There’s no doubt that, as an international student in a foreign country, you’ll emerge from the experience with new knowledge about a different part of the world but also about yourself! However, getting out of your comfort zone can be a struggle. Whether you’re completing a course overseas or taking part in a shorter exchange programme, international students are required to adapt to a completely new environment, culture, group of friends, education system, and sometimes even language; and all in a very short timeframe.
I have found the work-load at the University of Amsterdam pretty difficult to keep up with among everything else I’ve been trying to juggle. I had a lot of deadlines and an exam period which I found pretty overwhelming, and it was easy to fall into the habit of comparing yourself to friends who were doing well (grades wise) and in every other aspect you could possibly (over)think of. In this moment I asked myself, am I taking care of myself and my mental health? So instead of trying to tackle the rest of my reading list I’m here writing a blogpost, because looking after ourselves is more important than pretending I know what’s going on in tomorrows seminar.
Here are a few tips to look after yourself whilst on study abroad and a list of some resources that are available to you if you live or study in Amsterdam more specifically.
It’s been a while since I last thought about moving to the States. I was 17 when I decided to become an exchange student in a Canadian high school, and since then, I thought my experience abroad was over. But now, once again, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel, to discover a new culture, and to get to know myself a bit better. Isn’t this extraordinary?
In eight days I’ll be on the plane. Destination? Phoenix. No turning back. Me, my luggage, and all my expectations and fears. What if I won’t like my housemates? What if I won’t like the courses? But c’mon, think about all the opportunities you’ll have, all the friends you’ll make. You’ve always watched High School Musical, and you’ve always been dreaming of those lockers, the cheerleaders, the football team! There is more to gain than to lose!
Going abroad is one of those experiences that simply form your person. it teaches you to expect the unexpected! Every day is a different story, and you just have to trust the journey and try out all you can, with no judgment. Eventually, you’ll find out that it’s all you’ve always been waiting for! That for how tough it can get, you’ll always get up and get back in the game stronger, because it’s your game and no one can win it but you.
Lund is a beautiful small city in the South of Sweden. I think the ability to appreciate the landscape of Lund was helped through the equally beautiful weather that was received during my first week in Lund, not going below 23°C and getting as high as 31°C. This was certainly not expected nor packed for, but nevertheless greatly appreciated. The city is made up of many greenspaces and old buildings, with many having their own unique personality to them.
The population of Lund is less than 100,000 people, with, on
average, there being 40,000 students also in the mix. The people of Lund are
very helpful and welcoming, all of whom (or at least thus far) have impeccable
English skills, which has made the daunting task of moving to a new country so much
An interesting point about Swedes that I have been told
repeatedly since my arrival is that they love to sing, this has been proven to
me as within 8 of my welcome activities I have been told to sing and/or sung
A useful thing to know about Sweden also is that you get charged
an extra 1 SEK if you buy a plastic bottle for the environmental cost, so it is
always useful to carry a bottle around as all water is drinkable too. Also good
to know, is that any cans or bottles you accumulate can be taken to certain recycling
points where you can get 1 SEK per item recycled.
#2 Lund University
The university, just like Lund itself, is very pretty. The buildings
are beautiful, some of which are hundreds of years old and covered in vines and
Lund University has put on many welcoming events for international
students in order to help them feel settled and meet people. Personally, I have
over 3 weeks of orientation events. The events and activities are inclusive, diverse
and plentiful. They range from Swedish classes, sports days, boardgames, club
nights, pub nights, mentor groups, IKEA trips, a pub-crawl to Copenhagen and
more. Lund has many international students, inclusive of bachelor, master and exchange
students there are over 2000, I believe. However, many exchange students here
are only studying in Lund for one semester. In fact, so far, I haven’t met any
exchange student who was not British and who is studying for the year.
Despite Lund being a small city, it still has a very good and
reliable public transport system. Buses and trains run regularly until about 1am
and begin again around 5am with multiple routes that can get you to where you
want to go. Additionally, the buses and trains use the same ticket which is useful if you have to catch a bus and a train to get somewhere for
example. The tickets are purchased via
a newly introduced app, ‘Skånetrafiken’,
which works throughout the region of Sweden, Skåne. The ticket prices are fairly
average, costing 18,75 SEK (~£1.59) for a single, 52,50 SEK (~£4.50) for a 24-hour
ticket and about £30 for a 30-day ticket. However, this is not the best way to
get around Lund by any means. The best, most time-efficient and popular is by
bike. The ease and cost of getting a second-hand bike, in addition to the many
cycle lanes makes the bike the superior mode of transport even for an unexperienced
cyclist like myself. The population of Lund, and the students of Lund
University in particular, use bikes to get anywhere and everywhere in the city,
whether that be to class in the morning or getting home after the club. It’s
what is done.
Prior to coming to Lund, I didn’t expect there to be quite so many different rules surrounding alcohol. Sweden, as a whole, is relatively strict with alcohol. Any alcoholic drink that is stronger than 3.5% is only sold in monopolised government shops called Systembolaget which are far fancier than your classic off-licence. The employees are dressed smartly in waistcoats, shirts and bow-ties. Lund has 3 of these shops in total. They shut no later than 7pm, normally earlier and particularly so on Saturdays where they are closed by 3pm. Price-wise, I would say alcohol from Systembolaget is generally not that much more expensive than at home, however if you are buying a drink from a bar, which is not one of the nations’ bars/clubs, it is pricey. Low-percentage alcohol and alcohol-free drinks can be bought from normal supermarkets across Lund though.
There are other interesting laws regarding alcohol here, for
example you are not allowed to cross a road with alcohol in hand and if you are
caught doing so it is punishable by a fine. Also, despite the legal drinking
age being 18, you are unable to purchase alcohol from stores until you are 20. But
you are able to purchase drinks from bars and clubs etc. from 18. Lund perhaps
is more lenient with alcohol relatively to the rest of the Sweden as it is one
of the only places that you are able to drink outside as this is illegal
elsewhere. As a result of this, it is not uncommon to see people sat in the
park having a social drink during the warm weather.
I think all of these laws demonstrate the drinking culture
that Sweden has, where alcohol is there to be enjoyed and appreciated rather
than anything else.
The classic takeaway food here, whatever time of day it may be,
is falafel, usually with garlic, chilli and yoghurt sauce on it. There are many
places across Lund, and nearby Malmö, which have been recommended to me as
great for falafel which I plan on making my way through during the course of my
year here. Fika is another part of Swedish food culture which I fully plan on
throwing myself into. This is a coffee and cake (or something of the variety) break.
It occurs twice per day in work schedules and is taken as a granted thing to do
by colleagues. Fika has had its part in many welcome events here.
I would say that food from supermarkets has been the notably
more expensive category than home. The big shock came to me when I expected Lidl
to be much cheaper than other shops, but it is just a bit cheaper really. I
have ranked what I believe is the best value for money (starting from least expensive):
1)Netto 2)Wallys 3)Lidl 4)ICA 5)Coop.
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.
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.
By Georgi Fogarty (University of Queensland, Australia)
It’s obvious that when you move to the other side of the world, there are going to be some big changes. Jetlag, time differences, climatic, academic and cultural disparities had all been weighing heavily on my mind in the last few weeks approaching my 25-hour flight from Manchester to Brisbane. But strangely, what took me by surprise the most upon landing was the amount of time it took for me to adjust to the fact I was in Australia and no longer in England.
Simon Hird / / Geography / / University of Auckland / / NZ
So as part of year abroad we were asked to produce a series of blogs for Geography. Each had to be a on a different topic and in a variety of formats (i.e.referenced essay, diary entry, video). This particular video blog entry was reflecting on the positives and negatives that I have experienced on my year abroad – it is slightly more personal and geography related than my other posts, due to it’s initial purpose, but hopefully you guys can take something from it:
P.S. If you guys want to see a few more photos feel free to check out my Instagram: @simonhird
the Instagram run by study abroad students at The University of Auckland if you want more of an insight into day-to-day life of an exchange student @studyabroad_auckland
Those that read my last blog will know how much I wasn’t really looking forward to going back to the U.K. The sting of going back home was dimmed a little, as i undertook a 2 and half week venture into Canada, starting in Vancouver and ending in Toronto. During this time I met up with some friends i met on my exchange abroad and family members that i haven’t seen in years. I was taken paddle boarding round Vancouver city, to Whistler for Canada day and to the Calgary stampede (one of the biggest Rodeos in the world). Its fair to say i had a great time.
Now I’m back, I really want to be in Australia again. I’m actually getting jealous of friends that have graduated and are making there way over to Australia to begin there journey, even though I had the chance to live there for a year.
I was however greeted with some fantastic weather, with temperature reaching upwards of 30 degrees. This made me feel slightly better when I received a video of an Australian friend, showing the hail and rain that was ensuing in Perth. Some of the first people I met up with were actually, a group of Australians, I lived with that were travelling round Europe for the summer, which was nice for me and they were enjoying the sun.
Seeing family and friends was nice, although I find myself bored already, it actually didn’t take long for my mother to recognise this. Im trying to keep myself busy seeing friends, training and sorting out dissertation work, but i think i really need to get back to Manchester to get into the swing of things again. I need to have that routine back in order to keep myself occupied and not think too much about the year I’ve just had and left behind.
This was only a short blog just to give an insight of how things are back home. I will update you all further when i actually get back at Manchester and back into my 4th and final year!
It has been a couple of months now since I set foot on campus. I’ve been amazed by the difference in how UoM (University of Manchester) and UMass Amherst (University of Massachusetts at Amherst) are run. I have to say that one blogpost may not be able to portray my understanding and feeling but I will have a go.
First and foremost, I will avoid mentioning UMass Amherst Dining as I believe no blogger or blog post can do it justice. No wonder it has been rated in the top two for several years running. If you are in Manchester and wondering why the big deal about food, it may be helpful to know that most American Universities have their students living on campus so making food available within campus is their duty, unlike UoM where most students live off campus. I will start by stating the differences in academics.
You are starting a marathon and you hear ‘On your marks, get set, go!’ That’s how it feels from the first day through to the end. Homework and graded quizzes every week, midterms for every subject, essays and finals. There are no gaps between final exams. You finish your course today then you could either have your exams the next day or the week after the weekend. Unlike at UoM where you’ve got at least four weeks between end of class and start of exams (Christmas break and January exam & Easter break and May/June exams).
UoM (3 Semesters)
UMass Amherst (1 semester)
Extra credit assignments
At UMass Amherst, a nutritionist student can take a Political Science class regardless of major or minor, a Physics student can take an English class. At UoM, an Economic students taking a Biology class will receive an email from her programme administrator with a short content ‘Please see me!’. The reason UMass students can and UoM students can’t could be because the latter spend three years at University while the former four years, therefore having an extra year to diversify your learning. I will leave it to you to suggest whether this is beneficial or not.
The Learning Resource Centre is run by students including the receptionist. Students are paid above the minimum wage to assist other students. This is additional to Teaching Assistants’ and Professors’ office hours. They are located on the 10th floor of the world’s tallest academic library – Du Bois Library.
LIFE AROUND CAMPUS
Unlike UoM, UMass Amherst is the heart and soul of the city. One resident of Amherst said to me that when the semester ends, Amherst becomes a ghost town. I must admit that UMass Amherst does a lot to make their students feel at home since it is situated in arguably a remote area far away from a main city or shopping complex. Speaking of shopping complexes, the University does take advantage of students as they overprice their products at the University’s Store. The store is probably 15 times larger than UoM’s and sells products from nails cutters to MacBooks.
Events are regularly held in order to help keep the students at ease since there isn’t a lot going on other than the regular flat and fraternity parties on Friday nights nd weekend. This semester there were performances from Tinashe, Fetty Wap, Jason Derulo among others.
Student employment is quite impressive. Through an email, the UMass’ Human resource department wrote to me that 9884 students (Graduates and undergraduates) work for the university in capacities such as dining hall attendants, security personnel at halls and receptionists at the University’s hotel. UMASS student firefighters help the local fire department. Another interesting fact is that UMASS students drive the local buses that take students around university and town. My roommate drives one of these buses and says that other than being a good paying job it is enjoyable too.
Sport participation is something like I’ve never seen before. As a result of sport participation, students frequently end up not undertaking some of their assessments. However, their assessments are rescheduled since sport participation qualifies to be a valid mitigating circumstance. Lacrosse is by far the most popular sport. The free gym which is made available by the University helps keep the athletes and other students fit.
It was quite a busy semester but it has now come to an end. Needless to say that I’ve definitely experienced a different perspective of life.
Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin
As promised, my last blog was on the fun, positive side of Berlin and studying abroad (or a taste of it anyway). This blog is something a bit different – mainly because my study abroad experience certainly hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine all the way through. These occasional periods of negativity, which eventually lead to greater insight into myself and therefore a positive outcome, are anti-perks.
Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin
Every time I write a blog, I wonder how to start it. I know that that’s kind of reasonable as I’m starting out on what I hope is a new idea, but I find that as I write, my ideas come to me a lot more naturally than at the beginning of a post. So, here I am, starting a post again. Wondering how to start it. So I’ll start by saying how amazing Berlin is for student discounts for cultural stuff! Yay!
Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin
So. It’s definitely been a while. Like, a really, really decent while. Everything’s been quiet on the blog front while everything’s been hectic and busy on the ‘year abroad life’ front. I’ll start not by making excuses, but making a plan: this blog will be a general (hopefully interesting) ramble on things that have gone on for me recently on this period of time abroad – because it really is amazing in its own unique way. Then, there’ll be two blogs on all the fun things/hard things that have happened, all the stuff I’ve enjoyed (or not) and why/what I gained from these experiences, which I think is a pretty interesting topic, no?