Bienvenue à Toulouse!

By Sarah Cross, Sciences Po Toulouse, France

I’m Sarah and I’m a PPE student studying for a year at Sciences Po in Toulouse. After what feels like countless months of admin, forms and eventually obtaining a Visa, I finally arrived here to begin my placement. The French bureaucracy has meant nothing is straightforward (partially thanks to Brexit!), so it feels great to have now spent three weeks in the ‘Pink City’.

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A Week of Living in Amsterdam

by Aimee Kinniburgh, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Netherlands

As I’m writing this, today marks one week of living in Amsterdam and what a week it’s been. It feels like a lifetime ago I left for Bristol airport and said goodbye to my life in England for the next year. This week has been full of the highest highs and also some of the lowest lows, as is often the case when you pack up your life and move countries. So I thought I would make a list of the most important things I’ve learnt after my first week in Amsterdam. I’m sure this list will only grow throughout my time here but here’s what I’ve learnt so far.

  1. Get. A. Bike. – it sounds obvious but my god life in Amsterdam is impossible without one. Swapfiets will become your best friend, even if they do give you a bike that was too big and too heavy for your small little legs to start with. Some of the best moments of your first week will be when it’s just you, your bike and some music cycling around and exploring the city so just bite the bullet and pay for a bike. 
  1. On top of this get a bike coat. You’ll think they’re ridiculous at the start but trust me you won’t care how silly you look when it’s chucking it down with rain and you’re having to cycle 40 minutes to get home. The drowned rat look is not a good one. 
  1. Campus is beautiful but very confusing so make sure you leave plenty of time to find your lecture halls and seminar rooms. It makes for some very awkward first impressions when you have to walk in late.
  1. Cooking is going to be a whole new experience in Amsterdam. Ovens seem to simply not exist out here so get ready for a lot of pasta and rice in the first few days before you figure out how to cook with only two hobs and find out where to buy spices from.
  1. Going out in Amsterdam is revolutionary. Everyone is so friendly and respectful so take advantage and chat to as many people as you can! It’s the best way to make friends and makes for some very funny stories in the morning
  2. And finally, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and like you’ll never get settled into your new life. It’s a big deal to move to a completely different country and everything will feel too much at times but even after a week life is settling down so give it time and you’ll be fine!

Hidden gems: Amsterdam edition

By Hannah Wheeler, Vrije Universitiet, Netherlands

Throughout my year in Amsterdam, I was always keen to try and find spots that were beyond the tourist’s gaze. When I met an Amsterdamer, I would often ask what places they recommended and what were their favourite parts of the city. Here are a few places I discovered and fell in love with… 

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Reflecting on my year in Bergen

Hardangerfjord, less than 3 hours bus journey from Bergen.

August 1st 2022. It’s exactly a year to the day since I moved to Norway, or the quarantine hotel in Bergen, at least. And what an incredible 10 months it was. I threw myself into Norwegian life, making the most of the ample opportunities on offer. You can read about some of these incredible experiences in my previous blog posts!

The view of Bergen from the top of Floyen.

However, if I could offer one piece of advice to myself one year ago today, and to anyone about to embark on a year abroad themselves, it would be that it’s ok to go home during your year abroad… Indeed, throughout the year, I felt that there was an immense pressure from fellow students to never go home for a weekend, holiday or week during year abroad, and that if you do, you are ‘failing’ Erasmus. For example, myself and others were constantly criticised for choosing to go home for Christmas in mid December, and not staying in Bergen until the days before Christmas Eve. As if it is some sort of competition for who can stay the maximum amount of days in Norway! I was also worried about missing out on things happening in Norway or that it would have an impact on building friendships with fellow students.

A beach around 20 minutes on the train from Bergen. Sand and snow!

Of course, it is only a 90 minute flight between Bergen and Manchester, and I was fortunate to have financial aid specifically for travel purposes from the Turing Scheme. Nonetheless, during Semester 1, I gave in to this pressure and FOMO, and did not go home to visit friends or family once, which in the end I bitterly regretted because I missed some important family events and 21st birthdays. So, in Semester 2, I took a last minute, cheap flight home for Easter, which allowed me to go back to Norway a week later, refreshed and rejuvenated for my final months there. I also made plans to meet friends from home in a neighbouring Scandinavian country, so that I too could have a holiday and change of scenery (rather than them coming to Bergen).

So, all in all, don’t give in to the pressure to never go home during your time abroad! If your timetable and finances permit it, then I think it’s a great way to boost your mental health and wellbeing. Seeing friends and family, and the change of scenery, might even make you appreciate your year abroad more in the long term.

Sunset Spots

by Aleksandra Budd, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

All of my sunset lovers get yourself to Madrid!

Madrid has the most incredible sunsets, and sunrises – if you wake up early enough (or party late enough). Here are my favourite viewpoints to watch the sun set over Madrid…

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Liège, la cité ardente:

By Lareb Asim, University of Liège, Belgium.

I arrived in Liège at the end of August for my placement aboard at the University of Liège. Since it is so close to the UK and from previous conversations with Belgians, I had expected that the weather would be cold and rainy and so I had prepared according to that. However, I soon found that the weather was a lot warmer than I anticipated and one of the first things I ended up buying for my studio was a fan.

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Top Tacos in Madrid

By Aleksandra Budd, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

For the first 3 months of being in Madrid, my house mates and I started ‘Taco Tuesday’. The idea was to find the best taco spots in Madrid.

Several ‘Taco Tuesday’s’ later and we decided these are our favourite taco spots in Madrid.

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On the 17th of May

By Nia Thomas, University of Bergen, Norway

From quirky Christmas festivities to its rich Viking heritage, Norway is a country packed with culture. Of course, every nation has its own personal traditions. However, the lifestyle and customs within Norwegian society differ from the rest of the world through its unique approach to celebrating its deep-rooted and brilliant history. This is especially reflected every year on the country’s “birthday”, May 17th.

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Happy Birthday Norway!

Hottest day of the year so far!

Brazilians have their carnival, the Irish Saint Patrick’s Day. Norway’s answer? On 17 May, they celebrate the signing of the constitution in 1814. In Norway, Constitution Day is HUGE. Indeed, since I arrived in Bergen in August, I have been told about this day so many times by excited and proud Norwegians, and have been looking forward to May 17th throughout the year.

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