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.

(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.


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Erasmus, disabilities and long-term health conditions

As a former exchange student and a student with a disability, I thought I knew all there was to know about the funding and support available to disabled students, but alas I was wrong.  Indeed, there are more options than I first thought.

When I decided I wanted to go on exchange, I was adamant I did not want to study in Europe and instead wanted to go as far away as possible, as I felt this would make the most of my time away.  Since I have been back, I have found out more about the options available in Europe, which are particularly helpful to those who feel they would be unable to study abroad due to their health condition, without the help of additional funding.  Whilst I am fortunate that my disability proved fairly unproblematic, as I didn’t have to transport equipment or copious different medications, had I realised the benefits to staying in Europe, I might have given it a chance.

What benefits?

Firstly, is the additional funding available through Erasmus+.  Not only are you entitled to the Erasmus grant, but you are also able to apply for a higher amount to help cover additional costs arising as a result of your health.  Whilst there is no absolute guarantee that you will be awarded this additional sum, it is worth considering, especially as there is no set limit of funding through this avenue.

Secondly, is ‘other funding’.  This is quite difficult to access information on but worth exploring. For some courses, it is possible to obtain funding from private bodies, notably Google have scholarships for technology-based degrees, but there will be different options available to you, depending on your course.  It is also worth contacting different societies (e.g. the Epilepsy Society) and charities to see if they are able to help. It isn’t always possible, but you may find they are able to help, especially if you are willing to promote their cause.

Thirdly, is proximity to home.  As I have already mentioned, I wanted to get as far away as possible and it is absolutely possible to do this with a disability or health condition.  This said it is worth thinking about the likelihood of problems with your health- if you are really unwell its much easier to fly home for the weekend, or for a hospital appointment if you are in Poland compared with New Zealand!

Finally, is the law (sorry, I am a law student, so it had to be said!).  Although the laws in European countries do differ, there is a greater consistency when compared to other parts of the world.  There are some clear benefits of European laws, including the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of disability (EU Charter of Fundamental Rights) and the protection of rights of persons with disabilities (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).  Interestingly, the EU is currently contemplating a European Accessibility Act, which aims to increase accessibility for all, but with a particular focus on education, which could make a huge difference to those with disabilities and health conditions studying in Europe. Of course, there are many countries with disability legislation of their own and so this maybe be unproblematic, but I would really recommend having a look at the protections legislation can offer you in your desired country.  Remember, what is considered a disability in the UK may not be considered a disability in another country!

My Advice

There is definitely more to consider when applying to study abroad when you have a disability or long-term health condition, but it doesn’t make it impossible.  The greatest advice I can offer to students thinking of embarking on an exchange is to first disclose your condition to the university and more specifically the exchange office and secondly, to really consider all options.  I have friends who studied in Europe and absolutely loved their time there- it doesn’t really matter where you go, it is what you do with your time that will shape your exchange.



The End

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia

My first ending was my last haircut which was followed by ‘have a safe flight back and do come visit!’ a bit absurdly premature at that point since I still had another 2 monthes to go till D-day but it felt poignant nonetheless. From them on I tried to experience everything with the consciousness that time was running out and everything was a special moment worth savouring; an exhausting ambition. Also very hard to do, when you spend the large part of a year investing a lot of time, emotion and energy into carefully crafting a little belonging in a new place and you get to the comfortable place of starting to take this for granted, it feels completely counter-intuitive to throw all that effort into peril by telling yourself it will all soon just come to a halt. Much like wiling away ours melting chocolate, mixing ingredients, baking the bases of a cake with three different icings and toppings which you bring together to make a tremendous three-tier layer cake. Then the point at which you have laid out the plates to eat it and the knife is poised to serve it, you abruptly stand up and throw it in the bin. And the weirdest thing is: you are vegan (true story) and were never going to eat it in the first place! You new this peculiar fact from the first bag of sugar but got carried away with the exhilarating baking process so that it was still mega painful to watch that masterpiece topple out of sight.  I may have veered a little off-piste with that metaphor but it is to stress the weirdness that is having an end date on a life which you are ending on one level wilfully and on another with a lot of sadness (I realise this sounds a bit like I am talking about suicide, which is also more dramatic than I intend)

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RE-ENTRY: Part 2 of a year in Melbourne

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia

I was apprehensive about returning to Melbourne for second semester after being so rudely abandoned by my family. This is actually not really a matter of jest; it was truly one of the most traumatic experiences of all my young years. The shock of leaving home was muffled by the adrenaline of starting afresh in a new land and having no clue what waited for me on the other side of the plane. Getting used to this new life and being reunited with my family who got an insight into it, before then upping and leaving again was something quite different.

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End of Semester 1 Reflections

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia

It has taken longer than I thought to feel I have grasped something of what it feels like to live in Melbourne. The city feels pretty vast; the CBD itself is rather compact but the extensive suburbs make Melbourne feel much bigger. As is often the case with Uni life, it is equally as easy to busy yourself with your neighbourhood and the campus and look no further. But do!!

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Academic Differences

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia

The participation expected of students at Melbourne is very different from my experience at Manchester. It’s hard to pin this down to cultural differences or differences in the standards of the universities themselves, since Melbourne is regarded the best in the country. It may also be the result of differences in degree programs as I have chosen modules from different disciplines outside of Anthropology, such as Politics. Either way, my experience is students are far more self-assured and articulate and so engage in debate constantly in tutorials and lectures of their own accord.

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Update: Housing & Nesting

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia

The rumors are true!

I arrived just over a week before orientation week begun. This decision was a source of a lot of stress and brain worms. Shifting the date earlier was at the expense of my summer holiday at home but in the end, a week did feel like plenty of time particularly since there is not a lot going on in orientation week despite attendance being compulsory. The downside of forsaking pre-arranged accommodation meant rocking up on the early morning of July 11th jet lagged, vitamin d deficient and bereft into an atmosphere where everyone is competitively in the same boat. I stayed at the Nunnery, in Fitzroy, for 10 days in total. My memories of it are a little muddled by the confusion of settling in those first couple weeks but it is a nice establishment, especially for those winter months, it’s living room hosting a nightly fire and weekly pub quiz and it’s kitchen, plays host to a free breakfast which consists of pancakes on a Saturday. True to its name, the majestic building used to be home to a convent and so the building has a multiplicity of rooms almost all of which were which were full of other exchange students also trying to find a house.

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Pre-departure thoughts

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia 

The genius of Kafkaesque bureaucracy lies in its ability to make you forget the reality of its true purpose. These past few weeks have been a frenzied mayhem of appointments, to do lists, amazon orders, online applications and visas (which, by the way, were so late to be cleared I really advise against waiting for your CofE before booking your flights, mine only came in a week ago and I am leaving next Friday; booking a flight to Australia 2 weeks in advance is bonkers). Do not underestimate the time investment that a year abroad begs-it does not end after your application or even when you’ve been given your place. I am due to leave in a fortnight now and feel no calmer nor clearer on what I am doing and yet nor do I feel much because more important right now is informing my bank I will be in Australia for a year, cancelling my phone contract, unlocking my phone or trying to wager some sort of deal in the purchasing of dollars following my negligent failure to do so prior to the Brexit referendum. To add insult to injury, not only has my political will and moral conception of justice been completely overruled for a grotesque belief that this island will thrive in its independence from the EU-but I must also literally dish out my savings to subsidise this weird transition. Rant aside, the list of errands goes on.

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Last month in Sydney

The weather has changed a lot since first arriving at Sydney in February. Temperature has dropped since a typhoon hit New South Wales around one month ago. The typhoon severely affected transportations and public services as railways were blocked by fallen trees and streets became a giant pond. Continue reading “Last month in Sydney”