Emily: Travel

Hey everyone! Emily here checking in! What a crazy last 7 months it has been…

I’m not even really sure where to start, but I thought I would try outline some of the wild travel adventures I’ve had for you all.

Simply being in Europe opens you up to a world of travel. You can catch a flight to Barcelona for 19 euros! On exchange I was lucky enough to meet people from all over the world. For the past 2 months I have had time off uni to go and visit these new friends in their hometowns, as well as a bunch of other places.

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In the past 8 weeks I’ve travelled to Ibiza, where I bumped into Ellie Goulding at an Amnesia opening party, Barcelona to marvel at Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces, Manchester to visit a friend and party at Parklife Festival, Nice for some French Riviera exploring and croissant consuming, Frankfurt to stay with my pal to discover castles older than New Zealand, Denmark for 8 days of freedom at Roskilde Festival, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London to catch up with some mates and attend Wireless Festival, Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento to indulge in Italian culture and a multitude of pizza, Croatia for Ultra Europe Festival, Hvar island and finally Sutivan, a town on the coast of the island of Brač where I am currently writing this blog post.

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It has been an extremely full on 2 months with A LOT of stories to tell when I return to NZ. I have had the time of my life these past 7 months and could not recommend an exchange program enough to anyone who is interested! Lund, Sweden was a great university where I met so many exchange students from all over as well as Swedish people, as it is a popular destination for other exchange students. Lund is so close to Copenhagen that it enabled me to fly to a new city every few weekends thanks to cheap flights! It’s a European hub for travel with lots of budget airlines flying through there. Sweden was the best choice for me and I loved every second of it. I got a taste of everything in Sweden, from extreme snow storms in January winter time to sunny celebrations in the park for Valborg (a spring event). Valborg is a tradition where all the students of Lund university head to the main park for the day and enjoy music and drinks in the sunshine to welcome in the spring. It is a huge event consisting of about 30,000 students! It was one of the best weekends in Lund as we were able to hang out with all of our friends in one place as well as meeting a wave of new people!

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I will miss all the special people I met on my exchange so, so much. Luckily, the internet makes them feel a little less far away. I will be sure to go back for another visit once I have saved a few more pennies in my bank account! Coming from New Zealand is a huge honour when you are overseas, as most people have such positive connotations with our country and how beautiful it is and always express their desires to go there. I have already offered to host anyone who is interested in visiting and I have some friends coming over from Germany and Scotland during the summer to visit. I have definitely caught the travel bug after these 7 months away and I am sad it is all coming to an end, but I know I will be back in the near future!

As one of my Scottish friends told me, “you may be poor in money, but you will be rich in experiences.” – Kirsten McIntosh.

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Zofia: Travel

So now, to take a proper look at one of the major reasons I (and many people) wanted to come on exchange: travelling.

I had a lot of opportunity to travel around the UK and Europe both during and after my exchange. Because I did the January to May semester at Edinburgh, I ended the exchange at the beginning of the Northern Hemisphere summer, and then had until Auckland restarted in July to explore. That being said, we also had some short mid-term and “study” breaks that us exchange students used to our advantage.

Waitangi Day London

The first bit of travelling I did was down to London for Waitangi Day. I went with two other Kiwis, and there’s a huge pub crawl organised by Kiwis in London, so we got to meet a tonne of nice people with very familiar accents.

The second mini break I took was with some exchange students during a week we had off lectures in February. We went to Brussels and Amsterdam for two nights each. We loved just wandering (and biking) around the cities, enjoying classic food like the Belgian waffles.

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During the Easter break, five of us decided to go on a roadtrip around Scotland. We travelled all the way up north into the highlands, visiting some friends who lived in one of the tiny highland towns. We also saw the Isle of Skye, and about ninety-four castles. Scotland is truly beautiful.

And then, quicker than I actually would have liked, my semester was over. I started off my summer with a Topdeck tour. This is a bus tour aimed at young people, where they drive you around continental Europe and you spend one or two nights in each place. It was super full on, but an incredible time. Topdeck isn’t quite as infamous as Contiki for its partying, which to be honest probably worked in its favour. I joined a two-week tour, and went from Rome, to Venice, Pag Island (Croatia), Ljubljana (Slovenia), the Austrian Alps, Prague and ended in Berlin. I had the most fantastic time, and couldn’t recommend it enough – it’s like a tasting board of Europe, so you can decide where to come back to. Fair warning, you will be absolutely exhausted by the end of it, and possibly never want to see a hostel shower again.

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After Topdeck I met up with a friend from exchange and we did two weeks travelling around Spain and Portugal. I’d never been to Portugal before and it honestly blew me away. We had a few beach destinations (Palma de Mallorca, Malaga and Lagos) as well as some bigger cities (Seville, Lisbon and Porto). When we arrived in Porto we realised that we happened to be there for the weekend of the Festa de São João do Porto – a street festival for the patron saint of Porto. Everyone is out on the streets the whole day, cooking sardines and banging people on the head with plastic hammers (it’s meant to be a sign of affection). It was an amazing coincidence that we were there for it but if you get the chance, definitely go! It was one of the most fun days of my trip.

After Spain and Portugal, my parents and sister flew over from NZ and I met them in London. We did a two-week roadtrip around the UK, driving from Cambridge all the way up to Edinburgh and back down the other side.  It was atrocious weather, but England and Scotland are often overlooked when people choose to travel to Europe. I was glad to get the opportunity to have a look around because the UK actually has some awesome history and buildings that reflect that. That being said, I could have traded the 9-degree temperature and sheets of rain for the sun I’d been getting in Spain.

So at this point my time in Europe was nearly over, but I managed to squeeze in one more weekend in London (for the Wireless festival) and a couple of days in Paris, which was beautiful.

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Even though I’ve gone into great self-congratulatory detail on my travels, it’s also true that no matter where you go in Europe you’re going to find something amazing. Different people enjoy different things and different styles of traveling, so find someone who matches you and head off!

Ciao!

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Elizabeth: Last Post!

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out the best words to describe the exchange experience and how much it meant to me. I’ve decided there are no words that do it justice. My best advice if you want to know what it’s like is to just do it yourself – it’s the only way I can express how incredible it was to you. A bit rubbish for someone who is supposed to be telling you about how she felt about her exchange – I promise I tried really hard!

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Kayaking on Lake Brienz in Switzerland – if I had to choose, possibly my favourite place I visited

Explaining how incredible all the travel was is easy – I went to 18 countries in just over seven months and utterly adored it all. Experiencing new cultures, trying incredible new foods (French pastries and crepes are just as good clichés would have you believe – you honestly haven’t lived until you’ve gorged yourself on them for a week straight), and living it up in the sun/snow/depressingly grey overcast (or whatever weather Europe wanted to throw at me) created some of the best moments of my life. There’s just nothing like it. Watching a jaw-dropping sunset in Santorini (which I was doing almost exactly a month ago) definitely beats sitting in the law library doing an assignment on torture (which is what I’m supposed to be doing right now). It’s not really hard to convince anyone of that!

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Being on exchange is more than the travel though. It’s a great excuse to go and see awe-inspiring places that you’ve been lusting over on instagram for years, but most of the memories I truly cherish are the ones with the friends I made in Nottingham; the late night conversations in our cramped flat corridor, the walks around the uni lake on a beautiful day or if I was feeling stressed, laughing at the strange things English people do, taking the piss out of each other’s accents and home-country habits (my friends mocking how I said ‘Tesco’ will forever be burned into my mind). A semester abroad gives you the opportunity to set up a whole new life for yourself in a foreign country with no one else from home around it. It sounds (and is!) terrifying but it’s also extremely freeing. It’s setting up a little life for yourself in addition to your one in New Zealand.

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My flat, slowly leaving Nottingham one by one – saying goodbye to exchange friends was definitely the saddest thing about coming back to NZ

The exchange experience in general just heightens every emotion you have in the best way possible. I expected to have fun travelling, I expected to make friends, I expected to enjoy Nottingham and all it had to offer. What I didn’t expect was how intense all these feelings and experiences were. Within a few weeks I had made friends that I felt as close to as some of my friends back home – something I never really expected but am so grateful for now. I didn’t expect Nottingham to feel like home after such a short time there. But that’s what it feels like to me now – in the same Wellington (where I’m from) and Auckland (where I’ve lived for over four years) will always feel like home to me, I think Nottingham will too. I put a lot of this down to the feeling like time was running out – knowing that you were leaving in a few months meant you found your friends and felt at home quickly because you had to so that you fully immersed yourself. I said yes to more things and put myself out there more than I ever would at home and am so thankful I did. While there were obviously low points in the seven months (like crying in an airport bathroom after an immigration officer yelled at me, getting lost for over an hour when it was -6 degrees outside twice, and getting called on in a class where I knew nothing), none of it took away from the fact I had a better time than I could have imagined. The whole exchange was a ‘best case scenario’ outcome.

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Neuschwanstein Castle, about two hours outside of Munich – the one the Disney castle is based on!

The only real advice I have for going on exchange is just telling you to do it! If you have the opportunity to do so I can’t imagine why would ever not take it up. If you’re nervous because you’ve never lived out of home before, you can always choose places close to NZ or to other family, or choose countries that are relatively similar to NZ to help with culture shock (Australia, UK, Canada, US, Ireland). If you’re worried about making friends, don’t! I don’t know a single person on exchange who didn’t make friends – and even if you didn’t, it’s still an incredible opportunity to study and travel overseas. If you don’t want to push your university out a semester, don’t worry about it! You can likely still graduate on time and even if you can’t, it’s 100% worth it.

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You have to go on exchange! Even it’s only so finally you can be the subject of snarky memes about people who studied abroad and/or summer holidayed in Europe.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my exchange experience. I hope you all get to experience it on your own someday, because I honestly can’t recommend it enough.

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Safe travels!
Elizabeth

 

 

 

Zofia: Last Post!

Since being back in New Zealand, I’ve been asked by everyone whether I enjoyed my exchange. The short answer is of course, yes, I loved it, I had such a great time, etc. In reality, this doesn’t even begin to cover it.

You’ve all heard the cliché, you know, “abroad changed me”. And at the beginning, my exchange student friends and I would mock others who’d said that on returning home, but it is genuinely true – you make these amazingly close friendships in a matter of months, you start considering a new country your home, and then suddenly you say goodbye to it all and are back to where you were six months ago. By far one of the weirdest and most difficult experiences of the whole exchange process is coming home.

Because to you, you feel like you’ve been away a lifetime. You’ve experienced all these new things and met new people that you’d now consider friends for life, and yet to everyone at home it doesn’t really feel like you’ve been gone that long. You have to try and get back into university (and proper studying, since these grades are actually reflected in your GPA), and living with new people (in my case, people I’ve never met before) and you feel stupid because you’re homesick for somewhere that was only your home for half a year. You’re juggling being ecstatic about seeing your old friends and family again, and desperately missing your ones from overseas.

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There’s a quote from Winnie the Pooh (or A. A. Milne, I suppose, if you’re being technical): ‘How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ This sums up exchange in a nutshell. You meet the most fantastic people and have the most fantastic time, but saying goodbye is probably the worst thing in the world. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, because I wouldn’t trade my time in Edinburgh for anything, even though it means a few tears and sad phone calls to friends you’re missing, and looking back at holiday pictures and feeling hopelessly nostalgic (and also bitterly cold because it’s winter here and that doesn’t seem fair).

You meet such an abundance and array of people on exchange. We were lucky in that we met a huge number of other exchange students as well as people from the UK that studied there full time. I’ve come back from exchange with friends on every continent; I already have plans to visit Melbourne in September and see friends I met who did the exchange from Melbourne Uni, and we already have chats about where in the world to meet up next (I’m trying to push New Zealand but there’s some complaints about the 30 hour travelling time).

Not only that, but you develop this insanely strong connection to the country you lived in. I have so much pride for Scotland and I’d probably back them in a rugby match now (at least, against the English). I’d be the first to insist that Scottish pounds are, in fact, legal tender (the bloody English try not to accept them), and my love for tattie scones runs deep in my veins. It means every time I hear a Scottish accent I’ll probably get overexcited and tell the poor soul about that time I lived in Edinburgh, but I can’t help but feel like I’m just a little bit Scottish now. There’s a lot that’s similar between New Zealand and Scotland, like place names (Dunedin is actually taken from the Gaelic for Edinburgh) and senses of humour, so maybe that’s why I took to the country so well. We’ve also got that same little brother complex with Australia that the Scots have with England, so you can gleefully join in when they start ranting about the union.

Basically, my reflection of the exchange is this: you’ll meet people and find places that make saying goodbye the hardest thing in the world. But that’s something you should appreciate, because it means you had the best time while it lasted. If you have the opportunity, please go on an exchange with Auckland 360 – it scares me when I think about how close I came to not going because the admin stuff seemed like a lot of work! It’s been an amazing six months and I hope everyone who has the opportunity to go, takes it.

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Emily: Last Post!

For the final blog post from my Swedish exchange, I would like to share some tips and advice to anyone thinking of heading on exchange. All I can say is that I had the time of my life travelling Europe for 8 months, met some incredible people that I know I’ll be friends with for life, and experienced a completely different education system overseas.

When I arrived in Sweden, the only real culture shock I experienced was the temperature. It was -10 degrees and the wind made it feel even colder! It was early January so Winter was upon us and so it is crucial you come prepared for this weather. Another shock was the language. I have studied German and French but the Swedish language is unlike anything I have ever seen before! However, everyone in Scandinavia speaks almost perfect English, so I did not find it that difficult to function in their country.

I loved heading to Sweden for an exchange and I wouldn’t call it a mainstream destination! Never in my life did I imagine myself living in a place like Sweden or even visiting Scandinavia. ‘Iceland’ and ‘The Norther Lights’ are sort of those far away magical places that you read about in books but never expect to witness and visit yourself. I feel extremely lucky and proud to say I have visited those places at 20 years old, and I will definitely be going back! The opportunities are endless when on exchange. I loved Lund for it’s fabulous town and location. A short 40 minute train ride to Copenhagen meant you could literally be in a new country in less than an hour. Copenhagen airport provided me with the chance to travel to so many new places, usually for less than $50 dollars! You can head to Barcelona for 19 euros for a weekend away! If you are at all interested in heading to Sweden I would encourage you to visit as the people are all so incredible there. They have a very modern, equal society when it comes to race, wealth, and gender. It is not uncommon to see men pushing prams down the street. Lund is a popular destination for exchange students all over the world, which meant that I got to meet people from all across Europe all the way to people from New Zealand and Australia! Leaving New Zealand really opens up your eyes to the vast amount of cultures and people in the world. You meet people with different humour and personalities to anyone I have ever met at home, you become more confident and gain an urge to continue to meet new people and travel! I cannot highlight enough how fantastic the past 8 months of my life have been, and I can’t wait to head back as soon as I can! Going on exchange is like gaining a second home and I will cherish my Sweden experience for the rest of my life, thank you Auckland Abroad for making this life changing experience happen – I am truly grateful for the opportunity to add the world to my degree.

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Courtney: Last Post!

So, I’ve been home for 3 weeks now, and the post-abroad depression has truly settled in. I’ve been annoying my flatmates non stop with my stories of my time abroad, and getting sad whenever I hear someone mention England in the slightest. Anyone that asks me about it gets a whole essay and a half – I cannot tell them all how much fun I had.

Studying abroad teaches you things you would have never learnt in a classroom and much more. While the actual studies were amazing, studying at a world class university such as King’s, there were other aspects of my time abroad that I never even knew I’d benefit from. As cheesy as it sounds, I definitely grew as a person over there. It forced me to overcome my shyness, and get on with things – there was no-one to hold your hand through each and everything. I learnt I could travel alone, and not feel awkward eating alone in a restaurant in Edinburgh (something I would never have done back home!) I’ve made lifelong friends with people from all corners of the globe, with such diverse, different backgrounds that I never knew if we’d ever have anything in common. I learnt so much about different cultures and countries through my many opportunities being able to travel across the continent.

So would I do it again? 100 times over. Despite all the times I got lost, didn’t know what I was doing and missed home, it was an experience I can truly say I wish everyone could have. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge, I have two words for you. DO IT. It is worth every cent, every hard moment missing home, every time you think you’d be better off at home. I cant recommend this experience enough – if you couldn’t already tell!

Now I’m busy planning how soon I’ll be financially able to return to the UK, after my final semester at university! If you have any final questions, feel free to hit me up! I wish the next lot of exchange students all the best for the next semester!

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 Travelling in Corfu, Greece
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Exploring the sights in Rome, Italy
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Saying goodbye to my home in London, Champion Hill

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Courtney: Academics

Ahhh, the ‘study’ part of study abroad. Let’s not forget what we’re all here for folks!

As much as I wanted to experience travel and living in another part of the world for 6 months, the study part was pretty important to me. King’s is a world renowned university, especially being well respected in the UK university system. If you’re interested in the rankings, etc of your university, definitely check King’s out!

Classes

If you thought UoA classes were relaxed, take a look at King’s. For each class we had a total of one hour of lectures a week, and one hours of tutorials. Yep, you read that right. There was very little contact time, which meant you need to be pretty disciplined to keep up on top of all your classes. It is great, however, if you are a study abroad student, as it gives you a great amount of time to see the city you’re living in and beyond! I ended up with only three days of classes a week, which meant for a great long weekend every weekend! It was great for those trips around the U.K., such as Brighton, Stonehenge and Bath! However, it was easy to get complacent and think if you miss a class, it’s only one hour, so how much can you really miss? Often, they’d give exam hints and coursework help, so can actually be quite helpful. In short – go to your classes. They’re only an hour – even if they are at 9am and you have to battle London rush hour to get there.

Classes were probably the most difficult thing for me in planning my whole exchange. I left my exchange till Semester 1 of my fourth year of my degree, so my paper options were quite limited, and most were specific papers required for my major. If you can – definitely go as early as possible, so that you have many options and don’t have to stress too much about stage 3 papers while your friends go to Ireland without you!

I’m doing a BCom/BA, majoring in Marketing, Management and Psychology. Tip: King’s does not let you take Psychology papers, no matter how much you beg the Study Abroad Office. So Psych majors, turn away now. King’s does offer work psychology based classes, which count towards my psych major, however can be quite business based, so I wouldn’t recommend them if you don’t have an interest in that sort of stuff. It worked for me and my Commerce degree, and I filled up the other slots with business papers. For anyone doing a Commerce degree, they are very specific on classes – they have to match pretty much exactly the equivalent at UoA. Luckily, they have a great amount of information of classes already approved, so you can always just go off of that list if you don’t want to trawl through the University’s website. Check out the Business Student Centre for more info!

The papers I did were the following:

5SSMN232: The Psychology of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Equivalent Psych 300 level)

5SSMN233: Work and Organisational Psychology (Equivalent Psych 300 level)

6SSMN361: Marketing Communications (Equivalent MKTG 306)

6SSMN336: Corporate Social Responsibility (Equivalent MGMT 309)

I found them all pretty interesting papers – although they are my majors so keep that in mind! If you want any specific information about how you found these papers let me know – although bear in mind King’s does change their course catalogue so they might not still be available for your semester!

Uni Life

One thing I learned about King’s, and London universities in general, is that they have a very diverse and international student population. There are a large number of European students attending, as prior to Brexit, I believe they pay the same (or similar) fees to UK students. Therefore, you’re likely to meet lots of people from all around the world! As you are only able to pick your classes from a specific list, chances are you’ll likely meet other study abroad students too. In one of my classes, an intro tutorial asked us where we were all from. Only one of those people were actually from the UK! While I have definitely met those hailing from the UK, I believe it is often most common for UK students to go to smaller, ‘university’ towns – much like Otago – rather than choosing something in a bigger city! It does depend on each and every person though.

 

One day was truly disappointing though. I had just finished class, and was waiting outside for a friend. She came out, and had told me she’d bumped into a friend who’d just seen Prince Harry – yeah, you read that right – giving a speech at King’s. We’d just missed it! Top tip – keep an eye out for speakers! I wish I had known, because that would have been an awesome opportunity!

Exams

I’ve just finished my exams as of a week ago, and let me tell you, their exams are no joke. The actual exams are pretty ok as far as exams go, but the actual exam process is pretty intense. You’re given a specific seat number, in a room that contains around 1300 desks – it can be pretty overwhelming. The exams aren’t even held at King’s – ours were held in the Kensington Olympia Convention centre, which I guess was how they managed to squeeze so many people into one room. You have different length exams in the same room, so it can get pretty distracting when they announce the end of one exam, and you’re still writing. Other than that, it was all pretty easy to understand and efficient – just make sure to go with plenty of time to find it!

As sad as I am that my time at King’s has come to an end, I’m pretty excited for the next 3 weeks before I return home, as I’m set to travel around Europe, enjoying the nice summer sun! I hope this gives you a little insight into how the university system/academics works here at King’s – and will likely be a little similar if you’re attending another UK university. I wish you all the best of luck!

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