Shopping, studying and celebrating

I feel like it’s been a whirlwind few days since I last posted. We’ve been partying, shopping and classes have also started. The weather’s been mostly blue skies, which is not what I was expecting, but today it was cloudy and drizzly… exactly what I was expecting.

There is just so much to do in the city both day and night! During the day, there’s mostly shopping (Zara, Topshop, H&M… I’m in love) but also lots of city sights. There’s an outdoor ice skating rink that is open till March and there are lots of parks and places to hang out if it’s not too cold. At night, so far, we’ve been going to places close to uni and on campus but we’re going to start venturing further afield.

Today I went to my first Leeds lecture. I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to find it that I left my hall of residence 30 minutes before. In actual fact, I made it there in 10, then found a nearby coffee shop and waited there. I’d definitely recommend being early rather than late! Here are some tips to make sure you get to your classes on time.

– Try to visit your buildings a few days before
– If you take a campus tour, ask your guide to point buildings on your timetable
– Double check the times and locations on your timetable

It’s all pretty logical stuff but it’s really important. You do not want to be late here in Leeds because the lectures and seminars are much smaller than home. Another thing I noticed is that no one leaves before the official finish, so plan to be there for the entire scheduled time. At QUT, there seems to be a mass exodus at the break or a bit before class finishes (which is kind of rude) but here, it’s just not done.

I’ve made friends with lots of internationals and locals so far. You meet so many people in your first week but you’ll find the people that live near you are the ones you’ll see the most. This is a photo of myself, Georgia (also from QUT), Christina (from Canada) and Malorie (from the US).

Tomorrow is Australia Day so Georgia and I are cooking vegemite scrolls and fairy bread to serve the other internationals and UK students in our halls. In the evening, the local Australian pub, called the Walkabout Inn, is having Australia Day celebrations so I’ll let you know how that all goes.

Hi Leeds, nice to meet you!

Well I’ve been in England for a few days now and can safely say this place is amazing. My first flight left from Brisbane close to 3am on Tuesday 18 and I was so overtired/excited that I couldn’t sleep. Three long haul flights, 4 inflight meals and 7 movies later, I got to Heathrow. It took a bit of time to get off the plane, lug my bag off the carousel and work out which bus stop to go to. Stepping outside, the weather was not as freezing as I thought it would be but still pretty cold.
I decided to spend one night at a hotel near the airport because the trip from Heathrow to Leeds is three or four hours. I’d definitely recommend doing this so you’re in transit during the day. There’s nothing worse than being lost when it’s dark, cold and you’re by yourself.

I ended up booking my train tickets online, and this saved me a bit of money, but next time I’ll be booking further in advance to save a bit more. I caught the Express from Heathrow to London Paddington and had my first Tube experience to Kings Cross. It was so crowded my bag hardly fit, but people were really helpful so if you’re struggling they always offered a hand. Then, finally got on the East Coast to Leeds and who was seated next to me but an exchange student, headed to Leeds, from Australia, Brisbane… UQ. What a crazy coincidence!

I’m in a hall of residence on the university campus called Charles Morris. It’s so nice and new, it reminds me more of a hotel room. I’m lucky that I have my own bathroom and a kitchen between five people. Also, a lot of last semesters exchange students have just moved out so they’ve given us heaps of stuff they didn’t want to take home. So don’t bring too many blankets, towels, jumpers, coat hangers, etc. because you may find people wanting to get rid of those things. The Leeds Uni Union also had a “free shop” where people moving out just gave away their stuff so us newbies picked up lots of things there as well.

When first arriving on exchange, I’d definitely recommend going to as many orientation briefings, arrival events and tours as possible. Firstly, you get important information. Secondly, you meet local students who can give in inside tips and tricks and thirdly, you meet lots of international students from all over the world! Leeds has so many international students, there are at least 350 of us on exchange this semester, so it’s a great place to make friends from across the globe. I’ve met people from the US, Canada, Brazil, France, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and, obviously, the UK.

I’m so impressed by the amazing campus. There’s this library called the Brotherton Library and it reminds me of a small version of the Library of Congress in America with the big dome and circular design. There is also a building called the Great Hall so as a bit of a Harry Potter nerd, I think that’s awesome. I’m also really impressed by the union building. Unlike our student guild, their union building is literally like a shopping centre. It has convenience stores, bakeries, hairdressers, optometrists, two pubs and three clubs inside!

I’ve been really surprised by the affordability of everything as well. A meal at the refectory is between 3 and 5 pounds and clothes can be bought really cheap in the city. If you’re going out, drinks cost between 1 and 3 pounds so compared to home, everything seems so cheap.

Well that’s all for now from a chilly Leeds!

Law exchange to Canada

When I decided to come on exchange to Canada, I wanted to go somewhere different, so I chose a city I had never heard of before- Halifax, Nova Scotia. Before I arrived here, I spent a week on the West Coast of Canada, and whenever I told anyone there I was coming to study in Halifax, the response was always the same- Why?? I was a little deterred but still excited (and as I have since learnt, for good reason!). My flight into Halifax arrived in a flurry of snow. I was like a child on Christmas looking out the window but got a cold punch of reality once I left the heated building. The first skill you need to learn upon arrival in Canada is the art of layering your clothes. Inside every building, the heating is raging full bore, and you have to remove gloves, beanies (or ‘touques’ as the Canadians call them), scarves, coats and sometimes jumpers too in order to feel comfortable, then load them all back on again when its time to leave the building.

The morning I arrived in Halifax was orientation day for exchange students, so I had to race to Fenwick Tower (the tallest building east of Montreal, pictured below) where Dalhousie University houses its international and exchange students. We occupy the 32nd and 33rd floors (top two floors) and have the most amazing views of the harbour, downtown and suburban Halifax. The floor is all open plan and is basically a huge common room and kitchen with bedrooms and bathrooms forming the edges. In Fenwick this semester is a mix of 3 Aussies, 5 Kiwis, a bunch of French boys, a chick from Norway, another from Beunos Aires, and a few Chinese people… quite a mix! We all trekked over to Dalhousie University for the day to learn the necessary ins and outs of life and study in Halifax.

Here’s a few fun facts about Halifax and Canada: Blue sky and sun does not mean it is warm, Halifax has the second most pubs and bars per capita in the world (great news for the party students), Canadians can rarely (if ever) tell the difference between a New Zealand and Australian accent, pedestrians have COMPLETE right of way- even if you step out onto the road in front of a bus, it will stop for you, you have to pay to receive text messages and phone calls (it also costs extra to have people’s names come up on your screen when they call), they don’t have Visa debit cards and they still use cheques (checks in Canadian spelling) to pay for things! So backwards in some ways! It is also socially acceptable to wear ugg boots (everywhere: to class, the supermarket, out for lunch etc) and the boys here haven’t been introduced to jean brands such as Nudie or Ksubi, and still get around in the ugliest baggie jeans (often paired with running shoes- yep, thats right, along with uggs in public, the joggers and jean combo is quite the norm!)

We have become quite a close group at Fenwick already, despite having only been here a few weeks. Class is slightly different to QUT. For law- everyone is post grad (except me!) so I’m the youngest in all my classes and noone can believe I began studying law straight out of high school and that if I hadn’t done a double degree I would already be working as a lawyer. Also there are no tutorials. The classes are called lectures, but in reality they are ‘lectorials’ and highly interactive. I have no assignments all semester, but four 100% exams in April, with two being closed book (eeeeeek)! There is also a lot more preparation expected to be done for each class and walking into the law library is like turning on the ‘mute’ button for life- noone dares even whisper (a massive change from the entry level of the QUT law library!). Obviously another massive difference is walking to ‘school’ in the snow.. still a massive novelty which I’m sure the regular students don’t appreciate!

We get a ‘spring break’ (they call it reading week here) in February, so myself and a few of the girls from Fenwick have booked a week’s holiday to the Bahamas. As you do! The Dalplex (university gym/ sports centre) has organised a skiing/ snowboarding day trip this weekend to the closest mountain (about an hours drive). Included in the $30 price is transport, snowboard hire, lift pass and a lesson- what a bargain!

Weather in Halifax is a little bit bipolar. Some mornings are blue sky and sun (still freezing cold) but after a 2 hour lecture, you shouldn’t be surprised if you walk out into a blizzard, 60 km/ hr winds, pouring rain, light snow or any combination of those!

Canadians are the loveliest, most helpful and welcoming people I have ever come across. As soon as you open your mouth anywhere, they are ready for a chat about where you are from and more than happy to invite you to a ‘kegger’ (keg/ beer party) at their ‘buddy’s’ place on the weekend after knowing you for a whole 2 minutes! This is definitely a student city, everyone under the age of 25 seems to be a Dal student and the nightlife (as you would expect from the amount of drinking establishments) is awesome. Live music is a big thing here, and the cover bands and original songs are indescribably good!

I would recommend Halifax and Dalhousie to anyone in a heartbeat. Living costs are much the same as Brisbane and the travel opportunities from here are endless (and quite cheap!).. I’m dreading the day this exchange ends, but I will definitely be back in Canada as soon as I can afford the airfare!

Living on campus/in a real winter

There is not one sign of rain here. Instead, freshly fallen, fluffy white snow. As I look out my window it seems like a scene out of a sickly romantic movie… snow on the eaves of the white wooden houses, orange lit street lanterns and trees dusted white with snow. But don’t be deceived! It’s -9 degrees celsius outside!!!

To me it’s the best ever. Finally I can justify buying heaps of woollen fluffy scarves, thick winter coats and knee high boots. Sledding, snow angels, warm hot chocolates in a legit wood fire heated room…all that good stuff that you just don’t quite get in Brisbane. This is only a tiny snap shot of Purdue University in Indiana, USA.

Here’s more…

That is where I live. It is called Twin Pines, and it is a cooperative house. Here in America everyone lives on campus, and there is three types of housing systems. 1 – Dorm. 2- Greek system (Frats/Sororities). 3-Cooperative system. In the cooperative system you live, well, cooperatively. I have 2.5 hours of meal duties a week where with other girls I cook or clean up after meals, and a cleaning duty 3 times a week. Rent is extremely cheap at $385 a month which includes food, utilities, internet and cable tv! This is different to the Greek system where people cook and clean for you and you have a ‘mother’ who lives with you. In the co-op system you live just with other college students.

And let me say IT IS AWESOME. Living with 28 girls who are a very similar age. There is always something going on, someone to hang out with, someone to go to Walmart with 🙂 There are organised events within the house and with other cooperative houses… so plenty of opportunity to meet people and have fun.

So far we’ve had games night, karaoke, outdoor iceskating, and last weekend we held a Barbie and Ken party at our house. It was to celebrate the end of pledgeship for the newest recruits of the house. (Yes they do pledge, but remove mean girls from your mind right now).  Here’s a pic from the party

It was a whole lot of fun. Anyway, pledging. To get into the houses you come to open days and have interviews and it is quite an involved process. Once you’re in, you do things to bond with your house and your pledge sisters. Like remodel a room in the house, fundraise etc etc. ‘Hazing’ is strictly banned, and the things you do are fun and really meaningful. But don’t worry, if you’re on exchange, you’re classified as a border and you don’t do any of this. Just pay rent and move in!

The point of this post is..if you’re coming to America on exchange. Try, try, try your hardest to get into a coop house. They are so much cheaper (and better i might add) than dorms or the greek system, and you have 28 friends instantly 🙂 Also if you’re coming to Indiana in the Spring semester, bring warm stuff.

Until next time…