haleiwa in the north of the island, with its umpteen food trucks selling pineapples and garlic shrimps, and hundreds of chickens wandering down the streets. We stopped at Waimea Valley and walked through its luscious vegetation (many films have been shot here, from Jumanji to the Hunger Games) to its waterfall where we all donned lifejackets and floated around its 30 ft deep plunge pool. To finish the day off we sat on Sunset Beach to watch the sunset over the ocean and the handful of surfers still out, eating delicious Thai food. I remember sitting there thinking how incredibly lucky I was to be able to have this experience.

 

The trip wasn’t without any mishaps however! A group of us managed to get stranded on the east of the island because we’d underestimated how long it would take to walk around the coast to the lighthouse and we ended up having to get help from some very laid back Hawaiian cops who were chilling in the sun. We also underestimated their public transport system and once spent over an hour waiting for a bus to get back to our hostel – but at least we had the view of Koko crater to enjoy!

 

It just goes to show that spontaneous trips are often the best ones!

 

A Semester of Socialising

By Nicholas Purslow

When I first arrived in Budapest, I was expecting to only meet people through classes or societies. However, multiple Facebook and WhatsApp groups were created to accommodate the incoming Erasmus students and to ensure that everyone had a chance of making new friends. Even better were the welcome events, particularly those run by Erasmus Life Budapest, a company set up specifically to run social events for Erasmus students in Budapest. They run around five events per week, and this was especially helpful in the early days when I was keen to meet as many people as possible.


Once I met my group of friends (mostly Belgian, with a few English and Irish people), there was no shortage of parties to attend. Pre-lockdown, the clubs were never quiet, with the “Morri Mondays” at the Morrisons 2 Club being a particular weekly highlight throughout the first semester. In terms of one-off events, I hold particularly fond memories of a party at the Citadella (drinking with views of the whole city in the evening light), and a Halloween party at the Instant club. I’m not one for photos, so you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say a good time was had by all!
As for the more boring stuff, the Google Translate app, with its photo-scanning capabilities, is a lifesaver for trying to read food packaging in supermarkets. I’d also recommend downloading the BKK Futar app, as it will tell you which bus/metro to get on if you want to get to a particular destination.


All in all, I had a great time during my first semester in Budapest. I’m not sure what the second semester will be like, as the Covid restrictions are getting tighter over there, but if my experience is limited to the first semester, I’ll have no regrets about my decision to take part in the Erasmus programme!

See the source image

What to Expect Coming to Bergen…

By Blake O’Sullivan

When preparing for Bergen I knew that nature and the incredible views were in abundance, however what I did not know was just how quickly you will be thrown into it. Luckily, due to me studying geology and geography, I was somewhat prepared by bringing with me boots, fleeces, hiking trousers and other hiking wear. 

Me on Trolltunga

Hiking was the best way to meet new people here, as in our accommodation group chat people constantly said they were meeting up to go on hikes and whoever wanted to join was more than welcome. So hiking is definitely the best way to meet people and to explore the stunning scenery that is directly behind your accommodation. I live in Hatleberg which is situated behind multiple hiking paths ready for you to tackle and to start your way through the 7 mountains of Bergen. Within the first few weeks of being there I was already on my way to hike 16km to Trolltunga, one of the most famous view points in Norway. Though the hikes can be tough you are all soon to realise that you can take these hikes as leisurely as you want during summer and have no real rush to the end especially if you are camping. However hiking in winter is a different story as you are racing against the sun.

My friends and I on a city break to Stavanger

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on equipment, like most students in Norway as it is pretty expensive, you can use BUA. BUA is a hiking rental service and for students under 20 they rent to you for free, from tents, boots to sleeping bags. But even if you are over 20yr it is only around £10 for a sleep bag to rent for a week. You can also pay for a membership with the university hiking group BSI Friluft. The membership means that you can sign up for there weekly hiking trips, whether it be camping, climbing, kayaking, they do it all. If you are a member you can also rent equipment it from them. 

If you don’t like hiking don’t let this put you off as you soon adapt and find that everyone is on the same level but obviously you get those people who are use to hiking but remember to take it at your own pace. I have had many enjoyable non hiking trips to city’s and towns and that is what matters as well.

Studying in Amsterdam as a POC

There is a lack of representation of BIPOC individuals studying abroad, as well as a lack of specific advice. I really noticed this whilst browsing the study abroad fairs and brochures both in Amsterdam and back in Manchester, which only seemed to portray the generic white, middle-class study experience. Having spent the last year in Amsterdam, I wanted to share my experience to hopefully serve as a helpful tool for anyone worried about feeling uncomfortable in a different environment.

To help amplify the experiences of other’s which are often not included in the brochures, I have also listed some articles I found helpful at the bottom of this post for specific factors to look out for when doing your research as well as first-hand experiences in different cities and countries.

Continue reading “Studying in Amsterdam as a POC”

The Ultimate Foodies Guide to Amsterdam

Brunch and Breakfast

  1. Levain et le Vin bakery – rustic, quick and good for on the go
  2. Rainbowls – vibrant bowls perfect for a hot day
  3. Staring at Jacob – brunchspot for carnivores and vegans alike
  4. Dignita – somewhere i’d take my mum ❤
Continue reading “The Ultimate Foodies Guide to Amsterdam”

Erasmus in times of Brexit and Covid

Today marks my final day in Amsterdam participating in the Erasmus+ Programme at Universiteit Van Amsterdam. I am extremely sad to be leaving such an amazing city and I am so grateful for the amount opportunities I have had whilst on my study abroad.

Having grown up in a multicultural household (Spanish mum and a South African-Indian dad), taking part on the exchange programme wasn’t a massive cultural adjustment for me personally, but I can still say that the Erasmus+ programme has made me more open and tolerant towards other cultures.

Continue reading “Erasmus in times of Brexit and Covid”

A Covid Farewell

By Lauren Howie, the University of Manchester

Like many people on exchange this year, I didn’t get the send off I had anticipated. In our pre-covid fantasies we imagined a month of BBQs on the beach, sunset hikes and cocktails at those bars we just hadn’t got round to visiting yet.

The reality couldn’t have been more different.

How we imagined our send off to look like

PHASE 1: MOVING OUT

To begin with Australia wasn’t too badly affected by the virus. While the UK infection rates were rocketing, Melbourne was yet to record a fatality. But we couldn’t predict what was round the corner and staying in Aus during a pandemic seemed risky, not to forget expensive.

With great hesitation, we ended the lease on our beautiful home and booked a flight back to the UK. Our decision to leave brought about a mad frenzy of selling furniture and rushed goodbyes. It wasn’t till we parted with our last pot plant, that we finally realised our time abroad had come to an end.

Well thats what we thought.

All packed up and ready to go

Only 45 minutes after we had gutted our ENTIRE house we received an email informing us that our flight had been cancelled and that unless we had a spare 10 grand lying around, we weren’t getting another one soon.

We were officially stuck in Melbourne with only Chinese leftovers, a legless table and a new family of mice for company.

Sitting in our empty home eating Chinese leftovers

PHASE 2: STRANDED

With no electricity and a rapidly deteriorating budget, things began to look pretty bleak. I made several attempts to contact the University of Melbourne in hope of securing temporary accommodation. Much to my dismay, our host university took no interest in our plea for help. Running out of options we were unbelievably grateful to receive a message from my Aussie course-mate. Having heard of our distress, she insisted we crashed at hers or at the very least used her wifi while we sought for solutions.

My wonderful coursemate & her dog missy

PHASE 3: LOCKDOWN IN AUS

After a much needed 2 days away from the family of mice, we were ready to launch our covid action plan! We had struck lucky with an incredibly cheap air bnb in the city centre as well as a new flight home in a fortnights time.

Making the most of a ‘bad’ situation we spent the next 2 weeks relaxing in our apartment, playing boardgames, ordering breakfast, holding makeshift spa nights and learning Spanish. Overtime the supermarkets restocked and we found ourselves with a plentiful supply of loo roll and watercolours. Shockingly, lockdown in a swanky inner city apartment wasn’t all that bad!

PHASE 4: TAKE OFF

In the days leading up to our flight we constantly refreshed our inboxes expecting to see a dreaded cancellation email. To our disbelief, no email appeared. In a groundhog day like manner, we repacked, put on our face masks and headed to the airport.

Our airport experience was anything but normal. Firstly, our flight was 25 hours long but we weren’t allowed to leave the plane during our stop over. Instead we waited for 2 hours in the dark while cleaners; dressed as futuristic spacemen, sterilised every surface. Making matters more bizarre, no hot food could be served. With nothing better to do, we spent the last tedious stretch of our journey reminiscing and scoffing our faces with endless supplies of kitkats.

On the 25 hour flight

PHASE 5: REFLECTIONS

So it mightn’t have been the perfect ending to the perfect time abroad.

But I can certainly say that for the amazing people I met, the incredible places I saw and the unforgettable memories I made, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Farewell all, safe travels.

Lauren x

Chapter 4: Final Reflection

Even though this semester was nothing similar to my earlier expectations, I am ultimate glad and grateful for this exchange experience. People’s lives suffer more or less under the global pandemic. However, I feel that coming to Australia and spending 6 months here was the best experience I could’ve gotten under COVID. 

  1. Course selection

I was lucky to discover a course called “CBEA3001: Special Industry Project (SIP)”. This course provides students with the opportunity to work in a small cross-disciplinary team setting and solve a business problem presented by a local business client. Our client is an aboriginal corporation in Australia and we are matched with mentors from Pwc. By doing this course, I not only learned essential skills in consulting and gained the experience of working with diverse people and interacting with real client, but the project also gives me a chance to explore the aboriginal culture behind modern Australia. At the very beginning of the course when COVID hasn’t spread globally, the whole class went on an overnight trip to meet clients and get first-hand information of the project. We would have gone to meet clients again for the final presentation if the semester went normally. I would say that this course is definitely special and the hard skills and soft skills that I gained would be very helpful for career development. 

(field trip to Eden)

Another course that I wished that I knew before is call “FINM3009 Student Managed Fund (SMF)”. This course provides students the opportunity to take responsibility for over $0.6 million worth of investments. They have 4 different roles under the course that you can apply based on the prerequisite courses you have taken. 

Although SMF is very limited to student with finance background, SIP is open to every disciplines. 

2. Accommodation

I am lucky to live at Wright hall, which is the newest and one of the best equipped flexible-catered accommodation on campus. Wright hall has a good proportion of domestic and international students. People at wright organised plenty of activities throughout the year. It has 7 floors and more than 500 residents living in the hall. I hardly feel lonely and don’t have to make much efforts to maintain the new established friendships because I can see those people every day! 

For those of you who find it expensive living on campus while coming to exchange in Australia, I would say that living cost is generally higher here compared to Manchester. You would find food is a lot expensive as well. Therefore, the catered accommodation is not as expensive as it looks. If you want to be self-catered, B&G might be a good option as it is cheap and renowned for its good social experience. 

(Wright hall commencement dinner)

3. Society

Another highlight during the exchange is the sponsored Sydney finance trip that I went with ANU finance society. We visited 11 companies in 2 days and stay overnight in the CBD center. I found the event on Facebook, paid a small amount of community fee, and sent my CV to give a try. I wrote down this experience just to encourage the future exchange students to actively search for activities during exchange and be brave to take part in any opportunities. You exchange time is precious and limited, so make the most of it! 

(Finance trip to Sydney!)

4. People

Finally, the softest part in this reflection belongs to the people that I met at ANU. Looking back one year ago, I got my exchange result and found that I didn’t get into Sydney and Melbourne. I was upset and hesitated to accept the offer. I talked to people and ultimately decided to go exchange even though the result was not ideal. Half year ago when I was stuck in China due to the Australia travel restriction, I didn’t give up and went to a third country to self-quarantine. Now all the coincidence and efforts make sense: Australian Capital Territory remains one of the safest places in Australia during the pandemic and I met lifelong friends at ANU. I have made memories with people and they will be the very few people to stay close in my life. I also know that I can take someone with me in this lifetime journey. 

Easter egg – a letter from my beloved at Wright:

Melbourne’s Dollar Worthy Brunches

By Lauren Howie, The University of Manchester

So you’ve found yourself in culinary heaven … but you don’t know where to start? Have no fear, a Melbourne brunch guide is here.

Continue reading “Melbourne’s Dollar Worthy Brunches”