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I’m home!

Lottie Harold – Geography – University of California, Los Angeles – United States

Well, it’s time for the blog I couldn’t even imagine writing when I started applying for the Go Abroad process TWO YEARS ago! As a Global Ambassador, I have been helping out at UoM’s Go Abroad fair, as well as information sessions for prospective students, and it’s great to see everyone so excited about applying and going on their year abroad! I remember sitting there, desperately wanting to get into California but trying to be realistic and telling myself it probably wouldn’t happen! Don’t be put off, APPLY!!!

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Graduation photoshoot for the Class of 2017 members of Phi Sigma Pi (they let me join in even though I wasn’t technically graduating!)

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Dendrochronology

Dendrochronology – The study of tree rings.

This is my favourite course that I have taken so far! We were out in the woods in the 2nd week of term practicing taking tree cores and analysing them to infer climatic changes. Its a small class, there is only 6 people, so its really nice, and we get to work together a lot, and have some good class discussions.

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First time taking a tree core!
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Very proud of ourselves that it actually worked!
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The best homework I have been set since I got here – Sand down the mounted tree cores so we can see the tree rings clearly.

Our final project for this class is a ‘service learning project’, which involves all 6 of us working together on a project for the US forest service to create chronologies of 40 trees at Redrocks (in the woods just next to the lake). We sampled 2 tree species, and as there was 6 of us, it only took one afternoon to collect all the samples!!

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The core of a red cedar.

For our final project we got to use the belt sander instead of sanding by hand as we had 80 cores to prepare!

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Some of our cores all sanded and ready to be analysed!

Dining Halls…

I knew the food wasn’t going to be great, but to be honest it has exceeded my expectations. Everything is laced with copious amounts of sugar and salt, nothing I eat feels ‘healthy’, or like its doing anything good for my body. I can now see why the “freshers 15” is a thing. I was speaking to my friend, who was telling me how the apples even made her fat!!

There isn’t a massive amount of choice, there is pasta, pizza, burgers and chips at every meal, and if we’re lucky, one other option.

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This is the amount of SUGAR left over from a plate of sweet potato fries, I have never seen sugar on chips before…

Occasionally, in one of the dining halls, there is the option to cook your own meal. I gave it a go, it was a nice break from dining hall food!

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Step 1: Get kitted up in all the required health and safety clothing – Plastic apron, gloves, hair net. Looking dashing.

 

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Step 2: Load up your bowl with all the pre-prepared ingredients for your dinner.
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Step 3: Start Cooking!! Assisted by a lovely chef, making sure we don’t give ourselves food poisoning.
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Step 4: Only slightly concerned.
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Finished product: Chicken Alfredo pasta with lots of Parmesan, YUM!

Pizza, pasta and everything in between

By Gemma Sturt, Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

Someone once told me that there are three cornerstones to Italian culture; Food, Family and Football; and not necessarily in that order. So far in my time abroad I have found that this holds (mostly) true and so I’ve decided that this year offers the perfect opportunity to dive head first into learning about traditional & regional Italian cuisine – partly for self-immersion and to experience as much local culture as possible, and partly to finally learn how to cook…

Naturally I couldn’t live in Italy for a year and not write at least one blog post about food – so here it is! Unsurprisingly Florence has turned out to be a bit of a foodie’s paradise so read on to hear  what I’ve learned so far about local Florentine traditions and my own personal experiences of trying my hand at classic recipes.

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Italy has so much more to offer than pizza, pasta and ice cream (although there’s no denying we’ve all had our fair share by this point…)

 

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Update: Mid-terms & Stanley Park 10k

By Uschi, Simon Fraser University, Canada

 

Stanley Park 10K

 

On Saturday 21st October Millie, Carrie, Lottie and I completed the 47th James Cunningham Sea Wall Race around Stanley Park. Being a spontaneous decision to sign up to the race 3 weeks before the event, none of us really did much training for it, and so when race morning came around we didn’t really know what to expect. Sheff was an absolute babe and drove us to the start line which saved us the dreaded journey downtown on the 95 bus (curse of living on a mountain). On the way down we listened to a mix of Beyonce power ballads and jump-up to get us pumped up for the run. Despite the weather being against us (it was pretty rainy and cold) and not being dressed in the right gear (all the Vancouverites had donned their fancy lululemon rain coats whilst we were shivering in t-shirts), we were all excited to start the race! The run was a loop of the sea wall all around the edge of the park, so we were really spoilt with beautiful views out to sea during the entire time – I even saw a seal bobbing along in the Harbour which was a real highlight. The trees were beautiful colours of red and orange as they began to shed their autumn leaves and at several points during the run I forgot about my aching legs and was just taken aback by the beauty of the park and felt such gratitude to be able to be where I was, doing what I was doing. Designated a national historic site of Canada, Stanley Park is a magnificent green oasis in the midst of the heavily built urban landscape of Vancouver – a must-do for any trip to the city. Twenty-seven kilometres of trails meander through evergreen forests filled with a rich diversity of lush plant life. You can walk, run, cycle, skate or rollerblade through it.

Continue reading “Update: Mid-terms & Stanley Park 10k”

First Impressions

I’ve been in California for just over a month now but I thought I would backtrack to the beginning: my September arrival. I am lucky enough to have family friends who live in Oakland, California, so I was able to stay with them for the first week. This helped enormously with getting acclimatised to Californian time (8hrs behind the U.K), setting up an American bank account and getting a sim card, all essential things for a year abroad.

Staying with family friends also gave me the opportunity to experience family and school orientated activities for example, I was able to go to freshman high school volleyball matches, middle school Saturday soccer matches, and see a high-school American football game, complete with the high school band. We also took part in East Bay’s 5k run! My family friends often laughed at me when I would be so excited at certain things they said or did, because for them this was normal life, whereas for me this was ‘soooo American’, and I had only seen those things on social media/films.

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During my week in Oakland, I also got the opportunity to visit Angel Island, an island that was used as a military base in order to keep California protected from Spanish explorers in the late 1890s, and provided protection from the Japanese during WW2. The island was also where Asian immigrants would have to report to, due to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 (banned from entering America) was passed – an event I was truly shocked to hear happened. As well as its interesting history, Angel Island provides for some amazing views of the Bay Bridge, the San Fransisco skyline and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

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My second week was spent moving into the Domes, my chosen housing for the year. Numerous University of California campus’ have cooperative housing initiatives, which aim to be socially inclusive, promote social justice, and often have a particular focus, the domes focus is community and sustainable agricultural practise. I think I will do a whole separate blog post on the domes because they are such a unique housing and community scheme. Moving in was a little stressful, but that is to be expected when you move anywhere new.

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I have found it a little hard to make friends here, because of how late classes start, many people had still not moved in, societies weren’t running and there was not a lot to do as the university was coming out of summer mode. However I did have orientation with other international exchange students, and I have made friends, a couple are from the U.K and one is from Sweden, but actually studies in the U.K as well. We bonded over being in the same situation, and have spent time together exploring downtown Davis and the campus. Unlike Manchester, Davis really is a college town, so when there aren’t students around it is not hip-and-happening. On the other hand, it is really pretty and quaint and am I excited to see how it changes when all the students arrive, I really feel I will be able to get to know Davis well and feel at home here!

I decided to wait to post this till I had had my first full week of classes, in order to give an academic perspective… so here it is:

Due to the American schooling system, students have a large scope of subjects, meaning people can take pretty much any course (despite prerequisites), this means that there are biological sciences majors in my anthropology classes. This can be interesting as people from different academic disciplines can bring different viewpoints to discussions, however this can also mean that we take up a lot of time going over the basics “what is ethnography? what do anthropologists really do?” etc, two years into an straight anthropology degree can be a little tedious.

There is a lot more emphasis on group working and group learning than I have experienced in the U.K. In one of my classes this quarter we are having to create presentations with other class members, almost in a workshop style, about our weekly readings, and global health institutions. People also study together (in Starbucks or Peets Coffee), in fact they find it really funny that people in the U.K study alone!

In classes students are also much more willing to openly discuss, answer questions, and ask question. This might be partly because in many classes a percentage of your grade is specifically for class participation. Another reason could be because of the pricing of university here, people are really wanting to get their money’s worth! All this discussion and question asking is a great way to share ideas and get clarifications, but it can slow the class down.

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Overall I am enjoying my time here, the quarter system is very quick – I have my classes twice a week, so I’ve already had 7 of each class, compared to back home where I would only have had 3. This is also feels like there is not as much free time, because it’s always onto the next reading!

‘Let me welcome everybody to the wild wild west…’ – Tupac (RIP)

By Pamilla Kang, UCSD, USA

I was going to start this blog by saying: ‘So, it’s been about two weeks since my flight to America…’, but then I realised I’m actually in my sixth week here… and so I can in fact confirm that time really does fly by on your year abroad! Instead, let me start by saying that even though I haven’t been here too long, and that moving abroad is very tough, I’m already so glad that I did it! Literally everything here amazes me – things like looking out the window on the bus home, and seeing about a thousand palm trees or the sun setting over the pacific ocean, makes me can’t quite believe that I live on the west coast of California.

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Oxford Road Detour

My aunt had to teach me how to wrap a scarf around my neck again some weeks ago. Yup, I’m back in England.

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Getting back into my British ways

Hopped on the bus at Wilmslow Road, jumped off for uni at Oxford Road, then went past Oxford Street for a night out later on. Wilmslow Road, Oxford Road, Oxford Street. The name changes along the way, but it’s one main road down the centre of Manchester, that I used to zoom up and down every single day. This is where I spent my first two years of uni.

Familiarity is a hell of a thing. Routine, comfortable and easy…but unstimulated. I didn’t notice it until I decided to leave England to do my year abroad (“decided”…my brother told me I had no choice and that I had to do it). Yes, I went through the first few lonely/awkward weeks…like every other exchange student who felt the same even if they didn’t show it. But the people I met and the places I went, no matter how short-lived they were, have really left something special with me.

I started to understand my life as a journey (no cheesy-ness intended). Being approached by a Muslim man in a Singapore mosque one Saturday, having a 2 hour conversation with him, finding out he had recently read the book I was reading, and tearing up together after relating in ways I cannot really put into words. Just tiny realisations and guidance in the direction I wanted to take my life.

I had friends for a single semester that I feel closer to than people I’ve now known for more than three years.

…and soooo many more that I have not and will not forget. My friend, who was also on exchange in Singapore (Hi Paul), put it perfectly the other day. He said the people he met there were more interested in the ‘Why’ rather than the ‘What’.

I’ve settled back into Manchester life, zooming up and down Oxford Road again. But this time I understand that familiarity will only keep me unstimulated if I allow it to.

Eating My Way Around Vancouver…

By Uschi, Simon Fraser University, Canada

I am definitely a big foodie, so when travelling or visiting new places I am always excited about hunting down new eateries and trying out local specialities. The only quintessentially Canadian food I could find was ‘poutine’: French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. It originated in Quebec, and it’s so internationally loved here the Canadians even have whole festivals dedicated to it, and they serve it everywhere from fancier restaurants to the likes of Burger King. I can’t say I’m a massive fan as it’s very rich and heavy, but every once in a while it hits the spot. Here are a few other memorable food experiences I’ve had out here so far… to make your mouth water!

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My list of Sydney Do’s and Don’ts

Miranda Cundall//Politics and International Relations//University of Sydney

Sorry for the delay in blog posts! It seems I was too caught up with fighting Kangaroos, throwing shrimps on the barbie, and all the other things Australian, to sit down and take a breather. However, since settling back in to the normality of Manchester and overcoming the heartbreak of completing my semester at Sydney , I thought I would compile a quick list of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ for potential  future Sydney study abroaders.

It may seem like alien advice now, but trust me it’ll all make sense soon.

DO

  • Prepare for the brutal (but undeniably worthwhile) journey to Oz

My journey out took around 28 hours and it does get a bit painful towards the end. Be prepared to watch enough TV to make your eyes go square and bring an eyemask.

  • Work hard, play hard

I had a bit of a shock when starting uni work at Syd, as I had to do different forms of assessments that I wasn’t familiar to back in Manchester (for example I had no clue how to do a website review of the Australian Labor Party). Take time to look over course outlines and ask your tutor for guidance if you’re struggling with anything – the quicker you work hard, the sooner you can play.

  • Go to the beach

A self-explanatory, yet necessary, point. Beach days after uni are the best days. Slap on the factor 30 though, maybe even factor 50 if you’re blessed with pasty skin like me. My favourite beaches were; Bronte, Shelly Beach (just round from Manly) and defo Camp Cove. There’s more to life than Bondi Beach.

  • Day trips baaby

On Sundays all travel on Opal Cards (the Australian equivalent of Oyster Cards – be sure to get the concession Student one) is capped at $2.50! Head to the Blue Mountains or Wollongong for some scenic adventures. Even if you’re feeling lazy explore Newtown in Sydney as it definitely has some hidden gems. pic competiton 2

DON’T

  • Fall in love with Melbourne

Seriously its a trap. It may lure you in with its graffiti alleyways and hipster cafes, but don’t be fooled – Sydney’s the best obvs.

  • Forget you can travel outside of Aus too!

For Easter I did a roadtrip round New Zealand whilst some of my other friends went to Bali or Fiji. If financially possible try make the most of living amongst the Pacific Islands.

  • Ignore your mum

Honestly, listen to your mum and bring the weird things she suggests. I spent 6 months wishing I had listened and brought my portable speaker/travel towel/flashlight as my mum suggested. Yet, I also spent 6 months being too proud to admit this to her.

Overall, studying abroad is an amazing experience no matter what way you go about it. I made some lifelong friends scattered across the globe and some incredible memories that will stay with me forever. I’m going to have to stop now as thinking about my semester in Australia is making me all nostalgic and mushy, not a good look for me. Feel free to message me if you want an extended list or any advice about  Sydney, and if you’re on the fence about studying abroad I can’t stress enough, do it!!

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Adjusting to studying at UniFi

By Gemma Sturt, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy

With lectures now in full swing, this month I wanted to write a few words on settling into life at Università degli Studi di Firenze (UniFi) and some of the major academic differences I have already experienced between studying in Italy and the UK.

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View from the ‘Biblioteca delle Oblate’ – my closest public library in the historic center

….a far cry from the view of Oxford Road from the Ali G!!

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First Impressions & Settling in…

By Uschi, Canada, Simon Fraser University

Wow, a whole month here has completely flown by! So much has happened during this time, but I feel like it has definitely taken me up until the one month mark to start feeling properly settled here. Let me try and synthesise the main points of the first few weeks:

Firstly, be prepared to be completely exhausted, disorientated and at times completely overwhelmed during the first week. The first few days were so intense and a whirlwind of new faces, places, and endless orientation activities. After the third day I think I lost track of the amount of different welcome talks, speeches, and orientation activities I had been to. At this point no one has any clue what’s going on, and everyone is trying to desperately cling on to the few friends they have made. If you’re reading this having just arrived and feeling a bit lost/ confused/ doubting why the hell you’ve decided to move halfway across the world then I can assure you those feelings are normal and will definitely pass! A month in, I’m having the best time and all those initial ‘rabbit in the headlight’ feelings are long gone. Now that classes have started and I’m in the habit of studying again, going to lectures, going to the gym, and having a routine everything feels a lot more normal.

Continue reading “First Impressions & Settling in…”