Land of the Rising Sun

I have fallen in love with this country over and over again and currently the thought of leaving makes me incredibly sad. It’s crazy to think that a year ago I was filling in my application forms for accommodation and now I’m sitting in the middle of Tokyo after travelling around, seeing the most amazing sights and meeting some truly lovely people. One of my favourite places in Tokyo is the Harajuku area of Shinjuku. It’s the young person’s oasis, full of fashion, restaurants and giant rainbow candyfloss. You’re definitely encouraged to be yourself here, as you’ll see many people expressing themselves with bright pink hair and platform shoes – think Camden with extra rainbows.

From Kyoto to Hiroshima, I have made the most of my Spring Break and seen as much as I could before my second and final semester begins in a few weeks’ time. Japan is a students’ paradise with so many incredible places to visit and not necessarily that expensive! I urge anyone coming to Japan to study abroad, or even on a holiday, to see as much as you can – you will not regret it. I’ve seen monkeys in Nagano, a snow festival in Hokkaido, more shrines and temples than I can count in Kyoto and a beautiful water jinjya in Hiroshima – and that’s just a small part of what I’ve seen.

Before studying abroad, Japan wasn’t even on my radar as a place I had to see and now I realise what a mistake that was! My time here has opened my eyes to the world in which we live; there are so many incredible places for us to discover! Living and studying here has been a truly wonderful experience. My classes are really interesting and thankfully my Japanese language skills have come along so much since I’ve lived here. However, the best thing about studying abroad is the people you get to meet. I now have friends from all over the world, from Argentina to Germany, some of whom I’m hoping to go and visit in their home countries!

I’m very lucky to be the recipient of a JASSO scholarship which has helped me live in Tokyo. As you might expect, much like London, it is not the cheapest of places to live. However, with that said, you certainly get more than your money’s worth. I urge anyone thinking about studying abroad not to worry about the financial side of things, as there are many scholarships and grants available to you as well as your normal student finance if you’re from the UK! It’s just a matter of research and applying for as many as you can!

I wouldn’t change my experience for the world and I still have about four months left to enjoy. Considering I nearly didn’t apply for year abroad, I’ve had quite an adventure this year and long may it continue!

Time flies when you’re Down Under

When I received the news that I would be fortunate to have a term abroad in Melbourne, Australia, I was ecstatic! However, I immediately had the concern of funding as I was aware of how expensive Australia is. Luckily, Reading University’s study abroad term informed me of the various bursaries that were available to me. When researching the various bursaries, the AFSA bursary stood out and after my applying I was granted the bursary, which I am so grateful for as it extended the amount of opportunities available.

The six months which I spent in Australia were incredible a once in a lifetime experience. However, even though before leaving England I had my philosophy modules pre-approved- when I was finalising them at La Trobe, only one philosophy module was running! This meant that I had to find two new modules. Although this was a hassle at the time, one of the modules I chose was ‘Feminism’, which ended up being based around philosophy and also helped me decide on my topic for my ‘Independent Learning Essay’, which I will have to complete in my final year at Reading. Moreover, I studied a module which opened my eyes to the history and discrimination of Aboriginals in Australia, which I found extremely interesting. At Reading, I am used to taking three modules per term, whereas at La Trobe, I had to take four which at first was a struggle, however, it taught me how to balance my time better so I could still get good grades, but also make the most of my time exploring Australia.

 

Due to my time management becoming stronger, I had many opportunities to travel around Australia and see the most of this beautiful country. The date of my flight gave me exactly a month of free time before heading home. In this time I travelled up the East Coast, starting in Sydney and ending in Cairns. Due to it being winter, the further north, the warmer it got. Melbourne got extremely cold (it reached -1 degrees at night), proving the popular belief that Australia is always hot, false. Thus, I was following the sun North! This was the perfect trip as I had just completed four large final pieces of coursework for La Trobe, so it was a well deserved relaxing holiday.

My time in Australia was unforgettable. In just six months, I learnt how to surf, held a Koala, tried various new foods and explored the East, West and South of Australia. From this experience, I have become more confident and open to new opportunities. I have made so many new friends all around the world, providing me with connections in New York, Sweden, Norway and of course, Australia.

I would recommend studying abroad to anyone, but I would thoroughly research each individual university on offer to make sure they were the best for my degree. Although six months away may seem daunting, I am a very family orientated person but the time flew by and I was never homesick as I was constantly busy, surrounded my amazing people. Enjoy every minute of it, because once you’re home, it feels as if you never left.

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/

 

 

Just the start of Studying Abroad in Denmark

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

Lewis has just moved to Denmark to start his study abroad Semester at Aarhus University as part of his English Language and Literature degree at Reading. Just a week or so in, read on to find out how he’s getting on!

Aarhus has recently been declared the cultural capital of Europe, and this is evident in the mass portrayal and acceptance of many different countries cuisine. This is apparent in the Aarhus “street food” market which contains all different types of food, ranging from ‘Jamaican Jerk Chicken’, ‘Mexican Burritos’, ‘Chinese Duck’, curries and French Crepes. This is a really wide variety of food that shows the wealth of culture present in Aarhus. But to top off this creativity the whole market is built inside an un-used bus station. The stalls themselves are built and set up inside old ship yard containers. This means the theme of the Aarhus “street food” market is to not only re-cycle but to re-use old things and provide back for the public. The food as well was really cheap about 30 krona which exchanges to roughly £3.00. This makes it an ideal place for a student to grab a quick and easy lunch and when you are done, you have to wipe your own table with the disinfectant and towels dotted around the seating area.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

This is me outside my house in Denmark, the houses here have a cottage feel as they are small and are packed with essentials from the university such as pans, plates, cutlery to chopping boards and cups. I did not need to buy anything apart from food as it was all provided by the University! It’s not as cold as you think it is here, all though many will disagree but if you come prepared like I did by bringing a thermal coat, hat and scarf you can easily survive the cold weather. There are many nationalities that come to Aarhus to study but in my house I have 2 Canadians, one Australian and one American. So the university put me with fellow English speaker which made it easier to talk and joke with each other.

My lectures at the university were not what I was expecting. I thought I would be in a class of all international students, and this belief was further enforced by the fact my lecture was in English, so I assumed the class of 24 students in my literature course had different nationalities and they were learning in the common language of English. So when I got put in a group I asked them if they were German as I heard them speaking to each other. They looked at me shocked and one of them said “no, we are Danish”. I was, and still am, shocked to learn that I was in a Danish majority English Literature class, with only 4 other international students. The fact the students were all conversing with the lecturer in English for an English literature module shows the high level of language skills many of the Danish actually possess.

This is a short blog of my time so far in Denmark, I have only been here for one week but I have already learnt so much about the culture of Denmark and its history. I expect I will learn much more in my weeks to come.

Lewis

Whirlwind end to Study Abroad

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

Ellis is studied abroad at Aarhus University in Denmark as part of his Psychology degree at Reading. Although Christmas seems a long time ago already, he looks back on the end of his semester abroad. 

My last month of studying abroad has been a whirlwind; as I approach the end of term and the holiday season, I’ve been overwhelmed by an array of social and academic activities.

Christmas seemed to start early in Denmark, with the holiday season being marked by the release of the Christmas beer (which happens on the first day of November). From this point onwards, you could see the arrival of the Christmas market and can expect to receive invitations to traditional Danish Christmas dinners. I had no idea what to expect from a traditional Christmas dinner, all I was told is to bring my own dish and expect to get very drunk… At these dinners, there was an array of different foods: meatballs, pickled cabbage, fish, potatoes and breads, to name a few. For desert, it was a kind of rice pudding with a twist – in the large bowl of pudding was a single, whole almond. Whoever found the almond first would win a prize, but the only way to find the almond was to eat all the rice pudding. Everyone was desperately polishing of their plates and asking for another, keen to find this sacred almond – it was rather amusing! Another key feature of this tradition was ‘Schnapps’. This is a strong alcohol that everyone shots throughout the evening; by the end of the dinner everyone feels so bloated and drunk. But alas, the evening is not complete without playing different games and dancing off all the calories that have been consumed earlier. To sum it up, it was a fulfilling (mentally and physically) tradition, with plenty of laughter and some great company – which can only be described as ‘hygge’.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

As December arrived and the end of term approached, I was set all my university assignments. For each of my three classes I was required to write a 3000 word essay based on the material covered throughout the term. What I liked about these assignments was that the subject of the essay was relatively flexible – you could choose to write about whatever interested you most that term.  This is something which I hadn’t previously been able to do in my degree, and I really liked this as it allowed you to develop your own interest further and come up with original and creative ideas.

Although the end of term was a lot of fun, I was hit by one of the hardest things about studying abroad: saying goodbye. Over the past 4 months I had met the most amazing people and had unforgettable experiences that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Facing reality and leaving it all behind was emotional. I knew that my friends were all going back to different parts of the world and that I wouldn’t be able to see them again as easily as just hoping on the number 13 bus. However, I found solace in the quote: ‘don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened’.

Ellis

Missed Ellis’ first blog post? Catch up here: http://bit.ly/2jzJBF1

Learning Danish on the Football Pitch

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

Simon is studied abroad at Aarhus University in Denmark as part of his Psychology degree at Reading. It’s been a while since his semester abroad ended at Christmas, but here’s his final blog post from his study abroad experience. 

The 18th of November started much the same as any other day; I woke up, had breakfast and brushed my teeth. I sat down, opened up my laptop and ping an email arrived from Study Abroad with the subject, ‘Coming to an end’. Time had flown by and this email began the long goodbye.

The next few weeks were full of work, goodbyes, Christmas celebrations and promises to stay in touch. A particular highlight was the Julefrokost (Christmas party) with my football team. One of the first things I did when I arrived in Aarhus was to sign up for the university football team. I knew this would be a great opportunity to meet lots of people and get a closer insight into Danish life. It was everything I’d hoped for. Almost everyone on my team was Danish, there were only two international students including me! This meant that everyone spoke Danish all the time. It was difficult at first, although they would easily translate for me. However, by the end of my stay I could (pretty much) understand what was being discussed in the tactics and knew basic phrases to use during games. I was trying to learn Danish in class, but I’m sure I picked up more of the language on the football pitch!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

At the end of the season we had a Julefrokost, which is a traditional Danish Christmas party. This consists of an extremely long meal and copious amounts of schnapps (one of the worst drinks I’ve tried).  It was brilliant and incredibly Danish. The first dish consisted of pickled herring, curry salad and of course rye bread. Each person had to stand up, give a speech and then afterwards everyone had a shot of schnapps. Bearing in mind that there were 30 people at this event it’s safe to say my memory blurs towards the end of the night. The overriding feeling at the end of the night was a sense of friendship and gratitude that they had welcomed me into their traditions so readily.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

More Christmas parties and more goodbyes followed. This was interspersed with the need to try and do some work to make my deadlines. Aarhus is a beautiful city in general; around Christmas it becomes even more alive, draped in Christmas trees and lights. I tried to fit in all the sights before I left, saw my first Handball game and celebrated the Danish Queen. Then, the last week came around. This was a difficult week, as each day another friend would leave for a different country. I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to study in Aarhus and meet so many different people. I would encourage anyone if they get the chance to study abroad to take it. I now feel that I have contacts all throughout the world that I hope to make use of at some point!

Simon

Missed Simon’s last blog post? Catch up here: http://bit.ly/2klUzum

Snow shoes at the ready!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Natasha studied abroad at the University of Ottawa in Canada for a semester as part of her Geography degree at Reading. THis blog post covers the latter part of her semester abroad!

I am now mid-way through my semester abroad in Canada and its safe to say I’m still loving every minute of it! The week after reading week, my boyfriend came to visit me for a week, so we used that time to drive (6 hours) to Toronto and Niagara Falls. Most of my friends had already been to Niagara Falls and hearing all their stories from visiting, I was so excited to actually go and see it myself. The sheer size of the waterfalls were just insane, like nothing I had ever seen before! Toronto as a city was amazing and definitely one of my favourite cities that I have ever visited. We managed squeeze so much into a short weekend visit, as I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss any classes at ottawaU. Going up the CN Tower and seeing the entirety of Toronto over sunset was so beautiful, and really put into perspective just how spread out the city is! Visiting the St. Lawrence Market, which has been recognised as the number one food market in the world, was so much fun and we tried so many different foods in a relatively small area.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Niagara Falls

In November, the cold weather had finally hit Ottawa, with temperatures going down to negative twenty-eight, so we were staying inside a lot more. Despite this, a group of international students, with the help of a guide, had arranged a weekend stay with a First Nations family in the North-Western Territories. Needless to stay, it was of the most humbling experiences of my life. Being able to experience the way they live completely off the land, understand the struggles they go through and staying in such a beautiful place.

I am still experiencing new things in relation to the Canadian culture, by visiting copious amounts so University sports matches, particularly ice hockey.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

The workload has increased recently, with final papers needing to be handed in – all four within one week! On top of this, final exams were only weeks away so the going out had slowed down. However, before my time to go home came, I wanted to go to New York City and experience their Christmas extravaganzas. It’s safe to say that I was not disappointed. I visited ‘SantaLand’ at Macys, visited Central Park and watched the light show on Saks 5th Ave. During my time in Canada, I have travelled to so many amazing places, making me realise how little I have travelled around the U.K. This has made we want to explore the country I live in more.

Natasha

Missed Natasha’s last blog post? Catch up here: http://bit.ly/2kvLD8L

For the love of Quokka

University of Reading student studying abroad in Australia for a Semester

Cameron spent the first part of his second year studying abroad at Curtin University in Australia as part of his Film and Theatre degree at Reading. If you’ve been following his semester abroad, read on for his final blog from his time in Australia. 

And so it is: my semester abroad has come to a close. Right now the end is in immediate sight but that does not mean that I squandered my last month in the land down under; sat on my haunches waiting for my flight home. Far from it! These last few weeks, like my whole time here in Australia has been outstanding. So let’s get into the details as I recount some of the spectacular stuff that I’ve recently experienced.

Firstly, what goes around comes around, as Ellie, my Melbourne-based study abroad partner in crime, came to visit me here in Perth. During Ellie’s time in Western Australia, we went on a quick tour of the state’s sightseeing highlights, including areas such as Fremantle Prison, as well as areas of the capital that I had not previously visited. However, the pinnacle of this lightning stop tour had to be travelling to Rottnest Island. A short ferry-ride from the coast of Perth, Rottnest acts as one of the few homes of the quokka, which are often cited as being the happiest animal on Earth.  After spending the day on the island, in their company, I have to agree.

After Ellie’s visit, normality resumed for a short while as I finished off some assessments. However, this did not last for long as I jetted off to Sydney to spend my penultimate week visiting family friends.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Australia for a Semester

Sydney Opera House

Sydney, like everywhere else that I have been in Australia, is an incredible city. The streets were lively, the people were welcoming, and the weather was beautiful. Thanks to an abundance of establishing shots from every movie that has ever had a scene set in Sydney, the iconic image of the Opera House has been ingrained into my consciousness since I was a child. I was always aware of it being a spectacular architectural achievement but actually witnessing the endlessly photographical building (or buildings) with my eyes was a breath-taking experience. Also, to see this building from the top of the Harbour bridge climb, on cloudless, sunny day, has to be one of the greatest moments of my life so far.
As stated earlier, I stayed with family friends while in Sydney and I could not have wished for better hosts. So generous and kind, with a great knowledge of the city, it was shame that I couldn’t stay any longer. When one of them comes to visit me and my family in the future I hope we can return the favour.

And after Sydney that was it – back to Perth to collect my things and say good bye to my friends at Curtin. I’m sure I will see them again.
Now it’s a very peculiar sensation as I write this final blog sat in Perth airport, waiting to board my first of two planes home. I feel as if studying in Australia is the only thing I’ve ever known, with my time at Reading being a distant but fond memory. At this moment I truly feel split between two worlds. Travelling and exploring the Land of Oz has been a terrific experience that I am going to miss dearly. But at the same time, I am longing for the crisp, chill air of Britain as Christmas creeps upon us. There is something very unsettling about tinsel being displayed while the sun blares down in 30 degrees Celsius. Either way, I’m sure I’ll settle on an opinion when I write my retrospective blog in about 4 weeks. Till then, in the words of Simon & Garfunkel, my thoughts go “To England, where my heart lies.”

Cameron

Missed Cameron’s last post? Catch up here: http://bit.ly/2k3223C

Saying goodbye to Maple-Syrup Country

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. We are already well into the Spring term but Jake’s post looks back on the end of his semester abroad. 

My last few weeks in Ottawa were hectic to say the least. Knowing my time in Canada was drawing to a close, I tried to make the most of everyday whilst also ensuring I dedicated enough time to completing my Finals for the five modules I chose to take at uOttawa.

In the last few weeks, my Final essays undeniably consumed much of my focus and time. However, despite all the stress, I thoroughly enjoyed writing each one. In many cases, by being able to choose my own research questions, I was afforded more academic freedom and creativity than I would have perhaps experienced in Reading for the equivalent courses. From comparing the films of Atom Egoyan, to also analysing how an audience responds to a film like Spike Jonze’s Her, I was able to write about ideas and theories that really captivated me. Canada allowed me to grow in confidence socially, but also enabled me to become more secure in my own academic interests and writing.

Apart from my finals, I made a conscious effort to re-visit my favourite places in the city of Ottawa. In the very last few days of my exchange I visited numerous coffee houses and photographed beautiful scenery, exploring places that were increasingly covered with more and more snow. I conducted my own ‘magical mystery tour’ of the memories I created in the very first days after my arrival. It really hammered home how the time had flown by and confirmed to me that, with an experience like this, you really have to make every second count. It is over before you know it! You do not want to be left wondering whether you really ate enough poutine or skated (wobbled) around an ice rink as frequently as you could have done.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Looking back on my overall time in Ottawa, I do not regret any moment. Despite the worry, nerves and academic stress of taking such a big leap, I have been exposed to an amazing culture, seen wonderful landscapes and made life long friends. I thoroughly believe that throughout our lives it is our experiences that define us. Everything we do and see contributes to our sense of self, and as I learned in Canadian Cinema, this process of becoming is never ending.

I have skated in the snow, watched mesmerising light shows projected on parliamentary buildings and drank gallons of Tim Horton’s coffee, far more than is probably healthy. However, I can safely say despite the numerous things I have accomplished, I am not quite satisfied. This exchange in Canada had awoken within me an intense desire to travel and experience the world. I want to return to Canada in the future; I have fallen in love with this maple-syrup country, despite the literal toe-numbing temperatures towards the end of my exchange

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Regardless of it being a cliché, I can now see that the world is full of possibilities. After completing my degree to the best of my ability, I cannot wait to get out there and explore it in its entirety. I thank Canada, and the people I met there, for making this exchange an unforgettable experience that has helped me define myself that little bit more as I continue onto the future.

Jake

Missed Jake’s last post? Catch up here http://bit.ly/2kkypcL

 

 

Study Abroad: Inspiration for further travel!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Taiwan for a Semester

Matilda studied abroad at the National Taiwan University of Arts in Taiwan as part of her Joint Art & English Literature degree at Reading. This is her final blog post from her semester abroad. 

I’m so sad for my term abroad to be ending; I really have had the best time here in Taipei. It’s been fantastic to learn so many new skills and meet lots of amazing new people. I haven’t had an experience like this and I’m so glad I went outside my comfort zone otherwise I wouldn’t have gained as much as I have (academically and personally).

The NTUA term continues until 20th January and so my last few weeks have been a bit of a rush with finishing all my work before my departure date. I have been able to do a bit of exploring and went on a cultural trip organised by the exchange office. We made groundnut oolong green tea and visited cultural villages, a temple and a farm, which was fantastic. Taiwan’s rich cultural history is incredibly interesting.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Taiwan for a Semester

University of Reading student studying abroad in Taiwan for a Semester

Studying abroad has been the most fantastic experience for me, it is the best thing I have done by far. Living in a country for a long period of time gives you a very unique insight into its culture. It has been a really liberating experience and one that I can see having a big impact on my future. I feel it is something I will always refer back to as one of the best learning and development experiences of my life. Studying in Taiwan has given me inspiration to travel and ideas for career paths after university.

After Taiwan I went to China. This is something I never thought I would be able to do but actually it turned out cheaper to travel home via Beijing! Seeing Beijing was an incredibly profound experience for me. I arrived at the time the news of Trump accepting a phone call from Tai Ing-Wen came out. I was lucky to be staying with a friend who works for the foreign office who explained the phone call was the first time the US and Taiwan have had communication in 40 years. I was able to see first hand the effect this had in Beijing. The news made headlines about the Chinese expecting a very public and sincere apology from Trump. It was incredible to see these events unfold and with my new knowledge of these political relationships, I could really see the danger, fear and political tension.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Taiwan for a Semester

Studying abroad is something I never thought I would be able to do. I feel it has been a total privilege and I have loved every second. Being so far away was daunting in the first instance of saying goodbye at Heathrow but once I was there, I never looked back! There was so much I wanted to see and do; I would have stayed a year if I could have. I hope that one day I can return to Taiwan and meet my friends again. I have made so many friends internationally from my experience, which has also opened up doors for me. I couldn’t have had a more enriching and enjoyable experience.

Matilda

Missed Matilda’s last blog post? Catch up here: http://bit.ly/2hYyVOD