A Comparative Map: Manchester vs. Perth

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1_vkQtLFlJEZjE2SSF_fYOoayKM4486mQ&usp=sharing

Click or copy and paste the link above to access the map. Make sure to zoom in on both cities and click on the icons for descriptions of each pinned location.

This map demonstrates my experience studying at the University of Western Australia, compared to the University of Manchester.

Locations such as my home, the library, and my study spaces have been pinned. These show the spatial difference between Manchester and Perth as well as showing my movement in the cities.

By clicking on the different pins and reading the descriptions, you can view how locations in the separate cities differ.

Furthermore, comments on the assessment style difference can be found under ‘Main Library’.

The main finding when completing this map has been seeing how little space I occupy in Perth. Compared to Manchester, where I cover 10km more.
This shows the difference between a campus university and a city university. As well as how they influence your learning experience, sense of place and movement.

5..4..3..2..1…TAKEOFF!

By Rachael Harrison (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Since uni ended the countdown to Australia began. The excitement braced me everyday. Everyone who knew I was off on this year long adventure asked the same question, ‘Are you excited?’, ‘Aren’t you lucky to be going on this adventure?’; I could only simply answer yes, with a beaming smile. I knew I was very lucky to have been given this opportunity to study abroad, all thanks to The University of Manchester.

The night before the departure was tough saying bye to my parents, brother and nephews, knowing that when I returned the youngest one would have changed so much, but thankfully we can still Facetime and Skype. There was a lot of last-minute packing involved, deliberating over whether I really needed that extra jumper or pair of trousers and then the worrying if my bag was overweight. I used various methods to attempt to weigh the bag on a set of old school bathroom scales, which gave a different reading every time!

My journey started at Manchester International Airport, where the excitement become all too real, I was actually going to Australia. I was flying with Qatar Airways going from Manchester to Doha, Doha to Perth with an overall flight time of just under 19 hours. Saying goodbye to my friends and family was sad, but I knew that the journey ahead of me was going to be worth it. I checked in (suitcase underweight), said goodbye to my family and then I was off – this was it!

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Continue reading “5..4..3..2..1…TAKEOFF!”

Final Days in Perth

By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Sadly, the end of my time in Perth is rapidly approaching: yesterday, I had a horrible moment of realization that I only have three days left in this beautiful corner of the world! This penultimate study abroad blog will reflect upon everything I haven’t covered thus far, to both keep you informed about my final couple of months at UWA and hopefully raise my spirits during a period of somber farewells.

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The Western Australia Oaktree team

One significant aspect of my time studying abroad, which occurred in the second half of the semester, was my work with the Oaktree Foundation. My college frequently advertised a volunteering scheme called ‘Live Below the Line’, which entailed a small group of students living on under $2 per day, the global poverty line, for one week. Intrigued, I researched the organization and came across an advertisement for a media internship, which suited my future interests of pursuing a career in media and journalism perfectly. Following a successful interview, I became part of Western Australia’s Oaktree Branch. My work schedule for the following ten weeks involved writing and producing a promotional film for Oaktree, as well as calling Live Below the Line participants to offer encouragement. Although this resulted in me spending an extra ten hours per week on top of my studies volunteering, I gained invaluable experience volunteering in a foreign country, and was able to observe some of the exceptional charitable work which goes relatively unnoticed to many of Perth’s foreign visitors. I would, therefore, highly recommend taking advantage of any similar opportunities that come the way of students studying abroad in the future

Continue reading “Final Days in Perth”

Travelling the West Coast

By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

The midterm break during my semester abroad provided the ideal opportunity to explore Australia’s west coast, which has proved to be the highlight of my study abroad exchange so far. Having excitedly planned the trip in the preceding weeks, I took to the road with nine of my fellow exchange students, cramming a week’s worth of food, sun cream and ‘Goon’ (The Aussie equivalent of Tesco’s own brand red wine), into two hire cars. With a rather unfortunate amount of American pop music being blasted from our stereo, we set off on our first real adventure down under!

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My incredibly gangster car-mates

The one downside of our excursion was our accommodation, or lack of it. Due to the financial restrictions of student life, we decided to buy $40 tents and sleep in campsites throughout the trip. Despite the ever-present plague of flies, roughing it in Australia’s countryside whilst visiting a variety of national parks provided an authentic experience of the stunning Aussie desert. Even more incredible were the beaches of the west coast: my description of the sensational views, pure water and soft white sand they have to offer truly does not do them justice. Our visit to Shark Bay, where we wondered at one of only three surviving stromatolite formations on the globe (which provide a glimpse into the biological history of the earth), exemplifies the astonishing natural features that confirm Australia’s coast provides much more than beaches on which to tan (or burn, if like me you have an incredibly pale complexion).

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The Pinnacles, Numbing National Park

The wildlife we were fortunate enough to witness, however, managed to eclipse the outstanding natural sights. Throughout the trip we were able to snorkel above coastal coral reefs, coming within inches of an extensive variety of beautiful, multicoloured tropical fish. Furthermore, we were able to see both wild dolphins and sea turtles during our visit to Monkey Mia. The highlight of the trip, however, was an experience totally unique to Exmouth, our most northern destination: swimming with whale sharks. Whale sharks are the largest species of fish in the ocean, reaching up to lengths of over twelve meters, with the capability to dive over three km down into the ocean and reach one hundred years of age. Despite the day costing $380, swimming with these astounding creatures was worth every penny…

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Dedication to the Global Ambassador Beanie Photo

Our day began as we were picked up from our campsite and provided with a bus tour of Exmouth en-route to the harbour. From there, our whale shark swimming company Charter 1, which I would thoroughly recommend, provided snorkeling equipment and food throughout the day as we sailed on their boat. Whilst the company’s spotter plane flew in search of whale sharks, we were once again able to snorkel around coral reefs, this time in deeper parts of the ocean, allowing us to see both jellyfish and a baby shark. After the spotter planes found our first whale shark, however, we set off in hot pursuit. Once the boat was ahead of its target, we rapidly formed lines within the water to avoid scaring the shark as it swam. The thrill of being able to swim with such gigantic sea creatures five times over the course of the afternoon made for a truly unforgettable day. During our third swim, one shark unexpectedly changed direction, meaning we had to quickly dive to its side in order to avoid colliding with one of the largest animals on the planet! The image of an enormous shark being a mere two meters away from hitting you is one of the most terrifying, yet memorable, moments I have had thus far during my time in Australia. Overall, our trip was a truly unforgettable experience, which in my opinion demonstrates the incredible opportunities studying abroad offers to students outside of academic terms.

Academic Life at UWA

By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Studying abroad offers the opportunity to become truly immersed in an alternative way of learning in a new university within a different country, and I shall therefore use this blog to describe my own academic experience in Australia. Studying History at UWA followed the same basic structure of weekly lectures, readings and tutorials as my studies in Manchester. The nature of module selection, by contrast, varied hugely. At the University of Manchester, the History course provides an exceptionally diverse range of modules, covering a variety of geographic locations, time periods and ways to study history. By contrast, despite UWA advertising a similarly appealing list of course modules, unfortunately only two of these modules were run during this semester. As Manchester stipulated two of my four module selections had to be history units, these courses effectively became compulsory. This lack of choice firstly proved challenging, as I have not found the ‘City in History’ module academically stimulating. Although I would not have voluntarily chosen to study medieval women in Europe, the excellent teaching and range of course readings provided has enabled me to develop a stronger interest in gender history.

The Australian university system also places much greater emphasis upon broadening units than in the UK. The Anthropology module ‘Environment, Disaster and Power in Asia’ has allowed me to gain a greater understanding of modern issues within this region, which has compensated for being unable to pursue my primary interest in studying Asian history. Furthermore, I have been able to enhance my understanding of journalism and the media through taking a communications module as my fourth course option. This has been a hugely useful opportunity, which I would not have been able to pursue in Manchester, as I have gained greater insight into the academic aspects of journalism and film production, a field I intend to pursue following my university studies.

In terms of assessment, the Australian university system provides further contrast. In general, there is less focus upon examinations; indeed, I have been fortunate enough to not have exams this semester, meaning I have extra time to travel over summer (a source of much jealousy amongst my university mates). Instead, more emphasis is placed upon ongoing assessment, with weekly attendance, tutorial participation and quizzes counting for around 20% of each modules’ marks. Moreover, at around the mid-point of the semester, a shorter written piece has been required for the modules I have taken, to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the course so far. These tasks have taken a variety of forms, but are not equivalent to a fully written essay. Finally, the most significant form of assessment is a larger essay of around 2,500 words, to be completed for the end of the semester, accounting for around 50% of a students’ grade. As these essays entail firstly a bibliographic exercise, which I recently submitted, I have found more feedback has been available at UWA, meaning I feel more confident for writing up the final essay.

Overall, my academic experience whilst studying at The University of Western Australia has, so far, been more relaxed in comparison to studying in Manchester. The constant forms of assessment, however, mean you must maintain a degree of focus throughout the semester; unfortunately, you cannot rely upon a week of all-nighters in John Ryland’s Library in the last week of the semester to achieve a respectable grade.

Arrival Reflections

By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

My first few days in Perth proved equally as hectic as my final weeks in England. Having checked into the Ocean Beach Backpackers Hostel in Cottesloe, I was awestruck by the incredible views the beaches of East Perth offered. Following three days of recovering from jet lag (or relaxing with my fellow backpackers in paradise, to give a more honest appraisal), I had yet more issues to attend to. Setting up a bank account and buying an Australian phone proved simple tasks. Following several unsuccessful house viewings in a variety of Perth’s less desirable suburbs, however, I realized that finding accommodation would be more difficult than I first anticipated. In desperation, I attended a housing advice lecture hosted in UWA: to my surprise, there were still some spaces available in university halls. Following several frantic phone calls, Beck, a lady who worked as part of the college staff, kindly picked me up from my hostel, gave me a personal tour of the hall and after a few minutes signing paper work I was officially part of St Thomas More College!

Cottesloe Beach
Cottesloe Beach

I had arrived slightly late for O-Week (the Aussie equivalent of Fresher’s), but was still able to get the most out of my first few days in Tommy. The variety of organized activities ranged from laser tag to casino nights, ensuring all the freshers were able to make friends easily, which truly helped to promote Tommy’s motto ‘Smallest College, Biggest Spirit’. Throughout the week we also practiced a college dance routine to Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it off’ which was, to my surprise, suggested by the guys on college committee. The final day of our first week culminated in a college dance-off, where we pitted our moves against the other four UWA colleges on the stunning beaches of Perth city. The bay was a sea of blue and yellow as our 150-strong flash-mob got down to ‘This, sick, beat’, although our efforts were only rewarded with second place in the competition and the following Aussie beach ‘barby’. The competitive nature of our dance-off highlighted the hugely intense and simultaneously positive college rivalry within UWA, which is continued throughout the year by a plethora of inter-college sporting competitions, ranging from football (or soccer, as the Aussies incorrectly name it), to the slightly less serious ‘ultimate frisbee’ contest.

Casino Night
Casino Night

The nature of college also created a strong impression upon me in my first few weeks, as it differed greatly to my experience of halls in first year. Firstly, several of my peers already knew each other from before college either because they had come to university with friends from their home town or had stayed in college in previous years. These older students mostly occupied positions on either the student committee or were residential advisors who ensured the well-being of students. Additionally, a large proportion of students were not at UWA, but attended other universities in Perth such as Notre Dame or Curtin University, further adding to the diversity within our college. Furthermore, a large proportion of my fellow collegians were also completing international exchange programs, meaning there were fellow British international students, as well as European and American students. Although the induction week in college and make-up of the student body differed to what I expected based upon my experiences of the British university system, my first few weeks in college flew by in a blur of socializing and studying, as college life provided an unforgettable introduction to Australia.

Pre-Departure Reflections

By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Hello, and welcome to the first of my blogs describing my study abroad experience in Australia! Following the somewhat arduous process of applying to study abroad, I was thrilled to learn that I had been accepted to study for a semester at the University of Western Australia (UWA), based in the coastal city of Perth. Before I could get truly excited about the beaches, wildlife and relaxed lifestyle however, I had a variety of things to organize in order for my transition down under to be a smooth one…

Firstly, I was required to send letters of acceptance, apply for a visa, make provisional module selections and attend country information sessions, allowing me to complete the pre-departure essentials without too much hassle. Accommodation, by contrast, proved more challenging, as I had to both find someone to occupy my room whilst I was abroad in order to pay my rent, whilst simultaneously organizing my own accommodation during exchange. GumTree.com proved an invaluable resource: after posting a basic advert for my house in Manchester, I was inundated with e-mails from potential occupants. The most legitimate offer came from a fellow exchange student, completing his exchange at the University of Manchester whilst I was away. Following several e-mail exchanges, concerning rental payment and a more detailed description of my room, house and the surrounding area, I had decided upon my tenant. Vladimir, studying accountancy in Prague in the Czech Republic, arrived on the 14th of January. Fortunately, Vlad is an incredibly polite and easy-going house-mate, meaning I had one less concern before departing to Oz. Furthermore, having met University of Manchester exchange students who had studied in Australia previously at a compulsory meeting, I followed their advice to arrive prior to the beginning of term and book a hostel for the first week, in order to view any potential places to live in person before committing to rental contracts.

Goodbyes at the Airport
Goodbyes at the airport

As the UWA term only began on the 24th of February, I organized an internship with the BBC following the end of Semester 1 examinations. Consequently, I lived with several university friends for 3 weeks as my room was already occupied. This proved both an excellent way to see mates before leaving and a hectic period which left me only 1 weekend to travel home to Newcastle, pack for the next 6 months, before returning to Manchester to catch my flight. Although I felt a cocktail of emotions, due to the stress of packing and the sadness of goodbyes, by the time I was en-route to Perth, via connecting flights stopping at Munich and Singapore, I felt pure elation. The sense of adventure was overpowering: from meeting new people and visiting incredible places to experiencing a new culture and lifestyle, I realized studying abroad in Australia would be the experience of a lifetime!

Returning to Manchester

By Megan Hitchock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

I came back to the UK in the middle of August, and after 13 months away from the UK, it was so surreal being home. My last six weeks in Sydney seem like a blur. I spent the time nannying for a 9 month old baby and exploring more of one of the Australian cities I have come to love. By the time my time in Sydney came to an end, I was ready to come home knowing that it hopefully won’t be too long until I’m back on that side of the world. On my return I had a crazy month catching up with family and friends, and although in some ways it felt like I had never been away, in others it was really strange adjusting to being back. I was constantly asked ‘How was Australia?!’, and each time I tried to come up with a different way of trying to sum up such an incredible experience.

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Coming back to Manchester was equally surreal, catching a Magic Bus and being back on Oxford Road (even with the diversion!) really has felt so normal. I thought I would find moving back into a house strange, after a year of being in college and having all my meals provided, but in some ways it feels like I never left. I’ve now been back two weeks and had my first week of lectures, and am really starting to get my head around being in my final year of university. It was strange walking into lectures and only seeing a handful of faces that I recognised, as I am one of only six Psychology students who went abroad last year. However, us six have already bonded over sharing stories and it’s been fun sharing my experiences abroad with others in my new year group. It feels good to have my feet firmly back on the ground in Manchester and seeing what this year has to offer. This experience has definitely made me much more aware of the study abroad students who come to Manchester and what I can do to help aid their experience over here. Through the Global Friends scheme I have already met a few of them, and it’s really interesting hearing about Manchester from an exchange point of view. Even just helping them plan their travelling or where to find places around Manchester, I feel like I’m giving just a little bit back. Studying abroad was such an amazing experience for me, I’d really like to make sure incoming students to Manchester are getting the same experience that I had.

It’s crazy that this time three years ago, a girl stood up in one of our lectures and told us about the opportunity to study abroad, and immediately I knew it was something I wanted to do. At that point, I never realised how much studying abroad would shape my vision of what I want to do next or how much it would benefit me. I feel really ready to take on my final year at Manchester and I already have lots of ideas of what I’d like to do after university – but maybe I should just get through this year first!

The end of my time in Perth

By Megan Hitchock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

I’m on a flight out of Perth, and it’s not for a holiday, and I don’t have a return flight. This feels very weird. My exams finished last Thursday, and since then it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. I was so happy that exams were over and I could finally enjoy being in Perth without the constant exam stress, but exams being over meant that my time in Perth was coming to an end. It’s so sad knowing that so many of the wonderful people I’ve met I’ll never see again, and so many I will see but not for a long, long time. Although I was told that these were not goodbyes, they were ‘see you laters’, they were still very hard. However, they came with lots of promises of visits to the UK and I had to promise that it wouldn’t be too long until I was back, so hopefully those promises will be kept!

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Although this isn’t the end of my time in Australia – I’ve still got six weeks to go – I just thought, while it was fresh, I’d reflect on my study abroad experience in Perth. I know I was the first study abroad student coming to Perth from Manchester and I hope I can encourage many more students to choose the University of Western Australia. I couldn’t have had a better Australian study abroad experience and I really feel I’ve gained so much from being here rather than on the east coast. I have spent a year living twenty minutes from the beach; ten minutes from Swan River and bus rides into town have been spent watching out for dolphins in the water – what a life. I have had the opportunity to see more of Australia than most of the people I know. The West Coast is honestly one of the most beautiful areas I have ever been to, and being able to say I’ve been to places like Esperance, Karijini National Park and Exmouth is something I will always treasure. Not many other places you visit you can say you’ve seen a family of emus on the side of the road, wild dingoes, wild horses, lizards, camels, sea turtles, and you can feed wild kangaroos on the beach! The fact that Perth is so isolated does not matter. It’s only made me more determined to travel. I have spent the year getting any jobs I can to be able to afford to do all the travelling I’ve wanted to do, and it’s made the whole experience so much more rewarding.

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Honestly, as cliché as it is, I’ve had the time of my life. I feel so privileged to have been able to spend a year studying at the University of Western Australia. Walking in each day to such a beautiful campus, right next to Swan River has been so special. I’ve learned so much about psychology and Australian culture. Psychology-wise, I feel like I’ve achieved what I set out to – I’ve explored so many different avenues, broadened my spectrum of psychology knowledge and risen to every challenge I’ve set myself. I really do feel ready for what final year has in store and to really work to get the degree I’m aiming for. I really feel that my year abroad has given me this drive and a new-found love for my subject.

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None of this experience would have been anywhere near as rewarding without Trinity College. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone considering studying abroad at UWA. The college environment is so supportive; the admin staff at Trinity have been a second family to me and the friends I have made there are second to none. I don’t think you can understand college environment coming from the English ‘halls’ system. Coming from 1500 people in Owens Park, and being just a number to being one of 350 in Trinity where the staff know everyone by name, always want to know what you’re up to, and will go out of their way to help you in whatever way they can, is a very special experience. They’ve even asked to be invited to my wedding, whenever that will be! It’s really helped in terms of feeling so settled in Perth; from day one I had people around me and felt so welcomed. Trinity really is a very special place.

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However, although my time in Perth has come to an end, my last chapter of my year abroad is only just starting. Sydney, see you in a couple of hours, and Perth – I’ll be back.

Australian Summer Part Three

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

Well, Sydney for new year was definitely something I’ll remember forever. Dad and I joined some of my friends and found a spot on the beach appropriate for a good view of the fireworks. The new year was seen in sitting with a drink in knee high water watching the spectacular fireworks from the Harbour Bridge – wow.  I’d definitely recommend adding that to the bucket list if you haven’t already been there for yew year. Also Field Day on New Year’s Day – festival next to the harbour, another fun addition to my new Year.

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The rest of our few days was spent being ‘proper tourists’ and taking the classic photos – Opera House etc, and a day on a boat on the harbour, taking in all the views from the water – something else I’d definitely recommend doing! This felt like a good beginning to the father-daughter bonding holiday – five incredible days down, ten more to go.

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Next stop – Hawkes Bay, NZ. The next leg of my incredible summer holiday was to do the important family rounds. One of the reasons I wanted to study over this side of the world was to get a chance to see my family more often, and being with Dad seemed like the perfect opportunity. Flying into Napier I spotted my Uncle waiting to pick us up, and I knew I had arrived at my southern hemisphere home. Dad and I spent ten days making sure we saw every single member of my Mum’s (very large) family all at least once, without missing anyone out. It has been lovely to catch up with everyone again, and we even managed to get there in time to help my oldest Aunt see in her 70th birthday! We broke the time driving between Napier and Hastings by taking a trip down to Wellington to see some more of the family that live down there in NZ’s capital, the ‘windy city’. The ten days in NZ with Dad went by so quickly, and it was so sad to say bye to him – knowing this is the long stretch of not seeing anyone at home. However for me, this was only the beginning of my NZ adventure, as while Dad hopped on his flight to America, I flew down to Christchurch to stay with my friend – also called Megan – and then to do the ‘Kiwi Experience’, the bus around the South Island.

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Having had so many trips over the years to see Mum’s family in NZ, you’d think I’d know the country pretty well, however because of the extent of the family we have to see we haven’t had a chance to see much of the South Island as well. Along with catching up with family I really wanted to use my amazing opportunity of being ‘down under’ for an extended period of time to see some of what the South Island has to offer. The South Island adventure began by staying with another Megan, an old friend who I last saw aged 16. It was great to catch up with her, and also a great base for a good night’s sleep before ten days of hostels on the road! The beginning to my Kiwi Experience was definitely not the same as the ones others have recounted to me: I arrived at an empty bus stop, to get on a bus with one other girl, who I then found out was leaving the next day. We picked up some more people, and they were all leaving the next day too. It was quite a testing start to my solo travelling as I had to realise there was a chance I wouldn’t have a solid travelling group for my time in the South Island.

If my spirits were dampened, however, then what better way to pick them up than by the opportunity to swim with dolphins when reaching Kaikoura – one of my definite items on my bucket list! With my minor fear of open water, and no one I knew at all doing it, it was definitely very testing for me. However, I got my wetsuit and snorkel on and was in for every drop in the sea for the same length of time as everyone else! – Needless to say I’m very proud of myself (normally I’m an in-out snorkeler). Swimming with the dolphins was incredible – at each stop there was literally hundreds of dolphins swimming around, all so inquisitive and within touching distance! Definitely an experience I will never forget. If that wasn’t an incredible start to my trip it was only about to get better – a 16,500 ft skydive (the second highest skydive in NZ) over the Abel Tasman National Park.

After ticking off the water fear, the next one to test was my heights fear, however I coped pretty well. After harnessing and everything, the whole plane ride up I was so excited and it was only when the plane doors opened that the nerves started to kick in. It was probably the most incredible but surreal experience I have ever had and the views were out of this world. From this location you could see both the North and South island, the mountain range, a lake and the Tasman sea – just wow. I still found it pretty scary at points but the views and the adrenaline rush definitely took over! Just beginning to meet people that were doing the rest of the trip with me, it all stayed on a high. The jam-packed Kiwi experience meant that after a night in Kaiteriteri  at the national park, the next stop was rainy Westport with a spot of jetboating on the way. Here we experienced just how lovely NZers are, when walking through the rain to find the local supermarket and a random woman offering to give us a lift to it. Next stop Franz Josef and the Franz Josef glacier – we had a helicopter ride onto the glacier and then spent the main section of the day having a guided walk on it, which was amazing. It’s incredible that within just a few hours you can surf on a beach, sit by a lake in the sun and then be on a snow covered glacier all wrapped up! From Franz we went to Wanaka and checked out the lake, and then onto the adrenaline capital of the world, Queenstown – I absolutely fell in love with Queenstown. After deciding not to do a bungey, way too scary and to save some of my money after a very packed few days, Queenstown was surprisingly quiet on the activity front for me, but I loved it. Set next to the water, within the mountains, I felt like I was in paradise. The views from the top of the gondala were out of this world and it doesn’t do too badly on a night out either! Cocktails out of teapots made me think of home, haha! Probably the most important thing I did in Queenstown was eating a world-renowned Fergbuger. The hugest burger you’ll ever eat – a challenge for sure, especially if like me you picked a ½ lb burger by accident! The end of my time in Queenstown also meant leaving behind the three girls who I had spent the majority of my trip with as they were staying there to work, although the goodbyes were sad, hopefully they will come and visit me in Perth before they head home. Next it was just  a quick stop off at Lake Tekapo for a night before heading back into Christchurch again for a couple of days with Megan to conclude my time in NZ. Having said goodbye to Megan I’m now on the way back to Australia, to the east coast to begin my road trip from Byron Bay up to Cairns – next stop Byron Bay for Australia Day!

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Australian Summer Part Two

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

As I take off on yet another plane I thought I’d continue my tradition of using this time to update my blog. I went to see my friend PJ in Brisbane and had such a great time! I was welcomed by his lovely family who thanked me over and over for looking after him in Manchester – if only they knew it was often the other way round! Haha. I was there for ten days and managed to see Brisbane, some of the Sunshine Coast annnnnd the Gold Coast in that time! We spent a few days at the Gold Coast with a couple of my friends from Perth which was fun – and most importantly my two Perth friends (both American) and I had our first experience of ‘peeling prawns’ – a very useful skill to have in preparation for the upcoming Aussie Christmas!

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Another first I had whilst over in Queensland was I got to hold a koala – something I’ve wanted to ever since I arrived in Australia, and I did this at Steve Irwin’s famous Australia Zoo. This along with the various crocodile shows and feeding kangaroos made for a great day! However probably the thing that stands out most from my ten days there was how often the use of the expression ‘get around it’ is used over there – the translation is something along the lines of ‘get involved’.

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The end of my time in Brisbane welcomed the exciting arrival of my family in Perth – the long awaited reunion with my parents and my sister for Christmas which was so exciting!

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In the two and a half weeks that they were in Western Australia we spent time in Perth, down south in the Margaret River wine region and up north in the secluded Jurien Bay.

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Our time in Perth was in separate chunks between the two other trips, and spent showing them around college, university and all my favourite spots, and of course our first Aussie Christmas. Although not our first warm Christmas, as a couple of years ago we were in New Zealand with Mum’s family, it was our first ‘hot’ Christmas, spent in the 35 degree + heat and by the pool at a family friend’s house in Perth. No Aussie Christmas would be complete without it’s seafood and we were spoilt on that front! We welcomed in Christmas Day with a champagne and seafood breakfast in the glorious sunshine. The array of prawns (obviously!), crayfish, smoked salmon etc was remarkable and we felt truly spoilt to be able to eat such fresh seafood. We ended breakfast saying we could definitely get used to all of that, and we should definitely find space in the Hitchcock Christmas for a champagne breakfast of this kind – I guess it won’t have quite the same effect sitting next to a fire in the freezing cold! After having our Aussie Christmas input the rest of the day actually followed fairly similar to our Christmas at home. The friends, being British in origin have a ‘proper’ Christmas dinner – turkey, gravy and all the trimmings, which suited me very well – I’m not one to miss out on Christmas dinner. We had a great day and were very lucky being able to share the day with such a lovely family.

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Our trip down south allowed me to show my family an area outside of Perth that I had been to before. Our time was spent wine tasting, beer tasting, chocolate tasting and visiting some of WA’s finest beaches – life really is hard. Yallingup gave the others their first sightings of kangaroos – wild kangaroos can be spotted whilst driving around, and with my sister having only just turned 18 a week before her arrival in Perth, being an all adult family now we really did ‘get around’ the wine tasting.

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Not wanting to be travelling for too long outside of Perth, Jurien Bay seemed like the ideal place when going up north from Perth (only two hours drive), however on arrival didn’t turn out to be quite what we had planned. In booking to stay in the quiet seaside area, we had plans to do some watersports and a glass bottom boat trip, however we soon found out that in recent months these activities had been stopped by the appropriate governing body, so instead we spent some lovely time on (yet another) lovely beach and enjoyed getting to know the lovely family that owned the motel we stayed in, as well as a visit to the Pinnacles.

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The trip also included a visit to a National Park where the family were able to see their first koalas, and to the Pinnacles, an interesting rock formation.

Although today I said a teary goodbye to Mum and my sister for the long half of the year, I’ve held onto Dad, who being newly retired (ish) has decided to take an extended holiday. We are currently on a flight to Sydney to spend five days there visiting friends but most importantly to celebrate the new year in arguably one of the most spectacular ways, watching the fireworks on Sydney Harbour – excited is an understatement! After that we are heading to New Zealand to catch up with Mum’s family. With two and a half weeks together we definitely have some father-daughter bonding planned – watch this space and I’ll write again when I have some more news.

Australian Summer Part One

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

I’m a week and a half into my three month summer holiday and I’m already on my third flight of the holiday. I can’t even begin to explain how much fun I’ve had!

First stop Sydney – I spent nearly a week there and did so much! Sydney is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world and this week only emphasised that for me. I spent my first day there at Cockatoo Island, an industrial island just off Sydney with a really cool outdoor bar that plays live music for the classic Aussie ‘Sunday sesh’. After chilling there, we walked around the island only to happen to walk through an area of fake snow and lots of building work going on – we had accidently walked onto the film set of the new Angelina Jolie film ‘Unbroken’ due to come out soon!

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The rest of the week was spent chilling in the sun and enjoying the perks of not feeling obliged to eat college food! Sydney dining is definitely something worth experiencing! On Wednesday I caught up with a friend who I haven’t seen in five years who is now living and working in Sydney, which was lovely! However being the ‘foodie’ I am, I managed to get a photo of the food we ate together (firecracker prawn dumplings) but not one of us, silly me!

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Something definitely worth checking out if you ever get the chance to visit Sydney is Sydney’s hidden pubs and bars – there are so many hidden away that you only know about through word of mouth. A couple worth mentioning were one that from the outside looked like an old launderette and then inside was a really quirky cocktail bar – great if you’re a gin lover like me, as their takes on the standard g’n’t are definitely something worth trying! Another is behind the toilets of a very average looking bar, and then when you walk through you are suddenly in the 1920’s and feel like you are in an American Speakeasy – my first experience of a nitrogen cocktail there was also a great experience!

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Even though I have been to Sydney before I felt obliged to make the trip that is a must for every Sydney tourist, and made a trip to Bondi. Don’t worry the essential walk along the boardwalk and a decent sunbathe was included, whilst I also managed to fit in my first photo with the Manchester hat – he is travelling with my for these three months so hopefully there will be more of those to follow! Sydney was also my first sighting of Christmassy stuff in sunny Australia – such a weird concept!

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Although my delayed flight at the end of my trip to Sydney was slightly frustrating, the week was great and I can’t wait to be there with my Dad again to see the spectacular New Year that Sydney has to offer!

Next stop: Perth, for the weekend. This sounds crazy I know, but due to poor planning I then went back to Perth for the music festival Stereosonic. Although I have to say that it had nothing on Glastonbury earlier this year, is was a great weekend and lovely to see the Perth girls again! Being in Perth, and it not being completely sold out I managed to make it to the very front for lots of the acts – watching Armen van Buuren from the barriers was definitely something I won’t forget for a while! The atmosphere was electric – my first experience of an Aussie festival definitely lived up to all expectations!

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This seems to be where I write my blog posts at the moment, but I am currently on the plane on the way to Brisbane – this is to see a friend who I met when I moved into halls in my first year of Manchester as he was on exchange from Brisbane. After a semester together he sadly flew home, and two years later we are finally going to be reunited! In the next blog post I will let you know how it goes!