Tom: Conclusion of Exchange

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

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

Recommendation 1: Do all the admin WELL BEFORE departure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation 3: Budget.

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

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

Ziqi: A Holiday Well Spent

My first semester at the University of Birmingham has ended with many essays. But my exchange life is not only about studying. My objective for this year is to do as many meaningful things as I can. Therefore, over Christmas vacation, I went to Portugal to volunteer. I was working in a re-food organization which collects food from restaurants and supermarkets and re-packs it to feed homeless and poor families. Before I worked there, I heard the story of how the founder created this organization and I really admired his story. Luckily, I met him on the first day that I worked there when I was building the stage for Christmas dinner. I asked him a lot of different questions because I was curious about him and this non-profit organization.

I asked, “What’s your dream?”
He replied, “To be a good person and help more people.”
I asked: “What advice would you give to the youth?”
He replied, “Always be honest, integrated and help others.”

I asked a lot of questions and he always replied patiently and kindly. What I learned from him is to be merciful all the time and do charity without expecting anything in return.

Also, at this Christmas dinner, the president of Portugal came. Surprisingly, I was the one who served his table. Therefore, I had the opportunity to chat with him. Many residents said that their president is very kind and he is the president of the people. I could see that is true! He always served by himself instead of calling servers and he greeted everyone sincerely once he came in. Such an amazing experience. I met the founder of this project and the Portugal president at the same day!

Finally, my advice about exchange is to study hard and play hard. Studying is always the most important thing for us but it is not the only thing we need. Coming out of our comfort zones, taking part in societies that interest us and traveling is important for our growth as well. This experience gave me the chance to make lifelong friends and it broaden my horizons.

Overall, my exchange experience was very impressive and memorable. I would trade nothing for this experience. If you are considering applying for an exchange, I would say just do it. You will not regret this wonderful decision!

Hannah: Leaving Leeds, My final Month and Reflecting on My Exchange Experience

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….

It’s officially 2020, 1st of January, and your exams are in two weeks.

Nothing like the New Year to bring you back to reality, but that is what it’s like studying on this side of the world. I never realised that I took the six-week Christmas break for granted until I found myself cramming in a Laidlaw Library cubicle just as the new decade had begun. Gone are the Christmas Markets and celebratory trips across the country, instead Cafe Nero is your new home. If anything, exam season widened my palette. I finally stepped into the UK’s favourite establishment: Greggs. I will be careful here, because if you say more than two bad words about Greggs you will be forced out of the country. It is the land of sausage rolls and very plain whitebread sandwiches, and the only establishment to dominate the news cycle because of the not-so-terrible introduction of the Vegan Sausage Roll. Mind you, not the best place for a pre-exam snack if you don’t want to roll your bloated body to the exam room (I know, take my visa away). As I take a breather from exams, Christmas, and the sense that everything is coming to an end, I will reflect on the highs and lows of the past month (Greggs experience included):

6am journeys to Oxford are worth it. Not the 6am part, but Oxford, definitely. 

If I were to rank my favourite places in the UK, Oxford wins hands down. As soon as I pulled into the train station I couldn’t help but say, ‘This is cool’. Eloquent first words in the land of academia. To continue this academic theme, I visited a library with a special chamber designed for the Monarch, because even the monarch wasn’t trusted with taking books out of the library. We all know monarchs are notorious for overdue library fines like the best of us. In all seriousness, the Bodlein Library is incredible. Nevermind that Harry Potter was filmed there; it’s place in the School of Divinity was established in 1602, and it’s founding batch of books started in 1327 with the first purpose built library in Oxford. A trip to Oxford wouldn’t be complete without a trip to one of the colleges, so of course Christ Church College with an alumni list ranging from Lewis Carroll to Albert Einstein’s brief time in Christ Church. Other noteworthy sights was the beautiful St Mary the Virgin, Iffley, boasting its establishment in 1086. And of course, some minimal stalking around C.S. Lewis’s former home, his own back garden or real life Narnia, and his local church (the church cat followed me for ten minutes, so really the highlight of my visit). Did I take a 6am train and had to be at the station at 5:30? Yes. What is worth it? As long as the train passengers didn’t mind me snoring my way to Oxford, I had a fabulous time. I cannot stress enough that Oxford is a MUST if you end up in the UK.

Finally living my Downton Abbey fantasy

On my birthday, my friend decided to take me on a surprise adventure. Usually, I would be worried if I found myself on a half-hour road trip through the Peak District, with harsh rock faces, away from city comforts. Soon, we pulled into the grounds at Chatsworth House, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. All I cared about was that it was the filming location of Pride and Prejudice (2005), but I’m sure it’s 312-year history was also very important. Nothing like a good manor house in the middle of the Derbyshire countryside to make you feel truly enraptured by Britain. It’s the stereotypical Downton Abbey fantasy New Zealanders can’t help but get a glimpse of. It was truly beautiful, so very British.

Reflecting on my time in Leeds

Even though I loved and explored the wonders of Oxford and lived it up with the Duke and Duchess at Chatsworth, when I arrived back in Leeds I had a weird sense of returning home. I pulled out of the city centre and passed the University’s Parkinson building, then passed The Library pub with surprisingly good pancakes.I looked out at Hyde Park and their bare winter trees, passing streets where so many of my friends live. I smiled as I passed Hyde Park pub and the Hyde Park Bookclub, two very good pubs only a short work away from my accommodation. 10/10 would recommend seeing live music at the Bookclub. As we pulled up Cumberland Road into Devonshire Hall, I was reminded that at least I wouldn’t miss walking up this hill. This exchange has been an experience of very high-highs and very low-lows, but I have come away in love with Leeds, in love with the UK, and in love with the opportunities this experience has given. I will miss this place, but I’m also looking forward to bringing this new and improved Hannah back to New Zealand. 

…The fact that I can do a pretty convincing Yorkshire accent now doesn’t hurt too!

Gabrielle: Asking for A Bit More

Before I even spoke about an exchange, I sent a covert email to the University of Edinburgh disability services. It was from one of my many ‘spam’ addresses, which I use to log into dodgy WIFI or give as I sign up for membership shopping schemes so I can have those good discounts.

I inquired about their disability policies. And the email was sent from an unnamed prospective exchange student (me) who wanted to know what exams would be like for students with learning difficulties.

The night before, I had spent hours digging through their website only to find general information, nothing specific to dyslexic students enrolled in Arts programs. I needed details!

Because as much as I wanted to go on an exchange, I knew different countries and different universities can have very different attitudes and resources towards learning difficulties. I’ve spent my whole degree writing essays but give me a pen and paper instead of a laptop with spell-check and you might as well slice my grade in half. This held me back. I almost didn’t apply—because I honestly didn’t know if I would have the help I needed. I tried to enrol in all internally assessed papers and ended up with just one exam to organise for (a true triumph). For the record, Edinburgh Uni is as accommodating as Auckland Uni for learning difficulties.

Upon arrival I arranged a meeting, under a traceable email this time. They were incredibly helpful. Edinburgh does not provide amanuensis unless absolutely necessary, instead, I had my exam in a computer lab.

I can’t attest for other more extensive disability accommodations, and I’m lucky to require minimal adjustments. But I still feel the anxiety of encountering new people, of going through this process again, dredging up those old Educational Phycology reports. It’s always hard to be the one asking for a bit more than everyone else.

And yes, it will require more effort, more organisation, more stress. It may even influence which uni you apply too. But if you need adjustments of any kind: send those emails, ask those questions, do the leg work. I’m glad I got over myself and just did it. It worked out. I’m privileged in many respects. To even be able to go to on an exchange in the first place. To only require exam adjustments. But I guess I’m ending this blog on something of a small encouragement.

If you need financial assistance, academic assistance, or anything of that ilk – don’t rule yourself out of an exchange. Go apply, bring your case forward, see what can be done. Trust me when I say it’s worth the awkward conversations and extra paperwork.

Dinah: It’s Not Over Yet

My Autumn semester has finished and guess what?

I was supposed to be winging my way back to New Zealand but I am STAYING ANOTHER SEMESTER. My family have supported me staying and I am very happy. I have chosen two more modules that sound fascinating.

One is a British-based Art History module in art from 1850 to 1900. It includes architecture, photography design as well as pure art (whatever that is!) and the second module is an English one where I will be studying the American short story. I have deliberately chosen modules not available at University of Auckland .

The other great thing about staying longer is I will have more opportunities to explore the surrounding countryside and cities. There are so many more places I want to visit. I feel like I have only scratched the surface and there is so much more to see. Bath, Bristol, and Tintagel to name a few. Also, the National Trust has many amazing parks and buildings I want to visit. Rather than having exams, the modules here at Exeter are often marked on course work only which means predominantly projects and essays. These will spill over the end of the teaching semester. My semester finished on the 13th December but my 4,000 word essay for one of my English modules is due on the 9th January. However, essays can be completed and submitted from home if you return before the submission date. It is different for exams. You have to be at the university for the exams so that is worth checking before you choose your modules.

Other news. The shopping is so good. Far too good! I have spent money on clothes and shoes because there is such a huge choice and everything is reasonably priced, especially when there are sales which are happening now. However, there seem to be reductions all year round. It is a tough time for retailers so I feel it is my duty to help finance their continued existence! Food is also very reasonable. Cheaper than in New Zealand and a lot of choice.

I discovered the excellent Exeter Picture House the other day. It shows excellent films, both main-stream and more independent foreign films etc. It also has an excellent bar and café where you can have a drink and a delicious pizza before a film. Here in England, movies are called films and movie theatres are called cinemas.

Since catching buses and trains everywhere, I have had some fascinating conversations with people. Don’t take any notice of people who say that the English are reserved. They are rather shy but if you smile and comment about the weather then you are away! I have talked to old ladies, young guys, bus drivers and guards on trains. I traveled on a bus once where there was just the bus driver and me. We had a chat about what it was like to be a bus driver (he said he loved it) and the fact that I was getting a taxi service at a budget rate AND plenty of leg room. When you tell people you are from New Zealand they love it! Often they will tell me about a friend or relative that lives in New Zealand and many have traveled to New Zealand on holiday. It really is such a small world.

Well, that is it from me. I have enjoyed writing this blog and if it has inspired some of you to apply to Exeter for your exchange, then my job here is done!!

Julia: Leaving UGA – “Once a dawg, always a dawg”

Earlier this morning I packed up and said my final goodbyes to UGA. I’m going to be honest here, I’m really struggling to write this; to find the words to do justice to the last 6 months. I don’t want to over-state it, as I am fully aware that this might not be everyone’s exchange experience, but this has truly been the best 6 months of my life; it was everything I’d hoped for and so much more. Athens has become home. The friends I have made here have become family.

Having known people who had been on exchange before me I thought I knew what to expect, but I really didn’t anticipate how tough it would be to leave. However, I have begun to realize that how I’m feeling is an indication of the importance of what I am leaving behind, the significance of the time I have had here. To avoid this blog turning into a soppy mess I’ve decided to use this final entry to debunk some myths I once thought about exchange, now that I am at the end of this experience. Hopefully it’s helpful to you!

Some of my exchange family on game day!

1.“Going on Exchange Changes you”

I don’t think exchange changes you so much as brings out the best in you. It brought to light things that I’d taken for granted in NZ, habits I hadn’t realized existed, complacency that had developed in relationships and the monotony of my study life and encouraged me to alter these things. Taking yourself out of your usual context for a period of time is so healthy in the way it opens your mind and encourages you to reflect

2. “I’ll be lonely/I’ll struggle to make friends”

Again, everyone has a slightly different exchange experience, but I honestly think that making friends on exchange is about going in with the right attitude. From my experience, If you make the effort to invest in people, step outside of your comfort zone, involve yourself in student life and say yes to the opportunities that come your way (especially in the first few weeks of exchange!) then you shouldn’t have problems building a community around you.

My intermural volleyball team- we made it to semi-finals!

3. So you leave, and then it’s all over?

 I was struggling with the thought of returning to NZ for honestly the last 2 months of my exchange, not wanting my time at UGA to end. While it’s now over, what I am absolutely certain of is that this experience doesn’t end here. Yes, the actual exchange is just for a period of time, but as cliché as it may sound, I know that the experiences I’ve have, the friends I’ve make and the memories I’ve formed will last a lifetime. Once a dawg, always a dawg!

A friend of mine insisted that we take senior pictures, as I am graduating on return to UoA!

Thanks for following my journey, friends. I am deeply grateful to 360 International for the opportunity to go on exchange and genuinely could not recommend it more highly! As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all!

Arohanui,

Meg: How to Survive a Canadian Winter

It might still be fall but we’ve had more snowy days already than I’ve experienced in my life before Canada! So here’s what I’ve learnt about preparing for, surviving and making the most of Canadian winter.

A winter’s afternoon inToronto – as we get closer to the shortest day the sun sets before 5pm!

Quick disclaimer, all of my information comes from southern Ontario, so while it’s colder here than Vancouver, if you’re headed to Edmonton all I can say is good luck! Try asking locals for help and international students too as they often have a more accurate gauge of how cold winter really gets. Learn from their mistakes!

McMaster as the snow begins.

Shopping Tips

Make sure to budget for winter clothes as while a raincoat and hoody will get you through any Auckland winter they won’t do much during entire months of subzero weather. If, like me, you would rather spend money on travel, then try borrowing from Canadian friends or buying secondhand online.

My Canadian housemates were winter shopping godsends!

What You’ll Need

Winter Coat (winter semester)

  • You’ll be wearing this almost every day for months so it needs to be thick enough to keep you warm and water resistant to keep the snow from soaking you.
  • A larger size is good so you can add layers underneath, it’ll keep you warmer if it reaches down to the tops of your thighs and a fur trimmed hood is great for keeping your face from freezing in gusts of snow.

Snow Boots (winter semester)

  • These look ridiculous but they’re very important for when you’re wading through heavy snow mid-winter.
  • They should be waterproof, have a good temperature rating (check what’s needed near you), good tread for grip on ice, be a size too big for thicker socks and lightweight to make wading through snow easier.
My borrowed winter coat and new snow boots!

Beanie, mittens or gloves and a scarf (both semesters)

  • Unlike in Auckland these will get a lot of use.
  • Waterproof Ankle Boots (both semesters)
  • Very useful for days when it’s raining, lightly snowing or icy to keep your feet dry and warm and help you grip on ice.
  • Most types of waterproof boots are suitable, they have great options here but many people use Doc Martins or Timberlands from home (though they’re not much help on ice).

Fall Coat (fall semester)

  • Less heavily lined than a winter coat but useful for light snow and cold fall days.
  • I’m still using mine in late December as most days are still warmer than -10.
My everyday fall coat, waterproof boots and the little winter essentials I own but never need to use back home.

Beat the Winter Blues!

With short days and cold weather it’s easy to feel trapped inside so to survive winter you need to make the most of it! Ice skating, skiing, snow shoeing and more are all at you fingertips in Canada so it’s easy to get out of the house with friends. Most importantly, make lots of visits to Tim Hortons to keep warm the Canadian way!

If you have any questions for me about Canada, McMaster, winter survival or even what to order at Timmies then feel free to talk to the 360 office about how to contact me!

If you don’t know what Tim Hortons is before you leave don’t worry, it’s impossible to be in Canada and not find out quickly!

Harvey: Final thoughts at UC Berkeley

Academics

The amount of work that is required of you as a UC Berkeley student honestly came as a surprise to me. The most significant difference in terms of academics between UCB and UoA is the way that the courses are structured. At Berkeley, there is a greater emphasis on homework and class attendance (i.e. coursework), whereas UoA generally places a much higher weighting on our final exams. Berkeley also tends to be more old fashioned, preferring blackboards and overall less use of online/digital resources, such as lecture recordings and piazza that we take for granted back at home. Ironically, I probably have the highest attendance rate over the 15 weeks on the exchange than any other semester that I’ve completed. 

Travelling

As most of the classes at Berkeley weren’t recorded, it was a bit difficult to plan trips during the semester, aside from the occasional thirty-minute BART ride to San Francisco. It’s probably best to travel during the Thanksgiving break, or before and after the semester. That being said, I did end planning some last-minute trips to Chicago for a weekend and LA over thanksgiving. I’d recommend finding friends and planning your trips early in the semester to save on airfares and accommodation costs. Do be aware that for budget airlines, carryon bags may include an additional fee (only the personal item, e.g. backpack is included in the ticket price). 

Another handy tip: make sure to extend your friend group outside of just exchange/international students – the locals might be able to show you around!

Sunny day in Chicago
My first NBA game!

Transportation

Getting around the Berkeley area is relatively easy; each student is given a student clipper card, which allows free transit via bus around the east bay area (Berkeley + Oakland mainly). A campus shuttle is also available to students free of charge, and they operate very late into the night (for those late-night study sessions). If you do plan to travel around the bay area, the BART (bay area rapid transit) is your best friend. Just load up your clipper card at the stations, and you’ll be good to go. Another great way to travel around is by using the lyft bikes! They’re super convenient, students get a one-month free membership, and you won’t have to worry about getting your bike stolen.  

Biking around the SF piers

Food

I found that the food options around campus were quite pricey and weren’t very good (in my opinion). There are better restaurants in the downtown Berkeley area, as well as Oakland, which has heaps of great Korean restaurants. And yes, the bubble tea/boba culture also exists in Berkeley, with numerous places to get your fix if that’s what you’re into. Also, for full-service restaurants where the server takes your order, and you pay at your table, don’t forget to tip! They usually expect a tip of around 15% depending on the service (and how generous you’re feeling). 

Overall

Ultimately, my semester at Berkeley was one of the most challenging and rewarding of my university career. Just as I had acclimatised to the Berkeley life, my four months here at Berkeley has come to an end. Leaving is bittersweet; I’m excited to see my friends and family back at home again, but I will inevitably miss the friends I’ve met here at Berkeley. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to expand my horizons, grow as an individual and meet life-long friends.

Getting all the paperwork (visa/course approvals/housing/insurance, etc.) sorted will be tedious, and you may find it hard to accommodate yourself in a new environment. But it honestly is a once in a life-time experience (when else in your life will you ever go on a university exchange again?) that isn’t to be missed. I’d highly recommend anyone thinking about going on exchange to go for it. 

I hope my blogs have been useful and informative to you. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about life at Berkeley as an exchange student. Thanks for reading!

Goodbye Friends

Zar: Reflection, Final thoughts, Advice!

And just like that my exchange is done!?

My biggest advice for anyone considering an exchange is to just do it.

I had never planned to go on exchange, but I was talking to a friend who had graduated last year and as he wisely said, “You only get once chance to do it, so why not?” A five-year degree is LOOOng and towards the end it starts to feel like you’re suddenly rushing towards full-time work with no time to take a breath. Being able to take 6 months to try something new, have some fun and grow a little was 100% the best decision I made in my degree. I feel so much more confident and relaxed and just so happy and blessed to have had the best time (and to have finessed 6 months of summer in one year).

The biggest highlight of exchange was the travel. I had never been to Europe and being able to see so much of it was amazing. I started with a month and half of travelling with my friends – we visited six countries, saw the Acropolis and the Colosseum, spent a birthday eating copious amounts of feta in Santorini, visited Juliet’s house in Verona and took a boat ride through the canals of Venice. Starting out with my friends was the best way to get acquainted with new places and it was so nice to have moral support through every new language barrier, transport system and injury that came our way. I also was able to do a ton of solo trips over my time in Norway and had the best time exploring a bunch of different countries.

Living in Norway was also so special. I was able to study a lot of subjects that we don’t offer in New Zealand and learnt some really cool stuff. My Take-aways: Norway is expensive! I became queen of budgeting and started drinking instant coffee again (RIP); Norway is cold! I got to see snow fall for the first time and experience the black ice (cue me taking 15 min detours so I don’t have to walk/slide/straight up fall down any slope) and it has the best tasting tap water in the world. On the admin side, the University of Oslo was very communicative and helpful. Having guaranteed accommodation was a lifesaver and the rooms were WARM. It was really easy to navigate O-Week, assignments and exams and I was lucky to have so much time outside of class free to enjoy myself. My main advice for anyone considering 6 months in Norway is to try and go for sem 2. It was much easier moving over in summer and learning the ropes when you could go outside without 20 layers of clothing and ice-pick shoes. Winter in Oslo is stunning but it’s definitely more difficult to set up when it gets dark by 3pm. I would also suggest only going if you’re happy #cooking your meals because eating food out is $$$$$$$$.

Finally, I think Oslo is also a good place to study if you are comfortable being or want to push yourself to be more independent. I met really cool people but with everybody travelling and studying on very different schedules we all spent a considerable chunk of time exploring alone. I moved up to Auckland for uni but living alone in a non-English speaking country was definitely a whole new level of Being On My Own. It was challenging but also fun to discover a new place and to enjoy new experiences by myself – and we always had a laugh hearing everyone’s adventures when we were all back together in Oslo.

Zar_3g
Me + Mona Lisa

Overall, I loved my exchange and to be the Ultimate Cliché and Meme in some ways think I really did #find #myself #in #Europe. I never thought I would be brave enough to live alone overseas but I did it (!!!)  and would do it again in a heartbeat. I created the best memories, met the best people and honestly just had the best time. New Zealand is still my favourite, but I feel so much more excited to come home and start work after having the last six months.

Thank you all so much for reading about my travels – if you’re interested in an exchange in Oslo feel free to get in touch and I am 100% happy to give you the full run-down on everything!

XO

Zar