Evelyn: 얘들아~~ 고생 많이 했다!

Here we are, my final blog post. Hard to believe it’s already been four months since I came to Korea. My semester is officially done 😭

Deciding to come on exchange has been one of the best decisions I think I have made so far. The experience really is invaluable. Cliché I know, but in this case, I feel like there is no other way to describe it. Not only will I walk away with a bunch of new friends from all over the world but I’ll also go into the future with both greater cultural and self-understanding. Exchange has challenged me yet also taught me important lessons like self-discipline and how to adapt to new environments as well as people. 

As an introvert (ISFP if you’re wondering 😆), I made a promise to myself to try, TRY and be a bit more outgoing as one of the main purposes of exchange, at least in my view, is to meet new people, and make new friends. I’m happy to report that I believe I have succeeded. Definitely not as much as others have but it’s enough for me. I’m proud of the efforts I made to meet the people I now call my friends <3. The number of photo booth photos I have 🤩

Coming on exchange I had this idea that this would be the time when I could just play every day and not worry about anything academically. While this was true to a certain extent, I did come to realise that just playing without doing any work at all was not entirely possible. It’s still university, there are still tests and assignments, and some of the content will be hard. So yes, I played hard but I also worked hard. While it’s not there yet, exchange has brought me closer to finding my perfect balance. 

Do I think exchange has changed me? Yeah. It’s made me realise that I am indeed in fact a lot more independent than I thought I was. With no break in the middle of semester (something I was very not used to), I admit, the thought of not seeing my family until next year or not having the familiarity of my support system physically with me did scare me. However, I found that it was actually easier than predicted. Between university and hanging out with the friends I made here, there wasn’t much time for me to dwell on it. Not saying I didn’t miss them because of course I did but I found myself not lingering on the thought as much as expected. 

On a less serious note…❄️SNOW❄️!!! Being in South Korea since August, I have experienced the heat like I’ve never experienced before as well as pouring rain. Now it’s -10 degrees and snowing! Yes, I’ve seen snow before but not like this. For a born and raised Aucklander, this is pretty exciting. 

Thank you all for reading and following me on my exchange journey at Korea University in South Korea, hope you had fun! To those of you who are considering it for the future, hopefully, I’ve been able to provide some insight on what exchange can be like to help you decide. Happy Holidays everyone and happy new year! Byeeeeeee. 

P.S. Watching the FIFA World Cup in Korea was something else all together ~~ wild.

Oscar: Travelling in Europe

Throughout my exchange in Denmark, I have had the privilege of visiting many other places in Europe and within Denmark as well. It has been incredibly easy to travel to another country and flights can be relatively cheap if booked in advance (about the cost of an expensive Uber on a night out in Auckland), depending on your choice of destination. The fact that you can fly to another country in the same time it takes to drive from Auckland to Hamilton is still incredible to me.

The primary way I got around Europe is by taking high-speed trains. I bought the Eurail Pass which allows you to have a certain number of travel days within a selected period of time, and you can take an unlimited number of trains per travel day. Being able to take an unlimited number of trains per travel day turned out to be more beneficial and stress-relieving than I thought. When trains are delayed (and it will happen), and you miss your connecting train, having the ability to switch to the next departing train without incurring extra costs is a huge perk. I highly recommend this pass to anyone that wants to travel around Europe at a relatively low transport fee.

One instance where having the Eurail Pass has been incredibly helpful is when I travelled from Copenhagen to Venice via trains. The journey takes about 23 hours by train and consisted of taking three different trains, one of which ran overnight (overnight trains take up two travel days). However, my departing train was delayed and I missed my connecting trains. Consequently, I ended up taking six different trains instead of the planned three, but I didn’t have to pay extra and it was simple to select a different train using the Eurail app.

Note that some trains (such as overnight trains) require a seat reservation to travel on, which usually costs around 7 to 13 Euros. It’s not compulsory to reserve seats for most trains but it’s a good idea if you are travelling from one popular destination to the next and the journey is long. You can still travel on the train without seat reservations if it’s not required, but it means that you might not get a seat, and for long journeys, that can get fairly uncomfortable (trust me). On the first leg of my journey from Copenhagen to Venice, I had to take a four and a half hours high-speed train from Copenhagen to Hamburg (in Germany) and I didn’t reserve a seat. Due to the popularity of this trip, there weren’t any unreserved seats and I ended up sitting on the floor with my friend (and with many, many others) for most of the trip.

As uncomfortable as it was, I wouldn’t change a thing even if I could. Experiences like that create invaluable memories that will stay with me for life. The exchange has been completely life-changing, and in four short months, I feel like I have experienced two years’ worth of personal growth and maturation. I hope you also have the opportunity to embark on your own journey someday.

Here are some of my favourite pictures from my journey thus far:

Katrina: If there’s one thing Spain has taught me…

It’s that life is all about balance 🙂

So you've finished Dry January… Now what? Great Mornings are Sober

This is going to sound cliché, but time really has flown by! It feels so surreal that I left home 5 months ago to start my (hopefully!) final semester in Barcelona. I’m definitely feeling very mixed right now – on the one hand, I’m excited to return to New Zealand to see my friends and family again, and to finish off my dissertation… but I also know I’ll miss the relaxed Spanish lifestyle, all the new friends I’ve made here, and yes, even the permanently 30-degree metro!

Since my time here is coming to an end, I was reflecting back on why I wanted to go on an exchange in the first place. I always knew I wanted to travel and study overseas. The thought of meeting a bunch of new people, seeing some amazing places and pushing myself outside my comfort zone really excited me – and I can’t say I really considered the negatives! While it has been a roller coaster, it has definitely ticked all my boxes, and more. Was the exchange worth it? 1000% yes. Despite the minor homesickness, the FOMO I got seeing all my friends at home go through our last semester together, and how exhausting and stressful it can be to suddenly be responsible for yourself, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. 

So yes, I was in Spain to study, if you’d actually believe it! Esade has a huge focus on participating in class, rather than the lecturers simply talking at you. This made the assignment workload smaller, but it was quite challenging to raise your hand in class when you’re not used to it. There’s also the usual exam season student nightmare, especially as I’m going back to hand-written, closed book exams! But, since the out-of-class workload was smaller, it gave me the chance to experience life outside of the classroom too, and I know it’s what I’ll remember most.

I’ve visited 13-ish countries (I’ve honestly lost count!), from the glacial caves of Iceland to the sunny island life in Mallorca. I’ve embraced the relaxed Spanish lifestyle, even though it is very different from our hustle culture in NZ, and it can be quite frustrating when everything is shut during siesta time and on Sunday! I’ve interacted with people from across the world, and I know I’ll have lifelong friends for my future travel adventures.

But most importantly, I’ve learnt balance. I’ve never been one to say no to a new adventure and there are days when I’m spontaneously booking last minute flights to another country with friends, and even on solo trips. There are also times when I’m on the university grind, studying for exams and finishing essays at the library all day. But there are also times where I’ve just strolled through the city with my roommate, checking out the local cafes and gelato. Life needs all of these to be interesting and sustaining, and you can’t have one without the other! This lesson is more valuable than any academic knowledge I picked up. 

I talk in more detail about what I’ve learnt and what I’d do differently in the podcast episode at the top – you can listen here, or just search “Great Morning Podcast” on any podcast streaming platform.

So, now I’m saying adios to the student life, and I’m excited about my next adventure… 

Joe: A Day in Tokyo

As one of the biggest cities in the world, Tokyo has endless activities and entertainment facilities for everyone. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been particularly interested in fully experiencing the autumn here. The four seasons in Japan are very pronounced, and Autumn means beautifully coloured trees and really good food in season.

One of the first things I did during my one week break was visit Lake Kawaguchi in Yamanashi prefecture, which is about a two hour bus from Shibuya, Tokyo. The temperature and humidity started easing with the Autumn season, so I figured the increased visibility would be perfect to get a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but when I arrived I was just blown away by just how big the mountain was, the pictures I had seen before didn’t do it justice. It was also really refreshing to get out of the bustling city, as its contrast with the quiet New Zealand vibe was quite exhausting. Just a few nights prior, I managed to get caught up in the Halloween crowds at the Shibuya scramble on my way home. It was quite surreal and nothing like what I’d experienced in NZ.

In fact, I’d enjoyed the calm nature so much that I decided to visit the Kairaku-en Japanese garden (one of the famous three) and climb nearby Mt. Ohtake (day hike about two hours train from Shibuya) with a fellow Keio exchange student from UoA, Cailey. I also visited an avenue in Tokyo famous for being lined with Ginkgo trees in my spare time.

Finally, I managed to squeeze in a trip to Kamakura, a coastal city which is relatively close to my dormitory (about an hour by train). It used to be historically significant as a Shogun military base, for this it is sometimes called ‘The Kyoto of Eastern Japan’. It’s filled with historical sites like temples and shrines, traditional townhouses, and retro style cafes and shops. It feels very local and cozy, and the beautiful Yuigahama beach and foliage compliment it nicely. It is my one of my favourite places to visit in Japan because I personally feel the urban and rural balance is perfect. I visited Hasedera temple with a friend I made in my dormitory.

Unfortunately the one week break had come to an end before I knew it. It was time for me to get back into my university routine, as that was my primary goal of coming here (though I would certainly not mind travelling more!). My typical week is much less busy compared to a typical semester at UoA. I was taking almost two times more courses here, but each one only had one class (90 mins) every week. This was an aspect of Keio classes which I appreciated because I got more free time. But I felt a much greater appreciation for UoA because all of my lectures are recorded, and the complimentary online platform (Canvas) is fully utilised. Keio also uses Canvas, but only for class announcements, and lecture content and grades if I was lucky, no recordings though. Since Tokyo is always crammed and congested, it was ever more important to plan in advance. I strongly felt a need for a more structured and regular routine. My habits improved drastically compared to NZ. Everyday I would wake up between 07.00 and 08.00 to start my day with laundry and cleaning (smaller washing machines and more dust). For the rest of the day, I would attend all classes in person and on campus, and fit in grocery shopping (smaller fridges and storage space). Though the small living areas can feel restrictive, there is something about it I quite like. Everything is within reach, and needing to do things more regularly encouraged me to have a better routine and habits.

Oh, and just because break is over, it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the Autumn food! Here’s a few snaps!!

Esther: Work Hard, Play Harder

Welcome back one and all to your favourite Unimelb student of 2022! Another post and another semester has passed. I’ve officially survived and thrived in my semester exchange to the University of Melbourne.

Unfortunately, this blog won’t feature one of my mother’s no-doubt life-changing quotes, it will include a motto that I’ve lived by my whole life: ‘Work Hard, Play Harder.’ Let’s begin from where we left off, the start of the end. 

After returning from Auckland to Melbourne to resume the semester from week 9, an uneasy tension settled in between the student body and Unimelb: final exams. Because I chose to take two 2nd year and two 3rd year courses that are compulsory to my degree/major even though I’m still in my second year, I put myself under a lot of pressure to not only learn but to succeed in these classes.

During SWOTVAC (Studying WithOut Teaching VACation), I implemented a strict regiment of arriving at the library at 9 a.m. in the morning and studying until 12 a.m. at night. I’m sure it sounds like a nightmare, and to be honest, it really was. However, my efforts were not in vain as I managed to get alright grades in the end! Although it seems somewhat natural to assume that with hard work comes great achievements, I am still surprised each time that it is actually true.

During this exchange I’ve definitely witnessed myself become more and more independent and confident. There is a noticeable shift in how I carry myself and the way I approach things in my life and I can honestly say that it was completely thanks to this exchange. It has undoubtedly made me more appreciative of my own capabilities and what I can achieve if I really put my mind to it. I’ve even embarked on a short vacation to Sydney after my exams as a way to celebrate my hard work! 

To end my last blog post for this semester on a high note, I’ve actually decided to extend my stay at Unimelb into semester 1 of 2023! So this definitely won’t be the last time you’re hearing from me. I’ll still be your go-to Unimelb student until next year. 

Finally, I just want to remind everyone that you are more than you know, and you can all achieve great things if you put your mind to it. Work hard so that you can play even harder later!

A temporary goodbye from your friendly Unimelb guide 🙂

Joe: First Impressions

My first flight abroad in almost three years. Though it wasn’t my first time in Japan, it was my first time staying for an extended period of time. I couldn’t wait to experience what it would be like to live here, as I’d only ever come to visit family and friends before. I came early so that I had time to travel, adjust and settle before moving into university accommodation and starting my study abroad!

I was already familiar with the stark contrast between Japan and western societies like New Zealand, but it never gets easier adjusting. I was welcomed by all the Japanese I could see and hear, not to mention the high level of social order and etiquette. People lined up on the platform waiting for trains that are punctual down to the minute, unbeaten levels of customer service, and so much more. It was nice to be back. But at the same time, it made me anxious. It was my first time back in ages, and this time I was here as an adult with responsibilities. Could I communicate effectively and meet all social expectations by myself?

I had mostly just blown things out of proportion in anticipation. As soon as I got myself out there during my trip before study began, I became certain I’d be just fine. I travelled for ten days in Hiroshima, Himeji, Kyoto, and Osaka. I’d only been outside of Tokyo a couple of times so this was also very exciting. It was just me and my camera, and I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of Japan was like. I got to reflect on the importance of world peace in Hiroshima, at the Genbaku Dome building (site of the atomic bombing in WWII). I also witnessed Himeji castle, also known as the white heron castle for how bright it shines. The countless historical sites in the old capital, Kyoto, took my breath away. I even tried on a traditional Japanese attire called ‘Hakama’. Then my last stop at the kitchen of Japan, Osaka, famous for its Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki dishes in particular.

I found myself making conversation with other tourists. Nerve wracking at first, as I’d almost never use formal Japanese at home in NZ. But I grew confident and comfortable as people started to compliment how natural my tongue was, and that they wouldn’t have known I was from overseas if I hadn’t mentioned it. I became all the more excited to meet my peers once I got to university.

I checked in at my accommodation, Hiyoshi International Dormitory, on 21 September. The living arrangement was units of four flatmates, two each of domestic and international students. By the time I’d arrived there were already other students from across the globe, mainly from Europe and Canada. I was quite nervous, maybe even more so than the time I checked into accommodation for my first year of university at Auckland. It was just the same as Auckland, everyone else was in the same boat as me, and naturally everyone was extremely approachable and kind.

I’m very excited imagining how I will spend my time here over the next few months.

Oscar: A Day In Copenhagen!

Most mornings, I typically get up at 6:30am because I’m a morning person, and I do a bit of study/reading as well as call my family and friends and catch up with each other. The day can vary considerably depending on whether or not I have a class that day.

On the days (Tuesday to Thursday) that I have class, I’ll be at the uni from 8am till midday. Each class consists of a 2-hour lecture followed by a 2-hour exercise period. This 4-hour learning period passes surprisingly quickly and before you know it, it’s lunchtime (or break-fast time for me because I don’t eat in the mornings). I usually prepare my own food and take it with me to the canteen in the main building and eat with my mates, but sometimes I’ll grab a few more things from the canteen to supplement what I have. Post-lunch, I’ll study for an hour or two or attend weekly meetings that I have with a start-up I joined, and then hit the gym for two hours in the late afternoon. Since I only have classes on Tuesdays to Thursdays, I usually spend those evenings studying, cooking, and planning traveling trips around Europe!

On the days that I don’t have class (Friday to Monday), I’ll still get up at 6:30am (unless I went out the previous night in which case I’ll get my beauty sleep in) and do a bit of study/reading and call my family and friends. I’ll do some work and go to the gym in the morning. If I don’t have any planned trips that weekend, I’ll go into the city with my friends and explore some museums, try out new food places, and discover different parts of Copenhagen. During some weekends, I’ll fly/train to a new city in a different country for a few days and explore.

Here are some of my discoveries:

FOOD

SIGHTS

MUSEUM

Evelyn: A Day in the Life 가자!

Wow, time really does fly when you’re having fun. Hard to believe it’s already been two months since I arrived in Korea and that we’re already halfway through the semester. Midterms were a reality check for everyone here. We’re at the end of the two-week period now, I finished my last midterm just this morning!! 

I must say, I hate to break it to you all but most courses here do not provide lecture recordings which means that yes, even if the class is hybrid or online I would recommend you attend lectures. As all of my classes are offline, I walk to campus every day and on the days I have multiple classes, sometimes I stay on campus rather than going back to my dorm oooorrrr I go back and take a nap.

Newly unveiled on the science campus

With midterms, I’ve definitely made the most of the cafe culture around here. There are tons of cafes in the area and it’s pretty common to find them packed with students and their notes, especially during exam time. Buy a drink (iced americanos are typically the drink of choice for many Koreans but well um coffee? …bleh) or a dessert to keep you going and stay there for as long as you want, or until they close unless of course a 24-hour cafe. 

Unlike many other universities located in the more trendy, touristy areas like Sinchon and Hongdae, KU is located in Anam which is relatively further away from the centre of Seoul meaning its quieter and has more of a cozy community feeling. All the local store staff are really warm and welcoming. Food is also relatively cheaper *wink wink*. Need daily cardio to work off all the calories? Don’t even worry about it, the hills got you covered. Sometimes the hills are hell BUT the school does run a free shuttle bus so that’s also an option on those particularly tiring days ㅎㅎ.

This year, with the end of midterms comes the annual 고연전 (Ko-Yon Games) which is being held this year for the first time since the pandemic started. The Korea University vs Yonsei University rivalry exists constantly but peaks during the games and is a prime example of Korea’s varsity culture. Not sure if you saw my Instagram takeover, but that cheering orientation was in preparation for the games…yeah, school spirit and school pride are massive here. It’s extremely common to see university students walking around wearing varsity jackets with their school’s name and emblem on them. Regular students will also have their department embroidered on the back of their jackets.

Obviously, I need to finish on food. As the weather gets colder lots of street food stalls are popping up. One type, in particular, is my favourite: 붕어빵 (fish-shaped pastry)! They’re warm, crispy but soft and just the right amount of sweet. 100% a general fan favourite. There’s a stall at one of the area’s main intersections that constantly has a line of students waiting. Of course, it’s also ridiculously cheap. Four classic red bean pastries for 1000KRW (~1.20NZD)!!!

Editing this a week after this post was ready to go live, I would like to take the opportunity to extend my condolences to the victims and families of those involved in the tragic events that took place in 이태원 (Itaewon) during the halloween weekend. It was an incident that no one foresaw and something that should have never happened. Rest In Peace 🕊

Katrina: A day in my life in Barcelona – Vlog

Hello again! Today I though I’d spice things up and video a day in my life here in Barcelona. This is a pretty average day for me, a super long day (my classes didn’t finish until 8:30pm!!) but I still managed to get out around the city. I’ll also share some tips about how I’ve made Barcelona feel like my home.

One of the biggest challenges about living in a new city is integrating yourself into your new city and making it feel a bit more homely. This can help prevent homesickness, and just generally makes you feel way more comfortable and happy! You’ll see me doing a couple of things in the video, including:

  • Get involved in your hobbies, or pick up new ones!

Back in New Zealand, I just started getting into bouldering – and one of my first goals in Barcelona was to join a bouldering community! I was chatting to a girl while hiking up Montserrat at an Erasmus event (yup, the same trip I mentioned last time!), and she casually mentioned she was also into bouldering! I asked her to add me to the Barcelona Bouldering group chat, and almost everyday someone will message in, asking if anyone wants to go climbing with them. It has been so much fun meeting people with the same hobbies and interests.

I also tried out a bungee workout – which was so much fun! Again, I was just chatting to a girl afterwards who had taken some cool videos of the class, and we made plans to go again!

  • Trying new cafes and restaurants

I’ve been going to new cafes and restaurants a couple times a week! They’re an easy way to explore the area I live in, try new foods and catch up with friends. My flatmates are so much fun, so going to dinner with them is always a blast! Also, this leads me on to my final tip…

  • Speak the local language!

Speaking as much Spanish as I can (even if it’s not the best!) is such an great way to integrate into my community. Practicing on random café and restaurant staff is easy, because they’ll never see you again if you really embarrass yourself! But it’s also helped me make more local friends, like my bungee friend. Plus, you’ll know more about what’s going on around you.

Anyway, if you want to hear more tips, check out my podcast episode! It’s also available on most major streaming platforms (search Great Morning Podcast – and find me on Instagram as well!).

Esther: Midsem Meltdown

Welcome back to your favourite Unimelb student for semester 2 of 2022! I know that you’ve all missed me since my last post, cuz I sure have missed writing to you guys. 

In the blink of an eye, I’ve been thrown into the thick of the semester. It’s already the end of week 7 at The University of Melbourne and I’ve finished most of my mid-sem exams, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to do. In fact, I still have 4 assignments lined up until the end of week 9. 

Anyways, enough of my ranting, it’s time to talk about what you’re really here for: Esther’s mum’s famous analogies! As per tradition, I’ll base my blog off something that my mum has taught me growing up. The topic of today is the importance of self-care. After travelling abroad, she definitely saw the toll that assignments and exams had on me. She would constantly remind me to “do everything in moderation”. Easier said than done when you’re not the one on exchange, I know, but let me show you just how important it really is. 

By the end of my fourth week at Unimelb, I had fallen into a strict routine of: wake up, clean myself, study, gym, cook food with my roommate, study some more, and then finally sleep. Because all my lectures were recorded and posted online, I would go on campus for tutorials, which weren’t even held in the central hub of the campus and were held in their respective faculty buildings located at the border of Parkville. Kind of similar to the Law School at UoA. Needless to say, this was quite different to my routine in New Zealand where I would attend classes in person and always in the centre of campus in OGGB. 

Due to this rigid routine, I slowly trapped myself in my dorm building for most of the week since all my tutorials are all concentrated on one day, working through one class per day. In retrospect, it was not very exchange-student of me to not even go out and enjoy the city. As such, a phone call with my mum reminded me that I was abroad, and should be making the most of my time in Melbourne. With that in mind, I began a nice habit of pushing myself to go out and study in the libraries at Unimelb. It was only then that I realised just how big the campus really is. My goal is to study in all of them by the end of the semester. I’ve achieved 4/7th of my goal and I’m planning to go to my 6th tomorrow! 

Going more onto the main campus, I’ve also found quite a few nice places for a little bite. The Standing Room makes an absolutely delectable chocolate peanut cookie that I’d buy everytime I pass by. Momo Sushi offers the perfect quick lunch with their $3 sushi rolls in all sorts of different flavours. I always order their raw salmon, spicy shrimp, and teriyaki chicken rolls. As for restaurants, my favourite one so far has to be the eggs benedict from a quaint little cafe called Pavlov’s Duck. It was somewhere my roommate and I went to in the weekends and had featured an amazing kumara hash brown! Definitley the best eggs benny I’ve ever had before!

Speaking of my Italian exchange friend, we’ve also gotten into a routine of going to study at the Baillieu library on Sunday and then always going out for dinner afterwards. Just today, we went on our Melbourne dessert trip and it was just amazing! One of the places we went to was Hareruya Pantry, which had some of the best Japanese ice creams and it was located only 30 seconds away from Little Hall. Being able to go out for dinner with her is honestly the highlight of my week. 

Slowly, the time that I spent inside my dorm decreased and I became more familiar with the city that I’ve been calling home for the past few months. It’s also not an exaggeration to say that my mental health has significantly improved with my daily walks to and from campus as well as the weekly socialising opportunities I partook in. I guess long story short, I just want to advise all of you that it may be easy to get caught up in grades and studying when you’re abroad, especially if you’re taking all compulsory subjects like me, but remember to find that right balance between studying and relaxing.

In the wise words of my mother: “everything in moderation.”

Till next time!

Your friendly Unimelb guide 🙂