Zofia: Travel

So now, to take a proper look at one of the major reasons I (and many people) wanted to come on exchange: travelling.

I had a lot of opportunity to travel around the UK and Europe both during and after my exchange. Because I did the January to May semester at Edinburgh, I ended the exchange at the beginning of the Northern Hemisphere summer, and then had until Auckland restarted in July to explore. That being said, we also had some short mid-term and “study” breaks that us exchange students used to our advantage.

Waitangi Day London

The first bit of travelling I did was down to London for Waitangi Day. I went with two other Kiwis, and there’s a huge pub crawl organised by Kiwis in London, so we got to meet a tonne of nice people with very familiar accents.

The second mini break I took was with some exchange students during a week we had off lectures in February. We went to Brussels and Amsterdam for two nights each. We loved just wandering (and biking) around the cities, enjoying classic food like the Belgian waffles.

Amsterdam

During the Easter break, five of us decided to go on a roadtrip around Scotland. We travelled all the way up north into the highlands, visiting some friends who lived in one of the tiny highland towns. We also saw the Isle of Skye, and about ninety-four castles. Scotland is truly beautiful.

And then, quicker than I actually would have liked, my semester was over. I started off my summer with a Topdeck tour. This is a bus tour aimed at young people, where they drive you around continental Europe and you spend one or two nights in each place. It was super full on, but an incredible time. Topdeck isn’t quite as infamous as Contiki for its partying, which to be honest probably worked in its favour. I joined a two-week tour, and went from Rome, to Venice, Pag Island (Croatia), Ljubljana (Slovenia), the Austrian Alps, Prague and ended in Berlin. I had the most fantastic time, and couldn’t recommend it enough – it’s like a tasting board of Europe, so you can decide where to come back to. Fair warning, you will be absolutely exhausted by the end of it, and possibly never want to see a hostel shower again.

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After Topdeck I met up with a friend from exchange and we did two weeks travelling around Spain and Portugal. I’d never been to Portugal before and it honestly blew me away. We had a few beach destinations (Palma de Mallorca, Malaga and Lagos) as well as some bigger cities (Seville, Lisbon and Porto). When we arrived in Porto we realised that we happened to be there for the weekend of the Festa de São João do Porto – a street festival for the patron saint of Porto. Everyone is out on the streets the whole day, cooking sardines and banging people on the head with plastic hammers (it’s meant to be a sign of affection). It was an amazing coincidence that we were there for it but if you get the chance, definitely go! It was one of the most fun days of my trip.

After Spain and Portugal, my parents and sister flew over from NZ and I met them in London. We did a two-week roadtrip around the UK, driving from Cambridge all the way up to Edinburgh and back down the other side.  It was atrocious weather, but England and Scotland are often overlooked when people choose to travel to Europe. I was glad to get the opportunity to have a look around because the UK actually has some awesome history and buildings that reflect that. That being said, I could have traded the 9-degree temperature and sheets of rain for the sun I’d been getting in Spain.

So at this point my time in Europe was nearly over, but I managed to squeeze in one more weekend in London (for the Wireless festival) and a couple of days in Paris, which was beautiful.

Wireless

Even though I’ve gone into great self-congratulatory detail on my travels, it’s also true that no matter where you go in Europe you’re going to find something amazing. Different people enjoy different things and different styles of traveling, so find someone who matches you and head off!

Ciao!

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Scotland

Forget what you know about Scotland! Our Auckland Abroad students have opened our eyes to this incredible study destination. Studying at a Scottish university gives you the possibility to take unforgettable day and weekend trips, witness a wealth of cultural history and meet people from all over the world!

University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at one of four historic Scottish universities as part of the Auckland Abroad programme: Glasgow School of Art, University of Glasgow (U21 incl. Law), University of Edinburgh, University of St. Andrews.

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Lets hear from Auckland  Abroad students about their experiences!

On orientation:

“Stepping onto the campus for the first time is what I imagine Harry felt like when he first glimpsed Hogwarts. Literally. It’s a gorgeous, gothic castle with eerie cloisters and turrets. Flanked by leafy Kelvingrove park and where you’ll probably end up on most nights out, Tudor-turned-cocktail-heaven Ashton Lane, its situated in the heart of the West End. The University of Glasgow sets up two weeks of orientation before class starts: one just for international students, and another for all freshers. It begins with a Ceilidh (said Kaylee) in which everyone makes a fool of themselves dancing to traditional Scottish folk music, followed by day trips to places like St. Andrews and Loch Ness. Don’t be shy, nothing brings strangers together like desperately seeking Nessie or afternoon tea where Prince William first took Kate Middleton on a date.” – Elle Mignacca, University of Glasgow

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“Beyond just being outrageously beautiful, I loved my time at the University of Glasgow for the people. Everyone I met was incredibly welcoming and open to me – they are always happy to help with whatever you need. The exchange student orientation was great for meeting other study abroad students and also orients you really well to being in the UK in between the tours around the city and day trips to Edinburgh. There’s also a ton of cultural events and you get introduced to the two student unions on campus (that’s right – two). What’s also useful is the exchange student orientation is the week before ordinary orientation – so you get two orientations!” – Jessica Stubbing, University of Glasgow

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On classes:

“I wholeheartedly recommend the University of Edinburgh as a study destination. I found my classes to be dynamic and intellectually stimulating. For example, I was able to study the history of contemporary terrorism alongside live European political debates about these issues. Furthermore, the city of Edinburgh is uniquely friendly and easy to adapt to. Its relatively small size alongside a large student population gives the city a youthful, energetic buzz, and made me feel ‘at home’ on the other side of the world” –  Emelia French, University of Edinburgh

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“In terms of classes, I was fortunate to have a fairly straight forward experience enrolling for classes but be aware some people were not so lucky – just prepare to be flexible. All of the courses I took were incredibly interesting and it was no trouble to find something I wanted to take. Any drama students out there – the theatre programme here is incredible and they have so many fascinating courses to choose from. A lot of the courses outside of more hands on papers (like drama) are structured similarly to Auckland but generally there are fewer tutorials – having a similar structure definitely makes it easier to settle in to learning in a new setting.” – Jessica Stubbing, University of Glasgow

On accomodation:

“Edinburgh is just small enough to feel cosy and friendly, while still being filled with stuff to do and easily connected to other Scottish cities. The university itself is in amongst the city, unless you are doing Engineering (like I did), they have a second main campus which is a 25 minute walk (or a 10 minute free shuttle) from the central buildings. The cost of living and the workload is similar to Auckland. I stayed in Sciennes during my six month exchange. It is a flat style accommodation, but there is a large common room and they put on heaps of events so it’s easy to meet and get to know new people, while still having the independence of flat style living.” – Natasha Neeve, University of Edinburgh

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“All of the uni accomodations are scattered across the area, within a quick walking distance of your holy trifecta: uni, the local pub, and a Tesco. I was lucky enough to stay in Winton Drive, which meant my 20-minute morning commute to class went directly through the Botanical Gardens and a gourmet doughnut store”  – Elle Mignacca, University of Glasgow

 

On travel:

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“The trip that that was the highlight of my exchange was a weekend in Highlands of Scotland. It was a trip organised by the exchange office in Edinburgh that took us to the north of Scotland spending the night in Inverness. It was during this trip that I learnt about the tumultuous and often bloody history of Scotland and really began to appreciate Scottish heritage and culture, including Haggis surprisingly enough. But what really made my exchange were the friends I made; in particular two American exchange students I had the courage to walk up and introduce myself to on my second day, which is difficult for a relatively quiet person like me. This is the best advice I can give to anyone thinking of going overseas take the effort to make friends to share your experiences with and your exchange will the be best experience it could be.” – James Poh, University of Edinburgh

“I used my exchange as an opportunity to travel extensively through Europe, and I remained excited to return back to Edinburgh after every holiday. The picturesque, historical streets of Edinburgh are perfectly contrasted with the surrounding Scottish countryside. Being an avid hiker, I spent many weekends seeing other areas of Scotland. The environment somewhat remains an undiscovered wilderness.” – Emelia French, University of Edinburgh

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Top tips:

  • Ryanair is a game-changer: between my flatmates we did Dublin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Oslo and Reykjavik for less than £20.
  • Supermarkets are insanely cheap and Primark will save your life
  • At the University of Glasgow if you’re staying in uni accomodation, a gym membership is included in your rent, the flats are super warm and the internet travels faster than light
  • Loch Lomond is breathtaking
  • Halloween and Guy Fawkes are massive and the Edinburgh Christmas Market is magical
  • Make a trip to the Isle of Skye
  • Going on exchange is hard. It’s an experience that will force you to grow, to go outside your comfort zone, to challenge yourself. But I guarantee that for every second of discomfort you will be rewarded with months and months of memories that you will take with you for the rest of your life.
  • Go to the Highlands, visits other cities and take advantage of the ludicrously cheap flights to the European mainland!
  • Ceilidh (key-leigh) is the traditional Scottish partner dance, and I would recommend you try go to at least one during your exchange!
  • It’s worth every cent (and all of the hours spent on paperwork), the memories you make will be unforgettable.
  • It’s cosy, and you’ll love it!