Cecilia: Glasknowing the Lifestyle

After being here for almost two months, it finally snowed! Storm Ciara brought freezing temperatures and stormy weather, but for someone that has never seen snow before it was so pretty. Unfortunately the snow has yet to reach a level where the streets are blanketed in white, so the photos I have don’t show the scale. The motivation behind this blog post is to share a little bit about the lifestyle here in Glasgow, from restaurant recommendations to supermarket content.

The best I could get was this photo to show the mushy ice that formed.

Student Life and Facilities

  • Glasgow University has two unions: the Glasgow University Union (GUU) which has traditionally been the more male dominated one, and the Queen Margaret Union (QMU) which was formed in response to the exclusion of women from the “old boys” club at GUU. You can choose to join both, and gain access to discounts at the Union cafes/restaurants. GUU also has a student club called “the Hive” which is extremely popular on a Thursday night, which is student night here.
  • I was very impressed by the student newspaper, the Glasgow Guardian which has a long history behind it. The raw, uncensored journalism is a refreshing read.
A vividly honest response to Brexit was a super interesting read.

Food and Drinks

Glasgow has a range of impressive foods and cultures. Here are some of my favourites for whatever mood that might strike:

  • Wetherspoons: also known fondly as ‘Spoons’, you can order the traditional Scottish pub fare of Haggis (a savoury pudding/oatmeal thing), neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes) here. Whetherspoons is a chain of pub restaurants, which serve decently priced meals and alcoholic drinks. I love the risotto and toasted sandwiches here, and would recommend trying some of their alcoholic cocktails which are served in big jugs. It does frequently become extremely busy during sporting events on the TV, and this was quick to become a cornerstone of my weekly pint habit with my friends.
  • Mother India : conveniently located close to campus, this is one of the best Indian restaurants in Glasgow. Indian cuisine is British staple, with reports stating that their favourite dish is Chicken Tikka Masala. I am sure the long colonial history between the two countries has led to the intense love affair with eastern curries. Pro tip: order smaller dishes to share here so you can sample all the flavours, as the curries are served in an almost tapas style.
  • La Vita Spuntini: if you want something a bit fancier or if you want to go for cute drinks near uni, this venue has a full artificial cherry blossom tree inside! As a winner of Glasgow’s best Italian food award, they serve many traditional Italian options as well as some dishes with a Scottish twist. The waiters/waitresses wear the most adorable plaid outfits, and the food is decently priced. You definitely want to come here with friends though – both to help split the bill as well as to take photos of you in this #superinstagrammable decor.
The cherry blossom tree inside Spuntini was absolutely gorgeous

For those of you who love to cook, the fresh produce (and their prices!) of Glasgow is definitely something I wish we had in New Zealand. For example, they sell a whole ball of mozzarella at most supermarkets for £0.45 which is equivalent to $0.90 NZD! I literally ate an entire ball of mozzarella as my breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the first two weeks that I was here. Add a little bit of balsamic vinegar, tomato, or a basil leaf and voila! Masterchef, eat your heart out!

There are plenty of supermarkets within a short distance of each other (the closest to campus are Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Iceland, Marks & Spencers), and they also sell cheap ‘Free From’ or specialty diet products. Almond and soy milks are almost the same price as normal cow’s milk, and gluten free and vegan products are so much more affordable than back home. In particular, meat substitutes such as Quorn or other plant based meats come in so many quick and simple cooking varieties such as ready made tacos or pad thai stir fry’s. I was also so surprised to discover plant based meatballs at Subway, Quorn chicken served at KFC and seasoned with their herbs and spices, and vegan sausage rolls at my local bakery chain Gregg’s. This means that it was really easy for me to try vegan options, especially as I was searching for more environmentally friendly and healthier options. I am really really going to miss my $2 NZD per litre almond milks!

One cannot think well, love well, or sleep well if one has not dined well

Virginia Woolf

Entertainment and Attractions

In terms of my favourite places to visit in and around Glasgow, I have highlighted both attractions as well as entertainment options:

  • The SEE Hydro: this massive stadium is a 15 minute walk behind my flat, and the top class artists all perform here. It’s great because I can just walk home after an act – Halsey was only $60 NZD!
  • The beautiful Kelvingrove Park is a section of my daily commute into uni, and is lovely for an early morning run before it gets too busy.
The skate park at Kelvingrove on a rare clear (but chilly) afternoon
  • The Clydeside Distillery gives a good glimpse into the process of making some of Scotland’s finest single malt whiskies in a stunning dockside venue.
  • The Glasgow Science Centre is like an interactive museum, filled with interesting experiments and hands on activities.
The Science Centre also does cool events later at night with cheap student tickets. No kids, no lines, and plenty of live music and drinks.

Transport

I have tried to navigate as much of Glasgow as possible by foot. Although the city is well linked with both buses, subways, and trains, I prefer to walk (when it is not pouring down) as I definitely need the exercise after all the food I have been eating. I would recommend ordering a subway card online for free though, as it provides cheaper transport compared to both one-use paper tickets and purchasing the card at the stations (£3). The subway runs in a continuous loop around the River Clyde, and circles to all the main areas around Glasgow. It is super handy for when you need to go into Glasgow’s CBD district (Merchant City) when it is pouring with rain and you are too tired to walk 30 minutes or don’t want to pay for the Uber.

Student Accomodation

Finally, one of my favourite places has to be home! I am staying at Kelvinhaugh Street student accommodation, which is actually about a 15-20 minute walk away from campus. The entire street is filled with students, so you often bump into friends on the walk to or from class. I personally would have preferred to be closer to campus, especially when it is raining cats and dogs, but the accomodation is located close to supermarkets, beauty salons, and several amazing cafes. It is about a 30 minute walk to Glasgow Central (the train station equivalent of Britomart here), or around a 10 minute (£5) Uber ride.

The student support services also often run events, such as streaming the Oscars, watching sport games, and Movie nights every week.

I love home because of my flat mates! I quickly became fast friends with the two other students that I share my flat with. They are both from America, with one from Boston (which has affluent suburbs, MIT and cold wet winters), and the other from Texas (hot, dry, yeehaw).

Friends are the sunshine of life.

John Hay
An event at the student accomodation was to hand make Valentine’s Cards – which I made for my flatmates!

That’s all for today folks – I will see you very soon for another update in the life of Cecilia and her mozzarella balls part 2!

Ta-ta (goodbye) until next time,

Cameron: There's snow place like Montreal!

Many locals hate the winter weather, but as an exchange student, I’ve learnt to make the most of every opportunity and always find something to do whether its a -23°c snow blizzard, or a beautiful 1°c (warm for Canadian winter) sunny day. Even in the winter, there is still SO much to do in Montreal – arguably more than in summer! I have only been here for a month yet if you asked me, “What have you done in Canada,” it would take me hours to go through everything. But here are some highlights!

IGLOOFEST

Igloofest is an electronic music festival that is on every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a whole month, so you pick which nights you want to go depending on who’s playing. Tickets sell for $35-$48 NZD for each night depending on the demand, which is quite cheap for a concert this good. They’ve had some pretty big DJ’s perform in the past such as Diplo and RL Grime and I went on the night Kaytranada was playing! There are also heaps of free activities around the festival ground such as free marshmallow roasting, tube sliding, photo booths and a retro arcade game tent.

The cold is extreme, therefore everyone packs on the layers, which makes it kind of hard to dance and is an odd sensation but the event is a Montreal MUST-DO if you’re here for the winter semester, Igloofest is definitely not your average festival.

QUEBEC CITY

The city is located three hours away from Montreal and is VERY French. The Quebec City Winter Carnival is an important annual event that celebrates French Canadian culture with food, entertainment and amusement rides. Tickets to Quebec are about $40 one way, (according to my flatmate), however the McGill International Student Network offered exchange students return bus tickets for $35! Tickets to the Carnival were $18, but we also used the time to explore the breathtakingly beautiful city streets.

Some of the activities at the carnival were:

  • Exploring a castle made entirely out of ice (it even had an ice slide)
  • Axe throwing
  • Wearing sumo suits and playing ice hockey (wearing shoes not ice skates though)
  • Tube sledding
  • Ski shots (4 shots attached to a ski – very Canadian)
  • Making maple syrup toffee. Done by pouring maple syrup onto snow until it freezes and you eat it like a lollipop

SLEDDING

Sledding is an everyday winter activity for Canadian children, but my flatmate and I had never done it, so we decided to embrace our inner child and invest in a sled. You can rent one $7 a day, but we bought ours in downtown Montreal for $15. After only one sledding trip we already got our moneys worth and plan to use it many more times. Beside McGill University is Mount Royal which takes 45 mins to walk up to get a view of the entire city, but halfway up the mountain is a literal winter wonderland. There’s sledding tracks and an ice skating link on a beautiful frozen lake where there’s sledding tracks and an ice skating rink on a frozen lake.

The view from the top of Mount Royal is insane – photos don’t do it justice!

NIGHTLIFE

The nightlife in Montreal is much better than in Auckland. You can go out every night of the week here if you wanted to and most clubs have different themed nights e.g. House, Regge, R&B and Throwback etc… Although it is freezing outside, everyone still wears typical clubbing outfits like they would in Auckland plus a jacket or coat for walking in between clubs. Everywhere offers coat check for $3-$5, but I just tie my jacket around my waist or hide it behind a plant instead. #hacks. 

Cafe Campus is the McGill equivalent of Shadows at UoA, except it’s 4x the size and equipped with about 30 disco balls

To anyone reading this and thinking of coming to McGill University – DO IT. Montreal is an incredible city that has so much to offer. There has not been a single day yet where I have been bored. If you ever want a (long) list of recommendations feel free to email me. cbak267@aucklanduni.ac.nz

Although the winter semester has intense weather, Montreal truly embraces it. There are so many events on and things to do all day and all night – just don’t forget your thermals! 

Au revoir!



			
		

Angela: First week at Utrecht

Hello! Welcome to my first post for Utrecht University the Netherlands.

I’ve landed at Schipol airport 10 days ago. However, I’m still finding it hard to believe that I’m in the Europe. 

The classic tourist photo outside the Schipol airport 🙂

To be honest, the first impression I had for The Netherlands was kinda like New Zealand – not too many people, quite a lot natural resources and relaxed lifestyle. However, it is never too late to be amazed by all the little things such as canals everywhere, people and the old buildings. 

Saying that the country has the same vibe as New Zealand at the first sight. I still feel everything here is so new to me. So I just can’t stop wandering around (and also taking A LOT OF photos). Utrecht university is located in Utrecht and is the largest university in the country. Utrecht is a city which is 30-min away from Amsterdam. It is the hub of the Netherlands( yea, it is extremely easy for us- exchange students to travel around.) I’ve been spending a week in Utrecht. Being completely honest, I’m falling in love with Utrecht. It is a city full of young, lively and energetic vibes. 

canal+bikes=the Netherlands (@Utrecht city centre)

The first week of uni was basically like what we did in UoA- heaps of orientation events. On the mandatory orientation, they assigned us to different groups where you get to know quite a lot of international students who are also under the same faculty. It is really fun to meet people all over the world!! If you ever hesitated to come to the Netherlands to do your exchange because of the language. Don’t be worried at all. It is really common to hear people speaking English in the campus. Outside the campus, most of them are usually speaking Dutch. However, when you talk to them in English they are usually really nice and respond in English. Some interesting fact that the Netherlands is actually ranked as the European country that speaks English the best. (except the fact that THERE ARE NO ENGLISH LABELS IN THE SUPERMARKETS. I’m struggling every time when I do grocery shopping)

The view after the mandatory orientation while I was waiting for the bus

These are some thoughts and some note-worthy things I’ve experienced in my first week at Utrecht. (although other trivial moments are still special to me in some ways haha). Thank you for reading my first blog! Stay tuned for more!

Iven: Chapter 1 of My Journey to Singapore

Kia ora! *:・゚✧(ꈍᴗꈍ)✧・゚:*

It is currently the last day of January as I am writing this post in my dorm, but how was my first month being on exchange in Singapore? What is it like living in Singapore? Are there certain things I should be aware of if I’m going to Singapore? What are the classes like at The National University of Singapore (NUS)? Don’t worry I will cover all these questions along with some of my key tips I’ve learnt along the way!

WEEK 1: Settling in and Exploring Singapore

After celebrating New Years with a bang in Auckland, I flew over 8,000kms to Singapore where I stayed at a hotel on my first night and then an Airbnb for the rest of the week. For me, I really wanted to come to Singapore earlier to be able to adjust and have time to settle in. Taking my first step into Singapore honestly felt like entering a sauna, the hot and humid air was super overwhelming.

Tip: Buy a travel adapter from Auckland Airport and bring your Student Pass documents on paper to show immigration when you arrive 🙂

The MRT in Singapore (very efficient but be prepared to stand)

During my first week, I tried to adapt to the humid weather, explore different parts of Singapore, familiarize myself with the public transport and the way of life in Singapore. Some interesting differences compared to New Zealand, which I noticed during this time were that most traffic crossings don’t make the ‘beeping’ sound and Uber is not used here, instead Grab is which essentially is Uber and Uber Eats in one ( I really love Grab).

Tip: Don’t buy your SIM card at the airport, get it at 7-Eleven because it’s cheaper. I recommend Singtel as a phone provider because they have the best data deals (bring your passport with you).

Shops and stalls at Chinatown

WEEK 2: Moving into NUS, Meeting other Exchange Students

For this exchange, I will be staying at University Town (UTown) which is the main part of campus. UTown has food courts, Starbucks, convenience stores… etc, however, it is not the only accommodation which NUS offers. Personally, I chose UTown as my first option for accommodation as I had researched and found that it’s where most exchange students stay, it is very close to the amenities I mentioned earlier and you get to share an apartment with 3 other people.

Tip: Pack your own home-ware, bedding.. etc if you don’t want to buy them here. Also learn from my mistake and don’t buy your bedding stuff from IKEA, I recommend getting it from local markets or malls, for example, Clementi Mall.

The NUS sign at UTown

The check-in date for my dorm was on January 6th, it was a long process waiting but it was worth it in the end after I got my key and found out I was staying on the 25th floor which is the highest floor! The first thing I did after dropping off my luggage was head to IKEA to buy some essentials for my room. In short, the days after I moved into my dorm consisted of meeting my roommates (who are all Australian!!), attending NUS orientations, meeting other exchange students from New Zealand and all over the world through NUS events and more exploring of Singapore.

Tip: Put yourself out there and try to attend as much events as possible! That’s where you get to meet so many new people and create bonds that will last a lifetime~

Me and other exchange students at Gardens By The Bay for the Light Show

WEEK 3: First Week of Class!- Eeekk

Before the semester began, we were able to change courses (they call it modules here) on a specific day so I submitted a list of 5 modules in order of which I wanted the most. I ended up getting a film module along with my original modules; a design module and a digital storytelling module. Before coming on exchange, I was quite nervous about the difficulty of the courses and if I would find it hard to adjust to the academic side of things. After my first week of class, my worries went away immediately, and it reassured me on why I wanted to go on exchange. The courses I’m doing are up my alley, super interesting and practical, not to mention the great lecturers. I also liked that my classes weren’t in big lecture theatres, they were more intimate and felt like tutorials back at UoA which I prefer.

Tip: Most classes are really cold because of the air-con so bring a jacket also NUS is such a huge campus that they have their own free internal bus system, but they don’t come often and there is always competition to get onto the bus! So get to the bus stop early because NUS does not tolerate lateness.

Since I’m only doing 3 modules and tutorials didn’t start until week 3, my timetable was pretty chill so while I had class, I still had plenty time to explore more of Singapore and hangout with my new exchange friends. One of my favorite places we visited (other than all the amazing food we ate)was definitely the Jewel Changi Airport, when I arrived in Singapore like my other exchange friends, we didn’t get to see the pretty waterfall that everyone knows of when they think of Singapore so we went back and wow!!

Tip: Almost all food places, especially at NUS, don’t give you straws! Oh and they give you LOTS of ice! for drinks so be prepared.

WEEK 4: Chinese New Year + Trip to Malaysia!

At this time, on the news and basically everywhere, people are talking about the Coronavirus. Everyone is starting to wear masks and people are paranoid, the university is also taking a lot of administrative matters to keep students safe. It has been quite scary but with that said, it didn’t stop the Chinese New Year’s festivities. CNY is a big holiday here in Singapore and Asia, everything is shut down essentially. For Chinese New Years, me and a few of my exchange friends went to Tioman Island in Malaysia which marks my first trip to another country whilst on exchange! It was so serene and unreal, there’s something about being on an island away from city life, away from work, away from the humid weather that is so tranquil.

WEEK 5: First week of Tutorials

The start of this week marked the start of tutorials, although class had begun 2 weeks prior, the tutorials were the first time I was able to interact with other local students. As an exchange student I did have a fear of being ostracized but that was far from reality. As the semester rolls on, I’m looking forward to more fun times with all the beautiful people I have met here on exchange. It’s only been a month and I already know I have made lifelong bonds and I’m already dreading the day I will have to say goodbye…..Well that’s it from me now! Don’t worry, there will be more chapters, memories and more fun stories to come. This is just the start of what will be one of the best times of my lifeヽ(^◇^*)/

P.S Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more exchange content coming soon I promise!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥  https://www.youtube.com/iventhepanda ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ 

Iven aka IvenThePanda Signing Out…..

Tom: Arrival in the Garden City!

Arrival

I arrived in Singapore on Monday the 6th of Jan, admittedly still slightly dusty from RNV over New Years. Yet still ready to get fully immersed in the exchange experience.

I had made sure to get to Singapore a few days before the opening of the dorm accommodation at NTU in order to get a feel of the city on my own. This did mean that I had to book a hotel, but I have to say it was definitely worth it.

The first thing you notice in Singapore is the heat, it truly is a city within a jungle. Situated only just above the equator, temperatures in Singapore vary between 30-35 degrees Celsius, with humidity hovering around the 70-80% mark. This can be quite jolting to some people (especially some of my exchange friends from colder climates), but I love the heat here. If it ever gets overbearing it is super easy to seek out the sweet relief of air conditioning or even better a swimming pool (of which there is a free one on campus). That being said, Singapore probably isn’t for those that love the cold.

Looking at Downtown Singapore from the Civic District

Another thing that is great about Singapore is the absolutely insane amount of infrastructure that is present in the city. Massive public parks such as the infamous Gardens by the Bay litter the city and there is an MRT station seemingly every third block in some parts of town. The trains are fast, cheap and extraordinarily convenient. They come past every 5 mins and a trip won’t ever cost you much more than a dollar… I walked out of the terminal at Changi airport directly onto a train and arrived within a block from my hotel (Auckland Transport take notes!).

More of Downtown during Sunset

Accommodation at NTU

After a sick couple of days exploring the city on my own it was time to head to NTU and check out where I would be living for the next four or so months…

Accommodation in the on-campus housing halls is guaranteed for all exchange students at NTU. I really see no reason why you wouldn’t stay in this housing. It’s probably cheaper per month than the weekly rent in an Auckland apartment and provides insanely easy access to the university. More so it also allows you to get right amongst the action on campus with locals and other exchange students from all over the world (it’s been really easy to make friends here, remember everyone else is in the exact same boat as you!).

Me and fellow UoA Student (and blogger!) Maxwell

The only disadvantages of NTU’s campus is that it is about as far away from downtown as you can get within Singapore, however it is still only an hour MRT ride to the centre of the city! And the trip is a breeze for anyone used to commuting in Auckland.

Also your accommodation will be allocated on ballot style system. Keep in mind single rooms are in especially high demand and as such are hard to get. I got given a twin room located in Hall 12 which looks like it was recently refurbished. Living with a roommate, whilst taking slight adjustment to begin with, has been a heap of fun. Once you get the air conditioning system figured out (which did take a while!) life on campus is literally a breeze…

Actual Uni – Classes & Slight Hassles

Unfortunately exchange isn’t just a giant holiday, surprisingly you will need to take classes whilst here…

As Finance and Management are my Majors my classroom experience here is limited to the Nanyang Business School. I am taking four papers as of the moment, all of them are in the format of a 4-hour long seminar style session once a week. Each of these seminars has about 30-40 students in it and the level of education seems pretty consistent with what I would expect from third year commerce papers back home. At the moment I have one of these seminars each day from Tuesday through to Friday. This is quite a difference from the 1-hour long lectures at UoA, and I have found it a little hard to maintain my attention span for such a long period of time. However most professors here are quite relaxed and allow plenty of breaks as well as often finishing class up to an hour early.

My classes have been a mixed bag in relation to who is actually in them. Two contain about 70% exchange students (not surprising as they are both international business related papers), whilst in the other two I am one of perhaps three exchange students in the entire class.

It’s not all been study… Clubs in Singapore are a step above Bar101 back home

Whilst my classes have been quite interesting, they did involve a lot of hassle to organise. The system for allocating your courses here is called STARS, and local students have accurately named the allocation period ‘STARS WARS’, it can be difficult to say the least.

I would recommend having at least 6 courses pre-approved before arrival in NTU. This would help you avoid the majority of hassle involved in getting courses during the two week add/drop period at the start of semester. Keep in mind that ‘approved’ does not mean ‘registered’. I had many courses approved that I simply could not get registered due to the class size restrictions and lengthy waiting lists. Definitely something to keep in mind if you are in desperate need of a certain paper for graduation back home.

Food

If there is one thing Singapore is known for then it would be its food… From the tastiest Chicken Tikka Masala you’ve ever had in Little India to Michelin Starred $4 Chicken Rice in Chinatown.

A filling delicious meal in Singapore will cost you approximately $3-6, the canteens at NTU are all around this price point and have an insane amount of variety for you to choose from. Including a decent amount of vegetarian options. In total there are about 10 or so canteens scattered amongst the campus and its halls. But don’t worry there is always a Macca’s and Subway right on campus for when the inevitable cravings for something other than rice or noodles hit.

$5 for all this!

These incredibly cheap prices are offset by the high prices you can expect to find in Supermarkets. Staples like milk in NZ are all greatly more expensive here ($6 for 2L), due to the fact that most of these foods have to be imported.  

Till Next Time…

I hope I’ve been able to provide a decent overview of my time here so far through this post. For all those at home wondering if they should embark on their own exchange I can only recommend it to the absolute maximum. I’m having the time of my life and will continue to do so for the remainder of my trip.

I have already started planning further travel overseas for during my semester, so the next post should highlight some of these travel experiences! In fact I’m headed to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia this weekend and Bali the next! The fact that Singapore is a major travel hub results in some insanely good deals on flights, which I’m sure I’ll be taking full advantage of…

An American, Kiwi, Two French Canadians and an Aussie…
Singapore has been the perfect place to make a bunch of mates from all over the World!

Harry: UC Berkeley Pre- and Post-Departure Tips

For my first blog I’ve decided to focus on tips for before you arrive in the U.S. and also some first impressions from my first couple of weeks in the U.S.

Also a pre-warning, I’m still waiting to get my film developed so this entry is a bit low on photos!

HOUSING

This semester I’m living in one of the houses associated with the Berkeley Student Co-operative (BSC https://bsc.coop/). Their aim is to provide affordable housing to students who would otherwise be unable to attend Cal and other nearby colleges. The rent at the co-ops is about $3700 USD a semester whereas alternative accommodation like iHouse is about $9000 USD per semester. The low rent prices are made possible by the five hour “workshift” required by each resident every week. These workshifts range from cleaning bathrooms to cooking to party security. So far, I’ve done a couple of cook shifts and a bathroom cleaning shift and they’ve been fine, although I don’t know that I’ll be rushing back to clean the bathroom!

I’m in the house Casa Zimbabwe, this is the largest house and houses about 120 students from a wide range of backgrounds. The sheer size of the house can make it feel intimidating, but the residents are really friendly and accepting and after just a couple of weeks, it’s starting to feel like home. I think the community that you receive here is one of the major benefits of living in a co-op. I’ve talked to quite a few international students, most of whom are living in apartments and they’ve said that the hardest thing so far is building a network.

View from the CZ roof takes a bit of beating

Logistically, it’s definitely worth applying early to the co-ops because there is a waitlist. However, you do get priority as an EAP exchange student. I applied for the co-ops before I’d even received my campus placement (and also applied for the co-ops at UCLA and UCSB). There is a small fee, but in my opinion it’s worth paying the money and getting on the waitlist early, rather than potentially missing out. I also wouldn’t stress too much about not getting off the waitlist on the first round, I was 65th on the waitlist and got in on round 2 or 3.

COURSES

I found getting my courses approved to be quite difficult. The course syllabi are not easily accessible like at UoA and I was told that the course descriptions which can be found online did not contain enough information. I would recommend finding the classes you’re interested in taking and emailing the professors directly to get the course syllabus as I initially emailed the departments and didn’t get a response.

Unlike UoA courses at Berkeley can be very competitive to get into and as an exchange student you don’t have top priority (this is given to returning undergrads). However, you will still receive some priority for classes that are your major. As an exchange student you can only declare one major at Berkeley so if you have more than one at UoA I would recommend declaring the more competitive major to ensure you get into the classes you want. I would also recommend getting in touch with departments and pleading your case, specifying that while you declared ____ as your UC major, you are also a ____ major at your home university. Doing this meant the film and media department allowed me to be recognised as a Film major and gave me preferential entry into competitive film classes.

If you can’t get into courses that you want to be in, it’s also definitely worth getting on the wait list. Most students initially sign up for more units than they intend on taking and drop and add courses throughout the first weeks of classes so even if you’re high on the wait list, there’s still a decent chance you’ll get into the class.

OTHER

I paid for the SHIP health insurance programme but a lot of people I have spoken to have health insurance through a company called ISO Insurance (international student specific health insurance) which came out to about a third of the cost. I’m not completely sure of the specifics but just google ISO insurance and it should come up.

The compulsory Golden Bear Orientation (GBO) was pretty full on, but overall a lot of fun. They say everything is mandatory, but it is actually mainly optional. I tried to go to all of the events anyway because I’d paid for it and it’s a great way to meet new people (especially if you weren’t meeting people through a co-op). There is a strong focus on diversity, consent and mental health and it was nice to know that everyone who is on campus has been through the same programme and it sets a really good precedent for the inclusive culture on campus.

For the spring semester GBO is only 4 days but in Autumn it’s 7 days. I would recommend arriving in the US a few days before GBO starts so that you can get your bearings and get over your jetlag. Even as a pretty extreme extrovert, constantly meeting new people at GBO then coming home to a house full of strangers and a roommate got pretty exhausting towards the end of the four days.  

I think that’s all the tips I’ve got for now but feel free to contact me (hcre398@aucklanduni.ac.nz) if you’ve got any specific questions and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.

Until next time, 

Go Bears!

Tom: Conclusion of Exchange

The 20th of December marked my date of freedom, succeeding the most enjoyable semester and a few weeks of stressing for exams. In this post, I will let you know what I did that made my experience abroad so spectacular for me.

Leaving home was scary. I had never taken an international flight alone and everything seemed so uncertain – anything seemed to have potential to go wrong. Fortunately, my arrival into Canada went as smoothly as I could have ever imagined, with a negligible line through customs and friendly security. Getting to Montreal and to my hall of residence went equally well.

Recommendation 1: Do all the admin WELL BEFORE departure.

The reason everything went to plan is because I had everything organized months before. All courses had been approved, I had my ESTA and ETA, McGill had accepted me, and I was already in email correspondence with professors and the faculty well before I needed to be.

I decided to do Outdoor Frosh (a themed O-Week & trip for new students) to meet new like-minded people at McGill and experience a National Park of Canada that I might otherwise not have gotten the chance to. It is one of the best choices I made, resulting in my introduction to some AWESOME locals and exchange students who I traveled and met up with throughout my exchange semester. 

Recommendation 2: If you can do it, DO IT!

I understand there are many barriers that may prevent you (e.g. financial, physical, mental), but if you get the chance to go on a trip/do something potentially amazing, PLEASE don’t turn it down. Go out and meet new people, experience new things, and enjoy yourselves. The McGill Outdoors Club provided the perfect platform to do this, with frequent trips to nearby cities and provinces as well as physical activities such as rock-climbing, canoeing, hiking, etc. Their email list allowed anyone to propose a trip to do with others.

As I was on a semester abroad, I wanted to make the most of being overseas which meant travelling and not overworking myself. The fact that courses are pass/fail whilst on exchange really helped put my mind at ease and enjoy myself more (this is not an excuse to completely slack off though!). Additionally, I tried to take courses and a workload that would be less stressful – I took four courses instead of five, with one being general education. As a result, my exchange was the best semester I’ve ever had.

And so here I am, at the end of my 4-month exchange semester, with $300 to my name and a flight booked for the 31st of January from Los Angeles – over a month away. Time to call mum…

Recommendation 3: Budget.

I am incredibly fortunate to have parents back home who are willing, and financially able, to support me. Although I had saved up what I thought to be a significant amount after working part-time for 3 years plus 10 weeks full-time over the summer, I greatly underestimated the cost of living abroad and travelling. Try to know how much visas, flights, accommodation, food, etc. are likely to cost and over budget for everything. All included, travelling the United States (on what I would consider quite a low budget) costs roughly $100 NZD EVERY DAY if you want to do some touristy activities and enjoy yourself… 

To conclude, travelling and experiencing cultures abroad is 100% worth it. If you get the opportunity, make the most of it.