Student Blog: Helen – “And so it ends”

So here we are, a week after I came back from Tübingen and I’ve only just mustered up the energy to write this post.
In all seriousness, coming home has definitely been the hardest part of being abroad; not exams, not going there – leaving. I don’t want to focus too much on the negatives, but I think there’s definitely a reason people (half-jokingly) call it post-Erasmus depression, and I’d advise some preparation before you go home; plan things to keep yourself busy within the first few days (seeing family, friends etc.), else you (like me) may end up moping around and feeling homesick for abroad.

However, looking back on the past year it’s been incredible. I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. I feel like I’ve grown in so many ways; I’ve met people from many different backgrounds, taken a vastly different range of courses than I’d be able to in Lancaster, and got in touch with my half-German side, meaning that I feel fairly confident speaking to my relatives now. I’ve traveled to different countries, seen people skating on the frozen river, figured out how to sort my rubbish correctly, realised that the Biomüll needs taking out at least every week, and that not all stereotypes are true (shout out to the number 4 bus, which was maybe on time twice).

Going abroad is not easy, it’s not always fun and it’s not always comfortable. It forces you out of your comfort zone, but that’s why it’s so beneficial. There will be great times, and probably some bad ones (these mostly coincide with periods of stress, I’ve found), but with a good support system in place and people around you, it’ll work out well.

Just a tip: don’t underestimate the power of social media at the beginning! Look for international groups, course groups etc. so you can find people to hang out with at the start of the semester.
Also: if you’re invited somewhere I would definitely advise going! You never know who you’ll meet, maybe they’ll be your best friends.

I know I’ll have a hard time piping down about my time abroad for a long while to come, because it’s what I’ve been used to for the last eleven months (but I think if I don’t I might lose all my friends; I don’t want to be that person).

I’d also like to thank everyone who’s made my time abroad the amazing year that it was; my flatmate who made me feel welcome, the Erasmus group that kept me sane in my first semester (fulle ska vi bli alle) with copious amounts of coffee, the ISCL guys (FrieFore, without whom I may not have passed some classes) who were my rocks in the second, and the first, semester, all the great people I met in my classes, and- thinking about it- pretty much everyone I met. Thank you all so much.

Finally, thank you for reading this! I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse of my year abroad- maybe it’s inspired you to go, or at least made you consider it. I’m sure this won’t be the last time you hear from me, so I guess we’ll talk… soon?

Student Blog: Helen – “Expect the unexpected”

As the days start to get shorter again (??) it’s still roasting temperature in Tübingen; last week it got to 34 degrees. And, if you’re wondering why I’m still abroad, semester continues til the end of July here (and yes, I am jealous that you have already finished your exams).

If I had a word to describe how the last few weeks have been, it would be “stressful”. I’ve had an exam, a presentation, and more are looming. Other, completely random things haven’t been going particularly well- my kitchen has been redone, so I couldn’t cook anything for a week, and there were people in my flat from 7:15am to 4pm. It’s definitely a strange feeling to feel out of place in your own home.
Due to the heat, I’ve been sleeping pretty badly, and it’s difficult to concentrate when I’m studying, which- with exams coming up- isn’t the best thing in the world.

And, the icing on the stress-cake, is that I managed to (somehow) spill antibacterial hand gel on my phone, and repairing it is expensive, which leads to my next point…

All these things going wrong really makes me appreciate that they usually are fine; it’s like that feeling when you get a cold and your nose is blocked, and you realise how lucky you normally are to be able to breathe easily. The time without my phone has really helped me to be more productive, and to reevaluate how much I really need it. Funnily enough, it half-breaking has inspired me to stay without my smartphone (I still have a brick German one) until I come back to England, as having a month without my phone has always been something I’ve wanted to do, and there’s no better time to be productive than just before exams!

So, I guess the lesson to be learned is to make the best out of a situation, even when it seems that things aren’t going particularly well. There’s often a silver lining, and anyway, you can be almost certain that in a job interview they’ll ask you about a challenge you overcame- these experiences have got to come from somewhere!

Anyhow, I need to get back to revising for my exam (it’s in just over a week now)- talk soon?

Student Blog: Helen – “Spring in Tübingen & weekend break”

So– it’s been a while. My last post got lost in the computer system, which is why there’s been a break. However, I am evidently back again to tell you about the *cough* interesting weather we’ve had, and about the weekend trip I took to Berlin (and probably some other things too).

Within the past month and a half we’ve essentially had all four seasons- no joke. One week it was around 25 degrees and I (laughably) got a slight tan, then there was a lot of rain- I think all the rain we ought to have had the rest of the year- and hail and snow (yes, snow. In April.) and then we’ve come full circle back to summer weather again. In a word: unpredictable.
I can’t lie though, I love this summer weather. I swear we’ve had more sun within the past month than in a year in Lancaster (see also: reasons to study abroad).

Last weekend (it feels like ages ago) I was in Berlin with some friends who are/were also on Erasmus and I had such a good time! I was there for a day less than the majority of people, as I had class on the Friday and most people didn’t, but it was really nice to catch up with some of the people who left last semester (even for a short while). We really lucked out with the weather as well- originally we thought it would rain the entire weekend but actually it only rained for a couple of hours on the Sunday. It felt great to get away from Tuebingen and be somewhere a bit bigger; whilst I had been to Berlin before, it was at least 5 years ago so I was able to wander around and get a new feel for it. I think to experience Berlin in its entirety I’d have needed slightly more time than I had, but it was great to be there. One thing that wasn’t as great was the transport there and back- 11 hours on the Flixbus (Megabus but for all of Europe) and 12 and a half hours back, due to delays and, excitingly, being checked for passports by the police. To this day I don’t know why.

Whilst the bus was not the best part of the trip, it’s very cheap- a lot cheaper than flying or taking the train- which is why when I go to Amsterdam in Pfingsten (the first week of June) we will also be going via Flixbus. There’s a lot of exciting things coming up soon: my mum is coming to visit in a week and a half, then I’m off to Amsterdam, then I should probably study a bit as I have a midterm (ok, maybe that’s not an exciting thing), but life has good things coming, which I’m really happy about.

That’s about it for now, I’m off to get some rest– talk soon?

Student Blog: Helen – “Goodbyes are the worst (why you should go abroad for a year)”

So, it’s been around a month since my last post; exams finished around two weeks ago (thankfully) and all the results I’ve got back so far have been good (this will change with the typology course, rest assured). Once exams had finished I spent a week in Tübingen with friends, meeting up, relaxing and trying to keep sanity around whilst they continued with exams (I think the latest ones finish next week). On Monday I returned to England and have been floating around doing not much until now, but I have several trips around the UK planned for the coming weeks to keep myself busy and make the most of this holiday!

The main point of this post is to convince you to study abroad for a year, rather than just a semester. Here’s why:

  • If you only go for one semester, you’ll just get to know all these amazing people, and just when you get really close you have to leave. It sucks.
  • More time abroad = more time for travelling whilst you’re in mainland Europe (everything seems a lot closer)
  • If you study abroad for one semester, you still have to pay the full year’s fees at Lancaster (which was £9000 for me), whereas if you study abroad for one year you pay considerably less (this year it was 15%, which is £1350)- so there’s a monetary advantage
  • If you’re worried about getting homesick being abroad for a year, it does fade after the first month. If you choose to stay within Europe, getting home isn’t that difficult anyway- for me it was around 6 hours total to get from door to door.
  • Goodbyes suck. Let me elaborate.

The thought of leaving Tübingen for a month and a bit wasn’t a nice one, at least for me. I really love it over there, but a lot of what has made that the case is the people I’ve met. People- some of which- are only there for one semester (Master’s/3rd year’s of a 3 year degree) and obviously when I left I was saying goodbye for (really hopefully not) the last time. It does not get easier.
So, save everyone the heartache of doing goodbyes to some people halfway through by staying the full year, then everyone can be sad at one point, ok? Great.

Anyway, I need to pack for my trip to Lancaster tomorrow (time to experience the rain again), so I best get going. Talk soon?

 

Student blog: Niamh – “Christmas Holidays”

Something very different about studying in Australia is the fact that we have a 3 month holiday over the Christmas period. This is the summer holiday like we have from July-September in England – but from November-February. It’s a bit of an odd feeling, but it’s a perfect time to go travelling, especially seeing as everyone back in England is busy with university.

During November, I spent some time with friends in Australia, before heading back to England for Christmas. It was lovely to be back at home, but as soon as all my family/friends had gone back to work/university, I didn’t have much to do. At the very start of January, however, I ventured back over to the Southern Hemisphere to join a 3 week tour of New Zealand with GAdventures’ ‘Best of New Zealand’ tour.

My time in New Zealand went by faster than I could ever have imagined. Visiting both the north island and the south island, our 21 days were packed to the brim with activities. From completing many 5:30am hikes, experiencing Maori culture, and visiting Waitomo Glow Worm caves, the north island was an amazing 7 day experience. I could definitely have spent double the time there if I had the opportunity.

With 14 days on the south island, I decided to be a bit more adventurous with the activities I chose to do. So…in Queenstown, I completed my first 15,000ft tandem skydive! It was the most amazing experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone! Other than skydiving, I was able to go dolphin watching, visit a seal colony, and go zip-lining on the world’s steepest zip-line.

The whole journey was a whirlwind, but I would do the whole trip again in a heartbeat!

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Student blog: Helen – “Winter in Tübingen (and how beautiful it is)”

A very late happy new year from Germany!

I thought I’d do a bit of a catch-up post from the frosty land of Tübingen, before I properly put my head down to revise for the second lot of exams (how exciting), and the topic today is how *enter exclamative here* cold it is here.
I’m not even kidding. The lowest it’s been (I think) was -12 celsius and these days it rarely gets much above freezing.
Whilst this is an absolute pain (literally, my face hurts from being outside), it’s quite refreshing to be somewhere the seasons are identifiable; I’ve seen proper snow for the first time in several years and it’s amazing.

Speaking of unusual sights in England, the Neckar has completely frozen over (much to my amusement), with a tributary (a smaller river flowing into the main river; I had to google it) containing a street sign.

On a side note, I want to gush about how great Tübingen is for a second.
I really think that once you’ve seen how beautiful a place is/can be (for example I came here for the first time in the middle of July and it was absolutely stunning), then you can never really lose sight of that- even by the train tracks. Every time I walk to my classes or just go on the Neckarinsel it reinforces how much I love the place, especially with a clear blue sky.

Keeping along this theme, one thing that I’ve seen a lot more here than in England is graffiti, especially the political kind (though I may be biased, I live near to a hippie-house). Whilst it certainly took a bit of getting used to, I think it really brightens up the city and can make you think about things you usually wouldn’t (and it also provides something to look at whilst waiting for the bus).

I’ll leave you with the newest addition to the hippie-house, and I guess we’ll talk soon?

 

Student blog: Helen – “Term differences and holiday plans”

Life definitely gets busy around this time of year (hence my lack of posts), and unfortunately it’s not just due to thinking about Christmas. Unlike last year at Lancaster, I haven’t got coursework as such to work on (though I did have a 30 minute individual presentation, *gulp*), rather I’ve just had one exam and have another on Thursday- this doesn’t quite allow the festive spirit as much as usual. To avoid thinking about that, I thought I’d give you some information about the term dates in Germany and the differences to those in England.

The academic year over here isn’t the same as in Lancaster; instead of three terms (Michaelmas, Spring and Summer) there are two semesters (Winter and Summer). Winter semester lasts from (for Tübingen) the middle of October until the middle of February, with a two-week Christmas break (from the 24th December until the 8th January). From mid-February to mid-April there is a two month long semester break; I think some subjects have to write essays in this period, but this isn’t the case for my course. I’ve heard that most people use this time to work, travel or return home (unsure which I’m doing yet, but I know it’s not working!). The summer semester then runs from the middle of April to the end of July, and then August until mid-October is their summer holiday.

It’s quite important to keep these dates in mind, as the summer holidays are quite different, meaning that you need to be careful when applying for summer internships or placements, as many start in the middle of June (when there are still exams). Anyway, that’s the boring part over… now a bit about Christmas!

Unlike a lot of Erasmus students I know, I won’t be back in England for Christmas day. This is partly due to the late semester finishing date, but mostly because I’m half German, and nearly every other year we spend Christmas with my German relatives (obviously it makes sense for this to be when I’m already in the country!) After those few days I will be returning to England, to see friends, my cats and celebrate the New Year. Coming home has been a long time in the making, and I’m really excited; whilst there are so many things I love about being here, for me the holidays are a time to be at home, and I’ll definitely make the most of it!

Alas, back to procrastinating revision… talk soon?

Student blog: Niamh – “Accommodation at ANU”

As I promised at the end of the last post, this post will be dedicated to the accommodation options available at the Australian National University.

For the last 5 and a bit months I have been living in on-campus, catered, shared (i.e. sharing bathroom facilities but having a bedroom to yourself) accommodation in a college called Ursula Hall. Ursula Hall is one of six undergraduate halls on campus: Bruce, Burgmann, Burton and Garran, John XXIII, Unilodge, and Ursula.

Bruce Hall is currently being demolished, with residents being moved to a new building for 2017/2018 (SA5). Because nobody has lived in SA5 before, I’m not sure about the arrangements or how it’s going to work, so I probably wouldn’t recommend it for 2017/2018 exchange students.

B&G is a great option if you would prefer being self-catered. It has a very large kitchen area consisting of around 10 individual kitchens, so it’s a perfect space for meeting new people.

Unilodge is the newest and most modern of accommodations, but the flats are either shared with a very small number of people, or are single studios. From talking to my friends in Unilodge, they’ve said that it can really be quite isolated living there, and it’s mainly made up of international students. I would suggest that the ‘shared’ accommodation types are best for meeting new people, and getting a more Australian experience.

The off-campus options for undergraduates are Fenner and Griffin halls. Griffin Hall does not provide accommodation, but is a community that students who live in town (i.e. have found their own accommodation) can access in order to participate in sports and arts activities that the other university halls offer.

Fenner is around a 20 minute walk from campus and will follow Bruce in being demolished in (I believe) 2018/2019, so this may not be the best option.

Even if you’ve been in self-catered accommodation in Lancaster this year, I would definitely recommend trying a catered college. Being in a catered college with set meal times means that it’s so much easier to meet new people and make friends. Plus, it’s much easier in terms of not needing to buy all of your pots and pans, and having to do a weekly grocery shop. This saves so much time (and money in the long run).

No matter which college you choose, each will be involved with a range of arts and sports competitions. Netball, softball, choir, dance -there really is something for everyone. I would definitely recommend getting involved with as many of these activities as you can. They’re a great method for meeting new people.

I have had the most amazing time at Ursula Hall and I would recommend it in a heart beat.

I think that’s all for now, but if you have any questions please feel free to email/facebook me.

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Student blog: Helen – “Just thought you ought to know”

The past weeks have been a blur (as is now becoming the norm), but I wanted to take a couple of minutes to fill you in on (some of) the things you ought to know before studying abroad- especially in second year!

  • Administration abroad is not necessarily what you’re used to; here there isn’t really a centralised hub of information, so use those friends on your course/lecturers/flatmates to check that you’re not missing out on something important.
  • Additionally, living together abroad is also not necessarily the same as what you’re used to. Going from a flat of 8 who (mostly) kept their doors open to a flat of 3 where the doors are pretty much always shut is quite a change. See where these friends come in again?
  • The first few weeks are tough. Make sure that you’re keeping in contact with people back home if you’re struggling with homesickness and/or mental health, whilst also trying to build a network of new friends here. You’ll need people to fall back on.
  • The workload in second year is a big step up from first year, even if you stay in Lancaster, so prepare to be (more than slightly) overwhelmed when you start the academic year.
  • Make time to travel- you (if you’re anything like me) do need to set aside time to travel. I can very easily get caught up with work and not give myself a break, but when you’re in mainland Europe it’s so much closer to travel (never before have I been able to do a day trip to Zürich).
  • The vast majority of people you will meet on Erasmus are in their third year of a four year course. People will ask why you are here. “Because I can” works well as a reply.
  • Germany is cold. Yes, this needed its own bullet point. Bring long-sleeved tops, hats, scarves, gloves, coats (and anything you can layer), else you will freeze.
  • On the other side, Germany is cheap. Or England is expensive (it’s definitely England that’s expensive). You’re saving on tuition fees, food and accommodation, which really adds up.
  • You will meet a lot of people from a lot of countries, and it’s amazing. I know that this is possible in Lancaster, but when you’re in a different country it’s so much easier. This being said, integrating with German people isn’t as easy as I thought it would be (but it does happen- clubs/sports are great for this).

I think that’s all my advice for now. I’ll pop some pictures from Zürich and the Rhine Falls underneath (because it was so pretty), and well… talk soon?

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Student blog: Isobel – “O Canada”

Hi, I’m Isobel and I’m studying abroad at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

It seems like forever ago now that I was standing at the Lancaster stall at a UCAS fair, learning about the study abroad options for my course. Study abroad was actually one of the main reasons I made Lancaster my firm decision! When I found out there was one place this year for a student to go to Canada, I knew it had to be mine. Several forms and three planes later, here I am!

Carleton is very similar to Lancaster in a lot of ways, the main one being the fact that it is a campus university. The residence halls here are conveniently situated no more than a 15-minute walk from the furthest teaching buildings, and my hall (Leeds) even has kitchen facilities so you don’t have to buy a meal plan if it’s too expensive for you. Included in your university fees is a UPass, a card which allows you to take buses and the O-Train, which connects campus with downtown Ottawa and the suburbs. Although it’s a much bigger university than home, Carleton has a similar sense of community, mostly built around the Ravens family of sports teams.

On an exchange programme at Carleton, you’re never alone. Many of my friends here are also on exchanges, and the International Office organises loads of different events to help you build connections. For example, I just got back from an amazing weekend in Niagara Falls! And of course, it’s Canada, so everyone is legally required to be ridiculously friendly and helpful if you run into any difficulties.

I’ve been here for almost two months now, and here’s the truth: studying abroad is a challenge like no other. You will miss friends, you will miss family, you will miss silly things like familiar brands in a supermarket. However, it is also an incredible experience which really forces you to step out of your comfort zone and basically build a new life from scratch, and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

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