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You can’t pump your own gas in the State of New Jersey.

 

‘Just do it! Even if you don’t want to come to the UK, just do it, anywhere you go, you’ll have an incredible time I promise!’

That was me, promoting studying abroad at the Rutgers University Study Abroad fair, two weeks in to my six months stay in New Jersey. In the weeks and months leading up to my semester abroad, I was beyond petrified. I didn’t want to leave my friends behind, I was scared I wouldn’t make any new friends, the fact that I wouldn’t be old enough to drink made me feel like I was reverting back to being sixteen again and the thought of having a roommate was such an alien concept to me that it freaked me out beyond belief. These fears however, evaporated almost as soon as I stepped off the plane at JFK.

True, I did find it a little hard at first to adjust to some of the cultural differences in the US. The food is weird (Americans bleach their eggs and their attempt at cheesy chips tastes like something that Ant and Dec would force down your throat in a bush tucker trial) carrier bags in supermarkets are free ( my first trip to Walmart turned in to an anxiety inducing fiasco, with me staring in horror at the hundreds of plastic bags the cashier was throwing at me) and it is someones entire job to put petrol into people’s cars because apparently the people of New Jersey can’t be trusted to do it themselves.  But aside from that, adapting to life across the Atlantic, was far easier than I expected.

In the short time that I have spent here, I have tried to fully immerse myself in American culture. I attended a basketball game that was more like High School Musical than High School Musical itself, I watched the Superbowl (possibly the most unnecessarily theatrical performance I have ever witnessed) and I actually quite enjoy having a roommate.

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Not only has studying abroad been an amazing opportunity to embrace American culture, it has also allowed me to meet and befriend exchange students from all over the world. I celebrated Australia day, have been cooked French crepes and Spanish Omelette and I now know that Weetabix is basically valued as an Australian delicacy.

One of the main reasons that I chose to study at Rutgers was because of its close proximity to New York City, somewhere I have dreamed of visiting for my entire life. Last weekend I visited the city for the first time and it absolutely did not disappoint. Everywhere you look you feel like you’re in an iconic movie or TV show, and although you feel like you’ve seen all of the city before, there is nothing like experiencing it in real life. At sunset, we got a lift to the top of the Rockefeller centre and were met by an incredible view of the New York Skyline. No photographs could ever do the scene before us justice, although the pictures still look amazing. I’m eager to visit the city again and with the train from my university to the centre of Manhattan taking less than an hour, I could pretty much stroll through Central Park every day if I wanted to.

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With a Ski trip to Mountain Creek booked for next weekend and plans to travel the states after my final exams, I am becoming increasingly more grateful that I took the leap to apply to Study abroad and know for sure that this will be a semester that I will never forget!

CENTRAL PARK

 

Hello Umass Amherst!

“Take a step out of your comfort zone they say, that’s where the magic happens…”
I remember a girl that went abroad before me once came up to me and said : “ The best memories you will have of Manchester are the times when you are not in Manchester”,  I will never forget those words because she could not be more right about it, but then again, my views are very subjective as the experiences and memories that I make at Umass does not mean that everyones is going to feel and experience the same things as I do. I wake up each morning in Umass feeling beyond lucky to have this opportunity from Manchester University, and I am also proud of myself to have chosen to take this path of studying abroad.  Although it has only been my second week at Umass Amherst, I genuinely feel as though I have been studying here for more than two years already.  For the past one week at Umass, I attended a few organisation meetings, made a few local American friends during class room discussions and during spring rush , but also met a few exchange students from my hometown Hong Kong during the international coffee hours at Blue Wall which is held once every two weeks for international students to gather and chat amongst one another. If you do not know where Amherst is, it is basically where the famous American poet Emily Dickinson is born. If you do not read literature, fear not, Amherst is a really safe and cosy time located on the east-coast in a small town 20 minutes away from Northampton MA and a 2 and a half hours bus journey to downtown Boston (south station). I would suggest you taking the Peter Pan bus from Haigis mall which only costs about 40 dollars and is located on campus so it is very convenient. I spent last weekend auditioning for one of Umass’s Acapella group and also attended spring rush for a sorority called Delta Xi Phi multicultural sorotity. I find that greek life is such a big part of American college life here in the States, where the main philanthropy and focus of this group is doing active community services and helping out in homeless shelters which is something I am extremely passionate about. A few days ago there was also the famous Superbowl game night which is one of the biggest American football game in the nation and the two teams that competed against each other was the patriots and Los Angeles Rams (Tom Brady yay). You also have the riots after the games which were pretty intense and insane. Some people climb trees, you see toilet rolls flying across mid-air, chanting, dancing, police officers, the whole experience was really something wild and never in my life have I encountered such an event in my life before. The residential area that I am staying in is called Southwest, and it is basically the equivalent of Fallowfield in Manchester.  If you don’t know how serious American’s take football (no I don’t mean football as the English would call it, but American football thank you very much) no but seriously, they take it very seriously! SO GO PATRIOTS! ! !

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Blog I written on the plane before I got to the US

14th of January (The day of departure from Hong Kong International Airport )
Hello, readers of my blog, today is the 14th of January, I just hoped on flight CX812 to Boston, 15 hours direct flight from HK to Boston Airport… Just woke up from an incredibly odd dream but hey at least I fell asleep for a bit on the plane to regain my energy when I land in Boston. It is currently 9:22pm in Boston, slightly jet-lagged but I am incredibly excited to finally arrive to the States. The flight attendant had just announced that we will be starting a descent into Boston Logan international airport in approximately 20 minutes, despite the delay we faced earlier. This will be the first time in a long time since I have been to the US, the last time I came here to the United States was when I was 12, joined a summer school program in San Diego. Having to spend the next 5 months in Amherst Massachusetts will be a whole new chapter and a brand new experience for me.

On arrival thoughts and first impression

1. Look to your left first not to your right before you cross, the direction is different over here
2. Spanish is common
3. The PTVA buses in Amherst are free, you can also take the bus to Northampton which is very close to Walmart and target via the public transportation if you show them your student ID
4. Tipping! (Say no more)
5. The bigger, the better, all the portions, especially with the food here, are huge! But you can’t go wrong with Umass dining food because it has been voted the best college dining experience in the nation
6. It can go from 3 degrees to -20 degrees in just one night, so be prepared and geared up for the chilly cold winters during January and February (Gloves and hats are essential! ) btw, keep in mind that the temperature is measured here using fahrenheit not celcius
7. Get yourself an unlimited meal-plan (especially for someone like me who isn’t really big into cooking or is no where near close to being good at cooking, I find that it is really convenient here that the university provides dinning hall food for us so I can finally say no to takeaways from Archies, and a massive YES to Hampshire Dining hall. I would say the top two dining halls are Hampshire and Franklin, but if you have dining dollars, why not go for a nice meal at the Campus center and splurge on some baby berk burgers and fresh smoothies?

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8. Go to the activities fair and join in as many clubs and organisations as you possibly can (I am going to the spring rush event for two sororities to see what this greek life is about! unnamed-4.jpg

9. Weekdays are reserved for school work and studying. Weekends on the other-hand are when the people go out to frat parties. Unlike in the UK where people go out on most nights, here, people work hard on the weekdays and play REALLY hard on the weekends. If you have instagram, go check out : zoomass to get the latest tea on what students here are up to on the weekends. The work load I would say is pretty manageable but you definitely get more work here from your professors than you normally would over in Manchester, as I have to submit a discussion post every week and actively participate in in class discussions.

10. Active participation and in class participation counts as 15% of the overall grade ! You really get a sense of closeness with the professors and tutors here. Plus Americans really do emphasise on individualism and personal achievement, so go ahead and put yourself out there during lessons, do your daily readings and stay focused!

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Basically, as unbelievable as it sounds, I think I really found myself in the US. Anyways, I will talk to you guys and keep you guys updated very soon so this is all I have to say for now, see you all in a few weeks time!

Academic Life at Lund University

I’ve been really impressed by the Swedish university system in my time at Lund, and it has some quite big differences with what I’m used to in the UK. One of these main differences is the way the term/ semester is organised. Instead of doing modules that last for the whole term, with exams or coursework at the end, the semester is broken up into two blocks. This means that courses run for a shorter, more intense period. I found this beneficial because it means that rather than having 4 modules all running at the same time, you focus on two for each half of the semester. I think this is better for learning, as it allows you to read deeper into each topic and the information is fresh in the mind when it comes to assignments or exams.  

I’ve been taking a number of modules focusing on climate change and sustainability, which has been very interesting to learn from a Scandinavian perspective. Sweden consistently tops all the charts for lowering its emissions and investing in greening its economy. Lund University is also a leader in this field, with a whole department (with its own building!) dedicated to sustainability research. My lecturers have been professionals with decades of years both working in these sectors as well as being involved in research, which has meant the quality of education has been really good!

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Lunds beautiful main library.

I’ve also been able to take courses outside of my usual Geography programme, for example I have just started a Political Science module on the Israel Palestine conflict. This is one of the main benefits of a year abroad, you can broaden your knowledge in a way that is difficult with the busy schedule at home university.

An Ode to Rotto

Where: Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

When: November 2018 (Coming into Australian summertime, so it was hot!)

Rottnest Island a ferry ride away from Perth, is one of the ‘must see’ places I had been told to visit since I moved to Western Australia. For any of my fellow geographers, Rottnest is a sandy, low-lying island formed on a base of aeolianite limestone. Alongside Garden Island, Rotto is a remnant of Pleistocene dune ridge. The island was separated from the mainland about 7000 years ago due to sea level rise. However, human remnants have been found on the island dating back 70,000 years. The indigenous people of land known as the Noongar people, call the island Wadjemup and lived on the island before it detached from the mainland.

 The island is around 20km and we managed to explore it in a day. We hired bikes, stopping off and enjoying hidden beaches throughout the day. However, we plan to go back for a weekend and camp over-night.  The wildlife in Rottnest is what makes it so special. Extensive reefs surround the island, that you can see in the incredibly clear water as you arrive by ferry, and snorkel in the warm waters. Bottlenose dolphins and migrating humpbacks are welcome visitors of the island and the Perth canyon just off the island is one of the main habitats for blue whales in Australia.

Overall, the absolute highlight of Rottnest or as the Aussies call it Rotto. Aside from the great views, beautiful beaches, amazing snorkelling or enjoyable cycling tracks are the super friendly quokkas. These little creatures are marsupials, and like kangaroos carry their joey’s in their pouches. They are about the size of a cat and just as friendly, allowing you to approach them seemingly unfazed by humans. The island actually gets its name from the Quokka. In the 1600’s Dutch colonisers believed the Quokkas to be giant rats, and thus named the small island ‘Rotte Nest’ after the Dutch word Rattennest meaning rats nest. Rotto is one of the few areas in the world where the native quokka can be found. This is due to the exclusion of natural or introduced predators. Their only predators being snakes, who thankfully aren’t as friendly.

Known as ‘the worlds happiest animal’, Quokkas are celebrities on the island with many trying to get a quick pic with the creature.

The picture that made the Quokka famous (2012).
Roger Federer and a Quokka.
If you close one eye and squint, it looks like Michael Buble and a Quokka.

I can’t wait to go back and visit this rare and uniquely beautiful island, and hopefully meet up with some more Quokkas.

Several months back into normality

Georgi Fogarty (University of Queensland)

It’s been seven months since I waved goodbye to Brisbane and five months since I returned to sunny, sunny England (to clear up confusion the two-month gap was not all spent in transit, although the flight can feel that long – I spent this time working in Greece). The time has absolutely flown and the tan has definitely disappeared, but now I’ve just about had the chance to take a breathe since being home, it’s time to reflect on the ups and downs of returning from such an incredible experience of a year abroad.

The down sides.

Despite returning in late August when the days were long and the air was warm, writing this now in bitter January makes warm weather seem like a very, very distant memory. One of the questions I’ve been asked most since being back is ‘don’t you really miss the weather?’. Yes. Yes, I do miss the weather. Please stop reminding me about how warm I was this time last year while I’m in my draughty student house without heating.

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Almost as beautiful as Oxford Road

Another aspect I’ve not been enjoying adjusting to is regaining the academic mindset I’d built up during first and second year at Manchester. Not only did I find my course content easier last year, I also didn’t feel such extreme pressure to achieve the top possible grades due to only having to pass the year, so found myself a little more relaxed  than usual. Now coming back to my fourth and final year of university I’m finding myself having to having to mentally re-train myself to pile the pressure on, as there’s no way I can be coasting at the most important stage of my academic career so far. Don’t get me wrong, having a more relaxed year is never something you’ll hear me complain about; however having to hit the ground running again when I’d gotten used to strolling was a bit of a shock to the system.

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Back to living in the library

Finally, I never thought I’d hear myself say this but I miss my job. I spent many, many hours last year working in an extremely high-quality, high-pressure restaurant which I didn’t particularly enjoy. However, the fact that the minimum wage in Australia is twice what it is in England meant that despite the higher living cost I was living like a queen to some extent. I definitely took this for granted at the time; although I’ve been lucky enough to get my job back at the same lovely family-run restaurant I worked at during first and second year, pay-day doesn’t quite have the same thrills and it feels extremely frustrating being paid half the amount for the exact same hours.

 

The positives

Coming back from Australia definitely has not been all doom and gloom. Seeing my friends for the first time in over 14 months had to be one of the best feelings in the world. One of the things I did dislike about Brisbane was being in a completely different time zone to most of my friends – if we wanted to call, it would have to be planned in advance so we could do the maths in terms of time difference, and the internet was so poor in my house that calls were usually distorted and cut off prematurely. One thing that I’d missed so much about Manchester is having all of my friends a stone’s throw away, and this is so great to be able to experience again. Many of my friends also went on a year abroad meaning they’re now back in Manchester which is extremely lucky, and being able to properly hear about all of their experiences face to face has been incredible. Saying goodbye to all the friends I made last year was hard, don’t get me wrong, but this was made easier due to the fact that most of the people I met in Australia actually go to University in Leeds. This means if I do need someone to moan to about the cold to or take a stroll down memory lane with, they’re only an hour or so away.

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An Australia-themed reunion with friends from Brisbane in Leeds

Despite what I previously mentioned about having to pile the pressure on myself for fourth year, I quickly realised upon beginning classes again that having an extra year of knowledge has been more beneficial than I could have ever imagined. Classes I took last year have given me an entirely different perspective and background knowledge on topics involved in the modules I’m studying this year, meaning I’m far better able to form opinions and arguments. I am very aware that I’m stating the absolute obvious here and that of course an extra year of studying at university will give people an academic advantage, but I’m finding it incredibly beneficial and it’s always good to address.

Lastly, as strange as it sounds being framed as a positive point, one thing I’ve found extremely positive about being back is knowing that I only have one more year of commitment tying me to living in the UK. Having experienced living abroad has only increased my urge to live in different places and try new experiences. Although I am enjoying being back home and finishing my degree, I’m finding it so exciting knowing that this time next year I could be anywhere in the world, and having a home base and being surrounded by supportive friends and family while I explore all my options is such a good feeling. Having an open road with no set plan after summer is a little scary, but I’m definitely looking at it as although one door is closing, countless more are opening and I’m excited to get back out there.

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I can’t believe I’m halfway through already

Currently, I am sat at the airport on my way back to Amsterdam for the beginning of semester two. Circling my mind I have so many thoughts about the last four months, which prompted me to write a post to reflect on my first semester abroad.

Continue reading “I can’t believe I’m halfway through already”

Why are you going to Mexico? Do you speak Spanish?

As we start Semester two (how are we here already!), I want to dispel some myths about studying abroad in another language, as it’s definitely a thought on many people’s minds when choosing where they would like to go for their year abroad.

Since before starting at Manchester, I knew that I wanted to study abroad in un país hispanohablante (a Spanish-speaking country). I had studied Spanish since the start of secondary school and was very keen to be able to practise and develop this skill – it is pretty cool to be able to express yourself and communicate with others in another language. I had taken a classic gap yah: worked for six months and travelled for 6 months in South America. Starting at Manchester, I took LEAP courses in Spanish and Portuguese (which I would highly recommend to students; a great way to diversify and broaden your degree and knowledge while also picking up those all-important credits). The stage was more or less set – and luckily enough I got my place to come to UDLAP here in México.

Continue reading “Why are you going to Mexico? Do you speak Spanish?”

My top 3 Weekend trips from Raleigh, NC

By Sally Lord, North Carolina State University.

When people find out that I am an exchange student, their first question is always: so why did you choose to come to North Carolina? My reply is that I wanted to be somewhere which was well placed within the United States, so that I would have ample opportunity to travel. I also wanted to be somewhere which had a diverse range of scenery and North Carolina is perfect for that! With a beautiful coastline to the east and then the Smokey Mountains to the west, you can really experience the best of both worlds! It even gets better in the fact that NC State, which is located in Raleigh, is equidistant from the mountains and the beach, so both are really accessible.

Therefore, when I arrived in Raleigh in August I was already jumping to go and explore North Carolina and the surrounding states. I was excited to see what North Carolina had to offer and also see how North Carolina compared to the states it bordered. Four months on from when I arrived and I have now visited both the Smokey Mountains and the Atlantic coast and even ticked off six new states! It is really easy to travel here and there are a lot of really cool places, which are driving distance from Raleigh, making them great for an easy weekend away. Since most people are interested in travelling during the time abroad, I thought I would share with you my top three destinations which are within driving distance from Raleigh and are great to visit for a short break.

1. Asheville, NC

First up on the list is Asheville, which is located in the south west of North Carolina close to the start of the Smokey Mountains. Asheville is a great place to visit in the sense that it is very different to most American towns. It has a very relaxed, quirky vibe and is a very liberal city with a large artistic flair. It has lots of very nice places to eat and is a haven for vegetarians, making it noticeably unlike everywhere else in Southern America, where the only thing on the menu is chicken! It is also known for its chocolate shops, which sell everything from ice-cream to giant slabs of chocolate, to truffles and hot chocolate.

Asides from the charming little centre of downtown, Asheville is a great base for going up into the mountains and exploring the countryside. There are multiple trails which start close to Asheville and I would definitely recommend going for a hike because the scenery is BREATHTAKING! I have been twice, once in August – when it was all luscious and green, and then again in the Autumn, when everything was turning a golden orange. Both times were gorgeous and I was really glad I got to experience it in two different seasons because it almost felt like two different places! Asheville is also close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is one of the most scenic drives in the United States, especially in the Autumn when all the leaves are colouring.

2. Charleston, SC

Second on the list of best places to visit is Charleston, South Carolina. It is a quaint, historic town situated about a four hour drive away from Raleigh and boasts both beautiful beaches and a boojie downtown, with lots of independent boutique that are great for window shopping! I spent three days in Charleston over the MLK day weekend, and I would say that this is the perfect amount of time for visiting the city. On the first day you can explore the historic downtown, weaving your way through the streets lined with palms and funky coloured houses. On the second day you can visit the beach and enjoy being by the sea, making sure you stay to watch the gorgeous sunsets that can be seen there. We visited Folly Beach, which is a 20 minute drive from the downtown and is a little beach town in itself, with lots of souvenir shops, cafes and an old wooden pier, which really adds to the aesthetic! The highlight of my trip was definitely watching the sunset over the pier because it was the most gorgeous blend of purple through to yellow, and was definitely up there with my top 10 sunsets!

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3. Washington DC

Finally, third on the list is DC, which is definitely more well-known than the other two, but an equally great place to visit. It is only 4 and a half hours away from Raleigh by car and is also easily accessible by both train and bus – so there is no excuse not to visit!  Exploring DC is very easy, since it has a metro which is easy to use and most of the main sites are concentrated around the National Mall so everything worth seeing is pretty much within walking distance. Another bonus is that most of the things worth seeing are free, with the majority of the museums having free entry and all the main monuments being outside and so easy to explore.

DC is definitely done best across a few days. Take one day to stroll down the National Mall, starting at the Capitol Building, passing the White House and the Washington Monument, before reaching the World War II memorial and finally the most impressive of them all – the Lincoln memorial. This ticks off all the main monuments and memorials to see as well as the two most important buildings in DC – the Capitol Building and the White House. Then on day two, choose a couple of museums to explore, which won’t be difficult as DC has museums for everything, from art to natural history, a holocaust museum and a museum of African American History. Another great thing to do is visit the Capitol building, which is completely free and comes with a guided tour and a chance to visit the Senate and the House of Representatives! This was without a doubt the best thing I did in DC, because it provided such an education into American politics and the building was beautiful, just be sure to book in advance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Word is Yes.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life so far it’s that, most of the time, saying yes is usually a good idea. Do you want some cake? Obviously yes. Are you coming out with us tonight? Yes! I mean what could possibly go wrong? Do you want to go to study and live in Canada for six months? Yes.

So far that last one seems to have been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. A few weeks before I left the UK to come to Toronto, a friend from home turned to me and said “So you’re moving to Canada, isn’t that scary?”. Even though I’d been planning and talking about doing this semester abroad for what seemed like forever, the question really hit me. I mulled it over for a few seconds in my head; I didn’t really know anyone in Toronto, I was leaving behind friends and family who meant the world to me in the UK, I was going to a whole new country, with a different culture and on top of that I was going to a university with an entirely different academic system. On second thoughts, maybe it was kind of ‘scary’ after all. However, it was what rushed into my head next that decided my reply.

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“I’m nervous” I said, “but when else in my life am I going to get to travel and live in another part of the world as easily and meet and make friends from anywhere and everywhere?”. When I said that, those thoughts were what I hoped would happen, now they are my every day. In the last week I’ve spent my life with people from Denmark, Singapore, Germany, China, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Italy, as well as obviously the UK and most of all Canada. My days and nights have been filled with people telling me the stories of their lives followed by me recounting mine. There’s a sense amongst all of us that we’re just beginning to discover how we fit into the wonderful chaos of culture that not only defines Toronto, but also Canada as a whole. A Canadian friend of mine said to me today in our class that to him, a child of immigrants himself, Canada was “everyone and everything” and right now it definitely feels that way to me.

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That’s not to say there aren’t moments where you miss home or get things wrong; on my second day in Toronto I meant to get the tram (they call them Streetcars here) to one side of the city, forgetting that Canada drives on the other side of the road, and went in the completely wrong direction for longer than I’m willing to admit, before realising and hastily getting off at the next stop. But when I’m walking through the snow, watching an ice hockey game (I know, it had to come up at some point, I am in Canada after all!), looking up at the CN Tower or simply meeting people from anywhere and everywhere, it all feels totally worth the mishaps and mistakes you inevitably make along the way. Every day I wake up to my view of the Toronto skyline and feel as if I’m one of the luckiest men alive and it’s all down to one word. The word is Yes.

Academic life at UBC

Prior to coming to Vancouver, I was informed by previous students that the work load at UBC was easier than at UoM. Throughout the term I’ve discovered that this is the case in some respects, however I have found other areas more challenging causing me to adapt my approach to my studies in order to keep on top of it all. One of the noticeable differences has been the frequency of assignments and exams. Unlike the standard British system, UBC divides modules up into several methods of assessment. I’ve had at least two essays due every week, and without keeping track of everything it can be very easy to get behind. Thankfully, I’ve found that the actual work itself is more straightforward to complete, and the lecturers are more lenient with marking (also helped by reduced pressure of being on a pass/fail year). Although the regularity of assessment has improved my work ethic, one of the downsides to it is students have little time to focus their attention on one piece of work, resulting in work being rushed and preventing me from researching certain topics in depth. That being said, I have heard from my friends taking Science subjects that the work is significantly harder than at Manchester in terms of work load and content, and the level of difficulty varies greatly between courses.

The teaching style at UBC is noticeably different to Manchester. My lecturers here use different methods of teaching aside from PowerPoint presentations to engage with the students. One sociology module I took on Drugs and Society was taught by a lecturer who regularly used class debates and hand-outs to encourage students to gain different perspectives on an issue. Participation grades were also given in all my classes and accounted for 20% of the module. Higher marks were awarded to students who contributed to class discussion and had high attendance, which seemed produce the desired affect as many students were keen to speak in class unlike in my classes in Manchester. I believe the introduction of participation grading is an effective way of making lectures more interesting by motivating students to provide their own argument on a topic.

Methods of assessment are varied compared with the usual term paper or exam. For example, presentations are common, as well as smaller essays that may involve a short summary of a reading. One assignment I received was in the format of a public engagement, which in broad terms meant any piece of work that can be used to promote an issue to a target audience. At the end of the term the lecturer showcased some of the students work which I found very wholesome. I was surprised by the level of creativity used, poems, songs and even a message in a bottle were used captivate the audience. In many ways, I feel assessments such of these are more effective at getting students to critically engage with a topic and incorporate their learning into their everyday lives. After term 1, I’ve found myself talking or reading about what I’ve learned in my free-time which I rarely did last year. Overall, the work load can be stressful at first but once you become used to it, I find it’s easier to complete than at Manchester.

Halfway there

It’s been roughly three months since arriving in Vancouver and I really feel as though I’m embracing the Vancouverite lifestyle. I’m currently sitting in one of the many coffee shops situated on campus writing this blog, listening to Paul McCartney’s ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ play through the speakers. It’s safe to say I’m feeling the Christmas spirit this year, helped by snowy day trips to Whistler and the festive lights that seem to give every corner of UBC’s campus a charming sparkle. Although I’m slightly saddened to not be spending Christmas in London this year, I’m confident this year will be a jolly one with my new little UBC family.

The end of term 1 has arrived so soon and I can’t quite believe I’m already saying goodbye to my close friends who are returning to their respective universities. Although things will be different next term without them, I’m looking forward to meeting the new arrivals for term 2. What’s more, the ski season is in full swing and I’ve already met some Canadians who are keen to visit the mountain at least twice a week which is ideal for me, especially considering 90% of my friends are currently from the UK – I think it may be time I branch out a little.

In reflection, term 1 has been more of a culture shock than I expected. Academically, the work load is heavy with almost two deadlines a week. Mostly, I’ve spent my weekdays in the library which has probably served my work ethic well, and devoted weekends to hikes, bikes and food. The work itself hasn’t been too challenging though, so I’m confident that now I’ve learnt how to keep on top of it all I can allow myself more free time to explore more of Vancouver’s great outdoors.

One thing I’m still adjusting to is campus life. Having become so used to living in the city both in London and Manchester, my experience living on the UBC point grey campus has been interesting. The campus is located a 20-minute bus-ride from the nearest town, and an hour bus from downtown (where most of the city action is). Because of this separation from the city, the campus is its own microcosm of the city, with a multitude of amenities to cater for every student’s need: shops, café’s, restaurants, bars, sports facilities – you name it they have it. It takes about an hour to walk from one end to the other, which is why most students have adopted alternative modes of transport. Skateboards are incredibly popular, however the skateboard culture steers away from the ‘skater dude’ stereotype, with the main purpose of owning a board to get you from A to B and by no means used for hitting the skate park with. Other students opt for niche modes of personal transportation, including electronic scooters, one-wheeled miniature Segway’s (didn’t even know such a thing existed) and even unicycles. Honestly, I feel like I’m walking around the set of ‘Back to the Future part 4’ – I think I’m going to stick to good old-fashioned walking for now. Despite the difference in lifestyle, I’m finding it all rather refreshing and look forward the new term.

Fancy coffee powering us through the week

Student life in Lund, Sweden

As my first semester in Lund comes to a close, it seems like a perfect time to reflect on the good and bad things (the weather) I’ve experienced here in Sweden. Lund is a small, very pretty university town in Southern Sweden, with beautiful old buildings and houses that look like they’re made out of gingerbread. Studying and living as a student here has been a completely different experience to my first and second years in Manchester.

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Lund Cathedral, built in the 1100s, one of the most visited churches in Sweden.

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Houses, Lund, built recently of gingerbread.

One of the main factors in this is the way student life in Lund is organised, through “nations”. The nations are similar to a students union, although there are 13 individual ones dotted all over the town. They are named after the different regions/ counties in Sweden, and in the past your area of origin would determine the nation you join. They are basically social clubs, each with a different priority, some are focused around music, others sports, but most are quite general and all are open to everyone. Becoming a member of one nation gives you access to events at all of the others. They are run completely by student volunteers, and put on all sorts of different events such as film screenings, lunches as well as pubs and club nights. I was amazed by this, and to be honest I can’t imagine this working in the way it does anywhere apart from Sweden, particularly not in the UK.

Working/ volunteering at a nation doubles up as a social event and is a good way to make new friends. I found this is the best way to meet Swedes, particularly as an international student. Workers are given free food, and are effectively paid (informally of course) in beer and are thrown a thank you party a week after working a shift. Another popular event in Lund nations are “Sittnings”. These are gatherings where a three course meal is served, song books are passed around and the nation leaders direct everyone through a series of songs. These are often highly cultural, and are often about the area in Sweden that the nation is named after. The songs are also often very funny and light hearted, especially as the singing usually gets quite rowdy, with people standing and banging on the tables (Swedes love a sing song).

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A Sittning at Blekingska nation, 2019. They usually start in a very civilised way, then get gradually looser as the night goes on.

This all makes the student life in Lund surprisingly lively, and wasn’t what I was expecting when I first took in the quiet, picturesque town.