All the Highs and the Lows

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Full Academic Year

Tom is currently studying abroad at the University of Geneva with his French and Economics degree at Reading. We catch up with him half way through his year abroad in Switzerland! 

So much has happened in the past 5 months that I don’t think it’s possible to capture it all in writing. It’s been a semester that’s had some serious highs and equally some serious lows, but ultimately my time here so far has been an experience that I wouldn’t change for anything.

It would be best to start off with the university; I have found the learning dynamic to be far different from Reading. Sure enough the classes and lectures follow a similar format to that of back home, but the feeling of a unified student community is lacking. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that the University of Geneva is not situated on a campus – the buildings are instead spread out across the city. This means that as you head to a lecture it feels as if you are going to a job, this is amplified by the general hard-working attitude of Swiss students who are reluctant to socialise before and after class. Lastly there are very few societies that students can join making it difficult to branch out past the Erasmus group. In general the courses are quite demanding but also very engaging. Learning in French has proven difficult, as although I’m able to understand the material the problem is being able to retain information in French.

The bulk of the “lows” that I have faced are thanks to my accommodation. When I arrived I was renting a room in a house that was simply too far from the centre/university, a 30-minute uphill cycle ride home each day put me in great physical shape but left me feeling disconnected from everyone. After a month and a half I moved to a room that was perfectly situated but then I shortly realized that living there was not an option – an old and smelly single mattress tucked up in the corner of a room in an apartment owned by a heavy pot-smoker who had the TV on full volume until 2am most nights made me feel very uneasy and it took a serious toll on my studies. I was then able to sub-let a room in the student residence whilst I awaited the move into my official room there as of the next semester – this came as a relief as I was surrounded by students in a comfortable and secure atmosphere.

My favourite part of this YA so far has been the sheer amount of travelling that myself and friends have been doing. So far I have visited Zurich, Lyon, Budapest, Rome, and Barcelona as well as day trips to other neighbouring towns in France/Switzerland. This has been wonderful as you are with a group of people who share the same enthusiasm to get out there and discover things. To fund all these activities I have secured a job as a babysitter for a Swiss family; the children are exhausting, but they often (indirectly) help by correcting my French which is something that adults refrain from out of politeness. At the start of January I volunteered in an independent film festival called “Blackmovie”, it was really fun to take part in something that I usually wouldn’t consider doing in the UK and I was able to make a connection with a few of the locals.

With the coldest days of winter behind me and a new semester on the horizon I am thrilled to see what the next few months will bring.

Tom 

Missed Tom’s last blog post? Catch up here: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/reading-abroad/category/switzerland-study-abroad/

 

 

The local Danish insight to Aarhus

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Full Academic Year

Laurence is studying abroad at Aarhus University in Denmark as part of his Economics degree at Reading. He’ll be adapting to Danish living for the full academic year. Read on to find out how he’s getting on. 

Admittedly before looking to study abroad, I didn’t know too much about Denmark past Copenhagen and their leading happiness ratings, but after the first few weeks living and exploring Aarhus the experience has made me want to learn and see everything the country has to offer!

Arriving in Aarhus for the first time was a great first experience for me, the city has just been appointed the European culture capital for 2017, and it really shows with the mix of modern and old on each street. Walking around aimlessly with new flatmates and figuring out where to go was great fun, although you’ll quickly find out that cycling is the way forward here! All the main roads have dedicated cycle paths which are very safe to use, and the lanes leading into the city centre have displays to show how many people have cycled into town this year and on the day. It’s a cool thing to see and makes you feel a little better each time you don’t cheat by using the bus! The first place we explored as a group was the ARoS art museum, featuring a wide variety of art pieces and types across the floors and topped off with the ‘rainbow panorama’ installed on the roof. It was as good as any of the bug museums in London, and the panorama gave a colourful view of the beautiful city I’d be staying in for the year.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Full Academic Year

The university put on a welcoming week of activities and information giving which was incredibly useful and reassuring, I felt a lot more confident in what I was doing when people and professors from the local community share their experience and tips to making the most of the city and also helped to fill out the necessary paperwork making the process really easy and making sure there would be no problems during the stay. I knew that the university had a big international population, and I could really see this when we were split into groups of students from all other the world stretching from Japan to Canada! The mentors who worked with our group were two former students who were honestly amazing at creating a friendly atmosphere for all of us to get to know each other and would show us their own personal favourite places around Aarhus. It was a great way to start to get friendly with people having their own unique adventure, and between this and welcoming flatmates you can feel like you already know a great group of people even before the first lecture.

So far all the small differences have been my favourite thing to experience such as learning Danish, cycling everywhere or even just seeing England as the subject of holiday ads, and it feels exciting! I am surrounded by stuff that is new to me; a journey in any direction from my residence could mean finding something that keeps my time here fresh, and I don’t think this will stop any time soon.

Laurence