Reflections – Cathy

It’s hard to believe that my semester abroad has finally come to an end and we’re back to the reality of going back to UoA for semester 2 in the Auckland winter. I feel like reflecting on the past 6 months will be full of clichés, not to mention impossible. How do you even start to sum up the most adventurous and full on 6 months of your life? But hey, let’s get right into it anyways: I’ve had the absolute time of my life, I’m met and befriended so many amazing people from all over the world and it’s been an amazing experience that I’d recommend to everyone.

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I’ve been tagged in this by my friends more times than I can count. Source

I’ve been back in Auckland for just over a week now and there’s definitely been some ups and downs. It’s been great to see family and friends again, I’ve definitely missed the feeling of being home and not living out of my backpack and drifting from place to place. It also feels surprisingly normal to be back, almost as if I never really left because things are just going on exactly the same as they were when I left. On the other hand, coming back to winter after the European summer is definitely a bit of a bummer and it’s definitely been a challenge to get back into studying after being on holiday mode for so long.

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Spent my last few days in Europe sunbathing on the beach and exploring Santorini which was absolutely unreal

Throughout the semester I did feel as if I wasn’t making the most of my time away because I wasn’t travelling or going out with people, but in hindsight I’m totally ok with the times that I’ve stayed in and just enjoyed living in a different city. Everyone has a different experience when they’re abroad, and at the end of the day it’s about enjoying your time there. Personally, I’m really happy with how I spent my semester. Being able to move to a new city where you knew pretty much no one to start with and make it your home is an amazing feeling to come away with. There’s also nothing like that feeling of wonder when you’re looking at something that you’ve only ever really dreamed of, and being able to say you ticked that off your bucket list. For me, these two things are what makes everything worth it.

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Stopped for a few days in Singapore on the way back home because why not?? I’ve always wanted to see the Gardens by the Bay and they were every bit as amazing as I anticipated!!

I think one of the beauties about doing a semester abroad is that it’s hard to get it wrong; no matter what country or university you pick, you’re bound to have a ton of adventures. You’ll never know what you’ll do, who you’ll meet or where you’ll end up, but it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a good time. I was on the fence about doing an exchange for quite a while before I decided to go for it, and I’m so glad that I did. I came back with so many more experiences and cherished memories than I ever bargained for and I’d jump at the chance to do it all over again.

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The iconic Duke of Wellington statue. Seeing this will always make me super nostalgic and glad that I ended up in this amazing city

This is the last post I’ll be doing for the 360 Blog. It’s been an amazing journey and it was super cool having the opportunity to share that on here! It’s back to uni for me now but always happy for questions and feedback ❤

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Behind The Scenes – Cathy

As cliche as it is, I’ll be writing this post on my travels during my semester abroad. I know that most of my friends must be thoroughly sick of me and my travel posts on social media, but c’mon, this is pretty much a once in a lifetime opportunity. Part of the reason I chose to do my exchange in Europe was because I got a severe case of travelbug after my last backpacking trip here 2 years ago. There’s just so many places to see and explore, and having budget airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet made it far too tempting.

My trip over Easter break wasn’t particularly well thought out – the majority of my planning involved sitting in a cafe on my phone checking Skyscanner and Hostelword to see where the next cheap flight was. All I had were some vague notions of places I wanted to see and that I needed to be somewhere sunny and warm (despite how much I love Scotland, I felt like I needed a healthy dose of vitamin D in my life after 3 months of snow and rain). I spent my Easter break of 3 weeks hopping around London, Toulouse, Barcelona, Malta, Naples and Portugal, seems like a random mix of places nowhere near each other, but all I did was see what cheap flights there were from each city and strung this trip together. I went to all of those places except London by myself. Although I would’ve loved to have joined some of my friends on their adventures over break, my last minute and spontaneous planning made that extremely difficult and besides, travelling alone was a challenge I was ready to take on.

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Comino, Malta. New Zealand is obviously the most beautiful country in the world but Malta sure gives us a good run for our money.

Solo travel is an experience I’d recommend to everyone. There are definitely a lot of challenges, tough times and breaking points, but it’s amazing to have the freedom to go wherever I want at my own pace and only be doing the things I wanted to be doing. It was completely up to me whether I wanted to be on my feet all day, or to take a nap in the afternoon, or spend the day sitting in the park reading a book. There’s also definitely a sense of accomplishment when I finally made it back to Glasgow after 3 weeks. I planned and booked everything by myself and I managed to make all my flights, trains and buses and to the hostels. Logistically, everything went as smoothly as I could’ve hoped.

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Naples, Italy. Gorgeous sunset with Mt Vesuvius in the background. Was an absolute hike to get to this view but I loaded up on pizza and gelato straight afterwards.

There’s this notion that travelling alone as a young female is dangerous, and I’d just like to say that it’s absolute nonsense! There’s danger everywhere you go and as long as you’re aware of your surrounding and take precautions, I wouldn’t say solo travelling is any more dangerous than wandering around Auckland by yourself.

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Barcelona, Spain. View of Barcelona from Bunkers del Carmel and finally enjoying some warmth and sunshine. There’s also no shame in asking strangers to take a photo of you on your phone.

I also wanted to make a note and say that it’s totally OK to feel lonely at times and to take a break when you’re travelling for long periods of time by yourself. There’s definitely been a few days where I’ve just gone for nap in the afternoon or just sat in the park and read a book. Don’t feel like you need to always be on the go and making the most of your time there – remember you’re on holiday! It’s easy to get sucked into believing that every minute of travelling is amazing and fun. Although my Instagram game has definitely improved from my travel snaps, obviously I’m not going to be posting pictures of being in a cramped bus at 3am or feeling deathly seasick on the boat ride to Comino.

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Valleta, Malta. I actually can’t get over how amazing this country is – walking into the upper Barrakka Gardens makes you feel like you’ve walked into literal paradise.

Cathy’s Top Tips

  • Skyscanner, rome2rio, Google maps (offline) are all your friends – would be ideal to have a phone plan/ provider that lets you use data across the EU. GIffgaff is an excellent one based in the UK with great deals for students
  • Bring your student ID or proof of age for concessions on transport and attractions (doesn’t work everywhere but always worth a shot)
  • Always bring a towel and jandals
  • HEADPHONES ARE ESSENTIAL – Spotify Premium is a great investment – download all the music and podcasts that you can or else your head might cave in on your 8am flight with a crying toddler. Having a book is a good option too – I finished a whole novel on my trip
  • Be aware of your surroundings!! Trust your gut instinct and remember it’s better to be safe than sorry. I decided to sit around at the bus station in Barcelona for an hour at 6am waiting for it to get lighter before walking to my hostel. Also if you’re feeling a bit shifty about the areas that you’re in, ask your hostel reception about what areas to avoid.
  • Let friends & family know about your plans. Although nothing unfortunate happened on my trip, it’s always a good idea to have someone check in on you to make sure everything’s ok!
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Porto, Portugal. Absolutely gorgeous and underrated city! Unfortunately it looks a bit underwhelming because of the weather. There are also basically no photos of me in Portugal because I only had about 4 outfits with me and I had started to resemble a raccoon with the dark circles under my eyes by the end of the 3 weeks.

As always, happy to answer any questions! I’m currently in Poland with my parents who are up to visit and it’s a whopping 25 degrees! Hope everyone back in Auckland is staying warm.

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Campus Life – Cathy

It’s hard to believe that in another 2 weeks, exams will be over and my time in Glasgow will be coming to an end. Honestly, the thought of that breaks my heart a wee bit (or a lot).

One of the reasons I’ve loved my time here so much is the campus life and student culture in Glasgow. Let’s start with the campus itself; one of the biggest features of UoG is the Main Building which gives off some serious Hogwarts vibes. I’ve been here for a full semester now and walk past the building pretty much every day that I’m at uni, and I sometimes still get awestruck by how it looks, especially on the rare days where we see a few rays of sunshine.

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She’s a right stunner in both the snow and sunshine

Another iconic feature of UoG is the Cloisters, where graduations are held and have also featured in TV shows like Cloud Atlas and Outlander!

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Just 2 kiwis from Auckland having the time of their lives in Glasgow ❤

The West End houses a large majority of UoG’s students, making it super student-friendly and convenient. Having come from Auckland, it’s really nice to be able to walk everywhere I need to and not having to deal with commuting or traffic every single day. Uni is only a 15 minute walk away from my accommodation, and there are plenty of supermarkets, cafes, pubs, and bars minutes away from me. I generally don’t even take the bus or subway anywhere as everything’s so close and I actually like walking. Even a night out in town on Sauchiehall Street is doable on foot within 30 minutes.

Despite all the cool things to experience on exchange, let’s not forget that we’re here to study as well. I’m not going to lie, I have sometimes forgotten that I’m here to try and maybe learn a few things. As a conjoint student, I’ve had a bit more flexibility with which classes I could take. This semester, I’ve ended up taking all first and second year classes which are counting towards electives back in Auckland. In all honesty, I feel like I’ve put in less effort in academics this semester than I would in Auckland because I chose to do lower level elective classes. But I’ve gone to almost all my lectures, I promise! Very motivational since the lectures mostly aren’t recorded like they are in Auckland.

Outside of class, I’ve managed to keep myself fairly busy. I’ve been making good use of the uni gym in the Stevenson Building (or fondly known as ‘Stevie’), and going fairly regularly to fitness classes and the netball drop in sessions. Would highly recommend the Supercircuits class – absolute killer of a workout, but the feeling of achievement and endorphins afterwards is unbeatable. I’ve also decided I wanted to try a new sport and found myself joining Farflung, the Glasgow uni ultimate frisbee club. Joining a sports club is something I couldn’t recommend enough to anyone coming to Glasgow. Everyone in Farflung has been super friendly; I’ve learnt a whole new sport, met a whole bunch of great people and even ended up going to a rookie tournament out in Stirling which has definitely been one of the highlights of my time here.

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Early days of my professional Ultimate Frisbee career. Photo courtesy of my friend Tascha

This semester has actually flown by so fast, and I’m really happy with how I’ve taken to living in Scotland. As always, happy to take on any questions and comments!

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Accommodation Awards – Cathy

It’s a snow day in Glasgow! The ‘beast from the east’ has hit, classes are cancelled and the whole city is out enjoying the snow. It hit a tropical 10 degrees last week and now we’re back to 0, which I’m slightly peeved about, but it’s hard to look out at the flurries of snow falling from the sky and not stare in awe.

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Currently on a red weather alert but that didn’t stop anyone from sledding through Kelvingrove today!

It’s been almost 2 months since I touched down in Glasgow and it’s safe to say I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this bustling and vibrant city. I’m living in the West End, known for its hipster vibes and being Glasgow’s cultural hub. The West End is full of students from UoG and there is a range of accommodation to choose from. For this semester, I’m staying at the Cairncross House hall of residence in the suburb of Finnieston, which I applied for through UoG. I would recommend staying in uni accommodation just to make the paperwork easier. However, there is some private student accommodation and even more student flats available, both in West End and the city centre. Glasgow is also a much cheaper city to live in than Auckland, and I find the rent in the city quite reasonable, especially considering the location.

Cairncross House is about a 15 to 20 minute walk away from the university. My daily walk takes me past the busy Argyle Street – with endless rows of restaurants and pubs that are bustling every night of the week – and through the leafy Kelvingrove Park, where you can get a stunning view of the university’s main building and maybe even spot a squirrel! I find that essentially everything I need is within 40 minutes walk. I thoroughly enjoy walking, so I make the most of it and keep public transport to a minimum (I’ve hit my target step count every single day this year so far!!). However, it’s convenient enough to catch a bus across town and there’s a bike renting system with stations all across the city. The only downside of where I live is that it is right in the middle of the subway loop; Glasgow’s subway/metro system is literally just a circle that goes both ways. It’s pretty inconvenient for me to catch the subway, but it makes for a great opportunity to do sub-crawls!

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Rare sighting of sunshine and blue sky in Glasgow!

I have a single standard room at Cairncross House with all the essential furniture. I share a kitchen with 10 other girls – a mix of exchange students from Hong Kong and domestic/EU students from Scotland, England, Poland, Lithuania and Finland. Although Cairncross used to have a bigger mix of students, it’s becoming more popular for first years. I was pleasantly surprised by how spacious my room was; it came with almost everything I needed and a small window, which I’m currently watching the snowfall from. Everything I didn’t have, I got on a trip to IKEA. Admittedly, I also got multiple things that I didn’t need on that trip, too. Oops.

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Can you tell I cleaned up my room just for this photo? Also, spot the $2.50 laundry basket from IKEA!

It does get messy in the kitchen and bathrooms at times which is probably what I dislike the most about living here, but I guess that’s one of the necessary evils of communal living. Cairncross also has a silent study room with computers, a common room with tables, couches and a TV – perfect for movie nights. There’s always organized activities on, such as movie nights, Pancake Day and board game nights. It’s a nice hall and my only reservations about it are that the showers are too small and the fire alarm test which forced us out of bed at 7am.

What I found most interesting about Glasgow’s student accommodation is that many of them are in flats, unlike Auckland uni’s halls. In places such as Murano Street, Kelvinhaugh Street and the student apartments in Hillhead, you can have 3, 5, 8 or 10 people sharing a flat, with about 4 to 6 flats in each building. It’s always a bit of a gamble going for these; I know some people whose flats are super close and go on trips together, but others have flatmates that barely talk to them!

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Cairncross’ resident kitty cat. Not sure who he belongs to but I think he’s starting to warm to me.

I’m off to enjoy the snow in Kelvingrove! Hope everyone back home is having a good time at O Week!

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First Impressions – Cathy

After 40+ hours of planes, transits, security, customs and airports, I’ve finally made it to the other side of the world: Scotland – my home for the next semester, where I will be attending the University of Glasgow. I’ll admit that the trip here wasn’t ideal. I spent about 25 hours in total on a plane plus dealing with a missed connection, which wasn’t really my idea of a good time, especially to kick off 2018. I landed in Glasgow at 7pm on New Year’s Day, exhausted and sore all over, but nevertheless, I was excited to start my year off on a new continent.

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View of the University from Kelvingrove Park

In a true Scottish fashioned welcome, the first day I spent here was cold, gray and rainy. It’s quite a bit colder than an Auckland winter, generally sitting at around 1 to 4 degrees Celsius, and my weather app tells me that the humidity is also quite high, making the cold really stick on to you. I made plenty of mental preparation for the weather differences though; leaving a kiwi summer was always going to be hard but I was expecting to not see the sun for about 4 months in Glasgow, so imagine my surprise when the weekend graced us with two days of clear blue skies and sunshine. It was absolutely freezing but amazing to see the city in all its wintery glory.

Scotland and New Zealand have many things in common. For example: some beautiful scenery, a love for fish and chips and comments on our respective accents by the rest of the world. However, there are also some major differences in culture which I’ve been lucky enough to experience already. On the first night, the university organized a social event for all the new international students. I wasn’t too sure what to expect – but it turned out to be a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), which is a traditional Scottish (also Irish) social gathering which involves traditional Scottish music and dancing. So yes, I learnt how to do Scottish dances – I can feel myself becoming more cultured already.

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The River Clyde

Another one of the great and unique things about going on exchange in Glasgow is that they also offer classes from the Glasgow School of Art such as sculpting and photography, as well as a bagpiping class and an introductory class to Scottish history. Unfortunately I didn’t have any space in my degree to take any of these, but we did get a demonstration on the bagpipes during our orientation talk!

The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and very recently celebrated its 567th birthday. To put a little perspective on that, that is 389 years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The main building was built in a 1400s style of architecture, despite actually being built in the 1870s. Nevertheless, the buildings are stunning and giving off some serious Hogwarts vibes. Most of the campus is on University Avenue, just outside of Kelvingrove Park. There are also several newer and more modern buildings in the campus such as the main UoG library, which has 12 floors!

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The University courtyard – its meant to be bad luck to step on the grass, if you do, you wont graduate!

Although it’s absolutely freezing and kind of damp all the time, Glasgow is a lovely city. Everyone has been super friendly, there’s lots of green spaces and endless roads of cute little cafes, bars, pubs and shops. I’m super excited to see what this semester has in store for me and the places that it’ll take me… places such as Edinburgh this Saturday 😀 To keep up with my adventures, chuck me a follow on Instagram or flick me an email if you have any questions!

Instagram: c2849
Email: chan977@aucklanduni.ac.nz

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