Exams are over!

I’ve finished my last exam in Leeds! And my emotions are somewhere between absolute elation and devastation. On the one hand, I am so happy that all the pressure is off. I actually studied really hard, particularly for statistics because it’s not something that comes naturally to me, and now I don’t have to worry about anything. But on the other hand, it means my Leeds experience has unofficially come to an end. I’ll still be hanging around for a few weeks but, realistically, all my classes are finished and the university semester is over.

Since returning from Germany, I’ve spent the better part of two weeks inside my study cave (aka my room). Last week, Ash came to visit en route back to Australia so it was fun to have a friend from Australia around. We then went to London to visit Kim (again). It’s just crazy that that was the last time I’m going to stay with Kim in London… sad face. We went and saw Legally Blonde which was incredible! The performers were just out of this world and I really love all the songs.

We then went to a few locations near Leicester Square. London nightlife is fun but expensive! I only stayed in London for one night because I needed to come back to Leeds to study so I bid farewell to Ash and Kim and came back on Sunday.

So I had my exam schedule: Tuesday, 9am, Advertising and Promotion Management and Thursday, 9am, Introductory Statistics for Management. The whole 100% exam thing still freaks me out! I hate that if you happen to have a bad day or just luck out on that one exam it’s all over. Thankfully I studied really well for both exams and I’m pretty sure that I’ve done okay on both. I was particularly scared about statistics because it was multiple choice so you couldn’t pick up extra marks for correct working and if you got one value wrong and carried it through you were likely to get the next five questions wrong as well. My two exams were sat in the concert hall in the student union and the gym. It’s pretty overwhelming walking into the gym to sit your exam with about 500 other student. Everyone has individually allocated seats and it’s a lot like the QCS with really structured rules and procedures.

In other news, it was my sister’s eighteenth birthday on Monday! I sent a giant package of presents from all over Europe a few weeks back and it made it in time – YAY! It was really hard not to be there to celebrate with her but I skyped home at midnight, over breakfast and after they got home from dinner so I didn’t feel totally left out. Most importantly, my sister had a great day and is looking forward to her party this weekend. Happy Birthday Demi!!

Wednesday was State of Origin day. State of Origin is quite a big deal in my house and always a fun event that poor mum spends supporting the Blues (to no avail). The rest of the family generally has a better time as avid Maroons! And once again, we were victorious! I listened to the online ABC Grandstand commentary and whenever someone scored I skyped home to watch the replay. (I told you State of Origin was a big deal in my family) I stopped short of going to the Australian bar at 10.30am because I did have study to do… so that’s good, right?

So it’s been quite a few days and that’s the academic part of my exchange done and dusted! Tomorrow I’m heading to Paris for the Paris International Model United Nations. I’m going to be the chairperson of the Security Council which I’m really excited about because it’s the first time I’ll be a chair! Our topics are security protocols on the North and South Poles and the situation in Sudan.  Apart from the MUN itself, I’m planning some serious sightseeing adventures. I mean, it is Paris!!

So, till next time, au revoir!

Mostly Maastricht plus a bit of Belgium and a day in Dusseldorf

So, there are these things called business case competitions. In a nutshell, all these different universities from around the world send four or so business students to analyse, solve and present business solutions, it’s a bit like management consulting. Last year I was lucky enough to compete in a few of these. You get to travel to the most amazing places and meet really incredible people from all over the world.

This week, I was in Maastricht, near the bottom of the Netherlands. Ash and Larry (our advisor extraordinaire) had already been in Europe for a few days but when I met Rob and Luke at Dusseldorf airport, they had just finished 30 HOURS of travelling! After my 2 hours, I really appreciated the convenience of England.

The competition, ICC@M, had 16 teams from all over the world. Everywhere from America to Singapore, Germany to Hong Kong. We did a t-shirt exchange and ended up with shirts from Italy, Portugal and New Zealand!

Before the actual competition started, we had a scavenger hunt around the city and a trivia night (which we won!!)

We did three cases in total – the first two were three hours of preparation and the last was 24 hours. Three hours absolutely flies by when you have to read a case, pull together the data, create a solution/strategy and create a twenty minute presentation. The first case was about Hugo Boss fragrances and we came third in our division. The second one was about Amrath Grand Hotel and we won our division for that case! YAY! The final case was about APG, one of the biggest superannuation fund in the Netherlands and we had to advise them on an investment opportunity in timberland internationally. I never thought I’d know so much about the investment implications of the forestry industry.

In the middle of the week we also went for a bike ride to Belgium because you can do that here! Just crazy!!

We ended up being really great friends with the team from Italy. They didn’t have an advisor so Larry took them under his wing so we did our preparation and socialising mostly with them. I really appreciated having some girls to hang out with and not being out numbered four to one in the QUT team anymore!

So after all our fun competing, sightseeing and partying in Maastricht, the week was over! Bidding farewell to everyone is always sad but we have great memories of our time together and new friends to visit all over the world.

I then decide to spend a day in Dusseldorf because my friend Ramona lives there. We first visited her family and then went for a walk around the city. We went up the tower which had an amazing view of the city. There are lots of really old buildings and the whole city is around the Rhine. Ramona showed me all the cool sites and we had so much fun.

Dusseldorf was extra exciting because it was hosting the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. For anyone who doesn’t know what that is – youtube it and laugh! Basically, it comprises of one competitor from each country and then all the countries vote on who should win. There are sometimes a select number of decent songs but these are by far outweighed by eurotrash, uber-cheesy pop and just generally appalling music – excellent for comedic value. Some of the weirdest had to be Ireland and this one with a girl on a unicycle (can’t remember the country). The UK’s entry was Blue so at least I had heard of one group amongst a sea of faces I’ve never seen. In the end, Azerbaijan were the winners so next year, that’s where the finals are going.

So now I’m back in Leeds – study time again! I have two 100% exams coming up so time to do some revision.

Essay writing and other fun times

Okay, so it was recently brought to my attention that I have been failing to talk about Leeds in my blog. So it is high time that changed.

Two weeks ago, I had three essays due in three weeks. One of the problems with exchange is that you’re having so much fun and then it will suddenly dawn on you… “hang on, I have three essays due this week!”

Thankfully I had a good start, as I mentioned on my last blog, but I still basically locked myself in my room until they were written. I looked like a super-nerd borrowing twelve books out of the library and I’m pretty sure the straps on my bag were only a couple of grams away from snapping.

At least my essays were all very different – a journalism ethics paper, a business and climate change brief and a reflective essay. The journalism one was worth 100% of my mark which really puts a lot of pressure on. 100% assessments have good and bad points. From one side, it means that you can travel and enjoy yourself during the semester and work really hard at the end but on the other hand you cannot afford to do badly as it’s basically the WHOLE unit.

The submission methods here are slightly different too. You have to go to the office of each individual school (for me, business and communications) and fill in a form. Unlike assignment minder they close around lunch time so you have to submit a lot earlier. There is also an online submission that they run through “turn it in” to check for plagiarism.

I haven’t got any marks back but the exchange results translate to QUT as a pass or fail and don’t affect my GPA. As long as I pass everything, I will be a very happy camper.

So after spending days writing my essays, it was time to celebrate! On Thursday we went to one of the international student parties. This time it was “James Bond” themed.

Friday was our residence’s ball… AT A CASTLE!! They just have all these castles all over the country so why not? Although I had quite a funny conversation with a local because they had never realised that we don’t have castles in Australia, hahaha.

So there is my dedicated Leeds update. The next one is back to my usual form: the Netherlands (with quick side adventures to Belgium and Germany).

Semester One comes to an end at Purdue

It is finals week!!! This signals the end of Semester One 2011 at Purdue! It is hard to believe how quickly time has flown by and I do apologise for the lack of posts…I thought I would make this one a sort of snapshot of key events from the past couple of months. Enjoy 🙂

1. Basketball. In the Spring semester it is basketball season. to put it lightly, it is a big deal. Players train at least 6 times a week and many are ‘scouted’ from all around and come on scholarships and have their tuition paid for (which is also a big deal..no HECS here!). They are celebrities on campus! I went to three games at they are awesome! General tickets are around $40 so most students opt for season tickets to save $$$ so if you are really a bball fan consider doing this… The atmosphere at games is incredible and the school spirit is unmatchable..like nothing I have ever experienced in Australia. They have the band which plays little tunes which the audience sings along to, roaring fans, loud clapping and even booing at the other teams…Americans are die hard fans of their college and it is just great to see. I’d definitely recommend catching a game or if you’re here in the Fall, you’re here for football!

2. Grand Prix Week. Probably one of the biggest things on the campus-wide social calendar is Grand Prix. This is where people from houses (either co-operative, frat or sorority) build a go kart and race. In celebration of this, people party all week long and have ‘cookouts’, play frisbee and party in the night. I had a lot of fun on the slip n slide as you can see in this picture…

3. Spring Break. For Spring Break I went to Panama City Beach in Florida. It is where most people from the midwest go for a week by the beach to escape the cold of the winter. I went with 4 girls from my house and  5 boys from a boys house. We drove the 14 hours to get there…typical U.S road trip! It was a lot of fun.

4. Easter break. Over the Easter I went with my room mate to Fort Wayne, about a two hour drive from West Lafayette where Purdue is. It was a great weekend filled with lots of delicious food and great company. Pictured is the spread from lunch at her grandma and grandpa’s house, which is a working soy farm!

So many other great experiences have been had this semester, that I made the decision to extend until for the Fall Semester until December 19! For those wondering, the process was relatively easy…I had to change my flights which was a $300 fee, obtain permission from the exchange office at QUT. They then consulted with Purdue to see if there was an opening and there was! From there I had to get a bank letter stating I was ‘financially stable’ and then get an extension of my DS-2019, the permit stating I can legally be in the U.S. Once that was all complete it was just a matter of telling/convincing family to agree!! Expect great things from my upcoming blogs….summer travel: NY, San Francisco, San Diego, Yosemite/Yellowstone National Parks and more, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Halloween. This I probably doesn’t even nearly cover it!

For now,

Kendall x

Greece, Turkey and Royal Wedding – WOW!

So when Leeds University gifts you with one month of holidays there is only one thing you can do – make the most of it!! After returning from Spain and spending a few days in Leeds studying, it was time to head overseas again! We were flying out of Liverpool so Georgia and I took the chance to visit the Beatles Museum.

After our quick foray to Liverpool we left for Rhodes, Greece. Rhodes is a large island in the southeast of Greece with lots of historical ruins. Old Rhodes town is so cool with heaps of little restaurants and shops amongst the ruins.

We also got to go to the beach but the water was really cold. It’s still Spring here so there weren’t a tonne of tourists. It was good to see Rhodes while it was a bit quiet.

After two days of sightseeing, we boarded our ferry (read cruise liner!!!) to Athens. It was a really long ferry ride and, because it was overnight, we didn’t get a great sleep on the couches. But it was so cool cruising the Mediterranean!

The next morning, we spent a few hours waiting in Athens and boarded our second ferry to Samos. Samos is the island that my family are from and it was so incredible to see them after 12 years. We spent the week visiting all the sites around Samos and it was just so lovely. It was also my yiayia’s (grandma in Greek) 75th birthday so I’m glad I was there to celebrate with her.

We went to Karlovassi, Vathi, Pythogoria (the home of Pythagoras), Hora (where my cousins live) and Mitilini (where my great aunt and more cousins live). The whole island is so beautiful and even though the weather wasn’t great, we had a really amazing time! I swear Georgia and I ate our body weight in Greek food!

Then it was time to move on to Turkey. We joined our tour at Kusadasi and went out to get to know our tour group. There was a great mix of 20-something expats working in the UK, some couples, a family and a retired couple from Brisbane.

Over the next two days we visited the ancient city of Pergamon – the site of the second largest library of the ancient world – and Troy. There were actually nine Troys, all built on top of each other as different empires conquered the site.

And finally, it was time for the event we had gone to Turkey to experience… ANZAC Day. We got to Gallipoli Peninsular in the afternoon and visited the museum. There were artefacts from all around the battlefields, including some remains (which were really eerie). There were bullets that had collided mid-air and an outfit worn by Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.

We headed up to Lone Pine, the Nek and Chunuk Bair – all sites of major battles during the Gallipoli campaign. Once we made it to ANZAC Cove, we went through security, received our souvenir bags and found an area to sit in. Most of the other tours had been there for hours so we didn’t get a spot on the grass. We had made a pact not to complain and every time we were feeling tired, uncomfortable or cold we would say, “think of the ANZACs”.

There was a schedule of air force band performances, documentary clips, live interviews and addresses from the Prime Ministers. We learnt so much about Gallipoli but the most important part I learnt about was the Turkish losses. The Australian lost around 8000 men, the allied forces (including Australia, NZ, Britain) lost just under 45,000. But the Turkish lost over 85,000!!!! We never learn about that in the Australian history curriculum…

Georgia got 20 minutes of sleep on the wooden floor of the grandstands but I got none. I was sitting there in thermals, my ski jacket and sleeping bag and was still cold. Apparently, with wind chill, it got down to around negative 3… brrrrrr.

At 5am the Dawn Service commenced. It was so emotional being in the same place where the ANZACs came ashore in 1915. After the service, we walked up to Lone Pine for the Australian Service. We had a really great view and even though we were all overtired, we sang along to “we are one”, “home among the gumtrees” and other Aussie classics. The services were really well done and I now have an entirely new level of respect for ANZAC Day and what it stands for. If anyone is planning on heading to Europe for a semester one exchange, I’d absolutely recommend ANZAC Day. I can’t even find the words, but it was just… you’ll understand if you ever go. When the Turkish and New Zealand services finished at 1pm, we left the peninsular to make our way to Istanbul.

Istanbul is a busy and sometimes crazy place! Girls, be warned, you will be stared at, whistled at and shop keepers will make highly inappropriate comments – consider yourselves warned. Most of it is light hearted and we tried to explain away their offensive comments by telling ourselves they didn’t really have a good grasp of English. First up, we visited Hagia Sophia, which was absolutely incredible!

Then we went to the Blue Mosque which was also really impressive. There are a lot of mosques and we heard the sounds of the “call to prayer” echoing though the city five times a day. The shopping at the grand bazaar was really great and we certainly did our bit to “support the local economy”.

And so, after our amazing trip to Greece and Turkey, we boarded our flight bound for London. Georgia and I decided that we would catch a matinee session of something on West End and we were really lucky because Billy Elliot was playing! It was such a good show and the little boy was so talented!

After the show, we went to look at all the Royal Wedding Eve campers outside Buckingham and Westminster. Some people are NUTS! There was literally a whole lot of tents camped at the best vantage points, some had been there for days. After our recent ANZAC sleep out, we weren’t quite ready to brave the elements and opted to go back to Kim’s house to get a good night sleep before the big day.

We got up the next morning and made our way to Hyde Park. We got a great spot near the screens, laid out our picnic rug, cheese, crackers and drinks. It was just perfect! Experiencing the wedding with over 200,000 people waving union jacks in the air and cheering every time Kate came on the screen really was a once in a lifetime experience.

We had the most amazing day and the only way to end it was by going to see Tim Minchin perform in the Royal Albert Hall. He was absolutely hilarious and we really enjoyed the show.

So, now I’m back in Leeds. It’s good to be back with clean clothes, all my stuff and my hall mates! Now it’s time to knuckle down on my essays and do all my uni work. I have three essays, one due Thursday and two due Friday! I’m pretty sure that after the highs of Greece, ANZAC Day and the Royal Wedding I am about to experience some sort of sever psychological crash from not having all these exciting things happen in quick succession any more. Thankfully, assignment wise, I’ve got a good start on all of them so I’m sure I’ll be handing them all in on time. Wish me luck!