Julia: Tops Tips for Travelling whilst Studying Abroad

Kia ora friends!

If you’re anything like me then the ol’ travel bug is big reason you’re looking into a semester abroad. As I’m now in my fourth month of exchange I thought I’d share some of the top tips I’ve learned along the way for travelling while studying abroad.

#1 Travel before (or after) your semester

In particular, if you’re planning on attending a college in the USA be prepared for the fact that class attendance is often compulsory and weekends are primarily consumed by football games – which you won’t want to miss out on, even if you’re not a football fan! I flew to the United States as soon as I could after UoA exams were finished, to travel through some of the north east USA and Canada and then the west coast – California, Nevada, Arizona. For the USA, I’d recommend travelling the opposite coast to where your host university is situated, as it can be time consuming to get across to during the semester. Also, make sure you know your visa limits when booking flights!

#2 Find your people

I’m a big advocate for breaking out of the exchange student bubble. However, when it comes to wanting to travel every weekend your fellow exchange students will more often than not be the ones most interested. My advice: find a few exchange students that you really click with and start planning early – traveling and planning is far easier in smaller groups and with likeminded people.

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Julie, my close friend and travel buddy from Brazil!

#3 Don’t neglect your home base

I thought I’d want to spend every weekend travelling around the states but honestly, I have fallen in love with weekends at UGA and in Georgia. While your host university may be close to many other travel destinations, I would definitely take some time to explore the place you now call home. One of my favorite things about Georgia is that it borders the Great Smoky Mountain region and boasts some impressive day hikes on the Appalachian trail, which I’ve definitely taken advantage of!

#4 Balancing Spontaneity and Planning

The last 4 months have turned me into walking yes. Yes to spontaneity. Yes to opportunity. Yes to travel. Learning how to push past my comfort zone and say yes has led me on some of the greatest adventures of my life thus far. However, what I’ve discovered is that in order to be able to be spontaneous on exchange, planning has to happen before you leave. While I would definitely leave room for spontaneity, my top tip would be to assess the kind of travel that you want to do before leaving NZ and financially plan your priorities, so that you are able to be a ‘yes person’ when the situation arises.

As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or follow my journey on Instagram (@juliabudler)

Arohanui,

Julia

Julia

Harvey: Accommodation and Dorm Life

Welcome back to the blog! I’ve just finished my first set of four midterms, and they went surprisingly quite well. I’ve got a couple of weeks before my next set of midterms, so I’m planning to take advantage of this to do a bit of relaxing and travelling. In the meantime, I thought it’d be helpful going through the accommodation options and dorm life here at Berkeley.

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Trying In-N-Out for the first time with my roommate

Accommodation

As an exchange student, you can either choose to live on-campus housing or find your own apartment/flat off-campus. Off-campus housing is typically cheaper (and more pleasant for the price you pay), but will involve much more work on your end; you’ll need to make sure you don’t get scammed, and you will probably need to view the property beforehand. Both of which may be difficult if you’re not already in the states. Furthermore, since most housing contracts are usually 12 months, if you’re only exchanging for one semester, it may be difficult to find another tenant to replace you when you leave. On the other hand, on-campus housing tends to be quite pricey for what you get, but I find it to be much more convenient and an excellent way to meet other students. On-campus housing also includes a meal plan, so you won’t need to cook.

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Maximo Martinez Commons

There are quite a few university residence halls to choose from, ranging from dorm-type to apartment type halls. To my knowledge, the units 1, 2 and 3, as well as foothill (and some others), are all freshmen (first year) dorms. Since all exchange students are classified as juniors/third years, no matter what year you’re currently in at Auckland, don’t bother with these. Some university apartments, along with Blackwell and Martinez, give priority to transfer and students second year or above, so I recommend applying for these instead. The newest residential hall is Blackwell, which I also find to be one of the nicer ones from the list. Another option available is the International house (or I-house), which has a separate application process. I-house residents have their own separate dining hall, which, in my opinion, has the best food.

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My side of the room

In my case, I was allocated to a double dorm room in Martinez commons on the south side of campus. When you apply for housing, you select your top five housing choices, with your last choice being any location any room type to get priority housing. It is essential to apply for accommodation before the housing deadline to ensure you get priority housing. This means that the housing department will guarantee that you get a room, although it may not be on your preferences list. For some reason, I received my university login details (required for the housing application) a day after the housing deadline closed. I still managed to get on-campus housing through constantly emailing the housing department, so I’d definitely recommend keeping in contact with the university when something doesn’t work out. This doesn’t only apply for housing, but also for your course enrollments!

Dorm life

Like many of the other students, I wanted to live in a single room with my personal space. Unfortunately, the Berkeley ‘housing crisis’ only allows for double/triple rooms if you’re not trying to break the bank. There’s quite a lot to get used to, and of course, it depends on who your roommate is. Some people never get along with their roommates, and others get on great. You would also need to get used to their different schedules (sleep times, etc.) and their good or bad habits. In this aspect, it’s vital to communicate with your roommate. Other things to get used to are the unisex bathrooms, and people studying in the study lounge late into the night, starting from the second week of classes. Sometimes it’s a struggle to find an empty study room since everyone’s on the grind. Residential halls also tend to offer free events and prizes to its residents. All in all, I highly recommend living in a residential hall or apartment just for the sake of meeting more people!

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Introducing kiwi slang to the locals (through my amazing art)

As you may have realised, there are heaps to get used to here at Berkeley! Don’t be afraid of reaching out and asking for help, there are plenty of resources out there. Feel free to contact me at hlin583@aucklanduni.ac.nz if you have any questions about accommodation or Berkeley in general.

Thanks for reading!

Harvey

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View of Berkeley and the bay

Christiane: No Sky Too High

In mid-2019, I received the privilege of taking on an exchange programme for a full academic year at Northeastern University (NEU). NEU is located in Boston, one of the most liberal and diverse cities in the United States. There are approximately 260 students from all over the world participating in this programme concurrently with me at Northeastern University. Embarking on an exchange is not as easy as we thought, but it is a life-changing experience that challenges you, shapes you, teaches you, and will become part of you in later life.

For students who are interested in doing an exchange, I think it is very important to do enough research about your potential host university and its surrounding environment as well. The research is especially important for students with a clear career plan. As a Kiwi, this is an opportunity for me to explore a much bigger, more complex, and more competitive market. Massachusetts is not only a state with a wide range of top universities in the world but also the home base of traditional pharmaceutical industries and insurance parties in the United States. Apart from my university studies, I will be able to reach out to professionals and companies in the healthcare and technology industry. Through market research and participation in industrial summits, I can access more information from different parties and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the healthcare industry and the potential applications of technologies within health.

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Me with my friends in front of the art gallery. I am the girl in the middle with the black hair!

Being exposed to an environment so far different to New Zealand is similar to sailing from a lake into an open ocean. In general, the United States has a much higher population density and a more complex legal system than New Zealand.  Cities like Boston, New York, and San Francisco demand fast-paced lifestyles. It is essential to give up your preconceived assumptions and not to hesitate to ask for help or advice. When I first arrived in Boston, I asked around my friend group and in the market to obtain the furniture to fill up my room. Your local classmates and friends can give you the necessary tips that enable you to make more cost-efficient choices, not only in recommending restaurants but also in areas such as health insurance, filing tax returns, and much more besides.

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We are visiting a very famous pastry shop in the “Little Italy.”
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I am attending the 9th US-China Health Summit at Harvard University, Boston
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I hosted an meet-up dinner for exchange students near the Northeastern University campus.

 

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Harvey: First Impressions at UC Berkeley

Before I begin first my post, I’d like to say that if you get into Berkeley, be prepared to work hard. If you’re looking for an exchange experience with a chill workload and have plenty of time to spare for other activities, don’t choose Berkeley. This school is exceptionally academically challenging (at least for engineering) and will push you to your limits. None of my classes have lecture recordings, and the number of resources provided to students is much less than back at home, especially for upper-division (3rd/4th year) courses. But if you’re thinking of exchanging here, you’re probably expecting to be academically challenged… right?

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View from the top of the Campanile

Most people know UC Berkeley or Cal as the number one public university in the United States, and Berkeley is geographically stereotyped as the campus “just 30 minutes’ drive” from San Francisco. However, in reality, the City of Berkeley is a stark contrast from the bustling high rises of San Francisco, being ranked in the bottom 20 for safest cities in all of California. Student housing here is very pricey, and the actual accommodation you get is not of high quality, considering the price you pay. The streets are dirty in comparison to Auckland, and you tend to see many homeless people in the area. That being said, I don’t feel particularly unsafe in the area, and the university offers plenty of services to make sure you get home safe. There’s quite a bit to cover here on these topics, so I’ll probably return to these in my future posts.

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Welcome to UC Berkeley!

GBO (Transfer Edition)

The first date on which the semester starts, according to the academic calendar, marks the first day of GBO (Golden Bear Orientation). As an exchange student, I attended the same orientation program as the other exchange students, rather than first-year students. Unlike UoA, where there isn’t a specific timeframe for people to transfer into the university, Berkeley transfer students typically move after the end of their 2nd year. Since I am also living on campus, my orientation group also consisted of people living in the same building as I was. This is great for meeting people that you’re probably going to see around a lot in the same building. I found this week to be quite enjoyable and met many friends that I now hang out with quite often. The activities sometimes ran until midnight but aren’t all compulsory, apart from the ‘bear pact’, which everyone must attend. Even though they are not compulsory, I recommend visiting some of the events just for the sake of meeting new people.

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GBO Group 607! (or what’s left of it by the end of the week)

Furthermore, as part of the transfer-student orientation, we can choose from a list of companies to attend a company tour or a tour of the Bay Area. Make sure you check the dates to see when the form releases, since spots from the well-known companies fill up very quickly! There are some great companies such as LinkedIn, Goldman Sachs, etc., and this presents an excellent opportunity to network. As I couldn’t find a company relating to my studies (I applied late), I visited an Australian architectural company called Woods Baggot, which was quite interesting.

American Football

Having never watched a football game in my life, I attended the opening home match between Cal and UC Davis. As you all know, football culture is huge in America. Hot dog stands line the streets up to the memorial stadium (where the match was being held), and everyone wears some form of Cal merchandise to support their team. I still don’t understand the rules, but it was fun to experience the school spirit!

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Grateful to be sitting in the shade

Overall, the first few weeks have been very full-on, but I have found the experience so far quite meaningful. Keep an eye out for my next blog post to follow my journey here at Cal. Feel free to contact me at hlin583@aucklanduni.ac.nz if you have any questions on the application process or anything in general about the university as an exchange student.

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Julia: First Impressions of the University of Georgia

“Oh New Zealand! That’s the capital of Australia, right?”

I’ve been living in Georgia for almost 2 months now and have heard that statement far too many times for my liking… However, aside from that, I am loving my American home and thought it was about time to share some of my first impressions with y’all!

The University of Georgia

It was honestly love at first sight when I arrived at UGA. The campus looks like it belongs in an early 2000’s coming of age film, and I’m definitely here for it. Built in 1785, the University of Georgia is the nation’s oldest state university, so is filled with gorgeous brick buildings and tall pillars, alongside the newer modern facilities. UGA has 22 dorms and 8 different housing communities, so there is naturally a thriving campus life! I’ve been loving living in the East Campus Village community – apartment style dorms that are just a stone’s throw away from village-summit dining and the famous Ramsey recreational center.

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“It was honestly love at first sight when I arrived at UGA.”

 

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“The campus looks like it belongs in an early 2000’s coming-of-age film, and I’m definitely here for it.”

Orientation

One of the things that initially attracted me to UGA was their week-long international student orientation. During this week, around 100 of the international exchange students stayed together in the beautiful Rutherford Hall in central campus. Orientation provided lots of necessary information about campus life and academics, but mostly it gave all of us exchange students the chance to make new friends, through events like a Ben & Jerry’s icecream social, a pool party, and a pizza night. We also joined in with the freshman class of ’23 in creating the iconic G at Sanford Stadium!

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“One of the things that initially attracted me to UGA was their week-long international student orientation.”

 

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“We joined in with the freshman class of ’23 in creating the iconic G at Sanford Stadium!”

Athens, GA.

UGA is located in the college town of Athens, about 40 minutes outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Athens is your quintessential college town – independent coffee shops, funky bars, cute boutiques, and the iconic Georgia Theatre. The streets are always bustling with college students at any time of day or night. On any given nondescript Wednesday there will always be something going on downtown, which is the beauty of living in a college town!

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Football

To say that America is football-crazy is honestly an understatement. During the fall semester, Saturdays in Athens are dedicated to cheering on the UGA Bulldogs, with over 90,000 people packing into UGA’s Sanford Stadium. As a kiwi gal with no previous interest in football, I didn’t know what to expect of game days, but I can say without a doubt that they have been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before and doubtless ever will again after this exchange. Football is more than a game at UGA – it is culture, tradition, and community. I’m looking forward to all the games to come! Go Dawgs!

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“During the Fall semester Saturdays in Athens are dedicated to cheering on the UGA Bulldogs, with over 90,000 people packing into UGA’s Sanford Stadium.”

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I can’t wait to see what new adventures the next few months bring. Feel free to follow my journey on Instagram (@juliabudler) and reach out if you have any questions!

Arohanui,

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Nakita Daniel – Undergraduate Leaders Programme (July 2019)

The 2019 APRU programme I had the privilege of attending over July was not only the highlight of the year so far, but also an exceptional life experience. With two exams the day before flying out, I hadn’t had much time to think about expectations. I was open to everything that was going to be thrown my way, ready to meet new people, hear their stories, and share my own.

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What first seemed like a long time, when it came to saying goodbyes twelve days later, definitely did not seem like remotely enough. I left the programme feeling educated, empowered, challenged, connected and ready to apply my new skills at home. Our twelve days in Oregon consisted of workshops on communication, the design process, scientific and systemic thinking. We were split into groups and tasked with a challenge from one of the three community partners. I was in the environmental degradation group and was tasked with the challenge to reduce food waste in Lane County by our community partner BRING Recycling. We tackled this issue by developing an annual education programme for elementary school kids to educate the youth of tomorrow about the importance of reducing waste and composting today.

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“One of the key takeaways from this programme was learning how to make global issues more accessible in order to tackle the problems we are most passionate about.”

Overwhelming at times, the experience from this programme helped me realise the different components that make up leadership and community development. I was also able to refine skills in research, communication, presentation and organisation through the various activities we did each day. I can safely say that I was constantly challenged: whether that be through learning patience when trying to communicate with people from different countries, developing, researching and refining our solution on a tight time crunch, or actually presenting our idea to all the community partners and attendees, I learnt how to adapt to different situations.

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One of the key takeaways from this programme was learning how to make global issues more accessible in order to tackle the problems we are most passionate about. Before attending this programme, I often found myself with this energy and drive to make change happen but never fully understanding how to make a tangible difference. However, through working with real-life community partners, I was able to zoom into particular aspects of the issue and tackle things in smaller segments than get overwhelmed by the big picture. I learned how to set and achieve smaller goals, successfully work with a team of like-minded individuals, all while consistently applying an interdisciplinary lens to the issue; I was then able to apply that skill through my degree here at the University of Auckland. This programme both reinforced my current skillset in a real-world setting and also exposed me to global perspectives from all the other group members. Everyone had something to bring to the table. Being able to learn from each other and combine different elements from ideas around the world was something truly unique.

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In addition to the programme itself, one of the most rewarding aspects of the whole experience was developing new connections. Once strangers, the fifty-five other individuals I met were nothing but phenomenal. I was blown away by not only their amplitude and passion for making a difference, but also their constant kindness, generosity, and support. We all enjoyed the planned cultural excursions, as well as our own little discovery trips around Eugene, having shared both the stress and joy and everything in between. It’s surreal to think I now have a base all around the Pacific Rim, just as anyone coming to Aotearoa would have a place to call home here. I would highly encourage and urge every single student to make the most of this opportunity. University is all about learning and putting that knowledge into practice. This experience has not only allowed me to do this in an international setting but also exposed me to various other opportunities in my field of interest and connected me with lifelong friends who share similar passions and are no doubt the change makers we need right now.

Nakita Daniel

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