Oz Diaries 8: The Cold Return

By Olivia Dove (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

And so, as was inevitable, I find myself back in good ol’ Manchester.

Sadly, this will be the last blog I write here and I would like to spend it giving you all a brief summary of certain aspects that I’ve had to cope with post-Australia.

The weather

This is a big issue for me. Whilst Manchester looks beautiful when sunny, it is fair to say that England on the whole is generally colder than Australia. I’m naturally a warm-climate kind of person (proved by the fact that my asthma and dermatitis cleared up completely in Oz…) so coming back to the land of coats and scarves wasn’t an exciting prospect.

The biggest shock was leaving the plane when I landed in London. I hurried to the car with my parents and huddled in the backseat, hiding from the chilly air. One of the first questions that friends ask upon my return: ‘Missing Australian weather?’ And the answer is yes, always yes. So much yes.

But it’s not all gloomy; I really do love wearing trackie bottoms and large jumpers, so there is a positive in this colder climate!

Image

My accent

An Australian barman mistook me for an Australian student. My academic tutor said I had a ‘twang’ in my voice. More than one rugby fresher were confused when I said I was from England. It’s dimmed now, but for the first month of being back in England, everyone commented on my accent to the point where I had to put on an English accent at times. It provided entertainment to some, and confusion to the rest.

Curiously, when I skyped my Australian friends, they said I sounded ‘As beautifully English as ever’.

How confusing…

Rugby and playing sports in general

I missed rugby a lot during my semester abroad. I had hoped to play rugby or Aussie Rules out there, but I wasn’t in the country during the season, much to my disappointment. Returning to the sport and, more importantly, my team was absolutely wonderful. They’re a crazy bunch of girls and I would’ve felt homesick for them had I not known I was coming back.

Relating to the weather, playing sports in Australia is much nicer (more people go jogging there for a reason!), especially when you can get a nice tan during a match. Wind, rain and mud isn’t always glorious to play in, but I have to admit that the cold is refreshing at times.

All in all, I’d be much sadder about returning to Manchester if it wasn’t for my rugby girls!

Staying still

After leaving the University of Queensland, I spent two months living out of a suitcase. I travelled to the North and South islands of New Zealand and visited the following Australian cities: Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Cairns and Townsville. And I had time to visit my friends along the way. Safe to say, I have found it strange being in the same accommodation for more than a month. I went to Durham last weekend and have already started playing my summer holiday – I’m addicted to travelling! But it’s something that I am willingly addicted to as there’s no other pastime I would rather spend spare money or time on.

Feeling homesick

Now, this will sound crazy. But I feel homesick for Brisbane. Pretty badly, really. Which is strange considering it’s not my original home.

I miss my friends, the lifestyle, the buildings, the river, the university, the animals (especially the animals!) and the sun. I felt more at home living in Brisbane for only four months than I have anywhere else in my life.

I’ve never felt homesick before (as much as I love my parents, skype is always there) and so this new feeling has left me feeling quite glum. The high workload this semester has been warmly welcomed as a distraction.

But it’s not all sadness, as I have a volunteer placement secured in Brisbane post-graduation next year!

Studying abroad has made me realise what I want from life. And what I want is to live somewhere with crazy animals, plenty of sun, and the ability to walk around barefoot.

Brisbane, I’ll be back. See you soon.

Oz Diaries 7: The End

By Olivia Dove (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

The final video blog is here! My next (and last) entry is likely to be written from Manchester, in the height of winter.

But, for now, here is a video to sum up the great opportunities that studying abroad has given me, excluding the academic (not many photos, if any, are taken of studying…).

I mention two videos in the blog. Below are the links.

Soiree 2013 time lapse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lh_KlVj6PGw

(The view in the video is from the balcony of the room next to mine. Only one of the lawns is visible, there were events on other lawns as well!)

International House Dancefest 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=curePD3d5Dk

Enjoy and farewell for quite a while!

Olly Dove

 

Oz Diaries 4: Let’s Study

By Olivia Dove (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

There once was a woman named Sophie, 

What a wonderful woman she was! 

The size of a trophy,

 As lively as a rogue bee,

 And she lived in the land called Oz.

– dave bev

(an Undiscovered Poet)

There are two myths that need to be dispelled about university students. The first one is that ‘students don’t do any work, university is just one big party’. Sure enough, this is true for a minority, but even they have experienced long shifts in the library with a much-appreciated coffee. Lecture halls are usually filled, even for the morning sessions. And some students even participate in extra-curricular studies such as the poetry above (specially written for you all by an International House ‘housie’).

When abroad, the second myth that you will find working against you, as an international student, is that ‘exchange kids don’t need to work hard – they only have to pass’. This is only sometimes true. When studying abroad, your grades could count as part of your final degree mark or you may just need to pass, and this depends on: your university, your faculty and your degree programme. For me, as a one-semester abroad Zoologist, my grades in Australia will be the first grades that go towards my degree. Scary stuff.

Therefore, to secure a future looking at cuddly (and not-so-cuddly) animals, I must work hard whilst enjoying my time here in Australia. So, what is studying here like? What are the differences between England and Australia?

The following are differences:

  • UoM (University of Manchester) starts at 9am: a sensible, well-thought out time. UQ (University of Queensland) begins at 8am.
  • Labcoats are not compulsory in every lab practical at UQ.
  • Multi-coloured, funky labcoats are allowed at UQ.
  • Laboratories here have a Mac computer at every single desk (It feels like you’re working at the Genius Bar at Apple).
  • Students wear flip-flops around campus at UQ (or ‘thongs’ as they call them, which leads to many confusing and awkward moments).
  • There are more places to buy coffee at UQ.
  • There are lots and lots and lots more areas to work outside at UQ, as well as nicer weather for it, too.
  • Essays and assignments seem to be shorter and less frequent at UQ.
  • UQ has mid-semester exams. My final exams at UoM in my 1st Year were worth 85-95% of my course grades; here they are worth a maximum 50%. Which, believe me, makes a welcome change.
  • Exams can be scheduled for Saturdays at UQ.
  • Exams, at least mid-semesters, can take place at UQ in lecture halls with one lecturer watching 300+ students.
  • Handing in an assignment includes a bar code and deposit slot.
  • Each course had 3 lectures a week at UQ, as opposed to 2 a week at UoM (though this is different for every course).

The following are similarities:

  • Attendance at lectures is laid-back, but tutorials are a must.
  • Lab practicals are mostly 3 hours long.
  • The library is nearly always full, except between 10pm-9am and weekends.
  • Lecturers allow you to address them by their first name.
  • Students take a lot of naps.
  • Students sometimes even take a nap during lectures.
  • Lecture slides and recordings are posted on an online Blackboard site.
  • Questions throughout lectures are encouraged.
  • Both universities use Turn-it-in software to assess plagiarism.
  • Students prefer to study in packs.

If planning a semester abroad, the main thing for you to remember to do is thoroughly research your courses. If you don’t want a lot of lab hours, or you want courses with essay assignments instead of exams, these can both be avoided by making sure you read the course descriptions. Also, I would highly recommend studying courses that you can only study when abroad, but this goes without saying.

To conclude this semi-intellectual post, I enjoy studying abroad.

And, trust me, you will, too.

ImageMy desk covered in mid-sem revision. Oh, the joys (worth it though).

Oz Diaries 1: Leaving Home

By Olivia Dove (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

Hello there! A warm (at least by English standards) welcome to my first blog entry. Unlike many of the others, this entry will be separated by the location I wrote each one at on my lengthy journey to Australia.

Location: Kent, UK

Date: 28th June 2013

Leaving home is not easy for everyone. However, I don’t suffer particularly bad from homesickness, which means that I am not too worried about departing for Australia in a few days’ time. If you are, studying abroad is even more appropriate for you to help ease you off homesickness syndromes, whilst still having access to counseling (I’m confident that most universities offer such services). What was more nerve-wracking for me was the long wait for my first year results; a 60% average is required by the University of Manchester for a student to study abroad (this grade is a 2.1 class), and, due to the early start of the semester in Australia and the time needed to grade papers, I was unfortunate in the sense that I have only just discovered my grade with three days before my planned departure date. My flight was already booked (mostly refundable) and visa paid for (fully unrefundable) so there was, as well as academic and personal reasons, a strong financial wish for getting the grades! Thankfully I checked today and did perfectly well in my exams, and so amongst the excitement I should probably pack those last few items now…

Location: Heathrow, London, UK

Date: 1st July 2013

Compared to the Olympics or Royal Wedding, there is no big leaving ceremony for a study abroad student, especially one that’s only going for a single semester. Instead, a couple of friends visited me and phone calls to my grandparents were rung. Other than that, the week before leaving the UK was like any other. A tip for anyone studying abroad in the future: unlock your phone at least two months in advance. I tried within the last fortnight and shop after shop delayed me, with eventually no one being able to unlock either my network or model. But had I managed to do it, I would possibly have needed up to a month before the unlock code worked. So unlock early!

The leaving day arrived and my family came with me to the airport to see me off. My brother was the first to say farewell as he had to head into London, and the short and snappy ‘Bye’ was to be expected (but he did give me a hug – how cute). The parents were next before I walked through the doors to security and tip number 2 is to take plenty of tissues to the airport. I myself didn’t need them, but the same cannot be said about my dearest mother. My dad, as ever, told one last pun before I left to brace the necessary security checks. I had only flown as far as Germany on my own before, so I have to admit that flying across the world solo was scarier.

Location: Hong Kong

Date: 4th July 2013

I have left England, yet I still will not arrive at my destination (Brisbane for the University of Queensland) until the 13th of July. My flights were booked in such a way to give me the chance to visit a friend from Manchester at her home in Hong Kong for a few days, and then relatives of mine in Sydney for a week. As well as visiting loved ones, having two weeks to battle any jet-lag is a well-welcomed idea.

The humidity here in Hong Kong is insane; imagine a bath vapourised (so, basically a sauna) that surrounds you wherever you go and you have Hong Kong in July. It was a shock from the English weather so be warned if you’re planning on studying or visiting here. Shorts, suncream and an acceptance of sweating are a must for any student planning to study in a hot climate in general.

If you do have a chance to stop over in Hong Kong at any point, I would recommend the following activities: getting the cable car to Ngong Ping to see the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha; having a day at Ocean Park, and riding the tram to the Peak. The public transport system in Hong Kong is superb (as well as air-conditioned) so you’ll have no problems getting to places.

Image A view from a Peak

Location: Sydney, Australia

Date: 11th July 2013

Just two days until I arrive at my final destination (a nice one, unlike the franchise) and the buzz of anticipation is kicking in. Will the people be nice? How lost will I get? What level of difficulty will my exams be? Who do I go to if sick? Despite what those questions might suggest to you, I’m far more excited than scared for studying in Australia. Whilst in Sydney I’ve sorted out a bank account, a phone with an Australian sim card, started the online enrollment process and planned my airport pick up. All fun-sounding activities, I know, but it will lessen the hassle of paperwork when I arrive.

Besides all of that, I’ve seen the sights in Sydney (from Opera House to Taronga zoo to Manly) whilst also bumping into a few English rugby players here for the final Lions match.

Image

Chilling with some Lions (at Bondi Beach)

All in all, I am well rested and beyond ready to move into my college. Bring it on, Brisbane!