Accommodation Awards – Lauren

Setting up a flat in New Zealand can be complicated — having to sort power, internet water etc. Consequently, I was hesitant to flat in Mexico as I thought having to arrange all of that in a different country would be near impossible. However, I was added to a Facebook group by Tec de Monterrey which had a Google Drive document containing student housing options. I discovered that most student flats in Mexico include all of your utilities, so you only need to pay one sum each month. This made flatting a far more desirable option, and after being in contact with someone, I was happy to have secured a flat before my arrival.

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My house — 3 floors, 4 bedrooms.

I live in Porta Real, which consists of four condominiums and is a popular area for international students to live. It has 24/7 security and is only a 10-minute walk from Walmart and 15 minutes to campus. I am living with three other girls, one from Mexico, one from Poland and another from Holland. There are international students who choose to live closer to the city center as there is a bit more going on there and rent is a bit cheaper, but I am very glad I live close to Tec as it is so convenient (especially when classes go from 7am till 10pm) and there are plenty of other students around.

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In my Coto, there is approximately 100 nearly identical houses. There is also a common area which has a pool, a playground, events room and BBQ’s.

It is common in Mexican households to have a cleaner or a nanny. At my house, we have a cleaner who comes in once a week to clean the common areas and wash our sheets if we want. At first, I found it a bit strange, but it is actually super handy and means our house is kept nice and tidy. When I arrived, the kitchen was already equipped. Not abundant in pots and pans, but enough for all of us to cook our dinner.

I would highly recommend flatting in Porta Real. Not only is it a great was to meet other students, but the fact that many places come equipped and payments are made so simple, it makes flatting an easy option. Many people I spoke to waited till they arrived to confirm a flat, staying in a hostel or hotel for the first few days while they settled in. Personally, I wanted to have a place confirmed before I left New Zealand, but waiting till you arrive isn’t a bad option as you can see the place yourself and meet the other flat mates (or potential flat mates).

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My room – it came with linen which meant as soon as I arrived I could have a sleep! The bed is really comfortable and I have a nice big window so it is nice and light in the afternoons.

There is one on-campus accommodation option here, a residence hall made up of mostly first year students. It has pretty strict rules and not many international students stay there. Another alternative is a home-stay. This option can be great to improve your Spanish speaking skills and be immersed in a Mexican family. However, I have heard mixed reviews, with some students loving their families and others not so much, so home-stays can easily be hit or miss.

I love my wee house and feel very safe and sound here!

Till next time,

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First Impressions – Caitlin

Being 3 weeks into my semester exchange, I think to say it’s been a lifestyle change wouldn’t do it justice. Of course I was expecting things to be different, however I’m not sure you can ever be truly prepared leave all friends, family and support network to travel halfway across the world to a country where they all speak a different language. In my first three weeks here I have already been presented with various challenges, such as having to change my flat (and squabble with my first landlord in Spanish – not easy) and learn to cook for myself (honestly one of the biggest obstacles I’ve had so far). However, in spite of this, the first few weeks have been a blast and I am loving south America!

Santiago – Living in Latin America

From the surface, the city of Santiago seems much like Auckland. It is a city with a similar climate, people making their daily commutes in rush hour traffic – a regular city by anyone’s standards. However, there are a few obvious differences:

  • The landscape

Chile is a country filled with beautiful scenery and Santiago itself is situated in a Valley, meaning it is surrounded by mountainous landscape. At first it felt a little strange to be in the centre of a bustling city and yet also be able to look up to see the large mountains looming over you. However, when the sun is going down and the edges of the peaks are all stained pink, it sure does make a beautiful view.

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  • The people

There are just many more people. Attempting to brave the underground metro during peak hour traffic (7:00 – 9:00PM) is overwhelming to say the least. I am consistently amazed at the amount of people they continue to cram into the metro cart when I am sure there is no physical space left.

  • The language

This is undoubtedly the biggest adjustment I have had to make. You really don’t appreciate the ability to express yourself freely until you are placed in a world where every sentence takes three times more brain power and you are often cut short halfway through a phrase due to lack of vocabulary. Since my arrival in Santiago I have spoken very little English, as only Spanish is spoken both in my classes and in my house. In fact, being able to write this blog in English feels luxurious! However, every day I am improving and learning more!

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While I have only been here a short time, I have also attempted a taste at local culture by attending a football game with a group of Chilean friends. Therefore, believe me when I testify to the amount of passion the Chileans have for football. They did not stop singing, at the top of the lungs, for the ENTIRE game, no matter what was happening on the field. It sure was a memorable experience.

In conclusion: this city seems to offer the perfect amount similarities to home, so as not to be too scary, but also the right amount of differences to make it a challenging new adventure. I am happy to say that I have now settled in, have learnt the routes around my alti-left wing university, and most importantly have met a great bunch of people both in my house and through the exchange network! I look forward to what the next 4 months will bring!

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Accommodation Awards – Tate

If you’re studying abroad at Trinity College, more likely than not you’ll end up in a shared flat at Binary Hub. This purpose-built complex is run by Aparto, and is situated in Dublin 2, just off Thomas Street and in the depths of the Liberties. (Wikipedia – funnily enough – says more than I ever could on the location, and you can brush up on the history and the contemporary cultural and entertainment scene of the Liberties by skimming through that page.)

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Part of the view from the kitchen of my flat #BeastFromTheEast

Pre-Arrival Lowdown:

I’ve got a few important things to say before we get into the nitty gritty of the actual living situation. I won’t sugar-coat it, because I feel like you ought to be informed if you’re going to be going through a similar process.

  • Once you indicate to Trinity that you’re interested in student accommodation (this is done by filling out a Google Form), you’ll wait a few days and then get your offer from Binary Hub. The deadline for acceptance and your first deposit is wicked fast – you have 48 hours, from memory – and the Aparto portal is… not the best. It’s an apparently one-stop shop to make the process easier, but you can’t go back and forth within the confirmation and payment screens, which makes life a little hard. (And you can’t repeat, apparently.) The portal was having issues when I was manically trying to navigate payment and a thirteen hour time difference. Just keep that in mind. (And if you’re having any issues – any at all – email someone. Email the staff, explain your issue, and even if they don’t respond immediately, you’ll have written proof that you’ve made the effort.)
  • That said, you’ll feel a sense of relief once the deposit is all sorted. It’ll seem like you have ages to pay the rest – you’re asked to pay upfront, as opposed to the fortnightly payments in halls at home – but get on that. Immediately. I gave myself a week before the payment deadline (as the preceding month was full of Christmas celebrations and seeing family and filling out other exchange forms), and this was the most stressful time of my life. There are a few payment methods, but let me say that if you choose PayToStudy – don’t do it through your own internet banking. Go into a bank and have them do it. In order to reach Ireland, the money will have to be transferred through several different international banks, and the exchange rate may change as this happens, and what arrives at the PayToStudy end has to be right in order for them to pass it along to Aparto. I was emailing people morning, noon, and night, making several trips to the bank (cheers to my Dad, who works in international finance and knew what kind of questions needed to be asked) – and shout out to Mandy at BNZ; we had so many phone conversations. My stress levels, which function a little higher than the normal human just on average, were through the roof. While it got sorted out in the end – literally as I was flying through the air – it was the last thing I wanted before a big move by myself across the planet.
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Having an en-suite (especially with a decently tall shower) is a major plus!

When you’re in Dublin:

  • Google Maps says Binary Hub is a twenty-five- to thirty-minute walk to Trinity. The real length of the journey will depend on your stride. Take a bus, if you want, but the exercise is manageable – no hills (read: Wakefield Street, you mare). I can do it in twenty. I also end up sweating up a storm once I sit down in class, but that’s more due to the intensity of the Arts Building heaters than anything else.
  • Everything you could ever need – theatres, museums, libraries, cinemas; restaurants, pubs, nightclubs – is extremely accessible from this location. Arthur’s Pub is a few steps down Thomas, and it’s an easy stop for the comfort of a hot, filling meal. The Guinness Storehouse is right next to Binary Hub, and one time it smelled like cat food, but most of the time it smells like what you get if you’ve ever put WeetBix in the microwave. Maybe an odd thing to say, but it always feels like a friendly nudge from home on a crisp morning walk to class. (Dublin in general smells like oranges and cigarette smoke and the air after fireworks, depending on where you are. It’s also just got that distinct smell of cold.)
  • Because it’s accommodation primarily targeted to international students, you’re not likely to meet anyone who’s actually from Dublin. We’re all as disappointed as each other, but that’s what capitalising on societies and those little connections you can make in class is for. It can be nice to have somebody to talk to when they’re in the exact same boat, too. (Plus, loads of international friends means there’s always somewhere to stay if you find yourself in their neck of the woods.)
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Between blocks at Binary Hub!

Where to shop

  • Groceries: Lidl on Thomas Street. I cannot sing its praises enough. A few people I know go instead to Tesco Express or to Marks & Spencer, but these are the people to whom the exchange rate isn’t quite so harsh. Lidl has all the essentials, and if you’re looking for something specific or a bit more high end, sure, make that trip to Tesco or M&S (or to an Asian grocer, of which there are a few tucked around the place), but on the whole, stick to Lidl.
  • Crockery, cutlery, cookware: Two doors up from Lidl is Dealz. As the name suggests, the stuff you’ll get there is pretty cheap, but for the length of time you’ll be here, that’s all you need. The three-pack of proper black-handled knives my flat bought from there is possibly the sharpest selection of knives I’ve ever experienced (the little bit of fingernail I had to sacrifice while cutting lettuce one time can confirm). Also great is EuroGiant, bang in the middle between Dealz and Lidl. My friends swear by its frying pan. (I’ve been cooking everything out of a pot or on an oven tray, but, like, still.) Like I kind of touched on, buy these things as a flat. That can distribute cost and make things a lot easier. (Still annoying when people don’t clean up after themselves though.)
  • Bedding: As I lamented in my last blog post, you’re not given anything except a mattress cover. Go to Penney’s on the other side of the river. (Penney’s is great, just in general.) In my desperation, I went to Dunnes, paid a bit more, and have the cosiest, loveliest duvet and throw and pillows, but I really could’ve just gone to Penney’s.

A couple of shots of my bedroom to help you get an idea!

Apologies for the information dump. At least it’s a somewhat comprehensive guide to Dublin! If you’d like to know what I’m up to in a less information-dump style, feel free to check out my Instagram, @tatefountain.

Until next time!

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Accommodation Awards – Atharva

Hello all! Firstly, I’d like to say that I am now a certified adult. How, you may ask? The other day, I bought a box of eggs and checked all six of them before putting them in my trolley. It makes me quite proud and a little emotional to witness this transformation in my personal character. Anyway, onto the main topic of the blog…

I’ve now spent a good month at Chamberlain Hall. The “hall” is in fact a group of five buildings called blocks, named A-E and all built in a loose semi-circle. My room is on the third floor and in Flat A. A “flat” comprises of 10 rooms and a shared kitchen and dining area. I share this area with nine other amazing people who are really amazing (they read my blog, so I had to chuck in a mention). Chamberlain Hall comes under Glen Eyre Halls Complex, a complex of several halls which are all in the same area.

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Blocks A, B, C, D and E of Chamberlain Hall. (Google Maps)

Glen Eyre is about a 10-15 minute walk from the University and is serviced by a couple of buses. I walked to and from Uni during the first week, before I found out which buses to catch and their timings. Thankfully, that cut my freezing ten minute trek down to a warm and seated five minutes.

Speaking of, the weather has been horrible for the past few days. Folk here experience a similar weather phenomenon as we do back home. Just how we get the odd polar blast from Antarctica which brings bone-chilling southerlies, here they get winds from the Arctic and Siberia. The recent one being dubbed the “Beast from the East” which has resulted in snow and UK-wide disruption. Just as we recovered from that, a snow storm from the Channel came up on the first day of March and dumped some snow, overnight.

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I made my first snow angel and ended up with a wet bum, but it was worth it!

Since the weather is like this all day, I’ve been staying in my room, cranking up the radiator under my desk and working through some assignments. Fortunately, all rooms have radiators (at least in my Hall) and double-glazed windows which keep us alive and warm.

My room consists of an en suite toilet and shower, a double bed, a wardrobe and a desk and chair for me to do my work on. It’s one of three categories of rooms which you can choose from. The other two being a smaller room with en suite facilities and a non-en suite option. My parents and I thought it would be best to go for the bigger, en suite room because I’ll be spending a comfortable six months here (before moving out during the summer break) and then hopefully coming back to stay at Chamberlain or any other hall in the Glen Eyre Complex for Semester 1.

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Here’s a little drawing of my room. It’s not a mess at all. I can only blame the poor lighting for no actual photos.

So far, I’ve successfully submitted a couple of assignments, made some new friends in my lectures and labs and gone out a few times with my flatmates. Once this snowy weather goes away soon, I should be able to emerge out of my bunker and do some groceries. So that’s me for the time being. Thanks for reading…See ya soon!

Adobe Spark

 

Accommodation Awards – Cathy

It’s a snow day in Glasgow! The ‘beast from the east’ has hit, classes are cancelled and the whole city is out enjoying the snow. It hit a tropical 10 degrees last week and now we’re back to 0, which I’m slightly peeved about, but it’s hard to look out at the flurries of snow falling from the sky and not stare in awe.

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Currently on a red weather alert but that didn’t stop anyone from sledding through Kelvingrove today!

It’s been almost 2 months since I touched down in Glasgow and it’s safe to say I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this bustling and vibrant city. I’m living in the West End, known for its hipster vibes and being Glasgow’s cultural hub. The West End is full of students from UoG and there is a range of accommodation to choose from. For this semester, I’m staying at the Cairncross House hall of residence in the suburb of Finnieston, which I applied for through UoG. I would recommend staying in uni accommodation just to make the paperwork easier. However, there is some private student accommodation and even more student flats available, both in West End and the city centre. Glasgow is also a much cheaper city to live in than Auckland, and I find the rent in the city quite reasonable, especially considering the location.

Cairncross House is about a 15 to 20 minute walk away from the university. My daily walk takes me past the busy Argyle Street – with endless rows of restaurants and pubs that are bustling every night of the week – and through the leafy Kelvingrove Park, where you can get a stunning view of the university’s main building and maybe even spot a squirrel! I find that essentially everything I need is within 40 minutes walk. I thoroughly enjoy walking, so I make the most of it and keep public transport to a minimum (I’ve hit my target step count every single day this year so far!!). However, it’s convenient enough to catch a bus across town and there’s a bike renting system with stations all across the city. The only downside of where I live is that it is right in the middle of the subway loop; Glasgow’s subway/metro system is literally just a circle that goes both ways. It’s pretty inconvenient for me to catch the subway, but it makes for a great opportunity to do sub-crawls!

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Rare sighting of sunshine and blue sky in Glasgow!

I have a single standard room at Cairncross House with all the essential furniture. I share a kitchen with 10 other girls – a mix of exchange students from Hong Kong and domestic/EU students from Scotland, England, Poland, Lithuania and Finland. Although Cairncross used to have a bigger mix of students, it’s becoming more popular for first years. I was pleasantly surprised by how spacious my room was; it came with almost everything I needed and a small window, which I’m currently watching the snowfall from. Everything I didn’t have, I got on a trip to IKEA. Admittedly, I also got multiple things that I didn’t need on that trip, too. Oops.

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Can you tell I cleaned up my room just for this photo? Also, spot the $2.50 laundry basket from IKEA!

It does get messy in the kitchen and bathrooms at times which is probably what I dislike the most about living here, but I guess that’s one of the necessary evils of communal living. Cairncross also has a silent study room with computers, a common room with tables, couches and a TV – perfect for movie nights. There’s always organized activities on, such as movie nights, Pancake Day and board game nights. It’s a nice hall and my only reservations about it are that the showers are too small and the fire alarm test which forced us out of bed at 7am.

What I found most interesting about Glasgow’s student accommodation is that many of them are in flats, unlike Auckland uni’s halls. In places such as Murano Street, Kelvinhaugh Street and the student apartments in Hillhead, you can have 3, 5, 8 or 10 people sharing a flat, with about 4 to 6 flats in each building. It’s always a bit of a gamble going for these; I know some people whose flats are super close and go on trips together, but others have flatmates that barely talk to them!

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Cairncross’ resident kitty cat. Not sure who he belongs to but I think he’s starting to warm to me.

I’m off to enjoy the snow in Kelvingrove! Hope everyone back home is having a good time at O Week!

Adobe Spark (2)

First Impressions – Lucy

Hi guys! Sorry about the late update! So much has been going on here at Yonsei and I have been trying to select the best of content for this first official blog post. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the orientation session that was held on the 23rd of the last month. I only got to fly out to South Korea on the 1st of March which was the day before the first “official” start of the semester at Yonsei. Luckily, my first class started on the 5th of March because Fridays are my day offs – my timetable was set that way.

 

The campus

So on the morning of the 5th of March, I was up for a 9am start. Unlike Auckland University, the very first class of Yonsei starts at 9am. I first thought myself lucky because I was so sick of 8am lectures and I thought 9am would be much better. But, soon I regretted that thought of being an early bird.

Yonsei’s campus is massive and magnificent. It is beautiful! But massive and magnificent campuses are not exactly what you want when you are running late for a 9am lecture with no maps. I got off the bus, entered through the wrong gate and was wondering around at the school of engineering, thinking that was the whole school. I was soon approached by a friendly stranger, who kindly told me that I was in the opposite side of where I was supposed to be.

All the buildings in the campus are very aesthetically pleasing. They are all well-labelled with such beautiful names too.

The school has a cafeteria that is packed with students. The cafeteria offers good food for cheap prices. I got my Cheese and Chicken Gratin for only 4500won, which is only about $6!

Traffic

I am a lot different from the other exchange students in that I got my own little home to stay in Ilsan, which is on the boundary of Seoul. This means that I get to take a lovely 40-minute bus ride to School and back every morning and after class.

Although on the first week I hated myself for living out of campus, and I still do when I am standing and holding on to a little pole on a people-packed bus every morning, I am starting to appreciate that too. I feel like I am exposed to the more real side of South Korea that way.

People travel by bus, subway and taxi. Subway, being the cheapest option, is the most popular and it is impossible to get on it during rush hours. I like the buses here. There are so many bus options you can take that get you to the same place, and all the buses come every 5 to 10 minutes.

Places

I tried to make most of my day offs on Fridays and the weekends to travel and eat. So far, every weekend I have been going out with friends and family.

On the first weekend during my stay in Korea I went to Kyung Bok Goong and Jong Myo. Kyung Bok Goong is a traditional palace where the King and his Queens used to live nack in the Lee Dynasty in Josun. The place was full with foreigners as it is the most popular tourist attraction in South Korea.

Then we took a 20 minute walk over to Jong Myo. Jong Myo is a shrine in order to commemorate and pay respect to the Kings and Queens of the Lee Dynasty in Josun. This shrine is located in the central area of Seoul and could only be visited when accompanied by a tour guide. I found not only Jong Myo but also the whole street surrounding Jong Myo fascinating because many store fronts with English names were written in the Korean alphabet – even Starbucks! I heard it was in order to celebrate the Korean language.

Food

Food is AMAZING!! The food is cheap, varied and everywhere. I think it is better shown than said.

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Culture Shock

  • People. People. There are so many people here. The geographical size of South Korea is about one third of New Zealand, but there are more than 12 times the population size. Seoul alone has more than twice the entire population of New Zealand. Everywhere I go is full of people.
  • So many things to eat, buy and see. There are so many “things” in South Korea. So many options when I go shopping, eating and sight-seeing.
  • Iced Americanos instead of Flat Whites and Latte. It is freezing cold here but people enjoy iced drinks. Especially, iced Americanos! It is a national favourite! I go to a Café, and Americanos are the first and best-selling thing on the menu. I am a Flat white lover, and I found two Cafés with Flat whites out of literally twenty Cafés I have been so far.

So much has been going on during the past two weeks. I am so excited to come back with even more interesting stories to share! xx

Best Regards,

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First Impressions – John

Hey guys! To start off, I’ll just briefly introduce myself as this is my first blog. My name’s John and I’m a second year BCom student majoring in Accounting and Finance. I’m currently on exchange at National University of Singapore (NUS) in Singapore.

As soon as I got out of Changi airport, I could instantly feel the humidity and hot weather here in Singapore. It was quite an extreme weather change for me as I was on my way from South Korea which was about -4 degrees, to 26 degrees in Singapore. January is apparently the “cold” season of Singapore when there is unexpected rain and it is very humid. It’s similar to NZ, where weather forecasts are quite unpredictable. Local friends in Singapore told me to always carry an umbrella to prepare myself for unexpected rain. But carrying an umbrella is a bit pointless as heavy rains will make you wet anyway so it’s a better idea to just get used to it.

During my first few days after arrival, it was quite depressing because I didn’t know a single thing about Singapore. Staying in the dorms would make it worse so I decided to go around places near campus to buy some essentials. Singapore has quite a lot of welcome parties and programmes prepared for exchange students so you just have to socialize.

After arriving in the dorms, I attended two orientations, one for all exchange students and another for all business school exchange students. During orientation, I got a chance to talk to other exchange students who came from various countries such as Poland, Finland, Taiwan, Canada, US, Thailand, Taiwan and more. It was an interesting experience to talk to people with different backgrounds. I also noticed that I could even be the youngest student out of almost all the exchange students as most students were third or fourth year students. Other than that, orientation sessions were the typical informative talks which weren’t so interesting, so let’s skip to my first impressions of Singapore.

Although Singapore seems to try quite hard to promote the use of proper English, most of the locals don’t speak proper English, and some don’t speak English at all so they will directly speak Chinese to you which was quite surprising. Also, due to their local Singlish accent, I couldn’t understand more than half the things they were trying to say. The locals mostly speak Singlish which is a unique mixture of various languages including Malay, Chinese and English. When speaking to locals, it is a good idea to simplify your sentences and only speak of the main words you are trying to say or use body language if you can’t communicate at all.

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Singapore has one of the greatest night views I’ve seen in my life. The above photo is the view of taken from the world’s highest rooftop bar (apparently), 1-Altitude. They have free entry for ladies on ladies’ night but unfortunately for men it’s around S$30 for the entrance fee + one drink. It sounds costly BUT it is definitely worth it as you get the view from the highest building in Singapore and they also had awesome live music there!!

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Moving on to the country itself, it is a modern city with a very convenient transportation system. It has a country-wide network of buses and trains (called MRT and LRT) as seen in this photo. I really like the transportation system here as the trains operate on a regular basis, taking an average three minute gap between each one.

That’s my story for now and I’ll bring you with more exciting stories about Singapore and more when I go travelling around South-East Asia! I’m really enjoying my time in Singapore, living the high-end life, spending too much, soon to be seeing minuses in my bank account. 🙂

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