So I have officially been back in New Zealand for a week and thought this would be a good time to reflect on my entire exchange (while I try not to melt in the heat). This post is quite difficult to write because I can’t really believe that my exchange is actually over. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I have made so many lifelong friends and memories, and Leeds will always be a second home to me.
I thought I would use this final post to give some advice to anyone who is looking at going on exchange. My first piece of advice is that if you are thinking about going on exchange you need to go. My five months that I spent on exchange to Leeds were some of the greatest that I have had in my entire life. It was an incredibly life changing experience that I wouldn’t change for anything, and so if you are undecided about whether or not you want to go on an exchange my advice would be to definitely go!
Another piece of advice that I have is to step outside of your comfort zone. Obviously moving to the other side of the world alone like I did is scary enough, but once you get settled in, try some things you wouldn’t usually do. For me this meant a couple of different things, one of these was travelling alone which I had never done before. And although it was terrifying at first, I did it. And it was an awesome experience where I made a lot of friends and memories and now I can eat alone at restaurants and ask strangers to take photos of me without too much fear! An exchange is an awesome time where we have an opportunity to try and experience so many new things so I would recommend trying these new experiences as much as possible.
Also, be prepared but know that things probably will go wrong. On an exchange and travel in general being prepared is important. You’ve got to know what’s going on otherwise it will probably be a very stressful trip. However prepared you are, things are going to go wrong and there’s nothing you can do to change that. For me this was when I got a stomach bug three days before I was meant to be leaving for a two week Europe trip. So my advice for this is that you’ve got to be able to adapt and don’t get too upset that things didn’t work out the way you planned!
Make the most of your time on exchange because it will go super quickly. Even though sitting here writing this I know I’ve been gone for five months it really doesn’t seem that long. In some ways it feels like it was only a few weeks ago I was arriving in Leeds and setting up my rooms, but unfortunately it’s all over now. So my advice is to make the most of your time on exchange, make lifelong friends, go on incredible adventures, because before you know it you’ll be back home with amazing memories, ridiculous amounts of photos and far too many half-baked plans to see all your incredible friends again.
Having now been back in NZ for just over a week (and thoroughly enjoying the sunshine), it’s time for a reflections post. It’s very strange to think everyone I met is currently well into their second semester while I’m now on holiday. To end the series of blog posts, I wanted to reflect over my favourite aspects of the exchange.
My highlights include –
Making friends with such a diverse range of people. Being in smaller classes meant that I was immediately placed with people who had similar interests to me, but the societies and events held by the universities meant that I was introduced to people who I would otherwise never have encountered. The smaller campus meant I was able to connect better and more quickly with people, something I really appreciated. I am still in touch with all my friends from overseas, whom I look forward to seeing again in the future when I return to visit family as well.
Becoming familiar with a new country. I had visited England before and have family over there, but now both Cornwall and London are very familiar to me, which I love because it will make settling over there easier next time, because I would love some day to return and work over there. It’s such a great opportunity to explore other countries in doing this exchange, and not only gives great experiences for the present, but gives a great opportunity to build foundations for future experiences, in either the same place or even different places.
Experiencing a different culture. Cornwall is a staunchly independent county and you can tell from the unique history of the place, including the mines and how being coastal affects the lifestyle of the citizens, and most importantly the signature cream teas and pasties. Living in a town with multiple beaches felt very similar to home and drew people of a similar calibre, all who like to be by the sea and surrounded by beautiful countryside. The more rural and distinctively traditional environment made for a very different culture to the big cities, which I loved because it felt more open, and the environment was just as much part of the experience as the people were.
Having the chance to be part of societies – both horse riding and choir. Again these activities allowed me to meet more people. In choir, I chose to sing in the alto section, something I’ve never tried before, to sing in a church which I’ve also never done and also to perform outside in the town centre on stage for a Christmas lights festival – to be a part of the university and the local community. Horse riding was also a chance to mix with university students and locals in a different way, a break from campus learning more about something that I’m interested in as equally as I am to what I’m studying. It made the exchange more well-rounded for me.
Having spend most of my time lately catching up with friends and describing all of the adventures from the past few months, I’ve attempted to come up with a way of explaining when asked ‘So how was it?’, a simple enough question but one that never fails to make my mind instantly go blank. I usually start with ‘The best and craziest experience of my life’, which sounds cheesy to essentially rehearse what is also a cheesy line, but it makes for a good starting point and encompasses the trip without intense detail. Because it was definitely one of the best experiences – getting for once to experience a country on my own terms, and crazy because it in no way compared to anything I’ve ever done before. But as I’ve also discussed in earlier posts, it was also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. No one can underestimate leaving your family and friends and everything you know behind, to face the unknown places and people. But there is a certain charm revealed to you pretty early on when you notice that people this far away also drive cars, drink coffee, are keen for a good laugh and want to make friends too. So overall, I would recommend travel to absolutely everyone, and that my experience overseas was made all the better because I had the secure knowledge that I was going over to study in another university, which had a routine very similar to that of being home. I know even now, preparing to go into my final year of my degree that this exchange will remain the highlight of my experience at Auckland University, for it has allowed me to live a life on the other side of the world that I would never have had access to otherwise, and proven to me that I am capable of living independently and setting up a life for myself both for and outside of academia, and that the world isn’t such a huge and daunting place after all.
Even now, anytime I am apprehensive towards my ability of doing something ‘serious’ or scary, instantly I remind myself that I went on an exchange, went overseas knowing no one, and returned on the other side of the experience so happy that I had pushed myself to achieve that and learned to love a place previously unknown to me.
I hope that this post, as well as the others, has provided you with an insight into the exchange experience, and encouraged you to investigate it further and hopefully inspires you to go on your own trip! I would like to thank the 360 team for providing such a fantastic opportunity for the UoA students – I am very grateful to have had the experience and to have been given the opportunity to write about it.
As I am writing this I am back in sunny New Zealand. My exchange is officially over. This experience has been one of the best in my life and one I will remember forever. Looking back I’ve decided to start with some things that I found difficult or did not enjoy that much and then I will talk about all the things I loved.
1. The first thing that I struggled with and did not find that enjoyable were the actual classes in St. Andrews. The lecturing style was quite different to Auckland and I definitely enjoy it better back here in NZ (this might just be because I’m used to it).
2. Another thing that was a bit difficult to get used to were the cleaning inspections of my apartment/flat at University. This could get very tiring, especially as sometimes I was cleaning all by myself and other times some of us were left cleaning up other people’s mess.
3. One thing that was a bit annoying was the course enrolment for Auckland when I was returning. Due to me being on an exchange it was quite a complex process getting enrolled in courses. Therefore, I would recommend getting all the information you can and being prepared to have slower enrolments. I would also recommend maybe talking to the head of your department before leaving so they know you will be away and can help you out if needed.
After all these negatives let’s move right on to the things I loved and will miss incredibly.
1. The people that I have met. Everyone I met in St. Andrews was incredible. I made some friends that will hopefully be for life.
Me with Kaitlin, Elizabeth and Rachel. Just a few of the incredible girls I met in this tiny corner of the world
2. The town of St. Andrews. I am in love with Scotland as whole and I adore this town I got to call my home for 3 months. I loved the cobbled stoned streets, the old houses and the fact that you could walk everywhere.
3. I got to see so much of Europe. I adored every city, town and country I got to visit. I’m already counting down the days until I can go back.
4. One thing that I got out of this experience that I would have never received staying here in Auckland is independence. I loved living by myself and learning to make my own decisions and looking after myself.
5. The whole experience was an incredible opportunity that I am so thankful to have been given. I still have to pinch myself to remind myself that I was able to study in my favourite country in the entire world. If you are thinking of going on an exchange I would 100 percent recommend it. Although I had a few negatives the positives far outweighed them and I would not have changed one thing about my time in St. Andrews.
Thank you for reading all my blog posts. I had so much fun writing them and sharing this incredible experience with all of you. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to send me an email at email@example.com
So as I write this blog post I only have a month left of my exchange! It’s amazing how fast it’s gone, I can’t believe it’s nearly over! Since this is my second to last blog post I thought I would talk about all the places I have visited while I’ve been on exchange. So I’m going to write these by order I visited them (mostly because I can’t possibly rank them!).
So Winchester was the first place that I visited in the United Kingdom because I have some family there. Winchester is a super lovely, but very small city. I would definitely recommend visiting if you’re ever in London as you could as a day trip. The city centre is full of lovely churches, old buildings and rivers which are very picturesque.
So after arriving to my new home in Leeds, York was the first place that I visited as it is only a 20 minute train ride away. If you’re in the United Kingdom York is somewhere that you definitely have to visit. York fulfils every dream of the cute English town you’ve ever had. It is full of cute little walkways and cobbled houses. If you do go I would definitely recommend heading to Betty’s for a traditional English afternoon tea.
Snowdonia is a lovely mountain range that is just over the welsh border. I went there for a day with a few friends from uni and a day was definitely not enough time. We spent the day walking up a couple of different hills and mountains and I saw some of the most incredible landscapes!
Alwick and Durham
So my day trip to Alwick and Durham were satisfying the Harry Potter nerd within myself. Durham and Alwick castle are both in the north of England close to the Scottish border. Alwick castle was where most of the outdoor scenes from all the Harry Potter films, it was absolutely incredible to walk around and actually feel like you’re in Hogwarts! We then went to Durham next which was where a lot other Harry Potter scenes were filmed. Even if you’re not a harry potter fan I would definitely recommend Durham as a place to visit, it has some amazingly old architecture and really cute cafes and restaurants.
So London is an entire world within itself. I spent a week in London just before Christmas and I could have easily spent another whole week there! London is a crazy city where there are always something new to see or do. One of the best things I did in London was a massive walk of the city, I started by the Tower of London walked across Tower Bridge, stopped at the Borough markets for lunch, stopped to see Shakespeare’s Globe, saw the Tate Modern, walked across Millennium Bridge and then ended the day at St Paul’s Cathedral – it was an awesome way to see the city! Another awesome thing I did in London was going to a play on the West End, I saw Matilda which was absolutely incredible – I would definitely recommend going to the West End if you’re ever in London, and the area where all the plays are in Covent gardens is one of my favourite parts of the whole city!
So I’ll start the next two paragraphs by saying how much I absolutely love Scotland – out of all the places I’ve visited in the United Kingdom, Scotland is definitely my favourite. So I did a guided tour around the Scottish Highlands which I would definitely recommend, the best places you want to see are quite spread out so you either need to do a road trip or do a guided tour. My favourite place that I visited was the Isle of Skye in North-Western, it was this small beautiful island and I hiked up a massive mountain, the Oldman of Storr, which had the most incredible views of the island.
Edinburgh is probably my favourite city in the United Kingdom, or actually probably my favourite city in the entire world. It’s such a perfectly sized city which means that you can easily walk the entire city and so don’t have catch public transport to anywhere. It’s also a city that feels super old, and you can tell the history the city has just from walking around. My favourite things that I did in Edinburgh was the Christmas markets – which are definitely the best I have seen the food there was incredible! My other favourite thing was Arthur’s seat which is this hill right next to the city I hiked on New Year’s Day and it gives amazing views of the city!
So that’s a summary of the cities I have visited during my time in the United Kingdom!
My final blog post already! I moved out of St Andrews back in December and currently have just moved into my new accommodation in Glasgow. Although it was sad saying goodbye to St A and all the friends I made there, the excitement about moving to another new Uni has kept me upbeat.
I enjoyed my time in Scotland so much that I’ve extended my exchange over here. I’ll be studying at the University of Glasgow for a semester, still in Scotland but likely to be a very different experience from St Andrews. Time to get back into the swing of city life!
Looking back at the semester, I’ve made so many great memories, studied really interesting topics and found some amazing friends. Essentially, I’ve had a whale of a time!
Studying abroad has equipped me with the confidence to move to a completely new place, knowing that I’ll be able to settle in and have a great time. I am now an expert Google mapper, ticket booker and weekend away packer – always ready for another trip.
My advice to those planning on studying abroad is to throw yourself into everything and try to make the most of each day as the time truly flies. I would absolutely recommend studying abroad to everyone. Its been such a great opportunity to live in a new country, explore lots of different places and to see how things are done in different parts of the world.
Overall, I’m so glad that I was able to study abroad. This experience has broadened my horizons, created new connections and given me confidence in my abilities when facing something new.
I have returned to Falmouth for a few days to submit my final assignments and pack up my flat before heading back to New Zealand! It is very surreal that this exchange is almost over.
Seeing as it’s almost over, I thought I’d write a little bit more in detail about classes. The semester was 12 weeks long, divided up in two parts, the first 5 weeks long, then a week long break called ‘Reading Week’ before another 6 weeks of term. My timetable was very different to Auckland, because I was taking four English Lit papers, whereas at home I would do other liberal arts papers. It was a good experience because it really absorbs you within the English programme but I am definitely looking forward to studying a more varied selection of classes this year! My first two papers were called From Modernism to the Contemporary and Romantics to the Victorians (all very pretentious I know). For each class there was one 1 hour lecture and a 2 hour seminar, so I only had four classes a week but the so called ‘free time’ in between was rapidly taken up by all the readings we had to do and assignments started pretty early on. For both papers I had to do two formative assignments (meaning the grades wouldn’t count for my final grade but you had to complete the assignment to pass the course) and they consisted of a 500-word essay and group presentations – the topic was your choice out of all the texts we studied for the course. For someone who is usually intimidated by presentations, I really enjoyed them because it was a great way to get everyone engaged with the text each week and meant that because students began the discussion at the start of the class, everyone was less intimidated to contribute. Also they were in seminar groups so they were smaller than the already small lecture classes.
Initially I was daunted by the thought of getting to know classmates because everyone knew each other, having gone through all the compulsory English classes in first year (it’s a much more condensed programme here) but everyone, as I’ve mentioned earlier, was so friendly and welcoming, and it was easy for me to mirror the confidence with which everyone shared their opinion of the text because even the most basic opinions were welcome to develop more insightful conversation. I did have a good laugh though, because during the 10-minute breaks in the seminars, more often than not the conversation wouldn’t drift to what everyone had done during the weekend, but rather whether or not Rochester was a good guy or not in Jane Eyre (I observed these [genuine] debates because silly me I haven’t read Jane Eyre). So it’s a very different environment but so enjoyable being surrounded by people who are confident and passionate about their interests but no matter how ridiculous debates like that would get, were always ready to laugh at themselves in the end.
For those same papers, I had to write two 2,000 word essays over my reading week because the exams are held this May, when I’m back home so that was the only problem with the courses, because I hadn’t anticipated a higher workload so early in the exchange but all the teachers were very helpful. Those two papers finished in the week after reading week, and my other papers were Literature and Conflict and Transatlantic Avant-Gardes and again the readings consisted of a variety of novels, short stories and poems so there was something for everyone.
It took a while to get used to the grading system as well, especially because my final grade was dependent on only one essay and everything is marked under a different system, where a First is the highest grade boundary, a Second is middle ground and a Third is the lowest grade boundary before failing. I’m pretty sure this is the case for all UK universities. But once you understand that, as well as the fact that everyone says ‘You alright?’ instead of ‘how are you?’ (as a genuine greeting, not because they think you look unwell!) then you’ll be sorted.
A slightly different post this time, but hopefully it helps for any queries about the courses and papers themselves and the finer details to studying in a different country!
Lectures in St. Andrews are based a lot more on readings and there are less hours of lectures per week. The lectures for my papers/courses that I’m taking are also a lot smaller than back in Auckland.
The assignments were one thing I had to get used to. It was quite difficult writing essays and reports, although I had no idea what exactly they were expecting from me. The grading system is also very different here and half the time I don’t even know what my grade means.
Where to study
I personally am not a huge fan of the main library as it is always very busy. But I have found the perfect study spot for me. The King James library (part of St. Mary’s Quad) is amazing. It’s very old and a lot cosier. You can’t eat or talk inside but there is a lovely grass area where you can eat your lunch and take a nice break. But if you want a louder more community feeling to study the main library is a great option and Starbucks, Pret and North Point café also all have free Wi-Fi. The union is another great place to study; you can study in the café, the main bar or Sandy’s bar. Every place offers a different atmosphere and you will definitely find somewhere that suits your study preferences.
As the only club St. Andrews has is in the university union they also host ‘bops’ every Friday night. These are kind of like school discoes but everyone is tipsy. They always have very fun themes and I went to the boyband vs. girlband, ABBA and Bohemian Rhapsody bop. I also went to the Halloween and Christmas event at the union. I really enjoyed them and the good thing is that as it is a university event you will most likely see someone you know and the ‘bop’ can definitely be enjoyed both sober and tipsy.
Leading on from my previous point, I have to talk about the drinking culture in Scotland. People drink a lot here, the drinking age is also 18 but as there are a lot of study abroad students from America they also like to enjoy going out as they can now legally drink here. It can sometimes be quite overwhelming by how much some people drink here but they are also totally cool with you not drinking. Just a warning that some people do really drink as if the world was ending tomorrow.
Traditions – Raisin
St. Andrews university is a very old university and has many old and slightly strange traditions. The one that I got to be part of is Raisin Sunday and Monday. When I first heard what this was I was terrified and very confused. It pretty much consists of older (3rd year) students ‘adopting’ first year students. You become part of a family. As I was an exchange student I also got adopted, my lovely study abroad buddy adopted me and I was part of a lovely small family. The Sunday consisted of meeting at the beach bright and early and taking a vodka shot before doing egg races and then standing in the ocean drinking more alcohol. The day pretty much consisted of us drinking alcohol and going on a crazy scavenger hunt around town.
On the Monday we had to report to my Mum’s house where we got dressed up and then headed to the foam fight. Yes, you heard correctly. Everyone brings some bottles of shaving foam and then it just goes from there.
Accommodation – Cleaning inspections
One thing that I had to get used to were cleaning inspections in my accommodation. These happened once every month and your kitchen, room and bathroom were all checked to see if they were tidy. This could get slightly tedious, especially as for the kitchen you sometimes had to clean up mess that wasn’t even yours.
As I am writing this I am officially done with exams. I only had two exams this semester which was different to in Auckland where I always had four. I also had a take-home exam which was a very unique experience. Other than that, exams here follow a pretty similar routine to the ones in Auckland. They are two hours long and either at 9:30 or 2:30.
This is my second to last post, and I’ve had so much fun keeping this blog. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org