Reflections: Bianca

Where do you even begin when you’re asked to sum up six months of your life? There is no possible way to explain/describe every experience, feeling and achievement. So, rather than make a rather poor attempt at it, I thought I would focus on the five skills the 360 International team say we will master while on exchange – although I can only speak from my experience and I’m sure that it is different for everyone.

Navigation

Google maps will quickly become your best friend, I know it became mine within the first week. However, don’t forget about good old traditional maps, they provide by far the best over view of a city as they have the advantage of showing the whole city/area in a reasonable level of detail, while I find to see the same level of detail on google maps I end up having to zoom in and only look at a small part of the city. Like in any city you will quickly become familiar with your regular or daily route but I would encourage you to mix it up every once in a while or not to follow the map and just wander around. This is by far the best way to see things you might have otherwise missed.

Communication

Going on exchange to a country that speaks a different language adds a whole new level of complexity to an already challenging experience. While communication isn’t only about language, it is a key component. Regardless of where you go and what language is spoken you will have to work on your communication. Not only will you be interpreting slang that you may never have used before, but you will also have to adjust how you communicate to make sure that you are understood. At no point was this clearer to me than when I was meeting new groups of Spanish students on a daily basis. But even when I would meet other English speaking students from different countries, I found myself having to adjust how I was communicating to make sure that I was being understood – you would be surprised how many don’t understand that we refer to ourselves as “kiwis”, I had to explain this many times.

Time Management

I don’t think my time management skills improved all that much, maybe they did and it just doesn’t feel like it? I was still no better at starting my assignments early, finishing them a little before the due date so that I could check them or starting to study for a test well in advance. This may be down to the fact that I spent quite a few weekends away, travelling in the north of Spain, but it may also be related to the fact that we were not given an exact plan for the semester. The one thing I do think you learn in terms of time management though is what a good balance between studying and socialising is for you. Everyone I met on exchange did this differently. I know one of my neighbours would go out till 10 or 12pm and then return home and spend the whole night catching up on the study she missed as a result of this. Something like this would never work for me!!

Independence

Being responsible for everything is both a great feeling and a huge challenge, especially for someone like me who has never lived away from home.  I have really made the most of being the one in charge. The sense of freedom that comes with living by yourself is incredible but I did face my share of challenges too. Having the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted meant that my self-discipline had to improve a lot, there was no one standing over my shoulder telling me that I couldn’t watch the next episode or that I should get to bed before midnight when I had early mornings. Although it can be easy to forget being on your own and so far away, it is always ok to call friends and family from home for advice when it comes to making some decisions. As the semester went on and I found myself growing into my sudden independence I didn’t have to call home for advice anymore.

The Art of Conversation

I have two things to say on this topic. The first is that it is very hard to notice your own confidence growing, it isn’t until you compare how you acted around new people at the beginning of your exchange to how you are acting around them when you are getting ready to leave. The second is that during the course of my exchange I didn’t feel like I was more willing to start conversations with strangers, let alone in another language! But looking back now and comparing my behaviour I would definitely say that I find myself being able to make friends much easier than before my exchange experience.

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An exchange is a huge opportunity for anyone, it is an opportunity to grow and have experiences that you would never normally have. My advice to anyone considering going on an exchange is to do it! But remember that it is still real life and that the experience won’t be perfect or a walk in the park; you will experience the same ups and downs that you experience at any other point in your life.

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First Impressions: Ella

 

KIA ORA SCOTLAND! Welcome to my blog where you will get the raw details of my exchange experience!

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After much deliberation about what to pack, I was finally all packed up and ready to set off on my new adventure around the world! I had never flown on a long haul flight before, so lucky for me, I had unknowingly booked myself on the longest flight in the world… Auckland to Doha @ 18 hours long!

After a 2 hour stopover and another 8 hour flight, I landed in Edinburgh at 06:20 Monday morning.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

  • It literally smelt so weird! As soon as I stepped out of the airport it smelt like Maggi chicken noodles mixed with cigarettes!
  • So many people smoke cigarettes!?
  • I didn’t feel like I was in another country… it never sunk in for at least a week that I was in a strange place?

So it was 6 degrees outside but literally didn’t feel like it! I remember sweating when I was looking for my motel. I got lost by the way at 7am while it was pitch black and nobody I asked knew where I was trying to get to!

So I spent two nights in my motel in Edinburgh just doing all those cringe touristy things….

 

Finally, it was time to leave my motel and find platform 9 and three quarters to board the Saint Andrews express!

I had never been on a train before let alone by myself, so I literally felt like Harry Potter looking for Platform 9 and three quarters. It didn’t help that the wheel on my suitcase broke so I was dragging my suitcase along the ground all through the city!

I literally got a train, still not sure it was the right one, and took off to my new home.

Going through mainland Scotland made me appreciate the paradise I like to call home, everything was so dull and lifeless, and all the houses looked the same!!!! None the less I was still super excited…

After asking some random girl to share a taxi from the train station I arrived at Hogwarts… (Sorry uni hall, but you got nothing on this!)

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Behold! Saint Salvator’s a.k.a “Sallies” is where I will be living while on exchange! May I just let everyone know this is the same place Prince William and Kate lived… literally like a few rooms down from my room!!!

Saint Andrews is an amazing little town – completely student oriented, and our campus is beautiful!

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I got up early to go for a walk but it seems that everyone in this country sleeps till 8 am…

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At this point, I am super excited and buzzing about everything. I don’t really have the mental capacity to process everything for what it is, but this will all come in due time.

I am looking forward to telling you what it’s like when reality finally hits…. the honeymoon period is treating me well.

Mā te wā,

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First Impressions: Tate

We’ll start with the absolute first thought that came into my head upon arriving in Dublin: thank heavens. After almost two days’ worth of flying, stuck between two people with no concept of personal space for seventeen hours and then someone else who seemed to have taken a leaf out of my previous neighbours’ books for the following eight, I had finally arrived. Countless Disney films and pop albums later, I had made it to Ireland.

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I spent my first couple of days feeling rather cold, rather overwhelmed, and rather restless. It was little things – I had arrived in the dark so it took me ages to find my accommodation, wandering around the city centre with a general idea from a screenshot of a vague Google Map; there was no linen provided (despite what the internet had said), so I spent my first night on a mattress with a sad little mattress protector, huddled under my thin, home-brought sheet and two jackets, with a towel for a pillow. There were no appliances in the kitchen. The days were short – I didn’t see the sun at all on my first one. And I got myself lost in what felt like a rabbit warren of a city, despite my usually solid sense of direction. (I trekked through town in search of a Dunnes to buy my duvet and pillows and, if that didn’t take enough out of me, I carried them in their massive packaging all the way home as rain began to pour. On several occasions, I found myself in residential Dublin with the simple turn of a corner. It was lovely to explore, but I don’t live in residential Dublin, and was trying to get back to where I do live.)

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But! This first forty-eight hours of exhaustion was exactly that – exhaustion. I’d just made one of the biggest trips possible across this lovely lil planet we call Earth, and I’d used up all my adrenaline ensuring that I got here in one piece.

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Things took an immediate turn for the better once Orientation and Module Registration rolled around. Unlike UoA, Trinity does registration for classes in person, which means you don’t know what you’re taking (for certain) until you’ve gone to your department and had them signed off. Everyone studying abroad who I spoke to was having the same anxieties as me regarding this, but I found everything very straightforward – there was a specific meeting to attend and I got it all sorted there, at once. (Big sigh of relief!)

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A few weeks in, I can say unreservedly that I am loving Trinity. I am loving Dublin. I am already getting so much out of this experience.

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I spend a lot less time in class here than I did at UoA, but I feel like I’m learning the same amount if not more. Everything is very student-led – you’re expected to show up to class having done the readings. For me, studying English, this means about five full texts – novels or books of poems – a week, plus supplementary reading that gives background context or deeper understanding of the works in question. The diverse classes on offer mean that I’m learning a variety of different things under the umbrella of English, and – since so many of the writers I’m studying attended Trinity themselves – I could not be having a better time. Academically and intellectually, I could not speak highly enough of these classes and the course material. (It helps to be walking home past Christ Church Cathedral at night when it’s bathed in fog – you know how writers like Bram Stoker would have churned out their great works when their surroundings looked the way Dublin does.)

Now that the dust has settled, I can safely say I am so incredibly pleased to be where I am. Dublin is a city so rich with history and culture, which you can find as easily as walking down the street. Once you’ve got the hang of your surroundings, what I thought was a rabbit warren is really a tiny town – barely a central city in the way I would recognise central Auckland at all. But it’s gorgeous, and there’s so much on offer, and Trinity’s right at the centre of it all, epitomising everything I’ve already said.

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I’m very glad to be here, and I’ve experienced so much outside of university that all of my future blog posts feel almost as though they’ll write themselves – if they haven’t already. I’ll keep you updated.

Catch ya later,

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First Impressions: Cathy

After 40+ hours of planes, transits, security, customs and airports, I’ve finally made it to the other side of the world: Scotland – my home for the next semester, where I will be attending the University of Glasgow. I’ll admit that the trip here wasn’t ideal. I spent about 25 hours in total on a plane plus dealing with a missed connection, which wasn’t really my idea of a good time, especially to kick off 2018. I landed in Glasgow at 7pm on New Year’s Day, exhausted and sore all over, but nevertheless, I was excited to start my year off on a new continent.

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View of the University from Kelvingrove Park

In a true Scottish fashioned welcome, the first day I spent here was cold, gray and rainy. It’s quite a bit colder than an Auckland winter, generally sitting at around 1 to 4 degrees Celsius, and my weather app tells me that the humidity is also quite high, making the cold really stick on to you. I made plenty of mental preparation for the weather differences though; leaving a kiwi summer was always going to be hard but I was expecting to not see the sun for about 4 months in Glasgow, so imagine my surprise when the weekend graced us with two days of clear blue skies and sunshine. It was absolutely freezing but amazing to see the city in all its wintery glory.

Scotland and New Zealand have many things in common. For example: some beautiful scenery, a love for fish and chips and comments on our respective accents by the rest of the world. However, there are also some major differences in culture which I’ve been lucky enough to experience already. On the first night, the university organized a social event for all the new international students. I wasn’t too sure what to expect – but it turned out to be a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), which is a traditional Scottish (also Irish) social gathering which involves traditional Scottish music and dancing. So yes, I learnt how to do Scottish dances – I can feel myself becoming more cultured already.

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The River Clyde

Another one of the great and unique things about going on exchange in Glasgow is that they also offer classes from the Glasgow School of Art such as sculpting and photography, as well as a bagpiping class and an introductory class to Scottish history. Unfortunately I didn’t have any space in my degree to take any of these, but we did get a demonstration on the bagpipes during our orientation talk!

The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and very recently celebrated its 567th birthday. To put a little perspective on that, that is 389 years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The main building was built in a 1400s style of architecture, despite actually being built in the 1870s. Nevertheless, the buildings are stunning and giving off some serious Hogwarts vibes. Most of the campus is on University Avenue, just outside of Kelvingrove Park. There are also several newer and more modern buildings in the campus such as the main UoG library, which has 12 floors!

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The University courtyard – its meant to be bad luck to step on the grass, if you do, you wont graduate!

Although it’s absolutely freezing and kind of damp all the time, Glasgow is a lovely city. Everyone has been super friendly, there’s lots of green spaces and endless roads of cute little cafes, bars, pubs and shops. I’m super excited to see what this semester has in store for me and the places that it’ll take me… places such as Edinburgh this Saturday 😀 To keep up with my adventures, chuck me a follow on Instagram or flick me an email if you have any questions!

Instagram: c2849
Email: chan977@aucklanduni.ac.nz

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First Impressions: Lauren

Hello all!

It was a long trip here with 10-hour layover in Los Angeles, but all travels went smoothly. I arrived in Guadalajara, Mexico at 5 am and it was still very dark and surprisingly a little cold (nothing like winter in NZ though). Even though it is winter, I didn’t bring many warm clothes with me! It is nice here, but also very different to New Zealand. I went to the local Walmart and took me almost 2 hours to get a few items as the layout, products, prices etc are different. But I am sure I will be in the swing of things soon.

Being from an English-speaking country, it is easy to assume everyone speaks English, but most people in Mexico do not. This has put my basic Spanish skills to the test with the Uber drivers (a lot cheaper here than in NZ) and at the local Walmart. Everyone I have met has been so friendly, I am enjoying meeting new people and learning about the Mexican culture.

Even before my arrival, I was impressed with the amount of support I received. I was added to multiple Facebook groups and invitations to activities they have already planned and been matched with a buddy from Tec.

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Three days after my arrival was Orientation day. I walked to Tec with other students who are living in the same area as me and walking into the Campus, I was amazed. It is so big and has beautiful mature trees. We had an information session about Mexico, Guadalajara and Tecnológico de Monterrey, a campus tour which ended with a Mariachi band and Tacos for lunch, then a time to hand in forms and see the services Tec offers. I was thoroughly impressed with all that Tec has to offer and the friendliness of the staff. We can sign up to cultural activities, from make-up to magic classes or salsa to photography, and there is an array of sports we can also do at Tec.

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The following two days we went into Tec to sort out our courses and timetables. Here, you must attend all your classes as they take a roll. If you have a certain amount of ‘faltas’, you cannot sit the final exam and so fail the course (with no exceptions). So it seems a bit like High School I guess, with class sizes of around 30 and taking a roll, but as one of the most prestigious private Universities in Mexico, I can understand why they are so strict with students paying a lot to attend Tec. I am looking forward to my time here and experiencing a university culture so different to NZ, and the challenges and opportunities this brings.

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I highly recommend getting in touch with students that have previously been to your host university. I met a student via the Study Abroad Students’ Society (SASS) mentoring programme. We communicated over social media and also met in person for a chat. She was very friendly and eager to share her experience with me, giving me insight into what Tecnológico de Monterrey is like and some cultural norms to be aware of. I feel that now I have a bit more of an understanding of what to expect during my time in Mexico.

I feel very blessed to have this opportunity and look forward to the adventures to come!

Hasta Luego,

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You can follow Lauren on Instagram @laurenabroad_

First Impressions: Atharva

Hello all!

London Heathrow, 8am: It finally sinks in. The feeling that you’re literally on the other side of the planet, with four pieces of luggage, alone. I’ll be honest, I was not mentally prepared for this and had initial doubts, or even minor anxiety. But, I thought “You’re here for a year, better get used to it. Just take a deep breathe”. After some mental prep, I headed off to customs and then to the big Central Bus Station where I was to catch a bus to Southampton.

The National Express Bus took me through the British countryside and some small towns. I was relieved to see a sign on the motorway showing that Southampton wasn’t so far away now. My body clock was a mess and I wasn’t sure if I was hungry, sleepy or both. I was a 6 month old baby stuck in the body of a 19 year old. Soon, the bus arrived at the Coach Station in town and I was able to get a taxi to the AirBnB that I was staying at for the first few days.

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Southampton Common: A large park with open and wooded areas

The couple who I stayed with was very sweet and they even took me down to the local Sainsbury’s (imagine if Countdown and The Warehouse had a baby) just to keep me active and to stop me dozing off on the spot. I had an early dinner and was out cold by six o’clock (still acting like a 6 month old).

I didn’t do much for the next couple of day except eat, sleep and cry – I mean try to get out of the house and explore. As my sleep schedule adjusted to the local time, I felt more active and energetic. The weather was (and still is) super cold, and even colder during the night as it would often dip into the negatives. Although snow isn’t common here, I saw my first snow on the night of Waitangi Day. Winter is in full swing here, and for a person like me, who has survived Auckland’s wind and rain, I took my mother’s advice and wore a jacket (and 3 other layers) when going out.

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“Me trying really hard to smile while cold and wet.”

The city seemed very lowkey and even a bit dull at times. It’s a quiet place (the way I like it) at least during the week, but being a town with two universities, the weekends get a bit rowdy. There’s a big mall, and a giant IKEA which you could easily get lost in and even the remains of a medieval city wall and gate. There are a few parks too. They seem pretty neglected right now, but I’d imagine them being much better once it gets warmer.

A day before moving into my Hall, I did a day-trip to Salisbury (pronounced Sawls-bree, it remains a mystery why and how) and the Stonehenge. My second major is Anthropology and so I was very keen to visit this historical monument. Salisbury town is basically the starter pack for “a small European town”. It ticks all the boxes. Narrow, cobbled lanes (check), small river flowing through the centre and an old mill (check), a large cathedral (check). Bonus points because this one has the tallest spire in the UK.

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The Stonehenge on a cold and misty day.
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The spire of Salisbury Cathedral stands 123m tall.

Currently, I’ve been going to uni for two weeks. It’s still cold, I’ve been dished out assignments already and I’m trying to cut back on eating ready meals and cook for myself. Anyway…hope you enjoyed reading this little slice of my life. Stay wholesome!

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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!

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