Winter is Cold

Melbourne in winter is cold. But if you stand in the intense sunlight, it’s not too bad by my English standards. It hasn’t stopped me, and a group of other exchange students I met, from visiting the beach to enjoy bright vistas, or visiting the zoo to see the kangaroos and koalas first-hand. In fact, our first few weeks here have been very busy, with all of the orientation activities that Monash University planned for us. These included not only information sessions about the university, but also an array of social events.

The nights do feel like winter, with many establishments celebrating ‘Christmas in July’, and in fact the Queen Victoria markets, which we visited in orientation, were putting on an attempt at a Christmas market. It was very festive and cosy and even though it was winter and under a shelter, the Australians were not deterred from barbequing, so it did get a bit smoky! Monash is also in on this BBQ culture, and seems to have one every week on campus, if you are part of one of their many societies.

I have so far tried out the badminton society, which is extremely friendly and enjoyable, and will be joining the ultimate frisbee society next week. I have been told that the frisbee society is especially social, with regular BBQs, hikes and camping trips, so I am looking forward to it. There is also an outdoors society for this kind of thing, which I am hoping will help in my mission to see as much of Australia as I can before my exchange comes to an end. So far, it is going well, but I intend to make plans soon for wider travels. Australia is a big country!

So far I have been very lucky with my travels, as my family has been able to show me around and recommend some places. My cousin has even taken me to see some of Melbourne’s best street art, and Melbourne is a very artistic place. It is also very laid-back and friendly; everyone really is your ‘mate’. I think I will like it here.

MADA, or Monash Art, Design and Architecture, runs quite differently to the art department in Reading. You can choose elective units from anywhere in the department, if you’re an art student like I am, or from anywhere in the university, if you’re from a different Reading department, I believe. This allows us to be exposed to a range of different skills! I am learning about photography, illustration, coding, and film. So I will have no problem filling my time with assignments, as well as with all of the travelling I intend to do. Time is going by so quickly!

The Beautiful City of Uppsala

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 o  n 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. 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!

The Family Comes to Visit

You might be planning already for your family to visit you while you are studying abroad at Reading. If you need some ideas for what to do with them, here’s what Collin got up to when his family visited!

One of the great things about Reading is that it provides an excellent place for family to come and visit while studying at the University. Being so close to London my family was able to fly in during Thanksgiving break to come explore what England has to offer. Being their first time to Europe I was very excited to show them around. The first item on the agenda was to explore the town of Reading. The whole family was keen on doing some shopping, so the Oracle center provided the perfect opportunity to cross that off the list.

The next item on the list was Stonehenge. Stonehenge is only about an hour south of Reading, easily accessible by car. It was a wonderful experience and very informational. Stonehenge is one of those things that you have to experience first hand to truly appreciate the beauty and history it has to offer. On the same day, we visited the town of Salisbury, a small medieval cathedral city with tons of shops and restaurants. The next couple days were spent in downtown London seeing places like Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

There are so many other exciting places to see in England that are close to Reading. Other excellent places to visit within a short distance are Oxford and Bath. Oxford is home to the world famous University as well as a city with unique shops. It is quite a pleasant sight and definitely a must see for anyone travelling to England. Bath is another must-see city home to the Roman baths and museum as well as a Christmas market in the beginning of the Christmas season. Overall, it was an awesome experience having my family come into town and Reading provided the perfect opportunity to make that happen.

NB: for students joining us in January (and those continuing from Autumn 2017), we’ll be organising a Study Abroad Programme Trip to Stonehenge and Winchester, which will take place on Saturday 10 March 2018. More details will follow in February 2018. Save the date!

One World at Reading

Reading is proud to have a diverse community of students and staff. Coming from a diverse campus at University of Texas at Dallas, Kiara was able to get involved with activities to celebrate this diversity while a member of the Study Abroad Programme at the University of Reading!

I am racially ambiguous. Being multiracial is a huge part of my identity. It’s kind of hard for it not to be a huge part of who I am, considering it generally means I look different from my peers–regardless of wherever in the world I happen to be. I really do love being multiracial, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Growing up in a multiracial family meant being surrounded by diversity all the time. The older I got, the more I realized that diversity is not always the norm; moreover, diversity is something to be celebrated and appreciated. Diversity is so near and dear to me that it played into my decision to attend my home university, The University of Texas at Dallas. My university has been ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s most diverse campuses. I was so fortunate to become a part a community that values diversity in all forms. For example, administrative departments like the International Center, the Galerstein Gender Center, and the Multicultural Center are a few great resources that schedule many popular student functions throughout the school year. In my second year at UTD, the Multicultural Center founded a student group specifically by multiracial students for multiracial students. After spending a year on this committee, I left to study abroad at the University of Reading.

When I got to campus, I was in awe of how much Reading has to offer their students. There is a student organization for anything you could think of: surfing, quidditch, archery, Bollywood, Disney, and the list goes on and on. I had no idea where to begin! As luck would have it, shortly after I got to campus, I got an email from RUSU’s [Reading University Students’ Union] Diversity Officer. She was promoting Black History Month and a student committee dedicated to celebrating the diversity that exists on campus. I jumped at the opportunity to join the One World Committee!

In the initial interest meeting, we had representation from seven countries. It was incredible to see such a large, diverse turnout, despite the university being primarily white, British students. We began to plan the first event of the school year–an event to showcase how cultures from around the world celebrate winter holidays. The event was scheduled for early December, and I was really excited to see how everything turned out. I’ll be working the welcome booth, but other Reading students from all across the globe were setting up booths to show how they celebrate Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and other winter holidays with traditions, clothing, and food. I mean, who doesn’t love cultural learning and free food?

As part of the One World Committee, I also had the opportunity to help design a video campaign to promote One World Committee and its events. I even get to be in the video! The video is still in the works, but keep your eyes out on RUSU’s social media pages for updates!

Even though I am only at Reading for the fall, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and work with some great people. I am so happy to have found a community that values diversity and works to promote it. I’ve enjoyed my time working with the One World Committee and I cannot wait to see how it grows and develops (even if it is via social media). One family, one people, one world, one love!

NB: for more information about how diversity is acknowledged and celebrated at the University of Reading, please see https://www.reading.ac.uk/diversity/. For more information about the One World campaign Kiara was involved with, please see https://www.rusu.co.uk/campaigns/2017-18/one-world-reading/. 

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