Cecilia: Why I Withdrew and Other Stories…

What an absolute whirlwind of an exchange! A lot has changed since my last post. Following the devastation of Covid-19 on the world, I made the extremely difficult decision to head home and actually withdraw from my exchange. This blog post will be very personal reflection to give you a glimpse of what went down in the last few weeks for me. This post is intended to be brutally honest and hopefully provide support if you are ever in a similar situation or are needing to withdraw from exchange for whatever reason. I will also include a few “what I wish I knew before going on exchange” tips at the end!

THE DECISION TO WITHDRAW

I had finished almost all my coursework in Scotland when the University of Auckland notified me that there was the option to withdraw and enrol in papers back home. The semester was well into week 3, but due to the circumstances, returning exchange students would be offered the chance to enrol even though the deadlines had passed. This meant that all my time and credits spent overseas would not be transferred back. I would resume semester 1 2020 in Auckland, as if I had never left.

I had to make this decision without guidance on whether exams would be moved, or whether there would be flights home to New Zealand at the end of my exchange.

I decided to withdraw because I was quite worried that there was a possibility that once lockdown period ended, I might need to come back to Europe to sit final exams. I had also taken an honours paper for history and was quite worried that moving the exams online would be a severe disadvantage for me as many of the resources I need were physical books in the Glasgow library. I was also far more familiar with the coursework and examination styles of UoA compared to Glasgow.

From a personal perspective, I came home because I would no longer be able to travel Europe during my mid-semester break as I had planned. A major element of my decision making for going on exchange was being able to travel through Europe in their summertime with my friends. With flights being cancelled everywhere and borders closing all through the continent, this dream seemed further and further away. It didn’t really make sense for me to be paying rent up until summer time without a reason to be staying until the summer anyway.

Another major factor in my return to New Zealand was the international impact of the virus upon available flights. I actually booked a flight to leave from London on the 28th March 2020, but following New Zealand’s closure of borders to non-nationals, I paid for a new flight that left directly from Glasgow almost a week earlier than my planned departure date.

My biggest recommendation during such times of uncertainty is not to delay. I was extremely lucky to even get a flight home – I know of a few friends on my original flight that ended up being cancelled, and they were unable to find another one home in time. I did pay a lot more to book an earlier flight, but the amount of time and worry saved was priceless. I remember waking up every day fearing that my flight would be cancelled, and I would be stranded in the UK. I think when it comes to emergencies like this, having peace of mind was more important than a few hundred dollars.

Finally, loneliness was also important to consider as all my flatmates had to go home too. American borders had shut to non-nationals, and several of my fellow American exchange students were told that they had to come home immediately, or credit would not be transferred. I think this was partly because they had come on their university’s insurance policy so if they had caught Covid-19, their home university would be liable for costs. I knew I did not want to be stuck in an empty flat by myself for the next three to four months when there was such widespread panic and fear.

THE JOURNEY HOME

I booked almost the next fight home from the day that I withdrew from Glasgow and re-enrolled in Auckland. My flight was scheduled to leave from Glasgow and stopover in both Dubai as well as Bali. My biggest worry at this point was that one of those borders would close during the stopover, leaving me stranded halfway as I would no longer be allowed back into the UK.

It is important here to emphasise the need to stay flexible and aware. Although I was extremely sleep deprived and overly nervous upon my stop overs, the airports during Covid-19 was a complete mess. I literally made it through security for my transit with an extra 5 minutes to spare – the flights were leaving on such tight timing that there was no room for mistakes. Make sure you are speedy through transits and do not spend that much time shopping if you are not sure where your gate is. Dubai airport was pretty enormous, and I ended up having to run from one end to the other. I’d recommend maybe downloading a map ahead of time if your transit is less than an hour – with the added number of passengers and stricter security screenings, I ended up needing every extra minute.

Several people on my original flight from the UK to Dubai faced sudden visa issues half way, owing to a change in flight plans as countries closed their borders. I was very lucky to be travelling on a New Zealand passport as we have visa waivers with a large number of countries. Please do remember to triple check that your stop overs do not require a transit visa!

THINGS I WISH I HAD KNOWN:

  1. Withdrawing from exchange is NOT a waste of time or money!

Originally, I was quite upset to be withdrawing because I felt that the exchange was a waste of effort. I didn’t manage to get any Glasgow merchandise because the visitor shops had shut, and I didn’t get any acknowledgement of my time spent here on my academic transcript or anything. I really didn’t have anything to show apart from the experience and a lighter wallet.

But the amount of life skills that I learnt during this time was absolutely priceless. I had such a unique exchange and faced situations that I probably will never see again. I originally wanted to go to the UK during Brexit because I wanted to witness history in the making – I guess I got that wish!

I had to make decisions during a time of uncertainty based purely on my own judgement. I learnt to trust my gut feeling and that it was always better to be safe than sorry. I formed friendships that will continue long after the exchange is over and experienced life to the absolute fullest (we went to Ireland for St. Patricks day literally in the middle of their lockdown. All the pubs were shut, the parade was cancelled, AND our hostel dorm had one fellow in the back bunk coughing his brains out at 4am. It was a miracle we didn’t catch coronavirus to be honest!). I wouldn’t have learnt any of this from a lecture or textbook!

2. Double or triple check your insurance!

I never even knew such a clause would exist, but many travel insurance policies include an ‘epidemic or pandemic exclusion’ where disruptions caused by an epidemic or pandemic would not be covered under their policy. I had taken out the more comprehensive option and was pretty annoyed to find that I was still excluded under this clause. I know that situations like Covid-19 happen very rarely and that pandemics are not expected to happen for every exchange, but many of my friends were relying on their insurance to pay for flights if theirs was cancelled. Unfortunately, some of them had to learn about the exclusion clause the hard way.

One friend in particular was very disappointed as she had booked three individually connecting flights throughout Europe to return to the US. The first one was delayed which caused her to miss the next few, and due to the insurance clause, she was not covered at all. Later she told me that if she had known it was not covered, she would not have chosen those flights.

Therefore, be aware that even if it all turns to custard, insurance may not always work through the way that you want it to. Always make sure you have excess funds in case of emergencies like these, and do not assume that insurance covers all everything. Being flexible is SO important!

3. Pack light and always assume you will buy more things than you expect

I showed up with one 30kg bag and left with almost double the amount of clothing that I came with. I do recognise that Scotland was freezing and so half of my new wardrobe was warmer clothing, but shopping in Europe was so much fun! There is much more variety, especially towards the semi-formal and formal side of the spectrum. Plus, it is always raining so hiding in the department stores became a social event. I could go on and on about their specialty discount bargain stores (think Rebel Sports but for high end brands like Dior and Gucci), and because of we were in Europe the quality of goods was also much higher for things like Italian leather.

4. Bring wet weather boots

Waterproof shoes are so important. Enough said.

5. You are not alone!

It feels so isolated and scary being half way across the world away from home during such scary times, but I learnt a lot about people and their willingness to help.


A massive shout out to both the 360 International team here in Auckland, as well as the international exchange team in Glasgow. They gave me unbiased advice and their full support for every step of the journey.

If you are ever feeling lonely or confused or start freaking out like I did when I first realised that Coronavirus was actually really serious, know that there are people out there who are willing to help! I was running around like a headless chicken and emailed the exchange teams like 5 times each and was given such reassuring and professional responses that I never once felt like I was left on my own in high water.

I really appreciated the other exchange students checking in on me, and in return I know I went to check up on a few of them too. We are all in this together so look after one another.

6. HAVE FUN AND BE SAFE!

I look like a proud mother hen!

This is my last post, and I hope that you have enjoyed this wild ride with me! If you are considering going on exchange I wish you the very best experience. I had the time of my life in the 3 short months that I was in Glasgow and I cannot recommend it enough.

Take care all – sending love from my bubble to yours,

Kia Kaha New Zealand!

Cecilia: Glasknowing the Lifestyle

After being here for almost two months, it finally snowed! Storm Ciara brought freezing temperatures and stormy weather, but for someone that has never seen snow before it was so pretty. Unfortunately the snow has yet to reach a level where the streets are blanketed in white, so the photos I have don’t show the scale. The motivation behind this blog post is to share a little bit about the lifestyle here in Glasgow, from restaurant recommendations to supermarket content.

The best I could get was this photo to show the mushy ice that formed.

Student Life and Facilities

  • Glasgow University has two unions: the Glasgow University Union (GUU) which has traditionally been the more male dominated one, and the Queen Margaret Union (QMU) which was formed in response to the exclusion of women from the “old boys” club at GUU. You can choose to join both, and gain access to discounts at the Union cafes/restaurants. GUU also has a student club called “the Hive” which is extremely popular on a Thursday night, which is student night here.
  • I was very impressed by the student newspaper, the Glasgow Guardian which has a long history behind it. The raw, uncensored journalism is a refreshing read.
A vividly honest response to Brexit was a super interesting read.

Food and Drinks

Glasgow has a range of impressive foods and cultures. Here are some of my favourites for whatever mood that might strike:

  • Wetherspoons: also known fondly as ‘Spoons’, you can order the traditional Scottish pub fare of Haggis (a savoury pudding/oatmeal thing), neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes) here. Whetherspoons is a chain of pub restaurants, which serve decently priced meals and alcoholic drinks. I love the risotto and toasted sandwiches here, and would recommend trying some of their alcoholic cocktails which are served in big jugs. It does frequently become extremely busy during sporting events on the TV, and this was quick to become a cornerstone of my weekly pint habit with my friends.
  • Mother India : conveniently located close to campus, this is one of the best Indian restaurants in Glasgow. Indian cuisine is British staple, with reports stating that their favourite dish is Chicken Tikka Masala. I am sure the long colonial history between the two countries has led to the intense love affair with eastern curries. Pro tip: order smaller dishes to share here so you can sample all the flavours, as the curries are served in an almost tapas style.
  • La Vita Spuntini: if you want something a bit fancier or if you want to go for cute drinks near uni, this venue has a full artificial cherry blossom tree inside! As a winner of Glasgow’s best Italian food award, they serve many traditional Italian options as well as some dishes with a Scottish twist. The waiters/waitresses wear the most adorable plaid outfits, and the food is decently priced. You definitely want to come here with friends though – both to help split the bill as well as to take photos of you in this #superinstagrammable decor.
The cherry blossom tree inside Spuntini was absolutely gorgeous

For those of you who love to cook, the fresh produce (and their prices!) of Glasgow is definitely something I wish we had in New Zealand. For example, they sell a whole ball of mozzarella at most supermarkets for £0.45 which is equivalent to $0.90 NZD! I literally ate an entire ball of mozzarella as my breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the first two weeks that I was here. Add a little bit of balsamic vinegar, tomato, or a basil leaf and voila! Masterchef, eat your heart out!

There are plenty of supermarkets within a short distance of each other (the closest to campus are Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Iceland, Marks & Spencers), and they also sell cheap ‘Free From’ or specialty diet products. Almond and soy milks are almost the same price as normal cow’s milk, and gluten free and vegan products are so much more affordable than back home. In particular, meat substitutes such as Quorn or other plant based meats come in so many quick and simple cooking varieties such as ready made tacos or pad thai stir fry’s. I was also so surprised to discover plant based meatballs at Subway, Quorn chicken served at KFC and seasoned with their herbs and spices, and vegan sausage rolls at my local bakery chain Gregg’s. This means that it was really easy for me to try vegan options, especially as I was searching for more environmentally friendly and healthier options. I am really really going to miss my $2 NZD per litre almond milks!

One cannot think well, love well, or sleep well if one has not dined well

Virginia Woolf

Entertainment and Attractions

In terms of my favourite places to visit in and around Glasgow, I have highlighted both attractions as well as entertainment options:

  • The SEE Hydro: this massive stadium is a 15 minute walk behind my flat, and the top class artists all perform here. It’s great because I can just walk home after an act – Halsey was only $60 NZD!
  • The beautiful Kelvingrove Park is a section of my daily commute into uni, and is lovely for an early morning run before it gets too busy.
The skate park at Kelvingrove on a rare clear (but chilly) afternoon
  • The Clydeside Distillery gives a good glimpse into the process of making some of Scotland’s finest single malt whiskies in a stunning dockside venue.
  • The Glasgow Science Centre is like an interactive museum, filled with interesting experiments and hands on activities.
The Science Centre also does cool events later at night with cheap student tickets. No kids, no lines, and plenty of live music and drinks.

Transport

I have tried to navigate as much of Glasgow as possible by foot. Although the city is well linked with both buses, subways, and trains, I prefer to walk (when it is not pouring down) as I definitely need the exercise after all the food I have been eating. I would recommend ordering a subway card online for free though, as it provides cheaper transport compared to both one-use paper tickets and purchasing the card at the stations (£3). The subway runs in a continuous loop around the River Clyde, and circles to all the main areas around Glasgow. It is super handy for when you need to go into Glasgow’s CBD district (Merchant City) when it is pouring with rain and you are too tired to walk 30 minutes or don’t want to pay for the Uber.

Student Accomodation

Finally, one of my favourite places has to be home! I am staying at Kelvinhaugh Street student accommodation, which is actually about a 15-20 minute walk away from campus. The entire street is filled with students, so you often bump into friends on the walk to or from class. I personally would have preferred to be closer to campus, especially when it is raining cats and dogs, but the accomodation is located close to supermarkets, beauty salons, and several amazing cafes. It is about a 30 minute walk to Glasgow Central (the train station equivalent of Britomart here), or around a 10 minute (£5) Uber ride.

The student support services also often run events, such as streaming the Oscars, watching sport games, and Movie nights every week.

I love home because of my flat mates! I quickly became fast friends with the two other students that I share my flat with. They are both from America, with one from Boston (which has affluent suburbs, MIT and cold wet winters), and the other from Texas (hot, dry, yeehaw).

Friends are the sunshine of life.

John Hay
An event at the student accomodation was to hand make Valentine’s Cards – which I made for my flatmates!

That’s all for today folks – I will see you very soon for another update in the life of Cecilia and her mozzarella balls part 2!

Ta-ta (goodbye) until next time,

Cecilia: Welcome to Hogwarts! First Impressions of the University of Glasgow

My first week at the University of Glasgow (U of G) was such a blast and I cannot wait to see what is ahead. I got lost more than just a few times whilst walking around campus, but this was mostly because I was too busy taking photos of absolutely everything! Once I got used to the harsh weather and the even harsher accents, I quickly found my feet and settled in to my surroundings.

I have created a list of my top 3 favourite things about the university which I will call home for the next few months:

1. Historical Architecture

I swear everything looks like a castle here

The university celebrated its 569th birthday in my first week here, and was founded in 1451. Considering that the Treaty of Waitangi was only signed in 1840, the university is literally older than our entire country! Some famous alumni from its long history include economist Adam Smith, the creator of the steam powered engine James Watt, actor Gerald Butler, and the politician Nicola Sturgeon.

I got lucky to see the cloisters still decorated from Christmas! These lights are not permanent.


Walking into the university is like entering a different era, with gothic styled towers and turrets creating the feeling of walking into a fantasy castle. The university buildings look like the set for Hogwarts, especially early in the mornings when the fog is rolling over the hill. You can almost feel the magic in the air!

2. The Library

The top floor offers an amazing view of the campus

As someone who spends a lot of time at the library back home, I was very impressed with how big and well resourced the University of Glasgow library was. Despite the recent renovations making the library seem more modern, it is one of the oldest and largest university libraries in Europe. Even better, it is open from 7:15am until 2am in the morning – perfect for late night exam cramming sessions!

There are 12 floors in the library with separate study rooms scattered throughout. They also offer library tours in person as well as a virtual reality tour online. You do have to have a valid University of Glasgow student ID to be able to enter/exit the library, so it is not as freely open to the public as our library. I personally find this quite reassuring and a little bit safer, especially with such late opening hours.

3. Art and Culture at the Hunterian Museum

The oldest museum in Scotland is located right inside the university! The Hunterian Museum, which is dedicated to the anatomist and physician William Hunter, also includes the Hunterian Art Gallery, the Mackintosh House, the Zoology Museum and the Anatomy Museum.

The Hunterian Museum always has new and exciting exhibits, and also run events and tours such as “Night at the Museum”. The Hunterian Art Gallery is also worth checking out as it has one of the most distinguished public art collections in Scotland, with permanent artwork by famous artists such as Rembrandt and Rubens on display.

These are all located on directly on campus, and are free to enter for students. They are a great way to spend a rainy day (which happens quite often in Scotland).

It is also worth noting that the University is within a short walk to the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. I pass by these cultural landmarks every morning on my way to and from the student accomodation – they are definitely worth a visit.

Back entrance of Kelvingrove Museum

I cannot believe that it has only been one week since I started here! It already feels so familiar and I am certain that the weeks ahead will bring much more entertainment.

Catch you very soon,

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!!

Ziqi: Day trip to London

Hey guys!

Here’s what I have been up to in the month of November.

My life in Birmingham

There are three words to describe my life in Birmingham: colourful, busy and fun. I have joined some student societies such as, the baking society, the Chinese society and community challenge. During my free time, I attend the baking society twice a month to bake some cookies or cakes with my friends. I also work in the Chinese Society where I have made lots of new friends and learned how to find sponsorships and organize activities.

ziqi_2a
Christmas market in Birmingham

 

Academic Life

The workload at Birmingham University is different from the University of Auckland. At UOA, we have many assignments and quizzes throughout the semester which each count as a small percentage towards our final mark. In contrast, at Birmingham I don’t have to take quizzes each day; however, I need to prepare for final essays which may count as 100% of my final grade. Therefore, I don’t have many deadlines recently but I still need to undertake my five essays which are due at the end of this semester.

 

London day trip

It is very convenient to visit London during the weekend because it just takes me one hour and a half on the train from Birmingham to London. Below are pictures of some impressive scenic spots in London that I have visited.

ziqi_2b
Oxford street in London at night

 

Firstly, I went to the British Museum which is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Also, it shows the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. I highly recommend that if you have enough time to visit London, you spend a day exploring this amazing museum.

 

Secondly, I went to the national gallery which exhibits many incredible artistic works. There are many rooms that display different themes of painting such as flowers, people, scenery and religious themes. Certain painting captivated my attention and couldn’t help but stare at them for a long time. It was a little bit busy at the weekend, but everyone inside the gallery was trying to keep quiet.

 

Then, it was my lunch time! I walked across to millennium bridge and found a fancy restaurant called Swan which has a view of the river Thames. Later, I ordered a steak salad and a cup of Earl grey (my favourite!). If I could rate this restaurant, I would give them full stars because the atmosphere and kind staff made for a very relaxing lunch.

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London tower bridge on a rainy day

 

In the afternoon, I visited two famous landmarks: London Tower Bridge and the London eye. Although, it was a cold and rainy day, there were still many tourists. Later, I went to Oxford Street to go shopping. Here I found almost all brands I wanted to find. The street was decorated with beautiful neon lights which remind me that Christmas is coming next month!

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angel light in London oxford street

Finally, I would say that London is a big city which shows prosperity and is rich in history.

When I walk on the street, I was constantly amazed by the British architecture. Also, I can get start to know Europe history and culture by visiting Museums and art galleries to broaden my horizons. So I like London with no doubt, I would always travel back to London when I have time.

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Dinah: Student life at Exeter

It is now Week 10 of a 12 week module so I have nearly finished and what a semester it has been! The best thing is I am recognising people now and giving people a wave and they (usually) wave back.

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Exeter Quay

The Campus is not big and I know my way round now. The same goes for Exeter. It is not a big city and it doesn’t take long to get to know it. I would recommend the Phoenix Theatre for live shows and it also shows films as does the Film Club at Exeter University.
I met some fellow-students at the popular Ram Bar at the beginning of the semester where the unanimous verdict is it is a friendly , open university with some wonderful lecturers and with a great choice of modules. I discovered it is difficult to talk, though, with a mouthful of Nachos, most of which end up on the front of the person you are talking to. I made a mental note to eat something solid next time , like a Cornish Pasty (part of the local cuisine and very solid indeed).

 

Modules

My modules have proved ‘interesting’. Neither were my first choice because they were either full or there were timetable clashes. Poor Dave Bassett, on the Exeter International Exchange Team, was haunted by the Art History module I wanted to take called The Face. He tried his best to get me onto the module but there were already 8 people on the waiting list. I have ended up taking two English modules and missing out on Art History .

If I had been here a year, it wouldn’t matter so much and that would be my advice. If you are able to afford it financially and you don’t think you will get homesick, opt for a year because one semester is only enough time to get used to everything and start to make friends. Having a whole year will also give you a chance to take some modules that you might miss out on with only one semester.

One of my modules, Virginia Woolf ( Stage 3) is challenging but then what did I expect? That is the nature of the beast (Woolf ha ha). I got back my first essay the other week and the standard is high with a lot of required reading and research. The other module, Creative Writing, Writing A Poem, (Stage 2) is excellent. I really encourage anyone who enjoys creative writing to apply for either Writing A Story or Writing A Poem. The lecturers are very good and both my lecturers are published poets.

Societies

I went on another trip with the West Country Society to Boscastle in Cornwall. The brilliant thing about this Society is that you get to travel to places impossible to reach with public transport. It is great to get out of the City sometimes and explore the very beautiful countryside and villages. These trips will involve some walking, usually uphill but then you get to go down again and go to the pub.

Transport

Public transport here is very good. There are frequent buses and two train stations. I bought a Stagecoach Smart card which cost 140 pounds but was cheaper than paying 4 pounds eachday which is what I was doing initially. I’m staying in an area called Heavitree , so called because they used to hang people from a tree and it was a heavy tree. If you are staying in the Halls here on campus then of course you won’t need a bus card.

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Henry Moore Sculpture

That’s it for now. I’ve got to go and eat another Cornish pasty. I love them!

Dinah

Hannah: Festivities Abroad

Festivities Abroad

Christmas may be over a month away, but Christmas decorations were already taking up Sainburys’ precious aisle space days before November 1st. After making the unfortunate decision of getting a Halloween costume just days before the big night, I walked through the grocery store with Christmas music playing and nothing scary in sight. I think back to early October, where a shop for a pint of milk required squeezing passed piles of pumpkins and Halloween themed custard. Welcome to my second blog post, where I struggle to come to terms with the revolving door of festivities that take British culture by storm.

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Costumes in Leeds are normal, but apparently Halloween is special here too:

I remember my first day in Leeds, walking around Headingley on a Saturday afternoon. Soon you are greeted by groups of Lifeguards, Spice Girls, even Bananas. Don’t you worry because every single Saturday shopping trip will also force you to interact with these strange dressed-up creatures. These brave souls are completing the famous ‘Otley run’ where they visit 16 pubs while dressed-up, as if disguising themselves from potential run-ins with classmates. You would think this regular weekly dress-up would discourage people from Halloween.

No, no, no. Prepare for Pumpkin carving, costumes, and attempts not to slip on the autumn leaves.

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All dressed-up for Halloween.. Due to lack of costume options, I was a Spider’s Web

‘Remember, remember the 5th of November’:

And just like that, it was Guy Fawkes. How very British! Though New Zealand haven’t let go of this tradition just yet, nothing beats standing in a field wearing three different jackets and two pairs of socks. It had been raining all day, so expectations for the soaked pile of wood to light were low. After three different countdowns and plenty of smoke the Bonfire finally lit. The display of fireworks were followed by a Fair filled with Toffee Apples and Bacon Butties. As I left Hyde Park a thick Yorkshire accent mutters, ‘Well, that was terrible’ behind me. I laughed at this very British response.

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All dressed-up for Halloween.. Due to lack of costume options, I was a Spider’s Web

Christmas trees? Check. John Lewis ad? Check.

Christmas is well and truly here. I knew Christmas was a different beast in the UK as soon as I visited three different student flats on the first week of November. All three had Christmas trees up and decorated before any of the inhabitants had started their assignments. Every single ad-break on TV has a different Christmas advertisement; Sainbury’s invented Christmas? You bet. John Lewis makes us feel sorry for a Dragon? Let me grab some tissues. Walkers have Brussel Sprout flavoured crisps? Yes, unfortunately yes. But what is Christmas without Christmas Markets! The Leeds Market did not disappoint with all the mulled wine a girl could ask for. The following weekend, I visited the Edinburgh Christmas Market where Christmas carols are played on bagpipes and the market is three-times bigger than Leeds’ already impressive market. On the ride home the busdriver played ‘Mr Bean’s Christmas’, because of course I’m ticking off every stereotype in the book.

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On that note, a very Merry Christmas from Leeds. Before I get whiplash from all the festivities, let’s forget that the New Year is almost upon us. Although, I’m sure Sainbury’s is dusting off their ‘Happy New Year’ signs as I speak.

Hannah