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.

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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.

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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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