Nakita Daniel – Undergraduate Leaders Programme (July 2019)

The 2019 APRU programme I had the privilege of attending over July was not only the highlight of the year so far, but also an exceptional life experience. With two exams the day before flying out, I hadn’t had much time to think about expectations. I was open to everything that was going to be thrown my way, ready to meet new people, hear their stories, and share my own.

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What first seemed like a long time, when it came to saying goodbyes twelve days later, definitely did not seem like remotely enough. I left the programme feeling educated, empowered, challenged, connected and ready to apply my new skills at home. Our twelve days in Oregon consisted of workshops on communication, the design process, scientific and systemic thinking. We were split into groups and tasked with a challenge from one of the three community partners. I was in the environmental degradation group and was tasked with the challenge to reduce food waste in Lane County by our community partner BRING Recycling. We tackled this issue by developing an annual education programme for elementary school kids to educate the youth of tomorrow about the importance of reducing waste and composting today.

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“One of the key takeaways from this programme was learning how to make global issues more accessible in order to tackle the problems we are most passionate about.”

Overwhelming at times, the experience from this programme helped me realise the different components that make up leadership and community development. I was also able to refine skills in research, communication, presentation and organisation through the various activities we did each day. I can safely say that I was constantly challenged: whether that be through learning patience when trying to communicate with people from different countries, developing, researching and refining our solution on a tight time crunch, or actually presenting our idea to all the community partners and attendees, I learnt how to adapt to different situations.

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One of the key takeaways from this programme was learning how to make global issues more accessible in order to tackle the problems we are most passionate about. Before attending this programme, I often found myself with this energy and drive to make change happen but never fully understanding how to make a tangible difference. However, through working with real-life community partners, I was able to zoom into particular aspects of the issue and tackle things in smaller segments than get overwhelmed by the big picture. I learned how to set and achieve smaller goals, successfully work with a team of like-minded individuals, all while consistently applying an interdisciplinary lens to the issue; I was then able to apply that skill through my degree here at the University of Auckland. This programme both reinforced my current skillset in a real-world setting and also exposed me to global perspectives from all the other group members. Everyone had something to bring to the table. Being able to learn from each other and combine different elements from ideas around the world was something truly unique.

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In addition to the programme itself, one of the most rewarding aspects of the whole experience was developing new connections. Once strangers, the fifty-five other individuals I met were nothing but phenomenal. I was blown away by not only their amplitude and passion for making a difference, but also their constant kindness, generosity, and support. We all enjoyed the planned cultural excursions, as well as our own little discovery trips around Eugene, having shared both the stress and joy and everything in between. It’s surreal to think I now have a base all around the Pacific Rim, just as anyone coming to Aotearoa would have a place to call home here. I would highly encourage and urge every single student to make the most of this opportunity. University is all about learning and putting that knowledge into practice. This experience has not only allowed me to do this in an international setting but also exposed me to various other opportunities in my field of interest and connected me with lifelong friends who share similar passions and are no doubt the change makers we need right now.

Nakita Daniel

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Sophie: Leaving Lund

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This was one of the hardest things I have done. There is still so much of Europe
that I want to travel, there are so many people that I want to meet… I absolutely
fell in love with Lund, as a city and a university; and there are so many friends here
that are so dear to me. It is hard to fathom leaving Lund, and not returning after a
weekend away; and it is even harder to think that for so many of my friends here,
this is the last time for at least a year or so that I’ll see them.

However, it is only when you truly miss something that you know you had
something worthwhile. So, sad as I am to be leaving Lund, I know that the
friendships and memories I’ve made; and all of the things I’ve learnt, whether in
classes, in my own head about myself, or about the world around me; these are all
things that make this experience worthwhile.

I cannot recommend a university exchange highly enough. It is an incredible
experience, and unlike any other form of travel you will ever have the opportunity
to do.

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For those of you who are nervous -as I was going into this, thinking that 7.5
months would be a long time away from home, and would be hard to get through know
that it is much easier than you would expect.

You are surrounded by people who want to make connections and travel and
spend time together, so you won’t be lonely. You can call, video-call, and message
friends and family back home any time you like. But you will be so busy, and so
excited, that these few months will absolutely fly by. Now that it has come time to
leave Lund, I can’t believe how long it has already been since I left home, and I
can’t believe that I don’t want to return just yet! I love my friends and family, and
thought I would get homesick fairly easily… I won’t lie, there have definitely been
days when it was harder to be away from everyone back home, and when I’ve
missed people and places. But on those days, I would video-call the people I miss,
and it’s almost as good as having them here with me. And I would go and spend
time with my friends here, and be reminded that I have people here who love and
support me now too.

It seems so monumental, leaving home to run to just about the opposite end of the
world… and it is. It is a massive thing to do, but an incredible, wonderful, magical
massive thing. Trust that you will find friends here, and that you will be so busy
having so many incredible experiences, that it will be worth the days and brief
moments when you wish you were home instead of here.

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Me finally learning to bike hands free in my last week in Lund! Woo!

For me, this was also my first time moving out of home, as I live with my parents in
Auckland. I loved having a bit more freedom and living on my own! It doesn’t feel
lonely, as all of the uni accomodation means that you always have options to hang
out with people, and it’s easy to make lots of new friends! You can get apps and
things to help you manage your budget if you’re worried about that. It’s honestly
so worth branching out and giving it a go!

After all, everything here is temporary. It wasn’t as hard as I had thought, to leave
NZ and everyone that I love there, because I always knew that I would be coming
back soon enough.

Comparatively, it is hard to leave Lund. I know I might never be back
here, and that even if I did return, it would never be the same, with the same people here, or the same experiences.

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Yes, you can barely tell that it’s me; but that is in fact a photo of me sitting in front of the Northern Lights. Not at all ashamed to admit that minutes earlier I had been crying about how incredible the world is, and how lucky I am…

So my advice to anyone reading this, whether you’re only thinking about an
exchange, or whether you’ve already committed to it, and you’re a bundle of
excited-nerves and don’t know what to do with yourself: take the leap and enjoy it.

Don’t feel guilty for leaving your friends or family, or partner. Do it for yourself –
know that it will be one of the best things you will ever do for yourself, and know
that you will be back in NZ sooner than you imagined. I have spent so much time
on this trip marveling at the world around me, and wondering how it is possible
that my life, ordinary little me from New Zealand, could ever be so incredibly
magical. The fact at the end of the day is that if you want your life to be magical,
you have to go out into the world and get stuck into it all!

My best memories are the times that I decided to invite everyone over for a potluck dinner; the time we put on a ‘kiwi classics’ playlist and I jumped up and sung my heart out with the other kiwis, despite being one of very few people singing (and I do not sing well); the times we wandered into the snow in the dark and stood for an hour to see the
Northern Lights; the times I spent travelling Turkey by myself despite having been
scared about the political situation before going; the times I biked for an hour to
spend a sunny afternoon at the quarry; the times I ran outside in jandals to try and
catch snowflakes on my tongue with my Canadian friend dying of laughter at my
joy at seeing snow; the times I went to various sittnings, not necessarily knowing
anyone else that would be there, and made new friends and slowly learnt to sing
Swedish songs!

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I am so grateful for the luck that I had that made my time in Europe so amazing,
and I am so grateful to the amazing people I met who contributed to making my
time here so wonderful; but I am just as grateful to myself for going out into the
world and just doing it all! Giving it all my best effort, taking the time to enjoy every
moment, and learn whatever I could; and knowing that I have accomplished many
things to be proud of on this trip.

So do it! And love it! And love yourself for having the courage to do it!

Sophie

Sophie: Awesome Stuff to do in and around Lund!

There is so much to do in Lund! You don’t necessarily need to travel out of the country, or even the city to have a good time! There are lots of ways to get out into the nature around Lund, which is stunning in both winter and summer! Whether by bike, bus or train, lots of beautiful places are easily accessible! Check out the local national parks such as Dalby, Söderåsens, Kullaberg lighthouse, and Ven Island!

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Söderåsens National Park in winter – it would be just as gorgeous in summer, I’m sure!

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In summer, it is also well worth checking out the Dalby Quarry if you want to have a swim on a sunny day! It’s a gorgeous bike ride from Lund, but if you’re worried about the heat and trying to carry water with you (as there is nowhere to fill up drink bottles at the Quarry), then buses make the trip shorter and easier! There is also a BBQ at the Quarry which makes for a great lunch or dinner away from the city!

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Dalby’s National Park – the smallest in Europe!
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The Quarry on a sunny day!

Lomma beach is also a good bike ride or an easy bus ride out from the city, and makes for a nice day out in summer!

It’s just as nice to take time to hang out in the city though – a picnic in the Botanical gardens is gorgeous in summer, and great fun if you can get a frisbee or a ball to throw around from one of the op shops.

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Enjoying a bike ride around the summery fields in Lund!

In winter, it’s great fun to have pot-luck dinners or parties with a good crowd of people, or get together with a couple of friends just to cook dinner or do some baking!

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Baking kannelbullar, YUM! Everything tastes better fresh out of the oven!

Recipe for kannelbullar (cinnamon buns): https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/ cinnamon-buns/

TDC parties are popular in the university corridor-accomodation, in which every room in a corridor to come up with a different game to play (people can opt out if they want to!) and people move around in small groups from room to room playing the different games!

Sittnings are also great fun – a formal 3-course meal, for which people generally dress up, which involves lots of singing! Swedes will all have official song books (but for sittnings they will often print out a songbook too, so don’t stress!), and they’ll pass them around during the dinner for everyone to sign! Write whatever you like in there, or nothing if you prefer! My favourite thing to write is that “Kiwi fruit are named after New Zealand’s native kiwi bird, and were originally called ‘Chinese Goosberries’!” because frankly not enough people know that, or know that a kiwi bird exists in the first place.

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Getting excited for a fun and funky Valentine’s Day party!

Other things that are neat to do in Lund:
• Kulturen Museum (most of it is outdoors, so potentially better in nicer weather, but would be gorgeous in winter too!
• Historiska Museet (History Museum of Lund! They’ve got a couple of little bits from NZ in here which is cool!)
• Museum of Sketches
• If you’re keen to have a cosy typical Swedish experience, the Malmö Sauna is awesome! You heat up in the sauna and then jump in the ocean! A must-have experience while in Sweden!
• Check out what events the International Desk, the University Nations, and ESN Lund all have on – there are often game nights, study nights, and options to cook/work for the uni nations, or weekend trips.
• Working for the Nations is a great way to make new friends, and get free food! I really highly recommend it! I especially loved doing the baking nights, or cooking lunches for the Nations! Make sure to check for Facebook pages for “Workers at X Nation”
• I highly recommend joining the Kalmar Nation Spex show – whether you’re performing, or helping out backstage, it’s so much fun! One of my friends did it, and it’s one thing I really regret not getting into while I was here! Every Nation will do a Spex show, but Kalmar is the only Nation that does it in English (which is more fun, both because you understand what’s going on, and also because the audience gets to participate in these shows by yelling “retake!” at the actors!)
• Check what holidays are on – Valborg (Walpurgis) is the biggest holiday in Lund, on April 30th each year, and great fun to be a part of! Also, because Sweden is amazing, they have holidays for all of their sweet treats! For example, kannelbullar is October 4th, and semla is the Swedish treat for Shrove Tuesday.

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Anshula: Birmingham

As I arrived on Aston Webb Boulevard after 48 hours of relentless travel, Birmingham was pitch black at 11 pm but Old Joe (the clock tower) towered proudly over the sprawling campus. With the campus on a daunting hillock, it felt like entering Hogwarts for the first time, and I knew I was ready for the magical ride that was going to be this exchange.

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I never thought my first play performance at university, would be while on my exchange! We performed a pantomime of Treasure Island. Interestingly, the opening number – Shiver Me Timbers – was based on the New Zealand Haka; so it was nostalgic to sing and dance to it! Being the only international students in the play team of about 50 Brits was definitely an exciting and welcoming experience.

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I was doing courses under the Business and Psychology departments, so I went to their course scheduling workshops to get my timetable sorted: highly recommend arriving earlier than the class start date to attend these! It was often easier to get a response in person as over 200 exchange students can have vastly differing requirements, which can be difficult to understand via email.

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Courses rarely had assignments and were mostly assessed at the end, but this is changing in the 2019-2020 session as Birmingham attempts to make assessments more distributed throughout the semester. Lecturers are very understanding and helpful, so make sure to introduce yourself at the beginning of the semester!

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Accommodation wise, it is best to apply for Bournbrook or Jarratt Hall as they are close to Bristol Road, which has cheap supermarkets like Aldi and Tesco and is the hub of social life at university. For those preferring to be catered, Shackleton Hall at the Vale has the main dining areas (although the meal plan can be purchased even if you are not at Shackleton).

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This was the first time that I had moved from a halls to a flatting situation, so it was a huge learning experience! It was also the first time that I was going to fully cater for myself, so have definitely learned some quick, healthy meals. I would recommend being open, engaging and patient with cultural differences as there are quite a few even between NZ and the UK!

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Handy tips:

  • Take the 61 or 63 bus from outside campus for 1 pound only to the city centre!
  • Plan weekend travel beforehand: book buses/trains earlier as prices rise like flights!
  • Recommend joining clubs, especially those that we don’t have at UoA! 😉
    • Harry Potter Club
    • Dance Club Latino
    • Pole Fitness
  • GYM MEMBERSHIP IS LIMITED AND GETS SOLD OUT MONTHS AGO SO PURCHASE ONE AS SOON AS YOU GET YOUR VISA!!!
  • Put yourself in new situations (socially and otherwise); you might find new hobbies! Eg: If you are an outdoorsy person, try origami or board games with friends and try to have different social circles both in and out of class so that you don’t restrict your social activities or travel to the interests of one group
  • Must-visit places: Cardiff (Wales), Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Liverpool, Scotland, Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace), London (of course

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  • Get in touch with the Careers Network at UoB if you want to plan a future in the UK
  • Network with UoA alumni in Birmingham or even just professionals in your industry of interest
  • Keep a list of people you meet (professionals and friends) so that you can keep track later on: Facebook and Linkedin are not enough!
  • Budget! You can only work part time if you get a visa for the whole year, there is much less contact hours here than UOA so it is possible to work
  • KEEP A TRAVEL DIARY and/or vlog
  • Invest time in a good ol’ Spotify playlist
  • Write down your priorities for your exchange before you leave, and take note of how they evolve during and after your exchange
  • In decreasing order of priority, write down your reasons for choosing your countries/universities in the Prospective Host Universities form. Sleep on this list and note how these reasons (or their order or priority) evolve with time and as you interact with other exchange students. Potential reasons: Travel, University/department rankings, Professional networks, Stepping stone to future study/career
  • Learn proper cooking for at least a month before you go on exchange
    • Must-haves: portable rice cooker and mixer/chopper/blender
  • Birmingham was my FOURTH choice and I was hesitant to accept it but in hindsight, I would not change it for the world! Do not let the lack of your first/top 3 choices put you off the best experience of your university life 😀
  • Try to vary your experiences as much as possible but do not let your FOMO (fear of missing out) exhaust you. This is YOUR exchange and there is no such thing as too much or too little of travelling/clubbing/socialising: do what feels natural!
  • Having said that, be bold because it is, after all, a once – in – lifetime experience! 🙂

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WHAT I HAVE LEARNED

  • Exchange is more than worth the stress and sleepless nights. That is all 😉

MESSAGE TO OUTGOING EXCHANGE STUDENTS (TO BIRMINGHAM OR ELSEWHERE):

  • If you have any inhibitions or fears regarding your exchange (or are just losing sleep at 3 pm), call me on Messenger and I am happy to chat about absolutely anything!

Roald Dahl once said: “Those who don’t believe in magic, will never find it”. I’m glad I did (and still do), because I found Birmingham!

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Tana: Home

Hi guys!

This blog has been especially hard to start writing because I refuse to come to terms with the fact that my exchange is now complete and I am back home in New Zealand. Don’t get me wrong, it feels great to be reunited with my family and friends, but at the same time a little bizarre. In Berkeley, I felt as though that was my new life, and I had gotten so comfortable with my routine. In fact, I think it’s the little things that I’m going to miss the most like walking to class with my friend Amelia or lying down in the glade and admiring the night sky while my mates and I reflected on life. To come to think of it, I have now become very dependent on social interaction and don’t know how I’m going to cope for the next couple of weeks since my friends here are busy studying for exams.

Regardless, I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this exchange and spend the semester studying at UC Berkeley. For any of you who are reading this and still haven’t decided on whether or not you should go on exchange, my advice to you would be to definitely take the plunge. It has been the experience of a life time and I would not trade these past couple of months for anything else!

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Another serene sunset in Berkeley

Not only have I made unforgettable memories and lifelong friends, but I have also obtained a greater passion for my studies and am further motivated to secure a successful career. Next semester, I plan to join more clubs on campus and diversify my skills. Additionally, I have gained a stronger desire to continue travelling and have already started learning Spanish so as to be able to speak four languages! Most importantly though, I adapted to live independently and by doing so, I now have more confidence in myself and my abilities.

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How am I supposed to say bye to such a beautiful campus?

I’m so thankful for the 360 Exchange Program for helping me expand my horizons and attain a new outlook on life.

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My first roommate and newest best friend!

I hope my blogs have given you some useful insight on what to expect at UC Berkeley. Thank you all for reading and to those of you who have emailed me!

So long!

-Tana

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Shannon: Endings and Beginnings

I struggled with writing this final post because I will never be able to accurately express my gratitude for this experience in words. This exchange has been beyond what I could have ever dreamed and I am so glad that I took the leap.

During my time here, I tried to remain open to new experiences but sometimes fear of the unknown would cripple me—especially since this was my first time solo travelling. I am a planner which was incredibly helpful when I was organising all of my paperwork beforehand. However, this was not so helpful when things didn’t go as planned, which is inevitable when you go to a different country. I’ll be honest—if you decide to go on an exchange, it isn’t easy but it is definitely worth it.

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These three cracked me up-spotted on the streets of Dublin.

There were times when I felt like a kid at Disneyland as I got excited about the Georgian buildings and scenery. However, I also felt so homesick and lonely sometimes that I would hide in my room, trying to hold back tears. If anything, what really got me through this experience was my faith and the support of loved ones. Instead of containing my fears and stress, I could hand it over to God and confide in close friends and family. It’s so important to stay in contact with people in your life who can support you in those difficult times because they will keep you grounded.

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My amazing flatmates from all over the world!
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Aoife, a leader at my church & the reason for my Butler’s addiction.

You may think that when you’re travelling, your friends and family don’t want to see you constantly bombarding their newsfeed with photos but I can assure you, they probably want to share those experiences with you and know that you’re ok.

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One of many home-cooked meals. It accomplished my goal: A. Show Mum I’m eating well and B. Satisfy my taste buds.
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I baked as well, taking study procrastination to a whole other level…

As I look forward to the future, I am excited for more adventures. Even though the fear and stress were struggles, they made me stronger. While I did come here to finish my degree, this experience was really about how it’s ok to not always have a plan. Sometimes, the best adventures aren’t the planned ones, but the spontaneous ones where you can try something different and step outside of your comfort zone. As Miss Frizzle in The Magic School Bus says, you should “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!”

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Classic jump shot in the beautiful Dún Laoghaire-a seaside town just a bus/DART ride from Dublin city centre.
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Squashing myself into the tiny staircase of the James Joyce tower-inspiration for the first chapter of Ulysses!

Overall, I just want to encourage you to take a leap of faith and give the exchange experience a go. It is scary and there are a lot of things that you won’t know about the place you’re going to, but you can learn so much. I know that as I go forward, Ireland will always hold a special place in my heart and I will remember this experience and what I’ve learned from it for the rest of my life.

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Squashing myself into the tiny staircase of the James Joyce tower-inspiration for the first chapter of Ulysses!
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A final throwback to the wild beauty of the Wicklow Mountains

Thank you for following my journey and I hope that what I’ve shared has encouraged or helped you in some way. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out (shannon.murphy012@gmail.com) and all the best for your future adventures!

I can think of no better way to end this series of blog posts than with an Irish blessing so:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

-Unknown

Shannon

Rachel: Home

Just in case there aren’t enough cheesy one-liners out there about studying abroad, I’d like to add that it’s definitely an unforgettable experience. It’s quite a bittersweet feeling to have finally landed back in New Zealand. The places I visited, the friends I made and the memories I formed make me want to do it all over again.

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A perfect birthday memory

Engineering at UoA has a very specific schedule and NUS is notorious for being strict with their initial acceptance of modules (courses). So like many exchangers before me, I went over with only two confirmed classes out of the four I needed. There was nothing I could do until the module add/drop period that happened during the first week of classes. Looking back, it was the biggest hurdle that I had to overcome, mentally, before I could commit to my exchange. At the time, the idea that I might have to delay my graduation did not sit right with me. When you add in all the pre-departure anxiety and the various concerns, I felt very hesitant about it all. Now at the end of the tunnel, I would like to report back that the experience definitely outweighed all my worries. If I were to decide again, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

And of course, you’ll experience ups and downs when you’re so far from home, the occasional wave of loneliness, the sporadic moments of FOMO hearing the stories of your friends back home and the odd time and time again of feeling a bit lost. For me, I did find some comfort in recognising that it was okay to feel such, and its human to feel the ups and downs no matter where you are.

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The classic tourist spot with an excellent light show at night
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A spot close to Chinatown – the contrast of the buildings’ styles always stops me in my track

 

My exchange may very well be the part of university I look back to the most fondly, for I would encourage everyone to take a leap of faith and, just go for it.

Rachel