Hazel: First Impressions of St. Andrews and Scotland

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Hey everyone!

I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about my first impressions of St. Andrews, the town and university, and Scotland in general.

When I first arrived in Edinburgh is was absolutely freezing! This, I can gladly say, got better quite quickly. The stereotype that Scotland is constantly freezing and either raining, hailing or sleeting is only 40% true. Yes, it is a lot colder in January here than in Auckland and we did get some snow (not much) in my third week here. But many days have been clear blue skies with amazing sunsets and not too much wind.

My accommodation is better and worse than what I expected. I was expecting the food to be awful and it is completely edible. And we get waffles for breakfast on weekends. One thing that really exceeded my expectations are the people! Pretty much everyone has been super nice and chill and friendly. Of course there is always the occasional bad egg or strange guy who always wears headphones and debates with everyone about things that they know a lot more about. E.g me and New Zealand.

The town of St Andrews is bigger than I expected, as in it takes twenty minutes to walk into town, but it starts to feel really socially small once you get to know some people. You’ll walk into Tesco after being here for two weeks and bump into at least one person that you know. Also, the only night club is the student union so you are very likely to see people that you know there too.

In terms of classes, I was surprised that I have no Scottish lecturers! I have one Canadian, two German and one English. This is a good thing because I don’t have to translate from their accent, but I kind of wanted to get really good at understanding thick older-person Scottish accents. Young people are always much easier to understand.

With St Andrews being quite a small university – only 8000 students compared to Auckland’s 50,000 – it is a lot easier to become familiar and friendly with your lecturers and tutors. My computer science lecturer emailed me to check if I or my family/friends had been effected by the Christchurch shootings. As much as I love UoA I don’t think that level of personal investment is achievable with such large classes.

Anyway. I’m on a flight to Brussels for spring break right now so I better put my laptop away for landing.

Ka kite,

Hazel

Shannon: Trinity College – The Fulfilment of My University Dreams

When I was younger, I watched films about universities like Oxford, leading to my desire to go to one of those castle-like universities one day. As you will see from my photos, that dream has been fulfilled!

One of the many things that I love about Ireland is its warm and welcoming culture. This is encapsulated in the college campus, which is open to the public. You can often see tourists walking in to take photos of the stunning architecture and I have to admit, this was me when I first arrived.

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Inside the entrance of Trinity College – isn’t it stunning?

Trinity College was established in 1592 and designed to model other historic universities like Oxford and Cambridge. Legend has it that if you are walking underneath the Campanile (pronounced Cam-po-neel, pictured below) and the bell rings, you will fail your exams. So far, I have steered clear of it and you rarely see Trinity students underneath it. You might take the obligatory graduation photo in front of it to celebrate your academic success but no one wants to risk the possibility of this legend coming true.

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In the centre of this beautiful campus stands the Campanile – walk underneath it if you dare

When I walked into my first class at Trinity, I was nervous because I had no idea what to expect. I had questions running through my head such as:

What if my lecturers are terrible?

What if I hate my classes?

And the list goes on.

I am in the last semester of my Conjoint Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Music degree majoring in English, Chinese and Musicology (Music Education) and while that is quite a mouthful, I really enjoy studying these subjects. At Trinity, I am taking two Music courses (called modules here), one Education, and one Children’s Literature course and am honestly learning so much.

Courses at Trinity College are similar to Auckland University as you also have lectures and tutorials. The main difference is that the lecture hours are significantly reduced so I only have classes from Monday to Wednesday which is a nice change. However, since Trinity is focused on research, the coursework and assignments are geared toward that with the expectation of students keeping up with multiple course readings and engaging in discussions.

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This is the Berkeley Library, one of three inter-connected libraries at Trinity College

I was delighted to discover that as a Trinity student, I have free entry in to see the ‘Old Library’ and the Book of Kells, an ancient Irish text of the four Gospels.

I don’t even have the words to describe how exciting this was because when you walk into the long room and see the shelves of books, you can feel the sense of history as you take in the beautiful architecture, smell of old books and manoeuvre your way through the crowds of tourists. Something that is pretty cool is that they turn the pages of the Book of Kells every few weeks so you can go in several times and see different pages each time.

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Inside the entrance of the long hall – I thought I was dreaming!
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One of the stunning staircases – only librarians can use it
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Another picture of those beautiful shelves of books!
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A bust of William Shakespeare, 1 of 38 busts in the Library
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Copy of the Book of Kells in the Long Room – no photos allowed in the exhibition but you can see the exquisite detail

Despite my initial fears, I am really enjoying studying here. Apart from study, I got involved in the social aspect of Trinity by joining Christian Union (a Christian group at Trinity). By attending their events/meetings and being open to having lunch with classmates, this has helped me to adjust and enjoy the exchange experience more.

Fun fact: There are two languages spoken in Ireland; English and Irish (Gaeilge) and you can see both everywhere on street signs and public transport.

Thanks for reading!

Feicfidh mé ar ball thú (See you soon)

Shannon

Jane: Summer Internship in Taiwan – #3

Regretfully, this will be my last post on my internship in Taiwan. It’s been a eye-opening experience for the past two months and I’ll definitely miss it. It would me hard to summarise a two month experience in a blog post but I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learnt and discovered so read on, friends.

Through this programme, I was able to complete part of my practical work requirements overseas. Having to settle down in a new environment was a challenge but I was very grateful for the help of my student host and fellow interns. It feels so cliché, but I honestly do think this experience changed me. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me out of my shell – there’s no one there to do things for you so if you want something you get it yourself or ask for help. I had to interact with people in a unfamiliar language but in the end I am more confident in conversing in chinese. I learnt that it’s okay if you don’t really know what you’re doing, all you need is a little initiative to get the information you need.

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I will definitely miss the sweet dogs on campus

Was it worth the hassle of getting hold of documents and stress of travelling? Very much so. Would I do it again? Most definitely. Travelling around Taiwan and exploring new places during the weekends was something I really looked forward to during the dull week. Don’t tell my supervisor but I was actually planning for weekend trips in the lab when I was supposed to be working (in my defense though, I was waiting for the machine to do its thing). I’ve made friends out of necessity with my fellow interns but sometime in the evenings we spent playing whatever sport that was available or random card games to fill our time, that friendship changed into something I will cherish.

Should you go for it? HELL YES. And you definitely will not regret it.

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It’s been real, Taiwan. Until next time!

As always, if you have any questions feel free to drop me a message at jpan643@aucklanduni.ac.nz. If you want to see more of what I got up to in Taiwan, check out my Instagram @totorojane ☺️ All the best for the upcoming year!

Jane

Bani: Resources at UC Berkeley

Hi everyone! One and a half months into my semester at UC Berkeley has made me realise how great campus resources are! From research opportunities to tutoring options and hackathons, Berkeley wants you to know that there is never a quiet moment here.

Right off the bat, I applied for a research assistant position in the Language and Cognitive Development Lab. The lab is run by Professor Mahesh Srinivasan, has numerous postdoc, graduate and undergraduate students who are a part of numerous studies.

So far, I have been involved in two different studies. The first one required me to transcribe and translate interviews from Hindi to English. The data was collected from India and focused on religious and cultural norms as understood by primary school students. The second study involved coding data collected from middle school and high school students that gauged their understanding of caste and gender norms in India. As a Psychology major who grew up in India, being a part of this study has been an enriching experience and I hope to get involved in different studies across the lab.

I will keep you all updated about my research and what I’m involved with!

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Berkeley boasts some of the most beautiful sunsets in the Bay Area

The next thing I would like to touch on is the academic side of exchange. I have not seen a lot of posts about this, so for all of you planning on coming to UC Berkeley, I would like to give you an idea of the academic pressure at Berkeley.

My midterms started in the third week of classes and are scheduled up until the fifteenth week. The cherry on top of the cake is that each of my classes have three-to-four midterms. Now, I know that sounds daunting and like a lot of work but the beauty of having everything spread out is that you get an adequate time to prepare for everything (unless you love procrastinating like I do). There is constantly something to work towards, and do not worry if you think you’re falling behind. From office hours, to tutors at the SLC (Student Learning Center), and GSIs, you have all the help you need on campus in order to ensure you don’t fall behind! All professors are accommodating and willing to help out in case you need extensions or help.

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The Campanile is one of my favourite structures on campus!

One of my favourite things about UC Berkeley is what my friends like to call the ‘constant grind’. Being on the campus of the number one public university in the world is a great privilege and as a semester abroad student, I think it is my duty to make use of all the resources available to me. I have joined the 7Cups at Berkeley organisation, which is a mental health organisation that provides free online counselling. I am handling the finances for this organisation for the semester and am currently training under the Rogerian model of therapy.

Further, the campus offers decals which are student run classes for one to two units that you can take pass/no pass. These decals can range from a class on Harry Potter (which I am obviously enrolled in) to classes on Baking, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Virtual Reality, and Drake and Kanye West (yep, you read that right, they have a class on Drake and Kanye West).

So yes, the past few weeks have flown by for me. I am excited to keep you all updated on my journey! For my next post, expect to hear a lot about CalTech and UCLA which is where I will be next weekend. If you have any questions, you can reach out to me at bani@berkeley.edu.

And now, for BURGER FEATURE PART TWO.

BURGER FEATURE

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Super Duper: 8/10

I ordered a cheeseburger, a vanilla and chocolate swirl shake and cheese garlic fries. I have to say, my favourite thing were the fries and the pickles. The garlic fries were unlike anything I’ve ever tasted and added a lot to the whole meal!

Stay tuned for more burger updates!

Bani

Daniel: Starting Life as a Granadino

Although I started my Auckland 360 application almost a year ago, it never felt like an actual thing until I finally stepped foot into my new home of Granada, Spain after a 30-hour flight to London and a contiki around Europe. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least (an incredible one), but I’m gonna start off my 360 blogs with just a few thoughts and feelings so far!

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A warm, loving welcome from Granada

On preparing to go:

Preparing for exchange comes with all sorts of admin and paperwork (which I’ll talk more about in later blogs), but I wanted to focus on the mother of all my pre-exchange stress: my visa. Research EVERYTHING there is to know about the visa you need. And do not, I repeat, DO NOT plan your travel until this is sorted. Luckily, my pre-booked travel plans worked out, but this came with a mountain of stress that I could have avoided if I’d been a bit more patient and organized. It doesn’t have to be that hard – learn from my mistakes! The same goes for all your paperwork. Sounds lame, but its gotta be done (and it is aaaaall worth it in the end, trust me).

On life in Granada: Highlights

Tapas. Granada is the promised land of tapas. Head to almost any bar, order a drink (1.50 – 2.50 euros) and you’ll get a complimentary side dish of chicken wings, calamari, hamburgers or a whole range of other stuff. 2 drinks + tapas and you’re sorted!

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Just a few of the many types of tapas you’ll be served in Granada

Cheap travel. I’ve had a day trip and full tour of the beautiful city of Córdoba for about $30 and enjoyed a whole weekend away in Sevilla for less than $100 all included. Lets not forget my $50 flight to Oxford – Europe really is a budget traveler’s paradise.

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Me and Liv enjoying the little snowfall Oxford put on for us

Lookouts. Granada is blessed with probably the most beautiful lookouts I’ve ever seen. Walk in any direction and you’ll end up watching the sunset over the buzzing city life, the peaceful Arabic-inspired Albaicín and the mountains of Sierra Nevada.

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Breathtaking..how is this my backyard!?

Mi gente (my peeps). The endless amount of Erasmus activities offered have introduced me to a whole new world of wonderfully diverse people from all walks of life. Whether it’s out for tapas, dressing up for a carnival or escaping the city for a weekend, I now have a big multicultural family to share all these new experiences with, which has gotta be the biggest highlight so far.

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Challenges

Spanish. Ahhh, español. You are a beautiful language, but boy have you tested me. The people of Granada have a very distinct (yet beautiful) accent which threw me right off – that mixed with my friends from all over Latin America and my brain has had quite the intense workout. That being said, I couldn’t be happier. I am learning at lightning speed and already feeling way more comfortable – sink or swim, right?

Uni. I’m honoured to be able to study in a university rich with over 500 years of history, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tough adjusting to how it all works e.g. more weight on exams, and of course, everything being in Spanish. My advice would be to stick it out as things WILL fall into place (they slowly are for me, I promise!) and communicate with your lecturers so that they can help you out, or at least be aware that you may be struggling!

There’s a million other things I could tell ya’ll about – like adjusting to eating dinner at 10pm, joining a salsa class or Spanish flat hunting – but I’ll save those for future blogs. To round up, I’m absolutely loving life here in Granada and I just know I’m going to learn and experience so much that I’ll be able to pass on to ya’ll. Thanks so much for reading, catch me next month for another update! ¡Hasta luego!

I would also like to share my most heartfelt condolences for those affected in the horrific tragedy in Christchurch on March 15th, especially to our Muslim whānau and community. My love and thoughts are with you all. Kia kaha.

Daniel

Tana: A Day in the Life of a Haas Student

Hey again! For this blog I thought it would be interesting if I outlined a typical day for me here at UC Berkeley so you can get a feel of the daily life.

My Tuesday normally begins with my alarm going off at 6:45am and me snoozing for the next half hour or so. After managing to finally roll out of bed, I grab my toiletries and head to the bathroom to get freshened up. Once I have gotten ready, I take the elevator down to the dining hall, where I grab a quick breakfast.

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Morning view of Berkeley

After I have finished eating, I walk to the gym which is approximately ten-minutes away from the international house (i-house). The Berkeley gym is large recreational facility with all sorts of fitness machines, weights, basketball courts and work-out rooms. The gym is almost always packed during the mornings and nights so I only go there for the cardio classes which also tend to be full, but enjoyable nonetheless. On Tuesday mornings, I attend a BollyX class which is essentially dance cardio with Indian music. I really enjoy this class because the instructor is super energetic so it’s a great way to have a fresh start to the morning. Oh, and did I mention all of this is free for Berkeley students?!

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Dance Cardio Class

By the time I get back to i-house and take a shower, it is almost 10am. So, for the next hour and a half I usually review my notes or do my homework. When lunch rolls around, my friends and I are normally starved so we head down to the dining hall and catch up over a delicious meal.

Now it’s time for class. On Tuesday’s I have two back to back classes from 12:30 to 3:30. Both my classes are in small lecture rooms, in Haas, with approximately 25 students in each lecture. I really enjoy the small class size because it creates an interactive environment which is really nice compared to my other class which has 200 students in one lecture theatre.

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Classroom in the Chou Hall
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Haas School of Business

Now that I am done with classes for the day, I usually head to the Haas library which is one of the 29 libraries here at UC Berkeley. This library only contains business textbooks which are available for a free two-hour loan. The majority of the library consists of tables and chairs for studying; in fact, they also have cycling machines called FitDesks which can be used while studying. Although they aren’t very popular, I still think it’s a great addition to the library.

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FitDesks in the Haas Library

After a few hours of studying, I head back to the i-house dining hall for dinner. During this time, my friends and I fill each other in on our days and anything interesting we encountered that day. Depending on our schedules, this normally lasts an hour, so by the end of it I am ready to unwind. I head up to my room at around 8:30 and spend the rest of the night catching up with friends and family back home or simply just watching some Netflix.

All in all, my weekdays are quite simple and somewhat similar to those back home. However, I do feel like I have a lot more time on my hands here since I don’t have to commute to and from university.

I hope this blog helped you gain an insight of daily life here at Berkeley. If you are interested in finding out more about the particular classes I am taking this semester, feel free to shoot me an email at tkap973@aucklanduni.ac.nz.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Tana

Rachel: NUS Campus – What’s On?

One of the best ways I’ve found to knit myself into the community here at NUS is to partake in the different events that happen around campus. So many things happen all at once, so I’ve decided to share with you below little snippets of what’s been going on thus far.

Orientation

In the first week of arrival before university courses start, a multitude of orientation activities happen, something almost every day. An added bonus: a lot of the people I’ve been lucky enough to go travelling with I met at these events.

  • Clementi Shopping Trip – The first event of the season which happened the day of arrival. I was able to grab all the living essentials that didn’t make the cut into my check-in luggage while having my first introduction to people with many many different accents and backgrounds.
  • SG Kaki Group – An afternoon of ice breakers and little challenges. Ice breaker-like games seem fairly popular around here, because according to one of our Kakis (meaning buddy), most of his time during his first-year orientation camp was spent doing similar types of activities.
  • Singapore Food Hunt – We went around to three different Hawker Centres in one afternoon and pretty much didn’t stop eating. I was introduced to biryani, cendol, qing tang and many other popular foods among Singaporeans.
  • Amazing Race – More exploration around the city. We followed clues and hunted for murals and elephants around little India, and tried to dress up one of our group members as the Merlion (official mascot of Singapore) with newspaper and string at Sentosa Island.
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Our task to find the elephants was a success!

ENGIN Day

A day of carnival-like games within the Engineering department was a perfect way for everyone to ease back into the study grind. NUS students are known for being academically focused and driven, so believe my surprise when I found out that most of the classes within the Engineering department were cancelled from 12pm onwards! I’m starting to think the locals like to follow the approach of ‘work hard play hard’. There were different stations dotted along outside the lecture halls, grouped by different colours. The goal was to collect different coloured stamps from different stalls, which we could then use to exchange for goodies like free burgers, ice cream vouchers and ENGIN day t-shirts! Some of my favourite games/challenges that day were:

  • Angry Birds real life edition (a life-sized slingshot with dodgeballs hitting down boxes and teddies)
  • Beer pong (minus the beer of course)
  • Learning common phrases in sign language
  • Guiding a distance sensing drone across an obstacle course with our hands

As with any carnival, there was a raffle of course! So some people walked away not only with the buzz of an afternoon of fun, but also with a tablet, a TV, and even season passes to Universal Studios.

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Our card to keep track of our stamps for the goodie swap

Dragon Boat Race

Dragon boat racing is a canoe sport, and is a competitive sport many Singaporeans take part in. A team is usually made up of 18-20 people, sitting in rows of two with a paddle each. Each semester the Peer Advising Programme organise a day out where we get to experience this fun sport. .

This event took place on the Kallang River, which is actually part of the water catchment area for the Marina Reservoir storing water that gets treated for drinking. This meant that whenever someone on board would threaten to flip the dragon boat, we would (kindly) yell at them saying that none of us wanted to eventually drink each other’s bath water. There was a total of six dragon boats on the river that day, and the natural rivalry between the boats meant that a lot of splashing happened as we were racing up and down the river.

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I often don’t realise how many different things I’ve been up to since embarking on my exchange until I catch up with my friends back at home. The fast pace of life in Singapore means I’m always on my toes, something I’m finding myself to really enjoy. I think I’ve found a good balance going on here between me having fun and me studying, despite what my family must think when I spam them with photos that aren’t of my books.

Rachel