Making the most of Reading Week in Canada!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Jake studied abroad at the University of Ottawa in Canada with his Film degree at Reading. This post is reporting back mid-way through his semester in North America!

I am mid-way through my exchange and I am still enjoying every minute! Canada has offered me all I wanted and more, allowing me to see wonderful scenery, meet new people and begin to grow more confident in myself socially as well as academically.

During reading week I had an amazing time because my sister flew out to stay with me for the duration of my time spent away from uOttawa. It was amazing seeing family again, giving me the boost I needed to carry on and enjoy my time away from home. Whereas we ran out of time to do the ‘big stuff’, visit Niagara and Quebec City, I can only be slightly disappointed because we still managed to cram so many things into just one week.

We immersed ourselves in the culture, visiting Byward Market for the Fall produce, going to the cinema and a couple of museums, as well as catching Broadway’s Cinderella whilst it was on its Canadian tour.  On top of this, we managed to take a day trip to Toronto where we visited the CN Tower and had a long lunch with the most spectacular view. We also managed to fit in visiting Ripley’s Aquarium and have a quick look at Rogers centre (home of the Toronto Blue Jays!).

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Apart from an awesome, but extremely tiring reading week, I have focused on the academic side of my exchange, which whilst much less exciting to write about, has kept me busy and fuelled my continuing interests in film and media. I have had multiple, stressful mid-term assignments due recently but a positive is, compared to studying in Reading, there are more frequent assignments. Yes, this means more work but it also means more chances to ensure my grades remain high and frequent testing means I understand how I am performing at all times throughout the semester. There are more chances to boost my marks!  My favourite assignments have included making podcasts/videos for my Multimedia project ‘Made of Mad Media’. I have been able to create a website or online community that not only discusses my academic interests of films/TV but has also brought me closer to new Canadian friends who have asked to contribute their own projects and ideas.

Whilst my friendship group were too busy to really appreciate a true Canadian Halloween, I have seen some scary, and funny, costumes/decorations throughout October. More importantly, as soon as Halloween finished the festivity of Christmas arrived, bringing with it a lot of snow! The Canadian landscape has proven even more beautiful, if not much colder, covered in a blanket of pure white. The local shopping centre or ‘mall’ is decorated from top to bottom with lights and Christmas trees and has really put me in the ‘Christmassy’ mood for the remainder of my time in Ottawa.

Before the snow hit, my friends and I managed to catch a greyhound bus to Montreal to experience the nightlife. The music and art world is truly alive in Montreal and it is a city I hope to visit again in the future because, alongside Toronto, I have fallen in love with the atmosphere it provided.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

I am now taking the time to focus on my finals for the semester. I undertook this trip to experience the world and there is no doubt that I have done that so far. I have gone to the cinema too many times to count, eaten the essential Canadian food group that is poutine (yum!) and have walked more and seen more than I thought I could ever handle. Although I will now focus on writing my final exams, undeniably a lot of work that I will have to dedicate the majority of time to, I look forward to the surprises, laughs and memories the last few weeks undoubtedly hold.

Jake

Missed Jake’s last post? Catch up here: http://bit.ly/1tAKTNm 

 

 

Learning from Masters of their Arts

University of Reading student studying abroad in Taiwan for a Semester

Matilda is studying abroad at the National Taiwan University of Arts in Taiwan as part of her Joint Art & English Literature degree at Reading. You’ll be surprised what you can fit into a semester studying abroad. Read on to find out what Matilda has been up to!

I have now fully immersed myself into NTUA life. I have tried all my classes and I absolutely love it. Doing touristy things has kind of died down for me because I am enjoying my classes and work so much. Other exchange students decided not to take as many classes and experience Taipei more. NTUA is definitely adaptable to the way you choose to approach your experience, only is you are an exchange student! Generally, the teachers are relaxed and happy for you to eat and even sleep during lessons, so it is up to you to get as much or as little out of the experience as you want. I personally feel that it would be a real shame not to optimise my experience here. The facilities are too good not to make full use of and the same goes for the teachers!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Taiwan for a Semester

A double-exposure film photograph of the bridge on the way to the city.

The teachers are well renowned masters of their arts so it is really a privilege to be taught by them. I am learning traditional Chinese art forms in my calligraphy and stamp class. It is really interesting to learn about the history of Chinese art and the ways it has been adapted. Alongside the traditional Chinese art classes I take Life drawing, Oil Painting and Ceramics classes. I thoroughly enjoy all of them. The facilities for ceramics are brand new and so the facilities are not just top quality but also never used. The department allows students to experiment with so many different ways of making and glazing the ceramics. I also take Pilates, volleyball and Chinese lessons. Learning Chinese is incredibly difficult but it is such a fantastic opportunity to be learning it, for free too! Although I don’t expect to be fluent from a 3 month course of lessons, I am already able to understand the language more. I intend to keep it up when I return home as it will create so many opportunities for me.

The weather is still really lovely, apart from the two typhoons we have had! It is sunny and warm most of the time. The university is a little way out of the busy city area but it is really easy and quick to get right into the centre. We are able to walk to one of the big stations which already has much more of a city vibe with lots of western shops mixed in with Taiwanese restaurants and market stalls. There is a big night market in between, this is something Taiwan is famous for. There are all sorts of interesting things to buy and eat. Including stinky tofu, which takes some courage to try once you smell it!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Taiwan for a Semester

Nuit Blanche

I am really enjoying all the influences from other art forms because NTUA is a school of arts. There is always something different and creative going on from dance performances to art exhibitions. It is also a really active university as there are always people playing basketball and volleyball, to a really high standard too! It was really fantastic to be able to go to Nuit Blanche, which was a French arts festival with all kinds of art, all over the city, all through the night. It really was an incredible thing to see.

Matilda

Missed Matilda’s first blog post?
Catch up here: https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/reading-abroad/2016/11/10/the-taiwanese-love-british-people/

 

The Taiwanese love British People!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Taiwan for a Semester

Matilda is currently studying abroad at the National Taiwan University of Arts in Taiwan as part of her Joint Art & English Literature degree at Reading. Read on to find out how she’s settling into her semester abroad in Taiwan!

The first few weeks of my Study abroad experience at NTUA have been fantastic. I was apprehensive the week before arriving, as I knew it would be a big culture shock being 6,000 miles away from home. Taiwan has already exceeded all my hopes and expectations of studying abroad. The Taiwanese are all genuinely kind hearted, generous and helpful people. They also love British people, which is a nice change from the reaction I get from Europeans. Taipei is a really safe city; you don’t have to worry about pick-pocketing.  There are lots of markets and quirky coffee shops. The language barrier is slightly difficult. Although it is lovely to listen to Chinese speakers translate to English as it is quite poetical and mostly very simple or to the point. The food is vastly different, not just from home but each meal has been a completely new taste.

Before arriving I was given a buddy, Klight, who speaks very good English. He completely looks after us and even took us to his hometown for the moon festival.  Klight has many exhibitions and arts events lined up for us; I’m really excited to experience the art scene outside of the university, as I am already impressed.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Taiwan for a Semester

My classes include ceramics, sculpture, oil painting, life drawing and calligraphy stamp. I am also taking Chinese lessons, Pilates and volleyball. Living in a dorm with a French girl means I am also learning French. Experiencing a country with a totally different culture has broadened my mind already. I feel so grateful to be here, especially as not many people even know of Taiwan. It’s really interesting to learn the differences between Taiwan and China. For example, there is less of a divide between rich and poor than both China and the UK. Corruption and censorship is not an issue here, they also don’t see dogs and sharks as a meal, I was glad to discover this! I am starting to understand the complicated political situation between Taiwan and Mainland China. Learning about the history explains this complicated relationship.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Taiwan for a Semester

It’s really exciting to be at an art school as I have never been in such a creative environment with such like minded and interesting people. Everyday there is something happening that I am interested to see; this might be a dance performance in the middle of campus or a calligraphy display. All the student exhibitions are really professional and inspirational. The creativity really is endless.

In the short time I have been here I have already had some unique and wonderful experiences. I’m excited to learn more about the culture and it is clear I will improve my skills dramatically as all my techniques have been self taught so far. I absolutely love this country and want to inspire people to visit/study abroad here as it has so much to offer. There’s so much I want to do before I leave!

Matilda

If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get

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

Samuel is currently studying abroad in Uppsala University in Sweden as part of his Law degree at Reading! Read on to find out how he found the move his new home in Sweden for the next 10 months. 

Uppsala is a beautiful city, and Sweden a beautiful country, and almost three weeks after I arrived I still think about how lucky I am to be here. After picking up the keys to my room and going to the Nordic Languages Department to register for my Basic Intensive Swedish class, I was struck by how international this place was. Students were here from all over the world, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Taiwan, South Korea and many other European students, and it wasn’t until a couple of days later that I met another English person! I was immediately made to feel welcome in this city as everybody spoke great English, although I was looking forward to immersing myself more into the Swedish culture by learning the language – more on this later.

After leaving the hotel with all my luggage and arriving at my new flat, I was shocked at how dirty the place was – it had certainly not been cleaned as I had expected. The place seemed a long way out of the city and was very quiet – I did not get the same warm welcome that I felt in the city. I decided to head to the Housing Office to request to be moved. The housing guide stated that moves are not possible, but I thought ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’, right? They allowed me to move into the city centre accommodation two weeks later, which was originally my first choice – success! The next day I bought a bike to cycle from my accommodation to class and around the city – this really made me feel Swedish. There are bike racks everywhere and many people cycle here, although the feeling to me was more nostalgic than typical, given that I hadn’t ridden a bike since my early teens.

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

Later that week it was my birthday and the first time I have ever had to go to ‘school’ – one blessing of being an August baby! After the Swedish class, I went to an elk farm and saw a moose for the first time. Upon our return, it was time to head to the Systembolaget, the only place where you can by alcohol with an ABV of more than 3.5%. I was surprised by the cashier with what I thought was a small bottle of wine, until I got home and realised it was de-alcoholised. Later I headed to Flogsta, where most of the exchange students who arrived early for the Swedish course were living, for a great corridor party.

One thing I wish I’d done before my move was to photograph some of my important documents, including my passport and EHIC card. It wasn’t until the next day when I fell off my bike riding through the woods that I realised this. I had to go to the medical centre in the city centre to get a large stone removed from the palm of my hand, but without my EHIC card I had to return the next day with it to avoid a hefty medical fee! I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Sweden so far and am sure even greater times will come. I have found the Swedish language course much harder than expected. I aim to really practice what I’ve learnt in class and try to avoid speaking English in the supermarket, cafes and shops, and hope to make a good improvement by the end of the first semester. Every day I find new places, see new things and meet new people, and I think this all adds to the excitement of an exchange. I am looking forward to starting my Law modules and explore more of what Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia has to offer!

I am looking forward to sharing my experiences and adventures with you in my next blog.

Samuel