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

 

 

 

Food, glorious food: Elizabeth

Food is perhaps my best part of life. Going on exchange it’s even better – using ‘well I won’t be here in six months’ as an excuse to buy excessive amounts of food is my favourite thing.

The hard part about living in a new city is not knowing straight off the bat where the best places to get food are. Although through trial and error (and lots of other people’s recommendations), I’ve done all the work so you guys have some top quality food to try if you’re ever in Nottingham!

Best cafés

My best advice to any exchange student looking to move to England (but outside of London) is to give up coffee now. You don’t want a caffeine headache when a burnt coffee from Starbucks is likely to be your best option. New Zealanders love good coffee, supposedly the Brits do too but I am yet to find much evidence of it – I would like take this opportunity to thank to the Uni Bookshop Costa for the worst flat white of my life.

The upside to the normally terrible coffee: bonding with other New Zealanders and Australians about it. I’m not saying that I’m friends with one of the Australians because of mutual complaining about rubbish coffee, but it definitely helped! That being said, there are a few hidden gem in among the very below average quality coffee.

Greenhood, Beeston
This is my local café – if local means a 15 minute walk away – and an absolute star. The people who work here are lovely, the locals are friendly, and the coffee is decent. What more could a girl ask for? I’ve spent many an afternoon here studying (or talking to friends while I should be studying) over a coffee or several. They also always have a small selection of homemade cakes which are always incredible – I can definitely recommend their Elderflower and cream cake.

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This was the first decent flat white I’d had in Nottingham and I had already been there for four weeks!
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Greenhood – appropriately named, because – if you remember from my other blog – everything is Robin Hood themed here

200 Degrees, Nottingham City

While Greenhood is my local, 200 Degrees is my favourite. The coffee is superb, the sign outside is always hilarious, and it’s just all around spectacular. There’s also a branch by the train station that I haven’t been to yet but I’m sure it’s just as good.  I always make an excuse to go when I’m in the city.

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Unfortunately, the Brits don’t do brunch like New Zealanders do. This is the worst thing about the country as far as I’m concerned. I have no recommendations in Nottingham and it kills me a little bit inside – especially since my friends in Auckland keep going to cute new brunch places at home. So please get your brunch fill while you’re still in Auckland!

Restaurants
Being a broke uni student doesn’t change while you’re on exchange (in fact, it usually gets worse), so I can’t say I’ve made it out to that many restaurants (the exchange rate kills me a little bit sometimes).

One place I can recommend is Annie’s Burgers in the centre of Nottingham. They have about 30 different burgers on the menu, from classic to weird and wonderful. My friend had the Elvis which is PB&J flavoured – just incredible.

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My burger, can’t remember what it was called but it had cheese, bacon, and a hashbrown – marvellous!

The best hot chocolates I’ve had: a series
In my attempt to get rid of my caffeine addiction (with varying levels of success), and because chocolate is amazing, I tried to switch from coffee to hot chocolate when I went to cafes. This has resulted in some incredible drinks, even if coffee is still number one in my heart.

 

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Mum’s Great Comfort Food – Edinburgh, Scotland. You should go here not only for the deluxe hot chocolates, but also because the menu has the best comfort food in the world. My friends and I went three times while we in Edinburgh over New Years, and I took my other friends here when I went back during Easter

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The Breakfast Club – Soho, London. I waited for 45 minutes in line to get into this brunch place and can confirm it was 10/10 worth the wait. Look at those mini marshmellows!!
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Northpoint – St Andrew’s, Scotland. Not only was this malteasers hot chocolate life changing, but this was the café where Will + Kate had their very first date. If you’re as royals-obsessed as me, this café is a must
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York’s Chocolate Story – York, England. I paid £10.50 to go through a chocolate museum and it was not wasted. The chilli hot chocolate at the café afterwards was pretty good too

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 Cooking food yourself
Since I live in a self-catered apartment, it means I have to cook for myself. I’m honestly cooking on exchange because a) you’re not studying as hard as you would at home so there’s more time and b) FRESH PRODUCE IS SO MUCH CHEAPER HERE! Honestly, berries at tesco are the same price (if not cheaper) off-season in England than they are in-season in New Zealand. I’ve been able to cook with loads more veges and delicious things than I can at home because it’s just way more affordable. Also they seem to always have Ben&Jerry’s on sale for £2.50 which is equally amazing and dangerous.

The range of food is also much wider than at home! Although there are still some things missing though. I searched the whole supermarket but couldn’t find fresh pesto. Plus, there’s no Wattie’s Tomato sauce here which breaks my lil kiwi heart (and annoys my flatmates to no end because I never shut up about it and they’re all from other countries and don’t understand).  My best advice for the stuff you miss is to make friends with a New Zealander or Australian whose parents send them a care package! I managed to sneak two tim tams and half a packed of chicken crimpy shapes off one of my friends and it was beautiful.

Traditional English Food
As far as traditional English food goes, it’s not that different from New Zealand most of the time. At the start of semester my flatmates and I tried sampling as many British chocolates and crisps as we could, but apart from that I haven’t noticed much difference (but that might be because Mum’s English). My favourites that you can’t get in NZ are quavers, cheese and onion Walker’s crisps, hot vimto, and Cadbury’s caramel chocolate (the caramel is WAY better than our caramellos, although it’s the same idea). Plus they have way more variety in popcorn at the supermarket which is fantastic – I’m partial to tesco branded salty & sweet popcorn for £1 a bag.

Mulled wine and cider are both big in Europe as well over winter. I tried mulled wine for the first time at Winter Wonderland in London, and although it’s not my favourite drink in the world, it was definitely nice to sip on while walking around Christmas markets.

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I was also lucky enough to stay with my mum’s family in England over Christmas and had myself a proper English Christmas dinner (complete with Yorkshire pudding, of course)! I maintain it was the best meal I’ve had on exchange. So if you’re coming over Christmas definitely try to get yourself invited to someone’s place for food!

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That’s all I’ve got to tell you for food! As always let me know if you have any questions about Nottingham or exchange in general.

As a side note, I just wanted to add to my Accommodation Awards post from last time, but the rubbish bins at Broadgate Park (where I’m living) recently featured in a meme (https://www.facebook.com/StudentProblems/videos/1235920199868044/) and so if you ever wanted to live somewhere #famous then Nottingham is your place!

Hope you’re all well – please enjoy a good flat white for me,

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Accommodation Awards: Elizabeth

If we’re giving out awards for the best accommodation for your exchange, Broadgate Park at the University of Nottingham would definitely snag a few.

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Picture of Broadgate Park feat. that classic British grey sky that I’ve become very accustomed to

The one that Broadgate would win by a mile is the award for ‘Most International Students Crammed Together in One Building’.

Considering Broadgate Park is a collection of apartment buildings catering over 2,000 students, they took special care to put a fifty or so exchange students in the same place. Sometimes I have to remind myself I got on a plane to England and not the US, because I swear I am constantly surrounded by American accents.

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This is Hazels, in the exchange student block – it’s right near reception and laundry which is super helpful.

 

Although it wasn’t what I expected when I moved in, it’s fantastic being surrounded by other exchange students. There’s parties everyone is invited to, group trips to places around the UK, and accents to take the piss out of (unfortunately that accent is mine 90% of the time, even the other New Zealander jumps on the bandwagon –  et tu, Brute?).

There’s definitely a sense of community around the building, and especially within the flats themselves. Ours is the best (of course), named after the best Nickelodeon TV show of the 2000s:

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Out of all the accommodation in Nottingham, I’d peg Broadgate for ‘Best Location’ as well!

While all the catered Halls of Residences are on the campus itself (so they get the awards for ‘Place where you can get out of bed the latest and still make it to class on time’), I still think Broadgate has a better location. It’s situated right next to the entrance to University Park (the main campus – where almost all of the exchange students have class), the bus stop into town is literally right outside, and it’s only a 10 minute walk from the nearest suburb called Beeston.

Beeston has shops, restaurants, cafes (esp. Greenhood which does the only coffee close to resembling NZ coffee since I arrived in this city), Tesco, two post offices; literally everything you could possibly need while you were on exchange.

To make things even better, if you’re a law student (like me!) your building is the closest to this entrance to campus – they have to give us some perks when we’re forced to learn the intricacies of European patent law at 5pm on a Thursday.  The walk into uni is also gorgeous – University Park is such a green campus with trees everywhere, as well as so many daffodils at the moment because it’s spring! I can’t wait until summer when all the leaves on the trees come back because it’s going to be even more stunning!

The apartments themselves would win the award for ‘Bare but extremely functional
There’s six rooms per apartment in our block, one bathroom (with separate shower and toilet cubicles), and a kitchen. The facilities are all up to scratch, and while all the furniture is included, there’s no kitchen supplies save for the literal bare necessities (fridge, freezer, microwave, kettle, toaster). Because we’re all international students with no space in our suitcases for crockery, it meant we had to buy it all. Luckily, Poundland and charity shops are close by and we were able to stock our kitchen on the cheap.

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We’d also win the ‘Most Cramped Hangout Area’ award. We have no lounge in our apartments, so we’ve taken to either cramming around our dining table in the kitchen, or sitting in our corridor chatting. It’s not ideal, but it definitely makes us all closer! There’s also one main common room in the middle of the complex which we hang out in as well. My flatmate has just informed me there’s also a study room there too – I have yet to go, sorry Mum!

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I was super impressed with the size of the bedrooms when I got here! Still a classic university accommodation sized room, but all the furniture is moveable so you can arrange it how you like. Plus, being an exchange student means having hardly any stuff to store, so the room is perfect. The wardrobe is also a really decent size and there’s space to store stuff under the bed.

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The photos don’t really do the room justice – I swear it looks bigger in real life!

Other amenities at Broadgate that are worth mentioning are the shop, the café, and the grocery cart. The shop is basically a dairy that has everything a student needs: chocolate, energy drinks, frozen pizza, tampons, alcohol, a cash machine, crisps, popcorn – for those days where you don’t want to go all the way to Tesco. It’s a life saver!

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The café is next to the shop and serves coffee and hot food. I’ve only been once but it’s really lovely – definitely a good place to hang out, get a bit of work done, and grab a bite to eat! There’s also a fruit & vege cart that comes every Tuesday and Friday! It sells pretty much every fruit or vegetable you could want and at decent prices! Definitely easier than lugging it all back from Tesco.

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I wish I could tell you guys that Broadgate is cheap but the reality is far from it. With the exchange rate, I paid over NZD$4,300 and that’s not including any food for the semester. Far from ideal, but it was the second cheapest option (although lots of the others are catered, so you get meals included). I don’t regret choosing self-catered though, because I lived at Halls in Auckland as a resident and an RA and am beyond sick of hall food.

Broadgate is a stellar place to live while you’re on exchange in Nottingham – I’d definitely recommend it! If you guys have any more questions about Broadgate or any other Nottingham accommodation (I’ve got some friends who live in catered halls and get info off them), let me know – I’m happy to answer any questions!

Hope everyone is making the most of that Kiwi summer!
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My O-Week Experience: Elizabeth


“I heard you have cannibals in New Zealand, is that true?” – And so began my first week as an exchange student at the University of Nottingham, England. I didn’t expect that to be the first question I was asked about New Zealand, but it was definitely a hilarious way to start my exchange. (In defence of the American who asked me the question, about two minutes later I asked if he had a gun in his house (he does)).

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Nottingham City Centre

This blog is about my orientation week at the University of Nottingham – hopefully it will give those of you planning on going on exchange a bit of insight into what it’s like!

Accommodation – Broadgate Park (university accommodation, self-catered flat)
I spent a lot of my train journey from Manchester wondering what the make-up of my flat would be. Would they put me in with a bunch of English students, just exchange students, a mix? If the greeting from my first flatmate in a strong American accent didn’t clue me up, the heavy French accent of my second flatmate confirmed our whole flat was international students. As we found out later, they’d chucked all the exchange students in one block.

I love our flat! The five of us hit it off right from the start, including a bonding ritual where we all ate a pickled onion from the jar we were given in our orientation pack. The flat itself has six rooms and a shared kitchen and bathroom. I’ve had to wait for the shower and toilet a few times and there’s no lounge to chill in, but it’s still a really nice space! If anyone has stayed in university accommodation at UoA, the rooms are probably the size of a University Hall room and definitely bigger than places like Huia and UHA. Broadgate Park is about a five minute walk from the entrance to campus and 15 – 20 minutes from most buildings and lecture theatres. It’s got its own little dairy style supermarket and a café that sells Starbucks drinks but isn’t really a Starbucks. There’s also a fresh fruit and vege stall that pops up a few days a week which is great so you don’t have to carry them back all the way from the nearest Tesco.

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Can confirm picked onions are super gross.

I thought Broadgate was closer to the city centre before I got here, but it’s actually a 25 minute bus ride (although the bus only costs £1). Luckily, we are close to a suburb called Beeston. Beeston is full of little shops and cafes, including tons of charity shops where we bought lots of the pots and glasses for our kitchen (we also bought a High School Musical 3 mug that everyone fights over, and a mug celebrating Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s Engagement – because you’re in England now, love). There is also a PoundLand and a Tesco Extra which are potentially my two favourite shops I’ve encountered in England – everything is so cheap and there’s so much more variety than at home! Fresh fruit and veges are crazy cheap compared to New Zealand.

Orientation at the University of Nottingham

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My flatmates and a couple of other friends before our Welcome Meeting.

I could only move into my accommodation the night before University started (Sunday 29th January) which was frustrating, as I didn’t have time to settle in before uni started. On Monday morning we had to pick up our module enrolment papers and then had a Welcome Meeting at 11am. It was at this meeting we were told that classes had already started that day. I was lucky that I’d had all my classes confirmed before I got to England but it was still really stressful realising I should already be in lectures. Everyone was blindsided by the fact we had had barely any information from the university and suddenly just had to start. We didn’t really get that much information at the Welcome Meeting that I found useful either.

Luckily, I had a meeting at 10am on Tuesday with the Law Faculty. It was for all the law exchange students in the Spring Semester (which turned out to only be five of us: two Australians, two New Zealanders, and one girl from Hong Kong) with one of the law school administrators and the Professor in charge of exchange students. They gave us a lot of information about the law school specific things which was so helpful. Both of them were incredibly welcoming!

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The Trent Building feat. classic British grey sky – one of the University of Nottingham’s main buildings and definitely the prettiest.

The only other orientation event that the University put on was the Refreshers Week Fair which was where all the clubs and societies at the University have stalls where you can sign up to their clubs. The Travel Society definitely seems like the best society I’ve joined so far – they plan trips around the UK during the year that you can go on. Tomorrow I’m going to York which should be super fun! At the fair I also got a lot of free pizza from the Dominos stand which was definitely the highlight.

While the orientation put on by the University was pretty lacklustre, I know that they dedicate a full week to proper orientation events in September (the start of their university year). I imagine it would be a lot better then than in January where all the English students have already been there for six months. So if you’re not sure of which semester you want to go Nottingham, I’d definitely think about going in their first semester (our second) which starts in September because you get the full O-Week experience.

There’s also an organisation in Nottingham called CityLife which organises events and trips for international students which is awesome – we went on a pub crawl last week which was tons of fun and a good introduction to Nottingham nightlife (as a side note, they have Taco Bell in Nottingham which is the perfect post town night snack).

Highs of my exchange so far!
British accents – no explanation needed.

Everything is Robin Hood themed and it’s brilliant. Nottingham has wholeheartedly embraced its part in the legend of Robin Hood, with everything from cafes to public transport cards being named after him.

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Getting on the bad side of Robin Hood despite the fact I’m an exchange student so am pretty poor.

Squirrels!! I was with my American friends when a squirrel ran past us on the footpath and I squealed it was so exciting! They all laughed at me. The same thing happened when it snowed the other day.

The university grounds are gorgeous – we have a lake!! There’s also just lots of trees and greenery which are stunning.

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Cute little part of Nottingham city!

The city itself is absolutely lovely! It’s quite small so it’s easy to walk around, but there’s lots of cute little shops and cafes. They have a Ferris Wheel at the moment that’s up until March 12 which is awesome (although it was closed for maintenance when my friend and I went into the city solely for the purpose of going on it). It also has Primark which is just full of cheap clothes and homeware stuff which is perfect for decorating your room or buying cheap clothes to supplement the limited wardrobe you can fit into your luggage.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem – the oldest pub in England, it was where crusaders had a pit stop before heading off on their journey. It was also where I attempted to finish a whole pint of beer but couldn’t quite manage it (I’ve stuck to cider since then – most of it isn’t a patch on NZ cider, but Strongbow Cloudy Apple is definitely a favourite). But also the pubs in general and pub culture has been amazing – going in for a cheeky pint after shopping in the city has become a bit of a tradition.

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Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem pub

 

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Nottingham Castle – originally built by William the Conqueror but it has been destroyed several times since then.

We found out that we get a month break at Easter which means a couple of friends and I are heading to the Continent itself for a few weeks and then hopefully heading up to Scotland! Can we please have mid-semester breaks this long, UoA?

Honestly, the friends I’ve made in the last two weeks have really been the highlight of my exchange so far. If you’re reading this and you talked to me about my exchange before I left, you know my number one worry was making friends. Obviously, I needn’t have worried. I’m constantly surrounded by awesome people (even the Australians are cool which is a big surprise!) and it’s just so amazing.

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My flat! One Kiwi, one German, one Frenchman and two Americans!

Lows
Being flung head-first into uni without much help from the University itself. I ended up missing a whole week of one class because I didn’t know what was going on. There was a lot of running around to get things sorted out which was a hassle, especially when trying to settle into a new country. Everything would have been made so much easier if we’d been able to arrive a few days before actually starting classes.

The weather. I know I shouldn’t complain, because I fully knew I was coming to England in the middle of winter but I don’t think I was quite prepared for how grey everything is all the time! My Australian friend is taking Vitamin D tablets because she’s worried she’s not getting enough sun – which I laughed at, but you know, it’s probably not a bad idea.

The time difference! Being 13 hours behind makes it really hard to call friends and family at home. I can sometimes get in for a bit before class in the morning if I wake up early enough, or on weekend mornings in New Zealand (so night for me) because people are actually home and not at work. I’m really jealous of my German and French flatmates whose family and friends are only an hour behind!

Things that surprised me about being on exchange
The first person I met in Nottingham was a New Zealander which really just proved how small the world was. I was struggling with my suitcase in the rain trying to get to the reception of Broadgate and the girl who came up to show me where the reception is was a law exchange student from New Zealand (although Canterbury, not Auckland because the world isn’t that small).

I am so much more patriotic – this extends to talking about rugby more than I ever have in my life, arguing several times with two Frenchmen about how Richie McCaw is a national hero and not a cheat.

It didn’t actually surprise me that much, but I only really miss home when people send snapchat from the beach. (If you’re reading this and you send me beach snapchats please stop, I’m dying with jealousy because it’s usually about 4 degrees here). Maybe I’ll get homesick later on, but it definitely hasn’t happened yet (sorry Mum). I do miss Watties tomato sauce though – British Ketchup just isn’t the same.

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Nottingham City – we found the hipster part with lots of pubs and secondhand shops

I’m basically loving England! The exchange experience is incredible so far and exactly what I hoped it was going to be before I left. As you can tell by the length of this post, I love talking a lot, so please ask me any questions you have about Nottingham (or England and exchanges in general)!

Cheerio!
(Full disclosure, I haven’t heard anyone actually say this)

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What I’m Packing : Elizabeth

While I was in the middle of my first attempt at packing for my exchange, my friend Lucy walked into the room. She took one look at my newly purchased suitcase and exclaimed: “that is a tiny suitcase!”. She was right. Unfortunately, I’m a hoarder and the average suitcase user isn’t packing for eight months.

Just in case you haven’t read my bio on the Ambassadors page, I’m Elizabeth! I’m 21, about to start my fifth year of a law/arts degree, and am currently on route to spend six months in Nottingham, England. I’m a huge fan of food, history, and British accents, which makes England the perfect choice for my exchange! This post is all about what I packed in my luggage, so while it definitely won’t be the most interesting thing I’ll write, hopefully it’ll be useful to those of you thinking of heading off for the UK at some point!

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Luggage restrictions are at a pain in the arse at the best of times, let alone trying to pack for an exchange that begins in the middle of an English winter. Just to make things more difficult, I’m spending two weeks in Vietnam and Singapore before I make it to England. This means my suitcase is stuffed full of togs alongside thermals, sunnies with a thick woollen hat.

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It was really hard to narrow everything down, but I’ve hopefully come up with a selection of things that’ll be useful for anyone going on exchange, or if you’re just generally trying to pack for multiple weather conditions (which is a killer, which I now know from experience).

What my luggage is actually packed in:

Before doing my research I assumed all airlines had relatively similar luggage restrictions for flights, I was wrong. I’m taking four different airlines on my long journey to England, all with different baggage allowances. The harshest luggage restriction on an airline I’m using is Cathay Pacific with 20kg (my suitcase ended up being 15.9kg). My flights back to NZ are Singapore Airlines and allow 30kg which is amazing because I’m definitely going to need that extra 10kg on the way back! I ended up choosing a medium sized suitcase because the Contiki I’m going on in Vietnam has size restrictions as well and I thought I’d better not risk it. It was tough fitting everything in but at least it’s easy for a short, extremely weak girl like me to lug around by herself!

I’ve also bought the coolest fricking black backpack from IKEA from when I was last in Australia. It’s expandable so while I’ll have to have it at its smallest when it’s hand luggage, it’ll be an awesome weekend-away bag for my (hopefully very frequent) trips to London during the year (Nottingham is only a two hour train from London, you have no idea how excited I am – the West End! So many musicals that I can see)!

My last bag is a mini handbag to use for nights out and when I’m settled into my place at Nottingham and use it when I go into the city/out to cafes/etc.

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The “absolutely cannot forget”:

Clothes are obviously the classic necessities. It was super hard to work out which stuff I needed to take with me but my best piece of advice is taking clothes that are versatile. I’ve packed things like a dress that can used for dinners out but also can be dressed up for going to town, a jumpsuit that can be worn both in clubs and as an every-day outfit (although it’s unlikely to get much use in England), and staples like jeans and plain t-shirts. I’ve got a week’s worth of socks and undies if anyone’s interested… although that’s more to make sure I do washing frequently than to economise on packing space. I originally thought I wouldn’t be able to fit my winter coat into my suitcase but at the last minute I managed to squeeze it in! If I was going straight to a cold country then I’d have just worn it on the plane, but didn’t really fancy lugging it around Vietnam and Singapore in 34 degree heat.

I decided to limit my shoe packing to three pairs, because they’re so bulky and take up a lot of my short supply of luggage space. I ended up packing converse, a pair of nice boots (that I can wear walking around as well as dress up for more formal occasions), and jandals. If I could fit one more pair in I probably would have gone with another pair of shoes I can walk in. Fingers cross my converse last!

Toiletries – as Mum rightfully pointed out “they have shampoo in England, you know!” This means that I’ve got mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash. I invested in those 100ml bottles so that you can separate liquids into smaller portions and take them on the plane. I’ve also got a bare minimum of make-up. There’s also stuff like medicine to think of. I ended up needing malaria tablets for my trip to Vietnam and had to get a couple of injections as well.

Technology wise I’ve packed my laptop, a camera, and my phone. I’m planning on getting a UK sim card once I arrive so will probably update you guys in a later blog about how that went and what the best deal is! Unfortunately, the UK doesn’t have the same type of plug sockets are NZ so I had to buy a couple of converter plugs so I can use my NZ electronics.

 

Things I tragically had to leave behind:

I’ve been known to take 7+ books on family holidays in past (“Mum, I don’t know what I’m going to feel like reading – I have to have options!”), but with a 20kg suitcase for eight months there wasn’t any space. I’ve got one book for reading on planes and trains but will ditch that once I’m done. If you’ve got a kindle I’d definitely take that – books are an awesome way to kill time while travelling.

My friends and family 😦 Kind of an obvious one but despite some of my friends’ suggestions, I could not fit any of them in the suitcase to take with me.

Optional extras:

 Things like hand sanitizer, a pack of cards, and little packets of tissues aren’t strictly necessary, but I reckon they’ll come in handy! As I’m writing this I’m at the end of a 12 hour flight to Hong Kong and would definitely recommend a travel pillow if you’ve got the space because my neck is killing me and I barely got any sleep. Am definitely thinking of purchasing one for my Singapore to London flight.

 Money money money, MONEY! (please read in the style of The Apprentice tune):

I ended up deciding that opening a British bank account would be too much hassle for six months in the UK, so opted for a cash passport instead. I’ve heard lots of other people using them on exchange so hopefully it’ll be sweet! I got out cash for the other currencies I’ll be using before I get to the UK, plus have a few British Pounds to get me started in the UK.

That’s all folks!        

 While this probably wasn’t the most interesting blog post to start off with, hopefully it’s of some help to anyone heading off on exchange in the future! Feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Even though I’m currently sitting on a plane, will be in Vietnam in the next six hours, and be in the UK within two weeks, it still doesn’t feel real. Hopefully it’ll all sink in soon.
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