Summer in the city

Hallo meine Lieben,

It’s 9am and almost 30 degrees already, and I’m sweating inside starting my study day -there’s nothing better to do now than reminiscing fun stuff that has happened over the past few weeks, am I right? Thought so.

 

In my last post I told I was about to go on a mini-holiday to France. I flew to Toulouse (thank you Ryanair and £25 round trips) to see a few Glasgow friends on exchange and old friends I hadn’t seen in almost two years. Such a happy reunion weekend filled with sun, laughter, croissants and confusion about languages (it’s very difficult to suddenly change from a habitual “Entschuldigung” to a casual “pardon”). Toulouse is such a beautiful city with its tiny alleys and pink architecture. Congrats if you’re going there on your Erasmus, good life choice!

 

(There’s no such thing as too much glitter)

The weekend in Toulouse was a lovely get-away, so lovely actually that it took me a few days to get out of that holiday bubble and understand I’m actually in the middle of my semester, and that I have no time for slacking. Apart from spending hot days in seminars, as I’ve said before, summer in Berlin is as good as it gets – the best way to spend it is going to the multiple outdoor festivals that seem to be happening every weekend now. In the first weekend of June there was the Karneval der Kulturen, ‘carnival of cultures’, literally in front of my door in Kreuzberg. There was a huge parade, delicious food, music and happy people from all over the world, and people had their own parties at every corner of the street. Even rain couldn’t kill the mood and towards the evening it got sunny again. I think this festival showed exactly the spirit of Berlin with its multicultural, accepting and joyful vibe. Looking forward to all the upcoming festivals, such as Fête de la Musique tomorrow, when the city is filled with music again.

 

Other than that, I’ve been biking a lot, swum in two lakes, done a trip to Potsdam, seen loads of fancy castles, posed with those fancy castles, watched my three friends dye their eyebrows purple, been on a blind date, been interviewed for news in an art gallery opening (sadly didn’t make the final cut), pet the most beautiful dog at said gallery opening, and walked around my beautiful hoods with a slight wistfulness thinking that two months from now I’m moving away.

Sadly it’s not all fun and games, and I need to get back to my essay right about now. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions: 2148464n@student.gla.ac.uk. Have a lovely week, and happy Midsummer especially to all my Nordic loves!

LG, Miina

Finding Private Accommodation in Sydney

The last time I wrote a blog, second semester was just beginning. It’s now ending, which means it’s not long now till all you Sydney-bound people will be making your way to Australia. With that in mind, I thought I’d make a list of tips to help you not stress too much about finding accommodation.

This is better suited to people who are going to be living in private accommodation, as when I applied for studying abroad there was no way I could finance living in university accommodation. So, if you’re looking at living in private accommodation, this one’s for you.

  1. It’s completely normal for you to not have somewhere long-term to live when you arrive in Sydney. I would recommend booking a hostel for a week/two weeks to give you time to view places and also get to know the city a little.
  2. Sign up to flatmates.com.au. This website is so useful, and gives you an idea of the prices of accommodation in each suburb. You can make a free account and either find spare rooms in the area you want to live in, or find people who are also looking for somewhere to live. You can securely contact landlords to arrange viewings, and I found it really reliable and easy to use this time last year.
  3. Research which suburb(s) you want to live and go and view places. I ended up being an hour away from Macquarie by train, but concession public transport is so cheap and easy that I preferred to be nearer the city.
  4. By viewing places, you’ll be able to see if you not only like the accommodation, but that it is accessible for the campus you’re on. If you’d like me to give you some ideas of the suburbs around each university, please let me know. The city can be super expensive, but there are areas just outside it.

Some of this may seem really simple, but it’s so easy to panic about not having secured somewhere to live before you fly out here. If any of you are coming out before semester 2 starts, I’m in Sydney till the 22nd July so contact me if you’d like to meet up  and help you with any issues. If not, I’m always contactable on Facebook so feel free to ask me any questions on there!

I hope this is helpful, I’m so excited for you guys!

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Just to give you an idea of how glorious Sydney weather can be, even in Winter!

Sunny Stockholm

So, exams are finally over and I’m entering my last days in Copenhagen. If I wrote a post about that now it would be too depressing, so instead I’m going to talk about my trip to Stockholm!

My friend, from last semester, came up to visit me from Munich and we decided we should have a trip to Stockholm – as neither of us had been there yet. I really didn’t know what to expect and, admittedly, didn’t do much research on the place, but I fell in love with the city almost instantly!

We were so fortunate to have 20+ degree weather the whole time we were there and, as big as Stockholm is, managed to see the majority of the city within 3 days. The first day we got into the city we decided to wander about, as we couldn’t check in for 3 hours. Eventually, we stumbled across Kungsträdgården where there was a massive event on with Adidas, due to the Europa League Final being played in Stockholm the following night. We ended up spending a good few hours there, playing all the football games and getting irrationally competitive with each other!

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Serious business

Later that night, we went to a restaurant to have our first ever non-Ikea, authentic Swedish Meatballs and, oh my God, they are to die for! 10/10 highly recommend. Afterwards, we went to the rooftop bar in Södermalm which is an absolute must do, if you’re there. It’s free to get up to and you don’t have to buy a drink to look at the insane view across the whole city.

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We ended up spending hours there, as we got chatting to a group of retired professors who told us about some great places to visit while we were there.

The next day we ended up doing a ridiculous amount of exploring all around Gamla Stan, which is the main tourist district of Stockholm. Apart from the mass of Manchester United and Ajax supporters day drinking, it was really beautiful.

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A lot of restaurants and cafés do lunchtime deals, which is really good value for money, given that Stockholm is not a cheap place, by any means. Later on, we met up with a friend from Glasgow, who’s currently studying at Stockholm University. It was lovely to see her after almost a year and we had so much fun walking up to a great viewing point at the edge of Södermalm.

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After a quick trip to the Fotografiska museum and lunch at Omnipollos Hatt , it was time for us to fly back to Copenhagen. I really, really enjoyed Stockholm and absolutely urge anyone, studying abroad in Scandinavia, to visit!

Salamanca – nos vemos y gracias por todo

Soooo exam season has FINALLY finished at Usal! It felt like forever because back in Glasgow exams finish mid-May and all of my friends back home were having a ball while I hadn’t even began my exams yet. But now I can join in on the freedom & celebrations and let the good times roll. It was much harder studying for exams during second semester due to the sunny weather, lack of air conditioning & the constant daydreams about summer. But I can proudly say that I’ve managed to pass all of my exams for this year which is a great feeling!

Aside from studying, this past month has been full of visitors, packing up and reflecting over how grateful I am for this experience. Sometimes you forget how much of an awesome city you are in and when you have visitors it rekindles your appreciation for it because you are boasting non-stop about it. It was strange having friends & family from home into my little Sala bubble because I feel like i live 2 completely different lives in Salamanca and in Glasgow.

During the last few days of my year abroad, I strolled around taking pictures, sunbathed by the lake, saw a fireworks show, ate & drank at all my favourite places with my favourite people & slowly came to terms that I was leaving this amazing place.

The issue now is answering the daunting question ‘So how was your year abroad?’

That question is so HUGE i wouldn’t know even where to start, it’s rather difficult summing up 10 months of your life in words. It’s been a bittersweet experience filled with highs and lows but overall I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What I’ve gained from this experience:

  • Even more of a massive love for travelling
  • A passion for cooking
  • A sense of peace in my own company
  • The ability to speak, read, write in Spanish
  • A more relaxed attitude towards things
  • Amazing friends & memories that’ll i will never forget

The lows

  • homesickness
  • not being able to convey yourself 100% due to the language barrier
  • the countless sugar rushes from the Milka chocolate consumed
  • the prices of Avanza buses
  • the lack of sleep due to Spanish sleeping patterns

Overall, I feel very content with the experience that I had and what I gained from it. I left with a heavy heart but lots of good memories, friends and travels to look back on. Onwards and upwards now that this chapter of my life has closed.

“Muchas personas dicen que viajar te cambia la vida. Y así es. Cada momento, bueno o malo, es un aprendizaje que te hará evolucionar desde lo más profundo.”

If you have any questions about Spain or year abroad or studying abroad don’t be shy to fire me an email 2127795M@student.gla.ac.uk

Hasta Luego

Nina x

A mix of memories from the last month

 

 

10 things you didn’t know about Halifax, Nova Scotia: part II

[continued from part I]

No. 6 – Dal: A piece of Scotland

My University in Halifax, Dalhousie, was actually founded and named after George Ramsay, the 9th Earl of Dalhousie in 1818.

Ramsay was born in Dalhousie Castle, in Midlothian, and attended the University of Edinburgh (boo).

Dalhousie University was modelled after the University of Edinburgh not only in aesthetics, but also in principles: lectures were open to all, regardless of race, sex or nationality, just like the University of Edinburgh.

 

No. 7 – Titanic

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Halifax has a very close history with the Titanic as it was one of the first cities to receive the distress calls and send help.

While the Cunard liner Carpathia took the survivors to New York, the dead were taken to Halifax.

A really poignant and cool historical place to go is Fairview Lawn Cemetery. Here you’ll find the gravestones of many of the deceased, most of which are unnamed.

There’s also a Titanic Museum at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic which is well worth a visit!

 

No. 8 – Keith’s.

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The classic brown-glass bottle and green label Keith’s IPA is hands-down the most consumed beer in Nova Scotia, and for good reason!

Alexander Keith was a brewer who founded the historic brewery in Halifax after he emigrated to Canada in 1817. That’s right, the beer is older than my University!

However, Keith was actually a Scotsman! Born in Halkirk, Caithness.

He died on December 14th 1873, and tradition in Halifax is to visit his grave-site and ‘skulling’ a can or bottle of Keith’s and leaving it at his grave.

Thank you, Mr Keith.

No. 9 – Pier 21

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Halifax was basically the centre of immigration to Canada from Europe. Pier 21, which is now the Canadian National Museum of Immigration, was where all of the boats would dock and thousands would enter Canada ready to make their new lives.

So much so, that 1 in every 5 Canadians in related to someone who entered through Pier 21.

Cool, eh?

No. 10 – Beauty

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Halifax, and Nova Scotia in general, has been scientifically proven to be the most beautiful place on Earth.

Okay, maybe not quite true, nor a fact, but it is my opinion.

After having spent a year there, I am still amazed by the beauty of Nova Scotia – its serenity, its ruggedness and it’s elegance all at the same time.

I mean, where else do you get views like the picture above?

 

Until next time,

Alfie.

10 things you didn’t know about Halifax, Nova Scotia: part I

The first thing I came across when telling people that I was going to study abroad in Nova Scotia was ‘…where’s that?’

Not many people realise that there is a Canada outside of the metropolises of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal etc. Believe me.

But there is! And I am proud to call Halifax my home from home. In my opinion, Halifax is truly the only city that actually FEELS like a coherent cultural idea. Toronto is great, Downtown is bustling and it does feel a bit like London. Montreal is grand, but a bit barren. Vancouver is wet. However, Halifax has it all. There is a distinct feel to Halifax that you can automatically gel with.

So I thought I’d compile a series of facts about Halifax that you probably didn’t know. I’ve had to narrow it down to 10, mainly because that’s a nice number, although there is genuinely an infinite plethora of cool things about Halifax that I could write on.

No. 1 – The Capital

Halifax is actually the capital of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia being the easternmost mainland province of Canada (Newfoundland is an island of the east coast).

Nova Scotia has a population of just over 1 million, and it is the size of Great Britain basically. This literally means that the wilderness is everywhere, and being a coastal province, the scenery is breathtaking.

Halifax is the largest city east of Quebec City, and has a population of around 400,000.

No. 2 – The Halifax Explosion

In 1917, two ships collided in the harbour of Halifax, one full to the brim with explosives. This caused, prior to Hiroshima, the largest man-made explosion in history.

Much of Halifax was leveled, and sadly 2,000 people lost their lives with another 9,000 injured.

You can get the history of the explosion and the aftermath at pretty much any museum in Halifax, most importantly the Maritime Museum though.

No. 3 – Citadel Gunfire

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Halifax is built around a HUGE fortress called the Citadel, as you can see above. The Citadel was constructed in 1749 and is the most visited National Historic Site in Canada!

If you’re wandering downtown at around midday, you’ll be caught off guard by the sound of a huge gunshot. Everyday at 12:00 noon, a cannon is fired from the Citadel. This practice originated in 1856 and continues everyday to this day.

No. 4 – Rent a park!

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The City of Halifax occupies an entire peninsula in the Halifax Harbour, and right at the very tip of the peninsula is Point Pleasant Park.

It’s a 77 hectare park and absolutely stunning. Some say it’s Halifax’s best park… but it doesn’t actually belong to Halifax.

The site actually belongs to the British Government (of course) and Halifax rents the park from them for a whopping 10 cents a year, and has a 999 year lease. Don’t ask me why, it just does.

No. 5 – University City

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Halifax has, as I’ve said before, more bars and clubs per capita than anywhere else in Canada. This may be due to the fact that it has six degree-granting universities in the city!

These are: Mount Saint Vincent University, Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Nova Scotia Community College, The Atlantic School of Theology and of course, the biggest and best: Dalhousie University, shown above (my uni).

 

When things don’t go to plan

or: Everything that’ll go wrong on your year abroad (and how to cope when they do)

1) You miss your flight/bus/whatever

Missing an important flight can be devastating with travel plans, especially if you need to make transfers with different airlines. This can happen any number of ways, and since airlines aren’t always the most reliable, flight cancellations and delays are definitely a possibility while you’re exploring Asia and beyond.

How to cope: Have emergency funds to book alternative travel if necessary. Be sure to check your insurance to see what it covers, as well as check what kind of compensation the airline can offer you if the fault lies with them.

2) You lose something important

This happened to me when I lost my wallet (including debit cards, student cards, my visa and plenty of cash!) on a night out. Good news: Singapore is amazing with returning lost items. My wallet was returned to me (albeit, without any money) less than a week later, as someone had found it in the trash and handed it in to a police station. I also have a friend who lost their phone on New Years eve, only to have it back the very next day by a guy who’d found it lying about. So basically: if you’re going to lose something, lose it in Singapore!

How to cope: If it’s something like your wallet, the first thing you need to do is cancel your debit cards so no one can take out any money by using them. Losing your hall keys, student card, or visa are all relatively easy to replace, but this comes at a price, so keep them close!

3) You injure yourself

Accidents happen all the time, and while injuring yourself anywhere is bad enough, on exchange it can feel particularly devastating, mostly because it can limit so much of what you want to do.

How to cope: You’ll be given guidance at the start of your exchange about the hospitals you can visit that will be covered by your NTU insurance, so be sure to note these down, and hope you’ll have a speedy recovery.

4) You fail a class

Keeping up with school work while trying to explore your new country can be stressful. My last month in Singapore essentially consisted of spending entire days in the library to try and catch up on everything I had fallen back on. Having said this, failing a class is unlikely, as long as you put some time aside to do work when you can.

How to cope: Talk to the person grading your work, they might be able to help you. Find out what you’ll have to do to make up the credits if not.

5) You just don’t like it that much

While this problem seems to be relatively rare, people who really enjoy exchange can sometimes drown out the fact that some people don’t like it quite so much. Whether you don’t make the right kind of friends, you’re overwhelmed by culture shock, or you just generally preferred life at home, exchange years aren’t for everyone and sometimes it can be a huge disappointment to discover this once you move away.

How to cope: NTU encourage students to approach them with any concerns or mental health problems they experience in the transition to moving there, so be sure to use whatever resources are available to you. UofG also have resources for this kind of thing, so be sure to get in touch if you’re having doubts. Going home isn’t impossible, and if you’ve arranged to be away for the year, this can be shortened to just one semester. Similarly, as long as your semester at home hasn’t started yet, you still have plenty of time to get back. Having said this, it’s worth sticking it out if you’re unsure. I know some people who shortened their years and came to regret it by the time they had to go home. Moving abroad, like most things, needs an adjustment period.

Halifax Bars vs Glasgow Bars II

[Continued from Part I]

No. 4 – Pacifico

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‘Are you going to Pacifico on Saturday?’ – the first phrase you will hear as a new Haligonian. From anyone.

Pacifico is basically the Hive of Halifax. It’s full of Uni students who should really be finishing the term papers and revising for their midterms. But instead they are drinking Caesars (a glorified Bloody Mary) and playing Beer Pong. The hub of many events, Pacifico is more than just your average club. Pacifico is a student experience. Pacifico is a mindset.

They host the annual Red Party, which, may I add, is phenomenal… from what I can remember of it. They also host an event for pretty much any day of significance during the calendar year (don’t even think of coming here for St. Paddy’s.)

No. 5 – Reflections

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Reflections is the resident queer space in Halifax, and boy does it do it good.

Although it doesn’t fill up until around 12.30am, Reflections (affectionately referred to as Refs by the locals) is the place to go if you’re queer and want to boogie the night away, or just fancy getting some attention.

Free coat check, $7 cover (entry), and $5 doubles before 2am, Reflections really is the perfect Saturday night out. The music, mainly Britney, Cher, Rihanna, pretty much any diva you can think of, also helps a lot.

There is no doubt in my mind at all that Reflections is the Polo of the Glasgow scene.

Seriously, if you go to Halifax for Study Abroad, queer or not, you have to pay Reflections a visit – you won’t regret it.

No. 6 – Menz & Mollyz

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Menz & Mollyz is the home of drag culture in Halifax. With appearances over the year from the likes of Tatianna, Trixie Mattel, and other home-grown Haligonian queens and kings. It’s a guaranteed good night out.

Located in the artsy and upcoming North End, it’s a short walk from other establishments such as the Seahorse, and well worth it.

I’d happily draw a comparison between Menz Bar and AXM Glasgow, both being the resident homes of drag.


 

Well, there we have it. The (not so) definitive list of all the places in Halifax you should check out!

Hoping I’ve left you feeling educated and a little more at home in Halifax.

Until next time.

Halifax Bars vs Glasgow Bars I

Halifax has, apparently, the most bars and clubs per capita than any other city in North America.

Don’t fact check me on that, but it is common Haligonian myth.

So, for all you prospective Haligonians reading my blogs and thinking whether to make the right decision to choose Halifax as your Study Abroad destination, I’ve decided to compile a two part series of my favourite Halifax bars and what bar they are most like in Glasgow!

No. 1 – The Dome

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The Dirty Dome. This really is the kinda joint that you walk into and your feet stick the the floor, but you’re not really sure why, because the clubs only just opened so it can’t be spilled alcohol…

Located just off Barrington Street, the Dome is literally the place to go on Thursdays. It is full of students and probably the cheapest drinks you can buy at a club. The club has three levels, all with different names… probably because no one actually likes to admit they’re going to the Dome. The ground floor is, of course, the big boy himself – The Dome. The First floor is called Cheers and the Third Floor is Taboo. I’ve still not been to Taboo. Mainly because after the drinks prices at the Dome, the stairs to Taboo are a Health and Safety Hazard.

In comparison to Glasgow, the Dome is definitely Viper. Except instead of Rugby lads, it’s full of Hockey lads, eh bud?

No. 2 – The Fickle Frog

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Probably my most regular haunt, the Fickle Frog is the kind of bar where you ask the Bartender for a double and they give you a triple. Because they’ve been drinking since they started shift.

Friendly, open, always busy, pub quiz on Wednesdays and karaoke on Tuesdays – what more could you ask for? Did I also mention they pretty much have daily drinks specials?

If The Fickle Frog was a Glaswegian institution, it would definitely be The Driftwood – cheap booze, young crowd, go for one and end up leaving at 2am.

No. 3 – Obladee

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Ah, Obladee, Obladaa, life goes ooooon.

No but seriously, you probably couldn’t afford Obladee. I couldn’t.

This place is seriously only if A) you love wine or B) you have a load of money and you don’t really need drinks deals. At around $8 for a glass, it’s pretty pricey.

That being said, however, I did frequent this establishment one particular night for a friends 21st and it has to be said, it is delightful. A number of wines higher than my GPA, from countries I didn’t even know existed… or produced wine. (I’m looking at you, Cape Verde.)

If I had to compare this establishment to a Glasgow institution, it would probably be Gin71 on Byres Road – lovely atmosphere, great range of drinks, full of adults and out of any of our daily budgets.

[Continued in Part II]

Approaching the end of my year in Australia

The last time I wrote in this blog of mine, I was in the middle of my second semester at UQ. As of today, I only have three weeks left before I leave Australia and head back home again – so I really am nearing the end of my year abroad.

Lectures, tutorials and seminars are now over and the only thing I have to do before completing my year is sit two exams that I shall spend considerable time preparing for in the next 18 days. So while the academic year in Glasgow is over, exam season is just about to get started here and – in all honesty – this isn’t exactly the most exciting part of being a student in Australia.

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UQ campus – a very familiar sight during exam season

In fact, second semesters on your year abroad tend to be quite different. I’ve certainly noticed a difference to my first semester here that actually seems quite distant now. One of the reasons for this is definitely the fact that the excitement of living in a new environment gradually fades away as you become more familiar with it. I’m probably not the tourist I was during all of my travels and I certainly feel more like a ‘local’ when I meet other exchange students who have just arrived.

But knowing your way around is also great. It’s been awesome to have friends from abroad come visit me here in Australia, exploring Brisbane and its surrounding areas a little more.

That said, it’s always good to have a couple of weekend trips planned during the semester to break up the daily routine of university life.

So, first I flew into Sydney for four days to visit a friend studying at UNSW. Much like Melbourne, Sydney didn’t impress me too much (the beauty of Australia lies in its coastlines and beaches, not its cities!!) but I still saw the Opera House and enjoyed a boat cruise around Sydney harbour.

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Another weekend, some friends and I drove up to the Sunshine Coast for a couple of days on the beach and a 10k run at the Noosa Run event. Renting an Airbnb with access to a beach is great idea – you should really try it if you come here. If you ever find yourself wondering whether you should spend a weekend at Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast, definitely go for the latter. It’s a lot more scenic and much more of a break from the city. 

So it’s always good to have a couple of short trips lined up during the semester to keep things exciting; especially when the day-to-day routines of university life become all too familiar.

Now I have to get back to studying again. Being busy until the very end of my stay here means that I haven’t really put much thought into leaving yet which is probably a good thing. I’ll be back with one final blog post soon though – stay tuned.