Post-departure Tips for SMU

By Emma Phillips, Singapore Management University, Singapore.

Since I have now been in Singapore for over six months, here are some of the things you should be aware of when you arrive.

The view from LeVeL 33.
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Back to reality and off to Singapore!

By Chloe Coradetti, Mechanical Engineering, The National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

Here I am, realizing that it is real, it is happening… I am going to study abroad for an entire year at the National University of Singapore!!  YEEEEESSS!
My excitement is hardly containable, I keep telling everyone, with a big smile on my face “I’m going on an adventuuuuuure!”

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The Final Countdown (Pre-departure reflections)

By Emily Privett (Queen’s University, Canada)

It’s weird how I’ve been planning for tomorrow for months and the flight has been booked since June yet I still don’t feel like it’s actually real. I mean, tomorrow I’m going to be getting onto a plane and fly thousands of miles away from my house, friends and family, to set up camp in Canada for the year..?!

Although it is crazy to think that I will be living nearly 3,500 miles away from home, I cannot wait to starting building a life out there for a year; finding a house, meeting other students and even getting stuck into my academics (although on my provisional timetable, I seem to have a lecture from 6:30pm-9:30pm?! So that may be interesting…).

Clearly the first step to making this life, is to get there. I count myself incredibly lucky that one of my friends has agreed to come with me for the first two weeks so that I am not completely by myself. Although I’m pretty sure he’s just coming along for a holiday, having another brain and common sense to use while setting up my bank account and other vital but mundane things has greatly calmed me down about everything. This has meant I can get properly excited about the adventure ahead.

Since I finally finished the major task of packing all my earthly belongings into a 20kg weight-restricted suitcase today, I have been able to look ahead to our actual arrival in Canada. According to friends and family who have shared their Canadian wisdom with me, going to Tim Horton’s as soon as we land is a must (I will find out what the big deal is and report back), they have no Cadbury’s chocolate (I know, I was as shocked as you are), therefore I must prepare to go without or stash accordingly and that Canadians are incredibly friendly!

Not only am I very excited to experience this stereotypical friendliness of Canadians, I am hoping that it will help me when trying to find somewhere for me to live! Facebook has really played a key part in me looking for places to live and people to live with (it’s probably the only time where being on Facebook has actually led to something productive). The hope is to get in touch with some of the people I have been chatting to, set up some viewings and hopefully live with one of them. Obviously, we’ll have to see how that plays out but that is the goal.

After finding a house, I’ll just be seeing where the Canadian university life leads me and will keep you updated on all things Canada!

A Rushed Pre-departure and First Impressions

By Rhiannon Jones (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

I suppose that the self-reflection blog usually comes at the end of the year long exchange, not as the first blog, but I feel like I’ve already learnt a lot about myself. Turns out I am actually quite unorganised and left an embarrassing amount of preparation for my study abroad until the last week. It’s been easy to put it off; I’ve had a full time job all summer meaning (in my head at least) I had an excuse to leave things like my immunization records until next week and the next until suddenly the day before I flew out I was collecting letters from my GP. I somehow managed to just about get everything done, which turned out actually to be a lot less stressful than I thought it would be.

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Pre-departure reflections (getting ready for American football, cheerleading and Chipotle)

By Elizabeth Pace (Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

So it’s less than a week before I set off to the USA for my year abroad and I’m currently sat printing out every single email I have ever received from my partner university (as per my mum’s instructions) and trying to sum up my feelings about going.

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By Bethan Rowsby (The University of Sydney, Australia)

G’day! The posting of this blog is a little late as I arrived in Sydney about two weeks ago (!!!), but here’s what I thought and felt pre-departure!

I had everything sorted; visa, health cover and my flight, everything except where I was going to live when I arrived in Sydney. Whilst this was a deliberate decision (I didn’t want to go into university accommodation due to the cost!), it was the thing I was most nervous about. I took my mind off the nerves and my looming departure date by travelling up and down the country, visiting family and friends and saying final goodbyes before I left! However, it didn’t fully hit me until the night before my flight that I was actually leaving my homes in London and Manchester for a year. And that felt awful! I was definitely excited for my trip, but at that moment I really didn’t want to leave.

Whilst I was still in Manchester, my mum had rung me and told me that she’d bought me a massive suitcase for my trip, and she wasn’t lying! I’m pretty sure I could fit myself Snapchat-8265857916513867857in that case. Because I was ill before my flight (and also due to my lack of proper preparation) I ended up packing the day before and off I went hoping I had remembered everything – passport: check, sun cream: check. I for sure had the essentials.

In the lead up to leaving I researched areas in Sydney that I would want to live in, considering factors such as being close to the Uni and the general safety and reputation of the areas. I found there are plenty of great suburbs to live in in Sydney and I’m really happy with where I’ve ended up – in a shared house near the Uni with 7 other girls who are super nice ♥.

I’ll be posting again in the next few weeks as I settle into Sydney and uni begins!


Pre Departure

By Tom Collins (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

I finished my Semester 1 exams in Manchester exactly 2 weeks before I flew to Australia. Do not underestimate how much there is to do in this time. I had already sorted out my visa, insurance, flights, and accommodation long before this stage. You feel like you are planning for the trip forever! You’ll need a Student Non-Award (Subclass 575) Visa. It came through really quickly (literally within half an hour mine was granted), but you will need to pay ($540). You also need Overseas Health Cover (OSHC). Shop around for this, mine cost $192 for 6 months cover.

The obvious task which needs to be done is packing. I flew with Etihad so was allowed 30kg and hang luggage, which is really good. If you don’t have this much allowance just think about what you really will need, you can always buy stuff over there. Apparently a good way to pack is to get out everything you think you’ll need, and then half it. I didn’t do this and decided instead to take everything and was willing to wear 18 layers of clothes to the airport if needs be in order to avoid baggage charges.

Don’t forget to get money before you go! I’m going to set up a bank account when I get over there so needed some Aussie dollars to help me get by whilst I set up my Australian account. I left this to the last minute and I got the money the day before I flew. You might have to order the money which might take a few days.

  • Suncream (I’ve heard horror stories of Brits wanting a tan in Australia almost getting 3rd degree burns. Apparently the sun is hot.)
  • Universal plug adapter
  • Laptop
  • Camera
  • Tea bags (the most important)
  • Study abroad handbook (I honestly haven’t been paid to say this; it might come in very handy!)

Hopefully my next blog will be about the flight and arriving in Australia. If not, I’ve missed my flight.

The Final Countdown

By Katie Lewin (Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada)

After all the applications, research and planning for what seems like the past year, I’m leaving for Canada on Monday! I feel slightly mentally unprepared but otherwise I have pretty much everything sorted from accommodation to my timetable. The only thing I’m dreading is saying goodbye to my friends and family, although it’s not too bad as I’m back at Christmas.

As this is the first year Simon Fraser University has been available to the University of Manchester for exchange, there hasn’t been any previous Manchester students I could get advice from. However SFU have a Buddy Program where they partner you with a current SFU student who is looking to study at your home institution. Therefore you share advice and help about studying at each other’s universities, which has been really helpful. As I am one of the first University of Manchester students studying at SFU, I hope to portray through this blog what SFU is really like to help provide more information on the university to prospective study abroad students.

So the only things left for me to do are to pack and squeeze in as many goodbyes as I can before I leave! I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet how much of a big adventure I’m about to embark on but I can’t wait for it to begin!

Maryland Bound

By Madeleine Taylor (University of Maryland, USA)

The prospect of flying nine hours across ‘the pond’ for eight months is pretty daunting. There will be so much to adjust to and appreciate, and so little time to do so. Not seeing my family for that long is going to be difficult, but I am excited to strike out on my own and throw myself into life at the University of Maryland. After all, my well known motto is: You are a strong, independent woman. And I plan to fully realise this alter-ego on my trip (we’ll see how that goes).

Packing was a struggle; how could I possibly fit eight months worth of stuff into two measly (when I say measly I mean behemoth duffle bags, but still) suitcases? Well I tried and I failed. Unfortunately I had to resign myself to the fact that I could not bring thirty books and a dozen nicnacks and my two dogs. Oh the struggle.

Once my packing was finished the real nerves set in. This was actually happening. I would be out of touch with Manchester life for over half a year and eventually something completely new would be my norm. I am, however, very lucky to have an amazing family living only four hours (a very short distance by American standards) from the University of Maryland, who will no doubt treat me too well and help me get settled. So shout out to my amazing family!

I have been assigned a roommate, which I am very apprehensive about, but hopefully everything will work out, and I know my move-in date. I’ve filled out all of my paperwork, checked my passport is in date and contacted my advisor in Maryland. I think everything is covered, and now all there is left to do is vegetate for nine hours whilst watching terrible movies and eating questionable food (yes, this is how I see flying) before my adventure begins. Wish me luck!


So I have been in the USA now for just over a week and I am stressed! I’ve sorted out a bank account and my mobile phone. I’ve studied for and taken my Virginia driving test (I passed, yay!), and re-registered my cousin’s car in my name (which I bought from her – thanks Ariel for the sweet ride!).

My cousin and I posing with my new car! (Car’s name pending…) Update – car is called Delilah.

I’ve registered for classes and bought a parking space at Maryland. I’ve checked and rechecked my train tickets from Virginia Beach (where I am staying with my family) to Maryland and checked the weather schedules. Lets halt there at the last one – there has been a polar vortex this past week, with temperatures in the US dropping to record lows. So I’ve had to constantly check the weather schedules. Fingers crossed for a week clear of snow!


And lo and behold, on move-in day a blizzard comes to town and the school is closed. Thankfully I was staying with my Mum’s best friend Kate in Maryland at the time, so didn’t have to worry about extending a hotel stay. We also had an awesome day shovelling snow, drinking hot chocolate and making homemade pizzas, so I’m not really complaining.

My very attractive friend Annabel and I shovelling snow!
My very attractive friend Annabel and I shovelling snow! Just as a side note, my friend Annabel has come over from the UK with me, so expect to see her in many of my posts!

I am equally nervous and excited for move in, but can’t wait to officially start my semester abroad!

Nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be so hard.

By Isobel Cecil (University of California, San Diego, USA).

(I wrote this a month ago, and thought I’d posted it a month ago to. I’ve only just realised that my technical capabilities have failed me again and that it didn’t post. Hey, just another setback!)

Here I am just a few days away from my long flight to California, and I’m finding it very hard to describe how I feel. Everybody keeps asking me: “Are you excited??!?!?” , to acquaintances I enthusiastically reply “Yeah! 100%! Woohoo!” and make some lighthearted joke about tanning/Mexican food/ surfer boys. However to those closer to me I tell the truth; I don’t have any overwhelming feelings of excitement, happiness nor even of fear and nerves.

The journey to this point in time has been the most incredibly stressful process I have ever been through. I’ve felt like every aspect has had multiple setbacks: from course selection confusion to seemingly never-ending Visa problems and stresses.

And then, when I thought everything was sorted, I received an email informing me that I had not got into “International House” (the only UCSD accommodation we were allowed to apply for). I remember joking with my Manchester friends whilst writing my 5 mini-essays for the application (no joke) that if I didn’t get it I would just have to camp out on the beach for year. When I received the email I had no reaction, it was like I’d just read another email from ASOS/Student Beans.

The truth is, I was so shocked and scared that I just couldn’t process it. It wasn’t until my parents came home and I had to put it into words that I started to freak out. I had nowhere to live; there was no space left on campus,;I wasn’t going to get the campus experience I had signed up for — the experience that I had sacrificed my second year in Manchester for.

The worst thing was that there was no straightforward next step. The rejection email had one link on it to “Commuter Student Services”, a website designed for 3rd/4th year UCSD students, who have grown out of campus life. There was a list of extremely helpful tips such as “Drive around different neighborhoods to see if you like atmosphere” and “Keep an eye-out for FOR RENT signs when you’re out and about”, to say this exacerbated my anger would be an understatement. Three out of four of us going to UCSD this year from Manchester did not get into I-house, and we are all struggling. I almost sorted out housing with 2 different American girls but one of them just stopped messaging me, and the other panicked about getting an international deposit and rented a studio apartment instead.

So here I am just a few days away from my flight to California, and I’m finding it hard to describe my feelings. Just as I was too shocked to react to my accommodation rejection email, I feel to overwhelmed by house-hunting stress to even process excitement or nerves, it just feels like there’s too much to be done. The knowledge that I’m moving to California, and I have no-where to actually move to, is perhaps occupying those parts of my brain.

I realise that was not exactly positive, but I feel it’s important to be honest. This process is difficult, but hopefully it will be worth it. On a more positive note, apart from trying to sort out California stuff, I’ve been busy this summer ticking off my “England To-Do List” including: Going to Y-Not Festival in my beautiful home county of Derbyshire, having a last roast dinner, a last decent British Curry, spending time with my friends who will soon be so far away and most importantly– having my last pint in the pub! A few little photos of that to cheer up this post, including me looking suitably delighted to finally get my visa and the top photo of my friends and I doing a little ironic sorority girl pose; that should be something suitably hilarious to observe when I finally get to CA! English To Do List