My top advice for UBC exchange students…

  1. Accommodation

Here’s the pros and cons for living on/off campus:

Halls

+ Application: Quick and simple to apply online

+ Location: very convenient as near to learning spaces, gym, restaurants, cafés, bars, beaches and forests.

+ Social life: Easy to meet other exchange students

–  Location: 1 hour bus journey from downtown

–  Social life: Most of my friends found their flatmates to be unsociable as they were second/third-year undergraduates who were less keen to hang out due to already having friendship groups established.

–  Cleaning checks and quiet hours were strictly implemented limiting student’s independence

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Snowy view from Walter Gage

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Arrival and Initial Week in Sydney

By Claire Muller, University of Sydney, Australia 

Hey guys,

My name is Claire. I’m a third-year psychology student, currently on exchange at the University of Sydney for a year. I arrived back in July 2018, so this article is long overdue, but I wanted to tell you guys about how my arrival and the initial week in Sydney went.

I officially left Europe on the 17th of July. Saying goodbye to the fam at first wasn’t that bad, I was probably too excited about the journey ahead. However, once I reached Doha (Qatar), that is when reality struck me like a ton of bricks. I was thinking to myself: ‘Why did I have to pick an exchange destination literally across the other side of the world? What was I thinking? I mean I’m going to be gone for an entire year, if something happens, I stuck there.’ I might have also been panicking a little because I had never taken a 13hour flight by myself before.

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‘It won’t happen to me’

Before leaving to go to America, the prospective exchange students were made to go to a meeting titled ‘it won’t happen to me’, where we had to sit through a PowerPoint of horrific incidences which previous exchange students had been involved in, e.g. being caught up in natural disasters or deported for underage drinking.  The aim of the PowerPoint was to encourage us students to be vigilant whilst on exchange and consequently, I completely ignored any advice that was given.  ‘Nothing like that is going to happen to me’, came my irritatingly annoying thoughts, ‘nothing like that ever happens to me’. When I saw the price of health insurance for one semester ($1200) I very nearly refused to get it, purely as a matter of principal. Thankfully though, I was eventually persuaded, and  I cannot begin to articulate how thankful I am for that.

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Road Trip – Western Australia

-We went in semester two, British semester one, during Australian winter/spring (but tbh there is only one season here in WA and that is summer!!).

-I live in college so we went in a group of ten (both Aussies and exchangers) from my college.

-It took us a week in total to drive up to Exmouth and back down again.

-I broke my finger the day before we left so I could only snorkel for one day as my cast was not meant to get wet.

-My top three favourite places we visited were:

  1. The pink lake! It looks even pinker in real life, and the ground is covered in a thick layer of salt.
  2. Turquoise bay, which has officially ruined beaches for me, as it is so lovely.
  3. Monkey Mia because when we were hanging out during the night, a dolphin came and swam alongside us for about 10 minutes (sadly I didn’t manage to film this).

 

 

How is academic life different at Auckland?

Emily Barnes // University of Auckland

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.

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Section of the Abel Tasman National Park walk 
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Moody Milford Sound

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Swedish Culture: Ball Weekend

Spring has sprung and as I finished my mid-semester exams I took the opportunity to take in some more of the Swedish environment and culture.

One of the biggest traditions and an important part of student life in Lund is the Ball weekend. Effectively a much bigger, much fancier version of a sittning (see earlier post) the Sydskanska Nations annual spring ball took place this year in the Grand Hotel. There are a few things that separate this event from your average shindig, firstly that its probably the fanciest thing I’ve ever been a part of, with a strict white tie dress code. The guests also attach a series of small medals to their tuxedo/ ball gown, each earnt for engagement in a specific aspect of student or civil society for a certain period of time. I managed to get my hands on one for being involved with a nation, but I was definitely a small fish in a big pond of heavily medalled sharks.

student-ball-lund-university-705.gifMuch of the speeches and songs were of course in Swedish, which made everything quite confusing as an international student, but still a lot of fun. A three course meal was followed by a live band and barbershop quartet, and then the large hall was cleared to make room for ballroom dancing. As the ball drew to a close, the guests gathered at the hotel entrance for a torchlit procession through the streets of Lund up to the Sydskanska Nation building, where the entertainment continued late into the night. If this wasn’t enough, the morning after brought with it a brunch sittning and more live music well into the afternoon. It was interesting to see how much events like this are part of Swedish culture, and it was definitely a unique and different experience compared to student life in the UK.

Adapting back to Manchester: life after studying abroad

While you are studying abroad, one of the last things you are thinking about is returning to Manchester to finish your degree. Whether it is a single semester, your final year or returning to do a masters, returning to academic life in Manchester offers a unique set of challenges which is not often associated with the process of studying abroad.

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A Mexican Manifesto

It is hard to encapsulate and create an image of the beauty of Mexico without visiting – but I’m going to try anyway…

Mexico’s diversity is something I have been absolutely blown away by; although not difficult when you consider that by area, it is the 13th largest country in the world, and fits a large number of European countries within its boundaries! This gives rise to an astonishingly diverse range of cultures, which vary dramatically between states and regions, with varying music and dance, clothing, language and customs in each community. Given that my workload is not nearly as heavy or demanding as in Manchester, I have been able to really take advantage to travel extensively and far and wide in this amazing country. From cities in which the colonial legacy is obvious such as Puebla and Oaxaca, to small indigenous towns of Chiapas, from vast archaeological sites of previous civilisations, to the vast metropolis of Mexico City, from beautiful beaches of the Pacific Coast in Oaxaca or the Gulf in Veracruz, to dense pine forests inundated by the migration of monarch butterflies in Michoacán, from the mountains and volcanoes surrounding my own home in Cholula, to the waterfalls and Chiapas, Mexico is a country rich in, climatic, environmental and cultural diversity. Naturally, this could not make it more interesting for a Geographer!

 

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Among Monarch butterflies in Michoacán

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Top tips for thriving not just surviving Amsterdam

All things considered Amsterdam is a very easy place to live for a foreigner, with 90% of people speaking English. However, there are a few things I wish I had known to buy or to do which would have made my first few weeks easier. So here are some things to consider when moving here:

Set up a dutch bank account: up until Christmas time I managed to get by using my international bank card. However, it was causing me a bit of hassle, as lots of shops here only take dutch cards. Also, online shopping using dutch companies is impossible without a dutch card. However, since I got a job and had to set up an account I realised how worthwhile it is to have one. I recommend ING for a free student account.

Get a bike ASAP: I actually brought my bike with me from home, as I was lucky enough to have my dad drive me here. But if you can’t do that, then I suggest either renting one from Swapfiets for €15 per month, or you can buy a v cheap one at Waterlooplein.

Order a student OV chip card: for the super windy and rainy days when you can think of nothing worse than cycling, you’ll need to have a student OV chip card to allow you to take public transport (unless you want to fork out a fortune for the standard ticket).  You can order them online and they give a discount on all transport.

Museumkaarts: are a must if you like museums. Going to exhibitions in the Netherlands can become expensive, so if you want to go to more than 4 times I would recommend you get a card. It costs about €60 to get one, but if you buy it at the museum the cost of the visit is deducted.

Free food: there are quite a few spots in the city for free or cheap meals. Taste before you waste is a charity which hosts dinner’s twice a week. You can also go to their food market and get free ingredients.

Booze: annoyingly, I wandered around the supermarket for about 15 minutes looking for vodka before I mustered up the courage to ask where the spirits were. Turns out, in the Netherlands if you want spirits you have to go to a liquor shop.

Flixbus: by far the cheapest and easiest way to get around; both to different dutch cities but also further afield.

Although this blog isn’t super exciting, I do wish I knew these things and I hope it is useful for whoever comes to Amsterdam on exchange.

 

 

Vancouver and Beyond – travel recommendations for your time at UBC

As reading week finally arrives at UBC, I can sigh in relief after surviving four exams in the space of three days. However, it’s times like those when you’re sat at your desk at 8am doing some hardcore last-minute cramming that you really cherish the high notes in the year so far. So, with that, I decided to make a quick guide to Vancouver’s best day trips and long weekends for students wanting to make the most out of their time abroad.

One of the first adventures I embarked on was a weekend road trip through the Canadian Rockies which was organised by the Exchange Student Club (ESC). The trip cost £250 in total, including food, accommodation and travel – with everything organised by the ESC so your only job is to pay! The trip took us through the most incredible sites in Alberta including the breathtakingly beautiful Lake Louise as well as several waterfalls and novice to advanced hiking trails. Although a large amount of time is spent on the coach, the ESC volunteers provide top entertainment to make the time fly by. Once the coach reaches Banff, the real fun begins. The accommodation comes with a thermal bath looking over the snowy mountains, and there are plenty of opportunities to get to know the other exchange students and finish the weekend with a fat night out before heading back to Vancouver. Would highly recommend this as a start to the year to meet loads of great people and visit some of North America’s most beautiful sites.

Lake Louise, Alberta
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Alberta

If the trip to the Rockies hasn’t quite quenched your thirst for Mountain adventuring, then British Columbia has plenty to offer in the way of hiking, biking, skiing and climbing. Whatever your experience with mountain sports, there are endless opportunities to take a quick trip Northern British Columbia to escape busy city life – an incredibly effective stress-reliever I’ve found. One thing Vancouver is good for is its proximity to the Whistler-Blackcomb mountain, a world renowned ski resort. The mountain caters for all with a range of activities including snow sports, snow shoeing and biking.  Day trips to Whistler are cheap and quick with Facebook groups such as ‘UBC Whistler Ride and Share’ and the app ‘Poparide’ allowing you to catch a lift almost every day of the week for around £14 return. Essentially, you can get a full day in Whistler and be back in downtown before 6pm. For those of you planning multiple trips to Whistler, I’d also highly recommend buying the Student Winter Season Pass available at the start of the season which costs £380 – considering a day pass is £85 you make back your money pretty quickly! Other local mountains nearer to Vancouver also offer similar experiences, including Grouse (1hr bus ride from UBC), Seymour and Cypress mountain.

One of the benefits of Vancouver’s location is it’s proximity to the US. A 4-hour coach ride to the lively city of Seattle will cost you between £50-£100 round trip and is highly recommended for a long weekend away. Another quick trip that you can’t miss is Vancouver Island. This huge island offers a variety of scenic hikes and water sports in areas such as Tofino (mainly accessible by car), as well as some great bars, restaurants and thrift shopping in the small European-style city of Victoria (5hr round trip by public transport from UBC campus). If you need a car, there are multiple car hire companies that let you pay by the minute, using an app to pick-up and drop off cars around the city – check out Evo and Car2Go.

Seattle, USA

What I learnt from my first semester at NC State

By Sally Lord, North Carolina State University

Its Friday afternoon and I am sat in a coffee shop on Hillsborough street. Nothing particularly interesting is happening, I am just catching up with my friend, organising my life and doing a bit of homework. But it just hit me how comfortable I am here in Raleigh, how at home I feel with  the day to day life here. My life in England feels so far away and in some ways it is! Its been 5 months since I left the UK and whilst I definitely do miss it, and miss the people there, it really hasn’t been on my mind as much as I thought it would. I’ve really settled into my life here at NC State, to the point where I can’t quite believe that I am going to have to leave here in 4 months, leaving behind everything that has been my entire life for the past 5 months. It is such a bittersweet feeling, it makes me sad that I am going to have to leave but also makes me feel incredibly lucky to have had this experience in the first place. So in the light of this realisation, I decided it was time to reflect on my first semester here at NC State and share some of the things which helped make it such a great semester.

Firstly, I loved having the opportunity to work as part of a group in one of my classes. It was for the Physics Lab module I had to take and I worked with two Americans on a group project for the whole semester. The reason I loved it so much is that I formed such a close relationship with both of the guys because we were spending so much time together. I learnt so much about America from them and we would regularly discuss different issues, comparing the average British view on the topic to the average American view. It was such a fun environment to work in and I left every class feeling as though I had learnt something new about America. It really made me feel as though I was having a true exchange experience because I was sharing my culture with people who were very interested in it and they were sharing theirs with me. It felt like I was getting an authentic insight into America and what it is like for the average person. So I would recommend to everyone that they try and take a class that involves group work. It is the best way to meet different people you might not otherwise come into contact with and it is the best way to learn a lot about the country you are studying in.

Secondly, one thing that I learnt last semester is that it is very important to get a good work-life balance, even more so than in Manchester. Being on exchange is like being on a holiday that never stops, people are always up to travel, experience new things, hang-out, the list is endless, but one thing for certain is that it never stops! Therefore, it can be overwhelming to try and manage uni work when everyone seems to be constantly socialising and the fear of missing out is real. It is also made harder when your year abroad counts towards your final degree and most other exchange students are just on pass/fail. This is something I found particularly difficult because I actually had to try with my classes, whilst all my other friends were cruising through them doing as little work as possible because it didn’t matter too much. It took me a while to get to grips with this lifestyle but once I worked it out it didn’t feel too bad. One thing that definitely made it easier was that over here people love studying together, which meant that having to stay up late studying could be turned into something social. I often find myself going with a  group of people for a study session at the library, which makes it feel not as bad. You can work for a couple of hours, then take a break together before getting back to studying. You kill two birds with one stone; you are productive but surrounded by friends which is great!

Thirdly, one of my greatest realisations after being here for a year is just how small the world is. It sounds ridiculous but it is true and it haws already had such a positive impact on my life. Since being here and loving living abroad, I have applied for a research internship in Germany this summer. This is not something I had thought about before and if I hadn’t studied abroad I am not sure I would have decided to apply. But living in the US for the past semester gave me the confidence to apply because I now have the mindset that no matter where you are in the world you will never feel that far away from home. Facetime and social media mean that no matter where you are in the world you will always feel connected to home. I facetime my family once a week and this regular contact with them makes me feel as though I am not really missing anything and that I am still a part of a home life. Also having met international students from all over the world helps make the world feel smaller, because there is a comforting face in so many places. Australia no longer seems alien, I know people from Ecuador, India is now in my top three places to visit and South Africa seems like a viable travel destination. I am now so excited to explore and having contacts all over the world means that this desire to discover the world is a much more achievable dream. The world feels like my oyster and I just want to take every opportunity I can to discover it, because I know that I will never be too far away from home.

You can’t pump your own gas in the State of New Jersey.

 

‘Just do it! Even if you don’t want to come to the UK, just do it, anywhere you go, you’ll have an incredible time I promise!’

That was me, promoting studying abroad at the Rutgers University Study Abroad fair, two weeks in to my six months stay in New Jersey. In the weeks and months leading up to my semester abroad, I was beyond petrified. I didn’t want to leave my friends behind, I was scared I wouldn’t make any new friends, the fact that I wouldn’t be old enough to drink made me feel like I was reverting back to being sixteen again and the thought of having a roommate was such an alien concept to me that it freaked me out beyond belief. These fears however, evaporated almost as soon as I stepped off the plane at JFK.

True, I did find it a little hard at first to adjust to some of the cultural differences in the US. The food is weird (Americans bleach their eggs and their attempt at cheesy chips tastes like something that Ant and Dec would force down your throat in a bush tucker trial) carrier bags in supermarkets are free ( my first trip to Walmart turned in to an anxiety inducing fiasco, with me staring in horror at the hundreds of plastic bags the cashier was throwing at me) and it is someones entire job to put petrol into people’s cars because apparently the people of New Jersey can’t be trusted to do it themselves.  But aside from that, adapting to life across the Atlantic, was far easier than I expected.

In the short time that I have spent here, I have tried to fully immerse myself in American culture. I attended a basketball game that was more like High School Musical than High School Musical itself, I watched the Superbowl (possibly the most unnecessarily theatrical performance I have ever witnessed) and I actually quite enjoy having a roommate.

RUTGERS

Not only has studying abroad been an amazing opportunity to embrace American culture, it has also allowed me to meet and befriend exchange students from all over the world. I celebrated Australia day, have been cooked French crepes and Spanish Omelette and I now know that Weetabix is basically valued as an Australian delicacy.

One of the main reasons that I chose to study at Rutgers was because of its close proximity to New York City, somewhere I have dreamed of visiting for my entire life. Last weekend I visited the city for the first time and it absolutely did not disappoint. Everywhere you look you feel like you’re in an iconic movie or TV show, and although you feel like you’ve seen all of the city before, there is nothing like experiencing it in real life. At sunset, we got a lift to the top of the Rockefeller centre and were met by an incredible view of the New York Skyline. No photographs could ever do the scene before us justice, although the pictures still look amazing. I’m eager to visit the city again and with the train from my university to the centre of Manhattan taking less than an hour, I could pretty much stroll through Central Park every day if I wanted to.

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With a Ski trip to Mountain Creek booked for next weekend and plans to travel the states after my final exams, I am becoming increasingly more grateful that I took the leap to apply to Study abroad and know for sure that this will be a semester that I will never forget!

CENTRAL PARK