My trips in Kyushu: Rena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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People write their wishes and hang them up here

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

またね!

Adobe Spark (13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Catalan Question: Bianca

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Food, Glorious Food: Matt

What many people think when asked about the typical American meal is something that is served quickly, eaten quickly, large and kinda on the unhealthy side of things. Whilst it is true that Americans love to eat Burgers, fries, hotdogs, chicken wings and there is a lot more that the US and North Carolina can offer to excite those taste buds.

Chapel Hill has a great foodie scene. There are a range of different places to eat, from high end restaurants, to takeaway burger joints all of which can be found on Franklin Street. There are Italian, Indian, Japanese and Greek restaurant as well as classic American diners. My personal favourite places to eat in Chapel Hill are Al’s Burger Shack, Spicy 9, Tru, and Sup Dogs. There are still heaps of places that I haven’t tried yet so that list can change in an instant.

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

 

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As for the cuisine in North Carolina, like many of the southern states, barbeque is a big deal over here. The state’s speciality is pulled pork which is pretty much pork that has been shredded up. Fried Chicken is also a big deal and if you do venture to North Carolina, visit a Bojangles restaurant as they do some quality chicken and hearty southern cuisine. Another great way to experience American food culture is to head to the annual North Carolina State fair. If you are lucky enough to spend the fall semester in North Carolina, you will have no problem finding endless displays of deep fried oreos, candy and giant turkey legs at the annual state fair.  North Carolinians are big on Sweet Tea when it comes to quenching one’s thirst. I kinda see what the fuss is all about especially during the summer months when a cold drink becomes a godsend. But for me, it felt like I was drinking a cup of cup of tea that I had left behind on the kitchen table with an excess amount of sugar.

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Sunday’s are for Football and wings
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North Carolina State Fair

You will have no problem finding good places to eat while you’re in Chapel Hill. Since we are on the topic of food, I should talk about the situation with meal plans at UNC. UNC has two Dining halls: Lenoir and Chase. There is another at Granville towers, but it is run separately. Both are conveniently located with Lenoir on North Campus and Chase on South Campus. To eat at these halls, you can pay as you go with cash or card, or you can purchase a meal plan and use your Onecard (like a student id card) to swipe yourself in. Depending on what meal plan you choose, you get a certain number of swipes. Some pay for an unlimited plan where they can go into the dining hall as often as possible without worrying about running out of swipes. Others opt for the 120 plan where you are given 120 swipes for the semester. I opted for the 120 plan because it was the cheapest option and allows me to use the dining hall approximately once a day. The dining halls are open all day and depending on the time, you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a great variety of food which caters to just about everyone, and it is extremely convenient.

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Accommodation Awards: Daryn

The first piece of advice I would give anyone looking for accommodation is to start your search early. Most Universities will have an application deadline for first choice accommodation, and off-grounds housing becomes much scarcer closer to the start of the semester. It feels a lot better to have a place to stay sorted early, rather than worrying as the semester looms closer!

At UVA there are two types of housing: on-grounds and off-grounds. On-grounds housing is provided by the University of Virginia but with off-grounds housing it’s up to you to find somewhere to live.

As you’ve probably seen in any movie which features a U.S. college, it is very common for students to live in the same room with a roommate. UVA is no exception, so expect to have a roommate in nearly any on-grounds housing you choose. There are options at some residences for single rooms but I would say it’s best to expect to have a roommate – and it is the ‘traditional’ U.S. college experience after all!

Best Community

First up is the International Residence College, or IRC. This is a residence targeted at developing an international community on grounds and consists of approximately 300 students, of which around 40% are from overseas. The IRC is located close to grounds, has single and double rooms, and features common kitchen and lounge spaces. A unique aspect of the IRC is the range of events offered including weekly morning teas, afternoon teas, and breakfasts, along with a range of other events such as Conversazione Grande dinners and trips. The IRC is located adjacent to Emmet Street and is a short five-minute walk to central grounds.

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Best for Shopping

Lambeth Field Apartments, or just Lambeth, are down the road from the IRC, and offer apartment-style housing. Each apartment has two or three double rooms with a living area and kitchen. Lambeth Apartments are a bit utilitarian on the inside than other residences, but are more than adequate for students. Lambeth Field Apartments border its namesake, Lambeth Field, an excellent place to throw a frisbee around or play a game of football. Lambeth is convenient for your shopping needs, featuring its own convenience store, and is situated a ten-minute walk from the Barracks Road Shopping Centre. Lambeth is also a ten-minute walk to central grounds.

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Most Modern Accommodation

The Flats at West Village are a modern apartment block located a five-minute walk from The Corner, and around a fifteen to twenty-minute walk to UVA’s central grounds.

To make up for the longer walk the Flats offer a range of modern amenities including a pool, spa, gym, and lobby area with coffee machines. The Flats has one to four-room apartment style suites, with most rooms having a private ensuite bathroom. The rooms share a common lounge and dining area.

Unfortunately all good things come at a price – modern apartments such as The Flats tend to be the most expensive housing option for students. However, if you like the sound of The Flats at West Village, other modern apartment buildings to check out include the GrandMarc and Uncommon.

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Best Everyday Experience

I personally chose to stay off-grounds – it can work out cheaper, you can get a single room (for those of us not keen on sharing a room!), and you have a lot more choice in terms of the type of accommodation and the location.

The two main methods I used to find off-grounds housing were the UVA Housing Facebook Group and the UVA Roommates website.

As an exchange student if you’re here for one semester like me, it can be difficult to find off-grounds housing. As I mentioned earlier the best strategy is to search early. Often UVA students who are studying abroad will look for people to fill their rooms while they are overseas. I am subletting a room from a UVA student who is studying abroad for the Fall Semester – a perfect situation for both of us!

I’m staying in an off-grounds house which is around a 10-minute walk to central grounds and 10 minutes to ‘The Corner,’ the street adjacent UVA grounds with an assortment of shops and cafes. My room is a decent size, and was furnished, saving me from the hassle of organising furniture.

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Additional Information

Most private leases through apartment companies (such as The Flats) or private leases for student accommodation will be for one year. This means you may be responsible for finding a tenant for the remainder of your lease if you’re staying for one semester. Keep this consideration in mind when finding a place. It is preferable to find a one-semester lease or sublet if possible.

Rooms may be furnished but be sure to find out what this means – one person’s definition of furnished may be different to yours.

No matter where you end up living I am sure you will learn to appreciate the pros and cons of your place during your exchange!

Contact Me

I’ve tried to briefly cover some housing options for exchange students at UVA, but my list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about housing, UVA, or studying abroad in general!

You can email me at dgov422@aucklanduni.ac.nz, or comment below.

 

Food, Glorious Food: Daryn

I’ve experienced some differences in the U.S. when it comes to food. First are the naming differences: burgers are ‘sandwiches,’ ‘biscuits’ are scone-like delicacies, and soft drinks are ‘soda.’ Secondly is the relative processing of food – it can take a bit of searching to find healthier alternatives such as mostly sugar-free cereals!  I’ll cover a few places around Charlottesville to give you a taste of what’s available around UVA.

My Charlottesville Favourites

Bodo’s Bagels

Bodo’s is a must-try in Charlottesville. It’s a Charlottesville original offering a range of reasonably priced bagels with various toppings such as meats, salads, and cream cheeses made in-house. The possible combinations of bagels and toppings are endless, but my favourites are the egg and bacon on a plain bagel, and the cinnamon sugar and butter on a cinnamon and raisin bagel. It’s an excellent place for any meal of the day and has three locations in Charlottesville for your convenience, including on The Corner adjacent to grounds.

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The Virginian

The Virginian is Charlottesville’s oldest restaurants, first opening in 1923 and is located centrally on The Corner. Its menu includes a range of classics including burgers, sandwiches, salads, and its signature mac and cheese. The restaurant has a lively atmosphere and is decorated with photos and memorabilia documenting the history of Charlottesville and the Virginian. Called ‘one of the South’s most famous eateries,’ in Coy Barefoot’s book ‘The Corner,’ The Virginian should be on your list during any visit to Charlottesville.

 

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The Sheepdog Café

The Sheepdog Café is in the foyer of the Graduate Hotel on West Main Street. The café has an excellent ambience for studying featuring outdoor patio tables and rustic indoor seating. There’s even a walk-up window if you’re short on time! The food on offer includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I would recommend trying a sandwich, biscuit, or the mini-donuts.

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The Pie Chest

The Pie Chest is known for their excellent range of sweet and savoury pies made from scratch. Pies are available in single servings or in family-sized pies. I would suggest trying the Chocolate Cream Pie or the Chicken, Bacon, and Roasted Garlic Pot Pie. The Pie Chest is on 4th Street in the Downtown Mall. It’s a bit far away from grounds but the effort is worth it!

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Honourable Mentions

Roots

I haven’t made it to Roots yet, but take my word, and the words of others, when I say it’s good! The queues here speak for themselves. As for the food, think a refined version of Chipotle – your choice of meat, salads, staples, and dressings. There are a range of set bowls, or you can customise your own.

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Chick-fil-A

Although not strictly a Charlottesville original, Chick-fil-A has the honour of being one of the few chain restaurants to be represented on-grounds. As the name suggests, Chick-fil-A offers all kinds of chicken: burgers, nuggets, tenders, and salads. Make sure that you try the signature Chick-fil-A sauces – they’re a big part of the Chick-fil-A experience!

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Contact Me

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about UVA or studying abroad in general!

You can email me at dgov422@aucklanduni.ac.nz, or comment below. Follow my time abroad on Instagram @daryngovender_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campus Life: Bianca

I guess we all have a certain expectation of what campus life will look like at university, I know I did starting UoA and again coming here to Oviedo. However, the expectations of clubs, events on campus both specifically for exchange students and all students in general and in general just hanging out with friends on campus, have not been met by my experience here at the University of Oviedo. Now please don’t take that the wrong way, that there is nothing to do here and that I am having a horrible time because that is NOT true. What is true though is that I have to organise all my own fun, there are very few organizations on campus, there are no restaurants on campus and the campus life that we are used to just doesn’t exist.

Before you all make up your mind that there’s no way you want to come to Spain, let alone Oviedo, let me explain a little.

Timetables vary depending on what faculty you study in and which year of your degree you are in. For example, all the classes that I take in the faculty of economics are between 9am and 12:30pm (there are also afternoon classes if you prefer to sleep in). While in the faculty of chemistry, if you are in your first year your classes will run from 9am to 2:30 every day, with a few exceptions for field trips and tests. However, if you are in your second year of a chemistry degree your classes start at 1:30pm and run till 7pm. Personally, because of the mix of classes I take at both faculties I have class Monday to Friday from 9am to 2:30pm, three days a week I have a short break in the middle, while Wednesdays and Fridays I have 6.5 hours of class without a break and I am always late to physics because I have to run from one faculty building to the other. This is because unlike at UoA where classes start at 5 minutes past the hour and finish 5 minute early (or they are supposed to) here classes start at the scheduled time and finish at the scheduled time, assuming they are both in the same building this isn’t a problem.

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I think I have mentioned this before, but the University of Oviedo has 7 campuses, so living in the university residence means that I live on one of the smaller campuses. In my opinion there aren’t really any campus traditions that I have been able to find. The residence I live in has a few but again I feel more like there are routines that form throughout the semester/year. Although the residence does have a few students who have lived there for up to 4 years so there are some traditions that happen every year. One that I have already spoken about is the Novatadas, so I won’t go into detail about them again, but they are like initiations for new residents that want to participate and they are a great way to get to know the people that you are living with. Another one that I had almost forgotten about because it is such a long time ago now, is a welcome ‘dinner’ they have every year in the second week of classes. This starts off with a meeting in the salon held by the Director of the residence and by the previous year’s student representative. After the meeting has concluded, we all go into the cafeteria for a tapas style standing dinner with unlimited beer and sangria. The part that made this seem like a tradition to me was that half way through eating the food all of the previous residents broke out into song, singing the residence’s songs.

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Talking about campuses, the faculties of the university are split between campuses. The campus I live on has all the sports facilities (running track, gym, pool, indoor courts) and the faculty of information technologies. This means that the Sunday football games are played, quite literally, across the street from where I live and every Sunday there is a group of students from this hall that take a drum and go support the universities team! Meanwhile the campus I study at, is quite a bit larger, housing the faculty of economics, law, biology, chemistry and a research facility. Each faculty has a cafeteria in it, my top tip would be to make use of these. They have a range of sandwiches for one euro each, reasonable coffee for less than a euro (or so I’ve been told considering I don’t drink it) as well as a daily menu i.e. a three course meal for 6 euros.

 

When it comes to uni organizations/clubs I hadn’t found or heard of any since I got here, so to make sure that it wasn’t just me I asked a friend (a Spanish student from Oviedo), she only confirmed what I thought, while there are about 5 clubs that she is aware of, none are advertised and neither of us knew how or where we would be able to join them. The only club that I have seen any activity from is the feminist association, they have hung posters around the campus about violence against women.

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The one group that I have seen a lot of and who regularly organise both events and trips is ESN or the Erasmus Student Network. Their most famous event is their Martes de Tapas, or Tuesday tapas nights. These take place in a different tapas bar every week and ESN provides tapas for all. They are a lot of fun and a great way to meet a lot of people, but due to my schedule I haven’t had much chance to go.

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After a tapas Tuesday, everyone is up for a bit of fun

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I am really enjoying my time and have had a lot of great opportunities, however if you are expecting the kind of campus life from UoA or from the movies it just isn’t a part of the culture here. Although there are a lot of other things on offer, you just have to be prepared to make your own fun.

Until next time, Bianca.

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