My time abroad so far!

By Grace Griffiths (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

So as well as my video blog (which is my main blog so check that out if you haven’t!) I just wanted to write a little something something – mainly because it gives me a further reason to procrastinate from work, but also because I forgot to mention some stuff in the video.

Firstly, the name of the tour guide to the Blue Mountains was Rod. He was great – your stereotypical outgoing, sarcastic, says-it-as-it-is Ozzie. I’ve noticed that a lot since being here.  Australians keep it real, their humour tends to be quite honest and deadpan and I love it. Also, apologies for being the worst Drama student in the world because I completely forgot to mention the Sydney Opera House! Even if you don’t like that kind of thing, the Opera House is extremely impressive! Louby and I got up early one morning in a rare spout of motivation to see dawn, and were lucky enough to see the sun rise over it which was insane – the picture doesn’t even do it justice.

Blue Mountains, NSW
Blue Mountains, New South Wales
Sun Rise over Opera House, Sydney
Sun Rise over Opera House, Sydney

Secondly, just to clarify the housing situation, I ended up finding somewhere with three other students, so it’s not impossible to get a decent place off-campus, but I stand by what I said about it making settling in harder. I’d highly recommend applying to halls if you are going on exchange to ANU next year. There are benefits of living off-campus as well, of course: it’s probably slightly nicer than halls, usually cheaper, and a by-product of house hunting was that I got to see areas of Canberra that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It made me realise how nice Canberra is. The streets look very suburban, they look like they could’ve been modelled on Desperate Housewives.  It’s the weirdest capital though.  It was designed because the officials couldn’t agree on whether to make Sydney the capital, or Melbourne, so they decided to create somewhere half-way between the two.  As a result everything in Canberra was designed with a purpose in mind, which has resulted in some really cool architecture.  However, it is as if they designed it with the intent of filling it with far more people than are actually here – everything is huge and spaced out as you would imagine them to be in the capital city, but it’s really quiet and empty.  Which is why it’s criticised by lots of Australians – even people who are from here! It’s known as a cold and boring place, but this is definitely not the case if you are a student who’s used to English weather! It’s quite funny though, you soon get used to people’s reaction to you telling them that you’re studying in Canberra to be: “Unlucky mate”.  It is true that compared to somewhere like Sydney or Melbourne, there’s not as much to do, and if I were to move somewhere permanently, I think I’d prefer a bigger city, but as a student there’s always plenty going on, and locationwise it’s pretty ideal – only a short bus ride (in terms of Australian geography) from Sydney and the east coast.

Views from Mount Ainslie, Canberra
Views from Mount Ainslie, Canberra
ANU campus
ANU campus

Thirdly, I mentioned the Purple Haze Party that was at the end of O-week. It was there that I discovered SAFIA. They’re a trio from Canberra who describe themselves as electro-indie, and I now listen to them loads. They’re great if you’re into that kind of thing so check them out!

Fourthly, I completely forgot to mention the towns in New Zealand, especially Queenstown. So as well as all the crazy beautiful sights that were so nice they didn’t seem real, (this is something I get a lot on this side of the world. I’ll see something and won’t believe it’s actually there – I’ll feel like I’m looking at a picture online. I got it a lot in Sydney as well. I guess that’s a result of being a 21st century kid!) the towns in New Zealand were awesome!

Breathtaking views in Queenstown
Breathtaking views in Queenstown
Glaciers in New Zealand
Glaciers in New Zealand
Glaciers reflection, New Zealand
Glaciers reflection, New Zealand

A lot of them were really quirky and edgy… kind of like the Northern Quarter in Manchester. They had a really chilled out feel, and there was some really good artwork and a lot of live music.

Street Art in Greymouth, New Zealand
Street Art in Greymouth, New Zealand
Street Art in Christchurch
Street Art in Christchurch

One of the towns was famous for all its art deco, and there was another town called Bull that was filled with really bad puns.  The kind of jokes dads make. I loved it! A shop described its food as ‘unbeliev-a-bull’, the police station had a sign saying ‘Const-a-bull’ and there were pictures of bulls dressed in cop outfits, the bin was shaped like a carton of milk and had a sign saying ‘Response-a-bull’, the toilets were listed as ‘Relieve-a-bull’.  It was everywhere, and it was brilliant.

The rubbish bin in the funny punny town.
The rubbish bin in the funny punny town.

There’s actually so much more I can say about New Zealand – we definitely packed it in. We did caving in the North Island, where we saw glow worms, and we also went to Hobbiton where The Lord of the Rings was set.

Hobbiton, New Zealand
Hobbiton, New Zealand
Caving with glow worms!
Caving with glow worms!
Lugeing in Queenstown
Lugeing in Queenstown

We also stayed the night in a Mauri village.  The Mauri people are the indigenous people of New Zealand, and they invited us to their village and put on a cultural show and experience for us.  It was really interesting. The Mauri tradition involves a lot of music, art work, tribal dance and warriorhood. We had to select someone from our bus as ‘chief’ to represent our tribe, and they performed an initiation ceremony to make sure we were not a threat, and to welcome us to their village.

Mauri Village Experience
Mauri Village Experience

So to wrap up, I’m having an amazing time, meeting some amazing people and being introduced to some amazing things. I’m very happy that I chose to study abroad, and I’m really looking forward to what’s still to come!  I’m going to try and blog more often but sometimes life just gets in the way… you know how it is!

Pre-departure Blog

By Grace Griffiths (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

I want to go back in time and give past Grace a tap on the back for deciding to apply to study abroad.  Recently, motivating myself to work has felt like wading through mud whilst carrying a panda bear.  I don’t know why a panda bear – it was the first heavy thing that sprung to mind.  I may be alone with the analogy but I know I’m not alone with the feeling – exam season can be a bit soul destroying for all of us.  You can imagine then, how nice it is and how lucky I feel that as soon as I’ve cleared this hurdle there’s a sunny and exciting adventure ahead!  People keep on asking me if I’m scared, and I know that in theory I should be, but at the moment my departure date can’t come soon enough! I don’t think the reality of it has sunk in yet.  Although rationally I know that Australia is really far, and that I’m there for a really long time, there’s something in my mind that just isn’t quite grasping the concept.  At the moment it’s just the next thing to do on my mental checklist. First, pass exams. Second, go to Australia. Third, understand that I’m there.

I’m leaving on 26th January which is exactly a week’s time. A week!! That’s insane.  I think that’s another reason why it hasn’t sunk in yet – it still feels like ‘that cool thing’ that I’m doing next semester. But life has a habit of fast forwarding without you realising it, and next semester is in fact in one week.  Actually I tell a lie, second semester in Manchester starts in a week. At ANU it doesn’t start until 16th February.  This opens up a nice little three week window to do some travelling, so my friend Louby and I have decided to take a week of this and spend it in Sydney! Louby is also at Manchester University – she does Linguistics and is studying in Melbourne next semester.

In terms of organising the trip, we’ve had a few blunders.  We both left our visa applications quite late and didn’t want to book any flights or hostels or anything else until they had been confirmed.  When it got to 8th January and I still hadn’t heard anything I began to panic. So I called up the visa office in Australia and, after spending an hour in a phone queue which cost me £7.20 trying to find out why my visa hadn’t been granted yet, I discover they’d sent my mum an email of confirmation two days after I applied. Whoops, wasn’t expecting that! I thought I’d put my mum as an emergency contact, not sole contact! We had originally intended to get to Australia before the 26th January because that’s Australia Day and we wanted to join in the celebrations, but by the time the visa fiasco had been sorted the flights had rocketed up in price, and we decided to postpone.

Packing is another process that is slightly daunting.  I’ve got to pack everything I need for six months at Uni into one bag weighing less than 30kg.  This sounds completely feasible, but if I think about how full the car was when mum dropped me off in Manchester for first semester, I’m going to have to significantly cut down! Not to mention that I haven’t even started packing, and I don’t return home from Manchester until two days before I leave. This is entirely my own fault of course, but rushed packing doesn’t bode well for remembering everything I need. My frazzled brain is bound to forget something!

Anyway, I have procrastinated enough from doing real work for the time being. I will post another blog once I am there. For now – back to revision, drinking coffee and saying my goodbyes!