Final Reflections: Matt

It truly is unbelievable just how quick 10 months can pass, my time in the USA really felt like a blur. Well I am back in Auckland and thought that for my last post I will pretty much write down my final thoughts and some of the highlights from my two semesters in Chapel Hill.

For me, the two semesters spent at Chapel Hill was one of the best times of my life and I would do anything to relive that experience again. For those thinking about going abroad, I say do it! You will not regret a thing.

The South

The first thing I want to talk about is the southern culture. For me personally, I loved the culture in North Carolina. Being in the south, I experienced southern hospitality, BBQs, sweet tea, s’mores, country music, as well as a southern campus experience. On the off occasion, I would even catch myself saying “y’all” rather than “you all,” much to the delight of the Americans. The South is a region that many do not consider when looking to visit the US. I simply cannot recommend it enough, especially if it’s for an exchange. Compared to other regions in the US, the lifestyle is so laidback, and I often drew comparisons to the lifestyle in New Zealand. The weather is great, the people are very friendly and if you like the outdoors, there are mountains, beaches rivers and lakes to explore. Did I already mention that you won’t freeze your ass off in winter?

Trying out deep-fried Oreos at the State Fair – a southern delicacy



You’d think that most of the highlights from an exchange are the places you visit and travel to. However, many of the best memories I made were in Chapel Hill. From going out at least four times a week (my liver can thank me for that), to learning new skills in boxing, I was always trying to make the most out of my short time at UNC. Notable highlights included football games on Saturdays, the state fair, Halloween on Franklin Street, the snow week at UNC, Holi-Moli, Bar-Golf and the last day of class (LDOC), just to name a few.

Halloween at the hill

Snow day? Snow problem



I was very lucky to have covered so much of the USA. Being on exchange for two semesters meant that I had way more time to see this vast country and meant I did not need to spend every weekend away from Chapel Hill. From the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic coast, I experienced the best the state of North Carolina offered. From the chilly north east cities of Boston and New York City, to sunny Florida, I explored much of the eastern United States, including the windy city of Chicago in the mid-west. At the end of the second semester, myself and a few mates ventured out west in a van and experienced some incredible scenery, as well as visiting the cities of LA, San Francisco and San Diego. The good thing about the F-1 student visa is that it allows up to 60 days in the United States after your studies have finished, so definitely take advantage of that!

It had “bean” a great time in Chicago

Spring Break at the Bahamas
Big smiles at the big apple

Grandest time at the canyon



Being on the same boat as all the other exchange students, it was so easy to make international friends. EASE provides an orientation as well as various events for international students to meet up, so it is a great way to form friendships. Americans are also very friendly and easy to get along with, however I found that many already had their own social circles, and they were heaps more focused on their studies than we were. In the fall semester, we had formed a big international group (with some Americans) and did everything together, from hanging out to traveling. Travelling with a group of internationals is also so much fun. Some of my best memories came from hiring out massive Air Bnbs, be it in Asheville or Chicago, and just having an awesome time away. Many of the exchange students do leave after a semester, but this meant I became quite close to the one year-ers in the second semester. Having mates from all over the world is sound because I now have a place to stay and a couch to crash on in all corners of the world.



Just a few mates


Final Word

Firstly, I just want to say a huge thanks to 360 International, the University of Auckland and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for giving me this opportunity to study in the United States. I also want to say thanks to my family and friends back in New Zealand for supporting me every single step of the way, and for when times get tough (yes it isn’t all roses!). And finally, a massive thank you to all the incredible people I have met throughout my time at UNC Chapel Hill, both International and American. Without them, the experience would not have been the same for sure. That goes to say that no matter where you go in the world, in the end, the fondest memories are made with the people you are with. And no doubt you will meet a bunch of legends like I did when you go abroad. My time at UNC may be up, but I will forever be a Tar Heel. Cheers!

Adobe Spark (12)

Sports at UNC (The University of National Champions): Matt

I thought that I would include this in my previous blog however I think it’s best it has its own separate section.

So yeah, sports in college are a big deal. And sports at UNC are an even bigger deal. Known as the Tar Heels, UNC is one of the top Universities in America when it comes to varsity sports. Our Basketball program is incredibly successful, winning the NCAA national championship 6 times and producing the great Michael Jordan. Our Football team is also decent however we did have an off year when I was at UNC. The baseball team made it to the final four and produces many MLB stars. The most successful team is the women’s soccer team. They have won 22 out of 36 championships and produced stars such as Mia Hamm. So yeah, you can say that the Tar Heels aren’t too bad.

2017 National Champions!
No better way to spend a Sunday morning than a bit of Baseball

If you go during the fall semester, you will be experiencing the Football season. While UNC isn’t known to be a Football school, it still plays at a very high level. Home games are played at Kenan Stadium with a capacity of 60,000 people.

Kenan Stadium from the student section. You bet I got sunburnt!

Gameday is a big affair. Tailgates are set up all over campus, with BBQs, drinking and games. Alumni meet up with old friends, and the marching band parades around campus. Frats normally host day parties (Darties) and many students like to cake themselves in Carolina blue. The game itself is a great experience. There is lots of noise, especially in the student section, and lots of colour. At the end, the crowd links arms and everyone sings the alma meter “Hark the Sound”, it truly is a special moment. Even if you dislike American football, it is a great idea to at least stay for one quarter as it is a great way to immerse yourself into the school spirit.

The marching band performing in front of Wilson Library

But whilst Football seems like a big deal, it does not come close to Basketball. The season is longer, and games are more frequent, yet the interest and support never dwindles. Games are played at the 21,000 capacity Dean Smith Centre and can be a bit of a trek since it is located on south campus. Most games are open general admission for students if you have your one card, however for the more important games, there is a lottery system. Basically, you apply and hope that your name gets selected for a ticket. I personally think it is rigged since I went 0-12 in the lottery. That did not stop me from finding tickets however and more importantly, I was able to watch the Duke game.

View from the nosebleeds
View from the student section

On the topic of basketball, we have this huge rivalry with another successful Basketball School called Duke (better known as Dook) who happen to be 9 miles down the road from us. Every year, we play them twice, home and away. Before coming to UNC, I had already heard of this rivalry and I was so excited to experience it. It began with lining up with other students for two hours to get into the stadium, such was the occasion. The noise inside the stadium was unlike anything I had experienced. It was constantly loud. When Theo Pinson dunked to seal the win, the place erupted. Next, we pushed our way out of the stadium and with thousands of other students, sprinted through campus towards Franklin Street. Within minutes, Franklin Street was packed with students celebrating the win. There was chanting, dancing, couch burning and fire-jumping, it was nuts! Beating Duke and rushing Franklin was probably the highlight of my time at UNC and must be experienced if you are there in the spring semester.

Celebrating the win over Dook

Franklin Street kicking off! Rushing Franklin is never complete without a jump over the fire. (Not responsible for any injury that may occur)

I hope you enjoyed this introduction on UNC sports and my experience in rushing Franklin. Funnily enough, you can probably catch UNC games on the telly if it is shown by ESPN. And also, go Heels!

Adobe Spark (12)

Campus Life: Matt

Hello again! In this post I want to talk about what life is like at UNC from work to play.


So, most students at UNC will find their classes to be based on north campus (unless you happen to be in the business school). On north campus, there is a mix of both old and new buildings where there is a good chance you will have a class. Also, on north campus are three main libraries both relatively large and unique in their own ways. Davis is the giant, no thrills, brick building with 7 floors. The ground floor is open-spaced and quite social, but the further up you go, the quieter it gets. Many think it looks like a prison. Second is Wilson. The building is located right on the quad and is the most good looking out of the three. Finally, there is the UL which is open 24/7 and is the perfect place to pull an all-nighter if you are unfortunate in leaving an assignment until the last day.

Wilson Library during the snow day
Carrol Hall


Of course, UNC isn’t all about work and study. We do have plenty of free time to unwind! Normally when there is a little break in between class, I like to spend time hanging around the pit or in the quad. The pit is the central hub of the University and is the equivalent to Auckland’s quad. It is essentially a large paved square that is surrounded by the student store, student union and Lenoir dining hall. The union is a great place to chill out, especially when the weather is bad. You can find ping pong tables, pool tables, a giant chess board and even a meditation room.

The Pit – The heart of Campus

The student store is another cool place to chill. There’s a café, convenience store, and a book store as well as all the UNC merch you can imagine.

The Student Store

Next to the pit is the quad known as Polk Place. When the weather is nice, many UNC students love to chill on the lawn and brave their hay fever allergies. It is conveniently close to classes and if you are lucky, you may see the pit preacher giving a lecture.

It’s always a good day to be a Tar Heel
Look Mum I have friends!
Sharing some yarns with Gary the Preacher


If you are into sport and recreation, UNC has all the facilities you can imagine. There are two main recreation centres: Rams located on south campus, and Fetzer gym located on mid campus. You can go to the gym, climb a wall, or even play a game of basketball. There are plenty of playing fields, swimming pools and a large astro turf which is popular for soccer and ultimate frisbee. However, you do get plenty of exercise simply from walking around campus and many students also like to use bikes to get around. Go to the rec centre to find out about any events, such as bubble soccer!

Bubble Soccer at Hooker Fields
Boxing at the Eddie Smith Field House


In terms of nightlife UNC has plenty of options. Obviously, the US has a drinking age of 21 so it can sometimes be difficult to cope if you are underage. House parties happen all the time so if you are outgoing, open and involved, you should have no problems finding parties especially if you are international. There is the option of Greek life however joining a frat takes about 6 months of initiation and can be quite pricey as well as time consuming. Same goes with joining a sorority. With Greek life, the best option is to be friendly with people involved with Greek life if you are keen to get involved with social events and parties. Normally, frats are selective with who they invite to their parties but on some occasions, parties are pretty open, especially during rushing season, Halloween, and LDOC (last day of class). As you can imagine, American house parties are very much like the movies with the red solo cups, beer pong and party juice.

Finger guns are underrated
Tailgate DARTY before a football game
10 Points if you can spot the Red Solo Cups

If you are over 21, you can add bars to the list of evening options. Franklin street has a range of bars to choose from each with their own kind of vibe. For me, I did a bit of everything. Most of the exchange students knew each other and we would often pregame together at a house and head either to the same party or bar on Franklin. In semester one, it was all about the bar “Country Fried Duck” or CFD however in semester two, nobody went there anymore. The bar “La Residence” essentially became the new CFD.

Paying homage to the legend that is CFD

Another bar I love is He’s Not Here. Apparently the place received that name because Michael Jordan would frequently have a drink there and fans would always ring up the bar asking where he was, to which the bar replied with “he’s not here.” The bar is famous for its blue cups and has an awesome beer garden to which you can spend warm sunny afternoons listening to a live band and sipping beer.

The famous blue cups from He’s Not Here

Another popular destination is Shooters. Shooters is club located in nearby Durham and is the place where all the Duke students party. On Wednesday nights, the club becomes and 18+ venue and many from UNC take party buses to Durham for the big night. This is a great option especially if you are underage. Other iconic bars are He’s Not Here, Might as Well, Goodfellow’s, Pantana Bob’s and Top of the Hill.

The view of Franklin Street from Top of the Hill (TOPO).

So yeah that’s the general idea on what life is like at UNC. There is heaps I probably have missed out on but perhaps the best thing to do is to find out for yourself!

Adobe Spark (12)

Student Life: Daryn

The clubs and organisations to get involved with at the University of Virginia (UVA) are endless. With over 700 clubs and organisations, this means almost everyone is involved with one or more in some way. I’ll outline the club and organisations that I’m involved in this semester.

The Cavalier Daily

The Cavalier Daily is UVA’s student newspaper and is ranked the number 2 public college paper in the United States. I joined the Cavalier Daily Photo team which provides pictures for online and print articles. I have covered a range of assignments including taking photos of U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito at the Women’s Global Leadership Forum, a UVA Faculty Senate meeting, and a Charlottesville City Council candidate debate. The highlight for me has been taking photos from the courtside in John Paul Jones Arena, the home of UVA Basketball!

Taking photos at John Paul Jones Arena for a UVA Women’s Basketball match

Profit with Purpose at UVA

Profit with Purpose (PwP) is a relatively new club with a focus on Impact Investing. PwP aims to “empower students to think about investing differently.” Impact Investing is a concept which aims to deliver quantifiable social or environmental impacts along with a financial return. For example, this could be through a social housing initiative or a low-cost healthcare solution. PwP members work in five sector groups which consult with a real organisation. This culminates with an investment pitch to industry experts at the end of the semester.

PwP Investment Pitch Symposium

Virginia Case Club

Virginia Case Club (VCC), based in the McIntire School of Commerce, prepares its members to complete in business case competitions. The club runs workshops on the components of a case along with practical presentation skills. Members work in case teams during the semester and compete in local and national case competitions. If you’re interested in learning more about the case study method and consulting frameworks this is a club for you!

Outdoors at UVA

This is one of the best value clubs out there! After joining as a member, you have access to a range of outdoor trips around Charlottesville, across Virginia, and further abroad. Outdoors at UVA trip leaders plan and manage over 300 trips a year, and the club has outdoors gear such as bikes and camping equipment that members can borrow for free. So far with the club I’ve been on trips around Charlottesville and to the McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail.

The view from the top of the McAfee Knob in Catawba, Virginia


HackCville is a non-profit which aims to teach UVA students skills that aren’t found in the classroom, particularly those related to entrepreneurship. The organisation offers public events, semester-long classes on subjects such as marketing, data science, and web design, along with paid internships through the Launch Academy. Although I have been too busy to do a semester-long course, HackCville also runs startup trips which expose students to ventures in various industries. I went on the Charlottesville and New York City startup trips. They were great experiences to tour offices and learn from founders of diverse companies, not to mention the opportunity to visit New York for a weekend! I was surprised by the number of innovative startups I saw, particularly in Charlottesville, which has been named the United States’ fastest-growing venture capital city.

Some of the companies visited during the New York City Startup Trip

New York City looking towards the Empire State Building

As I’m sure you’ve seen above, student clubs and organisations are a large part of the UVA experience, so I’d recommend exploring what’s available early in the semester!

If you have any questions feel free to email me at, or comment below.

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Food, Glorious Food: Matt

What many people think when asked about the typical American meal is something that is served quickly, eaten quickly, large and kinda on the unhealthy side of things. Whilst it is true that Americans love to eat Burgers, fries, hotdogs, chicken wings and there is a lot more that the US and North Carolina can offer to excite those taste buds.

Chapel Hill has a great foodie scene. There are a range of different places to eat, from high end restaurants, to takeaway burger joints all of which can be found on Franklin Street. There are Italian, Indian, Japanese and Greek restaurant as well as classic American diners. My personal favourite places to eat in Chapel Hill are Al’s Burger Shack, Spicy 9, Tru, and Sup Dogs. There are still heaps of places that I haven’t tried yet so that list can change in an instant.

Sup Dogs
Spicy 9
Not often that you need two plates to hold a slice of Pizza
Al’s Burger Shack


As for the cuisine in North Carolina, like many of the southern states, barbeque is a big deal over here. The state’s speciality is pulled pork which is pretty much pork that has been shredded up. Fried Chicken is also a big deal and if you do venture to North Carolina, visit a Bojangles restaurant as they do some quality chicken and hearty southern cuisine. Another great way to experience American food culture is to head to the annual North Carolina State fair. If you are lucky enough to spend the fall semester in North Carolina, you will have no problem finding endless displays of deep fried oreos, candy and giant turkey legs at the annual state fair.  North Carolinians are big on Sweet Tea when it comes to quenching one’s thirst. I kinda see what the fuss is all about especially during the summer months when a cold drink becomes a godsend. But for me, it felt like I was drinking a cup of cup of tea that I had left behind on the kitchen table with an excess amount of sugar.

Sunday’s are for Football and wings
North Carolina State Fair

You will have no problem finding good places to eat while you’re in Chapel Hill. Since we are on the topic of food, I should talk about the situation with meal plans at UNC. UNC has two Dining halls: Lenoir and Chase. There is another at Granville towers, but it is run separately. Both are conveniently located with Lenoir on North Campus and Chase on South Campus. To eat at these halls, you can pay as you go with cash or card, or you can purchase a meal plan and use your Onecard (like a student id card) to swipe yourself in. Depending on what meal plan you choose, you get a certain number of swipes. Some pay for an unlimited plan where they can go into the dining hall as often as possible without worrying about running out of swipes. Others opt for the 120 plan where you are given 120 swipes for the semester. I opted for the 120 plan because it was the cheapest option and allows me to use the dining hall approximately once a day. The dining halls are open all day and depending on the time, you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a great variety of food which caters to just about everyone, and it is extremely convenient.

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Accommodation Awards: Daryn

The first piece of advice I would give anyone looking for accommodation is to start your search early. Most Universities will have an application deadline for first choice accommodation, and off-grounds housing becomes much scarcer closer to the start of the semester. It feels a lot better to have a place to stay sorted early, rather than worrying as the semester looms closer!

At UVA there are two types of housing: on-grounds and off-grounds. On-grounds housing is provided by the University of Virginia but with off-grounds housing it’s up to you to find somewhere to live.

As you’ve probably seen in any movie which features a U.S. college, it is very common for students to live in the same room with a roommate. UVA is no exception, so expect to have a roommate in nearly any on-grounds housing you choose. There are options at some residences for single rooms but I would say it’s best to expect to have a roommate – and it is the ‘traditional’ U.S. college experience after all!

Best Community

First up is the International Residence College, or IRC. This is a residence targeted at developing an international community on grounds and consists of approximately 300 students, of which around 40% are from overseas. The IRC is located close to grounds, has single and double rooms, and features common kitchen and lounge spaces. A unique aspect of the IRC is the range of events offered including weekly morning teas, afternoon teas, and breakfasts, along with a range of other events such as Conversazione Grande dinners and trips. The IRC is located adjacent to Emmet Street and is a short five-minute walk to central grounds.


Best for Shopping

Lambeth Field Apartments, or just Lambeth, are down the road from the IRC, and offer apartment-style housing. Each apartment has two or three double rooms with a living area and kitchen. Lambeth Apartments are a bit utilitarian on the inside than other residences, but are more than adequate for students. Lambeth Field Apartments border its namesake, Lambeth Field, an excellent place to throw a frisbee around or play a game of football. Lambeth is convenient for your shopping needs, featuring its own convenience store, and is situated a ten-minute walk from the Barracks Road Shopping Centre. Lambeth is also a ten-minute walk to central grounds.


Most Modern Accommodation

The Flats at West Village are a modern apartment block located a five-minute walk from The Corner, and around a fifteen to twenty-minute walk to UVA’s central grounds.

To make up for the longer walk the Flats offer a range of modern amenities including a pool, spa, gym, and lobby area with coffee machines. The Flats has one to four-room apartment style suites, with most rooms having a private ensuite bathroom. The rooms share a common lounge and dining area.

Unfortunately all good things come at a price – modern apartments such as The Flats tend to be the most expensive housing option for students. However, if you like the sound of The Flats at West Village, other modern apartment buildings to check out include the GrandMarc and Uncommon.


Best Everyday Experience

I personally chose to stay off-grounds – it can work out cheaper, you can get a single room (for those of us not keen on sharing a room!), and you have a lot more choice in terms of the type of accommodation and the location.

The two main methods I used to find off-grounds housing were the UVA Housing Facebook Group and the UVA Roommates website.

As an exchange student if you’re here for one semester like me, it can be difficult to find off-grounds housing. As I mentioned earlier the best strategy is to search early. Often UVA students who are studying abroad will look for people to fill their rooms while they are overseas. I am subletting a room from a UVA student who is studying abroad for the Fall Semester – a perfect situation for both of us!

I’m staying in an off-grounds house which is around a 10-minute walk to central grounds and 10 minutes to ‘The Corner,’ the street adjacent UVA grounds with an assortment of shops and cafes. My room is a decent size, and was furnished, saving me from the hassle of organising furniture.


Additional Information

Most private leases through apartment companies (such as The Flats) or private leases for student accommodation will be for one year. This means you may be responsible for finding a tenant for the remainder of your lease if you’re staying for one semester. Keep this consideration in mind when finding a place. It is preferable to find a one-semester lease or sublet if possible.

Rooms may be furnished but be sure to find out what this means – one person’s definition of furnished may be different to yours.

No matter where you end up living I am sure you will learn to appreciate the pros and cons of your place during your exchange!

Contact Me

I’ve tried to briefly cover some housing options for exchange students at UVA, but my list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about housing, UVA, or studying abroad in general!

You can email me at, or comment below.


Food, Glorious Food: Daryn

I’ve experienced some differences in the U.S. when it comes to food. First are the naming differences: burgers are ‘sandwiches,’ ‘biscuits’ are scone-like delicacies, and soft drinks are ‘soda.’ Secondly is the relative processing of food – it can take a bit of searching to find healthier alternatives such as mostly sugar-free cereals!  I’ll cover a few places around Charlottesville to give you a taste of what’s available around UVA.

My Charlottesville Favourites

Bodo’s Bagels

Bodo’s is a must-try in Charlottesville. It’s a Charlottesville original offering a range of reasonably priced bagels with various toppings such as meats, salads, and cream cheeses made in-house. The possible combinations of bagels and toppings are endless, but my favourites are the egg and bacon on a plain bagel, and the cinnamon sugar and butter on a cinnamon and raisin bagel. It’s an excellent place for any meal of the day and has three locations in Charlottesville for your convenience, including on The Corner adjacent to grounds.



The Virginian

The Virginian is Charlottesville’s oldest restaurants, first opening in 1923 and is located centrally on The Corner. Its menu includes a range of classics including burgers, sandwiches, salads, and its signature mac and cheese. The restaurant has a lively atmosphere and is decorated with photos and memorabilia documenting the history of Charlottesville and the Virginian. Called ‘one of the South’s most famous eateries,’ in Coy Barefoot’s book ‘The Corner,’ The Virginian should be on your list during any visit to Charlottesville.



The Sheepdog Café

The Sheepdog Café is in the foyer of the Graduate Hotel on West Main Street. The café has an excellent ambience for studying featuring outdoor patio tables and rustic indoor seating. There’s even a walk-up window if you’re short on time! The food on offer includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I would recommend trying a sandwich, biscuit, or the mini-donuts.


The Pie Chest

The Pie Chest is known for their excellent range of sweet and savoury pies made from scratch. Pies are available in single servings or in family-sized pies. I would suggest trying the Chocolate Cream Pie or the Chicken, Bacon, and Roasted Garlic Pot Pie. The Pie Chest is on 4th Street in the Downtown Mall. It’s a bit far away from grounds but the effort is worth it!


Honourable Mentions


I haven’t made it to Roots yet, but take my word, and the words of others, when I say it’s good! The queues here speak for themselves. As for the food, think a refined version of Chipotle – your choice of meat, salads, staples, and dressings. There are a range of set bowls, or you can customise your own.



Although not strictly a Charlottesville original, Chick-fil-A has the honour of being one of the few chain restaurants to be represented on-grounds. As the name suggests, Chick-fil-A offers all kinds of chicken: burgers, nuggets, tenders, and salads. Make sure that you try the signature Chick-fil-A sauces – they’re a big part of the Chick-fil-A experience!


Contact Me

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about UVA or studying abroad in general!

You can email me at, or comment below. Follow my time abroad on Instagram @daryngovender_