Honkers Part 2

So we are now a little over two months in… and I am realising more and more that I love being a little fish in this big, big, crazy sea. I thoroughly enjoy spending time on my own and Hong Kong gives you endless opportunities to take yourself out on dates where you never really feel alone amongst the chaos.
In the most densely populated suburb in the world – Mongkok – you can found countless little Chinese or Taiwanese restaurants on the tenth floor of a 20 storey building crammed in between 2 other equally busy restaurants that will serve you up the most delicious broth at an amazing price… Honestly I could do six blogs just about the food and I am really giving myself a pat on the back as I’m becoming a true wiz at Chopsticks.  There is something exciting about picking your meal from the menu pictures and never really knowing what you’re going to get – just praying its not intestines or something like that!
Among other things, what I love about the young Hong Kongers is that they love to treat themselves. They love having the best – I thought I would follow the trend and wait 2 hours for ‘Hong Kong’s Best Bubble Tea’. Coming from uncrowded Brisbane this was crazy to me – I mean don’t get me wrong it was delicious but these people do this on a daily basis. Don’t let me put you off though – despite the huge crowds Hong Kong is a hub of efficiency. Everything in Hong Kong is how do we get as many people in the restaurant as possible and how do we get them straight back out again. So although you might see a huge line up for a little restaurant rest assured you will be served within 20 minutes! Although you better be ready to put your change away quickly and get out of the way!
What really has changed my life though has been the hot lemon tea. I am ADDICTED! This is basically a staple with every meal and if you have ever been to Hong Kong you know that you must preface every drink with ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ as everything is offered in both.
Another plus of living here, aside from the hot lemon tea, is Hong Kong’s central location.  It is close to most of Asia and there are so many airlines flying through Hong Kong that every week you will find flights that are cheap as chips to anywhere in Asia you wish to go. So far I have been to Cambodia and Taiwan and next stop – TOKYO.
Of course its not all jetting around here. I am starting to truly understand what living on a student budget looks like. But Hong Kong is perfect for youif you have plenty of money or no money at all, because you can pick the type of lifestyle you wish to lead! Extravagant, top of the range down to $15 AUD a day – note this is still eating delicious food if you know where to go!
Hopefully my next blog is less centred around food but it is unlikely. Until next time…

My first Thai scam

It has been a month since my last post, and in that time I have been able to travel to six new cities. This year Thammasat University held an inter university sport event that lasted two weeks. This meant that after only two weeks of study we had two full weeks off. Naturally, myself and some other exchange students used this to our advantage and booked a trip away. We started up in the North of Thailand at Chiang Mai, from here we ventured down to Singapore and then up through Malaysia. In this post I am just going to speak about my Chiang Mai experience.

I travelled to Chiang Mai with three Thai students and two other exchange students, both from America. I expected the city to have a similar bustle to Bangkok however I was very wrong. Even though it was still a big city I thought it felt more like a small town. The first night we stayed close to lots of unique cafes and Chiang Mai speciality restaurants. Al were delicious. At night we visited an extremely long night market that showed off some of the textiles that come from the region.

The following day the Thai girls arranged for a taxi driver to take us to our next night’s accommodation, glamping about an hour out of the city. On the way the driver was supposed to take us to Doi Suthep, some strawberry fields, and some places the taxi driver recommended. Before coming to Thailand, I had heard about lots of taxi driver scams, so I was cautious but since my Thai native friends arranged it I thought I should trust them.

We woke up early, so we could see Doi Suthep, a temple on top of a mountain at sun rise. The glow of the yellow sun rising over the town in front and the intricately designed temple, made for a stunning view.

Sunrise from Doi Suthep

Once we had soaked up the beauty of the temple we started heading out of the city. Our first stop, an elephant park. This is where red flags began to fly because we specifically told the driver we did not want to see elephants as we had already arranged to go to an elephant sanctuary on our final day. The whole time we were there the driver was trying to sell us different packages, but we politely declined and moved back to the car.

We got on the road again and shortly stopped at what I thought was a nice cafe on a creek. However, after getting coffee our driver approached us about paying an entrance fee, of about $20, to see a hill tribe above the river. The price seemed a bit extravagant to see a village, so we declined but he then came back with a counter offer of $8. As one of the Thai girls was very interested in going we decided to go up. The ‘hill tribe’ was only about two-minute walk up a slight hill and there were about 16 huts. This didn’t seem enough to host the eight different kinds of village tribes it was said to have. I overheard a tour guide explaining that all the men were out working on farms so they weren’t in the village. It didn’t take much observation to see men playing on their phones around the back of their huts. The hill tribe women are known for wearing long neck pieces but many of the women simply put them on like necklaces. The obvious tourist trap felt objectifying towards the people and especially the children that were there.

Once I happily left the ‘hill tribe’ I thought we must finally be going to the strawberry fields, but some people were getting hungry, so we had stopped at another beautiful café on the water. Here the two American girls and myself began asking the Thai girls what was going on. Before this moment we were just going with the flow as every discussion was had in Thai, but we were starting to get frustrated about never knowing what was happening and why we hadn’t gone to the strawberry field yet. They told us he wasn’t going to take us anymore because it is too far away. So, we decided we were going to speak to him as we didn’t feel it was fair that we still pay him as much if he was not providing the service we agreed on. Once we mentioned the strawberry fields to the driver he began acting like a three-year-old having a tantrum. He threw off his jacket and started walking fast back and forth saying how he never said he’d go there and it’s too far. This made me concerned that he might get in the car and drive off with our stuff, so I stood in front of the driver’s door. He came over and tried to push me out of the way, so he could get in, but I didn’t want him to go so I stayed in front of it. One of our Thai friends kept talking to him in Thai and it was clear they were arguing. Eventually after the arguing we all got back in the car, with us three English speakers still unclear about where we were going. We ended up at the campsite, so that answered that question. We got out of the car and more arguing about the price followed. We all paid about $2.50 less than originally planned so a very small discount. The whole experience was frustrating and exhausting. It also left us at our campsite 4 hours early.

We were lucky that the owner of the site, an ex-teacher, was so lovely. She made us lunch for free and showed us an area we could hang out. being in the beautiful atmosphere of the mountains was exactly what was needed after that experience. That night we had a BBQ and watched the stairs before settling for an early night.

The view from my tent

The next day we headed off back to Chiang Mai by bus this time to avoid anymore dodgy taxi drivers. Once in town we went to the infamous fried bread place that shapes bread into elephants, frogs, dragons amongst other things. We also visited an interactive art museum that proved to be a lot of fun for the afternoon.

The last day we spent in Chiang Mai was my favourite of my time in Thailand so far, we went to see the elephants! We were picked up from our hotel and taken in an open-air truck to the elephant sanctuary. Here we were able to feed, play, and wash them in a river. It was a lot of fun and the elephants seemed happy and playful. There is so much information on ethical elephant sanctuaries, but at the same time still so much you don’t know about what happens behind the scenes. The relationships between the trainers and elephants seemed so genuine and helped me believe that they really do care about the treatment of the elephants. We were even told to leave some elephants alone for a while because they did not feel like being crowded.

The baby elephant recieveing a tickle from a trainer

Chiang Mai is such a unique place with such a range of things to do there and is definitely worth a visit.

Bangkok, far exceeding my expectations

Bradley Webb, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.  


Well i have to say that after being here 2 months there is zero regret for my decision to go on exchange. This place is amazing, Bangkok you are far exceeding my expectations. This place seems to have a pool everywhere, most places you stay or visit seem to have a pool somewhere in the complex. Here is two that i recently visited.

I went exploring the city this week and went on a long boat through the city. It was amazing and surprising cheap at 3 dollars for about 2 hours up the river. Was fun playing with the pigeons at the dock, I definitely enjoyed being a little kid that day.

Finally after 6 days of humidity and feeling sticky it finally rained. Was amazing sitting on the balcony of the place i was staying and watch a monsoonal storm roll over the city. The weather here in Bangkok is surprising like Brisbane stinking heat and storms that just erupt with exceptional speed.

This student’s exchange to Thailand is generously supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan

A week in Hanoi

Who would of thought it could keep getting better. Although a number of us were a little run down and sick, we all managed to still have an amazing week that could not have been possible without the staff and students of Hanoi Medical University. Throughout the week, we did our business before exploring Hanoi with our new friends. They definetly made this part of the trip better than we could have ever imagined. With their help, we visited places we would never have gone if we didn’t have them. These Included a number of street food vendors with the best foods, a jail known as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ used throughout the 20th century and also the Hanoi night market. At the markets we danced all together on the street and played a traditional game seen in many Asian countries similar to soccer juggling but instead using a small ‘hacky sack’ with feathers attached. They took time out of their own studies and we could not be more thankful!!

 

 

 

 

 

We hope one day to return the favour over in the land of Aus. As for the research, again the school visits topped the charts. The kids were again so excited and willing to give it all a go. We danced together, learning some Vietnamese dances before teaching everyone the nutbush. They wanted our autographs and by the end of the visits we had all agreed that we did not want the life of a celebrity. It was a 10/10 experience though and I am so grateful to The New Colombo Plan and QUT for making this opportunity available.

We also had the opportunity to visit the Physical Education University which was super super cool. It was so interesting to see the differences in studies undertaken between Australia and Vietnam and learn about the employment rates. In Vietnam PE university students must undertake a 70/30 practical to theory course in order to graduate (which I wish we had).

It was so eye-opening and such a great way to make new connections and friends from Vietnam!

This program was made possible through the generous support of the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan. To discover similar programs check the QUT Global Portal.

My New Home – Hong Kong!

The City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has exceeded my expectations. The view of the high rises from the University excited me so much when I saw them and now they are constant reminder of where I am.

Arriving was daunting as you are constantly asking yourself – will I like it, is it worth it, WILL I MAKE FRIENDS? After the first 48 hours in Hong Kong these worries were put to rest. The University, even now three weeks in, is constantly a-buzz with exchange students planning activities, meals and their next adventures.

It was hugely beneficial to arrive one week prior to the start of semester as every day is needed to start getting your grips on this big crazy city. The University was helpful in getting us settled in with organised trips to IKEA, Campus Tours and Orientation meetings. They even gave every new student a Portable charging pack and a Universal Adapter (very helpful after buying the wrong adapter not once but TWICE).

CityU has around 450 inbound exchange students this semester so there was no shortage of friends to be made. Over the past few weeks there have been huge community beach and park trips which has made everyone grow close.

In only this short time that I have been here I have also fallen in love with Hong Kong itself. There is an abundance of restaurants, cafes, landmarks, locations that will keep me very busy for the next five months. What I have loved most about Hong Kong, so far, is that for such a tiny area (approximately one 8th of the size of Brisbane) there are mountains, quaint fishing villages, parks, sky scrapers, beaches (of a high quality I might add as this is always important to an Australian) and trendy shopping and nightlife areas.

In terms of the more practical aspects of change I think it was a great decision to start on campus. Primarily, it is a hub for meeting people and only a short walk away from Uni. Financially, you are receiving a much better end of the stick. My room is bigger and cleaner than those paying 5 times what I am to live off campus and the fact that Hong Kong is such a small, dense area means that you don’t need to be living ‘in the centre’ to still enjoy all the benefits of city life. You can also more easily take advantage of the cheap cafeterias that that University offers (both western and asian cuisines). I highly recommend!

I have now booked a weekend away in Taiwan and a trip to Cambodia having only been here for three weeks! I cannot wait to see what the next few weeks have in store and will report back!

Jo Kelly-Fenton

Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Bachelor of Mathematics

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan. More information available here

Top tips for Copenhagen

Yasmine E
Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

 

Need a go-to guide to Copenhagen?

Yassi’s Top CPH tips:

  • Buy a good quality bike
  • Learn the basic phrases
  • Go out and enjoy everything Copenhagen has to offer, trust me there is loads
  • Grocery shop at Lidl and Netto before Fotex
  • When it’s sunny have a day on the Go Boats
  • Eat at Paper Island, Moller and Grod
  • Spend time cycling around the cool little areas like Ostebro, Norrebro and Frederiksberg

  • Use a travel card such as the QANTAS card, it’s the cheapest way to spend money, Copenhagen uses card for everything, very few places will take cash only but many are card only. I would also recommend having multiple cards in different places in cases one is lost or stolen. No need to open a Danish bank account it will be more of a struggle and it’s super easy to just use your Australian bank card it will just charge you a few cents every time you make a purchase.
  • When you arrive in Copenhagen go to Central Station and talk to the people there about what is your best option for a transport card. I personally had 2, one monthly pass that required a passport photo and it would be a once a month payment for unlimited rides on all transport in Zone 1 and 2 but I also had a Rejsekort card which is kind of like a Go Card which I would use if I was going into Zone 3 and 4. Always make sure you pay for transport because the fines are huge!
  • Get a really great everyday backpack
  • Get comfy fashionable sneakers

  • If you are going to make any big purchases make sure they are done within 3 months of leaving Europe to get your tax back at the airport
  • Go for lunch in Sweden… literally it’s like 50 minutes away!
  • Visit other cities in Denmark like Aarhus it’s a really cool town
  • The Danes are not rude just private, don’t be offended if they seem like they are keeping to themselves but if you do need anything they are really lovely.
  • Make your room feel homely, take a trip to IKEA and get little things that will make you feel more at home.
  • PORTABLE CHARGERS!!!! They will save your life! Because it gets so cold your phone will freeze and just shut down so always have a charger with you.

If you would like to know more or have any questions at all no matter how long or small feel free to add me on Facebook and ask away! You are going to have the time of your life, trust me!

Spews, poos and smiles

What a crazy first week! From spews, to smiles, new friends, sore throats, happy kids, championships and a whole lot more. It has only been one week and already this trip has become one that will be unforgettable.
It was a little overwhelming arriving in Vietnam, not really knowing the people that you will be spending most of your time with, but didn’t that change quickly!
It took only a couple of hours before we were happily cheering our glasses and becoming immersed in the food and culture.

The first day of business involved meeting our new friends from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy. The people that we met and the friendships that we developed will be forever cherished. Not only did they welcome us with open arms, they gave us the inside scoop on places in Saigon that we would never have found on our own. During the week we, with our new friends, went to the gym, danced, ate delicious food, rocked out to songs in both Vietnamese and English at karaoke and together taught primary school children some fun games that not only tired them out but also us. We also ran some nutrition classes!


Visiting the primary schools the past week in Saigon is definitely in the running for the number one experience of the trip. The school environment was so positive and the children were so happy and eager to learn. It was so amazing to have the opportunity to run around with these kids that I would highly recommend this trip even if it was just for that one experience or even looking into placements overseas! (Even though there was a few runny poos due to dehydration 😕) Being in a school environment so different to that of Australian schools is 10/10 and something that I believe will advance your understandings of pedagogies as well as your development and perspectives as a future teacher.


On an end note, one major night to remember was Vietnam’s win in the U23 AFC football semi-final. The streets were packed and the crowds were out of this world. There were flags everywhere and continual honks of horns until early EARLY hours of the morning. It was something we had never seen before and something that we will never forget!


Week number one was a major success and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for week 2 in Hanoi.

Editor’s note: Tessa’s trip to Vietnam was made possible through sponsorship from the Australian’s governments New Colombo Plan. To discover similar programs check the QUT Global Portal.

Sometimes, you’ve gotta go with the flow on exchange

Yasmine E
Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

 

“You will love Copenhagen”
“Copenhagen is such a great city”
“Everyone in Copenhagen is so good looking”
“You will bike ride everywhere”

These are just a few of the lines I heard over and over again when I told people I was going to Copenhagen on exchange. Of course, this made me overwhelmingly excited! I mean who wouldn’t be right? But there was still this voice in my head saying “how could everyone love one place?” “Can everyone be that good looking” “I never ride a bike at home, I can’t see myself doing it every day there” Boy was I so wrong, so very wrong.

Yeah, so I did end up riding a bike… a lot.

But it wasn’t all roses at the start. Let’s go back to the beginning. I arrive into Copenhagen from travelling around Scotland and England for close to two weeks. I touch down and am instantly blown away by the amount of ridiculously good looking people, I mean everyone everywhere is drop dead gorgeous.

So I continue on in my sheer awe grab my luggage… which I am still feeling smug about getting an extra 7 kgs on for free (winning already) and catch up with my buddy that my uni Copenhagen Business School (CBS) had organised we get chatting and make our way to the Metro, this is by far the most efficient Metro system I have ever seen, there are only 2 lines and they run every 2.5 minutes. So there is no waiting and very little crowding.

We arrive at our stop and walk to the bus located in Copenhagen’s main district Norreport. It is at this point I feel an overload of new information, it is freezing cold, I am looking out for not only cars but pedestrians and now bikes too.

We cross the road and make our way to the bus, which unlike the metro is very busy and only arrives every 15 minutes. We shuffle on with try to find a decent place for all of my luggage without annoying any other commuters. I am in awe of all the buildings. The bus comes to a screeching halt and naturally I fall over all of my luggage, I am shuffling around trying to pick myself up while repeating profusely “undskyld” (pardon me) it is at this point I pull my handbag back to the front of my body and find my zipper open and my wallet was gone… sneaky bugger got me!

Instantly I was devastated and did all the right things like cancelling my cards and going to the police station to report the incident (which was not on the top of my ‘to visit’ list). It took me a few days to settle into Copenhagen after this but once the welcome week festivities began it was like nothing had gone wrong.

Even though it was a rough start, and sometimes things do go wrong, you are going to have the time of your life, trust me!

If you would like to know more or have any questions at all no matter how long or small feel free to add me on Facebook and ask away!

 

Foods, dudes and moods- Josh’s journey through asia

In short, my trip to Hong Kong was good.

The long version however, you might want to strap yourselves in for it.

So, Without further ado! lets dive headfirst into the world that was “Josh’s Exchange in Hong Kong”

Hong Kong:  the New York of the east, was where I was lucky enough to study during the latter half of 2017. No amount of preparation could have readied me for the crazy adventures and stories that followed.

I could sit here for days and type out pages of my different adventures, but I’ll keep this one readable in a sitting or two

I remember my feeling of first landing in Hong Kong, it was one of anticipation and trepidation. I had no idea what was in store for me or what was even going to happen, all I knew was that I had an interesting time ahead of me. This feeling of wonder and adventure is something that I wish you, dear reader, will experience through my writings

Looking back at it now, the things I worried about back then were insignificant, just like the myriad of problems in day to day life that we tend to exaggerate in our heads. Things have a way of working out if you stay determined and resilient. Every obstacle in your life is a wall that can be shattered, passed by, scaled and much more. Every challenge is one you can learn from.

When people asked me about living in Asia, one of the most common things that I was asked was the price of food. Now I’m going to be real with you here

The cheap food was CHEAP and expensive food was something that could bankrupt me very easily. I found myself eating “buy one get one free” egg cartons and rice very regularly. I somehow always managed to run out of food money.

I always cooked for my best friend and I during my time there. We bonded through our mutual suffering of never having enough to eat. Some of the most meagre meals we shared are some of the most important memories that I have of him.

I remember one time I had a plethora of eggs and nothing to go with them. I scrambled some eggs to have the consistency of rice to go with some other sunny side up eggs.

It was a somewhat depressing meal.I found a way to make it work though.

However, I went hungry quite a lot.

Don’t think it was always poverty living though!

Hong Kong has a plethora of Michelin star restaurants in seemingly impossible to find back alleys. Seemingly unassuming hole in the wall eateries were often Michelin recommended or better.

Food aside, one of the big points I’d like to point out is the lifestyle of Hong Kong. Living up to its name of “the New York of the east” Hong Kong is busy, crowded and  somewhat dirty- I revelled in the lifestyle.

My first few weeks were spent navigating the attractions of the island as well as exploring every district possible. I like to think of it as my excited tourist phase

I managed to see 90% of the attractions in that period. But as time passed and reality set in, I found myself used to the busy schedule. There was always a list of things to do and people to see. However, what once was a magical experience quickly became mundane. If you ask me what’s interesting about Hong Kong I wouldn’t know because it was all so normal to me.

I remember spending nearly every day I had in “Mongkok”- a district in Hong Kong. It has a world record for being the densest commercial district in Hong Kong. As an avid shopper, I quickly became familiar with the spaghetti streets and innumerable streetwear, fashion and electronics stores. Very often I’d give directions or show tourists shops that I frequented. I quickly became a local. Fashion in Hong Kong is trendy and expensive. People cared most about how much their clothing/image was and it was a race to wear as much money as possible. I admit, I was swept away in the waves of HK culture.

(My favourite shopkeeper there! she made a lot of money from me)

I quickly made friends with the shopkeepers there, I brought a lot of business to them too!

Now, like all big cities, transportation was light years better than public transport back home. The subway was fast, reliable and crowded. It was the epitome of big city transport. It was definitely preferable to the lengthy delays, slow circulation speeds and unreliable transport methods back home.

One piece of advice I’d like to give is to try and be as social as possible in the early periods of your exchange before cliques and groups are made. You can quickly veto out the groups that you don’t wish to stay with and form as many close friendships as possible. This is extremely important as you risk being isolated in a foreign land with very few people to turn to. Make friends with your dorm security guards too!

I tried to be as nice to the dorm guards, I usually waved or smiled whenever I passed. Due to this alone I was able to get away minor infringements as they would often bend the rules a little for me. I do admit I admired their work ethic though. One of the security guards I nicknamed “eagle eyes” for his sniper like eyesight and ever watchful gaze. He always smiled and nodded whenever I waved. He always worked 10 or 12 hour shifts without so much as a single complaint

He retired when I was there, I miss him.

I met some of the most interesting characters from so many different backgrounds during my time there. Many evenings and dinners were spent simply comparing our lives back in our home countries. I loved telling stories of the plethora of things in Australia that can kill you.

The sheer variety of different nationalities and cultures meant that you get a feel for how wide the world is, your eyes are opened to so many different perspectives that you never thought possible.

I was humbled.

I’m going to admit, everyone seemed to have things that they disliked about their home country. There were always complaints about this or that.

There are always things wrong with where you live, but there are always positives too!

Now if you are traveling to a country that does not speak English as the primary language, it might take time for the locals that you encounter frequently to open up to you. Don’t take offence from it though! I remember during the early period of my time in hong kong I continually offered to some of the people on my floor to join in the activities that my friends and I did. They all said the same thing

“I’m not confident in my ability to speak with you in English”

I insisted that it was fine and was rewarded with some of the nicest people I’ve met. I was able to go rock climbing for free and had friends I hope to keep for my lifetime.

 

I loved everyone there. They were some of the most interesting, varied and wonderful people I’ve ever met. It might sound a bit weird, but I like to think that even though I may not be able to see them again, they never really left my life. The memories we made together will always stick with me.

Life in Hong Kong really opened my eyes to how lazily I had lived my life until then. The lifestyle of Hong Kong was busy, it really contrasted against my life on the Gold Coast. There were so many things back home that I needed to do, and hadn’t.

I realised that I had to make changes

I can guarantee you that you will make many realisations during your time too.

Exchange is definitely an experience that will quickly mature you or break you. I mean that as it’s a situation of “do or die.” You’re stuck in a place on your own and you have to claw and tear through the difficulties that you face with your own strength.

I want to say that there are a lot of things in life that might scare you. Its normal to feel scared, but it isn’t normal to let it paralyze you. You’ve got to trust in yourself and have the courage and resilience to take that step forward, lest you may never move from where you are standing now.

STUDYING

I’m going to admit that studying in Hong Kong was something I disliked. Partly due to the fact that I somewhat didn’t take it seriously, but also because of how different the experience is compared to Australian universities. Group projects were common and always had a minimum of eight people, that’s right, eight people.

I remember spending many nights awake with a bottle of alcohol to get me through, Hong Kong was busy and so was I. Lectures consisted of three hour lectures once a week per subject. I’ll admit i often fell asleep, but then again, so did everyone else.

 

TRAVELLING

During my five months abroad, I visited a variety of locations and countries

  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan – Taipei, Hualien
  • Japan – Osaka
  • Korea – Seoul
  • Philippines – Manila, Siargao

I managed to get lost or face difficulties in every single one. I’ll admit, I have terrible travelling luck…

But what I do have, Is amazing people luck.

During my travels, I was amazed at the sheer human kindness of the people I encountered.

In Taiwan, I wasn’t able to find my Airbnb. My taxi driver stayed with me the entire time to make sure I found my place to stay. Sure he could’ve simply dropped me off at the first address but he drove with me for over an hour simply looking for where i was staying.

I had to insist that he take the 200% tip

In Korea, I met people that helped me find my way, showed me the “local experience” and fed me for free. They approached me and I’m grateful that they did. They were there when I saw snow for the first time, which was an important item on my bucket list

In Siargao, Philippines, I was beset by events that should’ve made my trip a nightmare. However, I met some of the kindest and most inspirational people in my life thus far, my dinner with them probably changed the direction that my life is going.

  • I had a 50-hour travel time to the island due to flight cancellations
  • I lost my debit card and had no money
  • I sliced my foot open x5
  • I crashed my motorcycle and had no money to pay for it
  • My flight away from the island was cancelled
  • I had nowhere to stay and nothing to eat
  • I was stranded

I’d like to highlight the last few days on the island in particular.

I met these two women on a tour and afterward we all went partying as a group with other people. The next day we all hung out and relaxed and it quickly dawned on me the extent of damage that my bike received during my crash. Due to my loss of debit card I had no money to pay for it and very few options. I seriously considered ditching the bike and leaving. I risked being beat or hunted down.

Upon hearing my story, the two women, offered to pay for the damage without hesitation. Their sheer kindness at the time nearly brought me to tears. During our dinner together, I asked for life advice from them and filled over 4 pages in my notebook from what they said alone. I would not have made it off the island without their unrelenting kindness. I look up to those two greatly, I hope to one day be able to meet them again and repay their kindness with interest.

Even my tour guide offered to go with me to talk to the bike rental agent to see if he can lessen the degree of trouble I was in.

The next day my flight was cancelled and since I had no money I was simply going to camp outside the airport as I did in Taiwan. A man sitting next to me offered to let me stay with him and the van driver that brought me to the airport offered to drive me for free.

I ended up staying with the two women from before though (don’t get any ideas).

Instead of having to sleep in a ditch somewhere I was able to have a shower and coffee without having to fear for my safety.

Like I said before, it’s this human kindness that really humbled me. None of these people had to help me, they didn’t even know me. But they did, and for that, I do not have words to explain how I feel. Those people that offered to help a stranger like me

I hope that I too, can be like them.

Now If you’ve stayed with me until now, I’d like to congratulate you on ploughing through my ceaseless rambling. I have a little more left, but stay strong!

If you are considering exchange, Go for it!

However, Exchange is what you make of it. It’s a washing machine of unforgiving circumstances that will test you as a person. I encourage you with all my being to stay resilient, be determined and most importantly,

Make the most of it! Talk to people! Learn lessons! Go places!

I know for a fact that I am a completely different and mature person from when I initially left. I’ve experienced so much that I cannot even begin to write about them all. I definitely recommend keeping a journal of the things that have happened to you, to ensure that you remember what you have learned.

I hear the phrase “I’m travelling to find myself” quite a lot. To be completely real with you here, I think it’s stupid. If you want to find yourself go to the lost and found, you might have better luck there.

What I’d rather say is to know yourself. I mean, what if you actually do manage to find yourself and you turn out to be a terrible person, what good that will do for you?

Know your strengths, your weaknesses, the things that make you who you are.

Be introspective! Be self-aware!

If you know what really makes you tick, you can capitalise on what you know and really make the best of what makes you, you.

I used to think that by studying what I was studying, I was aiming to become that profession. However, I learned that my profession is simply a means to an end.

If I am truly good at meeting people, then I must work in something that allows me to meet people.

Get what I mean? It’s something along those lines.

Finally, you should always do good (yes, I know, cliché). If you fall into the cycle of thinking that bad inputs equal good outcomes as long as you get away with it, you risk having it all come crashing down on you in an instant. All the bad you have done will drag you down.

The world is shitty enough, don’t make it worse.

Be someone that other people aspire to be like.

As I write this in the closing days of my adventure, I hope that I’ve managed to convey even a fraction of how I feel at this moment to you. I consider myself incredibly blessed to have experienced all this at my age and even more so because of the incredible people that I have met or been helped by. I am indebted to a lot of people around the world.

Just like all the people that have been kind to me, I honestly hope to pay it all forward.

I could keep rambling, but I’d seriously like to say.

Thank you, thank you for taking the time to read this.

May your own journey be worth an essay multiple pages long.

I wish you all the best in your future travels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find a real winter in the UK

Tayla B
Bachelor of Creative Industries
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

 

My experience living in England for six months studying at SHU was incredible. I had never been to England or Europe before, but having many friends living there I knew what to expect, but nothing could prepare me for the weather. I arrived in winter to freezing temperatures and I think the thing I struggled with if anything was the lack of sunlight. Once every two weeks during winter you would get a sunny day, which is nothing like I am used to growing up in Australia.

It’s colder than you might think!

Other than the lack of Vitamin D, my experience was one I will never forget. I made such an amazing group of friends, all international students, from countries all over Europe, America, Australia which made for an interesting collection of people. I was living in the city in student accommodation, which made it easy to access everything by walking and was studying in the city so class was only a 10 min walk from my house.

 

The university was super accommodating to international students and had weekly activities for us and organized trips over the country to make sure we had plenty of opportunities to meet new people. This is how I made majority of my friends, and was the best thing the university did for us.

Making friends while on exchange is the best experience

There wasn’t a lot of culture shock as it was an English speaking country, but the Brits have their own slang words that took some time to get used to!

It was a struggle to accommodate to the idea that I wasn’t on holiday the whole time- I was living there- and that it was okay to not be busy the whole time or always doing something.

The main thing that drove me to pick England was the ease of being able to travel all over the country by train and how close it was to be able to go to Europe. I spent my 22nd birthday in Paris and it was the most magical thing I could’ve ever imagined. My exchange experience was the greatest thing I have done with my education and can’t recommend it enough for anyone thinking about it.