Edinburgh, take one!

This weekend, I went to Edinburgh for ScotMUN. In case anyone hasn’t read the other blogs, this was the Scottish Model United Nations and I was the delegate for Grenada on the Historical Security Council. The council was set back in October 1983 when the US invaded Grenada!!

Now we’ll go back to the beginning. On Friday, I arrived in Edinburgh early in the afternoon and was met at the station by my old Brisbane school friend Dom, who is studying in Edinburgh! It was so amazing to see her again for the first time since year nine. Walking through Edinburgh, you can only marvel at the old stone buildings, Edinburgh castle and the statues that seem to be on every street corner.

Before I continue, I have to profess myself as a bit of a Harry Potter nerd. Make your judgements and then continue reading.

As we headed towards Edinburgh University, we walked past a café called The Elephant House. This is the café where J.K.Rowling wrote a lot of Harry Potter. Then we walked by Greyfriars Graveyard, where she got the inspiration for a lot of the characters in the books. Yes, you can actually visit Tom Riddle’s grave!!! There is also a road near the uni called Potter Row (no need for elaboration).

Then, once I had finished marvelling at the endless Harry Potter related sites in the immediate vicinity, I headed to ScotMUN registration. Here I got my name tag, folder, guide, notepad, pen and all important placard. Notably, I was actually representing QUT at this conference so Australia did get mentioned in the guide (be very proud) At this point, I’d like to state the University of Edinburgh is beautiful! Here’s a picture of the old Medical School, where we had our committee sessions.

We then headed to Dom’s residents and one of her housemates was generous enough to let me borrow her room while she was away for the weekend. It was so lovely of them to be so hospitable and hopefully when they come to Leeds I’ll be able to return the favour! On Friday evening, I had the Opening Ceremony followed by welcome drinks in the student union (the oldest one in the UK).

On Saturday we had our first committee sessions. As was expected, the USSR, China and Cuba were all supporting me and my communist state. The US were against us and everyone else fell somewhere in between. We made really great progress, including a presidential statement, and headed off for a committee dinner afterwards for a well-deserved meal. Then, it was back to the student union for the traditional Scottish Ceilidh! It was lots of highland dancing and we really didn’t understand the instructions from the band but it was so much fun and very cultural. Here are some photos of the dancing and another delegate, Leeanna, taking a break from all the hopping, skipping and twirling!

Sunday then rolled around and a few of the delegates seemed rather “worse for wear”. I, on the other hand, was a little too enthusiastic, arriving at the uni half an hour early. So I decided to go to The Elephant House and have a cup of tea looking at the view of Edinburgh Castle. I did not start writing a soon-to-be bestselling series about a boy wizard but maybe next week!

Once committee started again, all the delegates were keen to start working towards a resolution. The committee came up with what I thought was a great resolution but, being the Security Council, the USSR and USA had the power to veto our resolution… which they did. Oh well, we sort of saw it coming and we did come very close. At the closing ceremony they announced honourable mentions for each committee as well as awarding best delegate… and… I won Best Delegate! YAY!!

So as you can see I had a wonderful and very successful weekend in Edinburgh and I can’t wait to head back next weekend to be more of a tourist!!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

A lot has happened since I last posted. IT SNOWED! But that’s just one part. So I’ll go about this in chronological order.

On Friday night we went to Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant here in Leeds. For the quality of food, it wasn’t that expensive, you’d pay more in Australia. More importantly, the desert was amazing and I can say I went to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant!

Afterwards we went to Fruity, the biggest student night out in Leeds. Fruity is every Friday in the Leeds University Union and they basically have all three clubs each playing different music. My favourite was the one that played S-Club, Spice Girls, the Friends theme, the Fresh Prince theme, Hanson, Michael Jackson and Backstreet Boys. As you can tell, I have quite discerning taste. Two people from the cast of “misfits” were also there… it’s like a British version of Heroes, where they all have weird superpowers. Fruity was so much fun and we’ll definitely be heading back in the coming weeks.

On Saturday morning we woke up to a lovely surprise… IT WAS SNOWING!!! While my friends from Canada and America who get snow all the time didn’t share our appreciation, the rest of us were running around like lunatics yelling, “IT’S SNOWING!!!”

When we finally stopped acting like typical tourists in the snow, we boarded the bus to Cambridge. It took a few hours to get there but the university was just incredible! We were walking into building built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and we saw the Cambridge University Press, King’s College, Trinity College and the Fitzwilliam Museum. You know a museum has an amazing collection when anything AD seems new! We saw a mummy, sarcophaguses, ancient Greek and Roman artifacts as well as paintings including the likes of Monet! It was very impressive. I also got to catch up with a friend who I hadn’t seen in 10 years who was studying at Cambridge so it was great to see her too.

Since then I’ve just been doing some uni study but mostly research for this weekend’s Model United Nations in Edinburgh. I now know more about the 1983 US invasion of Grenada than I ever thought I would. I’ve also been doing lots of extra-curricular activities. I went to cheerleading training for two hours on Tuesday night, contemporary dance for an hour tonight and tomorrow I have a United Nations meeting and a jazz dance class. Joining these activities has allowed me to meet a lot more local students as well as opportunities to compete and travel around the UK so I would definitely recommend that all exchange students get involved in at least one activity.

Well that’s everything for now. I’ll let you know how ScotMUN goes this weekend!

Dear Trains… why do you hate me???

On Friday morning, I boarded a train that I thought was taking me to London where I was going to spend the weekend at the London International Model United Nations conference hosted by Imperial College. I had been warned about the cost of train travel and the value of booking tickets in advance online to save money. I had looked up Imperial College, booked myself into a hostel literally next door and worked out that my nearest train station was Gloucester Road. When booking my ticket online, there was no Gloucester Road option so, in my stupidity, I assumed the Gloucester station would be nearby….


For a quick lesson in UK geography, Gloucester is near the border of Wales! Something I was unaware of until I arrived there and realised I clearly was NOT in London. I felt so upset/annoyed/stupid and had to go up to the ticket booth practically in tears to work out how to get to London. I successfully turned a three hour journey from Leeds to London into an eight hour marathon via Woop Woop. To put the sheer magnitude of my stupidity into context for you, it’s like going from Brisbane to Sydney via Uluru.

Once I got to London, I had already missed the opening ceremony and registration so I headed straight to the first committee session. I was in the Iraqi Crisis Cabinet as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I met some amazing people in committee and enjoyed conspiring to undermine stability in the entire Middle East region – fun times! A dam on the Syrian-Turkey border was bombed, then someone set fire to our Iraqi oil field, then Turkey invaded Northern Iraq’s Kurdish region so we declared a state of self-defence under Article 51, then we had a lull so decided to invade Syria and, subsequently, Iraq was invaded by Iran. Very realistic if you ask me!

In the Iraqi Cabinet, I met one of the organisers of ScotMUN so – long story short – I’m off to Edinburgh in two weeks! YAY!! I’m really excited because I’ve been given a position on the Historical Security Council. Don’t want to give too much away but my country is going to get invaded! US vs. Grenada… time to brush up on my Cold War knowledge.

Our Director/Prime Minister was Hiruni who I’d met at previous Model UN conferences in Australia so it was really great to catch up with her. The social events included a really good committee dinner on Friday night (Salmon…mmmmmmm) and a huge party at Tiger Tiger near Piccadilly Circus.

Now back to the fact that the UK train system has a personal vendetta against me. On my way home I was delayed by two and a half hours!!! Didn’t arrive home till the early hours of this morning due to “engineering on the line”… so anyone coming for the 2012 Olympics better appreciate the fact that they’ll get a seamless journey because the 2011 travellers are suffering for it. Once I eventually got back I was so exhausted after what was a busy, crazy and, at times, frustrating weekend. At this point I could probably insert a very famous Tony Abbott quote… but I’ll restrain myself.

So that explains why I need to avoid trains… well, until I go to Edinburgh at least 🙂

Life as a Canadian student

So one month into classes and myself and the other exchange students have settled into something of a routine..
I am unlucky enough to have scored a timetable that requires me to go to class every day (something I have never had to do as a result of QUT’s many tutes and online streamed lectures!), but it gets me out of the apartment, into the freezing air and surprise, surprise, also gets me into the library!
The expectations for readings to be done before class are a lot higher than QUT.. 50+ pages to be read in 2 days is not an unusual request. None of my classes have tut participation, textbooks or offer tut questions to be prepared before class, so it is all about reading the cases and articles in the reading material print-out books they made us law students buy, and trying to wrap your head around the principles they enunciate.. being a ‘post-grad’ student often has my head spinning!

I also have no assignments. Not one. But guess what that means- 100% exams. Most of them closed book! I thought a 70% open book was a bad exam, so I am dreading the stress levels I am going to go through!!

Before arriving, I had heard some not-so-great reports about Fenwick Tower, where Dalhousie University houses most of its exchange students (google it and you’ll read about an ‘eyesore’ that sways in storms and is falling apart). I applied for the on-campus residences but as they are incredibly popular amongst first year students and my application was a month late, I missed out and was assigned to Fenwick. I was pretty unimpressed but dont believe everything you read!

Fenwick is old, it is a bit dodgy and quite often I can hear the wind whistle through the aged window seals in my room… BUT- it is across the road from the supermarket (massive plus when you dont have a car), it is halfway between uni and downtown and it is near several bus routes. In addition, everyone who lives in ‘res’ on campus is a first year (19). Being nearly 22, I am much preferring living with people closer to my own age (some older and some younger).

Being horribly disorganised in the morning, the bus route convenience is a massive bonus. If you miss one bus, there are another 3 options. If, like me, you miss all 4, it is only a 15 minute walk into campus. But be warned- it can be a very cold or slippery walk!

Last week we had out first snow day. A storm had been predicted all week, but after checking the uni website in the morning and reading that they were still open, I walked into uni in the light flurries of snow that were falling (yep- I missed all 4 busses again!). After one 2 hour lecture, however, I checked the website again before going to my next class and low and behold, school was cancelled for the rest of the day!

I waited at the bus stop for ages (not wanting to walk back in the now massive snowflakes and wind) and experienced the passion of the Dal student community. A protest (or “rally” as they call it) had been organised for that day and those involved were not about to let a little snowstorm prevent them from yelling about the proposed increase in fees.

The bus finally arrived (delayed because of the road conditions) and I jumped on to find 2 of my kiwi housemates also on board. When we got to our stop the 3 of us jumped off the bus into massive snowdrifts (up to our knees). We proceeded to walk the whole way home jumping in and out of deep snowdrifts and kicking snow at each other.

Canadians walking past must have thought someone had slipped us some illegal substances, as all the locals wanted to do was get inside and out of the storm!

The following Friday was “Munro Day” for Dal students, a day for which the uni closes and there are no classes for the day. The day is in honour of someone with the last name “Munro” who apparently donated a whole chunk of money way back in the day when Dal was running out and would have had to close otherwise. Anyway, the uni organised a snowboarding/ skiing trip for the day to Wentworth (the best ski mountain close to Halifax). The sky was blue, the mountain had a good amount of powder and the group of people we went with were great. This was probably my favourite day in Halifax so far!

Next weekend signifies the beginning of “Reading Week” aka Spring Break/ mid-sem break. Myself and the 3 Kiwi girls and 1 Aussie girl that I live with are taking advantage of our proximity and heading to the Bahamas for a week- as you do! Very much looking forward to getting some sun and being in the warmth (as much as I love the Canadian cold and snow!)

Our motto for everything here is- “You’re only on exchange once” so we are all taking the most of every opportunity we can. Last weekend we also watched the Superbowl (how American!) but it just wasn’t the same as a rugby game!

The next two weeks here are also the “Canada Games” which Halifax is hosting this year. We have tickets to the ice-hockey semi-final and are going to get tickets for a few more events. Should be some good live sporting action!

Until next time…

Will I hate the food in America?

I think it’s time to delve into that issue. Sure, if you choose Asia as your exchange destination, your taste buds are sure to be tantalised with dumplings, stir fries, herbal tea and fresh ingredients.

In America…it’s a little different. Here where I live in a co-op…I’ve realised two key things.

1. Don’t expect fresh produce. Indiana is landlocked, and right now is completely frozen. The food is mostly frozen and what is ‘fresh’ has been brought in from afar and is already days old. Expect to be served tinned fruit in syrup and vegetables from the freezer, not the fridge. Also, tinned chicken is normal. Beware!

2. Fast food doesn’t have to be greasy. It’s America so as you’d expect there’s plenty of cheesy pizza, oily fries and greasy burgers. This picture is of Mad Mushroom cheesy bread… very cheesy, very fatty, very delicious..

But there are also many healthy options!


The link above is to Jimmy Johns. They make sandwiches ‘freaky fast’. No joke!! I ordered  and timed one at 2am on Saturday night and it was at my doorstep in 4 minutes.

There are also plenty of salad options at most food outlets. Another handy hint here is that ‘salad’ seems to mean lettuce leaves and dressing. You generally will need to ask for the extras items if you want tomatoes, cucumber, carrots etc as well.. Also, peppers means capsicum!

Mexican inspired food is very popular. Taco Bell is in my opinion low-grade, especially as they are currently in a law suit because their ‘seasoned ground beef’ was found to be more ‘other substances’ than beef. La Salsa is a chain store but it is delicious. Tacos, burritos, nachos and more all mostly under $6 and the portion sizes are huge!

I think that just about covers eating in Indiana. You most probably will miss your mothers cooking!!

For now,

Kendall 🙂

In love with London (and Leeds too)

After spending the weekend in London, I am still buzzing from the excitement days later. It was just so incredible to see all those landmarks that have featured in movies, TV and magazines up close and personal. Some were bigger than I had imagined, others were smaller but everything was breathtaking.

We left Leeds on Saturday morning and arrived in London around lunch time. Myself, Georgia, Malorie and Christina had booked tickets to the matinee session of “We Will Rock You” on West End, so we headed there soon after arriving. The show was amazing and completely reignited my love for Queen songs. I’ve had Bohemian Rhapsody stuck in my head for 4 days… it’s great! Then we went to Chinatown for dinner because it was Chinese New Year. It was nice to have non-refectory food for once – as much as I love the refectory – I appreciated the change. Later on we headed to a pub near Trafalgar Square and then out to a club in Camden Town. It was so much fun partying with the whole tour group and getting to know new friends from around the world.

Here in Leeds, I’ve successfully conquered my two and a half weeks of classes. There were a few hiccups like learning that ground floor and first floor are not interchangeable here, forgetting a calculator for a statistics class (dumb) and walking to the opposite end of campus only to realise the building I was after was next door to my residence. One thing that’s really different is fewer contact hours but you are expected to do a lot more reading and independent study. You only have tutorials (or seminars, as they’re called here) every second week. For most subjects here, I have one 100% assessment in mid-late May. These generally seem to be a 3000 word essay or 2 hour exam. Some of them have smaller assessments, like presentations or posters, but these are rare and mostly unassessed.

Now last time, I promised to tell you about our Australia Day adventures! Well we had a great day and celebrated despite the cold. There was no beach cricket or barbeques in the park but we did make our vegemite and cheese scrolls and fairy bread for our UK, American and Canadian friends.

We then ventured down to the Walkabout Inn which was full of Australians and wannabe Australians. However, as soon as an Australian song came on you could very quickly work out who was faking it. If you don’t know the words to Men at Work’s “Land Down Under” then you’re clearly not Australian. There were so many Australian flags and wallaby jerseys, it was very comforting.

Well that’s it from me for now. I’m going to hit the books again before heading back to London this weekend for the London International Model United Nations – I’ll keep you posted!