Leeds, Leeds, Leeds…

This week marked my last week of my exchange semester at the University of Leeds.

First of all, if you are thinking about going on exchange, I know it’s clichéd but DO IT! It honestly seems like a really scary thing to consider going to another country to live for 6 months or a year, but if there’s anything that I want it’s to extend to a year. This has been my first experience living away from home, and while I’m on the other side of the world, it’s not as scary as the concept. I love it! Continue reading “Leeds, Leeds, Leeds…”

The ‘Not Oxford’ Oxford Experience

Words cannot truly capture the odd yet incredible adventure that has been the first five weeks at Oxford Brookes. I’ve lived through moments I could only have ever dreamed of and experienced every emotion under the sun. It has been a roller coaster but I hope these few brief words can do Oxford some justice. Continue reading “The ‘Not Oxford’ Oxford Experience”

University of Westminster, London

By Tanya Mackey, Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Journalism)

After going to so many exchange meetings, filling out form after form and spending long chunks of time waiting in the UTS international office I began to build up the idea of moving to London for uni as a far-off dream that may or may not come true.

Even after holding the hard copy of my acceptance letter from the University of Westminster it still didn’t fully sink in.

Fast forward to New Years Eve 2013: I hopped off the plane at Heathrow after a draining 30 hours in transition. It was mid afternoon, outside was grey and rainy, and the robotic voice from the airport speakers had a british accent. By this time I’d realised – yes this was actually happening. Later that night I watched the fireworks over the London Eye, Big Ben and the River Thames. It sounds super corny but at that point in time everything I’d dreamt about began to come true.

Since those first few moments in London there have been times where I still pinch myself or do a double take because life here can be absolutely unrealistic in the best way.

Let me explain:

Being a Sydney girl in London

Londoners in general are strangely envious of Sydneysiders. They are totally jealous of our beaches, the sun, the stereotypical ‘surfy’ lifestyle (the amount of times I’ve been asked if I surf…) and they find our accent endearing. Just being a girl ‘all the way’ from Australia has made me feel like a bit of a spectacle. This, combined with talk of drop-bears and the vast amount of spiders and sharks was a surefire way to make some new british mates and snag some fun dates. Also, if you’ve been overseas before you’ll know that Aussies stick together, so I’ve been fortunate enough to make a lovely group of fellow Australian girls to hang out and go exploring with.

Personal interests/opportunities

I guarantee that no matter what your interests are you will find a way to pursue them in London. This city is so huge and diverse in a way that Sydney could never be. It’s literally a melting pot of ideas and creativity entwined with cultures from all around the world put in motion by people from all walks of life. If you’re into art there is a never-ending amount of galleries, studios and classes to keep you busy. If you like music there is always a gig to go to no matter which night of the week, aspiring musicians seem to congregate here, there are clubs with rooms and even floors playing different genres, and all the big names in the industry will stop in London whilst touring. If you’re keen on fashion and shopping I’ve found London is a zillion times better than Sydney (or any other city in Australia, really). High street shopping is incredible and I still can’t get over how massive the flagship Topshop store is on Oxford Street – FYI it even has a restaurant inside. No matter what your budget there are plenty of options to sift through…I could go on and on so get in touch if you’d like a guide.

Travel time to other countries

Last month I visited Milan for a few days. The trip blew my mind because I sat on the plane for about two hours and I’d made it to a totally new country; the brits and europeans don’t think twice about this luxury but I found it quite surreal to be in an absolutely new culture without having to do the usual trek halfway around the world. It really puts into perspective how isolated Australia is in comparison to Europe. Another perk is that London is in the vicinity of all the great European cities and plane tickets are usually quite cheap (as long as you don’t leave it to the last minute), I’ve found return tickets to visit a friend in Switzerland next month for fifty pounds return (thats $100!).

Going to uni/on campus life – Harrow Halls

One thing I am most thankful for is to have the opportunity to live on the campus where I study, in Harrow Halls. When I was first assigned this accomodation I’m not going to lie I was a little disappointed, as I had envisioned myself smack bang in central London at the Marylebone Halls. Rather, Harrow is about twenty minutes from the city by the tube (which, by the way, becomes part of everyday life) and the vibe is completely different to the mad rush of the city. There’s big grassy open spaces, an oval where everyone hangs out to have picnics, play music and have a game of football or frisbee on sunny days. All the classes here are the ‘creative’ subjects like film, music, fashion, journalism and photography. I’ve discovered that music courses here are super popular and it seems as though everyone is in a band and regularly plays at the student bar or actual venues around London! This also indicates that the best parties happen here at Harrow thanks to all those rowdy musos (and lack of harsh security). Now that I’ve lived here for a few months I really couldn’t imagine myself being anywhere else and I’m sure if I didn’t stay in these halls my exchange experience would have been completely different. Whether or not you are interested in Harrow Halls, I’d encourage you to look into on-campus accommodation because each set of flats have their own fun and each have their own special perks too; be it convenience, location, price or decor.

So, now that you’re seriously considering making your dreams come true, remember:

“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

All those hours spent organising and saving for exchange will be totally worth it!

I’ll leave you with some photos of my life as a University of Westminster student so far:

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Central London
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Northwick Park – the open spaces next to Harrow Halls
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Found the lollies inside Hamleys! (a huge british toy store on Regent Street)
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Sunset outside Buckingham Palace
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“The Tube” at Northwick Park station (two minutes away from Harrow Halls)
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My Arts & Entertainment Journalism course went to the National Gallery instead of a lecture to find inspiration for an assignment – it was one of my favourite assessments to date
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Daytrip to Oxford – this the bodleian library
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Another daytrip to see the white cliffs of Dover – I’m loving the fresh ocean air!

 If you would like to ask any questions feel free to contact me via email: tanyajmackey@gmail.com

You can also follow my travels on instagram: tanyajmackey

Student life in Norwich

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The University of East Anglia may be 35 hours away from Sydney, but for the last two and a half months it has felt like home.  Being a city girl, I was both excited and nervous about moving to Norwich, a small city in the northeast of England.  Although it’s classified as a city, Norwich feels much more like a town, with a slow pace of life and a lot of green.  But don’t be fooled, country life in no way means quiet.  There is always something to do, ranging from a drink at one of the city’s 300 pubs, a play at one of the many theatres or a gig in town.  In the last 10 days alone I have done all three of those things.

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A very dodgy photo of Haim, playing at the club on campus.

Norwich has also proved itself to be a great base for travel, the highlight being an impromptu road trip to Manchester and Liverpool at the end of the third week.  On Wednesday we booked a car and on Friday five new friends and I set out for a casual drive across England.  Words cannot do the trip justice, but I would highly recommend driving through the Peak District at sunset, gaping open mouthed at the beauty of the John Ryland’s Library in Manchester and bracing the freezing cold winds at Albert Dock in Liverpool.  London is only two and a half hours away and much time has been spent there, including one memorable weekend where ten of us ate until our hearts were content at Borough Market and danced until 6 in the morning at the Ministry of Sound.  Future travel plans include Ireland and Scotland, as well as heading over to the continent to practice my Spanish and visit friends in Germany.

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Albert Dock, Liverpool.   The Peak District.  Borough Market.

In order to appease my parents and faculty, I have to say that it hasn’t all been fun and games.  UEA has a strong arts faculty and I have really enjoyed taking a break from law to learn about British history, global politics and Spanish.  The teaching staff are lovely and it’s been fun adding ‘an Australian perspective’ to everything.  I’m also blessed with a wicked view of UEA’s broad and parklands from my bedroom window, which makes studying just a little bit easier.

Speaking of which, living on campus is one of the coolest experiences of the whole exchange.  Not only can you roll out of bed 10 minutes before class and still be on time, but you have an instant family.  The freshers provide endless hours of amusement and ‘thank god I’m not 18’ moments and the internationals, who make up half my flat, never shy away from an opportunity to try something new or chat about the weird English quirks we just don’t understand.  Flat living also brings with it movie nights, Wine Wednesday, communal cooking and a 5 minute walk to the campus club – really what is there not to love?

Last but not least, exchange has introduced me to some awesome people.  I’ve got to stop there, otherwise I’ll get soppy, but my time at UEA wouldn’t have been this awesome if it weren’t for them.  Luckily, half of them are Australian –because we really are everywhere – but I look forward to visiting the rest in future travels.  As if I needed another excuse!

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Kate Stanley

Posted in UK

Exchange In Norwich, England

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Having been here for almost 3 months I can safely say they have been some of the best of my life so far! I always wanted to go on exchange but never could have imagined how many special memories would be made on the other side of the world, and I’m barely halfway through my trip! I’m on exchange in Norwich, England which is 2 hours north-east of London. It is quaint and gorgeous while still maintaining the allure of decent sized city with beautiful history, great food and drink and a welcoming and relaxed vibe. The University of East Anglia is brilliant, a 20 minute bus ride to town and set on a beautiful lake. Having never lived on campus for University before I was initially overwhelmed with excitement in how much of a cool little bubble it is with so many fun things going on and the prospect of a nightclub and bar on campus was extremely enticing! I have made so many friendships here so far with both English students and internationals, of which many I know will be life-long and exciting travel plans have been made together around England and Europe which has enhanced this experience even more. It really is an eye opening experience and I feel like my perspectives and desire to travel and try new things has been greatly impacted for the better. I absolutely love the people here and I will be so sad to leave! Would definitely recommend UEA in Norwich for exchange as I can honestly say I’ve had the most fantastic time imaginable!

Amelia Heyward

Posted in UK

Life in London- By Maya Shallita

Cold and rainy. Two words which are often used to describe London. While this description is accurate, I have nonetheless fallen in love with this city. The shopping, excellent cafes, beautiful architecture and buzzing nightlife, all make up for the dreadful weather. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here.

I have made some wonderful friends located all across the world and as cheesy as it sounds, had some very memorable experiences. Natasha, Alice and I (All UTS students) have had the pleasure of making friends with a lovely group of European students. Throughout many nights of drinking, drinking and eating- I have learnt SO many new things about travelling, university life and culture- from these new friends. When we take photos, it’s refreshing, as SO many countries are represented/brought together. It sounds so sentimental, but it truly is nice. When we get together, there are variety of accents, many different levels of English and different senses of humour. Thus communicating is always interesting and hilarious.

I feel as though I have been living a life of luxury, or as some may say being a ‘lady who lunches’. I am used to juggling a social life, three jobs back home and a BA Laws and Communications, therefore this “relaxing’ experience is both foreign and incredibly pleasant. I have visited countless parks, museums, galleries and MOST IMPORTANTLY RESTAURANTS and CAFES. I HAVE truly eaten my way through London.

I am slowly making my way throughout the UK and I travelled last weekend to Dublin for Saint Patricks Day, which was VERY fun. I have ticked MOST of the tourist boxes in both Ireland and London. This weekend I am travelling to the Cliffs of Dover and Birmingham, where I will indulge is LOTS OF CHOCOLATE at the Cadbury factory. While I intend to definitely completing the tourist activities when I travel around Europe- If there is anything I have learnt- it’s that I much prefer to sit in cafes, go to bars and walk around. Sometimes spontaneity is the best approach- because you really do experience the culture in this way.

I am so glad that I took the opportunity to go on exchange, as so far, it has been an amazing experience. Surprisingly, my classes are all nearly over and I am about to start my HUGE assessment block (however this is nowhere near as stressful as back home). Once my university commitments are complete in May, I am traveling to as many countries as I can fit in- Portugal, Morrocco, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Berlin, Italy, France and Amsterdam (that’s all i have planned so far ;))

 

I can’t wait for my adventures ahead and I never want to leave! 🙂

 

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Posted in UK

Life in London

Two and a half months ago, I arrived in London with nothing more than a vague idea of what to expect during this experience. Studying, exploring the city and travelling Europe were really the only plans that I had.

My classes at the University of Westminster have been very impressive. They’re structured slightly differently to those at UTS, with more focus on independent study, and I have thoroughly enjoyed taking part in them and having the opportunity to experience education in another culture.

Living so close to the excitement of London has been nothing short of amazing. There are countless things to see and do here, and I know that I have only just begun to scratch the surface of all that this place has to offer. Having visited London on a holiday last year, I had been to many of the standard tourist locations, such as the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Covent Garden, St Paul’s Cathedral and, of course, Platform 9 ¾. I wanted to see what the next layer of London had to offer.

This time, I’ve explored a little deeper. I’ve visited the Camden Markets, the Churchill War Rooms and countless museums. I’ve wandered through the Royal Gardens and had the time and freedom to casually stroll along the Thames. I’ve ventured further afield to places like Cambridge and have spent far too much money on seeing West End shows, though, to be fair, I did do that last time as well…

London is undeniably full of spectacular landmarks and ever-present reminders of England’s fascinating history. Despite this, I’ve been reminded that, often, it’s the unexpected things that are the most memorable and that truly define an experience. Before I came to London, I could have named many of the famous buildings I would see; I could have rattled off the list of other cities that I planned to visit; and I could have told you all about the tourist-filled sites that I wanted to tick off my bucket list.

I couldn’t have told you about how travelling the Tube becomes second nature. About how quickly you learn your way around the various lines and become surprisingly affectionate towards the line that is “yours” – and how quickly that changes as you travel on rail replacement buses during routine maintenance on weekends. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you about the interesting people you encounter on the Tube, such as the man who sat opposite me and casually held a dead fox on his lap for the duration of his trip. Seriously, I could not have predicted that.

I couldn’t have told you about how peaceful it is to spend a lazy day in Kensington Gardens, reading a book and watching the world go by. I couldn’t have told you about the surprisingly beautiful way the sun sets over the University campus or about how the students flow out of the Halls of Residence and onto the field to take in the sun’s rays the instant it overcomes the clouds.

I couldn’t have told you about my lovely flatmates, Katie, Jade, Lewy, Hannah and Marta, who started the semester by making a Sunday dinner for all of us to share. Being somewhat inept in the kitchen, my sole task was ensuring that the chicken wasn’t overcooked. In the last two months we have shared many meals, had a lovely day in Hyde Park, attended an Oscars event, celebrated Pancake Day, gone to the movies and watched TV shows in our pyjamas. All good things, in my book!

I couldn’t have known about the friends who would welcome me into their lives without hesitation. In our first class together, Ellie, Niki and Rosy happily (and somewhat forcefully) insisted that I join their group for an assignment… And they haven’t left me alone since. Not that I would want them to! Through them, I also met their housemate, Nicole, who initially greeted me with what was undoubtedly the most horrendous “Australian” accent ever to escape someone’s mouth. These four girls have become more a part of my time here than I ever could have imagined. They have become my home away from home and exchange would have been a poorer experience without them. Together we have had countless laughs and even a few tears… And more burgers than I care to mention.

Making the most of exchange doesn’t always mean spending as much time as possible doing all of the touristy things – though, of course, that’s certainly a priority! For me, making the most of exchange has meant truly living here and having the real experience of what it is to simply live life in London. It isn’t always clubs, pubs and landmarks although, yes, there are a lot of them! Life carries on while you’re on exchange. You’ll have amazing days, good days, not so good days and maybe even some days you would rather forget. But this experience is like no other time in your life and, if you have the opportunity to take part in an exchange programme, I absolutely recommend that you dive straight in and make the most of it – whatever that may mean for you.

After almost three months here, my time in classes at the University of Westminster is coming to an end. With just a few weeks to go, the focus now turns to the assignments I have to complete. However, the exchange experience is not quite over yet! One of the many wonderful things about London is its proximity to other amazing European locations and I have every intention of visiting as many of them as possible. I already have plans to travel to Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Paris and several cities around the UK and Ireland. I hope to visit a few other places along the way, before making my way back to London in order to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made here and to this city that I have come to love.

Laura Heard

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My favourite reading place in Kensington Gardens
Posted in UK