About us

Conquering Personal Boundaries

By Holly Tran, Summer School in South Korea, Seoul National University

Having spent more than 18 years of my life in a tiny village up North West of England, I have always resided cozily within my little comfort zone. Last year, I decided to make a change. In order to further challenge myself, I took the opportunity to study abroad at the Seoul National University (SNU) in South Korea.

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(Gyeongbokgung Palace)

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Sevilla – more than just a touristic destination

By Ayoola Bode, Summer School in Spain (Sevilla)

For as long as I can remember, Spain has been the number one destination on my wish list. Maybe it has something to do with my obsession with Spanish music, culture and lifestyle, but when the opportunity came to apply for the summer school in Seville, it was an opportunity that I wasn’t going to let pass me by. What more could I ask for? It was the perfect chance to further develop my Spanish skills while being in a city that I could see myself being culturally immersed in.

Ayool

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5 (surprising) things I’ve learned on exchange

By Catrin Stewart, (University of Guelph, CA)
As we approach the end of the semester, I’ve decided to reflect upon what have been some of the best months of my life.
However, there were a few unexpected bumps along the way, so I’ve decided to list them, and my (suggested) solutions to make the journey smoother for others!
1. Canada is EXPENSIVE 
And not just in the ways you’d expect. I knew my residence and flights would cost a lot, but food shopping, even with exchange rates taken into account, is about double what I pay back in Manchester. There are ways to get around it, like trying different supermarkets, and figuring out what is more/less expensive, that is not necessarily the same things as back home. For example, some meats are ridiculously cheap, but there are a lot less vegetarian options and they are usually more expensive if you’re not cooking from scratch.
Also, Canada is a big country – if you didn’t already know – which means travel is much more expensive. £2 mega buses don’t exist like in the UK, but if you use student discount, do your research and look elsewhere other than the greyhound buses, you can lower the prices.
2. Internet shopping: it’s not a thing.
If you’re like me and have a mild addiction to amazon prime / ASOS then prepare yourself to go cold turkey. Because Canada is so big, and a lot of online produce comes from the US, next day delivery doesn’t really exist. Standard delivery is much more expensive and usually takes 2-3 weeks rather than 2-3 working days. Yep, weeks.
3. A lot of exchange students will be pass/fail. 
The majority of students from Manchester have their grades count when they go on exchange. However, 95% of the people I’ve been surrounded by only have to pass during their time abroad. This means that you will be spending a few extra hours in the library than everyone else. But it truly is worth cutting out a few hours of Netflix and replacing it with studying if it means you can take that weekend trip away with friends instead of staying home to finish an essay. I’ve found it’s much easier to use your time wisely if it’s a matter of going to New York or not!
4. Alcohol and nightlife 
It’s very similar, but there is slightly less of a drinking culture in Canada compared to England, especially coming from such a vibrant city as Manchester.
Alcohol isn’t usually sold in supermarkets, so you have to buy branded which means it’s quite a lot more expensive, and laws in Canada mean that all clubs and bars shut around 2:30am
Although it might seem a bit tame at first, it does make it easier to get to lectures the next day!
5. Academics 
Before coming abroad I was warned that the workload would be much more intensive, and this is definitely true. Whilst this was a shock and has been incredibly hard work, I also struggled with the standard of work I was producing. If you are truly passionate about your degree, it can be difficult not to be disheartened as the rate of work you are expected to turn in is much faster, and this means your standards inevitably lower. Whilst this won’t affect your grades as the marking is more lenient because of the volume of work, it can be a little demoralising. However, I have found that satisfaction can be found elsewhere, such as in seminars, as they are longer and therefore can facilitate more in depth discussion. Also, later in the semester you will be handing in longer essays more alike to the ones in Manchester, and will get the chance to work more in depth again.
Even despite these changes, my time on exchange has been incredibly positive and has taught me important lessons about adapting to new places. I understand that moving to Canada from the UK is a small culture change compared to lots of other places people go on exchange, but being prepared for some of the small differences can’t hurt!

 

Studying Scandinavian Style

Alice Logan, English Literature and American Studies, University of Copenhagen

After completing the first half of my semester abroad I thought I’d do a blog post on the differences between studying in England vs Copenhagen, as the scandi culture seems to have a massive influence on the way that the Danes study and has changed my approach to studying.

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South Campus looking very pretty in the sun ☀️

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Doing everything vs. staying sane

By Nooa Karlo, (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

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Not a stereotypical exchange student.

There’s a common and stereotypical image of exchange students as these endlessly spirited and energetic creatures that will take every and any chance to find new experiences and opportunities. They’re people who are always smiling, going out, organising and participating in activities, partying, exploring and experiencing. Sometimes this also includes studying hard, sometimes not. In any case, it has been clear to me from the beginning that I did not fit well into this image. Continue reading “Doing everything vs. staying sane”

Dollar dollar bills y’all

Pamilla Kang, UCSD, California, USA

This blog is about… you’ve guessed it, finances on a year abroad.  I’m sure everyone reading this is aware that a year abroad costs a lot of money, but I don’t think I realised just how much living in another country could cost! So, this is my warning and advice to all my future year abroad people out there.

Save money…and then save some more.

This one is pretty self explanatory and obvious, but basically, make sure you try to save as much as you can before you move abroad.

Be aware / beware of costs

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20 Cultural Differences: UK vs US

The number one question I’ve been asked since living in the US for the past four months from both Americans over here and Brits back home, has overwhelmingly been “so, what are the differences over there then?”. My response is always “where do I begin?!”. It’s become somewhat of a running joke between myself and my fellow Brits on exchange over here, the sheer confusion on where to start when trying to explain how different the two places really are. The fact of the matter is, the cultural differences are endless! So I’m going to attempt to shed a little light on the matter, and maybe it’ll answer some of the burning questions that you may have about life in Arizona, or life in England.

Before I begin however, I will point out that these are only my experiences of the US. They are also experiences of a particular state, Arizona. The USA is vast and extremely diverse so some of these generalisations may not apply to other states! These differences are not to be taken too seriously, and are not intended to offend anyone at all. My intention is simply to have a resource to present when someone next asks me that question! In no particular order, let’s begin…

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Repping the Murican’ flag  
  1. Tipping: it’s a bit of cliché one to start with, but its relevant all the same. Many people are aware of the higher rates of tipping in the US in restaurants, averaging at 18-20% of the total bill as the expected norm. However, something which Brits may not be aware of is the tipping in other areas. The most random things I’ve been expected to tip for so far are: a hair-cut, a nose piercing, and a bus tour (which I’d already paid $90 for- ouch). In the UK we only tend to tip for restaurant service, and there is no expected amount. Most people just chuck a few quid down regardless of the bill.
  2. Skateboards/Pennyboards/Longboards: I’m not sure if this is an American college phenomenon or just a purely ASU trend (the uni which I attend), but half the population seems to ride one of these items to class. In Manchester, we get the bus and then we walk. A few brave souls cycle. At ASU thousands of students fly around on some variation of skateboard, bike or even ‘one-wheel’ (look it up). I initially thought I would be ploughed down one day on my way to class, but the ‘sun devils’ are more capable riders than I’d previously assumed.
  3. Toilet Doors: I’m really not sure why this is the case, but it’s something I’ve noticed in several other states too, so I don’t think it’s purely an Arizona issue. The public bathrooms have a gap in the door of each cubicle, almost wide enough to see inside the cubicle! I’m not sure the reasoning of this, but it is what it is I suppose.
  4. Compliments From Strangers: This is something I really love. Sometimes when you’re walking down the street, a girl will say “I love your outfit!” as you walk past. I found this really surprising at first, and thought people were being sarcastic. They aren’t, they’re just a lot more forward and willing to compliment a stranger. I’m planning on taking this one back home with me, I’m all about compliments!
  5. The Obsession with the ‘British Accent’: I’d heard a lot about this before I arrived, but I don’t think I was truly prepared for the extent of it. I decided for fun to count how many times I was excitably asked “Do you have an accent?!” on an average day. It was four times. FOUR. Americans love the British accent. I’m not really sure why, especially mine which isn’t so great (an east-midlander/northern-y mix). But it makes for a lot of fun regardless. My favourite occurrence so far has been when I stood up to do a presentation in class, and a boy in the row in front of me grinned from ear to ear from the second I spoke until I finished 5 minutes later. It was hilarious, and I’m laughing to myself writing this.
  6. Drinking: The drinking age across the US is of course 21, instead of our blanket age 18 across Europe. This does create a huge amount of differences in socialising and just general uni life. I could never do it justice to explain all of the difference here though, so I’ll link this article which gave the most comprehensive and accurate explanation I’ve seen so far: https://thetab.com/uk/2017/02/22/undeniable-differences-drinking-uk-drinking-usa-33668?utm_source=professionalxpost&utm_medium=national&utm_campaign=xpost
  7. Dry Campus: This is related to number 6 and the drinking culture. The ASU campus is a ‘dry’ campus, meaning that no alcohol is prohibited anywhere on campus, including residential halls/dorms. This rule applies to everyone, 21’s and over included. This was very different coming from a uni which has bars within residence halls, and across campus between lecture theatres!
  8. Campus Fashion: This one of course varies from college to college, but one thing I have noticed is the overwhelming amount of American students that wear some kind of ASU related apparel. It is legitimate every day wear, an ASU t-shirt, hoody, hat, you name it they’re wearing it. This was weird to me at first, as in the UK no one ever wears anything with the uni’s name on aside from the odd jumper or sports-team jacket. Here they have entire shops dedicated to college apparel and every local shop sells a knock-off version of it too! I admire their love of their college!
  9. Mexican Food: Due to Arizona’s proximity to Mexico and the fact that it shares a border, there is no end of insanely wonderful Mexican food on offer in Arizona! It is by far the best food I’ve eaten since being in the US! I wish it was a more popular cuisine in the UK.
  10. Refills in Restaurants: If you’re eating out, and you’re drinking something which isn’t individually bottled such as coke, lemonade, or water, expect free refills! Not only do you get free refills in most places on those kinds of beverages, they often bring you them before you ask. An attentive touch which I really enjoy in the Arizona heat!
  11. HEAT: I’m well aware that this is an Arizona specific one, and that the US has its fair share of freezing states like the UK, however the heat here is too great to miss off the list. Arizona is statistically the hottest state in the US, and I have to say I’m enjoying it so far. I hasn’t dropped below around 15c since I’ve been here (early January), and it’s averaging a lovely 30c during the day at the moment! A far cry from rainy old Manchester!

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    There’s that heat I was talking about…
  12. Free Speech Laws: Free speech laws in the US are a little more ‘free’ than they are in the UK. This has meant that anyone who wants to can come and speak on/around the campus about whatever they like, can. They can do this whenever they feel like it. It’s resulted in some interesting speakers to say the least (ask me about it if you’re intrigued!).
  13. Working: In the UK, I’d say that most uni students don’t work a significant number of hours during the semester. A lot of my friends don’t work at all whilst in uni, preferring to focus their attention solely on studies and working during holiday time instead. Those that do work I’d say only work around 15 hours a week max. The US is a different story! Many students here seem to work 30+ hours a week whilst in school, as well as taking part in unpaid internships! It seems a little crazy to me, but I really admire their ability to juggle everything!
  14. “Fin-stagram”: The Americans will 100% know what this one refers to. I imagine the Brits will be as confused as I was at first, so let me fill you in. A ‘finstagram’ is a ‘fun-Instagram’. It’s a separate Instagram account that people run for themselves, and keep on private for their closest friends to see. It’s essentially a feed of crazy/ funny photos and videos which you’d like to share, but not with quite everyone. A fun concept which I intend to bring home with me!
  15. Roommates: A commonly known thing, is that in the US a lot of students share a bedroom in college. It cuts costs and gives you a constant companion. I was pretty scared to do it at first, but it’s totally fine! A foreign concept to us Brits who love our personal space, I know. But, I promise it’s totally okay!
  16. Attending College In-State: In the US it’s very common to attend a college within your home state. There are several reasons for this, the main one being that in-state tuition is far cheaper than out of state tuition in most cases, so it makes sense financially! The other thing though, is that it’s not at all the same as staying in your city or region for uni in the UK. States here are FAR bigger than any region in England. To give you an idea, I recently discovered that the entirety of the UK (not just England) is smaller in square miles than the state of Arizona. Let that sink in. This state is bigger than the whole of the United Kingdom. You can still go pretty far away from home for college in-state!
  17. Class Times: In general, I find Americans to be a lot more work-orientated than us Brits. This results in far more working hours of the day, and included in this is college class times. The earliest classes here at ASU begin at 7.30am, and the latest finish at 9/10pm! A far cry from the 9am-5pm schedule that British uni’s tend to follow. I must say though, I couldn’t see myself taking a class that early or late, and being able to function effectively!
  18. Driving: Driving in Arizona is pretty essential to everyday life, which is quite the contrast from life in a city like Manchester. In Tempe where I live, it’s pretty difficult to do anything major without being able to drive. Public transport is not a huge priority here, so it makes life a little bit more difficult not having a car (good thing I have kind friends to taxi me around). The other interesting thing is that it’s legal to ride in the bed of a truck in Arizona, so you often see a group of boys sat in the back on the roads. I did it the other day and it wasn’t quite as terrifying as I’d expected!
  19. Police/Guns: I know this one is probably something that comes to mind when thinking of differences between the UK and the US, and I’m not going to go into detail about the wider issue of guns here. However, specifically with police I think Americans are always surprised to hear that British police don’t tend to carry guns unless for a special reason, and I admit I’d never really seen one up close until I moved here. The shock of my life was when I found out our campus police carried them everywhere, and when I saw an officer at a college basketball game with about 5 guns strapped to his body!
  20. Passports: Our final difference! I was surprised to learn that only approximately 35% of all Americans currently hold a passport! In the UK over 83% are estimated to have one. I didn’t realise until I arrived just quite how large the US is, so I don’t blame people for not being in a huge rush to leave, as there is plenty to explore here. I think I’d taken for granted how easy it is for us Brits to hop across to mainland Europe whenever we feel like, a visit to Paris here and a trip to Barca there! We definitely are blessed in that department!
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*A bonus cultural difference- Palm Trees!* creds to my mate Phil for this film camera shot (his insta is @philly_gg)

Well there you have it! 20 of the possible hundreds of differences that I could think of between Arizona and England. I hope they shed a little light on some questions that you may have had, and maybe gave some insight into the life of a Brit in a foreign land. Again, if you find any of these to be inaccurate do let me know, I love discussing cultural differences with people! If you know me personally, feel free to drop me a message with any questions or other things that you may want to discuss. If not, feel free to follow me Instagram @gabiprice_ for more study abroad fun, and pretty photos from my excursions!

Until next time, Gabi xoxo

 

 

 

 

Spring Break USA/Mexico style

So I did it. I had the real USA college spring break style vacation (yes I did just say vacation, I am a real American now). But anyway I loved it. I headed to Mexico with 4 of my friends and we sunbathed, swam, and had the most amazing experience, in one of the coolest countries I have ever visited.

So prior to my trip whenever I would tell anyone I was going to Mexico, particularly Americans they wouldn’t say have fun or that is amazing. They would always say ooo ‘be careful’ or ‘be safe’, now I’m not sure if that is because there is so much anti- Mexican rhetoric circulating in the USA right now, or simply because many Americans have never travelled before. But anyway, before I arrived in Mexico naturally I was slightly worried especially after all the horror stories I had heard before my arrival. Lost baggage, stolen phones, drug cartels and creepy guys. Well I can hand on heart say I didn’t experience anything like that. In fact the Mexicans I encountered were some of the kindest and friendly people I have ever met in my life. Obviously this is a fairly sheltered account of Mexico as I only stuck to the area of Tulum beach (which was swarming with primarily American tourists) and the area of Yucatan where Chichen Itza is located (again a huge tourist hot spot). So maybe my blog wouldn’t be the same if I had been walking around late at night in Mexico City for example. But I feel like this is the same everywhere you go, there are always scary places you wouldn’t want venture and there are always places you feel safe. I can happily say that Tulum was one of those places.

So if anyone is planning on spending the year in America in 2019 or are doing a spring semester somewhere in the USA I would highly recommend Tulum. Especially if you are looking for a more classy style spring break rather than a Maga, Zante kinda thing. Back when I was 18 I would have loved to have done booze cruises all day and pass out on the beach. But now I’m a little older I wanted a nice mix of culture, drinking and relaxing (I hope I don’t sound too much like a mum). Anyway, I will lay out my Tulum vacation itinerary with costs. I would encourage you all to go.

So we flew out from Washington Dulles Airport to Cancun International Airport (costing $254: roundtrip). Once we arrived in Cancun we had arranged for a private shuttle to pick us up from the airport as Tulum is about a 2 hour drive from Cancun. When we hopped off the plane, got through security and got our dollars changed to pesos we walked outside and there was a man waiting with a sign with our names on. We then hoped in our shuttle and made our way to Tulum. The shuttle cost roughly $150 for 4 people (roundtrip) so individually it was only about $40, which was definitely worth it for the ease.

Once in Tulum we checked into our hotel, the Residencia Gorila. It was a really cool place run by two twenty year olds. The vibes were so chill and we got a room for 5 people with two double beds and a bed on the upper level of the room. It was set up kind of like a tree house. I will attach photos below. It was in a great location and was about a 30 second walk from the beach. The cost of the hotel for 6 nights was $1200 which ended up being about $300 each.

Once we were in Tulum we tried to eat fairly cheaply. The area we were in was quite expensive and prices were fairly standard, so about $7- $10 for a meal. But in Tulum town the meals were a lot cheaper, meals were roughly $1-$3. So maybe you could venture into town and grab some food, but I would definitely recommend staying in Tulum Beach. A taxi into town costs roughly 150 Pesos which is about $8, so divided between 4 people it is virtually nothing. You must always remember to agree on a price before you get into a taxi.

When we were in Tulum as I mentioned previously we visited Chichen Itza, one of the 7 wonders of the world. The roundtrip bus trip cost 460 pesos which is roughly $25 each, and once we arrived in Chichen Itza we paid to have a tour guide show us around. This is a must, without the tour guide we wouldn’t have had a clue, so it would have been pretty pointless heading all the way there. The tour guide cost 1000 pesos for a private tour, which divided by 4 cost us $15 each. Absolutely worth every penny.

Also when we were in Tulum beach we visited a cenote which was about a 20 minute drive from our hotel. It was called Grand Cenote and again was a must if you are in Tulum. It cost 180 pesos each which is roughly $8-10. Again so cheap.

Finally the other activity we did while on our trip was we cycled to the Mayan ruins. The overall cycle was about 13 miles to and from our hotel. The cost of the bikes was 200 pesos each, again roughly $10. Then the cost to enter the ruins was again 200 pesos. So overall that day cost us about $20.

The final expense of the trip was the clubs, the club I would highly recommend is called Papaya Playa Project, it is a beach club and is about a 10 minute drive from the Tulum Beach strip. It was so amazing, especially after a year of listening to cringey American music as frat parties. I needed a night like that.

I will now attach a list of the restaurants and bars I visited when in Tulum. All were great and great value for money.

  1. Raw Love
  2. Ziggy Beach Club
  3. Hip Hotel
  4. I Scream Bar
  5. Gelato
  6. La Zebra
  7. Taqueria La Eufemia

If you end up going to Tulum Beach it isn’t hard to find restaurants and bars. It was an experience I will never forget. Overall the trip ended up costing me roughly $800 including spending money. It was so worth it and I would recommend trying to venture out of the states for spring break if you can.

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Surviving (and enjoying) the Canadian winter

From the moment I found out I would be spending a year in Montreal, the horror stories about the crippling Canadian winters began. “Minus 30 degree temperatures every day” they said. “You won’t be able to go outdoors for months” they said. “You’ll need to spend $1000 on a Canada goose jacket and winter boots” they said. I expected and mentally prepared for the worst but soon came to realise that this worry was unnecessary. I mean, Montreal’s snow and regular sunshine versus Manchester’s grey and rainy Winters… I think I know which one I’d rather.

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A spot of ice hockey on Parc Lafontaine

Continue reading “Surviving (and enjoying) the Canadian winter”

Finally down under! My first impressions of Sydney

By Vitoria Spoorenberg, University of Sydney

It’s hard to believe that today marks exactly five weeks since I landed in Sydney.

The day I flew to Sydney was bitter-sweet. Naturally, I was nervous and sad to be leaving my family and friends but I was equally excited to start my semester abroad.

Soon after I arrived, it become apparent that I had no reason to be nervous. It surprised me how friendly and welcoming everyone was at my accommodation. Everyone is friends with everyone and there’s no real ‘groups’ or ‘cliques’ which is very different to my halls experience in Manchester.

Most of the students who live in my accommodation are also exchange students which I have really enjoyed because everyone wants to discover new places and make the most of their time abroad.

Continue reading “Finally down under! My first impressions of Sydney”

Till It Happens To You

There is an inescapable bubble that absorbs you when you study abroad. Everything is exciting, everything is new – new friends, new classes, new experiences. You quickly adapt to living at three times the speed of real time, where a week goes by in a day and a month is over before you’ve had time to process yesterday’s reading for class. But I’d implore any potential ‘go abroad’ student to just, if only briefly, think back to that very distant lecture in Manchester that was ominously titled ‘It Won’t Happen to Me’. I admit, it escaped my memory as soon as my suitcase fell off the baggage claim in RDU airport. However, it’s really important to know what your options are if you receive news from back home that temporarily bursts the study abroad bubble.

Last month, I received a text at 3am that reminded me that life at home is not left in a state of perfect paralysis as soon as you leave the country. The death of a loved one hits very hard, regardless of your geographical proximity to them. Being told that I could not statistically make the journey back for the funeral was very painful and frustrating and for the first time since arriving in the States, I felt quite deserted.

Trying to process this news whilst preparing for my first midterm exam that very same day was another challenge in itself. I chose to sit the exam, I had already prepared for it and didn’t want it looming ahead in an already hectic university schedule. But I also decided it might be worth contacting the Study Abroad Office back in Manchester. It did feel slightly awkward and somewhat useless (what could anyone do about the situation?) but it actually provided me with protection for my academic standing both at NC State and UOM. It seems an odd thing to consider during such a period of shock, however it helped to alleviate the stress of working and provided me with some mental space to grieve.

With this in mind, I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to consider your mental health, especially as a student. Thankfully my family and friends at home are all available for me to contact whenever I need to. I am also lucky to have superb friends over here in the States who I’m extremely grateful to for looking after me. Going abroad can be stressful, things can go wrong and sometimes we just can’t be where we want to be. But being out of my comfort zone has prepared me in many more ways than I imagined. Having global support has bridged the distance between here and home, and I am now aware of having a strong support network wherever I may be in the world.

This blog post is addressed to any student who ever finds themselves getting THAT phone call or text. To anyone who is caught in a national or local emergency, or who is struggling, for a short period or every single day, with mental or physical health. It is so important to have open communication between you and your academic institution. Any stress-inducing situation that hinders your academic capabilities is not just your burden to bear. There are mitigating circumstances, there is support and advice available to you, and you are absolutely not alone.

Independence

Following last weeks celebration of International Women’s Day, I decided to focus this blog on the theme of independence.

At NUS we are given a recess week half way through the semester, so we took this opportunity to spend a week in Vietnam. We spent the majority of our time in Hanoi but also spent two days in Ha Long Bay and one day in Ninh Binh, both of which were beautiful. However, throughout all the amazing things that we did and saw, it was the Women’s Museum in Hanoi that touched me the most. The museum was an extraordinary tribute to the women of Vietnamese history and of Vietnam today who have and continue to work for their nation and family. A documentary that was played in the museum exhibited the current situations of many of these women. With their husbands ill or unable to work, women that now work in Hanoi told their stories of how they wake up at ridiculous times like 4am to make their way to the market, so they can buy their produce to sell during the day. Usually not returning home till times like 11pm, they spend what little time they have tending to the house and their children before only having a couple of hours sleep before having to start the same day again. Their days are filled with terror as they are often chased by the police, and most days they barely make enough money to feed their family.

The most striking part of the whole museum, however, was one room filled with the photographs of hundreds of vietnamese women. These women have been named the ‘Heroic Mothers of Vietnam’. This title was granted to over 50,000 women who had lost more than two children, their only child, only one child, their husband and children or their own life. It was a title given to acknowledge the silent sacrifices of the thousands of women involved in the Vietnam War. One particular image from the museum, named “Mother and Son Reunite”, was a photo recording the reunion of an ex-Con Dao prisoner who was sentenced to death after being accused of being a Viet Cong spy, with his mother after many years of separation. I think the picture says enough for itself about sacrifice.

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Some of the ‘Heroic Mothers of Vietnam’

On returning from Vietnam, everything suddenly seemed to get a lot harder. The fun and travelling of the last month and a half had stopped and I was immediately bombarded with a lot more work than what I had had before. Everything had changed and I suddenly felt a whole lot further away from home. For a bit I was definitely guilty of wallowing in self-pity, but I would like to relay some words of wisdom from my very wise mother which will apply to all of you at home or overseas- wherever you are in the world. One night when I was feeling especially far away from home I called her in an understated attempt to stop feeling sorry for myself. She stopped me and told me to look at what I’ve got. She reminded me that I am in one of the highest percentiles of the luckiest and most privileged people in the world and that despite how I might be feeling right now, I needed to acknowledge the opportunity that has been given to me, that I needed to be strong and independent and use this chance in the best way I could.

As I think back to what I learned about the women in Vietnam who work 18 hours a day to keep their family alive, it seems ridiculous to feel sorry for myself because I miss home. For the women of Vietnamese history that have had to sacrifice so much more, it is important that we all appreciate the amazing chances that we have been given and continue to use them and encourage others in the future to do the same.

Here is my advice for anyone thinking about studying abroad, especially those thinking of going far away: it will be difficult, and it will be a lot more difficult than you ever thought it could be. I left Manchester and then home thinking that it would be easy, that I would miss home a bit but that I would be too absorbed in my new life to think about it. Trying to live a new life is more difficult than that. You have to adapt to the cultures of the people around you while still trying to establish a place for yourself. For me, this has come in ways as simple as not being able to understand the English that the Singaporeans speak, purely because of their accents and the words they use, even though their actual English is perfect. It can make you feel isolated but in the midst of that you have to force yourself to take a step back and think about what you have been given the chance to do. Have the strength to be independent like the Vietnamese women are forced to be every single day. You have been given a once in a lifetime opportunity, you may never have an opportunity to do anything similar to this again and because of that you can not let anything stop you from making the most of every single second. Go out into the world and learn about these other individuals like the Vietnamese women, it might just put your whole life into perspective.

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A group of school children rowing a traditional Vietnamese boat in Ninh Binh.
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Canoeing through Ha Long Bay
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Hanoi