Julia: Tops Tips for Travelling whilst Studying Abroad

Kia ora friends!

If you’re anything like me then the ol’ travel bug is big reason you’re looking into a semester abroad. As I’m now in my fourth month of exchange I thought I’d share some of the top tips I’ve learned along the way for travelling while studying abroad.

#1 Travel before (or after) your semester

In particular, if you’re planning on attending a college in the USA be prepared for the fact that class attendance is often compulsory and weekends are primarily consumed by football games – which you won’t want to miss out on, even if you’re not a football fan! I flew to the United States as soon as I could after UoA exams were finished, to travel through some of the north east USA and Canada and then the west coast – California, Nevada, Arizona. For the USA, I’d recommend travelling the opposite coast to where your host university is situated, as it can be time consuming to get across to during the semester. Also, make sure you know your visa limits when booking flights!

#2 Find your people

I’m a big advocate for breaking out of the exchange student bubble. However, when it comes to wanting to travel every weekend your fellow exchange students will more often than not be the ones most interested. My advice: find a few exchange students that you really click with and start planning early – traveling and planning is far easier in smaller groups and with likeminded people.

Julie, my close friend and travel buddy from Brazil!

#3 Don’t neglect your home base

I thought I’d want to spend every weekend travelling around the states but honestly, I have fallen in love with weekends at UGA and in Georgia. While your host university may be close to many other travel destinations, I would definitely take some time to explore the place you now call home. One of my favorite things about Georgia is that it borders the Great Smoky Mountain region and boasts some impressive day hikes on the Appalachian trail, which I’ve definitely taken advantage of!

#4 Balancing Spontaneity and Planning

The last 4 months have turned me into walking yes. Yes to spontaneity. Yes to opportunity. Yes to travel. Learning how to push past my comfort zone and say yes has led me on some of the greatest adventures of my life thus far. However, what I’ve discovered is that in order to be able to be spontaneous on exchange, planning has to happen before you leave. While I would definitely leave room for spontaneity, my top tip would be to assess the kind of travel that you want to do before leaving NZ and financially plan your priorities, so that you are able to be a ‘yes person’ when the situation arises.

As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or follow my journey on Instagram (@juliabudler)




Kimberly: Trips

¿Qué Onda amigos? (what’s up)

It’s been more than 2 months that I’ve stayed in Mexico so far, and it’s crazy how much workload I’ve done as well as travelling.

I was very darned excited to see all the great architecture in the center of Guadalajara. There’s the Expiatorio, El catedral de Guadalajara, and also fooood.

I’ve got to admit that Mexican food isn’t really my taste, sometimes they’re really oily that afterwards you can feel your throat hurts. Though there are some that you can find around that taste divine (if you go to the markets on Sunday and get the Pozol drink for example).

I’ve managed to travel to some places in the weekends like Lago de Chapala & Ajijic, Tlaquepaque, Manzanillo, Guanajuato, and San Miguel de Allende. So far I haven’t been on the Connexion or Integrate travel agency trips, because I’ve been lucky and found a group of friends where we just took buses or drove to the destinations. It’s much more worth it, since you arrive 2x faster than the travel agency’s busses, and have much more freedom to do the things you want. Though make sure you rent one that doesn’t have a deductible cost and is fully insured because it’s so easy to get into car crashes here.

Manzanillo has big waves that are good for surfing. I heard that the best beach here is probably Puerto Vallarta though.

Guanajuato and San Miguel definitely are very pretty places that transfers you to a more European styled place. Guanajuato is also famous for its artisanal handiwork, and San Miguel has exceptionally tasty churros (get the nutella flavour, not chocolate). Also, Guanajuato is the birthplace of the revolution, but the “grito” of the revolution was kind of anticlimactic. Some people say that Mexico City is a better place to celebrate it, but it can also be very crowded.

However, honestly, beyond the trips, something else that has tripped me up a lot is the university workload. I decided to take 5 courses here and in each course there’s 3 partials. In each partial there is usually an exam, a group project, an individual project, and numerous quizzes – which is hectic. I actually knew about this, but I thought it’d be fine because the standards apparently are so much lower, even if the passing grade is 70%. They are quite easy, but some are challenging and most are time-consuming. Plus, if you go travelling a lot too, it can be easy to burn out.

Something that I’ve learnt is that as you gain more friends here, there will be so many opportunities to go to different cities multiple times. There are also some that have the energy to go to a different city every single week, but I found out that I’m not really someone who loves travelling. There are some places I really want to travel to, but it doesn’t compel me to travel to every place in one go. I know that going on an exchange has this embedded idea that you’ll go travelling a lot, but don’t feel pressured to do it constantly. Just do things at your own pace!

Relájate, estarás bien, güey! (relax you’ll be fine, dude).

Hasta luego,

Kim Thio


Harvey: Accommodation and Dorm Life

Welcome back to the blog! I’ve just finished my first set of four midterms, and they went surprisingly quite well. I’ve got a couple of weeks before my next set of midterms, so I’m planning to take advantage of this to do a bit of relaxing and travelling. In the meantime, I thought it’d be helpful going through the accommodation options and dorm life here at Berkeley.

Trying In-N-Out for the first time with my roommate


As an exchange student, you can either choose to live on-campus housing or find your own apartment/flat off-campus. Off-campus housing is typically cheaper (and more pleasant for the price you pay), but will involve much more work on your end; you’ll need to make sure you don’t get scammed, and you will probably need to view the property beforehand. Both of which may be difficult if you’re not already in the states. Furthermore, since most housing contracts are usually 12 months, if you’re only exchanging for one semester, it may be difficult to find another tenant to replace you when you leave. On the other hand, on-campus housing tends to be quite pricey for what you get, but I find it to be much more convenient and an excellent way to meet other students. On-campus housing also includes a meal plan, so you won’t need to cook.

Maximo Martinez Commons

There are quite a few university residence halls to choose from, ranging from dorm-type to apartment type halls. To my knowledge, the units 1, 2 and 3, as well as foothill (and some others), are all freshmen (first year) dorms. Since all exchange students are classified as juniors/third years, no matter what year you’re currently in at Auckland, don’t bother with these. Some university apartments, along with Blackwell and Martinez, give priority to transfer and students second year or above, so I recommend applying for these instead. The newest residential hall is Blackwell, which I also find to be one of the nicer ones from the list. Another option available is the International house (or I-house), which has a separate application process. I-house residents have their own separate dining hall, which, in my opinion, has the best food.

My side of the room

In my case, I was allocated to a double dorm room in Martinez commons on the south side of campus. When you apply for housing, you select your top five housing choices, with your last choice being any location any room type to get priority housing. It is essential to apply for accommodation before the housing deadline to ensure you get priority housing. This means that the housing department will guarantee that you get a room, although it may not be on your preferences list. For some reason, I received my university login details (required for the housing application) a day after the housing deadline closed. I still managed to get on-campus housing through constantly emailing the housing department, so I’d definitely recommend keeping in contact with the university when something doesn’t work out. This doesn’t only apply for housing, but also for your course enrollments!

Dorm life

Like many of the other students, I wanted to live in a single room with my personal space. Unfortunately, the Berkeley ‘housing crisis’ only allows for double/triple rooms if you’re not trying to break the bank. There’s quite a lot to get used to, and of course, it depends on who your roommate is. Some people never get along with their roommates, and others get on great. You would also need to get used to their different schedules (sleep times, etc.) and their good or bad habits. In this aspect, it’s vital to communicate with your roommate. Other things to get used to are the unisex bathrooms, and people studying in the study lounge late into the night, starting from the second week of classes. Sometimes it’s a struggle to find an empty study room since everyone’s on the grind. Residential halls also tend to offer free events and prizes to its residents. All in all, I highly recommend living in a residential hall or apartment just for the sake of meeting more people!

Introducing kiwi slang to the locals (through my amazing art)

As you may have realised, there are heaps to get used to here at Berkeley! Don’t be afraid of reaching out and asking for help, there are plenty of resources out there. Feel free to contact me at hlin583@aucklanduni.ac.nz if you have any questions about accommodation or Berkeley in general.

Thanks for reading!


View of Berkeley and the bay

Zar: Campus life in Oslo

Hello me again,

It’s nearing Halloween and in true spooky fashion the sun now sets at 4:30pm and the countdown to university due dates and exams have finally begun. In this post I am doing a classic by procrastinating studying to tell you all about my studying.

I am taking 3 papers (the equivalent of 60 points at UoA) which all have a weekly two-hour lecture and no tutorials. This is very ideal for balancing uni with travel because it’s easy to create a timetable with an extended weekend. Since semester has started, I have been able to visit Poland, Ireland and Denmark without missing a single lecture (iconic).

Here are 3 things I have noticed about class:

  1. All law lectures are in English! Initially it was strange to me that a Norwegian university only offers law courses in English – but it has served as a big reminder of how much New Zealand needs to step-up their game with teaching languages in schools. I am so impressed by how many of my new friends are multilingual legends, who although only speak English as their second or third language are able to engage in v. complex content in English with almost no issue.
  • The big positive of it is that it is really easy to study in Norway if you can speak English!  I have also really enjoyed having Norwegian and International students mixed into one class because I have gotten to meet a lot more people and learn some cool things about what it’s like to grow up in Norway.


  1. There is only one assignment per paper? I am used to that {assignment + exam} buzz but all of my papers only have one assessment each. Two of these are Term Papers which has meant that often the lecture content is not relevant to the assessment. While I think I am still a fan of the multi-assessment life it has been really cool to experience learning without the added pressure of taking endless notes for exams.
  • An ~ interesting fact~ I learned recently is that these courses (which are for fourth- and fifth-year students) are one of the first times Norwegian law students write essays in their degree which is really different to how degrees work in NZ.
  1. Student Cards are Important!!!!! This is less related to learning but nonetheless important. You need your student ID to get into E V E R Y W H E R E at uni: The library, the lecture theatres, and most importantly the bathrooms. I didn’t bring mine on the first day and my friend had to chaperone me everywhere so I wouldn’t get locked out.

Ultimately… University anywhere, no matter how exciting, is still University and obviously there are days that I am more hyped for class than others. Overall though, I have LOVED learning about issues like counterterrorism and climate change in in a country that is much more central to the world than New Zealand. The lecturers in Oslo are amazing and it has been really fun to talk about these subjects with people in my class and hear about their views and experiences.

There have also been a lot of laughs. To leave you with a highlight:  The other day my lecturer was asking for examples of threats to biodiversity and one girl explained that she had heard New Zealand had sent giant snakes to Florida which have now killed all of their smaller animals and started an environmental crisis. The other students agreed this was New Zealand’s worst work. If anyone has any info on this Giant Snake Conspiracy, please get in touch.

See you soon















Ziqi: First Impressions at Birmingham

Hey, guys!

Welcome to my new life in Birmingham where the golden breeze blows in October (with drizzle sometimes) and there are ancient style buildings which are made of red bricks.

University of Birmingham

Well, let’s go through the past two weeks and tell you what I have experienced so far. During the orientation week, there was an exchange student welcome party, fresher’s fair, society fair and lots of other fun activities. After I arrived here, I never felt lonely because every day was busy and filled with fun activities!

I remember that “culture shock” was mentioned during our pre-departure session. Some aspects of the UK culture has certainly shocked me, especially when I found out that the official welcome party was held in a club and that all of the orientation week parties were at night. Also, in the exchange student icebreaker event, almost all of the conversations closed with “go for beer or go to club tonight?”. This is not something I am interested in, so my answer was absolutely not. I do want to make new friends, but not in this way. I do not think that not drinking or clubbing means you can’t be social.

This morning I made friends with a German girl who I have a lot in common with. But we just get started with a “Hello”. So as you can see, even if you don’t like beer and clubs, you can still make good friends here.


Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery


On the weekend, I went to the city centre by train and visited the Birmingham Museum & art gallery. There are lots of amazing art works here which were painted from 15 century to 21 century. If you are interested in Birmingham history, I highly recommend you to go there. There are also many shopping malls and restaurants just near the train station, I can buy whatever I need and have brunch there.


English Breakfast

The second week started with lectures. I have six modules this semester which means it may be more intense now than in Auckland. At the same time, I have joined some societies that I am really interested in, such as the baking society and Chinese society. I hope I can have fun and improve my social skills as a member of these clubs.

Finally, I want to quote a famous aphorism: ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.’ Before arriving here, I never imagine how life will be in here. But now I can surely say that I will enjoy this experience!


Ziqi (Sarah)

Gabrielle: The Fear of Getting Going

If there is one thing I want to hold onto it is the ‘Exchange Student Ethos’. There is something about being in a new place that makes you run toward opportunity. It makes you delete your Netflix and get up for sunrises. You become the person who says ‘hi!’ first in lecture theaters, and then invites the crew to go out to an actual theater afterwards. You book trips away. You say ‘let’s do this’ like you’re a 2017 NZ Labour billboard, and you follow through. This isn’t my default self, usually my ethos is more of a Panic! And Hope it Works Out.


The second day after I moved into my university of Edinburgh accommodation I had a “Why on Earth Did You Fly To The Other Side Of The World” moment. My flat mates hadn’t moved in yet. The building was empty, and I didn’t know where to buy bedsheets that didn’t feel like hospital blankets.

I’ve had a few of those moments on this journey like when I thought I left my Visa application to late (it arrived with more than a few weeks to spare), or when I tried to pack six months into a 21kg suit case (I had to Marie Kondo everything).


I was sitting by myself, the first of my flat to arrive, in a new city and a new country – wondering how long I had to wait before I could call home with the time zone difference and not wake anyone up.

I think moments like that are inevitable. I decide to text a friend I’d made here instead of calling home. We went out to my first Scottish Ceilidh, I tripped over myself (and others) more than once. I laughed, and danced (when you don’t know what you’re doing, a Ceilidh is more of a contact sport than a dance). That night I meet people who would become some of my closest friends here.



I’ve found that it’s worth it to join societies. It’s worth it to get up early. To get involved as quickly and as deeply as you as you can. Because if you’re in a new place you want to get to know it, and it’s hard to do that from the sidelines. I joined way too many societies in my first week: the Murder Mystery Society, the Literary society, Creative Writing, Politics Society, the Hill Walking Club and more than send me emails and clog my inbox. I definitely don’t attend them all (I may have been slightly to overambitious), but I’ve discovered new things I would never had done at home. I wonder if I can live in Auckland with the enthusiasm that I live in Edinburgh. I want to turn my ‘Exchange Student Ethos’ into a ‘Student Ethos’. I don’t know, maybe that’s just part of traveling, or maybe that’s something I could bring home with me. But I’m definitely not heading home yet – so I’ve still got time to figure it out.