My trips in Kyushu: Rena

Hello again! In this blog post, I decided to show you where I’ve been in Kyushu.  I think that a lot of foreigners see Kyushu as only an agricultural region but truthfully, there’s lots of hidden gens in southwestern Japan. From the hot springs resort in Beppu to the ‘Small Europe’ theme park in Nagasaki, Kyushu is brimming with activities to do- here are the places I’ve visited in this stunning region!

Kagoshima prefecture – Kirishima
In September, the coordinators of the WJC programme took us all to Kagoshima for the weekend. It’s about a 7-hour drive one way and I was so touched that they took us this far for a trip. We spent our first day at the Kirishima Open-Air museum where we saw sculptures displayed in the Kirishima woods, meaning it was an outdoor museum and we were allowed to interact with the displays by touching them and sitting on them. The museum exhibits work from artists all over Japan and the world. These different displays all show aspects of nature, history and culture. It was such a unique museum and I had the best experience there.

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 Yayoi Kusama’s stunning work in front of the museum
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Exhibition 8- You Are The Art (2000)

We then spent our night at a traditional Japanese hotel (ryokan) where we were treated to what probably is going to be the fanciest dinner of my life. We also had a karaoke machine and spent our evening singing to Japanese songs, and songs from other cultures performed by my friends.

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There are literally no words to describe how badly I miss this!

We ended our night at the extravagant hot pools (onsen) which would have been relaxing except for the fact among us foreigners, it was our first time experiencing the onsen so for the first 20 minutes, we were embarrassed beyond belief. However, our Japanese friends comforted us and guided us to the different types of onsen. In the end, we loved it so much that we woke up at 5am the next morning to try out the outdoor ones. It’s definitely something I wish I could include in my daily morning routine!

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 The water was actually quite murky so that gave me some modesty as a first-timer- Source: Google images

On the second day, we visited the Kagoshima City Aquarium and watched the impressive dolphin performance. Then, we headed to the Sengan-en Gardens where we enjoyed another delicious lunch (seriously, when will they stop spoiling us?). At the gardens, we found a cat shrine which was too adorable.

After that, it was time to go back to Fukuoka.

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People write their wishes and hang them up here

 

Ōita Prefecture-Yufuin
2 weeks ago, my host family took me to a small town in Ōita called Yufuin. Though this town is small, it was buzzing with the most amazing shops! The shops are built in a European village style, and there were lots to see there! There was an Owl zoo, a cat café and shops for literally everything! (Think Cheesecake shop, Matcha shop, and even a cat goods shop. Not to mention, 3 Studio Ghilbi stores).

We first explored what shops the town offered. Then, we settled ourselves in a traditional Japanese restaurant for lunch. I had the most divine eel on rice lunch set. Then, we went to the Trick eye museum and in the evening, relaxed at a nearby onsen. Ōita prefecture is famous for its onsen spots, so you must stop at one if you’re in the area.

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Even though 1 day is enough to see all of Yufuin, I still want to go back!
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Trick eye museum!

 

Saga Prefecture-Karatsu, Ogi City
In late November, my host family took me to Saga prefecture. We explored Karatsu castle where the characters from ‘Yuri!!!on Ice’ went. There were little elements from the anime sprinkled in the castle which I thought was sweet. Then in the evening, we went to the Bamboo Light Festival (Kiyomizu Take Akari) in Ogi City. The picture in this blog doesn’t do it justice- everything there was honestly so stunning. All of the details on the bamboo canes (10,000 to be exact!) are easy to miss if you don’t stop and examine each and every one. The waterfall at the end was dazzling and complimented the fire in the bamboo canes so perfectly. This event is held annually so be sure to not miss it!

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For those Yuri!!! On Ice fans, this is for you- Left is the sign telling us that the anime was filmed here and the right shows the actual scene in real life
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A night I’ll never forget- even the time I accidentally knocked a bamboo cane over

I just want to take this time to thank my host family for taking me to these places in Kyushu. As if I wasn’t stunned by Fukuoka already, my host family has shown me the many wonders of Kyushu. They always make sure my host sisters and I have the loveliest time and I couldn’t be more grateful. I also want to thank the coordinators of the WJC programme for the special memories I made in Kagoshima. They have time after time, taken care of all of us with their utmost care and concern and I am so lucky to be a part of the WJC family. ありがとうございます!

またね!

Adobe Spark (13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Catalan Question: Bianca

I’m not entirely sure how much coverage this situation got in the New Zealand media, but at the very least after the last few months I am sure that you will have heard about Catalonia and their attempt at independence. I am not a journalist or even studying journalism but after reading some of the reports from the BBC and other international media outlets I thought I would add my opinion of what has been going on, as someone who is living in Spain as it is happening.DSCN9448DSCN9455 - Copy

I guess the best place to start when considering recent events is the referendum that was held on the 1st of October in Catalonia (for those who do not know Catalonia is one of the regions of Spain with Barcelona as its capital). Personally, I almost forgot the referendum about the referendum, with so much going on at uni and a number of deadlines fast approaching, it wasn’t until minutes before 6pm that I checked in on the progress. I was incredibly shocked to see a number of reports about the police brutality, particularly in Barcelona. After speaking with a few people in my residence about what we were seeing on TV it was pretty clear that none of us knew the explanation for the violence. What we did find out in class a few days later was that the referendum had been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court of Spain in September as it was in breach of the 1978 constitution – which the Catalan people voted in favour of at the time. Not only had the referendum been declared illegal by Spain, but the High Court of Justice of Catalonia had also given orders to the police to prevent the referendum, which included orders for the arrest of various individuals who had helped to organise it. These orders were not followed by the Catalan police, with videos being posted on the internet showing police officers walking past voting stations, waving and smiling. It is for this reason that the Spanish Civil Guard was deployed to carry out the orders that the Catalan police ignored. Based on the way that I have seen these facts represented in the media I believe that the Catalans played a much smarter game in regards to media coverage, almost every article that I read had the Catalans looking like the victims and the Spanish government portrayed as the oppressor.

Not only was the referendum illegal, it also did not meet the minimum international standards for elections. We found video footage showing people bringing the – supposedly empty – ballot boxes into one of the voting stations before the start of the referendum. This footage shows one of the ballot boxes being dropped and rather than being empty a whole sheath of voting papers fell out, all marked in favour of independence. Usually in a referendum or vote there is only one ballot per person and you are signed up to vote in a specific station, however during the Catalan referendum, the electorate were able to vote at any voting station and print the ballot at home to bring to voting stations; this resulted in there being no limit to the number of ballots one person was able to post in the ballot boxes.

The question on the ballot to which voters could answer “Yes” or “No” was “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a Republic?”. According to the official results of the referendum the “Yes” side won with 92.01% of the votes. However, when everything that we were seeing in the news is taken into consideration along with less than 50% voter turnout with a high proportion of the “No” voters not attending due to being asked not to by the constitutional parties, doubt is cast on the validity of the result.

What I heard from a few of my classmates with family in Catalonia is that their family had voted “Yes” during the referendum and at the time strongly believed that Catalonia both had the right to be an independent state and that it should be one now, were beginning to doubt in their decision. It only became clear after the referendum that if Catalonia claims their independence from Spain they will no longer be part of the European Union and that they will not be recognised as a country by the United Nations. This fact was made even more real by the round 1400 businesses that pulled out of Catalonia in the aftermath of the referendum and the sudden spike in unemployment that this caused. Historically and still today Catalonia is one of the most affluent and successful regions in Spain. The fact that they have always had to pay more taxes to the state because of this has always been a point of contention for the Catalans. They see themselves as a different nation, first Catalan and second – if at all – Spanish.

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The question that I heard over and over during the course of the last few months and the one I want to leave you with is: does every nation have the right to its own state? As an extension of this question: Should the Catalans be allowed independence from Spain?

 

If you want to discuss this further or have any questions about and exchange in Spain feel free to send me an email to bsta867@aucklanduni.ac.nz.

Adobe Spark (5)

 

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.

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

 

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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.

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Sunday’s are for Football and wings
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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.

Adobe Spark (12)

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 dgov422@aucklanduni.ac.nz, 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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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Honourable Mentions

Roots

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.

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Chick-fil-A

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!

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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 dgov422@aucklanduni.ac.nz, or comment below. Follow my time abroad on Instagram @daryngovender_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth’s Guide To Britain

Elizabeth’s Completely Biased Guide to the Best Cities to Visit in Britain

In the five months or so I’ve spent in England, I’ve done my fair share of travelling around Britain. There’s not a place I didn’t enjoy going, but there are definitely cities I preferred over others. So if you ever find yourself in not-so-sunny Britain, I’ve compiled an extremely biased guide to the best places to visit and the best things to do there!

  1. Sheffield, England

Best things to do: Cathedral was lovely, if you’re an Arctic Monkeys fan (like my flatmate, hence the reason for our trip) there’s the pub they played their first gig, the town hall is pretty to look at, and the Winter Garden is great!

Why it’s number 14: it was perfect for a day trip, but there was nothing stand-out that we did while we were there, not helped by the grey weather that plagued us the whole day, it doesn’t have buildings as pretty as cities like York and fewer cute little shops to walk around

 

  1. Liverpool, England

Best things to do: World Museum (incl. a little aquarium and an exhibit on Māori in New Zealand!), walking around the Albert Dock and the lock gates, and the Beatles Museum (I actually didn’t go but obviously if you’re a big Beatles fan you should go!), I also loved walking by the ocean – for the first time since I’d arrived in England ocean (even in the hail that started while I was walking)!

Why it’s number 13: a rainy day puts a dampener even in the best of cities and it certainly did with Liverpool, while I really enjoyed the museum, I’m not a huge Beatles fan and most of the tourist stuff seemed to be geared towards that. I’m also pretty sure I was the only tourist in Liverpool on the day I was there start of January. I was busy taking pictures of the beautiful old buildings by the train station and got odd stares from everyone who walked past me.

  1. Nottingham, England

After four months in Nottingham, I’ve got a lot of recommendations on what to do if ever stumble across it.

Best things to do: Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (oldest pub in England!), walking around the lake at the University (definitely the prettiest part of the city), Wollaton Park (where they filmed Wayne Manor for the Dark Knight Rises and I only visited for the first time two days before I left even though it’s only a 15-minute walk from my flat, it’s also got deer!), Greenhood Coffee in Beeston (purely because it’s my favourite café), Nottingham castle is perhaps the least exciting castle I’ve been to but if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill you might as well!

 

Why it’s number 12: Nottingham will always be my favourite city in the UK. But the reasons I love it (the university, the people I met, the good cafes and bars we found) don’t scream for others to visit. Number one in my heart, number 12 on this list.

 

  1. Manchester, England

 Best things to do: People’s History Museum – an absolute gem! Full of political history and an exhibit on the Suffrage movement (which was unfortunately closed when I went there), Old Trafford if you’re a Manchester United fan obviously (but I didn’t go so I can’t tell you how good it was)

To be honest that was about the extent of my ‘things I did’ in Manchester despite going multiple times throughout my exchange. I’ve got family who live just outside of Manchester so I made lots of day drips into the city when I went to visit them in Oldham. But because I was with them I didn’t do a lot of sightseeing or touristy things (mostly just ate, drank, and was merry). I also don’t have any pictures at all of Manchester which is absolutely terrible!

 Why it’s number 11: first and foremost, Manchester is a big city, with lots of great shopping and incredible food, but I didn’t find there to be much great sights to see or tourist things to do (although there were several museums that I didn’t manage to get to that I’d go and see if I went back) – hit me up if you ever want food recs though!

  1. Lake District, England

Best things to do: going on walks and enjoying the views

Why it’s number 10: possibly the most surprising thing about moving out of New Zealand was how much NZ has ruined me for other countries. I take the beautiful landscapes for granted, when travelling around and going to places like the Lake District (and to some extent also Snowdonia and the Isle of Skye – both higher up on this list) I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen things just as beautiful (if not more so) in New Zealand, also the weather was not great which didn’t help matters at all. It was still absolutely beautiful though and I’d recommend a visit if you like nature!

  1. Glasgow, Scotland

Best things to do: god bless Glasgow: home of the best McDonalds of my life! (10/10 recommend McChicken Combo at the Argyle Street branch), visit the University (apparently wasn’t in Harry Potter, but it sure looks like it – it’s stunning!), The Stand Comedy Club (absolutely hilarious show that we saw and its reputation indicates it’s probably always this good), Gallery of Modern Art, apparently there’s another Art Museum as well which my friends went to before I arrived and adored, walking in Kelvingrove Park

 Why it’s number 9: looking back on the city there wasn’t a huge amount that stood out, I just really liked the vibe of Glasgow (and Scotland in general!), apparently the nightlife is incredible but we got unlucky and chose a rubbish club (this is one of the problems of going out while travelling)

  1. York, England

Best things to do: the Little Shambles market area (cute little cobbled streets and boutique shops), a walk around the city wall, York’s Chocolate Story (chocolate tour!!), lunch and a pint at any one of the cute pubs dotted around the city, York Minster (I didn’t have time to go inside because I was on the chocolate tour instead but my flatmate went and loved it!)

 

 Why it’s number 8: I thought York was adorable, the Old Town where we spent the day was what I’d always imagined an archetypal British town to look like: brick buildings, cobbled streets, grey skies, etc. It was also the city in the UK where all the chocolate families lived (not like Willy Wonka but ones like Terry’s and Rowntree) and there’s not much better on a town that prides itself on chocolate. There’s not tons to do there, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as more than a day trip, but the day we did have was super fun!

  1. Durham, England

Best things to do: Durham castle is really pretty and the tour is super informative and only £4 for students, Durham Cathedral is beautiful and where they filmed some of the scenes from Harry Potter (Snape walking down a corridor, Ron vomiting up slugs), and it has really cute little streets to walk around.

 Why it’s number 7: I was absolutely charmed by Durham! Really similar to York in the cobbled streets, old town England kind of vibe. The reason it beats York is because I loved the tour of the castle so much and the cathedral was really cool too! The only thing I don’t recommend is taking the 7pm train home on a Saturday night – it will be full of English people drinking, which is not very conducive when you’re trying to get your head around international child relocation law.

  1. Isle of Skye, Scotland

Best things to do: I can’t remember the exact spots but just driving around and taking in the stunning scenery that the North of Scotland has to offer! My friends and I went on a tour because public transport doesn’t really work up there, but I’d recommend taking a car if you have one/want to hire one – it would make everything so much easier.

 

Why it’s number 6: even though I just talked about how NZ has spoiled me for a lot of the nature the rest of the world has to offer, the Isle of Skye really was stunning. Just lots of really beautiful scenery meant that it had to be high up the list.

  1. Conwy and Snowdonia, Wales

 Best things to do: Conwy castle (the only thing we did besides eat lunch in Conwy but it’s awesome!) and a walk up Snowdonia

 

Why it’s number 5: I’ll be the first to admit that nature and I do not have the best track record, but goddamn it was worth my eternal suffering to see Snowdonia. It was an absolutely stunning mountain and we hiked to and up part of it on an absolutely stunning day at the end of March. Good weather + fantastic scenery = A+. Conwy castle was awesome too! It’s mostly ruins and not in use, but a fun stop on the way to Snowdonia.

  1. St Andrew’s, Scotland

Best things to do: walk around the University, visit the ruins of the Cathedral, St Andrew’s Pier, the café where Will and Kate had their first date!

 

 Why it’s number 4: I adored St Andrew’s! We went on New Year’s Eve during the day and my friend’s friend who lives there acted as a tour guide taking us around the best spots and telling us all about St Andrew’s Traditions. It was incredible because the town was nearly empty (all the students were away for the holidays) and having someone who knew where all the good spots were was amazing. I’m also in love with the Royals and so seeing all the spots Will and Kate were supposed to have hung out was definitely a highlight (the café they had their first date Northpoint also has really good food and a beyond incredible Malteasers hot chocolate)

  1. London, England

Best things to do: go to a West End show (Les Mis was the best musical I have ever seen in my life), British Museum (I only managed to do a quarter of it on my first visit and never made it back because there is so much to do in London!!), Tate Modern, Tower of London, Hyde Park – esp. Winter Wonderland if you’re there over Christmas!, the Harry Potter Studio Tour (although it’s a bit outside London), brunch anywhere in Soho (recommendation: The Breakfast Club – they have four branches around London), brunch in Notting Hill (recommendation: Farm Girl) Camden Markets, Portobello Road markets, Houses of Parliament tour if you’re into politics (I adored it), Buckingham Palace – I realise pretty much all of these are the standard tourist things to do in London but I loved them all (and London is so big that four visits still wasn’t enough to get through even the touristy stuff!)

 

Why it’s number 3: London has been my number 1 ‘To Visit’ holiday destination for as long as I can remember, and it did not disappoint. I went there four times in the five months I spent in the UK and each time there were more new and exciting things to discover. To be honest the only reason it’s not higher up on my list is because I expected London to be amazing – and it was, but I feel like my top two destinations stood out more to me because I didn’t have all these incredible expectations going in.

  1. Brighton, England

Best things to do: brunch anywhere (recommendation: New Club and Bill’s), do a day trip to the Seven Sisters and the surrounding area to go for a fantastic walk, relaxing on the beach, eating the best doughnuts of your life at Brighton Pier, Brighton Pier in general (although not the Haunted Mansion ride – the biggest waste of £4), the Royal Pavilion, wandering around the shops in the lanes

Why it’s number 2: Brighton stole my heart from the moment we checked into our amazing hostel and it has kept it ever since, there was nothing I didn’t like about this city and if a job popped up I would move there in a heartbeat. It had a relaxed and slightly hipster vibe about it that reminded me a bit of Wellington and I adored it. There was something incredibly relaxing about wandering around boutique shops all day, eating fantastic food, and then sitting on the beach enjoying the sun. (Controversial opinion: I loved the pebble beach – it would suck for swimming but is so much easier to sit on because you don’t sand everywhere)

  1. Edinburgh, Scotland

 

Best things to do:

 HOGMANAY! If you’re in Europe for New Year’s you can’t get better than Edinburgh’s annual Hogmanay Festival – complete with torchlight procession (one of my top exchange moments) ending in a spectacular firework’s display, massive street party to bring in the new year, displays of various Scottish arts (from dance to poetry to music), and finishing it all off with a traditional Scottish ceilidh on New Year’s Day in the stunning National Museum of Scotland. I cannot recommend this experience enough.

Mum’s Great Comfort Food – my favourite restaurant in Edinburgh, I have been for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Try their deluxe hot chocolates (as featured in my previous post) they’re incredible! Plus you can get traditional bangers and mash but you get to choose the flavour of your sausages and the flavour of your mash! So beautiful.

The Stand Comedy Club – there are no words to describe my love for stand-up comedy and Edinburgh is one of the best locations to do it. I wish I was there for the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival but if you’re like me and can’t make it up then (or afford it – I imagine accommodation is insane around this time) then The Stand is your next best place. I think they have comedy of some sort most nights and (as far as I’m aware) it’s always brilliant! I went twice – once for a standard Saturday night gig with more experienced comedians, and then once on a Monday for their £3 newcomers’ night. They were both hilarious shows and I would go every week if I lived close.

Enjoying a drink under Edinburgh Castle – while I found the castle itself overpriced for what it was, one of my fondest memories of Edinburgh is cracking open a couple of ciders with my friends on the lawn in front of the castle on the one sunny afternoon I got in the eight days I was in the Scottish capital

 

Walking up Arthur’s Seat – Edinburgh’s hill stop has great views of the city and while it’s not an easy walk up, it’s definitely do-able in converse so it’s not like a proper hike or anything if you’re like me and fitness isn’t necessarily your strong suit.

Calton Hill – I like the views from here better than Arthur’s seat. It’s closer to the city so you see more of the buildings in detail. Plus it’s a cruisy ten minute walk from the bottom.

Edinburgh Christmas Markets – if you’re there over Christmas it’s lovely! Not much else to report other than I love Christmas so Christmas markets make me ridiculously happy.

Why it’s number 1: Edinburgh is competing with Melbourne, Barcelona, and Portland for my favourite city I’ve ever been to. Steeped in history, incredible vibe, lovely people, so much to do. I can’t recommend it enough. I went twice – in winter and spring (although it was still cold), and even though I’m a complete sun baby, I still thought it was the bees’ knees. I don’t quite know how to describe why I love Edinburgh so much, I just do. If there’s one city I recommend you go to while you’re in the UK, this one is it!

Also would 10/10 recommend going here on exchange itself if you can! We don’t have the option for law but my friend went for commerce and science and loved it. Even though Nottingham is incredible, I’m still sad I never got the option to go to Edinburgh!

It’s a wrap

Going through this post again and adding in all my pictures has just made me miss Britain even more. I can’t recommend it or the cities I’ve talked about enough! I hope this has helped you all find inspiration of the places to visit if you ever make it over to the Queen’s country. You definitely won’t regret it. Also if anyone in Edinburgh or Brighton is reading this and looking to hire a graduate law/politics/history student – I’m your girl!

Hope everyone’s exams went well!

Elizabeth