Elizabeth’s Guide To Britain

Elizabeth’s Completely Biased Guide to the Best Cities to Visit in Britain

In the five months or so I’ve spent in England, I’ve done my fair share of travelling around Britain. There’s not a place I didn’t enjoy going, but there are definitely cities I preferred over others. So if you ever find yourself in not-so-sunny Britain, I’ve compiled an extremely biased guide to the best places to visit and the best things to do there!

  1. Sheffield, England

Best things to do: Cathedral was lovely, if you’re an Arctic Monkeys fan (like my flatmate, hence the reason for our trip) there’s the pub they played their first gig, the town hall is pretty to look at, and the Winter Garden is great!

Why it’s number 14: it was perfect for a day trip, but there was nothing stand-out that we did while we were there, not helped by the grey weather that plagued us the whole day, it doesn’t have buildings as pretty as cities like York and fewer cute little shops to walk around

  1. Liverpool, England

Best things to do: World Museum (incl. a little aquarium and an exhibit on Māori in New Zealand!), walking around the Albert Dock and the lock gates, and the Beatles Museum (I actually didn’t go but obviously if you’re a big Beatles fan you should go!), I also loved walking by the ocean – for the first time since I’d arrived in England ocean (even in the hail that started while I was walking)!

Why it’s number 13: a rainy day puts a dampener even in the best of cities and it certainly did with Liverpool, while I really enjoyed the museum, I’m not a huge Beatles fan and most of the tourist stuff seemed to be geared towards that. I’m also pretty sure I was the only tourist in Liverpool on the day I was there start of January. I was busy taking pictures of the beautiful old buildings by the train station and got odd stares from everyone who walked past me.

  1. Nottingham, England

After four months in Nottingham, I’ve got a lot of recommendations on what to do if ever stumble across it.

Best things to do: Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (oldest pub in England!), walking around the lake at the University (definitely the prettiest part of the city), Wollaton Park (where they filmed Wayne Manor for the Dark Knight Rises and I only visited for the first time two days before I left even though it’s only a 15-minute walk from my flat, it’s also got deer!), Greenhood Coffee in Beeston (purely because it’s my favourite café), Nottingham castle is perhaps the least exciting castle I’ve been to but if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill you might as well!

Why it’s number 12: Nottingham will always be my favourite city in the UK. But the reasons I love it (the university, the people I met, the good cafes and bars we found) don’t scream for others to visit. Number one in my heart, number 12 on this list.

  1. Manchester, England

 Best things to do: People’s History Museum – an absolute gem! Full of political history and an exhibit on the Suffrage movement (which was unfortunately closed when I went there), Old Trafford if you’re a Manchester United fan obviously (but I didn’t go so I can’t tell you how good it was)

To be honest that was about the extent of my ‘things I did’ in Manchester despite going multiple times throughout my exchange. I’ve got family who live just outside of Manchester so I made lots of day drips into the city when I went to visit them in Oldham. But because I was with them I didn’t do a lot of sightseeing or touristy things (mostly just ate, drank, and was merry). I also don’t have any pictures at all of Manchester which is absolutely terrible!

 Why it’s number 11: first and foremost, Manchester is a big city, with lots of great shopping and incredible food, but I didn’t find there to be much great sights to see or tourist things to do (although there were several museums that I didn’t manage to get to that I’d go and see if I went back) – hit me up if you ever want food recs though!

  1. Lake District, England

Best things to do: going on walks and enjoying the views

Why it’s number 10: possibly the most surprising thing about moving out of New Zealand was how much NZ has ruined me for other countries. I take the beautiful landscapes for granted, when travelling around and going to places like the Lake District (and to some extent also Snowdonia and the Isle of Skye – both higher up on this list) I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen things just as beautiful (if not more so) in New Zealand, also the weather was not great which didn’t help matters at all. It was still absolutely beautiful though and I’d recommend a visit if you like nature!

  1. Glasgow, Scotland

Best things to do: god bless Glasgow: home of the best McDonalds of my life! (10/10 recommend McChicken Combo at the Argyle Street branch), visit the University (apparently wasn’t in Harry Potter, but it sure looks like it – it’s stunning!), The Stand Comedy Club (absolutely hilarious show that we saw and its reputation indicates it’s probably always this good), Gallery of Modern Art, apparently there’s another Art Museum as well which my friends went to before I arrived and adored, walking in Kelvingrove Park

 Why it’s number 9: looking back on the city there wasn’t a huge amount that stood out, I just really liked the vibe of Glasgow (and Scotland in general!), apparently the nightlife is incredible but we got unlucky and chose a rubbish club (this is one of the problems of going out while travelling)

  1. York, England

Best things to do: the Little Shambles market area (cute little cobbled streets and boutique shops), a walk around the city wall, York’s Chocolate Story (chocolate tour!!), lunch and a pint at any one of the cute pubs dotted around the city, York Minster (I didn’t have time to go inside because I was on the chocolate tour instead but my flatmate went and loved it!)

 Why it’s number 8: I thought York was adorable, the Old Town where we spent the day was what I’d always imagined an archetypal British town to look like: brick buildings, cobbled streets, grey skies, etc. It was also the city in the UK where all the chocolate families lived (not like Willy Wonka but ones like Terry’s and Rowntree) and there’s not much better on a town that prides itself on chocolate. There’s not tons to do there, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as more than a day trip, but the day we did have was super fun!

  1. Durham, England

Best things to do: Durham castle is really pretty and the tour is super informative and only £4 for students, Durham Cathedral is beautiful and where they filmed some of the scenes from Harry Potter (Snape walking down a corridor, Ron vomiting up slugs), and it has really cute little streets to walk around.

 Why it’s number 7: I was absolutely charmed by Durham! Really similar to York in the cobbled streets, old town England kind of vibe. The reason it beats York is because I loved the tour of the castle so much and the cathedral was really cool too! The only thing I don’t recommend is taking the 7pm train home on a Saturday night – it will be full of English people drinking, which is not very conducive when you’re trying to get your head around international child relocation law.

  1. Isle of Skye, Scotland

Best things to do: I can’t remember the exact spots but just driving around and taking in the stunning scenery that the North of Scotland has to offer! My friends and I went on a tour because public transport doesn’t really work up there, but I’d recommend taking a car if you have one/want to hire one – it would make everything so much easier.

Why it’s number 6: even though I just talked about how NZ has spoiled me for a lot of the nature the rest of the world has to offer, the Isle of Skye really was stunning. Just lots of really beautiful scenery meant that it had to be high up the list.

  1. Conwy and Snowdonia, Wales

 Best things to do: Conwy castle (the only thing we did besides eat lunch in Conwy but it’s awesome!) and a walk up Snowdonia

Why it’s number 5: I’ll be the first to admit that nature and I do not have the best track record, but goddamn it was worth my eternal suffering to see Snowdonia. It was an absolutely stunning mountain and we hiked to and up part of it on an absolutely stunning day at the end of March. Good weather + fantastic scenery = A+. Conwy castle was awesome too! It’s mostly ruins and not in use, but a fun stop on the way to Snowdonia.

  1. St Andrew’s, Scotland

Best things to do: walk around the University, visit the ruins of the Cathedral, St Andrew’s Pier, the café where Will and Kate had their first date!

 Why it’s number 4: I adored St Andrew’s! We went on New Year’s Eve during the day and my friend’s friend who lives there acted as a tour guide taking us around the best spots and telling us all about St Andrew’s Traditions. It was incredible because the town was nearly empty (all the students were away for the holidays) and having someone who knew where all the good spots were was amazing. I’m also in love with the Royals and so seeing all the spots Will and Kate were supposed to have hung out was definitely a highlight (the café they had their first date Northpoint also has really good food and a beyond incredible Malteasers hot chocolate)

  1. London, England

Best things to do: go to a West End show (Les Mis was the best musical I have ever seen in my life), British Museum (I only managed to do a quarter of it on my first visit and never made it back because there is so much to do in London!!), Tate Modern, Tower of London, Hyde Park – esp. Winter Wonderland if you’re there over Christmas!, the Harry Potter Studio Tour (although it’s a bit outside London), brunch anywhere in Soho (recommendation: The Breakfast Club – they have four branches around London), brunch in Notting Hill (recommendation: Farm Girl) Camden Markets, Portobello Road markets, Houses of Parliament tour if you’re into politics (I adored it), Buckingham Palace – I realise pretty much all of these are the standard tourist things to do in London but I loved them all (and London is so big that four visits still wasn’t enough to get through even the touristy stuff!)

Why it’s number 3: London has been my number 1 ‘To Visit’ holiday destination for as long as I can remember, and it did not disappoint. I went there four times in the five months I spent in the UK and each time there were more new and exciting things to discover. To be honest the only reason it’s not higher up on my list is because I expected London to be amazing – and it was, but I feel like my top two destinations stood out more to me because I didn’t have all these incredible expectations going in.

  1. Brighton, England

Best things to do: brunch anywhere (recommendation: New Club and Bill’s), do a day trip to the Seven Sisters and the surrounding area to go for a fantastic walk, relaxing on the beach, eating the best doughnuts of your life at Brighton Pier, Brighton Pier in general (although not the Haunted Mansion ride – the biggest waste of £4), the Royal Pavilion, wandering around the shops in the lanes

Why it’s number 2: Brighton stole my heart from the moment we checked into our amazing hostel and it has kept it ever since, there was nothing I didn’t like about this city and if a job popped up I would move there in a heartbeat. It had a relaxed and slightly hipster vibe about it that reminded me a bit of Wellington and I adored it. There was something incredibly relaxing about wandering around boutique shops all day, eating fantastic food, and then sitting on the beach enjoying the sun. (Controversial opinion: I loved the pebble beach – it would suck for swimming but is so much easier to sit on because you don’t sand everywhere)

  1. Edinburgh, Scotland

Best things to do:

 HOGMANAY! If you’re in Europe for New Year’s you can’t get better than Edinburgh’s annual Hogmanay Festival – complete with torchlight procession (one of my top exchange moments) ending in a spectacular firework’s display, massive street party to bring in the new year, displays of various Scottish arts (from dance to poetry to music), and finishing it all off with a traditional Scottish ceilidh on New Year’s Day in the stunning National Museum of Scotland. I cannot recommend this experience enough.

Mum’s Great Comfort Food – my favourite restaurant in Edinburgh, I have been for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Try their deluxe hot chocolates (as featured in my previous post) they’re incredible! Plus you can get traditional bangers and mash but you get to choose the flavour of your sausages and the flavour of your mash! So beautiful.

The Stand Comedy Club – there are no words to describe my love for stand-up comedy and Edinburgh is one of the best locations to do it. I wish I was there for the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival but if you’re like me and can’t make it up then (or afford it – I imagine accommodation is insane around this time) then The Stand is your next best place. I think they have comedy of some sort most nights and (as far as I’m aware) it’s always brilliant! I went twice – once for a standard Saturday night gig with more experienced comedians, and then once on a Monday for their £3 newcomers’ night. They were both hilarious shows and I would go every week if I lived close.

Enjoying a drink under Edinburgh Castle – while I found the castle itself overpriced for what it was, one of my fondest memories of Edinburgh is cracking open a couple of ciders with my friends on the lawn in front of the castle on the one sunny afternoon I got in the eight days I was in the Scottish capital

Walking up Arthur’s Seat – Edinburgh’s hill stop has great views of the city and while it’s not an easy walk up, it’s definitely do-able in converse so it’s not like a proper hike or anything if you’re like me and fitness isn’t necessarily your strong suit.

Calton Hill – I like the views from here better than Arthur’s seat. It’s closer to the city so you see more of the buildings in detail. Plus it’s a cruisy ten minute walk from the bottom.

Edinburgh Christmas Markets – if you’re there over Christmas it’s lovely! Not much else to report other than I love Christmas so Christmas markets make me ridiculously happy.

Why it’s number 1: Edinburgh is competing with Melbourne, Barcelona, and Portland for my favourite city I’ve ever been to. Steeped in history, incredible vibe, lovely people, so much to do. I can’t recommend it enough. I went twice – in winter and spring (although it was still cold), and even though I’m a complete sun baby, I still thought it was the bees’ knees. I don’t quite know how to describe why I love Edinburgh so much, I just do. If there’s one city I recommend you go to while you’re in the UK, this one is it!

Also would 10/10 recommend going here on exchange itself if you can! We don’t have the option for law but my friend went for commerce and science and loved it. Even though Nottingham is incredible, I’m still sad I never got the option to go to Edinburgh!

It’s a wrap

Going through this post again and adding in all my pictures has just made me miss Britain even more. I can’t recommend it or the cities I’ve talked about enough! I hope this has helped you all find inspiration of the places to visit if you ever make it over to the Queen’s country. You definitely won’t regret it. Also if anyone in Edinburgh or Brighton is reading this and looking to hire a graduate law/politics/history student – I’m your girl!

Hope everyone’s exams went well!

Elizabeth

Emily: Travel

Hey everyone! Emily here checking in! What a crazy last 7 months it has been…

I’m not even really sure where to start, but I thought I would try outline some of the wild travel adventures I’ve had for you all.

Simply being in Europe opens you up to a world of travel. You can catch a flight to Barcelona for 19 euros! On exchange I was lucky enough to meet people from all over the world. For the past 2 months I have had time off uni to go and visit these new friends in their hometowns, as well as a bunch of other places.

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In the past 8 weeks I’ve travelled to Ibiza, where I bumped into Ellie Goulding at an Amnesia opening party, Barcelona to marvel at Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces, Manchester to visit a friend and party at Parklife Festival, Nice for some French Riviera exploring and croissant consuming, Frankfurt to stay with my pal to discover castles older than New Zealand, Denmark for 8 days of freedom at Roskilde Festival, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London to catch up with some mates and attend Wireless Festival, Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento to indulge in Italian culture and a multitude of pizza, Croatia for Ultra Europe Festival, Hvar island and finally Sutivan, a town on the coast of the island of Brač where I am currently writing this blog post.

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It has been an extremely full on 2 months with A LOT of stories to tell when I return to NZ. I have had the time of my life these past 7 months and could not recommend an exchange program enough to anyone who is interested! Lund, Sweden was a great university where I met so many exchange students from all over as well as Swedish people, as it is a popular destination for other exchange students. Lund is so close to Copenhagen that it enabled me to fly to a new city every few weekends thanks to cheap flights! It’s a European hub for travel with lots of budget airlines flying through there. Sweden was the best choice for me and I loved every second of it. I got a taste of everything in Sweden, from extreme snow storms in January winter time to sunny celebrations in the park for Valborg (a spring event). Valborg is a tradition where all the students of Lund university head to the main park for the day and enjoy music and drinks in the sunshine to welcome in the spring. It is a huge event consisting of about 30,000 students! It was one of the best weekends in Lund as we were able to hang out with all of our friends in one place as well as meeting a wave of new people!

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I will miss all the special people I met on my exchange so, so much. Luckily, the internet makes them feel a little less far away. I will be sure to go back for another visit once I have saved a few more pennies in my bank account! Coming from New Zealand is a huge honour when you are overseas, as most people have such positive connotations with our country and how beautiful it is and always express their desires to go there. I have already offered to host anyone who is interested in visiting and I have some friends coming over from Germany and Scotland during the summer to visit. I have definitely caught the travel bug after these 7 months away and I am sad it is all coming to an end, but I know I will be back in the near future!

As one of my Scottish friends told me, “you may be poor in money, but you will be rich in experiences.” – Kirsten McIntosh.

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Zofia: Travel

So now, to take a proper look at one of the major reasons I (and many people) wanted to come on exchange: travelling.

I had a lot of opportunity to travel around the UK and Europe both during and after my exchange. Because I did the January to May semester at Edinburgh, I ended the exchange at the beginning of the Northern Hemisphere summer, and then had until Auckland restarted in July to explore. That being said, we also had some short mid-term and “study” breaks that us exchange students used to our advantage.

Waitangi Day London

The first bit of travelling I did was down to London for Waitangi Day. I went with two other Kiwis, and there’s a huge pub crawl organised by Kiwis in London, so we got to meet a tonne of nice people with very familiar accents.

The second mini break I took was with some exchange students during a week we had off lectures in February. We went to Brussels and Amsterdam for two nights each. We loved just wandering (and biking) around the cities, enjoying classic food like the Belgian waffles.

Amsterdam

During the Easter break, five of us decided to go on a roadtrip around Scotland. We travelled all the way up north into the highlands, visiting some friends who lived in one of the tiny highland towns. We also saw the Isle of Skye, and about ninety-four castles. Scotland is truly beautiful.

And then, quicker than I actually would have liked, my semester was over. I started off my summer with a Topdeck tour. This is a bus tour aimed at young people, where they drive you around continental Europe and you spend one or two nights in each place. It was super full on, but an incredible time. Topdeck isn’t quite as infamous as Contiki for its partying, which to be honest probably worked in its favour. I joined a two-week tour, and went from Rome, to Venice, Pag Island (Croatia), Ljubljana (Slovenia), the Austrian Alps, Prague and ended in Berlin. I had the most fantastic time, and couldn’t recommend it enough – it’s like a tasting board of Europe, so you can decide where to come back to. Fair warning, you will be absolutely exhausted by the end of it, and possibly never want to see a hostel shower again.

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After Topdeck I met up with a friend from exchange and we did two weeks travelling around Spain and Portugal. I’d never been to Portugal before and it honestly blew me away. We had a few beach destinations (Palma de Mallorca, Malaga and Lagos) as well as some bigger cities (Seville, Lisbon and Porto). When we arrived in Porto we realised that we happened to be there for the weekend of the Festa de São João do Porto – a street festival for the patron saint of Porto. Everyone is out on the streets the whole day, cooking sardines and banging people on the head with plastic hammers (it’s meant to be a sign of affection). It was an amazing coincidence that we were there for it but if you get the chance, definitely go! It was one of the most fun days of my trip.

After Spain and Portugal, my parents and sister flew over from NZ and I met them in London. We did a two-week roadtrip around the UK, driving from Cambridge all the way up to Edinburgh and back down the other side.  It was atrocious weather, but England and Scotland are often overlooked when people choose to travel to Europe. I was glad to get the opportunity to have a look around because the UK actually has some awesome history and buildings that reflect that. That being said, I could have traded the 9-degree temperature and sheets of rain for the sun I’d been getting in Spain.

So at this point my time in Europe was nearly over, but I managed to squeeze in one more weekend in London (for the Wireless festival) and a couple of days in Paris, which was beautiful.

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Even though I’ve gone into great self-congratulatory detail on my travels, it’s also true that no matter where you go in Europe you’re going to find something amazing. Different people enjoy different things and different styles of traveling, so find someone who matches you and head off!

Ciao!

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Elizabeth: Last Post!

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out the best words to describe the exchange experience and how much it meant to me. I’ve decided there are no words that do it justice. My best advice if you want to know what it’s like is to just do it yourself – it’s the only way I can express how incredible it was to you. A bit rubbish for someone who is supposed to be telling you about how she felt about her exchange – I promise I tried really hard!

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Kayaking on Lake Brienz in Switzerland – if I had to choose, possibly my favourite place I visited

Explaining how incredible all the travel was is easy – I went to 18 countries in just over seven months and utterly adored it all. Experiencing new cultures, trying incredible new foods (French pastries and crepes are just as good clichés would have you believe – you honestly haven’t lived until you’ve gorged yourself on them for a week straight), and living it up in the sun/snow/depressingly grey overcast (or whatever weather Europe wanted to throw at me) created some of the best moments of my life. There’s just nothing like it. Watching a jaw-dropping sunset in Santorini (which I was doing almost exactly a month ago) definitely beats sitting in the law library doing an assignment on torture (which is what I’m supposed to be doing right now). It’s not really hard to convince anyone of that!

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Being on exchange is more than the travel though. It’s a great excuse to go and see awe-inspiring places that you’ve been lusting over on instagram for years, but most of the memories I truly cherish are the ones with the friends I made in Nottingham; the late night conversations in our cramped flat corridor, the walks around the uni lake on a beautiful day or if I was feeling stressed, laughing at the strange things English people do, taking the piss out of each other’s accents and home-country habits (my friends mocking how I said ‘Tesco’ will forever be burned into my mind). A semester abroad gives you the opportunity to set up a whole new life for yourself in a foreign country with no one else from home around it. It sounds (and is!) terrifying but it’s also extremely freeing. It’s setting up a little life for yourself in addition to your one in New Zealand.

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My flat, slowly leaving Nottingham one by one – saying goodbye to exchange friends was definitely the saddest thing about coming back to NZ

The exchange experience in general just heightens every emotion you have in the best way possible. I expected to have fun travelling, I expected to make friends, I expected to enjoy Nottingham and all it had to offer. What I didn’t expect was how intense all these feelings and experiences were. Within a few weeks I had made friends that I felt as close to as some of my friends back home – something I never really expected but am so grateful for now. I didn’t expect Nottingham to feel like home after such a short time there. But that’s what it feels like to me now – in the same Wellington (where I’m from) and Auckland (where I’ve lived for over four years) will always feel like home to me, I think Nottingham will too. I put a lot of this down to the feeling like time was running out – knowing that you were leaving in a few months meant you found your friends and felt at home quickly because you had to so that you fully immersed yourself. I said yes to more things and put myself out there more than I ever would at home and am so thankful I did. While there were obviously low points in the seven months (like crying in an airport bathroom after an immigration officer yelled at me, getting lost for over an hour when it was -6 degrees outside twice, and getting called on in a class where I knew nothing), none of it took away from the fact I had a better time than I could have imagined. The whole exchange was a ‘best case scenario’ outcome.

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Neuschwanstein Castle, about two hours outside of Munich – the one the Disney castle is based on!

The only real advice I have for going on exchange is just telling you to do it! If you have the opportunity to do so I can’t imagine why would ever not take it up. If you’re nervous because you’ve never lived out of home before, you can always choose places close to NZ or to other family, or choose countries that are relatively similar to NZ to help with culture shock (Australia, UK, Canada, US, Ireland). If you’re worried about making friends, don’t! I don’t know a single person on exchange who didn’t make friends – and even if you didn’t, it’s still an incredible opportunity to study and travel overseas. If you don’t want to push your university out a semester, don’t worry about it! You can likely still graduate on time and even if you can’t, it’s 100% worth it.

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You have to go on exchange! Even it’s only so finally you can be the subject of snarky memes about people who studied abroad and/or summer holidayed in Europe.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my exchange experience. I hope you all get to experience it on your own someday, because I honestly can’t recommend it enough.

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Safe travels!
Elizabeth

 

 

 

Zofia: Last Post!

Since being back in New Zealand, I’ve been asked by everyone whether I enjoyed my exchange. The short answer is of course, yes, I loved it, I had such a great time, etc. In reality, this doesn’t even begin to cover it.

You’ve all heard the cliché, you know, “abroad changed me”. And at the beginning, my exchange student friends and I would mock others who’d said that on returning home, but it is genuinely true – you make these amazingly close friendships in a matter of months, you start considering a new country your home, and then suddenly you say goodbye to it all and are back to where you were six months ago. By far one of the weirdest and most difficult experiences of the whole exchange process is coming home.

Because to you, you feel like you’ve been away a lifetime. You’ve experienced all these new things and met new people that you’d now consider friends for life, and yet to everyone at home it doesn’t really feel like you’ve been gone that long. You have to try and get back into university (and proper studying, since these grades are actually reflected in your GPA), and living with new people (in my case, people I’ve never met before) and you feel stupid because you’re homesick for somewhere that was only your home for half a year. You’re juggling being ecstatic about seeing your old friends and family again, and desperately missing your ones from overseas.

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There’s a quote from Winnie the Pooh (or A. A. Milne, I suppose, if you’re being technical): ‘How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ This sums up exchange in a nutshell. You meet the most fantastic people and have the most fantastic time, but saying goodbye is probably the worst thing in the world. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, because I wouldn’t trade my time in Edinburgh for anything, even though it means a few tears and sad phone calls to friends you’re missing, and looking back at holiday pictures and feeling hopelessly nostalgic (and also bitterly cold because it’s winter here and that doesn’t seem fair).

You meet such an abundance and array of people on exchange. We were lucky in that we met a huge number of other exchange students as well as people from the UK that studied there full time. I’ve come back from exchange with friends on every continent; I already have plans to visit Melbourne in September and see friends I met who did the exchange from Melbourne Uni, and we already have chats about where in the world to meet up next (I’m trying to push New Zealand but there’s some complaints about the 30 hour travelling time).

Not only that, but you develop this insanely strong connection to the country you lived in. I have so much pride for Scotland and I’d probably back them in a rugby match now (at least, against the English). I’d be the first to insist that Scottish pounds are, in fact, legal tender (the bloody English try not to accept them), and my love for tattie scones runs deep in my veins. It means every time I hear a Scottish accent I’ll probably get overexcited and tell the poor soul about that time I lived in Edinburgh, but I can’t help but feel like I’m just a little bit Scottish now. There’s a lot that’s similar between New Zealand and Scotland, like place names (Dunedin is actually taken from the Gaelic for Edinburgh) and senses of humour, so maybe that’s why I took to the country so well. We’ve also got that same little brother complex with Australia that the Scots have with England, so you can gleefully join in when they start ranting about the union.

Basically, my reflection of the exchange is this: you’ll meet people and find places that make saying goodbye the hardest thing in the world. But that’s something you should appreciate, because it means you had the best time while it lasted. If you have the opportunity, please go on an exchange with Auckland 360 – it scares me when I think about how close I came to not going because the admin stuff seemed like a lot of work! It’s been an amazing six months and I hope everyone who has the opportunity to go, takes it.

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Emily: Last Post!

For the final blog post from my Swedish exchange, I would like to share some tips and advice to anyone thinking of heading on exchange. All I can say is that I had the time of my life travelling Europe for 8 months, met some incredible people that I know I’ll be friends with for life, and experienced a completely different education system overseas.

When I arrived in Sweden, the only real culture shock I experienced was the temperature. It was -10 degrees and the wind made it feel even colder! It was early January so Winter was upon us and so it is crucial you come prepared for this weather. Another shock was the language. I have studied German and French but the Swedish language is unlike anything I have ever seen before! However, everyone in Scandinavia speaks almost perfect English, so I did not find it that difficult to function in their country.

I loved heading to Sweden for an exchange and I wouldn’t call it a mainstream destination! Never in my life did I imagine myself living in a place like Sweden or even visiting Scandinavia. ‘Iceland’ and ‘The Norther Lights’ are sort of those far away magical places that you read about in books but never expect to witness and visit yourself. I feel extremely lucky and proud to say I have visited those places at 20 years old, and I will definitely be going back! The opportunities are endless when on exchange. I loved Lund for it’s fabulous town and location. A short 40 minute train ride to Copenhagen meant you could literally be in a new country in less than an hour. Copenhagen airport provided me with the chance to travel to so many new places, usually for less than $50 dollars! You can head to Barcelona for 19 euros for a weekend away! If you are at all interested in heading to Sweden I would encourage you to visit as the people are all so incredible there. They have a very modern, equal society when it comes to race, wealth, and gender. It is not uncommon to see men pushing prams down the street. Lund is a popular destination for exchange students all over the world, which meant that I got to meet people from all across Europe all the way to people from New Zealand and Australia! Leaving New Zealand really opens up your eyes to the vast amount of cultures and people in the world. You meet people with different humour and personalities to anyone I have ever met at home, you become more confident and gain an urge to continue to meet new people and travel! I cannot highlight enough how fantastic the past 8 months of my life have been, and I can’t wait to head back as soon as I can! Going on exchange is like gaining a second home and I will cherish my Sweden experience for the rest of my life, thank you Auckland Abroad for making this life changing experience happen – I am truly grateful for the opportunity to add the world to my degree.

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Courtney: Last Post!

So, I’ve been home for 3 weeks now, and the post-abroad depression has truly settled in. I’ve been annoying my flatmates non stop with my stories of my time abroad, and getting sad whenever I hear someone mention England in the slightest. Anyone that asks me about it gets a whole essay and a half – I cannot tell them all how much fun I had.

Studying abroad teaches you things you would have never learnt in a classroom and much more. While the actual studies were amazing, studying at a world class university such as King’s, there were other aspects of my time abroad that I never even knew I’d benefit from. As cheesy as it sounds, I definitely grew as a person over there. It forced me to overcome my shyness, and get on with things – there was no-one to hold your hand through each and everything. I learnt I could travel alone, and not feel awkward eating alone in a restaurant in Edinburgh (something I would never have done back home!) I’ve made lifelong friends with people from all corners of the globe, with such diverse, different backgrounds that I never knew if we’d ever have anything in common. I learnt so much about different cultures and countries through my many opportunities being able to travel across the continent.

So would I do it again? 100 times over. Despite all the times I got lost, didn’t know what I was doing and missed home, it was an experience I can truly say I wish everyone could have. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge, I have two words for you. DO IT. It is worth every cent, every hard moment missing home, every time you think you’d be better off at home. I cant recommend this experience enough – if you couldn’t already tell!

Now I’m busy planning how soon I’ll be financially able to return to the UK, after my final semester at university! If you have any final questions, feel free to hit me up! I wish the next lot of exchange students all the best for the next semester!

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 Travelling in Corfu, Greece
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Exploring the sights in Rome, Italy
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Saying goodbye to my home in London, Champion Hill

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Courtney: Academics

Ahhh, the ‘study’ part of study abroad. Let’s not forget what we’re all here for folks!

As much as I wanted to experience travel and living in another part of the world for 6 months, the study part was pretty important to me. King’s is a world renowned university, especially being well respected in the UK university system. If you’re interested in the rankings, etc of your university, definitely check King’s out!

Classes

If you thought UoA classes were relaxed, take a look at King’s. For each class we had a total of one hour of lectures a week, and one hours of tutorials. Yep, you read that right. There was very little contact time, which meant you need to be pretty disciplined to keep up on top of all your classes. It is great, however, if you are a study abroad student, as it gives you a great amount of time to see the city you’re living in and beyond! I ended up with only three days of classes a week, which meant for a great long weekend every weekend! It was great for those trips around the U.K., such as Brighton, Stonehenge and Bath! However, it was easy to get complacent and think if you miss a class, it’s only one hour, so how much can you really miss? Often, they’d give exam hints and coursework help, so can actually be quite helpful. In short – go to your classes. They’re only an hour – even if they are at 9am and you have to battle London rush hour to get there.

Classes were probably the most difficult thing for me in planning my whole exchange. I left my exchange till Semester 1 of my fourth year of my degree, so my paper options were quite limited, and most were specific papers required for my major. If you can – definitely go as early as possible, so that you have many options and don’t have to stress too much about stage 3 papers while your friends go to Ireland without you!

I’m doing a BCom/BA, majoring in Marketing, Management and Psychology. Tip: King’s does not let you take Psychology papers, no matter how much you beg the Study Abroad Office. So Psych majors, turn away now. King’s does offer work psychology based classes, which count towards my psych major, however can be quite business based, so I wouldn’t recommend them if you don’t have an interest in that sort of stuff. It worked for me and my Commerce degree, and I filled up the other slots with business papers. For anyone doing a Commerce degree, they are very specific on classes – they have to match pretty much exactly the equivalent at UoA. Luckily, they have a great amount of information of classes already approved, so you can always just go off of that list if you don’t want to trawl through the University’s website. Check out the Business Student Centre for more info!

The papers I did were the following:

5SSMN232: The Psychology of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Equivalent Psych 300 level)

5SSMN233: Work and Organisational Psychology (Equivalent Psych 300 level)

6SSMN361: Marketing Communications (Equivalent MKTG 306)

6SSMN336: Corporate Social Responsibility (Equivalent MGMT 309)

I found them all pretty interesting papers – although they are my majors so keep that in mind! If you want any specific information about how you found these papers let me know – although bear in mind King’s does change their course catalogue so they might not still be available for your semester!

Uni Life

One thing I learned about King’s, and London universities in general, is that they have a very diverse and international student population. There are a large number of European students attending, as prior to Brexit, I believe they pay the same (or similar) fees to UK students. Therefore, you’re likely to meet lots of people from all around the world! As you are only able to pick your classes from a specific list, chances are you’ll likely meet other study abroad students too. In one of my classes, an intro tutorial asked us where we were all from. Only one of those people were actually from the UK! While I have definitely met those hailing from the UK, I believe it is often most common for UK students to go to smaller, ‘university’ towns – much like Otago – rather than choosing something in a bigger city! It does depend on each and every person though.

 

One day was truly disappointing though. I had just finished class, and was waiting outside for a friend. She came out, and had told me she’d bumped into a friend who’d just seen Prince Harry – yeah, you read that right – giving a speech at King’s. We’d just missed it! Top tip – keep an eye out for speakers! I wish I had known, because that would have been an awesome opportunity!

Exams

I’ve just finished my exams as of a week ago, and let me tell you, their exams are no joke. The actual exams are pretty ok as far as exams go, but the actual exam process is pretty intense. You’re given a specific seat number, in a room that contains around 1300 desks – it can be pretty overwhelming. The exams aren’t even held at King’s – ours were held in the Kensington Olympia Convention centre, which I guess was how they managed to squeeze so many people into one room. You have different length exams in the same room, so it can get pretty distracting when they announce the end of one exam, and you’re still writing. Other than that, it was all pretty easy to understand and efficient – just make sure to go with plenty of time to find it!

As sad as I am that my time at King’s has come to an end, I’m pretty excited for the next 3 weeks before I return home, as I’m set to travel around Europe, enjoying the nice summer sun! I hope this gives you a little insight into how the university system/academics works here at King’s – and will likely be a little similar if you’re attending another UK university. I wish you all the best of luck!

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Freya: Last Post!

It’s been two weeks since I said my goodbyes to Amsterdam, and I’m already starting to feel all the experiences solidifying in my memories. And looking back, I can picture so many great times, but also quite a few times of stress and worry. There’s this idealised image of university exchanges that I think needs a couple of disclaimers added to it, and so that’s what I’m going to attempt to do here.  

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Going into the exchange, people painted the picture of international student life to be a whirlwind of new friends and new experiences. All the other exchange students you meet are coming into this new city with the same intentions as you: to experience life in a new city, and meet likeminded people of different nationalities. And because of this, it’s very easy to make new friends and make lots of plans with all your new friends. But over a six month period there are going to be ups and downs. There were quite a few times when I felt that I wasn’t making enough friends, or that I wasn’t spending enough time with the friends i was making. Or that I wasn’t going out and seeing the city as much as I should be. These concerns would be a great worry to me on days when university or life in general had me feeling extra stressed. When you have to turn down trips away or even just a night out because of university work, there’s a real feeling that you’re not only missing out on the experience, but also the opportunity to make or solidify these new friendships that are such a crucial part of the exchange experience. 

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But it’s important to remember that it is a university exchange, and so you will be expected to study. And, if you’re someone like me, you won’t want to to put in anything less than your best effort into your overseas studies. I thoroughly enjoyed most of my courses in Amsterdam, but they were hard. And I spent many days and nights working on my coursework while my friends were out partying or traveling. But the fact is most of the friends I made were in the same situation, it was just that their workloads are simply distributed differently. I had a very full on first half of the semester, during which I had a much higher courseload than the people I knew. And this was a burdensome source of stress, as I felt that I was going to end the semester not having ever being caught up in this fun and exciting whirlwind. But looking back now, my fears were unfounded. Whenever I was capable, I was out doing things. And on the days all my friends were stuck studying, I still had a whole city to explore and many more people to meet. And looking back I truly feel   like I made the most of my exchange, even though I didn’t make the most out of every day. Some days were spent mindlessly trudging through assignments, some were spent lazing about inside my room. But this was the case for many of my friends too. It is a long-term trip away, and so there are going tohave to be downtime days every so often.

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Out exploring Vienna with me, myself and I because no one else was free that week

So I think the important message I’d like to share on my reflections on my time in Amsterdam is to have fun, make the most of the time you have, but also don’t feel the need to force anything or compare your experiences with those of others. The image you may have of your time away may not pair up to reality, but as long as you are doing what’s best for you, the exchange as a whole will tremendous.

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Freya: Markets of Amsterdam

On the lead up to my exchange I was researching plenty about Amsterdam on all the big blogs and travel sites. And many provided useful tips about where to go and what to do, but one aspect about Amsterdam that no site really touched on was the markets. And for me, these ended up being one of the best surprises of the city. There are a plethora of markets throughout the city, and over my semester I managed to visit most of them, and would return to several of the recurring or daily markets often. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, they’re lots of fun to meander through. So for anyone heading over to Amsterdam, here is my guide to the best of the Mokum markets.

Waterlooplein

One of the oldest markets in the city is Waterlooplein, located very close to Oudemanhuispoort, the largest central city university campus. It’s open everyday except Sunday, and if you’re a good bargain hunter, this is the flea market to visit. There are several super cheap clothes stalls with literally piles of clothes for you to search through. And if you decide the bargain piles aren’t for you, there are two great vintage clothes shops bordering the market, Episode (a big franchise in Amsterdam) and the Kilo Store. Certainly not as cheap but both are crammed with the coolest gear.  

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It’s also the place my RA recommended that I buy my bike from. According to her (please note this is her advice, not mine) the bike sellers in Waterlooplein are all peddling stolen bikes, which means that you can get a decent bike for €50. Apparently in Amsterdam most of the bikes are stolen at some point, so it’s okay to buy a stolen bike because your bike will most likely be stolen again at some point anyway. I don’t know if they are dealing in stolen bikes, but I will note that on one visit to Waterlooplein I saw one seller out the back of his stall rather suspiciously spray painting a bunch of bikes black. Personally I would recommend buying a bike on the Facebook bike buy and sell pages, but if you know what to look for in a bike you can find a pretty good deal at this market.

 Aside from the flea market stalls Waterlooplein is a pretty touristy market, with plenty of pricey stalls selling overpriced cheese and souvenirs, but it’s a nice mid-sized market if you have an hour or so to kill. However, if you want to go full-tourist, Albert Cuypmarkt is a good place to check out.

 Albert Cuypmarkt 

Albert Cuyp a massive establishment in the De Pijp district, and sprawls on down the road for a decent couple of kilometres. Most of the stalls are cheap clothes and souvenirs, but if you’re looking for a Dutch food tour, you can find all the popular snacks here There’s freshly made stroopwafels, poffertjes, waffles, harring, frites, cheese, and plenty more. There’s also a few random stalls that will come and go. I had the best corn on the cob I’ve ever had in Albert Cuyp, but alas the stall was never to be found again. 

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Google hyped this market as the biggest and best market in Amsterdam. And it probably is the biggest. In my opinion is definitely isn’t the best, but it is great for a snack if you’re passing through.

 Noordermarkt

The winner of the title of best market in Amsterdam is hands-down Noordermarkt. Located in the Jordaan and only open on Saturdays, this market has everything. It combines the best features of all the markets listed above, and then some. It starts off as a farmers market in the square outside the Noorder church, but then you go around the corner to Lindengracht and there are lines of stalls stretching the full length of the street. There are plenty of cheese stalls, including some beautiful artisan stores, and, because this is Amsterdam, you can sample nearly all the cheeses as you walk past. So, while the cheese prices are pretty cheap, if you’re living the poor student life you can treat yourself to a free lunch of cheeses by strolling down Noordermarkt. There are also fantastic fruit and vege stands, bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, vintage clothes stalls, cheap art and jewellery, and great food and coffee stands. I have spent many Saturdays wandering down the marketplace, and it’s always one of my top recommendations for anyone traveling to Amsterdam.  

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In my previous post I sung the praises of Ten Katemarkt, which is the best place to get the cheapest fruit and vege. Other markets to check out are the beautiful antique book stalls inside the entrance to Oudemanhuispoort, and IJ-Hallen, the Netherlands’ biggest flea market held on the first Sunday of the month. But also half the fun in Amsterdam markets is stumbling onto them by chance, so take my guide for what it’s worth, but let me know if you find any other hotspots in the city! 

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