Food, Glorious Food: Bianca

As you can tell by the title of this blog, it is about one of my favourite things: FOOD! I will warn you now that this post ended up being a lot longer than I planed… Before coming to Spain all I thought of when someone mentioned Spanish food was paella, tapas and Spanish tortilla BUT there is so much more especially when you come up north. The most famous foods around the food are those that are typically eaten in southern Spain, while you can also find a great deal of these in northern Spain (for example I have been eating Spanish tortilla for breakfast nearly every day) they also have their own culinary traditions up here.

Traditionally Asturians are farmers, Shepherds and fishermen; this is reflected in the local gastronomy. The native breed of cattle here is prized for its milk and over 10 different types of cheese are produced from various milks in the region, 6 of which I have been lucky enough to try. They are delicious! I have always been a huge fan of goat’s cheese and they do it really well here, there is even a restaurant where, among many other types of pizza, you can get goat’s cheese pizza, delicious! The most famous cheese of the region is a blue cheese called Cabrales cheese; I will admit that this is the only food I have tried so far that I do not want to try again. It is a very strong blue cheese and as someone who does not usually like blue cheese, it was way too much for me.

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Asturias has 1300km of coastline and their history as fishermen means that seafood is also a big part of their food. One thing that I couldn’t get over to begin with is how much tuna the people here eat! I do live a catered uni residence and at least 4 times a week we have tuna, be it tuna steaks or tuna in the daily salad. I admit that I have come to really enjoy having tuna in my salad but we also have the option of tuna in our breakfast rolls and anytime I go to buy an empanadilla there is always a tuna option. The slightly more unusual seafood dish that is very famous here is Pulpo or Octopus. This is a dish that is also very famous in Galicia. The way it is served here is cut up octopus tentacles on potatoes seasoned with paprika. I was quite apprehensive to try this for the first time but octopus doesn’t really have a taste, it is just the texture that is a bit strange.

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I have found two new favourite foods since arriving in Spain, Emapanadillas and Cachopo. Empanadillas are pretty similar to empanadas that we know from Argentina; however here they are they are made with two different kinds of pastry. My personal favourites are those made with fluffy, flaky pastry, rather than those made with a short crust kind of pastry as these can often be too dry. As I mentioned earlier will there are many varying options for filling you will always find a tuna option and I have found that this is often one of the better options. Cachopo is similar to cordon bleu. It consists of two large veal filets that are fried with breadcrumbs and served with potatoes and preserved capsicum.  What makes it special is that it is filled with ham and cheese between the two filets and that one portion of Cachopo is big enough to serve 2-3 people. It has become my new go to meal when I can afford to go out to dinner and I have had it a few times but the best one was at a restaurant called ‘El Gato Negro’. This is a wonderful restaurant with many typical dishes and very popular with the locals, but I would highly recommend if you are going with a group of people, we almost didn’t get a table!

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I will try and keep the next bit short so this post doesn’t get too much longer but I cannot talk about the gastronomy of Asturias without mentioning Sidra. It’s not too difficult to make the link from the name that Sidra is Cider, the traditional drink of Asturias. It is made from locally grown apples and has been produced since ancient times. The Sidra is always bottled in the same dark green glass bottles (so it is really easy to recognise) and there is a very special method to pouring and drinking it. The waiters serve the Sidra by holding a large glass in one hand and the bottle in the other; he raised the bottle over his head and lets the Sidra fall into the glass which creates some carbonation. This method of pouring is called escanciar and is really hard to do well. Tradition also dictates that no more than a few centimetres of Sidra is poured at once and it must be drunk immediately. The best place to go to drink Sidra is a Sidreria and some of the best are found in Calle Gascona, it is here that you can also find one of the best restaurants in Oviedo: Tierra Astur.

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Side note: Los Premios de la Princesa de Asturias

I imagine it was covered in the news in New Zealand, but for anyone who may not know; the All Blacks received a Princess of Asturias Award just last week. The awards ceremony was held in the theatre here in Asturias and I found myself outside the theatre in the crowd while the All Blacks were receiving their award for sport. Among the other winners for this year were noble prize winners and a musical group from South America. The All Blacks also hosted a training session for rugby players here in Asturias as part of the lead up to the awards. These are some of the most prestigious awards in Spain, so congratulations to the All Blacks!

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Accommodation Awards: Matt

At UNC, exchange students are given a variety of housing options to choose from. I will give you guys a run down on the on-campus housing situation over here and give my opinions of the pros and cons for each option.

At UNC, if you select on-campus housing, you must decide the location and style of dorm you prefer. UNC can be split into three parts: North Campus, South Campus, and Mid-Campus.

North Campus dorms are corridor style, meaning that you will be sharing a large bathroom with people on your floor. North Campus is convenient location wise. You are within a 5-10-minute walk from most of your classes and Franklin Street. These dorms are very pretty and historic, however they tend to be occupied by older students so depending on your floor, it might be a little quiet.

South Campus dorms are suite style. Each suite contains 4 bedrooms sharing a bathroom. South Campus tends to be occupied by younger students, so it is louder than North Campus. There is a bit of an uphill walk to class, but really, I have not found this to be a problem.

Mid-campus also has suite style dorms and is more of a mix of both North and South Campus.

As for myself, I opted to live on South Campus. My dorm is Morrison Hall, and houses roughly 800 students.

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Morrison Hall

The dorm has 10 floors and a large basement area which includes a study room and a games room. There is also a basketball court outside and a nice green area to relax in the sunshine. 

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Games Room

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Despite being located on South Campus, I have found the location to be very convenient as it is next door to Chase Dining Hall and Rams Gym. Being the farthest north of the south campus dorms, it only takes 15 minutes to walk to the pit and to class. Also, it is right next door to the football stadium, with the basketball stadium only a 10 minute walk away. Franklin street is a little bit far to walk, however there is a free bus to Franklin called the P2P that stops outside Morrison every 15 minutes. Buying a bicycle would be a pretty good idea to cut the journey time also and I know of many exchange students who have done so.

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Chase Dining Hall

As mentioned before, my dorm is suite-style. If you do opt for on-campus housing, be prepared to share a room with a roommate. It might sound daunting at first, however you will get to a point where you will barely notice that you are sharing a room with another person. Nevertheless, it is a great way to meet Americans from the get-go. Below are a few more photos of my dorm.

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Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas?
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Sorry about the mess!
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View from the 10th Floor

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Food, Glorious Food: Tim

Food, Glorious Food:

When you think about European cuisine I wouldn’t blame you for thinking of Italian pasta and pizza, French coq au vin and croissants, a German bratwurst or Spanish Paella. When you think about Irish food I would bet $100 the first word that comes to your mind is potatoes. And that the second word is also potatoes.

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The Irish cuisine section of the supermarket

Yes, it is true that Ireland has a huge history associated with the potato (a quarter of the population died or emigrated during the Potato Famine of the mid 1800s) – but I’m here to convince you there is more to food here than just this humble vegetable.

Coming from New Zealand I found the food to be incredibly… the same. Years of British colonialism does that to you, with classic meat and three veg reigning supreme, your favourite fast food chains on every corner and the normal mix of international restaurants and cafes found at home. However, there is one difference. In Ireland, the pub dominates everything. There is a pub everywhere you turn in the city, suburbs, small village and sometimes in the middle of the countryside. An entire area in the central city is even named after a pub, of course the famous Temple Bar. While you think these pubs might be places just for a quick pint of Guinness after a long day, they do some incredible pub food, too. Which let me tell you – it is just what you need on a cold night. So here’s my rundown of the top 3 Irish pub foods that you are guaranteed to get everywhere…

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Temple Bar

  1. Fish n chips. You can’t go wrong here with fresh fish, the ubiquitous potatoes and a side of mushy peas (which are actually a lot nicer than they sound).
  2. Beef and Guinness Stew. There is only one word to describe this traditional Irish dish, and its hearty. Simply beef, potatoes, celery and carrots all swimming in a delicious gravy almost always served with fresh bread.
  3. Shephard’s Pie. Inevitably also served with potatoes and vegetables, just what you need to warm the heart and soul.

You can find these foods anywhere, but some of my favourite pubs have been in the smallest of villages in the Irish countryside filled with locals where it almost seems like you can taste the tradition in the lively atmosphere, or even just enjoying a simple Fish n’ Chips from the takeaways at the seaside.

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Fish n chips in a pub in a seaside town just out of Cork

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Hearty beef and Guinness stew, and pie

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You can’t go wrong with Fish n’ Chips by the sea!

Talking about Irish food wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t also mention the desserts, and the importance of the humble bottle of Bailey’s.

From a Bailey’s cheesecake to a Bailey’s hot chocolate or an Irish coffee (actually made with whiskey) there are some really delicious ways to finish a great meal. Even if you don’t like coffee, it should be at the top of your list of foods to try in Ireland. And this is coming from a non-coffee drinker myself!

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Bailey’s cheesecake with an Irish Coffee

There is of course a rise in gastro-pubs which offer a more modern and fancier twist on these pub classics, and there’s a huge range of fantastic European and Asian restaurants across the city giving a real multicultural feel – where you can find something that everyone will like!

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To be honest… the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had!

Perhaps most peculiarly, Dublin has recently got a taste for, of all things, burritos and doughnuts. With Tolteca, Boojum and Zambrero to name a few there is a bunch of places you can go for all your taco bowl needs, and you can stop off at Empire Donuts, The Rolling Donut or my absolute favourite Off Beat Donuts for a sweet treat after. These fast and delicious places are taking the city by storm with the most incredible doughnut creations and a Boojum food truck practically living permanently on campus. Speaking of campus, there are a bunch of food options for lunch or dinner any day with cafes, Subway, the Centra convenience store (you have to try the chicken fillet roll for only €2.95) and a food court style restaurant, so there’s never a shortage of new food to try everywhere. So when you get sick of potatoes, I hope I’ve given you a few ideas of food to try if you ever find yourself in Ireland!

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Heaven on Earth at Off Beat Donuts

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Who knew Oscar Wilde was such a fan of doughnuts?

 

Accommodation Awards: Tim

There’s plenty of student accommodation around UCD, but I was still lucky enough to be able to get a room in the University residences on campus considering the sheer volume of people who applied. Of all of the residences though, my one is obviously the best with Ashfield Student Residence standing out in the category of student accommodation and being worthy of several awards this year in the Biannual 360 International Accommodation awards. So without further ado;

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Ashfield Student Residence
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The inner courtyard

The “Weirdest wall artwork” award
Each apartment in Ashfield is spacious with six bedrooms with ensuites and an open plan kitchen/dining/lounge area. They’re arranged in four buildings around a central courtyard with about 20 apartments each and being brand new last year are modern, clean and kitted out with fancy appliances. However some interior designer must have gone mad at the cheap IKEA wall art as every room has mysterious artwork nailed to the wall. Every night I have to sleep under the watchful gaze of a Macaque monkey, while dinner is presided over by strange deer/people hybrids standing around a car. But I suppose you get used to it.

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The bedrooms are super spacious
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I’ve never had my own ensuite before!
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He watches while you sleep
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Even when you eat, you can’t escape the deer-people

 

The “You never know how much you miss an oven until you don’t have one” award
Yup this is a pretty big one. Toaster, kettle, microwave, stovetop all check but alas there is no oven. For a nice big modern kitchen that was a bit of a shock upon arrival, but aside from mum’s dearly missed lasagne recipe I found that you can still make a lot with just a stovetop. Rice, pasta, couscous, stir-fries, eggs, steak and more are all still on the menu, and anyway if I get really desperate I can always buy a microwave meal for one to get me through the cold winter nights to come.

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Lament of the lost oven

The “Most convenient convenience store” award
This is actually a shout out to one of the other residences on campus here; Merville Student Residence has a convenience store in it, like literally in the same building. Midnight snacks and emergency milk have never been so easy, and plus they do a mean chicken roll for lunch.

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It barely even counts as leaving the house, so pyjamas are totally acceptable in the store right?

The “However the nearest actual supermarket is a half an hour walk away with no direct bus” award
I mean Centra is great, but sometimes doesn’t quite cut it.
Although fantastic, it has to be said that even moving to the other side of the world has not allowed me to escape the housing crisis as Dublin has it even worse than Auckland, with rent for a semester (particularly on campus) costing up to €4000. Overall though I think it’s worth it. Being on campus means that you’re in the thick of everything that’s going on, and it’s an easy walk to any classes, the health centre or gym. My flatmates are awesome, we’re all exchange students so have become good friends and with 24 hour reception there’s no worry about if anything goes wrong and no concerns about security.  If I’m going to be stuck here for the next 10 weeks, I think I’ve got a pretty good deal.

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Accommodation Awards: Rena

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My home for the next 5 months!

One of the biggest concerns that students have with looking into exchange programmes is finding a place to stay when they’re overseas. Luckily for me, Fukuoka Women’s University has a dormitory for first year, international and exchange students (It’s compulsory for first years to live in the dorm). When you’re accepted into the university as an exchange student, you’re accepted into the dorm as well.  At the International Student Friendship House (Nadeshiko), each student lives in an apartment unit which is described as ‘4DK’ (4 private rooms, shared dining area and kitchen, bathroom and toilet). Each international or exchange student will live with 3 local students. While this may seem to be an inconvenience to both parties because of the language barrier, it’s actually a very good way to utilise your language skills into everyday life. For example, not only are the electronic appliances in the unit incredibly high tech to use, but all the buttons are in Japanese. Thus, I have to pluck up the courage and ask my roommates whenever I’m stuck in the kitchen- which happens quite a lot, to be honest!

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There are 3 buildings at my dorm- A, B and C. A total of 340 girls live here.
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Dining and Kitchen area

Toilet: Let’s face it, a Japanese bidet toilet will probably be one of the most interesting and memorable experiences for a foreigner during their stay in Japan. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried out the functions yet, because there’s always toilet paper to use. However, one thing that stuck out to me was the ‘music’ button. Basically, to maintain maximum privacy of what happens in the toilet, pressing the ‘sound’ button usually plays a recording of a running water sound or music. I just thought it was such an interesting concept to share.

When you flush, water comes out from the tap above the toilet bowl, making it convenient to wash your hands in the toilet.

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The notorious and intimidating bidet toilet!

Rubbish:
Japanese people are very conscious of their ecosystem, and the harmonious relationship they have with nature, which explains why they have such a unique recycling system. While each city has its own rules with the rubbish, they’re all pretty similar in theory.  In my dorm, there are 3 main types: Burnable, non-burnable and PET bottles. Burnable rubbish would usually be food scraps and wrappers, non-burnable would be glass, ceramic ware and cans. Finally, PET bottles would be plastic drink bottles (with the number ‘1’ inside a triangle symbol) that you compress before throwing it in its respective bag.

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Red stands for burnable, yellow for PET bottles and blue for non-burnable rubbish. Make sure you don’t confuse the colours while you’re here!

My room: Each person has their own room at the International Student Friendship House and it comes with a bed, a wardrobe, a desk and chair, a little drawer with wheels on it and a balcony. As you can see from the picture below, we rent a futon and place it on the mattress. So it’s like getting the best of both worlds!

There’s a clothes line in the form of a pole in the balcony in which you can change the height and position of the pole by sliding it through the brackets and moving the brackets. This is great especially on rainy days when you want to hang your laundry outside without getting them wet.

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Welcome to my crib- tidied it just for this photo
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You can see the university’s infirmary from my room

 

またね!

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First Impressions: Shirley

First impressions aren’t everything, but they are definitely something. The things you hear, you read, you see from afar: They are all building up to this one grand moment of finally getting there to experience it all for yourself. Going on exchange to a place I have never been to gave me plenty to be excited for, and without me even noticing, the expectations only grew as it got closer and closer to my departure date. And without spoiling the plot far too early, they all exceed those unnaturally high expectations and passed with flying colours.

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Montreal can only be described as a vibrant, diverse and every moving place. There is so much to talk about already and without a doubt much more to come, which makes me glad that I can try to provide the best interpretation as I can throughout these upcoming posts instead of having an endless stream written down all in one go. It is constantly shifting and moving, ever jammed packed with activities to do, festivals and events to do attend and there is never a dull moment as long as you are willing to participate. And that kind of positive, fun-loving attitude completely transcends to the student life I have experienced so far at McGill University. To be honest, even more so. Because you can trust us young people to also take things a step further and make it an unforgettable moment, every day and every night.

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So focusing on the orientation aspect of my journey so far, this is a part that I really noticed a difference from home. The whole purpose of the exchange for me was to gain a new perspective on what tertiary education could be like, to try and experience something perhaps more dynamic than at home simply because I would now be fully immersed in having everything that comes with being a student. And from the very first event, it was like a whirlwind had started and it has not stopped ever since. Being thrown in the midst of a huge stadium on the first day as a welcome didn’t feel like the typical orientation, but that we were being initiated into part of something exciting. It made perfect sense to get the more informative segment of the week done early so we had a good understanding of where everything was, and while it doesn’t seem particularly interesting, trust me that when there are a million things to sort out when you first get here, having people showing the way is a sweet blessing to get that ticked off the list.

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I can’t lie: What I have been highly anticipating with coming to McGill during this orientation week was the infamous Frosh week. Different faculties with their themes and colours have a myriad of activities planned all over the city. Together with our hyped up, enthusiastic leaders who seemed to take their job of giving us the best first McGillian experience seriously, we were all buzzing with excitement to start our four days of bonding and trying our hardest to make it to everything that was available to us. But the explosion of what was to come were nothing like what us ‘froshies’ expected at all, and our engineering ‘The Frosh and the Furious’ theme could not have found a more fitting way to portray it.

There is never a half effort with events held as part of frosh. Thing are turned up to maximum level without fail. Even if I were to describe the highlights of a select few, it would probably take days to finish reading about what had happened and what it felt like to be part of something so big and foreign to anything I had, or in fact any normal person, would have experienced. Plus, it’s almost impossible to capture the atmosphere in words on a page, and the photos would probably do it more justice even though only a small portion of the electric vibe that lingered in the air and be felt through them. Obstacle courses, pre-event rallying, concert and club nights, park games, pub crawls, beach day, frat parties… If anybody had told me before that I would be doing all of that in the span of a couple of days in the most insane, unforgettable of ways, I doubt I would have believed it. The jokes and banter, the laughs and the thrill of meeting new friends every few moments thrust me into an electrifying state. With everything that happened though, even the smallest things like learning the university and faculty chants, singing and dancing to them like we didn’t have a care in the world was something that struck me and will stay with me for a very long time to come.

 

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It wouldn’t be right to hide the fact that these four days were EXTREMELY intense. Collapsing in fatigue in the dead of night and waking up as early as 6am to get to the next event was no uncommon thing. It was hard on us, so hard that almost everybody got what we deem as ‘frosh flu’ as soon as it ended. But even with our sniffles and red noses, it was undeniably the most exhilarating experience that we had ever had. And I was part of all of that. With every vivid moment ingrained in me and a million more stories to tell, even just this very beginning part of the journey was worth it for me to be on exchange. And the prospect of having more to come? I think it’s easy to guess how I feel about that.

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (http://pageparisienne.blogspot.ca/)

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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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