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First Impressions: Cathy

After 40+ hours of planes, transits, security, customs and airports, I’ve finally made it to the other side of the world: Scotland – my home for the next semester, where I will be attending the University of Glasgow. I’ll admit that the trip here wasn’t ideal. I spent about 25 hours in total on a plane plus dealing with a missed connection, which wasn’t really my idea of a good time, especially to kick off 2018. I landed in Glasgow at 7pm on New Year’s Day, exhausted and sore all over, but nevertheless, I was excited to start my year off on a new continent.

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View of the University from Kelvingrove Park

In a true Scottish fashioned welcome, the first day I spent here was cold, gray and rainy. It’s quite a bit colder than an Auckland winter, generally sitting at around 1 to 4 degrees Celsius, and my weather app tells me that the humidity is also quite high, making the cold really stick on to you. I made plenty of mental preparation for the weather differences though; leaving a kiwi summer was always going to be hard but I was expecting to not see the sun for about 4 months in Glasgow, so imagine my surprise when the weekend graced us with two days of clear blue skies and sunshine. It was absolutely freezing but amazing to see the city in all its wintery glory.

Scotland and New Zealand have many things in common. For example: some beautiful scenery, a love for fish and chips and comments on our respective accents by the rest of the world. However, there are also some major differences in culture which I’ve been lucky enough to experience already. On the first night, the university organized a social event for all the new international students. I wasn’t too sure what to expect – but it turned out to be a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), which is a traditional Scottish (also Irish) social gathering which involves traditional Scottish music and dancing. So yes, I learnt how to do Scottish dances – I can feel myself becoming more cultured already.

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The River Clyde

Another one of the great and unique things about going on exchange in Glasgow is that they also offer classes from the Glasgow School of Art such as sculpting and photography, as well as a bagpiping class and an introductory class to Scottish history. Unfortunately I didn’t have any space in my degree to take any of these, but we did get a demonstration on the bagpipes during our orientation talk!

The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and very recently celebrated its 567th birthday. To put a little perspective on that, that is 389 years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The main building was built in a 1400s style of architecture, despite actually being built in the 1870s. Nevertheless, the buildings are stunning and giving off some serious Hogwarts vibes. Most of the campus is on University Avenue, just outside of Kelvingrove Park. There are also several newer and more modern buildings in the campus such as the main UoG library, which has 12 floors!

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The University courtyard – its meant to be bad luck to step on the grass, if you do, you wont graduate!

Although it’s absolutely freezing and kind of damp all the time, Glasgow is a lovely city. Everyone has been super friendly, there’s lots of green spaces and endless roads of cute little cafes, bars, pubs and shops. I’m super excited to see what this semester has in store for me and the places that it’ll take me… places such as Edinburgh this Saturday 😀 To keep up with my adventures, chuck me a follow on Instagram or flick me an email if you have any questions!

Instagram: c2849
Email: chan977@aucklanduni.ac.nz

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First Impressions: Lauren

Hello all!

It was a long trip here with 10-hour layover in Los Angeles, but all travels went smoothly. I arrived in Guadalajara, Mexico at 5 am and it was still very dark and surprisingly a little cold (nothing like winter in NZ though). Even though it is winter, I didn’t bring many warm clothes with me! It is nice here, but also very different to New Zealand. I went to the local Walmart and took me almost 2 hours to get a few items as the layout, products, prices etc are different. But I am sure I will be in the swing of things soon.

Being from an English-speaking country, it is easy to assume everyone speaks English, but most people in Mexico do not. This has put my basic Spanish skills to the test with the Uber drivers (a lot cheaper here than in NZ) and at the local Walmart. Everyone I have met has been so friendly, I am enjoying meeting new people and learning about the Mexican culture.

Even before my arrival, I was impressed with the amount of support I received. I was added to multiple Facebook groups and invitations to activities they have already planned and been matched with a buddy from Tec.

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Three days after my arrival was Orientation day. I walked to Tec with other students who are living in the same area as me and walking into the Campus, I was amazed. It is so big and has beautiful mature trees. We had an information session about Mexico, Guadalajara and Tecnológico de Monterrey, a campus tour which ended with a Mariachi band and Tacos for lunch, then a time to hand in forms and see the services Tec offers. I was thoroughly impressed with all that Tec has to offer and the friendliness of the staff. We can sign up to cultural activities, from make-up to magic classes or salsa to photography, and there is an array of sports we can also do at Tec.

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The following two days we went into Tec to sort out our courses and timetables. Here, you must attend all your classes as they take a roll. If you have a certain amount of ‘faltas’, you cannot sit the final exam and so fail the course (with no exceptions). So it seems a bit like High School I guess, with class sizes of around 30 and taking a roll, but as one of the most prestigious private Universities in Mexico, I can understand why they are so strict with students paying a lot to attend Tec. I am looking forward to my time here and experiencing a university culture so different to NZ, and the challenges and opportunities this brings.

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I highly recommend getting in touch with students that have previously been to your host university. I met a student via the Study Abroad Students’ Society (SASS) mentoring programme. We communicated over social media and also met in person for a chat. She was very friendly and eager to share her experience with me, giving me insight into what Tecnológico de Monterrey is like and some cultural norms to be aware of. I feel that now I have a bit more of an understanding of what to expect during my time in Mexico.

I feel very blessed to have this opportunity and look forward to the adventures to come!

Hasta Luego,

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You can follow Lauren on Instagram @laurenabroad_

First Impressions: Atharva

Hello all!

London Heathrow, 8am: It finally sinks in. The feeling that you’re literally on the other side of the planet, with four pieces of luggage, alone. I’ll be honest, I was not mentally prepared for this and had initial doubts, or even minor anxiety. But, I thought “You’re here for a year, better get used to it. Just take a deep breathe”. After some mental prep, I headed off to customs and then to the big Central Bus Station where I was to catch a bus to Southampton.

The National Express Bus took me through the British countryside and some small towns. I was relieved to see a sign on the motorway showing that Southampton wasn’t so far away now. My body clock was a mess and I wasn’t sure if I was hungry, sleepy or both. I was a 6 month old baby stuck in the body of a 19 year old. Soon, the bus arrived at the Coach Station in town and I was able to get a taxi to the AirBnB that I was staying at for the first few days.

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Southampton Common: A large park with open and wooded areas

The couple who I stayed with was very sweet and they even took me down to the local Sainsbury’s (imagine if Countdown and The Warehouse had a baby) just to keep me active and to stop me dozing off on the spot. I had an early dinner and was out cold by six o’clock (still acting like a 6 month old).

I didn’t do much for the next couple of day except eat, sleep and cry – I mean try to get out of the house and explore. As my sleep schedule adjusted to the local time, I felt more active and energetic. The weather was (and still is) super cold, and even colder during the night as it would often dip into the negatives. Although snow isn’t common here, I saw my first snow on the night of Waitangi Day. Winter is in full swing here, and for a person like me, who has survived Auckland’s wind and rain, I took my mother’s advice and wore a jacket (and 3 other layers) when going out.

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“Me trying really hard to smile while cold and wet.”

The city seemed very lowkey and even a bit dull at times. It’s a quiet place (the way I like it) at least during the week, but being a town with two universities, the weekends get a bit rowdy. There’s a big mall, and a giant IKEA which you could easily get lost in and even the remains of a medieval city wall and gate. There are a few parks too. They seem pretty neglected right now, but I’d imagine them being much better once it gets warmer.

A day before moving into my Hall, I did a day-trip to Salisbury (pronounced Sawls-bree, it remains a mystery why and how) and the Stonehenge. My second major is Anthropology and so I was very keen to visit this historical monument. Salisbury town is basically the starter pack for “a small European town”. It ticks all the boxes. Narrow, cobbled lanes (check), small river flowing through the centre and an old mill (check), a large cathedral (check). Bonus points because this one has the tallest spire in the UK.

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The Stonehenge on a cold and misty day.
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The spire of Salisbury Cathedral stands 123m tall.

Currently, I’ve been going to uni for two weeks. It’s still cold, I’ve been dished out assignments already and I’m trying to cut back on eating ready meals and cook for myself. Anyway…hope you enjoyed reading this little slice of my life. Stay wholesome!

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My trips in Kyushu: Rena

Hello again! In this blog post, I decided to show you where I’ve been in Kyushu.  I think that a lot of foreigners see Kyushu as only an agricultural region but truthfully, there’s lots of hidden gens in southwestern Japan. From the hot springs resort in Beppu to the ‘Small Europe’ theme park in Nagasaki, Kyushu is brimming with activities to do- here are the places I’ve visited in this stunning region!

Kagoshima prefecture – Kirishima
In September, the coordinators of the WJC programme took us all to Kagoshima for the weekend. It’s about a 7-hour drive one way and I was so touched that they took us this far for a trip. We spent our first day at the Kirishima Open-Air museum where we saw sculptures displayed in the Kirishima woods, meaning it was an outdoor museum and we were allowed to interact with the displays by touching them and sitting on them. The museum exhibits work from artists all over Japan and the world. These different displays all show aspects of nature, history and culture. It was such a unique museum and I had the best experience there.

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 Yayoi Kusama’s stunning work in front of the museum
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Exhibition 8- You Are The Art (2000)

We then spent our night at a traditional Japanese hotel (ryokan) where we were treated to what probably is going to be the fanciest dinner of my life. We also had a karaoke machine and spent our evening singing to Japanese songs, and songs from other cultures performed by my friends.

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There are literally no words to describe how badly I miss this!

We ended our night at the extravagant hot pools (onsen) which would have been relaxing except for the fact among us foreigners, it was our first time experiencing the onsen so for the first 20 minutes, we were embarrassed beyond belief. However, our Japanese friends comforted us and guided us to the different types of onsen. In the end, we loved it so much that we woke up at 5am the next morning to try out the outdoor ones. It’s definitely something I wish I could include in my daily morning routine!

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 The water was actually quite murky so that gave me some modesty as a first-timer- Source: Google images

On the second day, we visited the Kagoshima City Aquarium and watched the impressive dolphin performance. Then, we headed to the Sengan-en Gardens where we enjoyed another delicious lunch (seriously, when will they stop spoiling us?). At the gardens, we found a cat shrine which was too adorable.

After that, it was time to go back to Fukuoka.

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People write their wishes and hang them up here

 

Ōita Prefecture-Yufuin
2 weeks ago, my host family took me to a small town in Ōita called Yufuin. Though this town is small, it was buzzing with the most amazing shops! The shops are built in a European village style, and there were lots to see there! There was an Owl zoo, a cat café and shops for literally everything! (Think Cheesecake shop, Matcha shop, and even a cat goods shop. Not to mention, 3 Studio Ghilbi stores).

We first explored what shops the town offered. Then, we settled ourselves in a traditional Japanese restaurant for lunch. I had the most divine eel on rice lunch set. Then, we went to the Trick eye museum and in the evening, relaxed at a nearby onsen. Ōita prefecture is famous for its onsen spots, so you must stop at one if you’re in the area.

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Even though 1 day is enough to see all of Yufuin, I still want to go back!
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Trick eye museum!

 

Saga Prefecture-Karatsu, Ogi City
In late November, my host family took me to Saga prefecture. We explored Karatsu castle where the characters from ‘Yuri!!!on Ice’ went. There were little elements from the anime sprinkled in the castle which I thought was sweet. Then in the evening, we went to the Bamboo Light Festival (Kiyomizu Take Akari) in Ogi City. The picture in this blog doesn’t do it justice- everything there was honestly so stunning. All of the details on the bamboo canes (10,000 to be exact!) are easy to miss if you don’t stop and examine each and every one. The waterfall at the end was dazzling and complimented the fire in the bamboo canes so perfectly. This event is held annually so be sure to not miss it!

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For those Yuri!!! On Ice fans, this is for you- Left is the sign telling us that the anime was filmed here and the right shows the actual scene in real life
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A night I’ll never forget- even the time I accidentally knocked a bamboo cane over

I just want to take this time to thank my host family for taking me to these places in Kyushu. As if I wasn’t stunned by Fukuoka already, my host family has shown me the many wonders of Kyushu. They always make sure my host sisters and I have the loveliest time and I couldn’t be more grateful. I also want to thank the coordinators of the WJC programme for the special memories I made in Kagoshima. They have time after time, taken care of all of us with their utmost care and concern and I am so lucky to be a part of the WJC family. ありがとうございます!

またね!

Adobe Spark (13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Catalan Question: Bianca

I’m not entirely sure how much coverage this situation got in the New Zealand media, but at the very least after the last few months I am sure that you will have heard about Catalonia and their attempt at independence. I am not a journalist or even studying journalism but after reading some of the reports from the BBC and other international media outlets I thought I would add my opinion of what has been going on, as someone who is living in Spain as it is happening.DSCN9448DSCN9455 - Copy

I guess the best place to start when considering recent events is the referendum that was held on the 1st of October in Catalonia (for those who do not know Catalonia is one of the regions of Spain with Barcelona as its capital). Personally, I almost forgot the referendum about the referendum, with so much going on at uni and a number of deadlines fast approaching, it wasn’t until minutes before 6pm that I checked in on the progress. I was incredibly shocked to see a number of reports about the police brutality, particularly in Barcelona. After speaking with a few people in my residence about what we were seeing on TV it was pretty clear that none of us knew the explanation for the violence. What we did find out in class a few days later was that the referendum had been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court of Spain in September as it was in breach of the 1978 constitution – which the Catalan people voted in favour of at the time. Not only had the referendum been declared illegal by Spain, but the High Court of Justice of Catalonia had also given orders to the police to prevent the referendum, which included orders for the arrest of various individuals who had helped to organise it. These orders were not followed by the Catalan police, with videos being posted on the internet showing police officers walking past voting stations, waving and smiling. It is for this reason that the Spanish Civil Guard was deployed to carry out the orders that the Catalan police ignored. Based on the way that I have seen these facts represented in the media I believe that the Catalans played a much smarter game in regards to media coverage, almost every article that I read had the Catalans looking like the victims and the Spanish government portrayed as the oppressor.

Not only was the referendum illegal, it also did not meet the minimum international standards for elections. We found video footage showing people bringing the – supposedly empty – ballot boxes into one of the voting stations before the start of the referendum. This footage shows one of the ballot boxes being dropped and rather than being empty a whole sheath of voting papers fell out, all marked in favour of independence. Usually in a referendum or vote there is only one ballot per person and you are signed up to vote in a specific station, however during the Catalan referendum, the electorate were able to vote at any voting station and print the ballot at home to bring to voting stations; this resulted in there being no limit to the number of ballots one person was able to post in the ballot boxes.

The question on the ballot to which voters could answer “Yes” or “No” was “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a Republic?”. According to the official results of the referendum the “Yes” side won with 92.01% of the votes. However, when everything that we were seeing in the news is taken into consideration along with less than 50% voter turnout with a high proportion of the “No” voters not attending due to being asked not to by the constitutional parties, doubt is cast on the validity of the result.

What I heard from a few of my classmates with family in Catalonia is that their family had voted “Yes” during the referendum and at the time strongly believed that Catalonia both had the right to be an independent state and that it should be one now, were beginning to doubt in their decision. It only became clear after the referendum that if Catalonia claims their independence from Spain they will no longer be part of the European Union and that they will not be recognised as a country by the United Nations. This fact was made even more real by the round 1400 businesses that pulled out of Catalonia in the aftermath of the referendum and the sudden spike in unemployment that this caused. Historically and still today Catalonia is one of the most affluent and successful regions in Spain. The fact that they have always had to pay more taxes to the state because of this has always been a point of contention for the Catalans. They see themselves as a different nation, first Catalan and second – if at all – Spanish.

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The question that I heard over and over during the course of the last few months and the one I want to leave you with is: does every nation have the right to its own state? As an extension of this question: Should the Catalans be allowed independence from Spain?

 

If you want to discuss this further or have any questions about and exchange in Spain feel free to send me an email to bsta867@aucklanduni.ac.nz.

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Food, Glorious Food: Matt

What many people think when asked about the typical American meal is something that is served quickly, eaten quickly, large and kinda on the unhealthy side of things. Whilst it is true that Americans love to eat Burgers, fries, hotdogs, chicken wings and there is a lot more that the US and North Carolina can offer to excite those taste buds.

Chapel Hill has a great foodie scene. There are a range of different places to eat, from high end restaurants, to takeaway burger joints all of which can be found on Franklin Street. There are Italian, Indian, Japanese and Greek restaurant as well as classic American diners. My personal favourite places to eat in Chapel Hill are Al’s Burger Shack, Spicy 9, Tru, and Sup Dogs. There are still heaps of places that I haven’t tried yet so that list can change in an instant.

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Sup Dogs
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Spicy 9
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Not often that you need two plates to hold a slice of Pizza
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Al’s Burger Shack

 

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As for the cuisine in North Carolina, like many of the southern states, barbeque is a big deal over here. The state’s speciality is pulled pork which is pretty much pork that has been shredded up. Fried Chicken is also a big deal and if you do venture to North Carolina, visit a Bojangles restaurant as they do some quality chicken and hearty southern cuisine. Another great way to experience American food culture is to head to the annual North Carolina State fair. If you are lucky enough to spend the fall semester in North Carolina, you will have no problem finding endless displays of deep fried oreos, candy and giant turkey legs at the annual state fair.  North Carolinians are big on Sweet Tea when it comes to quenching one’s thirst. I kinda see what the fuss is all about especially during the summer months when a cold drink becomes a godsend. But for me, it felt like I was drinking a cup of cup of tea that I had left behind on the kitchen table with an excess amount of sugar.

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Sunday’s are for Football and wings
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North Carolina State Fair

You will have no problem finding good places to eat while you’re in Chapel Hill. Since we are on the topic of food, I should talk about the situation with meal plans at UNC. UNC has two Dining halls: Lenoir and Chase. There is another at Granville towers, but it is run separately. Both are conveniently located with Lenoir on North Campus and Chase on South Campus. To eat at these halls, you can pay as you go with cash or card, or you can purchase a meal plan and use your Onecard (like a student id card) to swipe yourself in. Depending on what meal plan you choose, you get a certain number of swipes. Some pay for an unlimited plan where they can go into the dining hall as often as possible without worrying about running out of swipes. Others opt for the 120 plan where you are given 120 swipes for the semester. I opted for the 120 plan because it was the cheapest option and allows me to use the dining hall approximately once a day. The dining halls are open all day and depending on the time, you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a great variety of food which caters to just about everyone, and it is extremely convenient.

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Accommodation Awards: Daryn

The first piece of advice I would give anyone looking for accommodation is to start your search early. Most Universities will have an application deadline for first choice accommodation, and off-grounds housing becomes much scarcer closer to the start of the semester. It feels a lot better to have a place to stay sorted early, rather than worrying as the semester looms closer!

At UVA there are two types of housing: on-grounds and off-grounds. On-grounds housing is provided by the University of Virginia but with off-grounds housing it’s up to you to find somewhere to live.

As you’ve probably seen in any movie which features a U.S. college, it is very common for students to live in the same room with a roommate. UVA is no exception, so expect to have a roommate in nearly any on-grounds housing you choose. There are options at some residences for single rooms but I would say it’s best to expect to have a roommate – and it is the ‘traditional’ U.S. college experience after all!

Best Community

First up is the International Residence College, or IRC. This is a residence targeted at developing an international community on grounds and consists of approximately 300 students, of which around 40% are from overseas. The IRC is located close to grounds, has single and double rooms, and features common kitchen and lounge spaces. A unique aspect of the IRC is the range of events offered including weekly morning teas, afternoon teas, and breakfasts, along with a range of other events such as Conversazione Grande dinners and trips. The IRC is located adjacent to Emmet Street and is a short five-minute walk to central grounds.

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Best for Shopping

Lambeth Field Apartments, or just Lambeth, are down the road from the IRC, and offer apartment-style housing. Each apartment has two or three double rooms with a living area and kitchen. Lambeth Apartments are a bit utilitarian on the inside than other residences, but are more than adequate for students. Lambeth Field Apartments border its namesake, Lambeth Field, an excellent place to throw a frisbee around or play a game of football. Lambeth is convenient for your shopping needs, featuring its own convenience store, and is situated a ten-minute walk from the Barracks Road Shopping Centre. Lambeth is also a ten-minute walk to central grounds.

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Most Modern Accommodation

The Flats at West Village are a modern apartment block located a five-minute walk from The Corner, and around a fifteen to twenty-minute walk to UVA’s central grounds.

To make up for the longer walk the Flats offer a range of modern amenities including a pool, spa, gym, and lobby area with coffee machines. The Flats has one to four-room apartment style suites, with most rooms having a private ensuite bathroom. The rooms share a common lounge and dining area.

Unfortunately all good things come at a price – modern apartments such as The Flats tend to be the most expensive housing option for students. However, if you like the sound of The Flats at West Village, other modern apartment buildings to check out include the GrandMarc and Uncommon.

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Best Everyday Experience

I personally chose to stay off-grounds – it can work out cheaper, you can get a single room (for those of us not keen on sharing a room!), and you have a lot more choice in terms of the type of accommodation and the location.

The two main methods I used to find off-grounds housing were the UVA Housing Facebook Group and the UVA Roommates website.

As an exchange student if you’re here for one semester like me, it can be difficult to find off-grounds housing. As I mentioned earlier the best strategy is to search early. Often UVA students who are studying abroad will look for people to fill their rooms while they are overseas. I am subletting a room from a UVA student who is studying abroad for the Fall Semester – a perfect situation for both of us!

I’m staying in an off-grounds house which is around a 10-minute walk to central grounds and 10 minutes to ‘The Corner,’ the street adjacent UVA grounds with an assortment of shops and cafes. My room is a decent size, and was furnished, saving me from the hassle of organising furniture.

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Additional Information

Most private leases through apartment companies (such as The Flats) or private leases for student accommodation will be for one year. This means you may be responsible for finding a tenant for the remainder of your lease if you’re staying for one semester. Keep this consideration in mind when finding a place. It is preferable to find a one-semester lease or sublet if possible.

Rooms may be furnished but be sure to find out what this means – one person’s definition of furnished may be different to yours.

No matter where you end up living I am sure you will learn to appreciate the pros and cons of your place during your exchange!

Contact Me

I’ve tried to briefly cover some housing options for exchange students at UVA, but my list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about housing, UVA, or studying abroad in general!

You can email me at dgov422@aucklanduni.ac.nz, or comment below.