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Ritika:

I’ve officially been in Bologna for around 3 months now and have met so many incredible people from all around the world.  Everyone is really friendly in Erasmus (the European exchange programme) and there are so many different events where you can meet lots of people.

In Bologna we have two big student organisations for Erasmus students

  1. ESN Bologna – Erasmus student network
  2. Erasmusland

I decided to sign up to both of them this semester because they both organise different tours and parties during the semester. You have to sign up to be a member and pay a membership fee of 10 Euros.

I would also recommend signing up to one of the trips they organise. At the start of October, I went on a 4-day trip with ESN around Naples, Sorrento, Positano, Capri and Pompei. They are well planned, affordable and a great way to meet new people.

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A photo of the ESN group in Capri
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My friends and I in Naples

There are weekly events that happen here in Bologna. One of my favourites is the weekly language tandem event.

It is pretty much an event that encourages you to speak different languages and meet people from different countries. It is also a great way to make friends who can teach you a new language e.g. Italian.

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Wednesday nights at Tandem

One of the best things I have done on this trip has been renting out a caravan with 2 of my  friends and road tripping from Venice to Croatia to Slovenia and also stopping over in Austria for a few hours. One of the reasons I chose Europe is because it’s so easy to travel around as everything is so close.

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Dylan (NZ), Marcos (Spain) and me in Venice. The first stop on our road trip!
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Our home for our 4 day road trip

If your classes are taught in English there is a high chance there are other international students in your class. One of my current papers is a general education paper called Introduction to Italian Culture and is filled with about 400 Erasmus students.

I have absolutely loved my exchange so far and its definitely because of all the amazing people I’ve met. If you want to learn about new cultures and meet people from all over the world an exchange is probably the best way to do this!

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My Russian friends cooked us a traditional Russian dinner with amazing food!

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At the Fiorentina vs. Bologna football match

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Simone: Finishing at UQ and Post-Exam Travels

Hi there, I am now down to my last 3 weeks in Australia and am sure making the most of my time, as well as having some time to reflect on my exchange experience holistically.

I had to knuckle down for 2-3 weeks from late October to mid November as I had final assessments for two of my psychology courses and final external exams during the exam period. The final exams were quite challenging as the assessment style was quite different to the University of Auckland but I finished feeling accomplished and proud that I was able to complete the exams to the best of my ability. After I had finished I took the weekend off to fully relax and unwind from the weeks of consistent studying. In South Bank where I live there is a large public lagoon called Streets beach and spent most of the weekend there as Brisbane’s temperature rises dramatically in October and November to above 30 degrees.

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I attended the UQ ball last Saturday night and had a blast! If you have the opportunity while on exchange to get a ticket to your University Ball, I highly recommend you go if you are interested. The theme was a Midsummer nights dream, so the venue (Hillstone Golf link) was decorated with fairy lights, people dressed as mystical creatures and doing gymnastics/acrobatics which was exciting to see! There was a live band playing all of the classic songs which was really enjoyable to listen to. The food was gourmet and delicious, and constant refills of champagne were given all night. I went with a Canadian girl who was also on exchange and we had such a good time dancing all night and taking photo booth photos. It was truly a magical night I’ll never forget!

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The past week I have spent exploring Brisbane with my friends before they left to go home back to the United States or Canada. It was hard to say goodbye but I know I’ll see them again soon and keep in touch. The friends you make on exchange are for life and teach you a lot about the world and other cultures. I went to some neighbouring suburbs called Bulimba, New Farm and Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, taking the ferry to get there. The Ferry is a great way to travel around Brisbane as it’s quick and really enjoyable to see the city from the water.  Bulimba had some really nice Cafes, Boutiques, restaurants and Gelato places, as well as a nice suburban feel. New Farm had a huge historical park and many old ‘Queenslanders’ which is a term used for old historical houses. Fortitude Valley had many shops and a huge Chinatown. I noticed it had many bars and nightclubs as well.

I also managed to visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is a must do if you love animals or want to see the native animals of Australia (they can be rare to see around Brisbane unless you visit rural areas). The sanctuary had a large area of Koalas of all ages, babies, mothers and retired Koalas. There were around 8-10 enclosures which housed 5-6 koalas each and so if you visit you will get to see an abundance. The sanctuary also had other native animals such as Kangaroos, some platypus, Wombats, Tasmanian Devils and an array of native birds. There are wild lorikeet feeding, opportunities to hold or touch koalas, feed kangaroos and watch a native bird show. The entry fee is affordable and makes for a fantastic day out.

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I was very fotunate to have a friend from New Zealand come to visit the Gold Coast with her family for a holiday and was able to train down to the Gold Coast to see her. It was so good to be reunited with a friend from back home and explore the city with her. She wanted to see surfers paradise so we met for Coffee at Max Brenner and the coffee there is excellent if you love sweet treats. We had a nice walk along the beach and unfortunately it was very windy and a little chilly so we took a bus back to Cooloongatta where she was staying. I hadn’t been that far south in the Gold Coast before, so it was exicitng to see a new place. She showed me around the little town which had a very relaxing and quiet beach with a great boardwalk that wrapped around the cliff displaying great views of surfers paradise highrises. She took me to Point Danger which was a great lookout on the border of NSW and QLD which was quite funny as our time kept changing on our phone as we crossed the border (NSW has daylight saving and QLD does not). I took my camera and have many photos from this day so I will never forget it.

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Keep an eye out for my next post where I will wrap up my exchange experience and tell you all about my trip to melbourne, as well as my 1 week holiday in the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast with my sister, before flying back to Auckland.

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Venice: Challenges at the Beginning of your Exchange

Hello again!

This post is in fact going to be published very close to when my Christmas holidays start – which sounds crazy to me! I am very excited to experience my first winter Christmas.

I briefly mentioned Fresher’s Week in my first post, so I’ll start there. I fortunately arrived several days before everyone else, so I had time to get my bearings before having to decide how I wanted to spend the week. I was the first to arrive in my flat, which now holds eight people, but as soon as I heard someone else moving in, I made myself knock on their door and introduce myself because I knew that despite how nervous I was, anything was better than ignoring them and then meeting later on – having to have an even more awkward introduction. And I’m so glad I started with that, because it made it easier to get to know the other flatmates as they slowly filtered in. There are five girls and three boys, and the nationalities range from French, Scottish, British, Egyptian and Romanian! We all get along really well (which is amazing) and although we all do different courses we often eat together and have had several movie nights – making the flat a nice place to come back to each day.

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I am living on campus in Glasney Parc, on the Penryn campus, the name of one part of a ‘student housing village’, the other area being Glasney View. They have a Lodge and a café called Koofi where they also sell pizza (ideal) and also a Store where you can buy pretty much anything (but mostly for emergency food runs). Living on campus has been an entirely new experience and I do really like having everything so close by but I do make an effort to go into town frequently for a change of scenery or for walks on campus, because they essentially have their own estate-like grounds, which is so beautiful!

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The view from my bedroom window

Although it was initially easy to stay with other international/exchange students I did want to get to know the UK students too, which was made very easy with the considerably smaller classes they have here. It was initially intimidating because everyone had been in the same classes since first year so they all know each other, but as soon as it got out I was from New Zealand, everyone was fascinated about Lord of the Rings/Narnia country, and so that broke the ice easily!

Making friends wasn’t actually one of the things weighing on my mind before coming over – probably because I was so preoccupied with getting here. From a few happy coincidences, and bumping into people I met on the bus down, I spent the time exploring campus, finding the supermarket, figuring out how to get the bus into Falmouth, and from there finding my favourite cafes. I won’t sugar coat it, because it was a challenge, waking up every day not knowing how it was going to unfold. But if you have managed to get yourself overseas on an exchange, I can assure you you’re capable of making the most of your time here and giving yourself a chance, because the people I spent time with and the places we found (a beautiful beach bordered by a castle on a hill, beautiful walks, amazing independent shops etc.) wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t put myself out there, remembering everyone was in the same position.

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Fresher’s week outdoor screening of The Greatest Showman
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One of the many cream teas

After about a month of being here, my parents sent me and article from the New Yorker about a girl who had made a video around a year ago about being lonely at the beginning of her university experience. I don’t like the connotations around the word ‘lonely’ but I’m learning to redefine it. I’ve attached a link to her interview and video and would highly recommend watching and reading it. The way she phrased how she felt at the beginning of the semester was exactly how I felt. Because no matter how much you get involved with, there’s always going to be the weird ‘in between times’ that no one really prepares you for.

Link:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/09/well/family/advice-from-a-formerly-lonely-college-student.html

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One of the big differences I noticed was the society culture here. There was an enormous variety of activities, all listed on the FXU website (Falmouth Exeter Student Union, who run sports and societies). I had already looked ahead at some things to try out, but otherwise was prepared to be (relatively) spontaneous. There were a couple of compulsory events I had to attend, like introductory talks, including a Cream Tea Welcome Talk (that was the legitimate name, find me a more Cornish event, I dare you). After trying out a few things and going to some meet ups for different societies, I decided to sign up for a membership to the horse riding society and the choir, Viva Voce. I have choir every Wednesday night at the Chapel Lecture theatre, which I absolutely love, and I also got the opportunity to practice and perform at the Church in Falmouth, once for a WW1 Remembrance Day service earlier this month and I have a Falmouth Lights event in a few days’ time. I have loved having the opportunity to sing alongside my friends and in the community choir, because it’s made my time at university so much more diverse and I feel like it gave me an opportunity to see a side of the town I wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. I’ve had three horse riding lessons since arriving and joining that society has definitely become a highlight, getting to drive out to Redruth with the other people in the group for a couple of hours, getting a change of scenery and obviously spending time with the horses! It was hard to choose a smaller number of societies to join that I knew I would actually commit to, but it helped that I don’t have the opportunity to do either of these things at home so it made my decision easier.

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Walking to Castle Beach with friends

Until next time,

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Eliza: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas

The seasons have definitely started to change here in Vancouver! We ended daylight savings a few weeks ago, and now the sun is setting by about 4.30 and the temperatures have started to drop…although there is no snow yet! The leaves have mostly dropped off the trees, and it is starting to feel a lot more like winter here!

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The streets were filled with the brightest orange leaves for weeks while the trees dropped their leaves!
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Beautiful sunset at Westbrook Village, the local shopping area next to campus

We are heading into the last week of classes this week and I am still absolutely in love with Vancouver and really enjoying the classes that I’m taking. With only three and half weeks left of my exchange, I am beginning to feel really sad that my time in Vancouver is nearly coming to an end. The last few weeks have been pretty hectic, filled with midterms and assignments, but we are finally on the home stretch. The last few months have just flew by and It’s hard to believe that I am already in the last month of my exchange.

As the weather has changed, so has the vibe around campus. Following Remembrance Day on November 11th (known as Armistice Day in New Zealand), everything has become more Christmassy. They have hung up string lights along main mall, and Christmas events such as gingerbread house decorating and Christmas themed movie nights hosted by my residence (aka. Rez).

Me and my room mates set up the Christmas decorations in the house last week, including our very own Christmas tree!  We already have Christmas music going too! Also as the weather is getting colder, it is the perfect weather for hot chocolate, and I am on the hunt for the perfect Christmas jumper (and it will actually be cold enough to wear one!).

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Our Christmas decorations! (Camryn, Jordyn, Me)

It seems that Christmas is starting earlier here in Vancouver, as Christmas festivals and markets are already popping up around the city. I went with two of my room mates, Sara and Jordyn to a Christmas candy festival in Yaletown, and have plans to go to the German Christmas market and the VanDusen festival of lights (both of which I have heard great things about).

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Eating Maple taffy with Sara – made by pouring maple syrup into the snow and rolling it up on an ice block stick!
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Some of the lights hung up around downtown Vancouver! (Jordyn, Me, Sara)
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At the Yaletown Candy Christmas festival. Sitting on a seat carved out of Ice! (Jordyn, Me, Sara)

I am loving getting into the spirit, and finally getting to experience a cold Christmas season!

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Gabbi: Edinburgh Christmas Market

The festive season is here! The décor and themed events are out in full force. The fact it gets dark at 3.30pm now definitely makes the Christmas lights welcome and acceptable this early in the season. The St Andrews study abroad coordinators organised a day trip to the Edinburgh Christmas Market this weekend with a free coach service there and back. It was nice to get out of St Andrews for a bit and absorb some hardcore festivity. Edinburgh is also a really beautiful city; the buildings are all so old and fancy looking and there’s loads of interesting streets to explore.

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The Christmas market takes place near Waverley train station, just off the main shopping street, with Edinburgh Castle looming in the background. The whole place was quite hectic because the Black Friday sales were still happening (American culture has successfully infiltrated Scotland). It had quite a carnival feel with lots of fun fair rides and street theatre. There were also lots of outdoor bars selling mulled wine and hot chocolate. The hot drinks were very welcome because it was about 5 degrees and drizzling.

I planned on getting some bits and pieces for Christmas gifts but ended up just buying a lot of food as everything looked so yum. (I 100% recommend the fudge from Fudge House in Edinburgh). There were also some great mini pancakes with a 1:5 pancake to Nutella ratio.

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This market runs for basically the whole of December, so I can easily visit again, maybe as a break during exams! Edinburgh is about an hour from St Andrews by train and the tickets are usually around £10 so a day trip is pretty doable.

St Andrews also has its own Christmas market later this month so there’s no shortage of these cute as events.

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Until next time!

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Ashlynne: Things To Do Around Leeds

So a couple of days I officially hit two months of living in Leeds. So I thought this would be a good time to talk about some things to do in Leeds and also in the Yorkshire region in general. The Yorkshire region is general is a super gorgeous part of the UK that I’d definitely recommend visiting, the cities here are pretty diverse but there is a tonne of green space and lovely walks to do in this region that I really enjoy (especially when I’m missing home!).

So Leeds where I’m currently living isn’t a very touristy city, but despite this it is an incredibly beautiful city with lots of things to do! Throughout my couple of months here I have spent a lot of time exploring the city and so here are my top recommendations of things to do in Leeds.

Head into one of the historic buildings (or just stand outside and enjoy the architecture) – Leeds has quite a few old buildings that have recently been converted into museums, art galleries and libraries. If going inside isn’t really your thing though spend half an hour wandering through the centre of town and just enjoy all the architecture of the buildings.

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Have a coffee and enjoy the view (or sunshine) – so despite the United Kingdom’s reputation for having terrible coffee, Leeds has quite a few of independent cafes which actually sell very coffee (they don’t however do Christmas themed coffee sadly, I still need to go to Starbucks for that). My friends and I often head down to a café to talk, enjoy the view and often sit out in the sunshine!

Shopping – Leeds is a fairly new and industrial city, and so a couple of years ago they built a massive shopping mall called Trinity. This place has absolutely everything from cafes to restaurants to designer stores to primark. It’s a great way to spend a day.

Kirkstall Abbey – Kirkstall Abbey is an old ruined abbey that lies just outside the city centre of Leeds, it’s a super nice place to go on a picnic for lunch and the old ruins of the abbey are incredible!

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Harewood house – this is one of the many old estate houses that exist in England, after visiting a few I think it’s one of the nicer ones! It’s about a half an hour bus ride from Leeds and its definitely worthy of a day trip. The house itself is nice and very grand, however my favourite part was the outside area that includes a small farm and many Instagram worthy places to take photos.

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Thanks for reading!

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Hae Yeon: Life as a Golden Bear

This post is going to be relatively casual – talking about the life as a student at Cal, and the different activities one can get up to.

Luckily for me, the earliest class I have is at 10AM on a Monday, and other days, class usually begins at 2PM. Although this may sound like I get to sleep in a lot, but that is not the case: I’m usually up in the morning trying to finish off assignments and catch up on work. Also, side note, some classes will end well past 8PM.

Because I live in on-campus housing, my fees include a meal plan; you get a certain amount of meals per week, which you can use with your Cal1 Card (student ID card). The meal plan also comes with a certain amount of Flex Dollars loaded onto your card. Flex dollars function like cash and can be used as payment at campus convenience stores, restaurants, concession stands, and for guest meals in dining halls. The Cal1 Card can also be used for doing your laundry. In other words, never lose your Cal1 Card.

Cal Football

So college sports is a HUGE part of university life, especially football. Coming from a rugby nation, there was bound to be some confusion. But basically, the aim is to move the ball towards and ultimately into the opposition’s end zone to score a touchdown. This can be done by either running with the ball until tackled, or throwing the ball down field. Obviously, there’s a lot more rules, but that’s the point. As I might have mentioned earlier, school spirit is taken very seriously: marching band, cheerleaders, dancers, you name it, it’s all there.

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My favourite part: when they’re getting ready to kick off
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Go Bears!

They’re actually preparing for the 121st Big Game against Stanford next week, so I’m definitely excited to watch that one.

Frat Parties

You can’t go to university in the US and leave out a frat party, right? Here there is a frat row, which pretty much means a row of frat houses. To get into a frat party, you need bids. How do you get bids? You can either be in a sorority – as frats give a certain number of bids to sororities – or get a bid directly from a brother.

I went to a party at Theta Chi through a brother, and I will say it’s definitely something worth experiencing. But do keep in mind, it gets super hot.

Sororities are not allowed to have parties of their own, and it was interesting to find out that every sorority and fraternity have their own philanthropy.

Protests and Rallys

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley is the place where the Free Speech Movement began. During the past few months, I have seen a few protests begin at Sproul Plaza, the most significant of which was the protest against Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court; he had been accused of sexual assault, which he denied. Although the basis of the protest was shocking, it was inspiring to see so many people gather to fight for justice, to see matters taken so seriously.

As you may or may not know, it was the midterm elections recently, and a voting drive took place at Sproul Plaza to encourage students to vote. Even cafés were offering complimentary snacks or drinks if you had the ‘I Voted’ sticker. If I could, I would have voted.

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Have you voted yet?

The Campus

The campus is truly starting feel like fall, with the trees turning gold. Daylight saving has ended so it’s sad that the sun sets early, but instead you get to see the beautiful golden hour of the sun setting after classes.

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Fall is here!
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The Campanile in the afternoon sunlight

To everyone at home that has finished their exams: Congratulations, wish me luck as I enter the final stretch of this semester at Berkeley!

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