Esther: Work Hard, Play Harder

Welcome back one and all to your favourite Unimelb student of 2022! Another post and another semester has passed. I’ve officially survived and thrived in my semester exchange to the University of Melbourne.

Unfortunately, this blog won’t feature one of my mother’s no-doubt life-changing quotes, it will include a motto that I’ve lived by my whole life: ‘Work Hard, Play Harder.’ Let’s begin from where we left off, the start of the end. 

After returning from Auckland to Melbourne to resume the semester from week 9, an uneasy tension settled in between the student body and Unimelb: final exams. Because I chose to take two 2nd year and two 3rd year courses that are compulsory to my degree/major even though I’m still in my second year, I put myself under a lot of pressure to not only learn but to succeed in these classes.

During SWOTVAC (Studying WithOut Teaching VACation), I implemented a strict regiment of arriving at the library at 9 a.m. in the morning and studying until 12 a.m. at night. I’m sure it sounds like a nightmare, and to be honest, it really was. However, my efforts were not in vain as I managed to get alright grades in the end! Although it seems somewhat natural to assume that with hard work comes great achievements, I am still surprised each time that it is actually true.

During this exchange I’ve definitely witnessed myself become more and more independent and confident. There is a noticeable shift in how I carry myself and the way I approach things in my life and I can honestly say that it was completely thanks to this exchange. It has undoubtedly made me more appreciative of my own capabilities and what I can achieve if I really put my mind to it. I’ve even embarked on a short vacation to Sydney after my exams as a way to celebrate my hard work! 

To end my last blog post for this semester on a high note, I’ve actually decided to extend my stay at Unimelb into semester 1 of 2023! So this definitely won’t be the last time you’re hearing from me. I’ll still be your go-to Unimelb student until next year. 

Finally, I just want to remind everyone that you are more than you know, and you can all achieve great things if you put your mind to it. Work hard so that you can play even harder later!

A temporary goodbye from your friendly Unimelb guide 🙂

Joe: First Impressions

My first flight abroad in almost three years. Though it wasn’t my first time in Japan, it was my first time staying for an extended period of time. I couldn’t wait to experience what it would be like to live here, as I’d only ever come to visit family and friends before. I came early so that I had time to travel, adjust and settle before moving into university accommodation and starting my study abroad!

I was already familiar with the stark contrast between Japan and western societies like New Zealand, but it never gets easier adjusting. I was welcomed by all the Japanese I could see and hear, not to mention the high level of social order and etiquette. People lined up on the platform waiting for trains that are punctual down to the minute, unbeaten levels of customer service, and so much more. It was nice to be back. But at the same time, it made me anxious. It was my first time back in ages, and this time I was here as an adult with responsibilities. Could I communicate effectively and meet all social expectations by myself?

I had mostly just blown things out of proportion in anticipation. As soon as I got myself out there during my trip before study began, I became certain I’d be just fine. I travelled for ten days in Hiroshima, Himeji, Kyoto, and Osaka. I’d only been outside of Tokyo a couple of times so this was also very exciting. It was just me and my camera, and I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of Japan was like. I got to reflect on the importance of world peace in Hiroshima, at the Genbaku Dome building (site of the atomic bombing in WWII). I also witnessed Himeji castle, also known as the white heron castle for how bright it shines. The countless historical sites in the old capital, Kyoto, took my breath away. I even tried on a traditional Japanese attire called ‘Hakama’. Then my last stop at the kitchen of Japan, Osaka, famous for its Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki dishes in particular.

I found myself making conversation with other tourists. Nerve wracking at first, as I’d almost never use formal Japanese at home in NZ. But I grew confident and comfortable as people started to compliment how natural my tongue was, and that they wouldn’t have known I was from overseas if I hadn’t mentioned it. I became all the more excited to meet my peers once I got to university.

I checked in at my accommodation, Hiyoshi International Dormitory, on 21 September. The living arrangement was units of four flatmates, two each of domestic and international students. By the time I’d arrived there were already other students from across the globe, mainly from Europe and Canada. I was quite nervous, maybe even more so than the time I checked into accommodation for my first year of university at Auckland. It was just the same as Auckland, everyone else was in the same boat as me, and naturally everyone was extremely approachable and kind.

I’m very excited imagining how I will spend my time here over the next few months.

Oscar: A Day In Copenhagen!

Most mornings, I typically get up at 6:30am because I’m a morning person, and I do a bit of study/reading as well as call my family and friends and catch up with each other. The day can vary considerably depending on whether or not I have a class that day.

On the days (Tuesday to Thursday) that I have class, I’ll be at the uni from 8am till midday. Each class consists of a 2-hour lecture followed by a 2-hour exercise period. This 4-hour learning period passes surprisingly quickly and before you know it, it’s lunchtime (or break-fast time for me because I don’t eat in the mornings). I usually prepare my own food and take it with me to the canteen in the main building and eat with my mates, but sometimes I’ll grab a few more things from the canteen to supplement what I have. Post-lunch, I’ll study for an hour or two or attend weekly meetings that I have with a start-up I joined, and then hit the gym for two hours in the late afternoon. Since I only have classes on Tuesdays to Thursdays, I usually spend those evenings studying, cooking, and planning traveling trips around Europe!

On the days that I don’t have class (Friday to Monday), I’ll still get up at 6:30am (unless I went out the previous night in which case I’ll get my beauty sleep in) and do a bit of study/reading and call my family and friends. I’ll do some work and go to the gym in the morning. If I don’t have any planned trips that weekend, I’ll go into the city with my friends and explore some museums, try out new food places, and discover different parts of Copenhagen. During some weekends, I’ll fly/train to a new city in a different country for a few days and explore.

Here are some of my discoveries:

FOOD

SIGHTS

MUSEUM

Evelyn: A Day in the Life 가자!

Wow, time really does fly when you’re having fun. Hard to believe it’s already been two months since I arrived in Korea and that we’re already halfway through the semester. Midterms were a reality check for everyone here. We’re at the end of the two-week period now, I finished my last midterm just this morning!! 

I must say, I hate to break it to you all but most courses here do not provide lecture recordings which means that yes, even if the class is hybrid or online I would recommend you attend lectures. As all of my classes are offline, I walk to campus every day and on the days I have multiple classes, sometimes I stay on campus rather than going back to my dorm oooorrrr I go back and take a nap.

Newly unveiled on the science campus

With midterms, I’ve definitely made the most of the cafe culture around here. There are tons of cafes in the area and it’s pretty common to find them packed with students and their notes, especially during exam time. Buy a drink (iced americanos are typically the drink of choice for many Koreans but well um coffee? …bleh) or a dessert to keep you going and stay there for as long as you want, or until they close unless of course a 24-hour cafe. 

Unlike many other universities located in the more trendy, touristy areas like Sinchon and Hongdae, KU is located in Anam which is relatively further away from the centre of Seoul meaning its quieter and has more of a cozy community feeling. All the local store staff are really warm and welcoming. Food is also relatively cheaper *wink wink*. Need daily cardio to work off all the calories? Don’t even worry about it, the hills got you covered. Sometimes the hills are hell BUT the school does run a free shuttle bus so that’s also an option on those particularly tiring days ㅎㅎ.

This year, with the end of midterms comes the annual 고연전 (Ko-Yon Games) which is being held this year for the first time since the pandemic started. The Korea University vs Yonsei University rivalry exists constantly but peaks during the games and is a prime example of Korea’s varsity culture. Not sure if you saw my Instagram takeover, but that cheering orientation was in preparation for the games…yeah, school spirit and school pride are massive here. It’s extremely common to see university students walking around wearing varsity jackets with their school’s name and emblem on them. Regular students will also have their department embroidered on the back of their jackets.

Obviously, I need to finish on food. As the weather gets colder lots of street food stalls are popping up. One type, in particular, is my favourite: 붕어빵 (fish-shaped pastry)! They’re warm, crispy but soft and just the right amount of sweet. 100% a general fan favourite. There’s a stall at one of the area’s main intersections that constantly has a line of students waiting. Of course, it’s also ridiculously cheap. Four classic red bean pastries for 1000KRW (~1.20NZD)!!!

Editing this a week after this post was ready to go live, I would like to take the opportunity to extend my condolences to the victims and families of those involved in the tragic events that took place in 이태원 (Itaewon) during the halloween weekend. It was an incident that no one foresaw and something that should have never happened. Rest In Peace 🕊

Katrina: A day in my life in Barcelona – Vlog

Hello again! Today I though I’d spice things up and video a day in my life here in Barcelona. This is a pretty average day for me, a super long day (my classes didn’t finish until 8:30pm!!) but I still managed to get out around the city. I’ll also share some tips about how I’ve made Barcelona feel like my home.

One of the biggest challenges about living in a new city is integrating yourself into your new city and making it feel a bit more homely. This can help prevent homesickness, and just generally makes you feel way more comfortable and happy! You’ll see me doing a couple of things in the video, including:

  • Get involved in your hobbies, or pick up new ones!

Back in New Zealand, I just started getting into bouldering – and one of my first goals in Barcelona was to join a bouldering community! I was chatting to a girl while hiking up Montserrat at an Erasmus event (yup, the same trip I mentioned last time!), and she casually mentioned she was also into bouldering! I asked her to add me to the Barcelona Bouldering group chat, and almost everyday someone will message in, asking if anyone wants to go climbing with them. It has been so much fun meeting people with the same hobbies and interests.

I also tried out a bungee workout – which was so much fun! Again, I was just chatting to a girl afterwards who had taken some cool videos of the class, and we made plans to go again!

  • Trying new cafes and restaurants

I’ve been going to new cafes and restaurants a couple times a week! They’re an easy way to explore the area I live in, try new foods and catch up with friends. My flatmates are so much fun, so going to dinner with them is always a blast! Also, this leads me on to my final tip…

  • Speak the local language!

Speaking as much Spanish as I can (even if it’s not the best!) is such an great way to integrate into my community. Practicing on random café and restaurant staff is easy, because they’ll never see you again if you really embarrass yourself! But it’s also helped me make more local friends, like my bungee friend. Plus, you’ll know more about what’s going on around you.

Anyway, if you want to hear more tips, check out my podcast episode! It’s also available on most major streaming platforms (search Great Morning Podcast – and find me on Instagram as well!).

Esther: Midsem Meltdown

Welcome back to your favourite Unimelb student for semester 2 of 2022! I know that you’ve all missed me since my last post, cuz I sure have missed writing to you guys. 

In the blink of an eye, I’ve been thrown into the thick of the semester. It’s already the end of week 7 at The University of Melbourne and I’ve finished most of my mid-sem exams, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to do. In fact, I still have 4 assignments lined up until the end of week 9. 

Anyways, enough of my ranting, it’s time to talk about what you’re really here for: Esther’s mum’s famous analogies! As per tradition, I’ll base my blog off something that my mum has taught me growing up. The topic of today is the importance of self-care. After travelling abroad, she definitely saw the toll that assignments and exams had on me. She would constantly remind me to “do everything in moderation”. Easier said than done when you’re not the one on exchange, I know, but let me show you just how important it really is. 

By the end of my fourth week at Unimelb, I had fallen into a strict routine of: wake up, clean myself, study, gym, cook food with my roommate, study some more, and then finally sleep. Because all my lectures were recorded and posted online, I would go on campus for tutorials, which weren’t even held in the central hub of the campus and were held in their respective faculty buildings located at the border of Parkville. Kind of similar to the Law School at UoA. Needless to say, this was quite different to my routine in New Zealand where I would attend classes in person and always in the centre of campus in OGGB. 

Due to this rigid routine, I slowly trapped myself in my dorm building for most of the week since all my tutorials are all concentrated on one day, working through one class per day. In retrospect, it was not very exchange-student of me to not even go out and enjoy the city. As such, a phone call with my mum reminded me that I was abroad, and should be making the most of my time in Melbourne. With that in mind, I began a nice habit of pushing myself to go out and study in the libraries at Unimelb. It was only then that I realised just how big the campus really is. My goal is to study in all of them by the end of the semester. I’ve achieved 4/7th of my goal and I’m planning to go to my 6th tomorrow! 

Going more onto the main campus, I’ve also found quite a few nice places for a little bite. The Standing Room makes an absolutely delectable chocolate peanut cookie that I’d buy everytime I pass by. Momo Sushi offers the perfect quick lunch with their $3 sushi rolls in all sorts of different flavours. I always order their raw salmon, spicy shrimp, and teriyaki chicken rolls. As for restaurants, my favourite one so far has to be the eggs benedict from a quaint little cafe called Pavlov’s Duck. It was somewhere my roommate and I went to in the weekends and had featured an amazing kumara hash brown! Definitley the best eggs benny I’ve ever had before!

Speaking of my Italian exchange friend, we’ve also gotten into a routine of going to study at the Baillieu library on Sunday and then always going out for dinner afterwards. Just today, we went on our Melbourne dessert trip and it was just amazing! One of the places we went to was Hareruya Pantry, which had some of the best Japanese ice creams and it was located only 30 seconds away from Little Hall. Being able to go out for dinner with her is honestly the highlight of my week. 

Slowly, the time that I spent inside my dorm decreased and I became more familiar with the city that I’ve been calling home for the past few months. It’s also not an exaggeration to say that my mental health has significantly improved with my daily walks to and from campus as well as the weekly socialising opportunities I partook in. I guess long story short, I just want to advise all of you that it may be easy to get caught up in grades and studying when you’re abroad, especially if you’re taking all compulsory subjects like me, but remember to find that right balance between studying and relaxing.

In the wise words of my mother: “everything in moderation.”

Till next time!

Your friendly Unimelb guide 🙂

Katrina: Bon dia from Barcelona!

Bon dia and hola from Barcelona!

I’m writing this after completing my first week of classes at Esade, which has made me realise how quickly the past two months have gone! I left New Zealand almost two months ago and spent the first month trekking around Europe – an adventure in itself! But after visiting 11 countries in 3 weeks and sharing some stuffy hostel rooms with complete strangers worldwide, I was glad to arrive at my own room in Barcelona (and having air conditioning in my apartment – despite the fact we are well into September now, temperatures are still hitting 30 degrees! This European heatwave sure is relentless).

I’m living in an apartment with 3 other internationals – one girl from the Netherlands who is also studying law at Esade with me, one guy from Portugal and one from the US. They’re a fantastic bunch of people, and we all get on well!

A week before our law classes started at Esade, we were given the option to take a week-long Spanish intensive course – and intense it was! It was 5 hours of learning Spanish a day, which was a bit of a shock to the system. But it forced me to remember the Spanish I learnt a few years ago and helped me make some new friends – win-win! I’ve been attempting to put some of those Spanish skills to use at local restaurants and cafes. However, the primary language here is Catalàn (more similar to French than Spanish!), making it a little harder to blend in! Luckily, most of the locals I’ve dealt with have been very patient, especially those in the rock climbing gyms I’ve been to (who have a little more time on their hands!). My main tip is to preserve – it can be really easy to default back into English, knowing most people will understand you anyway (especially with a few mimes!). But speaking English all the time won’t improve your Spanish!

Our actual classes began last week. We also had a short introductory session on Monday, followed by a bus tour of Barcelona, which was also a great way to start chatting with a few other students. I’m taking a mixture of undergrad and master’s courses (all in English!), but only the undergraduate courses have started. This means it’s been a pretty cruizy start to the semester! I’ve also tagged along to a few Erasmus events – Erasmus is the name of the network of European Universities where students can travel around Europe for their exchanges. Last weekend, we got to go hiking up Montserrat, a beautiful mountain an hour away from Barcelona – it was a fantastic day trip (despite how foggy it was at the top!).

And now I’m almost at my word limit, so that’s all from me! I’ll just end with a shameless plug – I’m running a series on my podcast (@GreatMorningPodcast) where I’ve been talking about my tips for travelling solo and studying abroad, so if you’re keen to learn more, chuck us a follow on insta and wherever you listen to your podcasts😊

Evelyn : 하이 헬로 안녕!! Hi Hello Annyeong!!

Hello and welcome to an introduction to my first taste of life as an exchange student at Korea University (KU) in Seoul, South Korea. 

Flight time to South Korea averages around 12 hours so by the end of the flight I was most definitely feeling it. However, jet lag is non-existent compared to some others I’ve met. Just sleeping and waking up a little earlier. It momentarily fixed my sleep schedule (⁀ᗢ⁀).

It’s the end of summer, going into autumn and I’m not going to lie, as someone who much prefers cooler temperatures and has hardly ever experienced above high-mid 20s, some days just…I…(ㅠ_ㅠ). In all honesty, I feel like I have never sweated so much in my life before. TMI? Sorry not sorry. 

Across the two days of dorm move-in, KU provides a free shuttle bus that will take students from Incheon Airport to the dorms in Seoul. Both CJ International House and Anam International House are foreign students only, hence the ‘International’. Unlike in New Zealand, it’s normal for dorms to house double rooms instead of the singles common in UoA halls.

Orientation was about a week after my arrival and man, exchange students everywhere…probably because it was an exchange/visiting student orientation. Unfortunately, it was raining which meant the campus tour had to be skipped but it was a free lunch(〜^∇^ )〜. During orientation they covered the standard admin including guidelines and expectations of KU life, and also walked us through the process of applying for an ID card with a financial function i.e. can be used as a debit card attached to a Korean bank account. 

Each exchange/visiting student is pre-assigned a KUBA (Korea University Buddy Assistants) buddy and group who are essentially the ones designated to help internationals adjust and get through both the semester at KU and life in Korea in general.

It didn’t take much for me to get settled and used to the way of life here. But neither my East Asian cultural background nor the Western environment I was raised in could prepare me for the lack of public bins or the amount of trust people have to just leave bags, let alone valuables, unattended at tables in cafes (like..???).

Speaking of cafes, as expected, there’s so much food here, good food (^-^). My stomach is thriving, my wallet maybe not so much. BUT, as the conversion rate is so low at the moment, my wallet isn’t crying as much as it normally would be.

With my broken Korean, I manage to find my way around and communicate with most people just fine. Seoul is generally pretty well signposted in English and all the relatively more important aspects of Seoul life such as public transport are very easy to navigate. Locals will do their best to try to communicate with you and if all else fails, whether you be shopping, getting food or just trying to find your way around, body language is a universal language. 

That’s all for now! 안녕!

Oscar: First Impressions

Busy. That’s my first impression of Denmark.

The Copenhagen Airport was packed with people from various countries, speaking all sorts of languages. Even though I am accustomed to different languages, as I speak three languages myself and have lived in two different countries, I was still somewhat unsettled by the foreignness of it all.

My first stop was seven-eleven, a convenience store that sold SIM cards alongside many mouth-watering Danish pastries. After acquiring the SIM card, and calling my parents to let them know that I’m still alive, I exchanged some USD for DKK (Danish Krones) and made my way to the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). DTU has an extensive campus beautified by flowers and trees. Being on campus makes you feel strangely calm, as if you were in a surreal rainforest, which isn’t too far from the truth. To say it’s breathtaking would be an understatement.

The first two days were the most challenging. Unfamiliar with the landscape and the language, I struggled to find my way across town. I knew I had to get transportation organised as soon as possible so I spent the weekend (arrived on Friday afternoon) sorting out my Rejeskort (Danish equivalent of the HOP card) and visiting second-hand bike shops, eventually settling on a second-hand bike for less than $200 which is a bargain in my opinion.

On the first day of Introduction Week, we suffered through hours of welcoming speeches from the DTU executives and even worse, a grueling presentation from an Australian cultural expert named Trent. I still can’t decide what’s worse: long speeches or a cultural talk delivered by an Australian. (Just kidding, he was very charismatic)

Here’re some Danish facts that I found interesting:

  1. Divorce rate is 47%
  2. Tax rate is 36% -> 54% (I’m never complaining about NZ tax rates again)
  3. Population size is 5.8 million, but 1.6 million live alone.
  4. The legal drinking age is 16 years old (restricted to buying alcohol < 16.5%)
  5. A crate of 24 beers costs just under $20, which is what you pay for a box of 12 Asahis in NZ

Throughout Introduction Week, I met people from all across Europe, US, Latin America, and Australia. But I have yet to meet another Kiwi. Everyone was assigned a buddy group and this is the group of people I spent most of my time with. 18 people made up the group and between the 18 of us, there are 17 different languages (the only common language between everyone is English).

As I write this at the end of the week, I’m still amazed at how easily we all got along, despite the differences in appearance, language, and culture. This will forever stay with me and remind me of the beauty in uniqueness.

Esther: Arriving on the Other Side of The Ditch

Welcome one and all to Esther’s guide through one of the most livable cities in the world! You’re only stop for all things Unimelb. Today, we will be covering my arrival in this wonderful city and I’ll be sharing some of my experiences on the first few weeks.

I would like to first start off with a small analogy that my mother would often teach me during her many Chinglish (i.e. Chinese + English) lectures while I was growing up: “What’s below your nose?” Now if all of you answered pimples like me then DING! DING! DING! You would be wrong. She would reply, quite exasperated, with: “Your mouth!” 
To put it in plebeian terms, this was her way of telling me that no matter where I travelled to in the future, I should never be afraid to talk and communicate with others. It may sound pretty obvious at first but when you’re travelling, some of the most obvious things just might escape your mind.

So how does this relate to my arrival in Melbourne? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’m going to warn you now that this is going to be a long story, but I suppose that’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Then let us begin!

It started on a very chilly Thursday night in Melbourne, Victoria. After my unceremonious landing from a 4 hour flight over the Tasman Sea (or as I, and many other Kiwis like to call it, The Ditch), I found myself standing in my dorm room of my accommodation at Little Hall just a little under 30 minutes after I left the airport. My roommate was nowhere to be found, the temperature was 6 °C, it was nearly 12pm, and I had to wake up at 7am tomorrow morning for a compulsory welcome day for all study abroad and exchange students. The room was small yet quaint. A king single bed with a sleek office desk setup, a nice kitchen paired with a clean bathroom.

The next morning came sooner than expected and after a 5 minute walk onto campus, I was swept away immediately into the jam-packed orientation day that they had prepared for us. While waiting for the formal welcome to start, I struck up a terrific conversation with a fellow exchange student from Sweden who coincidentally had chosen UoA as his first option for exchange. It was quite the conversation starter that’s for sure. From there, we were invited to an all-too-familiar sausage sizzle with the classic bread and sausage with onions and coleslaw. Just smelling the sausages and onion in the air brought me all the way back across The Ditch to Aotearoa. It definitely helped me to realise that although I’m in a new country, I can still find intimacy in the little things. 

My roommate turned out to be an awesome girl who worked as a bartender.  She enjoyed my note and even wrote me a note of her own and we hit it off almost immediately. Being an interstate student (i.e. from another state), she had also gone through the phases that I was experiencing and helped me tremendously with exploring all that Melbourne has to offer. She even became my in-person dictionary for some of the regional slangs in Melbourne. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Woolies = Woolworths (basically Countdown)
  • Sanga = Sandwich
  • No wucka’s = No worries

Now, one of the most important pieces of advice that I could ever give to anyone who wants to study overseas is to get your classes sorted! I unfortunately had to spend my orientation week chasing after people to get my classes approved. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take everything into your own hands. Contact the course coordinator personally if you have to, which was something I had to do otherwise the semester was going to start without me being enrolled into the classes I needed.

Easing into the semester, the pressure of my classes started to take a toll on me and where there was once curiosity, homesickness replaced it completely. I’m still feeling the lingering effects of homesickness 3 weeks into the semester, but after pushing myself to go out and meet new people, I feel as though its hold on my mind has loosened significantly. I’ve made friends who are also exchange students and we make sure to check on each other, and I even go to the gym together with my roommate 6 days a week. I’ve successfully become an events officer for a uni society, and I’ve also taken part in a few psychology experiments for PhD students. I know for a fact that had I not done these things, my experience would have been quite different. 

I guess that my lesson for today is to always take the extra step to communicate with others, whether it’s for social purposes or just getting what you need done, especially if you’re travelling abroad. My mother’s analogies were always a 50/50 for me, and even though I took the liberty to expand simply ‘talking’ to ‘connecting’, I still never regretted any of these interactions that I started. Just try it! I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Till next time! 

Your friendly Unimelb guide 🙂