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I recently travelled around America on a GrainGrowers tour, after having won the Australian Universities Crops Competition in Temora last year. My friend Brett, the competition’s runner-up, travelled with me.

By Nellie Evans, fourth year agricultural science student.



In February 2017, three students, Lidya, Jonathon and myself spent one month at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia as a part of our final year veterinary intern rotations. This counted towards the public health component of our final year of vet science studies. It was interesting to be able to see the different diseases and different approaches employed in Indonesia. It was also great to be able to travel and see the sights during our down-time.

By Samantha Elliott, Bachelor of Veterinary Science

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This summer I exchanged 40 degree heat, days at the beach and a long university break with five weeks of study in Umeå, where it averaged -10 degrees, getting dressed in the morning involved rugging up in a minimum of 5 layers and where I had one of the most valuable experiences of my life. Together with 13 other Sydney education students, we travelled for over 26 hours to reach in Umeå, Northern Sweden’s largest city. On arrival we were met with knee deep snow and some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve ever seen.

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My name is Grace Henry and I am a fourth year Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Chemical and Biomolecular) student at Sydney University. This year I was fortunate enough to receive a MIPPS (Major Industrial Placement Project Scheme) Scholarship and placed with Dow Chemical in Saudi Arabia.

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My heart is pounding as I make my way from Hanoi Airport to my hotel in the front passenger seat of a car that is speeding along a highway and darting haphazardly through traffic, at times centimetres away from a collision. Looking into the distance through the hazy air I can see the bright lights of Hanoi city looming closer and the reality of living and working in a foreign country for a month slowly begins to dawn on me.



As undergraduate vet students, marching dutifully from wildlife lectures to clinical pathology tutorials to overnight shifts caring for racehorses, rabbits and rottweilers, we were told that our degree could take us anywhere. We would be open-minded, multi-skilled problem-solvers. Little did I know, however, that within four years of graduating with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science I would be taking a job on a research project aiming to improve children’s nutrition in rural African communities.



Xin chao! My name is Rachel Haines and I have just finished my first year of the Master of Physiotherapy at USYD. I am currently in Hanoi, Vietnam, with three other students after we received a scholarship from the Hoc Mai Foundation to practice our newly acquired physiotherapy skills abroad. I am here for four weeks over November and December and am practicing at the Bach Mai Hospital.

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Photos and words by Elizabeth Hung

You’ve just received a letter congratulating you on your acceptance into an exchange program. Your heart leaps with excitement as you message everyone, and start googling the best places to go and eat in your host country. But then fast forward to a week before departure, and you realise how little preparation you’ve actually done. Don’t worry, I’ve been there, done that.

After my recent field school trip to Jogjakarta (Jogja), I thought I’d share eight tips to help you get ready for your exchange, and make the most of it while you’re there.



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Singapore’s unique safaris are renowned for their beautiful settings in which animals roam freely in their “natural habitats” (Singapore Zoo 2015). But travel to north east Singapore and it is here that perhaps their most unusual safari lies… the concrete safari of one of Singapore’s newest housing developments, Punggol.


Started off the day with an international buffet breakfast. With full bellies, we all bundled into a van to discover a different side to Jakarta. First stop, Independence Mosque, which is the third largest mosque in the world. Shoes off, socks off, and gown on before we were taken on a tour around the largest mosque in Indonesia and South-East Asia. Five levels to signify the five calls of prayers, and a 45m dome to represent the 1945 proclamation of Indonesian independence.


Next stop, old Indonesia, taking a bus, bajaj and boat we were introduced to the unseen poverty in Indonesia.


With over 300 families living in one handmade apartment, and only enough space to sleep in, it was an incredible sight to see the laughter and joy in their faces. Their motto 'why be sad when we are still alive?' was a steep contrast to their living conditions. With no address or house number, only electricity being provided by the government, water for showering and laundry were only available whenever it rained. Despite this, the children ran, laughed and sang songs for us, whilst holding our hands as they took control of our tour!


Traffic in Jakarta halted our plans of having lunch, as we moved at less than 20km/hour for the next 40 minutes. Highlighting the need for the interdisciplinary transport field school to look at the vulnerabilities of all road users.

Quick lunch break to McDonald's and we were whisked back into a training session on interviewing skills in preparation for our home visits tomorrow. With our newly befriended Indonesian students, we walked to Grand Indonesia, the largest department store in Jakarta. Satay ayam sticks and nasi goreng filled our stomachs as we wandered aimlessly through the massive mall.

With excitement building up as we prepare to meet Indonesian families to learn about their transport use, we all clambered back to the hotel for a hopefully restful night of sleep!

Kirstin Lee and Larissa Chandra
Bachelor of Applied Sciences - Occupational Therapy


It’s eye-opening what travelling over the summer break can do for a uni student, especially if the purpose of travel is volunteer and social work. That’s what I found during my trip to Europe at the beginning of 2014, as part of AIESEC’s Go Volunteer exchange. AIESEC is a global youth network that develops leaders through international exchange. With the aid of a Business School scholarship, I was able to undertake my AIESEC exchange in Hungary over a period of six weeks. My ultimate aim was to develop cultural awareness and understanding in my work in two very distinct institutions.



Today marks a month exactly since I arrived back in Sydney after an absolutely amazing semester abroad in Glasgow, Scotland. In that time I’ve caught up with everyone I missed so much while I was away, muddled through three weeks of uni, celebrated one of my best friends being accepted into the University College London exchange program next year, and have failed to come to terms with the number of frozen yoghurt places that have invaded Sydney. It’s been a bit of a shock to the system: I still call eggplants aubergines, get confused when my lecturers and tutors introduce themselves by their first name, am tempted to take my umbrella with me when I go out (just in case!), and blush when people talk about thongs. I’ve also cultivated a bit of a tea addiction.



Arriving back in Australia last week (after almost 30 hours in transit!) marked one of the most amazing experiences of my life coming to an end. I have to say, however, that topping off my amazing time on exchange in Glasgow with a few months of travelling around Europe isn’t the worst way to finish!



Exams are over! Time to hit the beach and enjoy the great weather Sydney is having! Or, even better, to jet off to Italy!



Yesterday was the hottest day we’ve had in Glasgow so far. The sun was shining, the daffodils were blooming, and every Glaswegian and their dog descended on the nearest park to soak up the sun. That night, our ‘spring heatwave’ was all over the news. When twenty-two degrees is newsworthy, you know you’re in Scotland...



Two years ago, ‘The First Emperor: China’s Entombed Warriors’ exhibition was at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Since seeing that exhibition I’ve often thought about one day visiting the World Heritage Site near Xi’an in central China.

And today was that day, during our visit to Xi’an Jiao Tong University. While learning about student life at some of China’s top nine universities as part of the 2013 Go8’s Student Leadership in International Cooperation Project, we’ve had a wonderful insight into Chinese history, culture and society.

Read more about Erin's trip.


In March 2012, I was named as one of 25 Australian-American Fulbright Scholars, and as I write this, I am coming to the end of my Fulbright experience. I have spent the past eight months at UC Berkeley, California, working on research in artificial intelligence as part of my PhD. By the time I finish next month, I will have visited eleven states, seeing a breadth of sights and sounds that I could only dream about previously.



Twelve days, five of the top universities in China: this is the Go8’s Student Leadership in International Cooperation Project 2013.

In Shanghai, we had a one-day visit to Fudan University. We spent the morning getting to know a group of students while touring the main campus to experience, for a brief period of time, student life at Fudan. Our afternoon itinerary consisted of a volleyball game with students – what we didn't know was that we'd be playing the Fudan men’s volleyball team, the number one men’s university team in China. They were very kind to us though – a group of PhD candidates, most of who had not played volleyball since high school!

Read more about Erin's trip.


For me, this year was like being a first-year again. Running around trying to find my next class in a building I’d never heard of, working out the best place to grab the necessary 9am-lecture-coffee, meeting new people in classes who’ve become some of my closest friends, and working out how late I can leave home and still make it to uni on time. The only difference? This year, I’m on exchange in Scotland.



Every day I get up in the morning, get ready and walk to university. I go to classes, write essays and drink coffee. I cook meals, go shopping and live a life no different to the one I would be living at home. Yet somehow, nothing is the same at all.

Where I am right now – Bristol, in the United Kingdom – people don't use stoves, they use 'the hob'. They don't use White-Out, they use 'Tipex'. They don't eat Weet-Bix, they eat 'Weet-a-bix'. They don't eat chips, they eat crisps. If you cut yourself, you apply a 'plaster', not a band-aid. Snow Peas are called 'Mange Tout', Zuchinni is called 'Courgette' and Capsicums are called 'Peppers'. Cars drive at 70 miles/h and not at 110km/h. Things that are good can be described as “lush” or “mint”. Football matches are hostile, and Rugby matches are family-friendly. You don't go to ‘tutorials’, you go to ‘seminars’. It's not 6.30, it's 'half six'. There are no ATMs, rather, there are 'Cash Machines'. If you say 'bludge' nobody knows what you're on about. Milk comes in pints, and not litres. They don’t use a vacuum cleaner, they use a Hoover. They think Australians use the word 'Huroo' and drink Fosters beer. AND to top it all off, TIM TAMS AND TWISTIES DO NOT EXIST.

How is everything the same, yet so different?

See more of Sidd's posts.



An interest in science fiction and history – and the influence of some inspirational teachers – put Benjamin Pope on a study path that’s taken him around the world.

Now back at Sydney Uni after completing an exchange year at the University of California, Berkeley, where he conducted research with a Nobel Laureate and travelled to an observatory in Hawaii to work with world leaders in astrophysics, Ben has received a University Medal for his honours thesis and is about to start his PhD. “The example of those who've taught me has cemented the importance of nurturing the individual interests of students and helping them find the right field to kindle their excitement”, says Ben, but he didn’t start out with a career in astrophysics in mind.



So I’m here. I’ve been here for seventeen days.

Exchange is amazing.

Bristol is a a tiny city. Well, of course it would seem so, coming from Sydney. It’s everything that I could have wanted. There is a magnificent cathedral within 2 minutes walk and the University of Bristol wouldn’t look out of place on the set of a Harry Potter film. The roads are small and windy and the number of BMWs, Audis, Mercedes are about ten fold from back home. Milk is sold in pints and road signs are in miles. There is the perfect amount of drizzle in the air - enough to keep you cool, but not so much that it’s annoying. I am yet to meet someone I don’t like.

My flatmates (seven of them) are some of the friendliest people anyone could meet. There are two medical students, two politics students, a geoscientist and an engineer. They are from all parts of England - from Northumberland to right here in Bristol.

I study health sciences back home, but here I’m taking electives and studying medieval history. This, whilst being a challenge, has been an amazing decision. I’m not used to the language in the readings, or the style of the tutorials (or seminars, as they are called here) - but I expected this. Throwing a science student into an arts unit was always going to see a few glitches. I’ve been studying things for pure interest, rather than for a degree - makes it a lot easier to get work done.

I’ll get back to you with my adventures as they happen!



It was nearly two years ago when I decided I wanted to go on exchange. Now, just a few days before I leave for my little trip, the excitement is beginning to reach levels of breaking point. Months of filling out forms and credit approvals are all falling into place, now all that remains is me boarding an airplane.

I’ll be studying at the University of Bristol, in the south west of the UK, just 2 hours drive from London. I’ll be studying there for one semester, or approximately 4 months. As I’m taking only electives on my trip, I have actually no idea what subjects I’m going to take yet - I pick them once I’m over there. I’ll try and do something I’ve never studied before, like ancient history or something.

So I will try and post here every few weeks to keep you updated on my travels. The next time you hear from me will be from a dorm room in the UK. It will be small with one window and you’ll be able to hear all of the noise from my neighbours through the thin walls.

Excited? Yeah I am a bit.



As a research scientist who has worked in laboratories for some time, I felt it was an important step in my career to undertake doctoral training. Sydney Uni was ultimately my choice as it offered me a level of freedom that's difficult to match at other universities. So I'm enrolled in Sydney's Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, but also at the University of Aix Marseille in France, in the international cotutelle PhD program.

How did I end up here? I noticed a research gap in Australia and found a supervisor at Sydney and a group in the south of France who both agreed to support my application. Now I'm in Aix-en-Provence learning techniques to bring back to my group in Australia, with a view to eventually starting my own microalgae research group, and hopefully a spin-off company after that.

The specific knowledge gap relates to genetic manipulation of microalgae suitable for producing industrial/medical enzymes, and biofuels potentially usable as jet fuel, whilst not competing for arable land – perfect for improving fuel security whilst not challenging food security.

The CEA (the institute at which I am stationed) is cutting edge in both nuclear fusion research, and biological research.

For more information, visit the Uni's Agriculture and environment website or the University of Aix Marseille website.


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In the world of politics, Sydney wouldn’t seem to stand out among such cities as London, Cairo and my hometown of Washington, D.C. My friends and family were surprised when I revealed my decision to become an American exchange student at the University of Sydney, but just a few weeks into my time here, I'm confident that I made a wise choice.

As a political science major concentrating in public policy, I'm fascinated by the Australian political system. Issues that have all but been abandoned by the U.S. Congress, such as aboriginal rights and climate change, are front-and-center in the political discussion here. Studying subjects as diverse as Australian environmental history and comparative politics of ethnic conflict was an attractive factor, but what sealed the deal in my decision was obtaining an internship at GetUp!—a progressive political advocacy organization based in Sydney.

The opportunity to learn first-hand about many of the issues I study in the classroom was irresistible, and as I’ve learned back at my alma mater of George Washington University, it’s without a doubt the best opportunity to master the art of networking—developing professional relationships that will help me after my studies.

As I dive headfirst into what will ultimately be a six-month journey into Australian academic life, parties, politics and travel, I’m thrilled to have been provided this platform to share my experiences. Feel free to follow my personal blog, Dispatches from Down Under, and my Twitter account as well.




After three months of fast food, partisan politics and unsustainable shopping sprees, I recently returned to Sydney from exchange in Washington DC. However, I didn’t feel like I had come home - if anything, I felt like a foreigner. It is very strange to think that you would associate the word, ‘home’, with a place that you had only spent three months in.

I’ve since realized this is what they call ‘exchange withdrawal’, and it isn’t as bad as it sounds. It gave me the refreshing opportunity to experience Sydney as if I had just moved here – everything seemed new again.

Now I’m not going to lie, it has been a good two months since I’ve returned, but I still haven’t fully completed the transition. Sure, I’ve returned to the usual daily grind and routine of standing on crowded buses and sitting in less-crowded lecture theatres, but something is still missing. I think going on exchange has created an extra home for me, one that I will always be homesick for. But don’t get me wrong; it’s the type of homesick that will always make me smile whenever I reminisce about my time there.

Read more about my time in DC.



One of the best pieces of advice I've come across is always try for things. You never know what you can accomplish if you don't put your hat into the ring.

My name is Dominick, and I'm a PhD student in the School of Information Technologies. Seven months ago I submitted an application for a scholarship - almost on a whim. There wasn't much planning involved - my supervisor had suggested it as a good idea, and I thought, why not? The bulk of the application only took a week to write.

Fast forward. Just last week, I was named as one of 25 Fulbright Scholars from Australia for 2012. Fulbright is up there with Rhodes as one of the most prestigious international scholarship programs, awarding 6,000 scholarships a year for exchange to and from the United States. Thanks to the scholarship I'm about to embark on a new adventure to the University of California at Berkeley for eight months. I'll get to interact with some of the brightest and most motivated people in the world in the heartland of technology. I'll get to see and live in a new country, broadening my appreciation for the world and its diversity. It's a euphoric feeling.

Opportunities rarely fall into our laps (though it's certainly nice when they do). You have to work for them, and put your hand up. Write the applications, take advantage of the offers. Who knows - maybe you will be the next Fulbright Scholar.

I'm writing this blog entry from Nanjing, China, with four of my astronomy friends from Sydney - Jason Yue, Dominic Jarkey, Dominic Williamson and Jiro Funamoto. And a big hello to Tamara Martin, who was here with us at the start of the trip! We miss you! We're here on a short exchange at Nanjing University, aka NJU, one of China's foremost universities, and we're spending our time in astronomy lectures and exploring Nanjing and the surrounding Jiangsu province. It's one of China's oldest cities and an ancient capital of several dynasties - Nanjing even means "South Capital", just like Beijing means "North Capital" - particularly the Ming and the Eastern Wu (think Red Cliff, if you've seen that!). We've also travelled to Shanghai and to Suzhou, the "Venice of the East", a canal city between here and Shanghai. Read the extended entry for our stories!


A normal semester of university at Usyd passes by rather quickly. On exchange it does so with rocket- speed. So here I am, finding myself staring at the remaining 5 weeks of semester, wondering where the rest of the 10 flew by.
Due to this fast pace of things, one has to have a clear idea of what they want to get back from the golden semester of exchange fairly soon along the journey. In my case, I had more or less two main goals.

When applying to the University of California, not only had I heard about the vast variety of natural beauty this state has to offer- ranging from the deserts and beaches to the city life, but I chose the Berkeley campus mainly for its academic reputation. So while these two goals- one of the explorer, one of the academic have been fairly challenging to satisfy simultaneously, they have shaped my entire exchange experience so far! Hence through this entry I hope to share some of my travels around California and the neighbouring states and especially highlight some marvels of nature that I have stumbled upon in the last two months.

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Let’s pick up the pace, let’s shake the blues away, let’s make the parties longer, let’s make the skirts shorter and shorter, let’s make the music hotter, let’s all go to hell in a fast car, and keep. it. hot!

With the days to the Christmas break counting down, and the pace of semester rapidly dissolving into a steaming mess of exams, you would think that it would be time to hunker down in the libraries, and try and recover my grades from the cliff edge of an otherwise well enjoyed semester. And that’s what I would be doing if I were back home, desperately calculating what points I had conceded, and the grades I could still make (usually based on unreasonable expectations of final exams).


Hey Everyone! My name is Mayura (its easier read than pronounced!) and I'm a third year Bachelor of Science (Adv) student at Sydney University doing a double major in Biochemistry and Immunology. I'm currently spending my fourth week in the US where I'm undertaking a semester of exchange at the University of California, Berkeley. Hopefully through my own experiences and discoveries, I'll be able to provide you with a taste of what an exchange program offers! So as I write this blog from the Science library (which is only one among 30 different libraries on campus, along with 5 levels of underground storage!) I'm trying to figure out how to summarize the past 4 weeks of my stay here. I guess I shall start by describing Berkeley- which if known at all, is famous as a university town with everything centered around and linked to the campus. The university campus itself, which was established in 1868, is very beautiful though it’s a rather different beauty to what one would find at Usyd. With many grand white buildings amidst the Californian redwood trees which are habited by a large population of squirrels, creeks which run through the campus to the mountains (a popular hiking location) at the Western end, the university almost seems like a national park!

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My year abroad has finally finished up, and much too soon as far as I am concerned =(

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Halloween: what a strange tradition. Although I’m told there is some kind of Irish origin to this very American celebration, I’m pretty sure that any historical continuity has been lost. With malls brimming for months before the night with tacky costumes, and little brats running door to door in an orgy of candy, it’s hard to find any merit to the whole affair.

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With four precious days as part of the Fall break long weekend, where else is better to escape the impending doom of winter and midterms than the seaside? This seems to have been the consensus view because on mass 30 of us flocked to Florida for five short days (and long nights) in South Beach, Miami.


I just finished my last final (ever!!) and even though it was at a dreary 8 o’clock in the morning I’m still bouncing off the walls. The last few weeks have been hectic- over Thanksgiving I made a trip down to Disneyland (it really is the happiest place on Earth) and LA, the following weekend I turned 21 (thank goodness for finally (a) being legal to go into a bar or pub whenever I please and (b) be considered an actual proper adult! Eek!) and went down to Monterey Bay and the Aquarium, returning just in time for the start of finals week. In amongst this I’ve been trying to plan a trip over to the east coast over Christmas and New Year and figure out how to get a year’s worth of stuff to fit into one suitcase to bring back to Australia.


The San Francisco Bay has the strangest weather. Today it felt like a Sydney summer, and yet it was freezing and rainy all through last week. You can buy books on the shelves here on the local weather, and it apparently comes down to the unusual coincidence of elevated land right up against the ocean and then the huge bay right behind, with only a small gap, and most of Northern California's rainfall draining out through the Golden Gate.

There's definitely a trend, however, towards getting chilly. The wind bites particularly harshly in San Francisco anywhere you're in the shade, and at night on Market Street you'll want a jacket.

The natural beauty of California is really one of its best features: in the last few weeks I've visited Yosemite, Monterey, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and Sausalito and they all have something marvelous to offer. Yosemite in particular has to be the single most awe-inspiring piece of nature I've ever seen - when you look down from the Mist Trail at the double rainbow in the waterfall there are shades of purple I'd never even seen before.

While I've been on exchange I've been trying to hit as many of the best sites in California as I can, and there've been a fair few. I thought I might upload some pictures from highlights from the last little while. Also in there, a photo of LA taken from Mount Wilson Observatory during the night, where I was down at the Infrared Stellar Interferometer. I can't resist mentioning the best experience I had down there: getting to look through one of the ISI's 65" telescopes (for non-astronomers, 65" is enormously larger than the very largest telescopes you'll normally see in private hands, but tiny compared to some of the biggest professional telescopes in use today - more on that later). Observing Jupiter and the Great Nebula of Orion with an eyepiece up to the focal plane was breathtaking - you could see three of Jupiter's moons and one's shadow on Jupiter, and the colours of the bands. Even better, not only did the Great Nebula show the H-alpha (cherry-red) colour it's so famous for, and very clearly too, but also a vivid bluish colour. These are attributed to (respectively) hydrogen and oxygen plasmas and are two of the brightest of many spectral lines that tell us in great detail about the gas dynamics and, in the infrared, star formation processes.

The academic life in Berkeley has a much more intense pace than in Sydney: every week I'd normally get a substantial assignment for Classical Mechanics and Stellar Physics, three smaller ones for Partial Differential Equations, and about 10 hours work for the ISI group. This takes up most of my week, so I've been trying to get out on weekends a lot. Classical Mechanics is especially fun, I think; it must have been quite a feeling to be Newton or Laplace and see the elegant simplicity of motion, and doing this class is like a tour through scientific history as much as anything else, where you learn how to solve all those classic problems - orbits, pendula, precessions, normal modes - that most textbooks just quote.

This weekend is the Big Game - the football game vs Stanford! I visited their campus a little while ago for a lecture on time perception by Phil Zimbardo - of Stanford Prison Experiment fame - and they seem to have exactly the same enthusiasm for the game that we have here in Berkeley, with "Beat Cal" t-shirts all over the place. There's a bonfire on Friday night before the game on Saturday, and I'm very excited.

The Bay Area is also great for music - I've been to Jack Johnson and KT Tunstall concerts so far, and they've been fantastic. But not just that, you see people with guitars just everywhere, busking or just having fun - and they're really good too!

So in all I'm having a great time in California. If you get the chance to go on exchange, you really ought to do it. Whether or not it's to Cal or anywhere else, it's one of the best opportunities you'll get at university to really develop in your own direction.

Read on for a description of the ISI work...


This last weekend I was lucky enough to get the chance to see some of Sweden. I had a few days off from class by coincidence, and with a couple of friends hit the road on an epic and unforgettable adventure.


Classes have picked up a lot since my last blog in October leaving me very little time to post! Having just finished week 6 of class, my first wave of midterms have come and gone, and I'm now left waiting, keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best. As these are the last courses I have to take to complete my degree, I'm a little apprehensive. Aside from classes, I'm slowly having the realisation of how little time I have left here in beautiful California and have been keen to use my weekends to do as much exploring as possible before winter hits.


It might be a bit of a generalisation, but it seems that early American settlers followed a fairly generic formula when it came to naming their new settlements. Driving through Virginia in particular, it seems that every second town is a burg, with Blacksburg, Gettysburg, and Fredericksburg coming and going on the highway markers. After a trip to two of the great villes of Tennessee, it seemed logical to turn my attention a couple of the more famous villes east of the Great Smokey Mountains, in particular Asheville, NC and Charlottesville VA.

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'cause I'm a redneck woman
I ain't no high class broad
I'm just a product of my raising
I say, 'hey ya'll' and 'yee-haw'
- Gretchen Wilson

Although it was definitely on the list, it wasn’t until a couple of the other exchange students got the ball rolling that I finally got my head around a weekend jaunt to Nashville. And I’m glad I did – nothing quite beats it and all its cowboy kitsch.

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Game day

7 Oct

How can you tell that God is a Tar heel? Because he painted the sky Carolina Blue.

It's truisms like this that make it hard not to love the patriotism, pageant and general excess that make College football so damn good. A couple of Saturdays ago was the first home game of the season which, given the controversy surrounding the team this year, was a must see event.


After a long three month summer break, I'd forgotten how fast-paced classes in the quarter system are. Only a week and a half deep with classes and I've got a series of midterm exams coming up in a couple of weeks as well as a few homework assignments that I've already submitted.


So after a long summer break, I'm almost ready to begin my final (Fall) quarter at UC Davis. Davis is a smaller town in the Californian Central Valley, located about a half hour from Sacramento and a little over an hour from San Francisco. It's not what you would consider to be "typical" California by any means - no picturesque beaches, and the weather is definitely less than perfect (it seemed to go from rainy days to 35 degree heat in a matter of weeks!) - but over the last nine months of my exchange I've come to really love it here.

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DC Baby!

11 Sep

With the opportunity the labor day long weekend gave us, a few of us internationals decided to head up to Washington DC. One of the great things about exchange, which I hadn't really thought of before I came, is that I'm here with 200 or so other study abroad students, all looking to have a great time and eager to travel as much as possible.

The contingent I was in - about 20 internationals with a couple of token apple pie Americans - decided to drive up to Washington, kicking off what I hope will be only the first of many American road trips to come. As to be expected from a group of students in a foreign country, we decided that an official 'road trip party' was mandatory the night before, meaning that there were a few gray faces as we assembled at 6:30am. To recover, we decided to have breakfast at Bojangles, purveyor of fine southern American cuisine, which seems to exclusively serve fried chicken, biscuit (which is kind of like a greasy, savory, English muffin) and sweet tea (iced tea with a lot of sugar). Needless to say, not many of us were impressed with our breakfast, but I think I'll go back under different circumstances so I can give Bojangles the justice it deserves. A highlight was seeing all the men dressed up in camos, obviously setting out on a weekend hunting trip in their giant trucks. God Bless America!


Everything looks so familiar, because I've seen the buldings on TV, in movies, in the paper etc.

DC is an amazing city, with wide streets, grand, low rise buildings and somewhat of a regal air. Apart from all the standard touristy things, such as a visit to the gates of the White House and all the monuments, my absolute favorite is the Air and Space museum. As a bit of a Science nerd, I was in heaven amongst the planes, satellites, rockets and space stations that are strung up on the ceiling. I spent at least 4 hours, which was much more than the patience of my companions could stand, who decided to leave me for something else.

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Just a few of us standing outside the white house. We're not looking a head, because some BP protesters had just entered the scene chanting 'Drill baby Drill, Kill baby Kill'.

UNC kicked off the football season with a game against Louisiana State on Saturday, so with the zeal that only new converts could muster, we decked ourselves out in tar heel pride, and found a sports bar that would put the game on the big screen. This summer has been a tough one for UNC football, and 16 players are currently suspended while the governing body investigates how players started handing in such eloquent essays, and why their tutors suddenly had so much pocket money. I wasn't that taken with my first American football experience, and we left the bar with the heels down by quite a bit. Thankfully someone turned on the TV at our next stop, because Carolina had clawed back, and were within sight of victory. The last minute of gameplay was best, and in the last 6 seconds, UNC had the chance to win twice - and managed to fumble the ball as many times. Despite the loss, and with only one game to base my judgment, I've decided I'm a massive fan of Football - at least until the next agonising stop start stop start defeat.

This weekend should be a little quieter, but we already have plans in the works to go to Wilmington the following weekend - a beach town which is apparently where Dawson's creek was set. Miami in Fall break is also a strong contender.

Keep you updated!


Hi! I'm Ben, second-year physics and Latin at the University of Sydney and I'm on exchange to the University of California, Berkeley. I've been here for a hectic almost-four-weeks-now and here's my first blog. I don't know how often I'll update this but I'll try to as much as possible. I'm studying Quantum Mechanics, Partial Differential Equations, Classical Mechanics and Stellar Physics here, with an all-star cast of great lecturers and a much higher load of assignments than at the University of Sydney. Nevertheless I'm enjoying it here!

UC Berkeley is a great place, I should start by saying that. Founded in 1868 across the Bay from San Francisco, colours Yale Blue and California Gold, football team the Golden Bears, and most famous landmark the Sather Tower Campanile. The San Francisco Bay Area is more like Sydney than anywhere else I've been. It's still a little strange in parts. Market St is rather like George St, say, and is very nice during the day. At night it can get a little scary - fog, lots of roadwork so you can't walk in a straight line, and angry homeless people everywhere. I've only gone there once at night (to transfer trains on the way back from Santa Clara - for some reason the Bart, which is an underground train system, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, doesn't actually link up with Caltrain, their over ground system) and that was a bit dodgy, and once during the day to go to the consulate and vote.

The trip to Santa Clara was for SETI Con, which is a public conference and lecture series that happened a few weeks back about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. I was driven there by the kind Dr Franck Marchis, who is collaborating with the University of Sydney on an interferometry project, and highlights included listening to Frank Drake (first ever SETI researcher on Project Ozma), Dave Morrison (Carl Sagan's first PhD student and NASA personality with an enormous intellectual clout) and especially Rusty Schweickart, an Apollo astronaut who would have to be one of the most charismatic and intelligent human beings I've ever met. He talked about defending the Earth from asteroids and I was (pardon the pun) over the moon about shaking his hand and discussing the concept of an orbital "keyhole" - where an asteroid passing by a planet can be tugged just enough to speed it up or slow it down so that it collides with the planet on a later orbit. There's some danger the asteroid Apophis may do this a few decades from now.

Berkeley itself has some very nice areas too, for instance Solano Avenue. It's like Mosman crossed with Newtown. All these little shops - I had great Mexican food (better than Downtown Berkeley, and that's saying something), and nice ice cream and chocolate (hard to find good chocolate here, funnily, but some I had here was eucalyptus flavoured!), and there was an Italian delicatessen with all the cheeses and pastas and sauces you could ever want.

I had some difficulty with housing. I initially had a contract with the University of California housing, and the dorms they assigned me were really not that great - full of freshmen and small rooms. So I had to search high and low without any help from the University housing department until I found a lovely place at Westminster House nearby, and then had to spend a week looking for someone to replace me or else they wouldn't let me out of my contract. So the moral of the story is to be very careful about signing leases and never do it before you see the place! In the meantime I stayed at the Berkeley Lab Guest House up in the hills, which was not too expensive ($89 a night for a really nice room, cheaper than anywhere else) and had a great view and excellent service. But now that's fixed and I'm getting into semester.

I think I might leave this first entry on that happy note!

Hey y'all!

After a decent amount of traveling up the eastern seaboard with some friends, I finally made it to UNC with a few days to settle in before classes. I might write a little about what I got up to before coming down south, but for now, I'll fill you in on how my first week or so has been.

As a college town, Chapel Hill has a great feel, centered on Franklin St, an amazing little cafe/restaurant/bar strip on the edge of campus with a kind of southern King street feel. Filled with locals, students and preppy frat/sorority types, something always seems to be happening on Franklin, which is open all night long. The northern part of campus merges onto Franklin street, and with plenty of great oak trees nestled around low-rise redbrick buildings, that area definitely looks like a stereotypical American campus. I'll upload photos soon, but for now I guess you will just have to take my word for it!

South campus, where I live, begins from below Keenan stadium, a 60 000 seat temple of American excess that I'm looking forward to filling as soon as Football season kicks off. With plenty of Freshman and Sophomore dorms, my part of campus definitely has a more active feel to it, and everyone is always moving around, meeting other people and having fun.

The first day or so was pretty hectic, with much socialising with fellow exchange students, members of the international student support association, and plenty of Chapel Hill natives. As a college town, there are plenty of night life options, including those that accommodate for us 'under 21' babies. One of the weirdest experiences so far - although you wouldn't expect it - was a dorm shopping night to Target that I went to with a few of my new buds. Wandering down the street to the shuttle bus stop, the frenzy of people fighting to get onto a bus was pretty daunting, but as it turn out, this trip to Target was well worth our share of elbowing and pushing in to get to the front of the line. Once we got to the store, it became pretty clear what we had fought for - besides all the freebies, they had a DJ in the middle of the menswear section, as well as 'Spot the dog' who is apparently the company mascot. It was pretty surreal to see everyone running around, frantically filling their shopping trolleys as if they were stocking the home for a hurricane. Everyone was chatting, dancing, running around, and it felt much more like a party than a dull shopping trip. We got home at 2am, which means it would have to be the best 4 hours I've spent in Target in my life.

I'll probably write a bit about classes next post, but for now I have to race off to get ready for a Labor Day long weekend trip a few of us internationals are taking to DC.

Okay, so I am back. Two AMAZING months of traveling across Europe is over (tear) and it is nearly time to settle back down to study, and also time that I updated everyone on what has been going on. Please note (I am warning you in advance) this is a LONG post!


The last month has been tough. I have had a lot of school work to do on top of being in the lab 8am-5pm everyday! Uppsala really takes the practical parts of science courses very seriously, which is great, I am learning alot. However, it doesn’t leave much time for study to keep up with the lecture material, or socialising.


I can’t believe it … another quarter at UCLA already complete! Winter quarter was full of novelties, not least of which was the realisation that three consecutive days of non-stop rain is possible even in Los Angeles. The end of this quarter not only proclaimed the return of scorching weather (not that it ever got very cold here), but marked the 2/3 point of my exchange at UCLA. Luckily, I had a busy Spring break to preoccupy my mind from the looming end to my awesome time in California!


Money, Money, Money.... It's a rich mans world...


With my first quarter at UCLA already complete, only one thing remained to be done in 2009: enjoying the winter break and the infamous New Years celebrations in New York Times Square! I wasted no time ditching the warm west coast for the arctic east to meet up with friends from Sydney who were also on exchange in America (I guess I must have been missing that good old Australian accent just a little!). First stop: Las Vegas …


So for many young, aspiring journalists - such as myself - after months of unpaid internships we hold on to a hope that some gratification for our toil might emerge.. Happily for me, the all-expenses paid trip to Patagonia, in the South of Chile that I´ve completed these last few days seems to be compensation indeed..


This time around I have truly fallen in love with Buenos Aires, and just can´t believe the size of the city and how much it has to offer!


We'll - I've now been here 10 days and the late nights out mean I'm still living in the same timezone as Australia...Its ridiculous!


From Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas – it feels like America jumps from one festivity to another. UCLA has been all about balancing these celebrations with work, however as my first quarter at UCLA drew to a close, this balance became skewed heavily towards the latter … But first, more exploration of California!

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With my first batch of midterms over the week before Halloween, I decided to celebrate the brief breathing time by beginning Halloween celebrations early. Yep, the movies are pretty accurate – Halloween is HUGE in America. There are countless stores entirely devoted to selling Halloween costumes and accessories (I’m not really sure what they do for the remaining 11 months of the year), and as early as the start of October, businesses had started scrambling to make most of the festive (ie. money-spending) mood of American society ... myself included.

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This is it, the final entry.

I've been way too busy (and lazy) to write this blog more often. However there also hasn't been much to write about. My life was mostly involved in partying, writing chemistry reports and lazing about with a fellow Aussie. I could have written about those times but the entries would have been largely identical. Monday to Friday attend school. Monday to Thursday night relax and watch TV. Friday night go out and have a great time. Saturday morning get a pizza and calypo with Annabel. Go out Saturday night and pretty much repeat Saturday morning on Sunday.

However this entry is going to be about Education (mostly)..


And, after the best nine months of my life, I’m back in Aus!!!! To be honest, it feels a little weird – I can understand everything that’s going on, everyone has my accent and people drive on the right (or wrong now for me!) side of the road. But, it’s home.

It’s a little strange to think that none of my friends and family from home have met the people I’ve spent the majority of a year with, or, to be honest, know close to nothing about Denmark. There’s a group of us from Arhus though who are Sydney-siders who each know what we’ve all been up to, and can help each other in the transition home. We’re not ready to give up Europe just yet – we’re heading out to Scu Bar tonight to meet backpackers!! Haha.

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Leaving Denmark and saying goodbye to Europe definitely wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Simple things, like: ‘But wait, you can’t get Tuborg beer at home!’ or ‘There’s no H&M in Australia’ even, ‘You mean, I’ll be in one place for more than just a number of days?!!!’ kept popping into my head. But it wasn’t just the leaving of the place, most heart-breakingly it was leaving the people.

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Hello to my strong legion of devoted hardcore fans,

Things have settled down here now in Lund. I have all my necessities worked out which I kind of already mentioned. Delphi (my student housing) is proving to be a great choice for me. I'm not only close to the Kemicentrum (Chemistry Centre) where I study, but I'm never too far away from a party. There a parties in Delphi all the time, you can never go lonely.


Hello to anyone who reads this,

I am on exchange at Lund University in Sweden. It is described as a compact University town, but as far as I can see it's anything but. These people should come and see Sydney. I fail to see how a compact uni requires the use of a bicycle to get wherever you need to quickly. Every building is surrounded by grass and carparks. It is rare to find two buildings right next to each other.

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Because I’ve been treated so well by Danes showing me their food and culture, it was my turn to introduce some Danes to real Aussie food! I actually had to think really long and hard about what traditional Aussie food was when they asked me – I looked it up online, and some of the suggestions were chilli con carne and Thai curry…maybe the fact that the word Thai is in that dish makes it not Aussie?!??!!!

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Having a birthday here is awesome! Not only was the actual day, almost 2 days (Yay for time difference), but we celebrated it in 3 different countries! Of course, there was the actual day of the birthday – so multicultural – I think we worked out that about 15 countries were represented by the people there!!! – but we also decided to have a party weekend! So, we’re in Europe, it’s my 21st birthday, looking for a party destination, so where do we go??? Amsterdam of course!!!!!


We were told the Danes were crazy about Christmas, and it’s true! They are!

There were a series of events connected to Christmas jammed into the few weeks before we left Denmark. The first was a parade, where the entire city of Aarhus watched kids from various marching bands trundle through the streets of the city, with Santa throwing chocolates leading the march. There were Oompa-loompa style Danish Santa bands all around the city. The big event of the night was watching the Christmas lights which had been strewn across the pedestrian street light up.


Well, the time has come for me to leave Ottawa. In three days, I will have finished my last two exams, hastily packed my bags and be flying on to Washington DC to do some more travel.
I have had the most amazing time in Ottawa, and I can't believe just how quickly this semester has flown by!
If you've ever considered going on exchange, I'm sure you already have a pretty good idea of all the reasons why a semester abroad is pretty much one of the best things you can do while you're at uni. So, I've decided to dedicate this entry to why studying in Canada whilst on exchange is so awesome! Clearly, I can't speak for the other countries, which I imagine are all pretty cool too, but I am biased. So if you've ever thought about going to Canada, here's my list of why you should hop on that plane asap!

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So I was just in Norway and had one of the best days so far!!! My friend and I headed all the way up to the Arctic Circle to a town called Tromso. We got there to a very sorry tourist information lady who told us there wasn’t enough snow to go dog-sledding, ice fishing, snow shoeing, reindeer sledding or snowmobile racing...which was pretty much a list of everything we’d gone there to do!!!

But, us in our ‘determined-to-go-dog-sledding’ ways, sent an email to a company we had been in contact with to see if they were actually running tours, and...they were!!!!!


I went to Sweden not long ago, and visited another Sydney Uni-er who is on exchange in Uppsala. It was great to be able to compare exchange experiences.

It’s funny both of us have become closest to English exchange students. I think, although this sounds quite obvious, that it’s because of the ease of language. Despite the Danes and Swedes having great levels of English here, among the exchange students, it can sometimes be difficult to hold a conversation. A lot of the time normal conversation is fine, but as soon as jokes come into play a lot of meanings are lost or confused. There's some great acting going on here!


It may be Amsterdam that is renowned for a liberal spirit, but I think many travel books have overlooked Denmark. The biggest tourist attraction in Copenhagen, is not (as one would’ve thought) Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, but is Christiania.

Christiania is a hippie colony that exists as a separate state from the EU, right in the heart of Denmark’s capital. It was set up in the 1970s by squatters who moved into ex-army buildings, and has remained ever since. The Christianians, although subject to Danish law, exist by the own laws, which are pretty much summed up in 3 rules: no violence, no guns, and no hard drugs. It’s all community run, where decisions of who to accept into the community, what behaviour is accepted and decisions about the everyday running of the place are decided by votes from the entire community who lives there.


My tutor for my Internet course is one of THE guys of Internet, so he’s always running off to do conferences overseas. This means, for a month and half I only had 3 hours of a class a week on a Wednesday morning. So...time to explore Europe!


Yes, it’s hard to imagine just how fast mid semester break came here, but it was soon upon us! Although it was only a week, everyone had really exciting plans, which varied from visiting the French Riviera, to going to Norway and Sweden, the UK, and all over Eastern Europe.


Last weekend we visited the Danish equivalent of Surfer’s Paradise. In a town called Aalborg, there is one street, famous throughout Denmark, that has 50 clubs on it! It’s amazing!

The clubs vary from head-banging rock-n-roll pubs, to hip-hop clubs, from chilled out bars to ranch themed pubs/restaurants – basically, there is a place designed for everyone! I recommend doing a crawl along the street, just to see what you can find! But again, don't expect things to start happening in the bars until about 1 or 2...but don't worry, you're still guaranteed a long night! 6am is early for the Danes!

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One of my majors for my degree is archaeology. Perhaps not the most obvious of choices for a Media and a Communications degree but anyway! While I was in Denmark, I thought I would take advantage of being right near objects and bodies thousands of years old, so I took a course in Viking Age Religion.

We had an excursion the other day to bog lands, and me, being the Aussie, of course had never experienced a bog! To me, it was essentially a really large mud pit! Right from the word ‘go’ of the excursion you could pick who was on exchange and who was a local, just from the way they responded to the bog. Of course, with a 20 kilo limit, I wasn’t likely to pack huge water-proof boots or wet weather pants! Yes, wet weather pants are common here, and like a raincoat, are a a water-proof layer you put on over your jeans. I think the fact you can’t find these anywhere in Aus, yet they’re a staple piece of clothing here, is a reflection on our two climates. And yes, it does rain all the time here!


I pretty much knew nothing about Denmark when I decided to come here. After sending off my exchange application, I began to discover that a lot of things are Danish: the band Aqua, Tupperware, Georg Jensen jewellery, Bang & Olufsen technologies. And, as every Dane likes to remind me, the Sydney Opera House!! But, what is the invention the Danes are most proud of?? LEGO!


Those are three big things in America, and I had the chance to experience all of them!

Halloween was crazy, partly because of the costumes but mostly because of the amount of people that went out to the streets that night. There were two or three big Frat parties that night and one of them got shut down by the University Police, so as you can imagine the rest of the parties were packed...

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The trip to Copenhagen was fantastic. We travelled with a group of maybe 40 international students to Copenhagen where we were shown around by one of the guides organised by Aarhus University. There’s this association set up by the uni purely for international students. They have “International Bar Night” every Tuesday night; which has been a great place to meet up with everyone now we’ve all split up into our various faculties.


So because I’m new to the blog I thought I’d back track a little to an entry I wrote at the beginning of September, to give you some idea of where I am in the world...Just warning you - there'll probably be a bunch of entries from me in the next couple of days to try and get me up to date!

Despite leaving Australia on 16th July, I've only just begun uni herein Aarhus - a town in the north of Denmark. So far the courses seem great...though quite different to Sydney. Of course, you've got the language barriers as people in my class come from all over... Japan, China, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Peru, Italy and Turkey just to mention a few...but that does make it really fun. I almost feel like a walking English dictionary sometimes!! Haha. I remember a Polish girl asked me where I was from because I was "so fluent in English"...I hope so!!


For me, one of the things I was most excited about coming on exchange to Canada for was the prospect of snow.
Ottawa gets a lot of snow. After all of last Winter's snow, for example, there was about 2metres worth of the white stuff piled up around the place (so my Canadian friends tell me, anyway - I do hope it's not their version of our Aussie "drop-bear" tales). Not only that, but temperatures drop to around -30celsius when windchill is taken into consideration!
Never again will I complain about Sydney Winters!!



Last night was my very first (and quite sadly, possibly last) proper, North American Halloween!


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I am back! I know it has been a while but because of that I’ve got plenty of things to tell you.

First of all, I went to a really cool Flamenco concert in Boston. The name of the guitar player was Jonathan “Juanito” Pascual and one of the dancers was Nino de Los Reyes. Juanito is an American flamenco guitarist who learned from the best maestros in Spain and Nino de Los Reyes is a young bailaor, part of the de Los Reyes dynasty of flamenco dancers...

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This week in class, I learnt about the Canadianization of Canada's Foreign Policy.
This blog has absolutely nothing to do with Canada's foreign affairs, except that the lecture made me realise that I am slowly and surely becoming Canadianized. (For instance, I am now spelling Canadianized with a 'z' instead of an Aussie 's'.)
Though I only just realised it, I can see now that this process has been creeping up on me since my arrival here. But (*deep breath*) I know that the first step to recovery is admitting what I've become.



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I am a Bruin. A true bruin. I wear the blue and gold, I chant the 8-clap with pride….and I’m the sworn enemy of all Trojans. School spirit here is just remarkable. University isn’t just a place to go to class – it’s a community, a family, almost a way of life.


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Things are starting to get busy here in Ottawa.
I am about to start my midterm examinations, even though I'm only into week 4 of semester (seriously, the Canadians make us Sydney Uni kids look like great big bludgers.)
Ottawa is also hotting up as the place to be with both the US and the Canadian federal elections happening soon. My residence overlooks Parliament Hill, so I like to think I'm kind of in the thick of things ;)
With all this, and the recent spate of dramas in Gossip Girl (can't help it - exchange has increased my addiction to unbelievably bad extremes), I decided to make an attempt at retreat from all of the hustle and bustle. So I went and stayed in a small log cabin in the middle of nowhere for the weekend.

log cabin.jpg


I’ve just come to the end of my second day of classes (and my second week in LA), but so much has already happened. I’m currently sitting in my dorm room at 2am surveying all the clothes sprayed across the floor and looking out the window at the handful of other illuminated rooms. I feel that indescribable sort of rush of being in a completely new place, of having countless people to meet -- of having a clean slate and starting afresh. Such a huge change from a fortnight ago, when I was eating Newtown Thai with a group of friends and frantically trying to sort out enrolment. So what’s happened since then?

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After just over a month on exchange at UC Berkeley, everything sort of settles down into a routine. Sort of. There's certainly the daily neccesities, like dinner at CZ (the house where I live), which is a little like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, except with food. Or walking to uni every weekday, about a block away. Or the stupid annoying details like paying bank bills, mobile phone issues, running out of contact lens solution, etc. etc. Dealing with these things lets you know you are still alive. But, before my description of exchange life gets too dreary, I guess I should mention some of the things that let you know you are definitely not in Sydney anymore..


I arrived in Ottawa tired and dirty after some flight confusion whereby it basically ended up taking me three days and four time zones of travel to get from Denali National Park, Alaska to here! Unfortunately (or perhaps not, depending on whether you're a glass half-full or half-empty person), I had to delay the urge to sleep so I could get my grrrroooove on whilst meeting all the other exchange students, inhabitants of my residence, and, of course, going to classes!


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These 2 weeks have been hectic; between classes and assignments I am going crazy. But anyway, I’m here to study (at least I think so). I haven’t been up to many things these past few weeks besides studying. I went to Boston last weekend to visit my girlfriend who goes to MIT. Boston is one of the most European cities in the US, and probably one of the oldest. The city is famous because of having more than 100 colleges and universities, including world leading universities like MIT and Harvard.

MIT Dome...

I was in Boston last year too so I didn’t get to take many pictures. However, a new experience for me was the driving.

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This university is enormous. It has also one of the most beautiful campuses in America…but I’ll let you judge based on the pictures.


It has been a nightmare to find my way around uni, but the upside is that I have made friends while asking for directions. I have also met people from different parts of the world during the international exchange orientation (some people from France, Austria, Switzerland, England, Mexico, the Netherlands and a good number of Australians).

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I guess no amount of exchange pre-departure seminars prepare you for that first day of exchange when you wake up, breath American air, hear American accents, and head down to a local bar; all the while being told to keep your head down so the cop peering into the back of the ute doesn't see you hiding amongst the old sleeping bags.

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Well, well , well, I have arrived at last in the land of the maple leaf, the mountie, the Rockie Mountains, and, apparently, famous things beginning with the letter ‘M’! Yes, that’s right folks, for those of you who haven’t yet picked it up, I’m in Canada!

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You are an ordinary Sydney Girl. Your days are spent learning about the American Civil War, having chance encounters with friends in Sydney Uni's quadrangle and drinking flat whites at an array of nearby coffee spots. Two afternoons a week you tutor kids in English and every Wednesday you meet your two besties to drink tea, eat a questionable number of Tim Tams and discuss issues of serious global which of the boys from Gossip Girl is the hottest.

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I took this snap outside the White House when I visited Washington D.C. earlier this month. I have always had a secret desire to be like C.J. Cregg from the West Wing, so I am thinking of taking him on, becoming his press secretary and creating a Rags to Riches legend with which even Barack Obama could not contend.

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So, I finally got the magic letter.
The letter I’d been waiting and waiting for.
The letter *drum roll* was to say that I was officially going on exchange to the University of Ottawa, Canada, next semester!

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After seven semesters, 90 weeks and 720 (scheduled) classes, I have only ten more hours as a student at the University of Sydney. I am waiting for the usual end of semester relief to kick in. It hasn’t. I am not coming back and nostalgia has taken the reigns.

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Firstly I should say that as I write this, the time I have to finish (read: start) an assignment that my lecturer has kindly given me two extensions for, is slowly ticking away. That extension was the first lucky thing that happened recently.

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So, it seems my Ask Asako post is still attracting applicants and I’ve been asked to write about what I do all day. (PS - feel free to keep requesting new blog topics!!!)

I thought it might be a good idea to do one of those while I was still on exchange!

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So this is what was running through my mind a few nights ago, when I suddenly realized that I didn’t have the key to my room. My first thought was, “Don’t panic,” and then my second thought was, “Panic!” Ordinarily, I wouldn’t panic – but the weird thing was that I had come out of my room, locked the door, had some cake in the lounge for 15 minutes and came back. Without my keys. Where could it have gone? So then I suspected the guy down the hall who I think has had it in for me ever since I got here. Maybe he doesn’t like Australians. Maybe he doesn’t like me. Probably the latter. Can’t see why you’d have something specific against Australians. Not like we ever hurt anyone…well maybe he’s angry our dollars doing so well.

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So I went canoeing over fall break – it's been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. And I had an amazing experience – it was 5 days/4 nights, and we canoed over 30 miles, portaged (where you carry the canoes on foot) for 2 km, and did a 5 km hike up and down a mountain. I’ve been hiking before, and my experience has been mainly masochistic – carrying a 20 kg pack on your back for 15 km in a day is not “fun” in any other sense of the word, and neither is eating 2 min noodles and cans of tuna because you don’t want to carry around your deluxe bean, salsa and burrito kit. But when you’re in a canoe you can take as much stuff as you want – and we took the bean, salsa and burrito kit .

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I know I've been MIA recently but before I do a big fill-you-in-on-everything post I thought I would share with everyone my local squirrels.

They may seem cute but they are downright scary when they get too close.


So I had an exam and I stopped writing in my blog and I stopped having fun which isn’t so good. One of my most cherished memories of Sydney is when my friend came up to me during STUVAC looking stressed, and said, “If I can’t handle exams, how am I going to raise a family?” (You know who you are!)

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Well I've come good on my expectation of not keeping a weekly blog - some work came out of nowhere and I switched on to "say no to fun" mode. Anyway, nothing too exciting happened to me since nothing exciting happens to people in libraries (that could be a proverb). Well unless you read an amazing book, change your life and go on to change the world. But that's probably not going to happen to you - because as Happy Bunny says, "It worries me how dumb you are."

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It's been a week and half since I arrived at Cornell and during that time I've pretended to be a freshman. It was fun for the week because I did all the freshman things - stand up comedy, rock concerts, casino night (I have much more sympathy for people addicted to gambling now), movies and an endless number of icebreakers which failed to break any ice.

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Hello! This is the first instalment of my exciting series of blog entries from Cornell University. I hope the latter part of my previous sentence turns out to be true.

Firstly, things I find exciting may not be the things you find exciting (would you find a waffle maker exciting?), and 'series' suggests I'll be writing regularly - I hope I can do it every week, but to me, thinking "I'll write a blog entry every week" sounds like "I'll study my lecture notes during semester and not STUVAC".


I had a stop over in Hong Kong on my way to Europe.

The time came around for me to leave, so I hailed a cab to take me to the station.

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Well I thought I'd write my first blog entry before I left - just to let everyone know that planning for an exchange is quite a challenge. I don't know what the actual exchange will be like, but I can tell you all what happens in the months leading up to exchange. I'm leaving next Friday - and I'm going through periods of excitement in anticipation of what might happen on exchange, and periods of desperation as I go through all the possible things that could go wrong (and there are many things you'll hear about if you go on exchange - refused immigration entry, mangled enrolments, horror accomodation, ruined clothes "because I never did the washing at home" are just some of the prospects facing exchange students).

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Hey! I'm going on exchange TOMORROW and I'm going to be video blogging from Canada!

Check out my youtube account for regular blogs!


I was told last year by an exchange veteran that the amount of time and work going into planning a trip like of this scale is equivalent to taking on an extra 6 credit point subject.

After viewing my diary for week 11 of last semester, you may agree.


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22 Mar

It was no fun being the laughing stock at the Christmas table… especially as I’d only been back in the country for 24 hours. From the blue grey skies of Scotland, I’d arrived home in the midst of Sydney summer, with a look I liked to call ’lilac’…. Needless to say I was not in the best condition for the occasion that urges one to pull out that special ‘frock’ - perhaps even, a pretty little sun dress. Oh, no! The exposure of the sun on my china white limbs almost sent me reeling inside like an animal burrowing underground after the comfort of hibernation… Given the situation, I think it would’ve been far more admissible for mine and everyone else’s sake to opt for the role of Santa Claus…Then again, who would’ve born the brunt of the jokes?

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Its late afternoon and I am delighted to find the front laws buzzing with the kind of activity that befits any normal O-Week. Handing out flyers for the international exchange fair (to be held this week on Thursday the 29th March) I was in competition with the army of faithfuls that represent the EU (the Evangelical Union - not to be confused with the formidable European bloc), and the eager and helpful bright green SPOCS. We vied for the attention of excited first years, as they stumbled around, arms laden with freebies, in a bit of a daze having just joined half a dozen societies.


Its 4am and a few carefree silhouettes can be seen winding their way along the Seine, fat nutella crepes in hand, with the Notre Dame majestically rising above them. Ahhh the romantic Parisian life… it certainly beats grabbing a kebab on the way home from a night on the town!

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What do speed dating, the first African-American ambassador to the UN, and slam poetry have in common?


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The tale of bravery, heroics and spandex that is about to unfold is the next instalment in the epic story of team Deli-Sandwich. For those of you unfamiliar with Team Deli- Sandwich, the myth-like account of its creation may be found here on this very website. Essentially, it tells of a group of intrepid young exchange students callously denied the glory they so rightfully deserved by that cruel and flighty mistress called fate. However, it was with heads held high and rejuvenated spirits that Team Deli- Sandwich rallied their forces to make an assault on perhaps the most perilous competition ever devised by the masterminds of the UBC REC committee…Gladiators.

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‘Remember, remember the fifth of November’ young children sang sweetly amongst themselves as a dummy was cast into a giant bonfire. Standing in it’s glow I can’t say I wasn’t a little disturbed. On that fateful day in 1605, a fellow called Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellar of the London Houses of Parliament. Found with 36 barrels of gunpowder he had every intention, but no chance, of setting them off. So what did Britain do?

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As of today, I've officially been a “resident” in Canada for 3 months. While it might not seem like that long, it’s been long enough for me to completely fall in love with the place. Vancouver is beautiful, Canadians are impossible not to get along with and despite what you may have heard to the contrary, Ice Hockey is definitely the best sport ever. In the midst of my love affair with my adopted home I have but one small grievance: Mother Nature is quite literally raining on my parade.

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I’m bobbing in the middle of the Charles, its liquid silver waters stretching flat out around me. The sun is shining but the chill in the air keeps it from beating down. Without even thinking I begin singing to myself, a manifestation of the perfect moment and my absolute happiness in it. As I croon away I suddenly stumble on a lyric long enough to realise just exactly what it is I am singing. I almost fall out of the boat in embarrassment… it's Mariah Carey - Always be my Baby.

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All Hallows Eve

2 Nov

Did you know that Halloween originated in Ireland and Scotland? And that you can carve turnips instead of pumpkins?

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While staring blankly at the free food shelf in the cupboard of a small hostel in Ireland, I had a sudden flashback... Three years ago, to the day, I was standing in front of a different cupboard, a world apart, hoping that something new had miraculously appeared in the 15 minutes since I'd last checked. For anyone who has written or is in the midst of writing HSC exams, you know what I'm talking about. That's what months of study does to you and I was the queen of procrastination. At the time, life beyond exams seemed an insurmountable task. Three years later, with the help of some abandoned pasta shells, a collection of colourful memories, life on the Irish road and the prospect of another few months in Scotland, I've realised that the HSC was only a small piece of the puzzle that has made up some of the best years of my life. For those of you gazing hopefully into cupboards now, keep focused, but be excited - so much more awaits...

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One day a year, the shores of Vancouver’s Jericho Beach are swarmed by hoards of college students ready for war. Ridiculous outfits are donned, gauntlets are thrown down and The Day of the Long Boat begins.


So, now that we’ve all read about Bailee, Davina and Gemma’s adventures, and are all dying to go on exchange....... how exactly do we go about it?

I started looking into going on exchange a few months ago, for Semester 2 next year (woo! Yes, it does take that long to organise!!) - and I just handed in my application!

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The first thing he said to me when I got off the plane was “I never want to leave this place”. Meet Ryan, another of those students happy enough to leave beautiful Sydney Uni behind in search of new horizons on exchange. And for you, dear reader, I took it upon myself to visit him and his fellow Usyd-kid Claire, in order to give you a greater picture of what studying in the United States could be like. Any personal benefit is purely coincidental.

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‘Hello, and welcome to Stirling University. My name is Gemma and I’ll be your guide today.’

Ok, so there’s the opening line, down pat. From there I’ll be flying by the seat of my pants leading prospective students around a campus I have known and grown to love in just over two weeks. Any attempt to mask the fact that, as a new student, I took the same tour not so long ago will, I’m afraid, be exposed after my broad Australian accent rears its head in place of the wonderfully curly Scottish intonation they might expect from someone claiming to know a lot about the University!

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About two weeks ago something awful happened. I actually had to go to class.

Somehow over the course of the last month I’d managed to block out the fact that going on exchange to a foreign uni would entail actually having to attend class. My blissful bubble of denial was burst, however, when I found myself seated in the back of a packed-out lecture hall at an hour of the morning that I hadn’t seen since my last Sydney Uni exam in June. The horror of the situation only increased as the lesson went on and dirty words like “essay”, “midterm” and “oral presentation” were used with increasing frequency. As the Prof (note my use of Canadian uni slang) started to describe what was expected from our study groups, rather than giving him my full attention, all I could think about was how having to go to study group on Monday morning would affect my plans to go to mechanical bull night at the Buffalo Club on Sunday.


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In Texas, the Lone Star state, there is an average of four guns per person. As such, my first stop in the USA has landed me smack bang in the middle of one of its biggest controversies. As yet, I have not been shot, so I’m going to attempt to dispel some stereotypes (and confirm some others) about the home of one of the most powerful men on earth.

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As the sun rose upon day three of my time in Canada, I was still lacking any inspiration for the theme of the next installment of my exchange blog. Don’t get me wrong. A lot has happened in a pretty short time since I left Australia. I’ve been to Tahiti, spent a few days in LA and lived off bananas for nearly a week because I soon discovered I’m incredibly lazy when it comes to getting myself real food. People actually seem to have serious difficulty understanding my accent and I’ve been asked what part of Britain I’m from one too many times. But despite all this, nothing had really struck me as decent blog material. Nothing that really encapsulated the strange and interesting new experiences that exchange is supposed to entail. Little did I know that late this afternoon inspiration would strike in the form of the wrinkled backside of a man in his mid-sixties.

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I’ve always been astonished by those people who, after 23 hours of flying, seem to emerge cool, calm and collected from the arrivals gate. Needless to say, this has never been the case with me. When I stepped off the plane at Heathrow I was the dishevelled backpacker you see shuffling towards the tube station through groups of waving relatives and friends.

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As we enter the main plaza the enormity of the situation hits me. We are ten “gringos” (foreigners) taking part in one of the most important celebrations of the year. Thousands of Bolivians stare and cheer as our overwhelmed selves respond to the cries of “Viva Bolivia!” Their shouts compete with the sound of firecrackers as they ricochet off buildings, and the marching band that marks Independence Day.

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Seven more sleeps until I board a plane bound for London! I feel like a little kid again in the days leading up to Christmas.

As uni went back last week my mind was far from thoughts of Sydney lectures and tutorials. Instead, it is racing with the prospect of a semester overseas.



29 Jul

University, as we are all so often told, is a time for both “experimentation and adventure”. The classic American teen movie, in all its undoubted wisdom, would have us all believe these terms are merely euphemisms for drug taking and promiscuity, however sometime around last October I decided to follow a different path and get my kicks by applying for the exchange program.

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In the beginning there was the Blog….

I must admit here in my first ever blog entry that I have, until now, been completely uninterested with the very notion of a ‘blog’. This goes beyond any reservations about the sheer unattractiveness of the word ‘blog’ (who came up with that anyway?) to the arrogance of assuming that if you write down some ponderings and post them in cyberspace, that someone will actually want to read them.

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About the Blog

Everything you ever wanted to know about uni but were too afraid to ask....