Hannah: Looking Back on my Study Abroad Experience

As I am writing this I am back in sunny New Zealand. My exchange is officially over. This experience has been one of the best in my life and one I will remember forever. Looking back I’ve decided to start with some things that I found difficult or did not enjoy that much and then I will talk about all the things I loved.

1. The first thing that I struggled with and did not find that enjoyable were the actual classes in St. Andrews. The lecturing style was quite different to Auckland and I definitely enjoy it better back here in NZ (this might just be because I’m used to it).

2. Another thing that was a bit difficult to get used to were the cleaning inspections of my apartment/flat at University. This could get very tiring, especially as sometimes I was cleaning all by myself and other times some of us were left cleaning up other people’s mess.

3. One thing that was a bit annoying was the course enrolment for Auckland when I was returning. Due to me being on an exchange it was quite a complex process getting enrolled in courses. Therefore, I would recommend getting all the information you can and being prepared to have slower enrolments. I would also recommend maybe talking to the head of your department before leaving so they know you will be away and can help you out if needed.

After all these negatives let’s move right on to the things I loved and will miss incredibly.

1. The people that I have met. Everyone I met in St. Andrews was incredible. I made some friends that will hopefully be for life.

Me with Kaitlin, Elizabeth and Rachel. Just a few of the incredible girls I met in this tiny corner of the world

2. The town of St. Andrews. I am in love with Scotland as whole and I adore this town I got to call my home for 3 months. I loved the cobbled stoned streets, the old houses and the fact that you could walk everywhere.

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3. I got to see so much of Europe. I adored every city, town and country I got to visit. I’m already counting down the days until I can go back.

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Me with my two best friends; Sam and Ellie in Portree.
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Scotland is my favourite place in the world and I still cannot believe I got to live there.

4. One thing that I got out of this experience that I would have never received staying here in Auckland is independence. I loved living by myself and learning to make my own decisions and looking after myself.

5. The whole experience was an incredible opportunity that I am so thankful to have been given. I still have to pinch myself to remind myself that I was able to study in my favourite country in the entire world. If you are thinking of going on an exchange I would 100 percent recommend it. Although I had a few negatives the positives far outweighed them and I would not have changed one thing about my time in St. Andrews.

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Thank you for reading all my blog posts. I had so much fun writing them and sharing this incredible experience with all of you. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to send me an email at hfre260@aucklanduni.ac.nz

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Hannah: The University of St. Andrews

Lectures

Lectures in St. Andrews are based a lot more on readings and there are less hours of lectures per week. The lectures for my papers/courses that I’m taking are also a lot smaller than back in Auckland.

Assignments

The assignments were one thing I had to get used to. It was quite difficult writing essays and reports, although I had no idea what exactly they were expecting from me. The grading system is also very different here and half the time I don’t even know what my grade means.

Where to study

I personally am not a huge fan of the main library as it is always very busy. But I have found the perfect study spot for me. The King James library (part of St. Mary’s Quad) is amazing. It’s very old and a lot cosier. You can’t eat or talk inside but there is a lovely grass area where you can eat your lunch and take a nice break. But if you want a louder more community feeling to study the main library is a great option and Starbucks, Pret and North Point café also all have free Wi-Fi. The union is another great place to study; you can study in the café, the main bar or Sandy’s bar. Every place offers a different atmosphere and you will definitely find somewhere that suits your study preferences.

Bop

As the only club St. Andrews has is in the university union they also host ‘bops’ every Friday night. These are kind of like school discoes but everyone is tipsy. They always have very fun themes and I went to the boyband vs. girlband, ABBA and Bohemian Rhapsody bop. I also went to the Halloween and Christmas event at the union. I really enjoyed them and the good thing is that as it is a university event you will most likely see someone you know and the ‘bop’ can definitely be enjoyed both sober and tipsy.

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Me with my friends about to head to the bop

Drinking Culture

Leading on from my previous point, I have to talk about the drinking culture in Scotland. People drink a lot here, the drinking age is also 18 but as there are a lot of study abroad students from America they also like to enjoy going out as they can now legally drink here. It can sometimes be quite overwhelming by how much some people drink here but they are also totally cool with you not drinking. Just a warning that some people do really drink as if the world was ending tomorrow.

Traditions – Raisin

St. Andrews university is a very old university and has many old and slightly strange traditions. The one that I got to be part of is Raisin Sunday and Monday. When I first heard what this was I was terrified and very confused. It pretty much consists of older (3rd year) students ‘adopting’ first year students. You become part of a family. As I was an exchange student I also got adopted, my lovely study abroad buddy adopted me and I was part of a lovely small family. The Sunday consisted of meeting at the beach bright and early and taking a vodka shot before doing egg races and then standing in the ocean drinking more alcohol. The day pretty much consisted of us drinking alcohol and going on a crazy scavenger hunt around town.

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On the Monday we had to report to my Mum’s house where we got dressed up and then headed to the foam fight. Yes, you heard correctly. Everyone brings some bottles of shaving foam and then it just goes from there.

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Accommodation – Cleaning inspections

One thing that I had to get used to were cleaning inspections in my accommodation. These happened once every month and your kitchen, room and bathroom were all checked to see if they were tidy.  This could get slightly tedious, especially as for the kitchen you sometimes had to clean up mess that wasn’t even yours.

Exams

As I am writing this I am officially done with exams. I only had two exams this semester which was different to in Auckland where I always had four. I also had a take-home exam which was a very unique experience. Other than that, exams here follow a pretty similar routine to the ones in Auckland. They are two hours long and either at 9:30 or 2:30.

This is my second to last post, and I’ve had so much fun keeping this blog. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at hfre260@aucklanduni.ac.nz

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Hannah: What to See Around St. Andrews

Although there are only three main streets in St. Andrews there is so much to see and do. There is something for everyone; you can explore the outdoors, learn about history, eat some delicious food, drink a beer in a pub or find a quite spot and read. Whatever you enjoy doing, you will be mesmerized by this small and beautiful town.

The Beach

The beach made me feel at home straight away. With the wind ripping through my hair and the smell of salt and fish drifting up my nose I smiled.

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I did a beach clean-up on this beach, and it was such a great experience

There are three beaches in St. Andrews and each one is just as spectacular as the next. I love walking along here or just sitting on some rocks and staring out into the ocean.

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West Sands is gorgeous in any weather and I would recommend going for a stroll, walk, or run a long it at least once

The Castle and Cathedral

The Castle is absolutely amazing and it is so interesting to learn all the history about it and the town itself. The castle is a must-see if you are studying here.

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West Sands is gorgeous in any weather and I would recommend going for a stroll, walk, or run a long it at least once

The Cathedral is great to stroll around and look at some of the old gravestones. The amazing thing is that the cathedral is beautiful in both sunshine and rain.

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One thing that is a must-do in St. Andrews is climbing up the cathedral tower; the winding, plentiful steps are worth it. The view is absolutely breathtaking (literally and metaphorically).

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You can see the whole town from up there

Bookstores

There are so many little bookstores scattered around St. Andrews. My personal favourite is Topping and Company Booksellers of St. Andrews. It has ladders, a fireplace, couches to read on, free tea and coffee, and so many books.

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Cafes

There are so many cafes around St. Andrews. My friend and I have decided to visit a new one every week and this is my list of my personal favourites.

  1. Bibis Café
  2. Janettas Gelateria (They have the best ice cream)
  3. The Waffle Company
  4. North Point Café
  5. The Cottage Kitchen

Also get a fudge donut from Donaldson and Fisher, they are delicious.

Shopping

Groceries: In town, I would recommend going to Tescoe (although it is quite pricey and always busy). Otherwise I would go to Aldi, it is a bit further away but also a lot cheaper.

Clothes: There are loads of charity/second hand stores. I found some amazing things in these. There is also H&M which has a fair amount of clothes. If you are wanting to do some more clothes shopping there is a whole shopping mall in Dundee (they have Primark etc).

Stationery: You can buy stationery in a variety of shops in St. Andrews. I think it depends on what you are after, I would recommend just walking along market street and going into a few to decide which ones strike your interest.

Sunsets and Sunrises

One thing that is easily done but so worth it is trying to catch the sunrise or sunset. As we are now getting closer to winter this is getting easier to do as the sun rises at around 8 in the morning and sets just before 4 at night. So you should be able to catch at least one of these stunning works of nature.

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Each sunrise and sunset is slightly different and you can generally just catch them walking around town or on the beach at certain times.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh is just over an hour away on the train so it is easy to get to and I would recommend going here for the Christmas Markets and just in general.

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The Coast

The entirety of the fife coast is breathtaking and you can either walk along the fife coastal path or drive along the road (which is what I did as it was pouring with rain when I went). There are so many quaint towns along the way and a wide selection of cafes to stop at for a hot drink.

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If you have any questions about the exchange or St. Andrews please do not hesitate to email me at hfre260@aucklanduni.ac.nz

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Hannah: Wandering Through Europe

I did the majority of my travelling before my exchange actually started. I left New Zealand on the 19th of July (nearly two months before I had to be in St. Andrews). My first stop was Germany, my whole family lives there so I stayed with them. The other places I visited were Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, a few places in England (Sheffield, York, The Moors, Manchester, Leeds, and more) and I did a road trip in Scotland from Glasgow to the Isle of Skye.

Amsterdam (24th – 28th July)

Everyone in Amsterdam rides bikes and they will run you over if you don’t move. I nearly got run over by bikes, mopeds and cars more times than I can count.

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If Amsterdam isn’t on your bucket list already I would definitely recommend to add it. I spent three days in this lovely city and instantly fell in love. Also you can find all the places from The Fault in our Stars and pretend you’re part of the movie.

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My top 5 places/things to see:

  1. Jordaan Area
  2. Moco Museum (Bansky exhibition)
  3. De Wallen/The red light district
  4. Rijksmuseum
  5. The streets – just walk around

Berlin (30th July – 2nd August)

Berlin is huge and there is so much to see and do, luckily I had my uncle acting as my local tour guide. I went to all the tourist attractions but also got to see how the locals live. I only had two days in Berlin and will have to go back one day to see the rest of this bustling city.

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Me getting burnt to a crisp at the Brandenburg Gate. There were so many tourist here but it was one of the most impressive things I have seen

I went to the East Side Gallery on my last day, this wall was so cool. There were so many different styles and pieces of art on display and I could have spent a lot longer here but sadly I did not have time as I had to catch my flight.

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My top 5 places/things to see:

  1. Brandenburg Gate
  2. Jewish Memorial
  3. East side Gallery
  4. Museums Insel
  5. Reichstag Building

Vienna (6th – 8th August)

Vienna is a city full of gorgeous buildings ranging from the opera to palaces. My personal favourite was the Austrian National Library, I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast and was ready to start belting out some tunes.

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Both Schloss Schönbrunn and Belvedere were so gorgeous and it felt so surreal to find these beautiful buildings in a city. If you want to feel like a princess or step back into the past I would highly recommend this wonderful historic city.

My top 5 places/things to see:

  1. Austrian National Library
  2. Belvedere
  3. Schönbrunn Palace
  4. Prater and the Ferris Wheel
  5. The Hofburg and the surrounding area

Scotland (20th – 28th August)

I road tripped around Scotland and visited so many stunning places. I would recommend packing a raincoat and some sturdy shoes if you want to do some walking. As I visited so many gorgeous places I am just going to compile a list of my top 5.

Portree, Isle of Skye

This town is the biggest town in Skye and it is adorable. The colourful houses are one of a kind and you can easily wander around the streets.

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The Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

I was ready to watch fairies dance and run away into the green hills. This glen was wrapped in magic and it was beautiful despite the rain.

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Glenfinnian Viaduct/Fort William

If you love Harry Potter you have to go here. You can see the Hogwarts express (or even ride it).

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Eilean Donan Castle

There are so many beautiful castles all over Scotland and I love every single one of them. This castle may be one of the most picturesque. The inside isn’t that spectacular but the outside of the castle and its surroundings are stunning.

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Proper Scottish weather
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Staring at this breathtaking country

The Fairy Pools

These are off the beaten track and very overcrowded by tourists but they are worth the drive and walk. I even had a sip from the pools but sadly I did not wake up with any magical abilities.

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Edinburgh (7th – 8th September and 26th – 27th October)

This was my second visit to this town and I loved it just as much the second time. This city is stunning and I adore it. The cobblestoned streets carry you back in time and you can walk around all day and not get bored.

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If you have any questions about the exchange as a whole feel free to email me; my email is hfre260@aucklanduni.ac.nz.

I can’t wait for my next blog post!

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Hannah: First Impressions, Settling in, and Accomodation

Stepping foot into St. Andrews for the first time was both exciting and terrifying. This was going to be my home for the next three months, but just walking to my accommodation I could already feel myself falling in love with this place.

First Thoughts…

“This is so beautiful.”

“It’s so small.”

“It’s all so old.”

“I can feel the history wrapped inside the buildings.”

Accommodation

I’m staying in the David Russel Apartments and I’m going to be completely self-catered (let’s see if I can cook). My room itself is really big and has everything you need (a DOUBLE bed, desk and wardrobe), the bathroom is a bit small but at least I have my own shower and toilet. I’m sharing the kitchen with 4 other people (who are all super nice). I personally have not seen my flatmates a lot but I think every flat is slightly different.

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Me on the first day after having unpacked (that was an adventure)

There are so many people around in this area which is great, the apartments themselves are around a 20min walk away from town and the university but the walk is relatively flat and straightforward so it isn’t hard work.

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My building

Settling in

The first couple of days were a bit weird and I had a few moments of panic just thinking ‘What am I doing here? I’m so far away from home…’ but after around 3 days I was okay again. Get yourself some sturdy bags to carry your shopping back to your apartment.  Aldi is closest to David Russel Apartments and it’s cheap so I would recommend getting your groceries from there. I got settled into my room relatively quickly and it already feels like a second home now.

University

Starting classes and finding all my rooms was daunting but I just set a day aside and walked around finding all the buildings before classes actually started. People are also very kind and will direct you to the right place if you do get lost. The university is gorgeous and I feel like I’m at Hogwarts or in a castle.

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I’m just missing a wand
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There are so many different buildings and around every corner lies another hidden beauty

The main difference for lectures is that classes here are a lot smaller I have two classes with less than 20 people. Otherwise the lectures operate in a very similar way (they even use moodle over here).

My tips

  1. Don’t be afraid to talk to people
  2. Find your rooms for classes before lectures actually start
  3. Make a meal plan and write a shopping list
  4. Get free stuff in Orientation week if you can
  5. Do a library tour
  6. Go to events and don’t be afraid to talk to strangers (I know it’s scary)
  7. Walk around town at least 3 times – you will find somewhere/something new every time

 

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