Hazel: St. Andrews Reflection

G’day everyone!

My time at St Andrews has come to an end and it’s time to reflect! I can’t say I’m not sad to be leaving but I am also very excited to be heading home soon.

When I first arrived I felt mostly jet lagged but honestly very ready to step up to the challenge of leaving NZ, and living and studying in a foreign country. I think I did that. I quite quickly found myself some good friends and got used to the small town lifestyle without too many hiccups. One thing that I did not focus on enough, soon enough, was making friends in my courses. I eventually made a couple of friends in Computer Science and one in Psych from my tutorials and labs but that didn’t really happen until the second half of the semester. This meant that, particularly with CompSci, I didn’t have anyone to ask those annoying little questions that aren’t really worth asking the lecturer or tutor when I got stuck on the assignments which were due every two weeks.

One thing that I really enjoyed about the friends that I made in CompSci was that they were mostly girls and having each other in the male dominated course was really nice. We could ask each other questions without fear of having everything ‘man-splained’ to us.

All of my lecturers (except maybe one in Psych who mumbled) were really great. The tutors were great too. My CompSci tutor looked after me really well. I was a little out of my depth in the course but he seemed to really keep an eye out for when I was really lost.

Overall, I had a great time and am so glad that I went. Yes it was expensive but, the amount of priceless life experiences that I’ve had make it worth its weight in gold.

Hazel_5aHazel

Jack: Back in New Zealand

After being back home for a little while I have had some time to reflect on my time spent in Trondheim.

While it is hard to beat the Waitemata Harbour in terms of having nature right outside the city, I certainly miss the forests and lakes just in walking distance of suburbia in Trondheim.

One other thing I appreciated about living in Trondheim was the size of the city, on a day to day basis it was very easy just walking around, so I found myself getting the bus maybe just every few weeks. That being said the price of the busses somewhat incentivized walking or cycling; a 90 minute bus ticket in the city cost slightly more than $7. Point Auckland.

Most of the roads around the city except for the more main roads had a limit of 30, which people stuck to. It made a surprisingly large difference as a pedestrian in terms of feeling a bit safer but it meant that the cars were a lot quieter too.

Since I’ve been back I have made an effort to keep up with my Norwegian, I made friends with an exchange student from NTNU which has allowed me to keep practicing as well as making a new friend along the way.

While the cost of living in Trondheim is relatively similar to that of Auckland, one thing that is way more expensive in Trondheim is going out; whether for food or drink. The reason for this is the high wages in Norway, so you aren’t really paying for the food or drink, but instead to have someone serve it to you! A tip to anyone going to Norway wanting to save money is to make an effort not to eat out!

Day to day the biggest influence being that far north has is on the climate and the amount of light in a day. I really miss the long, long summer days of Norway, but not so much how short they were in the midst of winter. I got a real shock from how bright the sun was when I got back home. The climate though I very much preferred, I am much more suited to the cold rather than the warmth and at least during the time I was there I thought the climate was very well suited to me.

One thing I am sure of is that I will be back, and hopefully to do a PhD or some form of further studies. While 8 months was a good amount of time, and certainly enough to explore and have a good time, I was still always aware that I was leaving in a few months. As well as that I still feel like there is a lot of Norway I haven’t seen (I didn’t even get to Oslo!) I also understand that spring is the best season for Norway; you start getting the longer days but you still have the snow! So yes, I will be back!

Jack_Signature

Tana: Memorable Activities and Places

As is always the case in university, it can be very easy to get caught up in your school work and forget about enjoying life outside of the library. However, since I am on exchange this semester I am trying to make an active effort to get myself away from the books and out into the world. And I do feel like I have done a fairly good job of that if I do say so myself. So for this blog, I am going to highlight a few of the memorable activities and places I have explored while on exchange so far.

Road Trips:

One of my favourite things about California is that there are so many cool places within driving distance which makes it so easy to go on spontaneous adventures. So far, I have been to Santa Cruz, San Jose, San Diego, Yosemite, San Francisco, Oakland, Davis and even Mexico! Of course, some of these places took more planning than others.

Places like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are fairly easy to get to because of their close proximity to Berkeley. For those of you who are wondering how to get there: the Bay area has a train system called the BART which allows for easy transportation from Oakland to San Francisco (which goes through Berkeley). There is also a bus (free for Cal students) that leaves from UC Berkeley and goes straight to San Francisco.

Tana_4a
The beautiful city of San Francisco at night

If I had to suggest one place not to miss while here in Northern California, it would definitely have to be Yosemite. My friends and I planned a weekend trip to the breathtaking national park during the National Parks Week which allowed us free entry into the park. Despite the place being packed with tourists, we were still able to appreciate the falls in all their beauty. As you can probably imagine, there was no photo we could have taken that would have done justice to the serenity of the views we witnessed. Nonetheless, I am inserting photos to give you a vague idea of what to expect.

Tana_4b
Top of Nevada Falls
Tana_4c
Be prepared for your legs to hurt for several days after

Mexico was another fun trip that we did during Spring Break. It in itself is a whole other story, but I would 100% recommend visiting Mexico because it was both cheap and fun. If you would like more information about how we got there and what we did, feel free to email me, and I’d be more than happy to pass on some tips.

Tana_4d
Post-surf
tana_4e-e1563942665327.jpg
Taken in Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico

Basketball Games:

As many of you probably know, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is a huge deal here in America, and so when I was presented with the opportunity to attend two of their games, I knew I had to go. The second game I attended was the Golden State Warriors versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. I could not believe the insane talent that was playing on the court. To top it all off, I managed to get court side seats which meant I could literally see Stephen Curry’s facial expressions while he played. This was hands down one of the best nights of my life.

Tana_4f
Tristan Thompson trying to focus while the entire crowd “boos” him
Tana_4g
The remarkable Stephen Curry

As you can see, there are plenty of exciting things to do here in Northern California to keep you busy on the weekends. Not only does San Francisco constantly have events going on, but even Berkeley itself offers entertainment throughout the semester. In fact, just last week we had llamas on campus. Truly never a dull moment.

Anyways, I’ve got to go study for finals now; I can’t believe the semester is already coming to an end. Next time I write my blog will probably be back home in New Zealand.

Thanks for reading!! 🙂

Tana

Bani: Final Impressions – a Home Away from Home

Before I knew it, my time at Berkeley had come to an end. I did go through the process of extending my exchange into the next semester but was unable to on account of some technical difficulties with my courses. Do let me know if you need any help with this process!

Between Classes Sunbathing at the Glade!

The University of California, Berkeley, gave me friends and memories that I will cherish forever. From Golden Bear Orientation to study week (known as dead week) and finals week (which just butchers you), my 4 months at Berkeley went by in the blink of an eye.

Some final thoughts, ideas and tips about spending a semester abroad!

  1. You’re going to miss home. Make sure you have a little memento from home you take with you, I took my Minnie Mouse stuffed toy which I’ve had since I was eight years old with me. Whenever I felt like I missed home, I just looked at it and felt much better.
  2. You’re sometimes going to be too busy to call home! But do take out a few minutes of your day, just to let someone you love back home know that you’re okay.
  3. Dead week is going to be one of the most stressful experiences of your life. It’s okay, take a deep breath and go to office hours! I can’t stress this enough. Office hours and consulting GSIs and professors probably helped me more than anything during this period. It helped me focus, take a step back, and actually evaluate how prepared I was. Berkeley is a difficult school and the pressure will come as a surprise.
  4. GET INVOLVED! There are hundreds of clubs at UC Berkeley, from those who beer brewing to photography, mental health and so much more. There are so many research opportunities at this school available at both an undergraduate and graduate level. Find your niche, get involved! Being part of 7Cups at Berkeley, the Marvel Cinematic Universe DeCal, the Harry Potter DeCal and research at the Language and Cognitive Development Lab helped me meet so many people who loved the same stuff as I did!
  5. Remember to tip! Keep in mind that most workers make money off their tips, and it may feel weird that you’re obligated to tip, but do remember to leave 12-20% depending on service!
  6. And most of all, make some lasting memories.
bani_5c
My Roommates!

This is all from me for now! If you have any questions regarding exchange, you can reach out to me through my Auckland email ID: bseh764@aucklanduni.ac.nz. And since I ate burgers at too many places to count at the end, I’ve got a small list of burger places around the Bay Area that you should try too!

BURGER FEATURE(S)

Berkeley Social Club California Burger: 9/10

Spruce Burger: 9.5/10

Nopa Woodgrilled Burger: 10/10

Eureka Chesseburger: 8.5/10

The Snack Shack Cheeseburger: 8/10

These were, in my opinion, some of the best burgers I had the pleasure of eating. Do visit these places (across San Francisco and Berkeley). You won’t regret it!

Bani

Hazel: Studient Societies at St. Andrews

Hi everyone!

As St. Andrews is a small town the students have become very good at making their own fun. One of the best ways to meet people, have fun, and really get a feel of what it’s like to be a local student, is to join a couple of student societies.

Whether you like Dr Who, tennis, board games, hill walking, Jesus, golf, music, or if you appreciate people named Tom, there is a student society for you at St Andrews!

In your first week they’ll have either Freshers Fayre (for the September to December semester) or Refreshers Fayre (for January to May). This is where all of the societies advertise and take sign-ups. Usually membership is around £3 and you’ll get free or discounted access to all of their events throughout the year!

I joined the St. Andrews Radio Station (society) at the Refreshers Fayre on a complete whim and ended up with my own weekly radio show! Chill jams for school and exams was mondays at 9pm for the whole semester. I highly recommend listening to the station whether you go to St Andrews or not. www.standrewsradio.com . Also a subtle self promo. The recordings of my show are available on soundcloud! Through the station I met so many fun, like-minded people. It was also great for meeting non-first year students. Living in halls was great but the fresher energy can be a little exhausting. Having the show every week also gave me something to do other than study and binge-watch Netflix.

The other society that I joined was music society! I think this was the best decision I made the whole time I was there! I was able to join two orchestra that are run by the society, meet some really cool people, and play my viola which all really helped maintain a nice study/life balance.

The great thing about a lot of societies is that you don’t need to be a member to go to their events/concerts/games etc. I loved going to jazz bar at main bar (one of the student bars in the union) on thursday nights, which was put on by the jazz society. Everyone was welcome to join in and have a jam.

I can’t say I’m much of an expert on sport at St. Andrews but from what I saw, they have a huge fancy sports center and offer pretty much every sport you can think of. Including shinty! Which is like Scottish hockey but a bit more insane.

Again, I hope I’ve covered everything but if not feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

Cheers,

Hazel_4aHazel

Jack: Final Two Months – Physics, Skis, and Saunas

With my courses finishing at the end of December I was lucky enough to find a part-time job working at the university in a quantum physics lab for January and February. This arrangement gave me a lot of time for going on adventures both around Trondheim and out of Norway.

As winter has properly hit Norway in January the nature of what I did in my free time changed quite drastically! I could now walk just a minute from my flat and put my skis on then disappear into the forests around Trondheim. The cabin trips continued too, but now we skied to the cabins instead of walking. This was not only faster, but much more entertaining too, especially with the exchange students who weren’t as sure footed as the Norwegians!

Time spent up at the cabins was great; after up to a five-hour hike there, there aren’t many things better than relaxing in a wood fired sauna. While certainly hard to do the first time, making snow angles immediately after being in the sauna was reasonably pleasant. The same however cannot be said of dunking yourself in a hole made in a frozen river…

After the sauna we would stay up late playing cards and other games, then got the sleep required for the journey back the next day!

In February I went on a week-long trip to Iceland. In a lot of ways, it seemed to me like an interesting blend of NZ and Norway. Volcanoes, ice, glaciers and Vikings. One thing that I noticed very quickly was the sheer lack of trees… aside from some small isolated pockets, the entire island is devoid of trees! There were many highlights of the trip including seeing the edge of the North American tectonic plate at Þingvellir National Park, the massive glaciers along the South coast seeing wild reindeer and finding remote isolated hot pools!

Jack_4a.jpg

After getting back to Norway and working for a few days my last weekend had finally arrived! Along with a few close friends we donned backpacks and skis and headed off the beaten track. Unfortunately on this trip a lot of the snow had melted, so we had a long walk before we could put on our skis. After a night outside with a fire and good company we all slept like logs. As is tradition, in the morning we had pancakes with brown cheese, then we were treated to some supposedly authentic inuit snow goggles, made from tree bark by one of the Canadians on the trip.

Jack_4b

As always, the view out of the cabin was great.

Jack_4c

My tip to anyone else going to NTNU is to make as much use of their network of cabins as possible as they really are incredible and certainly not like anything offered by universities in New Zealand.

Just days later with a heavy heart, lots of new friends and great memories I made my way to the airport for the last time. See you later Norway!

Jack_Signature

Tana: Cultural Differences

As you may or may not know, I attended an American high school which means I was already exposed to the American school culture before coming on exchange. In my opinion, the “college culture” is simply an extension of this high school culture. In saying that, it’s still vastly different from the culture back home in Auckland, so I thought I’d write this blog to give you an idea of what it is like over here.

Right of the bat, I’m going to say that the school spirit is contagiously high here at UC Berkeley. In fact, I genuinely don’t think you could go anywhere on campus without seeing a sculpture of the Golden Bear, people in blue and yellow merchandise, Berkeley stickers or even just hearing someone say “Go Bears”! Even the bathrooms here, all have the “Cal” logo on their soap dispensers which I find comical even now after being here for more than three months.

tana_3a.jpg

These bears sure do love posing for photos

As you all have probably seen in movies, the school spirit at college is tremendous during football games. Unfortunately, football games only happen during the fall semester which is during the second half of the year and I’m on exchange during the Spring semester. None the less, I have still been able to experience a portion of this excitement at a basketball game I attended which was against Stanford (our biggest rivals). It was definitely very exciting to be a part of such a passionate crowd!

Tana_3b
We got free shirts at the Basketball game!
Tana_3c
UC Berkeley vs Stanford (let’s not talk about the score)

Apart from the school spirit, I have also noticed other cultural differences that I don’t think I would have ever encountered at the University of Auckland. I think the best way to sum it up, is that the community at Berkeley is very understanding and accepting of all people. They work hard to create an inclusive and comfortable environment. To illustrate, it’s a common practice here at Berkeley to include your preferred pronouns (she, her, hers or he, him, his) when introducing yourself.

I have also noticed that the Berkeley culture encourages people to talk about their feelings with one another and acknowledge how certain things make them feel. This was especially prominent during the Golden Bear Orientation.

Tana_3d
Taken at the Golden Bear Orientation

The most common example of this was an activity that I encountered many a times wherein we were all given various descriptions, and if we fitted the description we were asked to stand up (if we felt comfortable doing so) and then we had to “notice who’s standing, notice who’s not, and notice how we feel” before sitting back down. And although this sounds like a minor activity it actually got me actively thinking about things I didn’t even know I could think about so deeply.

Another thing I would like to point out is how open-minded people are over here. Whether it be about a new idea or about other people, Berkeley truly is very accepting of everyone and everything.

Tana_3e
UC Berkeley’s Indian Holi Festival

So yes, even though America is an English-speaking country, there are still prominent cultural differences that have stuck out to me and broadened my horizons about things I hadn’t actively thought about before.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to flick me an email.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Tana