Reflections – Tate

This post comes to you from a bedroom in Kingsand, Cornwall, which is my new set-up for the next little while. I am here, and not tucked up back home in between semesters, post-Mediterranean holiday, because of the university I’ve been writing about for the past few months: Trinity—and the fact I’m in the process of extending my time abroad so that I can spend more time studying there.

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My feelings towards my time in Dublin are overwhelmingly positive. It’s probably easiest explained in the spiel I’ve found myself giving any time someone asks me about being there: “Everything I’m learning about feels so immediate, because so many of the writers I’m studying have come through Trinity, or lived in Dublin, or been so close geographically that it’s far more accessible and real than it’s possible for them to be in New Zealand. The history—buildings hundreds of years older than even the first glint of any Treaty on New Zealand soil—is right there. Oscar Wilde’s houses, and Yeats’s; sites of risings and revolution now right on my doorstep. The city never feels intimidating, as some can, and once you’ve got your bearings you’ll find yourself devising shortcuts and favourite routes and you’ll be engaging in a light College Green jaywalk ahead of the LUAS with the best of them.”

Okay, so maybe I don’t wax quite that poetic when I’m describing my experience, but I’d say I get pretty close to it. And they’re truths.

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Don’t get me wrong, there are absolute, complete stressors: administration and enrolment at Trinity is entirely different from Auckland; immigration appointments can provide long wait times and make every single person involved anxious; if you walk two streets off your normal route you can be lost in the depths of suburbia—but these are difficulties you’d find anywhere, in some form or another. They pass, and you can get down to the business of enjoying your experience. (That said: homesickness hits the best of us, though it can be helped through social media. The time difference for me ranged from 11 hours to 13, but I managed. Wrecked my best mate’s sleep schedule, and mine, but it can be dealt with!)

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I’ve found that what I got out of the experience massively outweighed the anxiety I felt at times (story of my life, really). Dublin is a great place to move if you want an international experience that is truly independent, but also not vastly different from home. The sense of humour is the same, and the same rugby games get broadcast in the pub. (I was the sober friend on a Literary Pub Crawl and almost gave up on the rest of the night because I spotted the ’Saders—y’know, the usual.)

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I built a nice little routine for myself in Dublin: trips to Lidl and the ways to walk; cinemas I’d go to on occasion and which shops to avoid at which times because they’d be manic. I made friends from around the world (though unfortunately none from Ireland—a downside of international accommodation). I had an absolutely brilliant time, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Ta ta,

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Reflections – Lauren

Well here it is, my final blog post. It is crazy to think that my exchange in Mexico is now over and I’ll soon be back walking along Symonds Street, drinking coffee at Strata and sitting in lectures theaters at the City campus.

This probably sounds soppy, but going on exchange was really the best thing I have done in my life. I have learnt so much about myself and gained an understanding of Mexican culture that would not be possible otherwise.

To conclude, I thought I would share some of my highlights from the exchange.

 

Spanish

Learning Spanish has been an absolute highlight. Before going to Mexico, I have very basic to nothing Spanish. I decided to take a Spanish paper which counted as a General Education course at Auckland, which meant I had 6 hours of Spanish classes every week. This really helped improve my grammar which I could incorporate into my conversations. At Tecnologico de Monterrey, the students require a certain standard of English to enter. Therefore, being among international students and local students, you can get by just speaking English. I know many international students who came and left Mexico with nothing more than ‘Hola’. However, outside of the Tec campus, it is actually rare to find locals (particularly the older generation) speaking more Spanish than just ‘Hello Guerra’ (Hello foreigner) or ‘special price for you’. Making an effort to speak Spanish whenever I could, with other International students and locals, meant I could improve my communication skills and it also enabled me to learn more about Mexican culture. From chatting to whoever I sat next to on the public bus to the checkout operators at the supermarket and making connections with local students, I managed to practice my Spanish daily and engage in conversation to learn about other people. I found that even if I didn’t speak perfectly, trying to speak their language was appreciated.

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Speaking Spanish allowed me to get to know my local friends and their families better. Chivas football match with Dario and Tammy
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Typical Mexican breakfast with Aldo and Aranza

Salsa

I participated in a twice-weekly, 830am Salsa class. Because of the early start, we were a small class and I was the only international student (compared to the very large, international student filled, 1pm class). I had never danced Salsa before and was eager to give it a go. This class was challenging but also very rewarding. I loved interacting with the local students, learning a new skills and all carried out with lots of laughs and fun. Furthermore, the semester concluded with a presentation of all the dance class offered (from K-pop, to Ballet, to High-Tec). I was actually quite nervous to take part in the presentation, but I thought it was an opportunity and something I would never do at home. It was a lot of fun and I was also so impressed by the rest of the concert, definitely a highlight from my time at Tec.

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After the final show with my salsa class and teacher on my right

Meeting new people

Being the only University of Auckland student to study at the Guadalajara campus, meant I literally knew no one. Because all new students are in in the same situation and Tec provides many opportunities for socialising, I found it very easy to meet new people. I lived with three gorgeous girls and meet many people in my classes and extra-curricular activities. Also, as I was travelling alone once the semester ended, I met some of the most kind-hearted and fun people. Traveling by yourself enables you to get to know some great people and spend time with them that you may not have if travelling with others. I am so grateful to all the people I met and spent time with during my exchange and travels, as they are the ones who make it the best.

I know I said it in my last blog post, but I really encourage everyone to consider studying abroad. Whatever interests you have and things you want to experience, there will be a country and host university for you.

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My final meal in Mexico (bean and mushroom nachos), will sure miss the food!

And finally, I would like to say a massive thank you to all my friends and family who encouraged me along this journey, the 360 Abroad team for providing me with the opportunity of a lifetime to study abroad, and Education New Zealand for the PMSLA support (could not have done it without you!). I leave with a very full and grateful heart.

Adios y mucho amor,

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Living in Chile – Caitlin

For this blog I wanted to speak a little about my experience living in a foreign country where I have had to learn a second language in order to operate and function on a daily level. I have touched on this topic briefly in several past blogs, however it has undoubtedly been such a central part of my exchange that I felt it deserved further extension!

When living or visiting Chile, foreigners quickly discover that everything here functions in Spanish on fundamental level. While English still of course exists here (I think you would struggle to find a country without some English component being as it is such a universal language), Chile is perhaps one of the countries in Latin America which has the least amount of daily spoken English. This means that although you will still see English writing on clothes labels, hear English songs and watch English movies, talking to people in daily life in all forms requires speaking Spanish. As you can imagine, having only ever grown up speaking English my whole life this was fairly overwhelming at times. Luckily I had studied enough Spanish previously in New Zealand that even if I couldn’t always understand what was being said to me, I could usually express myself enough to survive without too much stress.

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An example of the existence of English on a daily level – a mural in Valparaiso

Another point which has been collectively decided by Latin America is that the Chileans speak the most difficult form of Spanish possible. In fact, when talking to Latinos from other countries like Peru or Colombia they tell me “I can’t even understand the Chileans when they speak, so good luck to you”. Perhaps not the wisest decision to choose the hardest possible country in the world to learn Spanish but I feel it has been worth the challenge because, as they say, if you can understand Chilean Spanish you can understand Spanish from the all over the world.

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One of my favourite little Spanish quotes from Valparaiso which translates to “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Now nearing the end of my exchange, I can definitely say that learning and living in another language has been a worthwhile experience. While it has been incredibly tough at times, especially having to take classes and exams in Spanish with the Chilean students, the final outcome has been worth the trials. Coming into this exchange I expected some challenging moments, but what I hadn’t anticipated as much was the satisfying moments which came with finally progressing with the language. By all means I know I still have room for improvement, but it has also been a fun processing learning to develop a new skill like language.

Living as an exchange student has also given me a new perspective on language itself. I have met so many awesome people from around the world who speak such an array of languages, including Dutch, Finnish, German, French, Swedish and even Arabic. The fantastic thing about these people is the majority of them speak at least 3 languages if not more. While this makes me feel rather unaccomplished, having spent years just trying to learn one additional language to English, it has seriously opened my scope of the world and taught me so much about countries I never really knew beforehand. I have found it super inspiring and now have an even stronger desire for international travel!

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An 80s party with my German, Dutch and US/Arabic friends

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Campus Life – John

Living on campus was a whole new experience for me as I have never lived for this long outside home. At first, it was quite a depressing start as my room had no air conditioning to survive the humid weather and I knew of nobody to meet. (It does get quite depressing when it’s pouring with rain outside and your room looks like a colourless prison).

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Typical room of RVRC

It wasn’t long however before I got to start meeting new people, especially those on exchange as well from Korea. (I really can say there is a thing for Koreans to group wherever they go). Staying close with these people made my campus life a lot better as we ate and hung out almost every day. We also celebrated each other’s birthdays and made food together on public holidays as well for a good Korean food session.

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Celebrating one of our fam’s birthday (faces blurred for privacy)
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Making Korean food for ourselves on Chinese New Year
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UTown Residence (UTR) – one of the accommodation in UTown
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UTown – #NUS sign in front of ERC (Education Resource Centre)

I’ve introduced this place before in my second blog and it is called University Town (UTown for short). It is a small town-like area located on the northern part of the campus. It is in my opinion, the most modern area where all the good things are such as good food, air conditioned indoors, plenty of study spaces inside ERC (and a Starbucks that’s open for 24 hours). This place is where I stayed the most often during my stay at NUS.

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UTown Green

One time, we were chilling at UTown Green and met a few other students who were exchange students from Italy and the US who were singing with guitars. My friends and I asked to join in, and sang the whole night long. Something you would only imagine happening in movies came into reality on that day for me.

UTown is equipped with a few other of the on-campus accommodation including UTown residence, Tembusu college, Residential college 4, etc. Most of the people that I was close with during my exchange lived in UTown so it was a meet up place for us to study or chill together. If you happen to be allocated to one of the UTown colleges, here are some brief impressions of them from my point of view.

Cinnamon college – If you’re into board games, its lounge on the ground floor has a lot of them so give it a try. On an additional note, apparently this college is where the smarties are so it’s noise level is quite low compared to other ones.

UTown Residence – It has a pretty big lounge on the ground floor that is relatively accessible to non-residents as well unlike other on-campus lounges of UTown.

Residential college 4 – This college is the furthest one on the other end of UTown and its quite a pain walking to the UTown bus stop.

College of Alice and Peter Tan – I don’t know much about this college and I hope its name has no pun intended.

Tembusu college – From my impressions, this college seems to have the most social events.

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Ridge view residential college (RVRC)

To be honest, these two places are the main places that I went to on campus excluding lecture halls or tutorial rooms. RVRC is where I stayed during my time in NUS. Five of the friends from our group including me lived in this part of the campus and meaningful time was also spent with them. I recall how when one of us wanted to eat something, we would always go and cook our midnight noodles. Overnight talks with these lovely people made unforgettable memories during my stay.

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Korean spicy noodles a.k.a. shin ramen

My most favourite thing about living on campus is that you get to live within walking distances with your friends. The good thing about meeting other exchange students is that they are quite open to making new friends and trying new things. Also, quite a lot of local Singaporean students stay on-campus so try making friends with these nice guys too because they are such a lovely bunch of people. Luckily for me, I got to meet people who were very keen on travelling to nearby South-Eastern countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Indonesia and so many more. The location of Singapore is perfect for travelling around as it is not pricey whereas from NZ, it would cost thousands. So, continuing from this blog in my next blog, where I get to talk about a topic of my choice, I’d like to talk about my experience in travelling to countries around Singapore! (Because to be fully honest, I feel that I have lived about half of my exchange life out of campus.)

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Places to Visit in South Korea – Lucy

One of the biggest reasons I chose to go on exchange was because I wanted to travel. Growing up in New Zealand, I never had a good chance to travel around South Korea – my home country – very much. Since I had four months to stay and study here this time, I wanted to make the most of this opportunity to travel a lot. Hence, throughout the semester, I travelled not only in Seoul but other parts of the country too. This is a list of my personal favourites: a top five pick of places to visit in South Korea!

#5 Herb Island
This place is not the usual recommendation you get from doing a similar google search, but I thought it was essential for us to get access to some green stuff. Although Yonsei is located in central Seoul, my accommodation during my stay was Ilsan, which is part of KyungKi-do. South Korea is a very developed country full of skyscrapers and heaps of people. A few weeks into the semester, I started missing the green clean New Zealand reserves, so I made frequent visits to a nearby reserve (which is very rare to find in Korea – and especially Seoul and KyungKi-do) called Herb Island. As suggested by the name, this reserve is full of herb trees, flowers and farm animals. I heard there are actually quite a few of these so-called herb islands out of Seoul. Some of them require you to pay for the entry ticket at the entrance, some places are free of charge. These reserves offer not only trees and fresh air, but also nice coffee and restaurants where you can enjoy a relaxing brunch! If you miss New Zealand during your stay, I recommend you to visit Herb Island.

#4 Itaewon
Itaewon is located in the very centre of Seoul and is well known for its diversity and youthful energy. I heard that the U.S. army headquarters is located somewhere near here and so there a lot of foreigners around. (Not only those who serve for the military of course!) Itaewon is a hub of multicultural spirit in the relatively uni-cultural South Korea. Even the restaurants and the retail stores portray diversity in that cuisines from all over the world can be tasted and you can get by without speaking a word of Korean 🙂

#3 GyeongBok-Gung
I made my first visit to GyeongBok-Gung on my first week in South Korea. GyeongBok-Gung is where the old kings and queens used to live so all the buildings are traditionally and beautifully built. It is really odd though, because the GyeongBok-Gung palace is the only traditional building in the area and the whole place is surrounded by skyscrapers and big roads. You can also see a lot of tourists walking around in “Hanbok”- the Korean traditional dress. There are a lot of “Hanbok” rentals around this area that offers Handbok rentals for a cheap price. GyeongBok-Gung is only a five to ten-minute walk to GwangHwamun where the big protest was held a few years back to impeach the ex-president Park. There are usually are lot of events or activities going on in this area. There is almost like a festival theme for every week you come. Last time I went, there was a little temporary telephone booth, which instead of having a telephone, had a memo pad and pens for people to write letters instead of calling their friends and family. This analogue thing is a growing trend in South Korea. Ironically, now that we have technology and convenienve, people are wanting to turn back time to the old days.

#2 Nam-de-moon and Dong-de-moon shopping centre
South Korea is really famous for its shopping culture. It is an absolute must for tourists to visit famous fashion hubs like Myung-Dong, Hong-Dae, Dong-de-moon and more. But if you’re a serious shopper looking for some quality things for a cheap price – I recommend Nam-de-moon and Dong-De-moon. Both places are located in central Seoul – so it is very easy to get there by public transport. The two places are a little different though in that Nam-de-moon is famous for its varied product lines – you can get anything in Nam-de-moon, literally anything. Whereas, Dong-de-moon concentrates more on fashion and accessories. You have to bring cash with you to make good deals, but it is also important to be careful of pickpockets! (South Korea is usually free of pickpockets but Nam-de-moon and Dong-de-moon are obvious targets because everybody carries around cash!) The shops are almost like little booths and things are literally stacked to minimize space.

#1 Jeon-Ra Do
My number one pick would definitely be Jeon-Ra Do. First reason being is this was my very first visit to Jeon-Ra Do (It takes 4 to 5 hours to get to Jeon-Ra do from Seoul). Second reason being is probably because of the food and people! Jeon-Ra Do is very famous for its food! Food is relatively cheap, the portions are bigger and the taste is better! I made a one night two day stay in Jeon-Ra Do, so I had some time to look around some historical landmarks of the place too. I visited Jeon-Dong Catholic church, which is the very first church built in Jeon-Ju City and the Korean traditional buildings (Han-ok) Village. I also visited Gwang-ju public memorial to commemorate those who died during the 5.18 Gwang-ju Uprising.

These are my top five picks for places to visit in South Korea. I still have exams going on at the moment and I have been quite busy with school stuff and study for the last few weeks. So I am planning to make the most of my time after my exams to do more travelling around South Korea.

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Quirks of Great Britain – Atharva

In my six months of living in a small city on this little island, I’ve learnt a thing or two about its people, places and culture. So, here’s a mish-mash of quirks and some differences that I have noticed between the UK and New Zealand.

The people:
The Brits are a mighty tea-loving people who never stop complaining about the weather or the state of the government (Brexit is still fresh in memory). Some things that distract them from this moaning include a Royal Wedding (I must confess, I watched it live instead of studying for an exam) and a summer’s day where the temperature just enters the twenties and everybody has a sudden urge to sunbathe. When someone asks you “You alright?” or “You ok?” it doesn’t mean you look funny or have just tripped over and fallen. They want to know how you are. If you have the sniffles or a cough, you’re not just “sick” but rather “ill” or “feeling poorly”. Brits also come in different accents ranging from the industrial Northern, the sing-songy Welsh, to the BBC News refined accent and others that I still need subtitles for. Nonetheless, they are one of the most hardy bunch of folk I have ever met.

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Buckingham Palace and Victoria Memorial. Union Jack on the mast means Old Lizzie wasn’t home.

The places:
The British Empire gave us Imperial Units then went “Wait, this Metric thing is catching up, huh?” and stuck to their precious imperial units. Distances on roads are measured in miles, so “London 120” on a motorway sign is in miles, not kilometres. You may also pass the odd “Speed bumps for the next 200 yards” sign. I still don’t know how long a yard is though. The place names here don’t always sound like they’re written. For example: Salisbury (Sawls-bree), Leicester (Les-ter) and Worcestershire (Wus-ter-sher). Staying on the theme of place names, small towns can often be boring so locals come up with entertaining names for where they live. My two favourites being North Piddle and Petersfinger. Furthermore, I think every small town follows a very similar format. If I was to make a starter pack I’d definitely include a small river, one main cobbled street with a marketplace or square and of course a church that’s at least 300 years old. Bonus points for original Tudor houses and a working mill.

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Greenwich: Probably the only place where they show you how long a yard is.

The culture:
As culture varies with geographical region and age, I can best comment on urban youth culture. It’s not too different from Kiwi youth culture with an emphasis on socialising and the odd night out. I do think young Brits have better fashions sense and a greater availability of trendy clothes as major European brands and “fashionable” countries such as France and Italy are not too far from Britain’s dull shores. Unfortunately for us, New Zealand doesn’t have much of an exposure to world class brands and their products, leaving us with a more limited choice. Media of course plays a huge role in youth culture and shows such as The Great British Bake Off and Love Island are greedily consumed by the British masses.

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Old and New: The Shard stands tall behind the walls of the Tower of London.

Overall, I’ve growth to appreciate the unique mannerisms of this little nation that once controlled a fifth of the world. It’s had its ups and downs in history for sure and I only wish it success and progress for the years to come, and during whatever uncertainty that lies ahead.

God save the Queen,

Adobe Spark

Campus Life – Caitlin

I feel like unpacking the lifestyle of a student at the Universidad de Chile cannot be done to full justice in just one blog. I find myself unsure of where to start, let alone how to describe everything I want to say in approximately 500 words. However, I will endeavour as best as I can to illustrate my experience as a Chilean student!

During my first few weeks, the university life seemed to be, on the surface level at least, relatively equal to UoA in the fundamental elements. My university campus has a definite left-wing alti vibe, the students attend classes, hang around campus with friends during break, everything is standard university procedure. However, when I say the students are alternative, I seriously mean it. I thought the UoA kids were pretty into the hippie, alti fashion but we are put to shame by the Chilean students. Over here it would definitely be uncommon if you didn’t have either multiple piercings or a multi coloured/shaved hairstyle which you rocked with pride. Also, and this is a point I’ll expand on later in the blog, the students are seriously left wing. There is an alive and buzzing feeling of activism and social movement in the campus which I simply have never felt in NZ on the same scale. The university walls are all painted with political propaganda and my university in particular is famous for frequent marches and protests in the street to campaign social change.

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The quad area where students will often hang out on a Friday after class

To say a little more about campus life, everything in general is a little more relaxed (in terms of following rules). Every Friday the students hang around campus to party together in the quad, with stalls selling everything from tequila shots to ‘magic’ cakes. Everyone smokes all throughout the entire day (tobacco and other substances). During the lunch break entrepreneurial students often bring their own handmade food items to sell in stalls, such as vegan burgers, sushi rolls etc.

But now onto the more serious topic of this blog – perhaps some of you may have seen videos on Facebook of the large feminist movement that has spread across all of Chile. The truth is that there has been an outrage building for years in Chile against the machismo and femicide occurring within the country and education establishments. The movement is in response to several unresolved harassment cases within the university faculties which female students have lodged against professors. What started as a protest has turned into a full on strike, with university classes postponed indefinitely and in some cases with the campuses barricaded.

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An example of an area of my campus which has been barricaded with tables and desks. The banner reads ‘Sister, I believe you’.

Therefore, I am now in my fourth week without class, with no clue if my classes will even start again before my exchange is finished. The teachers have had to meet with all the exchange students to talk about how we can finish our courses via individual tests in order to gain the credits. When I visited my campus to talk to a professor I saw that access to my faculty’s building had been blocked by overturned tables and chairs and even more propaganda had been added to the walls, now showing feminist words and sexual abuse testimonies.

I hope I have made clear what I meant when I said there is a tangible atmosphere of social activism which simply doesn’t exist in New Zealand. I could never imagine a protest of this level taking place in an Auckland university, complete with marches of thousands of people taking place on the main street of Santiago every week. Therefore, although the unpredictable university life here has at times has left me at times slightly perplexed, it has been a special experience to see university students like myself band together to try and produce a social change for the better.

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More political propaganda at my campus. The words roughly translate to ‘Everything contrary to oppression resides in action’.

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