Simone: Exchange Student Life in Brisbane

Hey there, I am checking in for my second blog post about living as an exchange student in Brisbane, Australia. I have really immersed into the Australian University lifestyle and am now settled in South Bank, Central Brisbane. I can say that after two months the initial novelty wears off and you have a feeling that you are really living in a new country. Everything starts to feel familiar and you feel confident going to new places as you understand how things in the country works. For the first month it hadn’t set in that I was living in a new country, it just felt like a long holiday. For the past month I have been really getting into University life at UQ (The University of Queensland) by attending the UQ Psychological Association Society club events, making new friends and exploring the campus.

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The UQ Psychological Association Society holds many events throughout each semester and last month I attended an Industry networking night. This event allowed me to network with professionals in the field and fellow students who have a strong passion like me. It was a great place to meet new people and find out about the industry in Australia. I learned how it differs from New Zealand in that there is a different career pathway process (you must complete an honours year before applying for a master’s programme) and engaged with representatives from an organisation called AIESEC. This organisation allows students from all over the world to undertake projects, entrepreneurship and work overseas in internships in their area of interest. After hearing that they had a project teaching English to autistic children and the purpose of the project was to spread awareness for Autism and improve English teaching in more remote areas of China, I decided to apply to get involved. I was fortunate to be selected for this program and now will be going to China over the summer before semester 1 starts in Auckland University next year. Going on exchange can open your eyes to new experiences you never thought of before and can give you access to many new opportunities. I strongly encourage you to get involved with the University’s networking events as I have found them very informative, enjoyable, and beneficial for my future in the Psychology industry.

I have been socialising quite bit outside of University in my spare time as I want to make connections in Australia and from people all over the world. I have managed to make quite a few friends that are exchange students through attending QUEST (UQ’s Exchange Student Society) events and a few Australian friends in my Psychology and Management courses. There is a surprisingly large exchange and international community at UQ. We have formed an exchange group and we hang out whenever we can. This has been a great support network for me as being away from friends and family back home can be hard, but they understand this completely.  I have also made a few Australian friends in some of my classes. They are very similar to Kiwis in that they are down to earth, friendly, and humble. It can be easy to gravitate towards other exchange students but I would suggest you try mingle with the locals as you’ll learn a lot more about the country you are in, the people, and their culture.

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Some of my friends mentioned that there was a big fireworks show on the Brisbane river to end the Brisbane festival which ran from the 8-29 September, which sounded fun so I decided to go. A few friends and I walked down to the river and were amazed at how many people there were! It felt like the whole of Brisbane had come down to the river to witness this event.

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The fireworks display ran for 20 minutes with music in sync with the different firework timings and displays. There were fireworks on many points of the river, coming of buildings and off rooftops. It was by far one of the best fireworks displays I have ever seen, so if you come to Brisbane in semester 2, it is a definite must see.

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I have also attempted to get a part-time job because having a little money on the side and gaining more work experience is always a plus. I have only heard back from a couple of places but the interview I had went well and the managers I talked to were friendly. I was offered a brand promotion position, however they needed me to work 4 full days a week as the bare minimum. Unfortunately, I had to reject this job as University is a priority for me over work at this point in my life. I managed to get an online teaching job, teaching English to Chinese children between the ages of 5-12.  I also was able to get a casual job at an Australasian marketing company, after applying online from a recommendation of a friend I had met. Both jobs have flexible schedules and allow me to work around my busy University schedule. I recommend that if you are on exchange in Australia and want to get a job, apply for casual jobs because they University workload and schedule can be very difficult to work around (if you want to aim for good grades).

Well, that’s all from me for this post. Look out for my next blog post where I will talk about what I got up to in my mid-semester break (travelling to Bali and Maroochydore on the Sunshine coast)!

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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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Hae Yeon: Welcome to Cal!

Hey, everyone! It’s been just over a month since I’ve arrived at UC Berkeley, and I think it’s about time to share my first impressions, as well as the process in actually getting here.

PRE-DEPARTURE

Since I got my acceptance letter into UC Berkeley (which is a whole another process in itself, feel free to contact me), I had to juggle studying for finals with paperwork and visa applications. The international office at UC Berkeley do support you – including providing the DS-2019 eligibility certificate which is essential for a visa. You also have to have an interview at the US Consulate in Auckland. The atmosphere may intimidate you but as long as you have the correct documents, it’s not that bad. The J-1 visa was a long process that took well over a month, so my best advice would be to get onto that application as soon as possible. Another important thing to know would be that you do not have to have a return ticket to receive your visa, and while booking your flights early may save money, be sure that your visa is approved before then.

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Until next year, NZ!

THE JOURNEY

To get to Berkeley, you can either fly to San Francisco or Oakland (side note: my friends seem to think Oakland sounds the same as Auckland, it doesn’t). I flew to San Francisco via Sydney. What was tougher than the long flights was the jet lag. I left on the morning of Friday 10 August, and I landed in San Francisco in the morning of the same day.

Berkeley has an awesome network of alumni who are always willing to help out. If required, the international students are allowed to request free ‘temporary housing’, which is where you can stay with an alumni until the residence halls open for move-in day. I stayed with Joan in the town of San Leandro, on the eastern shore of San Francisco.

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San Leandro, CA

First impression of California? It was hot. But it was definitely nice to get away from the cold of the New Zealand winter.

UC BERKELEY

After a couple of amazing days in San Leandro (which included a day trip to San Francisco), it was finally move-in day – and although I did not know what to expect, UC Berkeley did not disappoint. The campus is beautiful, with small nature trails and old, traditional buildings. UC Berkeley (also known as Cal) prides itself as the top public university in the world, and is internationally recognized as a prestigious research university. It was founded in 1868, has an intense rivalry with Stanford, and our mascot is Oski the bear.

An iconic feature of the campus is the Campanile, or Sather Tower, which is a fancy way of saying clock tower. It is taller than Stanford’s, and gives you an amazing view of the entire Bay Area. In front of the Campanile, is the 4.0 Ball – if you rub the ball before your finals, you’ll get good grades. Apparently.

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The view from the Campanile
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The 4.0 Ball

Also, UC Berkeley is full of history and tradition – one of them being the Sproul Plaza, where the Free Speech Movement began in the 1960’s.

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Sproul Plaza

The campus was everything I imagined and more, and I am super glad that I had the opportunity to come here. It was a long time coming, but definitely worth it. I’m excited to see this year play out and see what is in store, both in and outside of campus. I will be uploading more posts about life at Cal (including the Golden Bear Orientation) and California in general, so stay tuned!

If you’re ever considering going on an exchange, have questions about Berkley, or California in general, feel free to comment or email me at haeyeon1015@berkeley.edu and I will do my best!

Also, if you’re interested in seeing more of what I do, you can follow me on Instagram @haeyeon_angela!!

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Josh: First Impressions of Texas

After over 6 months of preparation, 15 hours of flying, and a few thousand dollars, I’ve made it to Arlington Texas – my home for the next 4 months. So I thought I’d share some of my experiences from these first few weeks in the USA!

Preparation:
It goes without saying, but there is a lot of work that has to be done prior to hopping on the plane, and a lot more once you’ve arrived. Of everything, the Visa and Course Approvals were the biggest headache for me, as each one takes time and requires filling out plenty of paperwork. All students coming into the US require an F-1 Visa, which can sometimes take months to process. I had to wait almost 3 months between filling out my online application, and having my interview at the US consulate, so it is crucial that you apply for the Visa as soon as you receive your acceptance letter. And for anyone stressing about the interview, it was super easy, as long as you remember to bring all the correct paperwork such as your passport and I-20 (provided by your host university). I actually spent more time queuing up than I did in the actual interview!

Flights:

I chose to fly with Air New Zealand from Auckland to Los Angeles with a 2 day layover and then with American Airlines from LA to Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas. I purchased my flights back in May so I could get a cheap fare, this goes against the advice of the US consulate who tell you not to book flights before receiving your visa. So while it makes sense to book early, only do so if you are certain that your visa will arrive in time otherwise you’re looking at a pretty hefty fee to change your flight.

First Impressions of Texas:

Texans are extremely patriotic and are very proud of their state and its history. As it was once its own independent nation, it has a culture unlike any other state in America. The people I’ve met have been incredibly warm and welcoming and are always happy to help a lost and confused exchange student. The place where I’m staying, Arlington, is also the largest city in the US that has no public transport whatsoever! A testament to the fact that Americans drive EVERYWHERE, hence their public transport systems aren’t as well developed as cities like Auckland. This often means you need to be creative with how you get around, whether you rely on Uber, make friends with someone who owns a car, or walk, which I wouldn’t recommend since the temperature reaches well over 30 degrees most days.

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Dallas, just a stone’s throw away from Arlington!
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A cool lil’ mural I found while exploring Arlington

UT Arlington:

UTA is actually of a similar size to UoA (about 40,000 students) however, since there is only one campus, everything is extremely spread out and since all the buildings look relatively similar, it can be tricky to find your way around for the first couple of weeks. However, one thing I love about the campus is that everything is flat, unlike Auckland. I definitely don’t miss walking up the hill from Carlaw Park to the OGGB every day! (Although the temperature difference here definitely makes up for the lack of hills.) UTA is also situated right in the middle of a residential area and unlike NZ, dairies or “convenience stores” are pretty scarce. Fortunately the campus hosts a decent range of food options, a bookstore, and even a free gym complete with a swimming pool!

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Maverick Stampede (O-Week):

UTA’s version of O-Week is a 3 week “stampede” of 42 different events for students to take part in. It all kicked off the MavsMeet Convocation the day before classes. The school spirit in Texas is huge and the Convocation was insane! Motivational speakers, cheerleaders, fight songs, a full school band and confetti truly made it an experience I will never forget. This was followed by an after party with free food, snow cones, live music, and foosball! Other events over these 3 weeks included a foam party, movie nights, super service Saturday, and the activities fair, which is essentially a clubs expo.

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The finale of the Convocation, a full school band!

Classes:

I’ve definitely noticed a difference in the teaching style here in Texas. While in Auckland, most courses have 2-3 lectures per week of a few hundred students, all of my classes at UTA are small teaching sessions of no more than 50 people. This puts a greater emphasis on class participation, and makes it easier for professors to get to know you individually. Also, lectures are not recorded in most US Colleges, again putting a greater emphasis on actually showing up to class and paying attention. The courses here also put less weighting on the final exams (sometimes only about 30%) and opt to spread the workload out over the semester with assignments, tests, labs and quizzes. It’s also not unusual to have 2 finals on the same day as each other as the exam period only runs over about 6 days, rather than 3 weeks like back home.

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I probably look like such a tourist taking a photo of a squirrel

Fraternities:

Greek Life, better known as Fraternities and Sororities, plays a huge role in American College Culture and UTA is no different. I was lucky enough to be invited to my first Frat Party during the first week of classes and it definitely lived up to my expectations. Even if you don’t intend to join a Frat, the parties they host are a great way to meet people, and they are always pretty open during the rushing period. The party I went to had at least 100 people and the fact that you’re from New Zealand is a great conversation starter. And yeah, the movies don’t exaggerate the fact that Americans love their red solo cups!

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Probably the best quality photo I have from the party

Culture Shock:

I feel compelled to talk about this as most people tend to overlook it when coming to the US as the culture shift is not as big as it would be while living in Europe or Asia. For the most part, this is true, however I found that it’s the really subtle differences that add up over time. Things like the climate, time zone shifts, the way Americans speak and interact with you and the way the university operates are all slightly different from back home and can take a bit of getting used to which can leave you feeling pretty drained at times. I’m about a month into my exchange now and I think I’m almost there in terms of adjusting to American culture. Just be aware that culture shock does happen and it’s 100% normal. It always pays to talk to your host university’s international office if it doesn’t feel like it’s getting any better as they have seen it all before and will be able to offer support.

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It always helps to have things that remind you of home when you’re 12,000km away

Travel:

I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve caught the travel bug since being on exchange. I’ve already been to LA, Austin, and Salt Lake City. I’ve currently got trips planned to Washington DC, Alaska, New York, and the Grand Canyon, and I’m hoping to get down to New Orleans, Houston, and Nashville before I leave so stay tuned to hear how they go!

Questions:

I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have about applying/preparing for an exchange, or about the US in general. You can flick me an email me at jwin740@aucklanduni.ac.nz or if you want to follow my adventures then chuck me a follow on Instagram @josh.winnie.

Until next time,

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Seb: Housing at UBC

Hi everyone! After six weeks of travelling through the United States and Western Canada, I now find myself at the University of British Columbia! I want to start off this blog series by talking about housing because this is definitely something I wish I’d known more about before I came here.

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First of all, the University of British Columbia (UBC) isn’t really located in Vancouver. It’s about a forty-minute bus ride from downtown. This creates a beautiful campus environment, with everything from swimming pools to beaches to walking trails to supermarkets to sports stadia.

With such a large and beautiful campus, unfortunately this creates massive (massive) demand for on-campus housing.

But that’s fine, I thought. I’m an exchange student. I’ll definitely get accommodation on campus.

See, the thing is, UBC doesn’t actually guarantee residence for exchange students. I knew that when I applied, but figured it was more of an escape clause for them in case of exceptional circumstances.

Unfortunately, that’s precisely what happened to me! Back in June, about a week after everyone else started excitedly chatting about which hall of residence they had been accepted into, I received my wait list position via email. It was almost 3000. No that’s not a typo. A wait list of three thousand people for housing for the Fall semester. Yikes! Apparently the total waitlist was as long as six thousand.

My understanding of the housing system is that it’s pretty much a lottery. Despite doing everything I was supposed to – choosing my preferences, applying early, paying the application fee – I still didn’t get a place.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only person in that situation. From anecdotal evidence, I’d guesstimate that about a quarter of exchange students this semester found themselves with no housing. Finding accommodation, as a student, for just a few months in a city like Vancouver (with a rental market that makes Auckland look pretty tame) is not an easy task.

Naturally, this put a lot of stress and pressure on me just as I was heading into my Semester 1 exams back in Auckland. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to find a sublet on-campus through Facebook, but I know I was extremely lucky to have done so.

Overall, I didn’t feel like the probability of not being assigned housing was adequately communicated to me by UBC and it just caused me a lot more stress than I had anticipated.  I also didn’t like being left in the dark while all my friends had received housing offers.

If you do find yourself in this position, don’t panic! The best advice I can give is to join all the relevant Facebook pages and find a group of people who are also looking for accommodation so you can search together. Also, if you’re going in the Spring Semester (Auckland Uni’s Semester One) apparently there is less demand, so you may have better luck! Expect to pay somewhere in the region of CAD$700 to $1200 for a room in a shared unit close to campus.

UBC is a great place but, goodness gracious, the housing situation here is a really challenge. But if you can make it through it, then it’s totally worth the effort! UBC are responding to the huge demand for on-campus housing by committing to building 6300 new beds in the next 10 years. For us exchange students, that can’t happen fast enough!

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Sunset at Wreck Beach, just a 15 minute walk from my residence. Not bad, huh?

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Simone: First Week in Australia

Hello everyone! As this is my first blog I will introduce myself. My name is Simone Wielenga and I have gone on exchange to the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I study a Bachelor of Arts and Commerce conjoint majoring in Psychology, Criminology, Marketing and Management.

I’ll tell you a little bit about my first week in Australia. When I first arrived, I could immediately feel the climate difference. Queensland has very mild winters compared to New Zealand with their average temperature sitting between 21-24 during the day and on hotter days it can reach 28-29 degrees. I flew in on a Sunday and had orientation on the Monday and Tuesday, so we had a relaxing afternoon/evening so I could get up early the next day.

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Orientation

I highly recommend you attend as many orientation sessions as possible because the information they provide can be very useful both when you start out at a new university but also further into the semester. The sessions covered things like Australian native animals on campus (so you knew they weren’t dangerous), how to enrol, how to make friends, who to go to for help, where international students can hang out and many support services available on the campus. They had an ID printing centre which you could go to on your first day to get your ID card automatically printed within seconds! I thought this was pretty cool technology because back in Auckland we have to wait to get it mailed to us.

St Lucia Campus

The University of Queensland’s Campus is beautiful! It is the biggest campus I have ever laid eyes on and to me it felt like a community. Everything you need can be found on campus, from doctors to dentists, multiple cafes and restaurants, multiple sporting facilities, endless areas to study, a newsagent, flight centre and more. The St Lucia campus is located 15 minutes away from the city and has many lakes surrounding the outskirts of the campus and a lot of bush everywhere which was a nice environmental change for me as I am used to studying on the City campus at Auckland University. My parents flew over with me for the first week of orientation before the semester began to help me settle in to my apartment and so I was able to travel along the sunshine coast and visit my hometown region for a few days.

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The Sunshine Coast

After two days of Orientation in Brisbane, my parents and I drove up to the Coolum Beach, stopping at Caloundra, Kawana, Mooloolaba and Maroochydore on the way. My hometown is Caloundra where I spent 4 and half years growing up (from the ages of 7-11 and a half) and going back brought back many good memories from my childhood. We stopped there for a couple of hours and had a nice walk along the boardwalk by the beach. I spent 3 nights in Coolum and explored Noosa on the first day. Noosa is one of the larger towns in the Sunshine coast with many suburban areas with canals and along the Noosa river. It has many beautiful beaches to visit and nice boutique stores (mainly in Noosaville and Noosa Heads). My parents and I visited the Eumundi markets which has been around long before I even went as a young kid. The Eumundi Markets is one of the largest markets in the Australia with over 600 stalls!

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At Coolum beach

The Markets have almost anything you may be after, like Jewellery, herbal medicine, clothing, food stalls, homeware, art, crafts and much more. We also had a gourmet restaurant style meal at the Surf Life Saving Club in Coolum. These Surf Life Saving Clubs are usually established in most towns by the sea in Queensland and have amazing food for a reasonable price. I highly recommend you check them out if you come to Queensland! The other two days were spent exploring Coolum and relaxing by the beach. Coolum is a very relaxed beachy town with a smaller population of residents with many boutiques and cute cafes. Believe it or not but it is warm enough to swim and sunbathe on the beach during winter here!

That’s the end of my first week’s experiences in Australia. Keep an eye out for my next Blog where I’ll talk about my trip to Byron Bay for a weekend and about Industry nights I’ll attend through the UQ Psychology Students Association and the UQ Criminology and Criminal Justice Society clubs.

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