Carter Huang – My UNNC Experience (English version)

In April 2021, shortly after I entered the second semester of my freshman year, I had been taking online courses in Jiangyin campus of Nanjing University of technology (NJUST) for nearly a year. The life there was also very good and the students were very familiar with each other. By chance, I found an opportunity to do an exchange offline in my home country on the 360 International website. Without any hesitation, I chose to apply for an exchange study at University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC). This choice may change my later life.

I also applied for PwC internship after this semester, and got an offer, with an internship period from June to August 2021. As Auckland is in winter at this time, the holiday is only one month. I must get the exchange opportunity to achieve both these two things. To this end, I also spent a lot of time on the selection and approval of these exchange courses. When everything was completed, I also had a great sense of achievement in my heart.

Mooncake from the school

When the time came to the beginning of September, finally I can enter the campus of UNNC. Everything here is very fresh to me. There are helpful volunteers, spacious and comfortable rooms and a clean and tidy campus. The most important thing is the enthusiastic people around here. We don’t have classes in the first week of school. The first week here is called i-week (introduction-week) in UNNC, two junior students will take us to register and be familiar with the campus. They will also take us to eat, drink and have fun around the school, which makes us very familiar with the life here. At the end of i-week, there will be a special Gala Show for freshmen, which you can regard as the show of many clubs and community.

As the first week goes by, we should focus on our studies. I found that my living habits have become better here. Because the lecture of online class from UoA is recorded, I can watch it at any time. But in UNNC, I have two classes at 9 a.m., which means I have to get up at 8 o’clock, which makes my daily work and rest more regular. We can have more participation in offline classes, and we also have more opportunities to talk face to face with professors. We will also be divided into different groups to complete the tasks, and there will be the same tutorial or office time as the UoA to help students solve their learning problems. However, it should be noted that the score ratio of courses here is different from that of UoA. In most courses, the final score will account for 70% – 80%, while the usual score is not very prominent.

IWeek walking around the campus

In addition to learning, the campus life here are also can’t be missed. The Global Engagement Office organizes various activities for international students to help them better integrate into or learn local culture, such as going to the cinema to watch movies, going to downtown to learn traditional culture, etc. Club activities are also one of the highlights here. There are variety of clubs and organizations for students join freely. For example, I joined SCDA (Student Career Development Association), in which I acted as a consultant. Through my previous experience and my international vision, I can help young people who are studying here find their own career development direction. On Monday and Thursday nights, I also signed up for the zero to hero 5km challenge, that can help ourselves achieve the goal of 5km running through continuous training. There are many similar activities, which are voluntarily organized by teachers. Among these activities, what interests me most is the  enterprise school recruitment activities. Every year, various large and medium-sized enterprises come to UNNC to carry out recruitment publicity, such as PwC, Byte-Dance, Ctrip, etc., which will be of great opportunity to students of all grades and enable them to understand and prepare for their career life in the near future.

Being able to do an exchange in my home country is an experience I have never thought of, it’s might be a choice of fate. This is also one of the few universities in China that can experience full English teaching, which is very helpful for students studying abroad. At UNNC, I met students from all over the world. Some of them are Chinese exchange students from other universities like me, such as the University of Melbourne and the University of Connecticut. There are also international students from other countries, such as Korea, Tajikistan, Burundi and so on. I like such a diversified and inclusive environment very much. Most importantly, you don’t have to worry about no Chinese food here! There is no curfew in this school. You can come in and out of the university campus freely for 24 hours. When you are hungry, go out for a barbecue or Hotpot. Go out for a driving tour with friends on holidays. In UNNC, you are the main character!

For my future career development, I still aspire to be an entrepreneur or business man. However, in this process, I will choose to work in different industries to help me better understand this society. At present, while studying, I also work as an intern in an international consulting company, so my daily life is very full. In the future, I also plan to take the conjoint-program of BCom/BArts, because I have always had a goal in my heart, which is to do something that can change the current social situation, such as helping the Chinese government improve the popularization rate of higher education, so that more children from poor areas or rural areas can contact the outside world and learn more skills. Therefore, I need to do more research and make more contacts to help me practice my goals. In UNNC, there are several special career planning teachers to help us plan for our future career. There are also some students with the same goals as me. This is one of the reasons why I think UNNC is very suitable for me.

In the future, if there are any students from UoA who want to do an exchange in China. I will recommend you take UNNC as a host university. It is not only the culture and philosophy here, but also the open and inclusive attitude towards all people here. Each student will have a personal tutor from the same school. They will provide you with solutions to difficulties in life or study. Although there are still many things not mentioned, if you come here, you will not regret it.

At present, there are five students from UoA studying here. I hope that more our students will choose to come to UNNC to start a brand-new journey and a different life experience.

~ Carter

With other UNNC students

Geoffrey: ROAD LESS TRAVELLED BY

Hello Everyone!

This is my final blog post for this exchange! Unfortunately, this entire exchange has been online, and I won’t get to share my post-lockdown life on here. But you can follow me on Instagram @gywchen for future updates! I will share some thoughts I’ve had about this exchange and life and some advice to future exchange students.

Robert Frost said

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference”.

Ever since starting university, I always wanted to go on exchange. I had planned meticulously two years in advance what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. But those plans were all cancelled when COVID hit the beginning of last year. When I got notice from the university this year that a possible exchange for Australia was on the cards, I got a little excited as going somewhere is better than not going anywhere at all.

However, as soon as I arrived in Australia, lockdown was imposed for both Sydney and Melbourne. Life always throws surprises at us, and the most important skills one can have during this unprecedented time are adaptation and resilience. We cannot change things external to us, but we can make the most of what we have. Although I am unlucky, I am still grateful that I’m here and able to experience everything that I have experienced and going to experience. Life is short and unpredictable. COVID has taken the lives of some but changed the direction of many.

My only advice to future exchange students going to Australia or anywhere in the world is to be grateful that you get to go on exchange and make the most of what you can. Do everything you can because lockdown could be just around the corner. Although it seems the world is finally transitioning out of lockdowns, you never know what the future holds. Just like COVID in 2020 and Delta in 2021 was unexpected, we don’t know what 2022 holds.

So go out, explore, be silly and take the road less travelled!

off to explore!
had a lot of pistachio gelato in Melbourne
more pistachio gelato…
sunsets and palm trees
croffles at Bakemono
on one of my regular walks at Southbank. Found a nice spot and just started to read.

Sasa : It wasn’t meant to be an online exchange

I think my last blog post was definitely too optimistic, no we did not get to go back to university but on the plus side, I still can’t say going on exchange was a bad idea since Auckland is also in lockdown and the University of Auckland is going to be online for the rest of the semester anyway. Is it awful to take comfort in that? I’d argue it’s only human 😉

It’s almost a heart ❤ 😉 Don’t worry I only took my mask off for the photo

However regardless of only having had an online relationship with the University, I have still learnt a lot so let’s dedicate this blog post to the academic side of things while I work behind the scenes to make my life more exciting, just for my 3 readers xo

The courses I’m taking this semester consists of a tissue engineering & stem cells paper, numerical algorithms, a biosystems project paper and a pysch/neuroscience paper. Some of the content is really interesting and the tissue engineering paper I was especially excited to take as it was so relevant to my degree and what I potentially want to do. The content is varied and we have quite a few guest lecturers coming in to talk about their respective fields (ie orthodontics, orthopaedics) where they are doing really amazing things – kind of ground-breaking actually, which is a privilege to learn about. It’s also a post-graduate paper but you are allowed to do one as part of your exchange program so I highly recommend taking it for anyone coming to University of Melbourne interested in medical engineering – it’s one of the few papers I’ve taken that actually feels really relevant to the field and one that you wouldn’t have the opportunity of taking back in Auckland. It’s still been great to learn a lot of interesting things without that GPA pressure which is a huge weight off. I’m still about 2 weeks behind though- old habits die hard.

Note that I’m speaking from my own experience but one of the first things I noticed when I was putting together my timetable is that there are far less lectures per paper (which is referred to as a ‘subject’ here) mostly only 1 a week!! However, there’s a catch in that each lecture is two hours long…

Still, the workload is definitely a lot less than my previous papers in BME ( nod to ENGSCI 314 which had 4 lectures a week). There are also less assessment/deliverables, only 3-4, including the exam for all of my papers except one. I’m infinitely grateful I got to escape the hell that is Part III second semester that is BME especially as I struggle massively with engaging in online learning when there are no physical places to go to.

The student association here is also bigger and better and there is a lot of support for students – I think we’re due to get a care package soon which is really cute and they give out free meals and fruit and vege boxes for students along with online events that are actually kinda fun- like virtual escape rooms

Also lockdown here is pretty much level 3 so you still get to experience Melbourne through your stomach – and the food here is to die for

Ate this all by myself and felt really bad but oh god it was so good

I actually love Melbourne. It’s such a great city and I’m definitely open to coming back and living here and either working or doing post-grad study here.

Until next time 🙂

Sasa

GEOFFREY: THIS IS MY CANVAS

I’ma paint it, paint it, paint it, how I want…..2014 Forest Hills Drive on repeat during this lockdown. What can you do during a strict Melbourne lockdown? Well, not much, feeling déjà vu daily.

One of my favourite things to do when I’m alone is to ride around the city on my bicycle. Exploring new sights while covering a lot of ground is one of the many reasons why I love biking through a new city.

As soon as lockdown was announced, I immediately shared my biking thoughts with Alan. He shared the same sentiment as me, so we both hit up Facebook Marketplace and got whatever available bike. Even if we weren’t living in a COVID environment, I would be biking through the graffitied streets of Fitzroy or down the Yarra River. With everything locked up, this is now all I can do.

Bike

And wherever we go
And whatever we do
And whatever we see
And whoever we be
It don’t matter, it don’t matter
I don’t mind cause you don’t matter
I don’t mind cause I don’t matter,
You’ll see in the end
Alan & I on one of our many bike rides
ridin’ my bike down the Yarra listenin’ to Cole

Walks

Other than biking, I also love to go on walks. I try and leave the hall at least once a day to get some fresh air and to get the limbs moving. I would find a place to go to everyday, and along the journey, I would discover and see new sights and might even encounter something unexpected! It’s also a great way of getting more familiar with the city!

spontaneous ice cream runs
I want my dreams to rescue me
On the road to riches
woke up early to go to Lune to try out their Almond Croissant which according to the New York Times was the best croissant in the world..

Study

II went on exchange to study less, not more. But with the whole semester under lockdown, I’m studying a lot more than expected. With the entire semester online, it is difficult to make friends. So desperate times calls for desperate measures – Alan told me he selected a few people from his zoom classes and hit them up on FB. I went and did the same but also directly hit some people up on zoom during our lectures. Surprisingly, most people responded, and some even helped out!

Baillieu Library – the only library open during lockdown
I like to write alone, be in my zone

So biking, walking and studying sums up what Alan and I have been up to during the past month or so!

This might be the routine for a while, but hopefully not!

Sasa: Expectations vs Reality

Expectations Vs Reality so far

I think I jinxed all of Victoria when I said in my ambassador bio ‘assuming there isn’t another lockdown and the borders close’ …

Because I have been here a little over three weeks and we have had 2 lockdowns and honestly it’s tragic enough to be funny. At least I had mentally prepared myself for Melbourne not being the same as it was nearly 4 years ago when I came.

Nevertheless I was really excited to meet my new flatmates, attend all the re-o week events at my student village and at the university and make friends everywhere in a fresh new place. However as I arrived at 11 pm, the RA showed me to my flat and it was ..completely empty. I was a little disappointed as I’m not usually one to want to live alone but I thought it might even end up being better as long as I made friends in the village to visit and invite over. Two days later we went into lockdown.

Ahhh

The view from my balcony – can’t wait to swim in that pool someday

I’ve never really thought I was that extroverted until I had to do a two week lockdown basically on my own and I learnt that I really like being around people. Honestly though I think I have really made the most of the situation and despite all the covid-19 issues, Melbourne is still an amazing place to be in. The city is so vibrant and interesting with fascinating and historical architecture whereas I’ve always thought Auckland was too grey.

The Yarra River, taken on one of my walks.
Some really nice church

I’ve also really appreciated how the university has welcomed us and hosted a zoom call to go over some things and check in on us. I’m really excited for when we can finally have the welcome day in person and go back to university in person. It’s such a beautiful campus. The exchange club at the university (MUSEX) have also saved my social life and I’ve met some lovely people (in the ~1 week between lockdowns).

One of the residential colleges on campus. It’s like $800/wk but has a real Hogwarts vibe

I feel like a first-year again walking around campus because everything is brand new again and I love that feeling – it stops you getting in a rut and time goes by slower because it’s all new and you’re taking it in. If you get the chance to go on exchange, even if it’s not the best time for it, I still really recommend it, especially if it’s your last semester you can take on exchange like it was for me. You’ll make the best of it, you may only get this opportunity once and unless you believe in reincarnation, you won’t get a second life.

Stay updated to see whether we get to go back to university in person soon (fingers crossed)

Sasa

Me and two of my BME classmates that also went on exchange:)

Geoffrey: ONE WEEK OF FREEDOM

Hello Everyone!

I am currently writing this post as we enter lockdown VI in Melbourne, Australia. It has been one week since we last exited the previous lockdown, which means I have only had one week of ‘freedom’ since arriving in Melbourne (as I also had to self-isolate for two weeks coming from NSW).

Straight out of isolation, my roommate ‘Alan’ and I ventured to Melbourne’s most famous street art destination, ‘Hosier Lane’. I have been involved in art my entire life and was super excited at the prospect of visiting the infamous lane and visiting it without the usual loads of tourists. Alan brought his camera, and we took many photos of each other immersed in the art and the art itself that was on display.

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Luckily Queen Victoria Market, the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere, was open during Victoria’s lockdown. Strolling through the busy markets took my mind off things and gave me the feeling that life was actually ‘normal’. Store owners were shouting, customers hustling, the atmosphere overall was lively. We stumbled across a small doughnut van that had a very long queue during our scout for cheap produce. After some small chit chat with one of the locals, we found out that ‘American Doughnut Kitchen’ had been trading since the 50s and was Melbourne’s most iconic Hot Jam Doughnut. The doughnuts were super hot and delicious. The seagulls also seemed to enjoy them!

As soon as the lockdown had ended, I was lucky enough to make it to the ‘King & Wood Mallesons Contemporary First Nations Art Award 2021’ exhibition a day before it ended. Melbourne is a city known for its rich artistic culture, and getting to see in person the art and stories of the indigenous artists was an absolute honour and privilege. As an artist myself, I understand the power of art to connect, learn and grow from different communities.

Classes have started, but only on zoom. This was extremely unfortunate as I was eager to meet new people on campus and immerse myself in campus life. Melbourne Law School is ranked highest in Australia and consistently ranks in the top ten law schools globally, so I was also keen on exploring the law building and attending the high calibre lectures that it has to offer. I was looking forward to the in-person lectures as I had heard that they were particularly engaging, given the small class sizes. The classes so far have felt more like ‘discussions’ rather than the standard lecture, which makes it a little hard to stay focused on track. I am also still adjusting to Australia’s federal v state system, which I was not very exposed to back in Auckland. The JD load of work has meant spending a lot of time in the library. The State Library of Victoria is a great place to study and has an amazing aura to it!

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Alan didn’t bring many clothes over from Auckland as he wanted to freshen up his wardrobe. As such, we went shopping one afternoon, and because of the large sales going on due to the lockdowns, I even bought a shirt.

Finally, on our way back home one night, we passed through ‘Federation Square’. There was an enormous pink structure called ‘The Knot’, which is the work of French artist Cyril Lancelin.

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Until next time,

Geoffrey

Shanti: Culture and Trip Reflection

Hi all, it has been a little while since I have gotten back to New Zealand, but I still want to post my third instalment of my adventures. One of my favourite things about studying in Taiwan was being able to immerse myself in the Culture and Language. Being back in New Zealand, I have really been able to appreciate the improvement I have made in both my confidence and ability in speaking Mandarin. I definitely recommend doing a 360 exchange program or language exchange if you enjoy travelling.

Apart from just daily life, the Chinese Language Centre at NCKU also organised some cultural trips especially for the University of Auckland students. These trips are definitely in my top list of memories of my time in Taiwan. In addition to the cultural excursions, we also had different cultural classes and electives that we could choose from.

Full Day Trip:

As part of the program organised by the University of Auckland and the National Cheng Kung University Chinese Language Center, we were taken on a full day trip to Kaohsiung (高雄), a city one hour North of Tainan. First, we were taken to Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Museum, a massive complex that houses multiple shrines, pagodas, and even a Starbucks. I often go to the Auckland branch of Fo Guang Shan Temple, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was on the itinerary. At the museum we were also taught the traditional ceremonial way of serving and drinking tea.

Photo from the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Museum

Next on the list was lunch at a themed restaurant. This restaurant had a massive model train going through it, with tables and seating inside. The rest of the restaurant had a strong Japanese influence, something I had found to be common throughout my travels in Taiwan. This is something that initially surprised me, as I did not know too much about the relationship and current sentiment between Taiwan and Japan. However, with Japan ruling over Taiwan for 51 years after the Treaty of Shimonoseki, much of the development of Taiwan is attributed to this time.

After lunch, we went on a ferry ride to the 红毛港文化园区 (Hongmaogang Cultural Park). This cultural park preserves remnants of a small fishing and shrimp farm village. Called “Hong Mao” or ‘red hair’, in reference to the Dutch, the park features old buildings and photos of what life was like before the development of the area into an international port. The people who once lived there were relocated, but the cultural park keeps the history alive.

 

Half Day Trip:

The half day trip was an optional tour available to all students at the Chinese Language Centre. On this trip, we went to some historical sites around Tainan, including the first school in Taiwan, and the Old District Court. The first school in Taiwan was a Confucian temple and though the main structure is currently under restoration, we were still able to see the outside courtyard. The half day trip was actually the second time I had been there. The first time I went, we also explored the surrounding streets, one of which has a cute market that has lots of stalls selling homemade items, a few hidden restaurants and a palm reader.

One of the outer buildings of the first school in Taiwan.

The Old District Court was built during Japanese rule and is now a Judicial museum. It also features an interesting sculpture which is an inverse clock tower, reflected on the shiny tiled ground. It’s a bit hard to describe but I will put a photo below. Lastly, we went to the Grand Mazu Temple that was constructed in 1664. This temple definitely felt like it had a lot of history surrounding it and I took the time to wish for a good year while I was there.

Cultural Classes:

As part of the University of Auckland language program, our group had several cultural classes and experiences. One of the most interesting experiences was the Taiwanese foot massage. To say it was relaxing would be a bit of a lie. My feet definitely felt different after, but the actual process was a bit painful to be totally honest. As well as the actual massage, our overall health was assessed from how our feet were looking. I was told that I should sleep more and earlier, something I already knew but still need to work on.

One of my favourite cultural classes (maybe because it involved food) was our cooking class. As a group we went to a nearby high school to cook some Taiwanese food, Sweet and Sour pork, crispy fried mushrooms and some classic 真祖奶茶 (pearl milk tea). This was a fun hands-on activity and it was good practice listening to the instructions in Mandarin with minimal translation. Another more hands-on activity was stamp engraving. In this class we carved our names onto slabs of stone, which could be coated in ink and stamped on to paper as a signature. Stamps were widely used, mainly for high class as an official signature or to show one’s rank (such as in the army). Later on, stamps were also used by everyday people who were illiterate, in order to sign documents.

In addition to the organised cultural activities, we were also given the opportunity to choose an extracurricular class with the other Chinese Language Center students. I chose 书法 (calligraphy). I found the classes really relaxing and my characters improved somewhat over the lessons.

 

Studying Abroad: A Reflection

I am so happy that I took the opportunity to study abroad. The experience not only improved my Mandarin speaking skills, but it also gave me more insight into Taiwanese culture. Because the program was part of a University of Auckland Summer school paper, I was able to gain 15 points towards my Chinese degree as well as explore another country for a month.

C1班, my class of three weeks.

One thing that really helped me in terms of funding my study abroad was the Prime Minister’s Scholarship. These scholarships are awarded to students and others who are going to Asia (or Latin America) so that Kiwis like me can learn more about the cultures of their destination country. The scholarship also aims to strengthen the ties between New Zealand and these two regions, as well as promote New Zealand’s education system. So if you are interested in going on exchange, or one of the many overseas opportunities that the University of Auckland provides, I fully recommend applying for a Prime Minister’s Scholarship. There are both individual and group scholarships available. If you have any questions, the 360 International office team are always there to help.

I think that studying abroad was such a great opportunity, not just to learn, but also to make new friends and to travel. In Taiwan I made new friends, not only with those from our University of Auckland group but also with our language buddies and fellow Chinese Language Center students. It was great to hang out with people around the similar ages as us and to get some inside scoops of the modern Taiwanese youth culture, as opposed to just historical and traditional culture. It was a bit of a sad departure, but I’m super keen to go back to Taiwan to visit. After I finished my course, took the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing in Taiwan, and I also visited Singapore. This was my first time travelling alone, so it was a great opportunity to use my Mandarin skills with no one else around to help me. Because New Zealand is quite far from many countries, it was also good to travel while I was already in the area. Solo travel, though initially quite daunting, was both a challenging and enjoyable learning experience. I definitely recommend doing some sightseeing if you study abroad.

Over the my few years at university, so many people have told me to make the most of my time at university, because once you graduate and start working, you will most likely be stuck in a full-time job with little opportunities to travel. So I am giving whoever is reading this the same advice, take up the opportunities while you are still studying and go on 360 exchange and/or study abroad!

– Shanti Truong-George, 張湘婷。

Alofa: Fight the good fight

E mame le tava’e i ona fulu. This is a Samoan proverb which talks of a bird, the Tava’e, that is proud of her feathers. It’s commonly used in context when describing one who speaks or displays their culture in a prideful manner. After spending a couple of weeks in Brasil, I can confidently say that this is the perfect phrase to use.

This trip to Brasil continues to leave me in awe. There is an underlying passion that can melt even the coldest of hearts – and I’m not just talking about the couples making out in the middle of the streets. Activism for the rights of indigenous people to be recognised and the fight for freedom is prevalent in every street corner. Yes Brasil may be the best country to be in for parties – especially during carnaval – but beyond that limelight, there’s a heartfelt plea that has been begging to be heard since the colonisation of the 1500’s.

In our lectures the idea of slavery was explored as well as the complexity of the Brazilian Constitution of 1988. Let’s face it – no governmental system is perfect, just look at Herodotus’ debate on the three government types! And slavery? I learnt a long time ago in Ancient History that slavery was key to the rise of many empires and even up until the 1900’s it still was.

I love architecture and the Monumento o Bandeirantes definitely rates near the top, but the meaning behind it breaks my heart.

The artist Katu Mirim informed us of the fight that the indigenous continue to fight. Indigenous is not a costume that you wear for a Carnaval party but unfortunately this is something that the indigenous people have to tolerate. Katu showed us worksheets that are often handed out in class to students where indigenous are stereotyped as a naked person who wears headdresses and because of this, the indigenous continued to be discriminated against when they are seen adapting to the Western way of life.

A video produced by ISA to highlight the fight against stereotypes

The problem that we noticed about Brazil is that they have memory issues and many do not remember the past when the dictatorship proved to be one of the hardest period for the indigenous nor do they have a vast knowledge about the indigenous pre-colonisation besides the fact that they were ‘savages’. Indigenous people are talked about as if they were only in the past and that they no longer exist. In short, I am so glad that I live in NZ because we aren’t as bad as Brasil is cut out to be.

Growing up I’ve constantly had my grandparents pass on tala mai le vavau (stories of the past) and stories of them growing up in the islands. Even though I don’t live in Samoa, I know the customs and traditions well enough to keep my culture alive and functional in a Western society, and fortunately it informs people outside my culture about who we are. Quite frankly, this is currently not the case in Brasil – and it’s not because the indigenous haven’t tried. Their voices aren’t being heard as they are being spoken over but they continue to fight. Many of the indigenous tribes that we visited told us that they will continue to fight as they have since the beginning.

A video produced by a NGO ISA to signal the continual fight for the land

One of my favourite visits would have to be to the Quilombaque community who, amongst the discrimination and disparity, have managed to draft an urban plan to educate the population about the history of Brazil from the underdog’s POV. Although the plan has yet to be submitted for approval, the activism behind the movement and their fellowship with the indigenous community is astounding.

You would assume with how the world is going that it is everyone for themselves but in Brasil, those who aren’t against you are actually for you. There are a lot of things that we can learn between the relationship of the Quilombaque and the Indigenous tribe of Jaragua and the world would be a better place with this knowledge. The only problem is, the lesson to be learnt can only be felt with the heart by spending time with these people and listening to their stories rather than me telling you.

So if you ever get the chance to come to Brasil and talk to these amazing people, I high advise that you listen closely because you might learn a thing or two. The fight is continuous – it doesn’t stop. If only we had the determination that these indigenous do, then maybe democracy could actually work.

Iven: Chapter 1 of My Journey to Singapore

Kia ora! *:・゚✧(ꈍᴗꈍ)✧・゚:*

It is currently the last day of January as I am writing this post in my dorm, but how was my first month being on exchange in Singapore? What is it like living in Singapore? Are there certain things I should be aware of if I’m going to Singapore? What are the classes like at The National University of Singapore (NUS)? Don’t worry I will cover all these questions along with some of my key tips I’ve learnt along the way!

WEEK 1: Settling in and Exploring Singapore

After celebrating New Years with a bang in Auckland, I flew over 8,000kms to Singapore where I stayed at a hotel on my first night and then an Airbnb for the rest of the week. For me, I really wanted to come to Singapore earlier to be able to adjust and have time to settle in. Taking my first step into Singapore honestly felt like entering a sauna, the hot and humid air was super overwhelming.

Tip: Buy a travel adapter from Auckland Airport and bring your Student Pass documents on paper to show immigration when you arrive 🙂

The MRT in Singapore (very efficient but be prepared to stand)

During my first week, I tried to adapt to the humid weather, explore different parts of Singapore, familiarize myself with the public transport and the way of life in Singapore. Some interesting differences compared to New Zealand, which I noticed during this time were that most traffic crossings don’t make the ‘beeping’ sound and Uber is not used here, instead Grab is which essentially is Uber and Uber Eats in one ( I really love Grab).

Tip: Don’t buy your SIM card at the airport, get it at 7-Eleven because it’s cheaper. I recommend Singtel as a phone provider because they have the best data deals (bring your passport with you).

Shops and stalls at Chinatown

WEEK 2: Moving into NUS, Meeting other Exchange Students

For this exchange, I will be staying at University Town (UTown) which is the main part of campus. UTown has food courts, Starbucks, convenience stores… etc, however, it is not the only accommodation which NUS offers. Personally, I chose UTown as my first option for accommodation as I had researched and found that it’s where most exchange students stay, it is very close to the amenities I mentioned earlier and you get to share an apartment with 3 other people.

Tip: Pack your own home-ware, bedding.. etc if you don’t want to buy them here. Also learn from my mistake and don’t buy your bedding stuff from IKEA, I recommend getting it from local markets or malls, for example, Clementi Mall.

The NUS sign at UTown

The check-in date for my dorm was on January 6th, it was a long process waiting but it was worth it in the end after I got my key and found out I was staying on the 25th floor which is the highest floor! The first thing I did after dropping off my luggage was head to IKEA to buy some essentials for my room. In short, the days after I moved into my dorm consisted of meeting my roommates (who are all Australian!!), attending NUS orientations, meeting other exchange students from New Zealand and all over the world through NUS events and more exploring of Singapore.

Tip: Put yourself out there and try to attend as much events as possible! That’s where you get to meet so many new people and create bonds that will last a lifetime~

Me and other exchange students at Gardens By The Bay for the Light Show

WEEK 3: First Week of Class!- Eeekk

Before the semester began, we were able to change courses (they call it modules here) on a specific day so I submitted a list of 5 modules in order of which I wanted the most. I ended up getting a film module along with my original modules; a design module and a digital storytelling module. Before coming on exchange, I was quite nervous about the difficulty of the courses and if I would find it hard to adjust to the academic side of things. After my first week of class, my worries went away immediately, and it reassured me on why I wanted to go on exchange. The courses I’m doing are up my alley, super interesting and practical, not to mention the great lecturers. I also liked that my classes weren’t in big lecture theatres, they were more intimate and felt like tutorials back at UoA which I prefer.

Tip: Most classes are really cold because of the air-con so bring a jacket also NUS is such a huge campus that they have their own free internal bus system, but they don’t come often and there is always competition to get onto the bus! So get to the bus stop early because NUS does not tolerate lateness.

Since I’m only doing 3 modules and tutorials didn’t start until week 3, my timetable was pretty chill so while I had class, I still had plenty time to explore more of Singapore and hangout with my new exchange friends. One of my favorite places we visited (other than all the amazing food we ate)was definitely the Jewel Changi Airport, when I arrived in Singapore like my other exchange friends, we didn’t get to see the pretty waterfall that everyone knows of when they think of Singapore so we went back and wow!!

Tip: Almost all food places, especially at NUS, don’t give you straws! Oh and they give you LOTS of ice! for drinks so be prepared.

WEEK 4: Chinese New Year + Trip to Malaysia!

At this time, on the news and basically everywhere, people are talking about the Coronavirus. Everyone is starting to wear masks and people are paranoid, the university is also taking a lot of administrative matters to keep students safe. It has been quite scary but with that said, it didn’t stop the Chinese New Year’s festivities. CNY is a big holiday here in Singapore and Asia, everything is shut down essentially. For Chinese New Years, me and a few of my exchange friends went to Tioman Island in Malaysia which marks my first trip to another country whilst on exchange! It was so serene and unreal, there’s something about being on an island away from city life, away from work, away from the humid weather that is so tranquil.

WEEK 5: First week of Tutorials

The start of this week marked the start of tutorials, although class had begun 2 weeks prior, the tutorials were the first time I was able to interact with other local students. As an exchange student I did have a fear of being ostracized but that was far from reality. As the semester rolls on, I’m looking forward to more fun times with all the beautiful people I have met here on exchange. It’s only been a month and I already know I have made lifelong bonds and I’m already dreading the day I will have to say goodbye…..Well that’s it from me now! Don’t worry, there will be more chapters, memories and more fun stories to come. This is just the start of what will be one of the best times of my lifeヽ(^◇^*)/

P.S Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more exchange content coming soon I promise!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥  https://www.youtube.com/iventhepanda ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ 

Iven aka IvenThePanda Signing Out…..

Alofa: The toilet paper goes where!?

Brazil:- The land of the futebol, graffiti and Caipirinhas; where the weather rises to a high of 32°C, the subway surpasses that of Auckland Transport and toilet paper is thrown into rubbish bins, not flushed down the toilet.

The first week here in Brazil was hectic – 8am lectures that run for 2 hours, horrible traffic, strong coffee… it felt like I never left home! But hey, different country, different me – or that’s the goal at least. My intention for this trip was clear – learn more about myself by learning about others and the struggle that they face.

If you know me personally, you know that I’ve never been a hearty advocate for LGBTQ+, feminism, climate change, or cultural rights. Although I wasn’t entirely against these concepts, being a female Christian growing up in a Samoan house meant I was instinctively ‘programmed’ to remain passive on topics that I had no direct input in because I was meant to be seen and not heard. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never had a problem with this, but my first week in Brasil has already forced me to reconsider my position on some of these topics.

By the end of our first week we had visited an indigenous community, Boa Vista; we conversed with a representative of the tribe, watched the kids of the community perform a song and dance for us, and we managed to indulge the indigenous tradition of body paint. They told us of the struggles that they had faced since the arrival of the Portuguese and the battle that they continue to fight for their land to remain just as that – theirs. It’s actually a bit heartbreaking to see people having to fight for something that they never had to previously just because the ‘white’ person standards say so. Getting to experience a culture that is so closely connected to the land reminds me of my own cultural homeland of Samoa. The stories of the struggles my grandparents had to endure are forever engraved in my heart and experiencing a portion of that whenever I visit Samoa allows me to empathise with the indigenous peoples of Brasil despite the geographical distance of our homelands. A fellow student said it better: No matter where we go or who we are, the battle remains the same.

No matter where we go or who we are, the battle remains the same.

The way that the Brazilians and the Indigenous identify themselves is something that is commonly debated in today’s society and it’s a highlight from the first week in Brasil. As an Ancient Historian I’ve always been interested in conquest and the assimilation of peoples into the Roman or Greek identity but it begs the question – what makes one Roman or Greek? And the question echoes through the forests of South America – what defines one as Indigenous, Portuguese or Brazilian? As one of my favourite lecturers from the University of Sao Paulo had stated in her first lecture, ‘it’s not the colour of their skin, but it’s how they live and their beliefs’.

It’s not the colour of their skin, but it’s how they live and their beliefs.

Beatriz Perrone

I am grateful to have this opportunity to experience Brasil in all its natural beauty but the fact remains that I love living in New Zealand and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! (And no this isn’t just because I get to flush toilet paper in the toilet!). There is just no place like home!

Até logo,

Alofa So’olefai