After possibly the longest summer break ever (a whole 4 months!), I am finally back for my second semester at the University of Auckland. I spent most of the summer travelling around, with the highlights including a trip to the South Island where I visited Milford Sound in Fiordland and hiked the Abel Tasman Great Walk, which had some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.
However, whilst I could write post after post on all the amazing landscapes and attractions New Zealand has to offer, I thought I’d focus this one more on how the academic side of university varies here compared to Manchester.
1) Different case study examples
Studying Geography and Geology, I often get taught case studies that help consolidate understandings of how geographic and geological process work in the real-word. I’m now taught from a southern hemisphere perspective, and all my modules tend to refer to concepts and case studies relevant to New Zealand, Australia and the surrounding Pacific countries. New Zealand is a much more interesting place geologically than the UK, which was part of the reason I chose to come here, and so far, I’m really enjoying learning more about specific geographic and geological topics I wouldn’t have exposure to back at Manchester. For example, in my Engineering Geology module there was a significant focus on Australian mining as these is a common field for NZ geologists to go into. It’s also cool to see features I’ve only ever seen theoretically in books, such as a back-arc volcanic chain, as a real-life example of New Zealand’s Taupo Volcanic Zone, as it really helps to visualise and identify processes and end products.
2) Continuous assessments
As is the case for many universities abroad, it is more common for modules (called papers here) to be continuously assessed throughout the semester, in contrast to maybe one large coursework essay and a final exam worth 60-100%, which was common for me at Manchester. This means each week, on top of attending lectures and the readings and note writing associated with these, I have to complete assessed labs, each worth 5-10%. Mid semester tests are also common and can mean that by the actual exam, as much as 80% of the module has already been completed. For example, in one of my modules, I’d already done 30% of the work by week 3.
Whilst this takes pressure of during exam season, as exams have a much lower weighting than at Manchester, more work is required throughout the semester. In order to complete the assessments, you need to be up-to-date with lecture material, which can be a good thing as it forces you to keep motivated and engaged, however means the work can seem very full on and stressful at times.
3) Lots of computer-based laboratories
Initially I assumed my assessed labs would be similar to the geology practicals I had at Manchester, which are very hands on in a classroom. However, I was surprised as here, for both my Geography and Earth Science modules, labs are much more computer-based. There seems to be a focus on using programs such as Excel, Arc GIS and specialist modelling software to process and analyse data sets, aiming to relate this back to concepts learnt in lectures. Having limited prior experience with such, it took me a while to fully understand what was going on and how some of the programs work. Whilst these have been beneficial, expanding my knowledge and letting me use some really cool programs, such as one that processes seismic reflection data, I think I prefer the practical style back at Manchester, where it’s a lot more hands on and easier to understand the relevancy of what I am doing.
This one might be a bit specific to studying Geography and Geology, however, my friend who does Psychology also has lots more computer labs than back home, so maybe this might be an observation for science subjects in general?
As mentioned above, exams are often weighted a lot less here than they would be back at Manchester, which does ease the pressure and stress during the exam season. Mid-semester tests also mean that the material has been revised before, which make final revision a lot easier, especially as in some cases, where material covered in the mid-semester test is excluded from the final exam. So, whilst I’ve found exams here a lot less stressful than at Manchester, the format in which they’re held can be a little weird. For starters, it’s common for exams to be held on Saturdays or late in the evening (my friend once had one that started at 8pm!). Each exam, regardless of subject, also has 15 minutes reading time before you actually start writing which can be confusing when you’re not expecting it and try to start writing immediately which isn’t allowed!
Hopefully this post has been helpful for those considering studying at Auckland or New Zealand in the future!
After around 32 hours of travelling between time zones, at 9am local time I arrived at my Halls of Residence at the University of Sydney. With hair like a bird’s nest wrestling my heavy luggage into the building, the sight of me inspired pity in two girls that I will now forever remember as my ‘first friends’ in Sydney. They clearly recognised from experience the state I was in! After an extra sweaty check-in to my bedroom having mistaken the heating unit for air conditioning, I decided that it was time get a few of the important administrative bits and bobs out of the way so I could kickstart my new life.
PHONE – I didn’t manage to get my SIM card unlocked before I left the UK which delayed the process a little so get that sorted if you can – but don’t panic if you don’t manage to either – It just means I had to wait for around two days before I could purchase a new Australian SIM card.
BANK ACCOUNT – Commonwealth Bank in Australia is definitely the one to go for! Take along your passport, confirmation of enrolment and national insurance number for a smooth process – I rang my Dad at 4am English time asking him to rummage through my room at home for my old pay slips to find my national insurance number (This didn’t go down so well with him but the Aussies at the bank found it hilarious!) I suggest sorting your bank account out after you’ve sorted a SIM card as you can set up your Online Banking straight away then.
OPAL CARD – In Sydney, students are entitled to a Concession Opal Card which provides you with city travel at a much better rate than an Adult Opal Card. However, it requires an online application that I hadn’t yet completed. So, if you’re really prepared, get that sorted before you set off and use your accommodation address so that your opal card is delivered ready for your arrival! If (like me) you’re not quite as organised, I’d recommend just using an Adult Card temporarily which can be bought at most corner shops while your Concession Card gets processed – it will still be a life saver for those buses that are ‘PREPAY ONLY’.
DUVET – Taking a bus to Broadway Shopping Centre (with your swanky new Opal Card) is a great way to finish settling in. With a few different shops stocking homeware, I was able to compare prices and sort out a duvet and kitchen supplies on a budget. Even better, there is also a supermarket so you can get that fridge full all in the same trip. Make sure you take note of the size of your bed – I didn’t even know that ‘king-single’ was a size until I realised that the single sheet I had bought wasn’t going to fit!
Although the sleep-deprivation still prevailed after a power-nap, I decided to explore my Halls of Residence a bit more. It was during this jaunt that I bumped into the girls that had helped me earlier and we arranged a trip to Glebe Market (it has every stall you could possibly imagine as well as live music next to a massive picnic area) for the coming weekend – Our first of many trips to come! Despite being so tired and ready to curl up for the night, summoning up the last dregs of energy really taught me the importance of putting yourself out. Even now, I will always use the communal spaces instead of doing little tasks in my room like working or filling in my diary – coming across new people during these mundane activities is such a good way to engage with others. Who knew that writing a shopping list could spark such great conversation?!
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.
I can’t wait to go back and visit this rare and uniquely beautiful island, and hopefully meet up with some more Quokkas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One main advantage of studying abroad in New Zealand or Australia is that by starting the semester in July, you’re finished by early November and get to enjoy a four month summer break. This is made even sweeter by the fact that it’s cold, wet and wintry back home and everyone is still at uni, stuck revising for exams. Having said that, I have revised for and sat three separate exam seasons this year, so I think my rest is well earned.
The last half of this semester was pretty hectic, finishing all my coursework, revising for exams and saying goodbye to all my one semester friends that had finished their time abroad. The actual exam set up was a little different here compared to Manchester, and I was a little confused in my first one where we were given 15 minutes of reading time to look through the questions prior to the actual exam beginning. This can be taken as a blessing or a curse as either you read the questions and know how to answer them, or you’ll just be sat there for 15 minutes panicking once you realise the questions don’t refer to any of the topics you actually revised! Most of the exams were also done in lecture theatres which made them feel slightly less formal and serious than the ones I’ve taken in Manchester.
In between revision, I did manage to get out and about a bit, including a three day ‘revision break’ down to Tongariro National Park, where a few friends and I hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. As it was early spring, there was still loads of snow all over the place and it was so pretty and scenic. We also walked past the volcano that Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings was based off which was really cool!
As my exams finished on the 1st of November, I decided to head over to Australia before the weather got too hot and spent a month travelling up the east coast from Sydney to Cairns, stopping multiple times along the way. I saw so many cool animals out in the wild, including kangaroos, koalas, dingos, crocodiles, sharks and even some poisonous spiders! My favourite part of the trip was visiting Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, where we drove on the beach and got to swim in so many beautiful lakes. I also got to ride a horse on the beach which was amazing and has been a dream of mine for some time now.
I’m now back in Auckland, enjoying the sunny weather and Christmas festivities whilst looking for a job as all these trips don’t come cheap! Hopefully I can spend the next couple of months saving up a bit of money for when I head down to South Island in the new year for some exploring there!
I’m now well in to the second half of the semester here at Auckland which is strange as all my friends back in Manchester have only just started. And to be honest, whilst I have been having an amazing time here, it has made me feel a little homesick, hearing about everyone back home reuniting after summer and doing things together whilst I’m here on the other side of the world stuck writing essays and lab reports. Over the summer it was easy to push life back at Manchester to the side as I was out here having an adventure whilst they were all either working or just chilling, all dispersed across the UK. But, now everyone is reunited back in Manchester and I’m the one left out whilst they’re all starting third year it has thrown me a little. However, I think it will just take a bit of time for me to readjust to this new normal!
Feeling homesick is something that is certain to hit everyone at some point during a year abroad, however I think it’s important to remember that in general, you’re almost definitely having a more exciting, interesting and rewarding experience than you would have had back home. I’d advise trying to keep busy when you’re feeling down, organising to meet up with people and to also plan lots of things for the upcoming week so that you’ve constantly got something to look forward to. I’ve also found video calling friends from home also helps, as it makes you feel a little more involved in uni life back home. The time difference can make this pretty funny though, as last week I videoed my friends whilst they were dressed up ready to go out, yet I’d just woken up and was eating breakfast!
Anyway, I’ve had an amazing month or so out in New Zealand since I last wrote. Mid semester break has been and gone, in which I went on a week-long field trip down to Gisborne for one of my classes. Part of the reason I came here was to learn more about coastal geography as it isn’t really offered in Manchester, so to actually go out and study wave processes in the field was really cool and interesting. We spent the week out on a shore platform working with wave pressure sensors, wading in water up to our knees at times and even got chased by a lone seal one afternoon!
The second week, I flew with a couple of friends down to Christchurch in the South Island where we picked up a car and drove it back up to Auckland. This was probably my favourite week here so far as we got to see such a diverse range of different landscapes, including snow capped mountains, volcanoes, beaches and lakes – all in one country! It was also nice to chill out for a bit after an intense first half of the semester. I’ve also been on a few weekend trips out exploring the North Island – one to Taupo, an area with lots of geothermal energy and hot springs, and out to Mt Taranaki which is a huge standalone volcano in the middle of an otherwise flat area of the west coast.
These trips have made me realise just how much there is to see and do here in New Zealand and that even with a year to explore, it’s still going to be a push to see everything I want to!
I thought that going abroad was going to be the biggest change in my life this year. But since returning, things are still continuing to change. I have started an internship with the University of Manchester over summer, and in turn, my first full time, professional job. I have lived completely alone for the first time – including setting up all the heating, internet and meters in the house!! And finally, (here comes the biggie) my parents made the decision to move to New Zealand.
I feel as if this year hasn’t just been a monumental shift within myself, but my family too. And without studying abroad, I wouldn’t have been able to handle all the things that I have listed anywhere near as well as I have. I’m not going to pretend it’s all been easy, but I have coped and thrived and grown up rapidly in the space of a few months.
I used to be so afraid of change – making the decision to go abroad was not one I took lightly, and I’m not sure I ever truly believed I was going until I stepped off the plane in Toronto. But now, I can feel myself embracing it; my parents are moving to the other side of the world and I could not be more excited for them (and for myself too!)
By studying abroad I proved my ability for independence to myself and to my parents, and I don’t know if they would be moving if I hadn’t gone. The decision to live abroad affects not just you but everyone you know, and if it affects you positively, chances are it will affect them positively too.
I am working with the international office on my internship, and I cannot express how rewarding it has been to be involved with the process of encouraging students to study abroad, and being able to pass on my experience and passion to them. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity in this internship, and met the amazing people I have, and gained the life experience that I have, if it wasn’t for studying abroad.
If you haven’t already got the message – go! Study abroad! You will gain a lifetime of memories, experiences and knowledge and grow so much as a person – and this doesn’t stop on your return. And hey, who knows – your family might move to the other side of the world and give you a new place to explore.
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
(Cape Reinga, New Zealand. The top of the north island, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean)
I feel like I have overused the phrase “Australia has really changed me” but I can’t stress this enough. Studying abroad has given me a new perspective on life, a new passion to travel and new traits to enhance my character.
Although I returned home quite a while back, I still feel connected to Australia. Even in simple conversations, you are bound to bring up the fact you were abroad – “When I was abroad…” “In Australia we had…” Will people get tired of hearing your stories? Absolutely. Will that stop you from telling your stories? Absolutely not.
The memories you create and the people you meet will always stay with you on your journey. Some of my best friends I made on my time abroad still hold the same value in my life. (Thank you Steve Jobs for FaceTime!) Of course studying abroad means you literally have to study abroad, but making time to socialise and really step out of my comfort zone has helped me in life in more ways you can imagine. For example, I spent part of my Summer 2018 in Singapore with a friend from exchange who was local to the place and offered me a place to stay as well as be the best tour guide you could have! You never know how the people you could meet abroad can help you in life. And vice versa!
I can’t say studying abroad has been all fun and games – because it hasn’t. There were days when I would get homesick, days when I felt down, and days when I was just uncomfortable. But that’s okay! This was all part of the process. This was what contributed to change me as a person. This was what made me adapt.
When you are abroad, you will have times when you feel lonely, the best way to overcome this is keep in touch with your family & friends back home. I can’t stress this enough! I also realised that keeping busy helps! As an exchange student, I met heaps of other exchange students on the same boat as me (tip: ‘heaps’ is Aussie for lots!). For me, spending time with these people and sharing stories really helped me feel better. It’s all about patience and baby steps.
I truly can’t put into words how lucky I feel to have lived my dreams. Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef? Check! Feeding kangaroos? Triple check! Experiencing these things at the time doesn’t feel so overwhelming, but over time looking back at the pictures really humbles you and you become grateful for this opportunity you had been given.
I strongly recommend the Study Abroad programme, I promise you it will all be worth it.
Thank you for the memories Sydney. I can’t wait to see you again.
Reflecting on my time abroad is difficult because truthfully, I never wanted it to end. The hardest part of studying abroad was leaving. I can confirm reverse culture / re-entry shock is real.
The reason why so many clichés about studying abroad exist is because there is no other way to put it; studying abroad truly was the most incredible experience of my life. I made friends that I know will be there for life, who bring out the best in me and make me laugh for hours on end. I travelled to the most insanely beautiful places and made memories that I will carry with me forever.
Although I was lucky enough to spend way more than 24 hours in Sydney, I thought this blog post could be a useful guide for those students who are studying abroad elsewhere in Australia or nearby who only have a couple of days (or hours) in the city!
I also thought it would be a fun way of compiling all my favorite spots in Sydney!
Despite only arriving in Auckland three weeks ago, it feels like I’ve been here and known everyone much longer. The flight over was long and after a small incident getting locked out of my accommodation at 2 am on a Sunday, I finally made it to my room after 26 hours of travelling. My first week here was spent exploring Auckland and making friends, dealing with the worst jet-lag of my life and trying not to cry over the ridiculous price of chocolate and pretty much any fruit/veg item that isn’t a kiwi fruit.
Luckily, I had university starting back up the next week to distract me from my fruit and veg woes and to keep me busy. It was weird to be back studying so quickly after the end of second year, but my courses have all been really interesting so far and I’m enjoying my geography courses learning about processes from a different country perspective. More contact hours and continuous assessments throughout the semester means I am doing more university work then I would have done back at Manchester, especially for the first two weeks. However, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing as it encourages you to really engage with what you’re learning week by week, plus it’ll be less stress towards the exam period.
I joined the university study abroad student society (SASS) during orientation which is something I can’t recommend enough. They hosted multiple social events in the first week and it helped me meet loads of other exchange students, whilst proving cheap food, nights out and day trips. I also joined the Tramping Society (tramping = hiking in NZ) and went with them to Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park last weekend, a two hour drive out of Auckland. We drove down Friday night to Waitawheta Hut and spent Saturday out tramping, playing games in the evening and eating huge amounts of chilli and chocolate cake before heading back on Sunday. The tramp was so fun and it actually felt like we were walking through a rain forest at times. We even went through some old mine tunnels and saw loads of glow worms which was really cool. The only downside of epic weekends trips I’ve found however, is that you don’t really get the weekend to rest and relax ahead of the upcoming week, which makes for a very tiring Monday!
This weekend a group of us hired a rental van, lovingly nicknamed ‘Mikey’, and headed out to explore some west coast beaches for the day. Despite being less than an hour from Auckland, the black sand beaches and lush green forestry made Piha feel like another country entirely. We spent the day wandering along the beach and around the various coves, climbing up Lions Rock and of course, taking about a thousand photos of everything. I don’t think the scenery will ever get any less amazing out here, everything is so beautiful.
These first weeks have been super hectic and I don’t think things will slow down anytime soon but I’m having the best time and can’t wait for more adventures over the These first weeks have been super hectic and I don’t think things will slow down anytime soon but I’m having the best time and can’t wait for more adventures over the upcoming weeks.upcoming weeks.