Hannah: Wandering Through Europe

I did the majority of my travelling before my exchange actually started. I left New Zealand on the 19th of July (nearly two months before I had to be in St. Andrews). My first stop was Germany, my whole family lives there so I stayed with them. The other places I visited were Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, a few places in England (Sheffield, York, The Moors, Manchester, Leeds, and more) and I did a road trip in Scotland from Glasgow to the Isle of Skye.

Amsterdam (24th – 28th July)

Everyone in Amsterdam rides bikes and they will run you over if you don’t move. I nearly got run over by bikes, mopeds and cars more times than I can count.

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If Amsterdam isn’t on your bucket list already I would definitely recommend to add it. I spent three days in this lovely city and instantly fell in love. Also you can find all the places from The Fault in our Stars and pretend you’re part of the movie.

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My top 5 places/things to see:

  1. Jordaan Area
  2. Moco Museum (Bansky exhibition)
  3. De Wallen/The red light district
  4. Rijksmuseum
  5. The streets – just walk around

Berlin (30th July – 2nd August)

Berlin is huge and there is so much to see and do, luckily I had my uncle acting as my local tour guide. I went to all the tourist attractions but also got to see how the locals live. I only had two days in Berlin and will have to go back one day to see the rest of this bustling city.

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Me getting burnt to a crisp at the Brandenburg Gate. There were so many tourist here but it was one of the most impressive things I have seen

I went to the East Side Gallery on my last day, this wall was so cool. There were so many different styles and pieces of art on display and I could have spent a lot longer here but sadly I did not have time as I had to catch my flight.

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My top 5 places/things to see:

  1. Brandenburg Gate
  2. Jewish Memorial
  3. East side Gallery
  4. Museums Insel
  5. Reichstag Building

Vienna (6th – 8th August)

Vienna is a city full of gorgeous buildings ranging from the opera to palaces. My personal favourite was the Austrian National Library, I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast and was ready to start belting out some tunes.

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Both Schloss Schönbrunn and Belvedere were so gorgeous and it felt so surreal to find these beautiful buildings in a city. If you want to feel like a princess or step back into the past I would highly recommend this wonderful historic city.

My top 5 places/things to see:

  1. Austrian National Library
  2. Belvedere
  3. Schönbrunn Palace
  4. Prater and the Ferris Wheel
  5. The Hofburg and the surrounding area

Scotland (20th – 28th August)

I road tripped around Scotland and visited so many stunning places. I would recommend packing a raincoat and some sturdy shoes if you want to do some walking. As I visited so many gorgeous places I am just going to compile a list of my top 5.

Portree, Isle of Skye

This town is the biggest town in Skye and it is adorable. The colourful houses are one of a kind and you can easily wander around the streets.

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The Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

I was ready to watch fairies dance and run away into the green hills. This glen was wrapped in magic and it was beautiful despite the rain.

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Glenfinnian Viaduct/Fort William

If you love Harry Potter you have to go here. You can see the Hogwarts express (or even ride it).

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Eilean Donan Castle

There are so many beautiful castles all over Scotland and I love every single one of them. This castle may be one of the most picturesque. The inside isn’t that spectacular but the outside of the castle and its surroundings are stunning.

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Proper Scottish weather
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Staring at this breathtaking country

The Fairy Pools

These are off the beaten track and very overcrowded by tourists but they are worth the drive and walk. I even had a sip from the pools but sadly I did not wake up with any magical abilities.

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Edinburgh (7th – 8th September and 26th – 27th October)

This was my second visit to this town and I loved it just as much the second time. This city is stunning and I adore it. The cobblestoned streets carry you back in time and you can walk around all day and not get bored.

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If you have any questions about the exchange as a whole feel free to email me; my email is hfre260@aucklanduni.ac.nz.

I can’t wait for my next blog post!

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Venice: Settling in at Exeter

Hello! Or ‘Dydh da!’ (hello in Cornish but I won’t even pretend to know how to say that)

I have now officially been a Cornish resident for almost two months now and I am really glad to have the opportunity to write this post now because it means I can think back on it all!

To start from the very beginning – I made the decision to travel over to the UK six weeks before arrivals weekend at Exeter, to spend some time travelling. I know of several other exchange students who had a similar idea, booking top deck tours or visiting family or friends– any of the above I would highly recommend, particularly if you have made it as far as the acceptance stage of the exchange application process (if so congratulations!) because you will want (and need) some time before starting the exchange adventure itself. I stayed at my sister’s homestay in a small borough of London and we travelled to Edinburgh and Brighton, as well as spending time in lots of beautiful areas of London, such as Richmond (I highly recommend for any London exchange students – it has a multitude of fantastic coffee places that I made it my business to discover, try Tide Tables or Kiss the Hippo).

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Sunny Richmond – Riverbank
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Coffee at Kiss the Hippo
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Chips on Brighton Beach
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Me and my sister at Bamburgh Castle

Anyway – jumping ahead to the 13th of September, I got myself organized, lined up my suitcases by the door, said a very emotional goodbye to my sister and set off to Heathrow via my favourite public transport – the tube – which was so much more fun lugging two suitcases with you, but I made it! The smugness I felt from that achievement masked any strange emotions I was feeling about heading down south, which I was glad for at the time!

I have a very distinct memory of walking up the ramp to get to the arrivals gate in Heathrow Terminal 3 and pausing briefly, knowing that at the top I would see the group of Exeter/Falmouth reps and other students. It’s a very strange feeling when you are able to register the moment that all your previous hard work has added up to – it doesn’t happen often. But, of course, I continued on up to be met, as expected, by the bright yellow t-shirts of the reps. I walked up pretending to know exactly what I was supposed to be doing and got my name ticket off a list from a very smiley-faced girl and instructed to wait with the group. Several days before, my dad strongly encouraged me to talk to at least three people on the bus, it didn’t matter if I liked them or not, just to do it regardless. So I made myself have conversations wherever possible, even though it made me uncomfortable but the reward you get out of it makes up for any sense of apprehension you might have felt.

Getting on the bus and finding a seat however, I knew was going to be another make or break moment. I decided to sit next to a girl I had noticed earlier (actually because I had really liked the jacket she was wearing) and it was a fantastic decision (not that outward appearances are anything to go by, I know, I know). We got on so well, and it made the 7-hour bus trip down to Cornwall so much fun, sharing music and food and conversation. We arrived at about 8:30 at night, in the pitch black and on a silent bus, everyone having gone quiet in anticipation!

Shortly after (having experienced minor navigational difficulties) I was standing in my room! Yet once the door clicked shut behind me and I was left staring at the furniture, cardboard boxes and my bags, the emotional floodgates opened. Lesson number one – never be afraid of the emotions you will feel over the course of your exchange because you will be feeling an extremely diverse range of them. And even now I’m tempted to delete these comments but I would be lying if I gave a rosy tint to my first few days there.

Although it might seem strange, this first week will be the hardest part. ‘Freshers week’, or whatever your university calls it, promises to be relaxed, easy going, with fun events to fill your week and equally eager people to make friends with. And that’s entirely true. But as with most big changes, no one can really prepare you with how to deal with emotion. It struck me on my first night, but also during registration and arrivals week, watching families pull up in cars loaded with luggage and parents accompanying their kids on supermarket shopping trips, when I was walking around having to organise this new life on my own. Which as hard as it was, was exactly what I needed, and is an experience I know I will be grateful for in the future.

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Sunny day in Falmouth – the Moor and the Pier
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Admiring the colourful English houses

I’ll finish my borderline essay here, reminding myself that I do in fact have several other posts to write about other experiences so it would be best not to cram it all into one…

But before I sign off, these are some things that helped me settle in –

MUSIC – before you leave, make a playlist (or twenty) full of songs for different moods, particularly ones that remind you of home or any other place that makes you feel happy. I have a playlist of songs my parents would always play on Sunday mornings when we would have pancakes and coffee for breakfast. Having special songs associated with memories is the perfect antidote to homesickness (which, despite some negative connotations, is NOT a sign of weakness on your part – it means you come from a happy home, be proud of that).

FOOD – I am such a hypocrite for talking about the importance of food given my long history of ‘not caring’ (I can see my mum and sister rolling their eyes at this. Fair enough). Getting your head around a budget and a routine for supermarket shopping will take time. Some key things – I make a trip to ASDA twice a week (Sunday and Thursday) to pick up staple foods BUT also I now love my twice weekly routine of cooking actual meals, one tends to be Spaghetti Bolognese and also I highly recommend the Old El Paso fajita mix boxes. As someone who made a point of not cooking for most of her life and now loves it as a means of relaxing I can assure you that you’ll feel the same. I read somewhere a comparison between the body and a car – you wouldn’t expect a car to run without fuel so how can you expect your body (or mind for that matter) to work without fuelling it.

DECORATIONS – student accommodation typically won’t allow candles or fairy lights (yay fire hazards) but things like room diffusers (even though they look like some bizarre creature), posters, printed photos, polaroids, bunting and even flags make such a difference. I wish I’d brought a map of NZ with me (prepare to be met with a multitude of amazed looks when you say where you’re from) but I’ve made do with photos, a print of my favourite painting and posters so my room feels well and truly like my own space now.

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Tremough House – Penryn Campus

Until next time!

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Ashlynne: First Impressions of the University of Leeds

Hello! Since this is my first blog I’d figured I should introduce myself. My name is Ashlynne, I’m a third year BA/BCom student who is studying in Leeds for the semester. I have lived in Auckland my entire life so moving out of home to the literal other side of the world was an exciting but scary step for me!

Preparing for Leeds

The best piece of advice I can give about going on an exchange, regardless of where you are going, is to start early. I spent hours going through different universities, and hours trying to finalise my papers for Leeds, and then hours packing and preparing for life away from home. So make sure you start early so that you have plenty of time, and realise that no matter what you’re probably going to forget something anyway!

Leeds

My first few days in Leeds were some of the weirdest days that I’ve had so far. I was hit with the very sudden realisation that I was all the way in England completely alone in a city where I knew absolutely no one which was pretty terrifying. The best way I found to deal with this was to get out and adventure around town! Leeds is a pretty big city with 800,000 people so there’s always something to do here and because it’s such a student based city there are so many events for students which are great places to meet new people!

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This is just one of the many amazing places I found in Leeds while exploring the first few days

University of Leeds

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed during my time in Leeds is the differences between universities. Despite the fact that Leeds and Auckland are fairly close together in international rankings there are so many differences between the two. Back in Auckland I do 5 papers a semester and so had about 25 hours of classes a week, in Leeds I’m doing the equivalent of 4 papers but have 7 hours of class a week. The focus here is on more individual learning, so we have to do a tonne of readings, rather than on teaching.

Another difference between the two universities is the classes. I do fairly popular papers back at Auckland and so I’m used to classes with 200 people at least. Here in Leeds my biggest class has just under a hundred people and my smallest class has 30 which is so bizarre to me! Also here classes are compulsory so during seminars and some lectures a roll is passed around that we all have to sign, and if you have too many missed classes you have to have a meeting with your faculty – which seems so weird to me because I haven’t filled out a roll since I left high school three years ago.

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This is a photo of the business school where I have most of my classes! The university itself is made of so many old buildings I absolutely love it!

Culture Shock

Something that I think is really important to talk about is the cultural differences between NZ and the UK. The UK is a super attractive place to do an exchange because although it’s in Europe the culture is perceived as quite similar to NZ, despite this there are quite a few differences between the two. The one I find quite difficult is smoking, smoking is a lot more culturally acceptable here than it is in NZ and so you have to get used to the smell of smoke in the air quite a lot. Another big one for me is homelessness. Homelessness and beggars here are a lot more prominent than in New Zealand, its still taking me time to get used to this one, and here people often come into bars and pubs and will come up to your table and ask you for money which I still can’t really believe.

Travel

So when culture shock gets the best of you (which at some point it definitely will) my best recommendation is get out of the city and travel. I found the university here runs a lot of trips to places around Yorkshire but I’ve done some trips by myself too. In the bit over a month I’ve been in the UK I’ve managed to see some of Southern England, Wales, York, the East Coast, and explore lots around Yorkshire too.

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At Kirkstall Abbey; one of the (many) very old things around Leeds
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Harewood house gardens. Which is the most visited manor house in Yorkshire
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Snowdonia in Wales. It was absolutely incredible!

If you have any questions about Leeds or studying in the UK in general feel free to email me ajur709@aucklanduni.ac.nz or find me on Instagram @ashlynne.jury

Until next time,

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Gabbi: Welcome to St. Andrews!

I’ve been here in St Andrews for five weeks now, enough time to have generally gotten the hang of things and be able to start reporting back on the ins and outs of St. Andrews student life!

One of the great things about St Andrews is the multitude of traditions that exist here. I’ll give you a quick run through of two of my faves – the Academic Fam and the Rad Red Robes.

Overhearing people chatting about hitting the town with their mother or complaining that they’ve now only got nine siblings because one’s joined another family would sound a bit odd to your average student. But here in St Andrews, its commonplace conversation! Welcome to the concept of The Academic Family. Usually third year students adopt a bunch of first years who become their academic children, however, my academic father graciously said it didn’t matter that I’m a 4th year and older than him and so I now belong to a happy family of 11! Academic families are essentially just a cool bunch of people to hang out with. The parents are there to host events, give us advice on the best study spots/cafes/shortcuts to class, and to generally make the transition into Uni easier for first year students. I really love that this is such a prominent tradition as it gives some great support and definitely adds to the St Andrews vibe.

Another prominent tradition is that of the red gowns. The university sells these to new students and encourages us to wear them at any formal occasion. During the first week we had the introductory pier walk (another tradition) and all the students rocked up in their red gowns – it looked very cool, although a little Twilight-esque…

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The extremely windy Pier Walk
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Red gowns as far as the eye can see

 

As well as the old-school traditions, a lot of the university’s buildings are historical and full of character. The hall of residence I’m staying in is University Hall (UH represent!) and it’s quite different from Uni Hall at UoA. As the oldest of the current day Halls, it comes complete with two libraries, a range of room sizes (from cupboard under the stairs to grand master bedroom) and is an absolute rabbit’s warren of corridors. I’m really enjoying living here as there’s a great sense of community and a mix of all year groups to hang out with.

This hall is a catered residence, something I was slightly worried about after my experience with Flame Tree at UH Auckland… But no fear, the food here is really quite good, although they do have a tendency to serve three types of potato at every meal.

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Wardlaw, a part of University Hall

I can’t introduce St Andrews without mentioning the gorgeous landscape that the Uni is situated in. We’re right on the coast, as in right on the coast – some of my classes are in a building called Edgecliff (literally edge of the cliff). This means that if I’ve got an hour break between classes, its as easy as pie to grab a coffee and go for a wander along the beach at West Sands

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Edgecliff – the philosophy tutorial and seminar rooms

West Sands is also a prime place to meet dogs out and about on their walks/swims! I’ve been blessed to meet so many pups here and am happy to report back that Scottish dogs are extremely polite and incredibly adorable. I’ve yet to go for a swim here myself but it’s definitely on my to-do list!

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West Sands beach (on a rather miserable day)

There’s also the ruins of St Andrews Castle and the remains of a massive medieval cathedral (built in the 12th century) which I found really interesting to learn about. These historical sites make St Andrews feel quite different from home as it makes you realise just how long people have been living here!

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A view out over the cliffs to St Andrews Castle

I’m really looking forward to the rest of my semester here! The people have all been incredibly welcoming, the Uni very supportive and involved, and the town itself so picturesque.

Until next time!

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Hannah: First Impressions, Settling in, and Accomodation

Stepping foot into St. Andrews for the first time was both exciting and terrifying. This was going to be my home for the next three months, but just walking to my accommodation I could already feel myself falling in love with this place.

First Thoughts…

“This is so beautiful.”

“It’s so small.”

“It’s all so old.”

“I can feel the history wrapped inside the buildings.”

Accommodation

I’m staying in the David Russel Apartments and I’m going to be completely self-catered (let’s see if I can cook). My room itself is really big and has everything you need (a DOUBLE bed, desk and wardrobe), the bathroom is a bit small but at least I have my own shower and toilet. I’m sharing the kitchen with 4 other people (who are all super nice). I personally have not seen my flatmates a lot but I think every flat is slightly different.

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Me on the first day after having unpacked (that was an adventure)

There are so many people around in this area which is great, the apartments themselves are around a 20min walk away from town and the university but the walk is relatively flat and straightforward so it isn’t hard work.

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My building

Settling in

The first couple of days were a bit weird and I had a few moments of panic just thinking ‘What am I doing here? I’m so far away from home…’ but after around 3 days I was okay again. Get yourself some sturdy bags to carry your shopping back to your apartment.  Aldi is closest to David Russel Apartments and it’s cheap so I would recommend getting your groceries from there. I got settled into my room relatively quickly and it already feels like a second home now.

University

Starting classes and finding all my rooms was daunting but I just set a day aside and walked around finding all the buildings before classes actually started. People are also very kind and will direct you to the right place if you do get lost. The university is gorgeous and I feel like I’m at Hogwarts or in a castle.

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I’m just missing a wand
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There are so many different buildings and around every corner lies another hidden beauty

The main difference for lectures is that classes here are a lot smaller I have two classes with less than 20 people. Otherwise the lectures operate in a very similar way (they even use moodle over here).

My tips

  1. Don’t be afraid to talk to people
  2. Find your rooms for classes before lectures actually start
  3. Make a meal plan and write a shopping list
  4. Get free stuff in Orientation week if you can
  5. Do a library tour
  6. Go to events and don’t be afraid to talk to strangers (I know it’s scary)
  7. Walk around town at least 3 times – you will find somewhere/something new every time

 

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Reflections – Cathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quirks of Great Britain – Atharva

In my six months of living in a small city on this little island, I’ve learnt a thing or two about its people, places and culture. So, here’s a mish-mash of quirks and some differences that I have noticed between the UK and New Zealand.

The people:
The Brits are a mighty tea-loving people who never stop complaining about the weather or the state of the government (Brexit is still fresh in memory). Some things that distract them from this moaning include a Royal Wedding (I must confess, I watched it live instead of studying for an exam) and a summer’s day where the temperature just enters the twenties and everybody has a sudden urge to sunbathe. When someone asks you “You alright?” or “You ok?” it doesn’t mean you look funny or have just tripped over and fallen. They want to know how you are. If you have the sniffles or a cough, you’re not just “sick” but rather “ill” or “feeling poorly”. Brits also come in different accents ranging from the industrial Northern, the sing-songy Welsh, to the BBC News refined accent and others that I still need subtitles for. Nonetheless, they are one of the most hardy bunch of folk I have ever met.

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Buckingham Palace and Victoria Memorial. Union Jack on the mast means Old Lizzie wasn’t home.

The places:
The British Empire gave us Imperial Units then went “Wait, this Metric thing is catching up, huh?” and stuck to their precious imperial units. Distances on roads are measured in miles, so “London 120” on a motorway sign is in miles, not kilometres. You may also pass the odd “Speed bumps for the next 200 yards” sign. I still don’t know how long a yard is though. The place names here don’t always sound like they’re written. For example: Salisbury (Sawls-bree), Leicester (Les-ter) and Worcestershire (Wus-ter-sher). Staying on the theme of place names, small towns can often be boring so locals come up with entertaining names for where they live. My two favourites being North Piddle and Petersfinger. Furthermore, I think every small town follows a very similar format. If I was to make a starter pack I’d definitely include a small river, one main cobbled street with a marketplace or square and of course a church that’s at least 300 years old. Bonus points for original Tudor houses and a working mill.

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Greenwich: Probably the only place where they show you how long a yard is.

The culture:
As culture varies with geographical region and age, I can best comment on urban youth culture. It’s not too different from Kiwi youth culture with an emphasis on socialising and the odd night out. I do think young Brits have better fashions sense and a greater availability of trendy clothes as major European brands and “fashionable” countries such as France and Italy are not too far from Britain’s dull shores. Unfortunately for us, New Zealand doesn’t have much of an exposure to world class brands and their products, leaving us with a more limited choice. Media of course plays a huge role in youth culture and shows such as The Great British Bake Off and Love Island are greedily consumed by the British masses.

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Old and New: The Shard stands tall behind the walls of the Tower of London.

Overall, I’ve growth to appreciate the unique mannerisms of this little nation that once controlled a fifth of the world. It’s had its ups and downs in history for sure and I only wish it success and progress for the years to come, and during whatever uncertainty that lies ahead.

God save the Queen,

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