During Semester in Swansea

DURING THE SEMESTER

Throughout the semester Swansea University offered a variety of day trips aimed towards international and exchange students to help experience the British culture. On top of that there are the many sport teams, clubs and societies that provide plenty to do during the week and on the weekend. Along with the university based trips I went on there was weekends away to other areas of the UK and Ireland that were both cheap and didn’t impact much on my studies. Not only that there were trivia nights at the Wonky Sheep (The Student Village’s pub), Halloween, Wind St. Wednesdays.

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On Dublin, snowboarding in the Alps with 200 Irish students and a bunch of other things helping me to procrastinate

As I enter the last week of teaching week of this semester at UCD in Dublin, Ireland, I’ve become overwhelmed by a certain feeling, one that I’ve definitely felt before, over and over again. It usually signifies that the end of something is near but you’re not quite there yet. The feeling (action…?) is procrastination, and it has most definitely come to say hello.

Speaking of hellos, I’m Ambar and I’m currently on a yearlong exchange for the duration of 2015. Back home I study Business/Creative Industries but here in Dublin I’ve ended up in the Business/Law faculty taking 6 subjects (a frightfully “normal” concept here). While it’s dismal that this is my first blog post, procrastination lends me well, meaning that there’s no time like the present to catch up on what’s been going on for the past few months. And by “no time like the present”, I mean being 8 days out from 5 exams in a row. Exam timetables = providing endless joy regardless of the country that you live in.

I’m currently sitting in a park in Copenhagen, Denmark, wondering how it somehow became the end of the semester and the start of summer. The sun is out; it’s like 16 degrees (if that), so naturally everyone is in t-shirts enjoying the ‘hot’ weather (I use this term loosely Brisbane). I left Australia going on 5 months ago now, but it feels more like 5 weeks. I’m sure that every exchange blog says the same thing: being on exchange flies by. And it definitely does. Maybe it’s the sentiment that you’re not counting down until the end of the semester, or to what come next – whether it be summer holidays, graduation or that next overseas trip. You’re not waiting for the next adventure because you’re already on it simply by being at uni, going to classes in a different country and meeting so many new people. I’m fortunate enough that this is my second exchange, having spent 6 months in France when I was 15, so while in some ways this feels slightly familiar territory, it also couldn’t be further from being the same. Although I frequently refer to my exchange in France being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, this would be a close second – and then some. Funnily enough, France is where my UCD trip begins, so with that little segue, let’s rewind to six months ago where an email I chose to send landed me a spot on the annual Snowsports trip to the French Alps.

Somewhere between Swotvac (study week) and exam week last November, I found myself creeping the UCD Snowsports Facebook page. Having spent majority of the past 3-ish years in Canada living in a ski town, snowboarding had become one of my main motivators in terms of getting through those final weeks of uni before holidays. During my creeping, I happened upon the info stating that the snowsports club was organising a trip to the French Alps in January. Perfect. I was also conveniently going to be in Alps snowboarding for the month before the planned trip. I tossed the idea around for a solid 2 minutes before deciding that I’d send them an email and see if I could get on the trip, despite not technically being a UCD student – or never having visited Ireland. YOLO as the kids say.

Two months later and I stepped off a bus in Alpe d’Huez, a little rusty from the night before. I have quite the affinity with red wine and the $5-per-rather-decent-bottle-average in France never fails to distract me from how bad I know wine hangovers can really be. The 2 busses and 3 trains I’d had to take that day with my luggage for a year hadn’t improved my feelings of utter bewilderment and confusion. It sounds worse than it was, I only had a snowboard bag and a small backpack but with a hangover to boot, it felt like I had more possessions that the whole of Australia put together. Only before trying to check-in to the completely wrong hotel did I manage to find the 200(ish) intoxicated and/or hungover (it was hard to tell between the two) Irish university students that I was to spend the next 7 days with. Fuelled by the encouragement that they’ve made the 38-hour journey from Ireland by bus (oh, the respect), I pushed back the drink someone gave to me and before I knew it, I was cable-tied me to someone I’d never met and well wished for the evening.

The next 7 days passed with little new snow but beautiful sunny days to distract us from the hangovers. Can you sense a theme here? Apparently the Irish like drinking – who would have thought? They can also rally like absolute champions and when I was there in the foetal position in bed, the committee members were up and at it, banging on saucepans outside the rooms every morning at 7am, hustling everyone to get out on the slopes. Before we knew it, the trip was over as quickly as it had started. I know it sounds as cliché or corny as anything, but I really did make and incredible bunch of friends on the trip who made me feel as though I’d known them a lot longer than 24 hours. Needless to say, it made getting on the plane and rocking up on the first day of ‘college’ a whole lot less daunting – despite not a single one of them being in the same faculty as me.

Having gone on the snowsports trip, I unfortunately missed orientation week with the rest of the international students, including a free bus trip to IKEA. Tragic, I know. Thankfully, my wonderful new housemates were able to catch me up with all the ‘craic’ (read: Irish slang for ‘going’s-on’) of O-week and I found my bearings pretty quickly. When sign-ups for on campus accommodation opened back in December and not knowing anyone in Dublin, I went in blind and and opted to share an apartment with three other random students. As it turns out, on their end, it wasn’t so random and I found myself in apartment with 3 Americans all from Northeastern University in Boston. I think I’ve actually learnt more about the fraternity-sorority (Greek) system in the US than anything to do with Irish schooling, but there you have it. Officially, I don’t share any classes with my housemates but we do share a love for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and quesadillas so with that bond, we’re basically family. Unofficially, we have Irish class together, which basically consists of absolutely terrible linguistic skills, a whole lot of laughing and our teacher organising meeting points for beers after class.

Terrible Irish speaking skills in tow, the rest of the semester has literally passed in a blur. I’ve been lucky enough to take advantage of the accessibility that comes with living in Europe, having travelled a fair bit throughout the semester. When a friend living in London asked me to jump in on his birthday celebrations and fly to Spain with 20 of his friends that I’d never met, it was a no brainer. Flights were booked in minutes and the bunch of us hired out a villa that housed 30 people where we spent the Easter long-weekend lounging by the pool, eating paella and drinking cervezas.

Between the UK, Spain, Denmark, weekly netball games against other universities, events on every other weekend and squeezing in a two and a half-week trip to Canada over ‘spring break’, it’s easy to see where the semester has gone. Despite my friends wondering how I ever manage to get anything college-related done, it’s definitely been a work-hard, play-hard balance. Even though taking six subjects in Ireland is technically worth the same as the Australian equivalent of 48 credit points, it still feels like an extra two subjects to juggle in the mix of everything. Which brings me back to procrastinating studying for those impending exams. As I’ve managed to avoid studying for today by writing this (despite my best intentions of bringing my laptop with me to Denmark), I best be off given that my plane’s boarding in an hour and I’m still in downtown Copenhagen. A picture paints a thousand words anyway, so here’s the paintings of seventeen thousand words from my first few months here.

 

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UCD Snowsports trip to Alpe d’Huez, France

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Up at 3300m in the French Alps

UCD Snowsports trip to Alpe d'Huez, France

The Valley Rally – last day of the trip

 

UCD Snowsports trip to Alpe d'Huez, France

Bobbing for apples in sangria and flour for the Valley Rally scavenger hunt. Gross.

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Après Ski sessions, France

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Connemara National Park, Ireland

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Galway Bay, Ireland

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Sunny days actually aren’t that hard to find in Dublin! (shocking, I know)

UCD Snowsports + Surf Ball (i.e. trying to be fancy)

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Camden Market, London, UK

 

 

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St Patty’s Day in Whistler, Canada (spring break)

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Ice crevasse in Whistler, Canada

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Hiking in the Pacific Ranges, BC, Canada

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Easter in Alicante, Spain

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Easter in Alicante, Spain

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Copenhagen’s Skyline, Denmark

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Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Until next time,

Tabhair aire 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London Calling

Hi there, my name is Sarah and I’m a third year Creative Industries (Art and Design History) and Business student currently three months into my exchange at Regent’s University London. If you can’t tell from the following I’m obsessed with food and art, making London an absolute dream.

I thought I’d start my illustrious blogging career by trying something a little different and attempting to encapsulate my exchange experience so far in poem (if you could call it that). I promise some more detailed posts will be coming your way but I wanted to set the tone and give everyone an idea of my relationship with the ever-charming city of London.

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Aarhus, Denmark @ ARoS Museum

Hello,

I recently visited the ARoS Museum in downtown Aarhus. A iconic symbol of the city with the colour wheel, seen from almost every vantage point. Such a fun filled day with modern and interactive art on display. One of the many things to do here in this highly dominated student city.

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Life In Swansea

LIFE IN SWANSEA

When I first got to Swansea I was getting around in shorts with an occasional jumper at night. Before getting to Swansea everyone kept telling me to bring two things, a coat and an umbrella… My first couple of weeks these two ‘essentials’ were gathering dust in my room so I was under the impression that everyone was just pulling my leg. All the locals kept reminding me that this is abnormally warm and dry for this time of year. The nights felt like a warm winter’s evening so it wasn’t a shock by any stretch. Swansea is one of the UK’s wettest places and I soon found out although it was raining often it was never to the extent of a Queensland afternoon thunderstorm despite the claims of ‘heavy rain’. Read more

QUT Meet Queen’s University!

Going on exchange was something I always wanted to partake in should I ever get the opportunity to. When I applied for the QUT exchange program I was only in my first semester of my first year at QUT. The idea that it was go any further than the application phase wasn’t something that I could wrap my head around.

& then it happened!!! I got my acceptance form QUT that they were going to support my exchange and now I had to directly apply to my selected school, Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. At first I had no idea where this place even was (I had to Google maps it), & I was constantly being told I was crazy to apply for a winter semester in Canada. But being on exchange is all about the new experiences that you wont get at home!

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There were a lot of hoops that I had to jump through, particularly in relation to any needed visas, subject comparisons etc., so at times the process did feel never ending, but now when I look back on this time it all really happen so fast.

There are sooooo many different things you need to consider whilst completing the exchange process, like where am I going to live, what is the best way to get to my destination, do I want to have the opportunity to travel before or after my studies, what subjects am I going to be able to study, do I want to take equivalents or electives whilst on exchange etc. etc. Then on top of these questions you have the consideration of language and cultural barriers, and at times it can feel very overwhelming. But the main thing I learnt when you start to freak out about taking such a big leap is just enjoy the process, experience everything you can & don’t be afraid to ask for help!!

Now more about Queen’s.

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For those of you who are looking to go on exchange and are currently studying business, Queen’s university has one of the best commerce programs in all of Canada, and for the students who study here full time it is extremely competitive to get into. Having the opportunity to go on exchange to this university (without worrying about competitiveness) and utilising the benefits of its amazing program is truly one of the best decisions you can make (plus it will look AMAZING on your resume). As the Queen’s commerce program is also very diverse in the subjects they offer, I was able to match up 10 subjects that I could use as equivalents to my QUT enrolment plan plus a large pool of electives should I desire.

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The university grounds themselves are quite beautiful, with the older buildings being made of stone and having some awesome architecture. The commerce classes are a lot smaller than what I was use to at QUT, with my biggest class being around 35 – 40 people max. At first it was a little daunting, not being able to hide in a sea of people from the professors, but you soon learn that through their encouragement of class interaction these smaller classes are actually beneficial. The only way I can think to compare it to QUT classes is having your lecture within your tutorial, there are a lot of class exercises, interactive simulations and overall class interaction with the professors.

The exchange office is also great! They are more than happy for you to drop in at any time to ask questions or just have a chat about your experiences. When completing the application process they can also help with accommodation arrangements and questions you may have around subject selection and their availability. The Queen’s community have their own Facebook group with lots of different sub-groups including, housing, exchange specific events, and people looking to sell things you may need during your stay.

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(I promise its not always this snowy)

As for living in Kingston, surrounding Queen’s University is a community of student housing known as the “Queen’s Ghetto”. Its basically a relatively large circumference of houses which surround the university that are rented out to students throughout the schooling year (September to April). The community vibe that you get from living pretty much on campus, with a huge bunch of people who are in the same boat as you is phenomenal & highly recommended. Pretty much everything you need is within walking distance from this ‘Ghetto’ including groceries, uni, restaurants, bars, clubs etc. Plus Kingston is known in Canada for having the highest restaurant per capita within the city, and again most of these are on the main street of downtown, which is walking distance form campus.

I could keep going about all the amazing things there is to do and see here in Kingston and the opportunities Queen’s represents but then I’d run out of things to talk to you about later. So for now if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to send me a message 🙂

Don’t forget that you only live once and exchange is an experience that you will never forget!!!!

Starting Life in Swansea

MY FIRST DAY IN SWANSEA

I had been travelling around Europe (England, Spain, Portgual & Turkey) for a month prior to arriving at Swansea University in September 2014. I arrived a day early and thankfully my room at my student village accomdation was open and my housemate was able to let me in and after the 3 hour train ride from London I was able to start unpacking my stuff and settle in for the next 4 months.

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