Food, glorious food: Freya

Food! Cuisine is at heart of any culture, and often how we best identify a nation. The Netherlands, much like New Zealand, does not really have a distinctively ‘Dutch’ food tradition. Instead, as the centre of a former colonial empire, Amsterdam has drawn its food culture from the influences of its former colonies and its widely multicultural immigrant population. The diversity in the restaurant scene is massive – from Ethiopian to Catalan, Brazilian to Belgian. The most common eateries are from from the colonies; Surinamese, Indonesian and Vietnamese eateries on every block in the city centre. But despite the density of food joints in the area, the overall quality is somewhat lacking (at least in my experience). The city centre of Amsterdam is very touristy, and often the food is either very tasty and very expensive, or moderately priced and rather average. The Asian cuisines to which the Netherlands has a historical connection to are often unauthentic, catering to a Dutch palette. This means that any Vietnamese or Indonesian snacks on offer are almost always fried and very mild.

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FEBO is an Amsterdam institution operates like a vending machine for tasty fried snacks

If there is any distinctly Dutch cuisine, fried and mild is by far the distinctive characteristic. Dutch snacks include bitterballen (fried balls of breaded ragu), croquettes (fried rolls of breaded ragu), cheese soufflé (fried cheese wrapped in pastry), and most importantly, fries. Belgian chips (Vlaams frites) are everywhere, and given that I am cursed with the dreaded 21st century inability to consume gluten, fries are really my only entry point into Dutch food culture. Not that this is any hardship. The Dutch know how to do chips well. The most common way to receive chips is in a paper cone smothered in mayonnaise, but other common toppings are curry sauce, satay sauce, or my favourite, oorlog: half mayonaise, half satay sauce topped with diced raw onions. Don’t judge it until you’ve tried it. The city centre is dotted with hole-in-the-wall chip shops claiming to offer the best fries in Amsterdam, but it’s all false advertising. The best chips by far are found in Grillroom “Twins” in the Jordaan district. The chips are ‘verse’ (fresh), and the sauces are top notch.

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Patats oorlog courtesy of Grillroom “Twins”

Given that eating out is either hard on the wallet or the waistline, it’s no surprise that Dutch students most frequently cook at home. ‘Dammers get most of their daily nutrition at the popular supermarket chain, Albert Heijn. After the bikes, I’d say it’s one of the key aspects of Amsterdam life that the locals are most proud of. And it’s easy to see why. Albert Heijn is no ordinary supermarket. Every store contains around three  different cheese sections, surpassing any variety you’ll find in the hyper-touristy ‘cheese shops’. There will also always be a DIY fresh orange juice press present, as well as an impressive selection of cured meats and spreads. And the gluten free section is better than even New Zealand! Price-wise, Amsterdam is typically a bit cheaper than Auckland, but not by a significant margin.

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A trick I’ve picked up to further cut down on costs is to buy all my fresh produce at one of the various local markets. My favourite, the Ten Kate market, is a 10 minute bike ride from home and I can get all my fruit, vege and eggs for the week for under €6, or 9 NZD! And if you feel like treating yourself, there are always beautiful fresh cheese stalls, or Turkish stalls selling a wide variety of hummus and other spreads, or any other fresh and authentic offerings to indulge in.

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As a final note, I would like to make a brief lament to my lost love: New Zealand coffee. The Auckland food scene is something I took for granted, and while I can live without weekend brunches and the occasional dinner out, the absence of decent coffee took some real adjustment. It turns out a great deal of Europe simply don’t know how to do coffee. It’s a broad statement, but as an ex-Auckland waitress and barista, I’m standing by it. Most cafes in Amsterdam only offer coffee made entirely by an automatic machine, and if it is made by hand you really have two options (regardless of how many options are displayed): weak black coffee or huge milky coffee with piles of foam. That being said, it is often cheaper than New Zealand coffee, and after converting from my regular order of flat white (very difficult to find in Amsterdam) to ‘koffie’ (Americano), I’ve become accustomed to the Dutch approach to coffee. And if coffee lovers are heading out to Amsterdam, there are certainly great places if you’re willing to hunt them out. My favourite spots to head to if I’m in need of a decent coffee are White Label, Lottie’s, Coffee Company (pretty good chain cafe), and Toki.

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Filter coffee at Lottie’s

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Accommodation Awards: Freya

The Traumatised Auckland Tenant’s Association Award for best value for location!

The advice I was given when figuring out accomodation options for Amsterdam was to not expect a central location without forking out big money. As an Auckland renter, this is a situation I am acutely aware of. The way student accomodation works for UvA is that you pick one of four options (shared room, shared facilities; single room shared facilities; double room, shared facilities; and double room, personal facilities), and UvA offers you a selection of possible rooms which you must quickly choose from in order to guarantee your place. I opted for the second cheapest option, and was extremely surprised to be offered two very central locations. For €422 a month (roughly 160 NZD a week), I have a room to myself right in the beautiful city centre. My accommodation borders Centrum, the famous and vibrant central district, and Jordaan, an extremely cool and sophisticated district full of beautiful houses and homes, and very non-touristy bars and eateries. In my room I have my own fridge, freezer, microwave and stove top. In the morning, I wake up to the sound of church bells, the same bells heard by Anne Frank during WWII. On the other side of the canal is a famous farmer’s market every Saturday, and I’m a 5-10 minute cycle to campus, the library and most museums and galleries. This is all for less than the price of my previous small, windowless room in Epsom.

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The Karl Pilkington Award for ugliest building on the street

In the classic TV series, An Idiot Abroad, host and modern-day philosopher Karl Pilkington mused on the Petra Palace of Jordan that, given the choice, he would “rather live in a cave with a view of a palace than live in a palace with a view of a cave.”

The De Key student accomodation on Prinsengracht is that cave. Prinsengracht is one of three famous canals bordering the central city of Amsterdam. Outside my bedroom window is a constant stream of canal cruises, whose passengers all marvel at the rows of quintessential Amsterdam architecture lining the banks. And amongst them, the De Key building. Instead of beautiful facades and colourful brickwork, my home is a remnant of the sixties’ love of pragmatism over personal expression. Which means that, as its inhabitant, I get a full view of all the best Prinsengracht has to offer, blissfully ignorant of its lesser offerings.

The Dutch Courage Award for best transportation

Buying a bike is an inevitable initiation into Dutch life, and cycling through Amsterdam’s roads is a very sharp learning curve. Like a baby bird leaving the nest for the first time, there’s not much you can do but pedal out onto the busy streets and hope for the best. Amsterdam cyclists have little regard for road rules. Apparently, if any car hits a cyclists, the driver is fully liable no matter the circumstances, and Dutch cyclists take full advantage of this fact. Biking around the city often feels like you’re in competition with all other cyclists as to who can take the biggest risk at intersections, or who can overtake the most riders in a single journey. However, for all the stress and confusion, it’s easy to grow fond of this way of life. There’s a real feeling of belonging to this city the first time you internally curse the tourists on the streets, or when you first successfully manage to cycle the route the clubs with your friends while already a bottle of wine into the evening. The city is designed so that it’s quicker to get from A to B by bike than by car or public transport, so it’s a quick, convenient and healthy way to get around town while at the same time getting a renewed appreciation of your own mortality.

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A sign of a ‘Dammer in the making: confidently operate one’s phone to take blog photos mid-cycle
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Dutch dominos witnessed outside the university library

The BBQ Association’s Award for best backyard

The Dutch sun is quite elusive, but as the days have been heating up there has been more and more call to soak up some vitamin D. Amsterdam has many parks well worth visiting, but usually when the sun makes an appearance, all of Europe (and a great deal of America) make a collective decision to visit Amsterdam’s parks. With big groups it can make for a fun and lively atmosphere, but for days when I have wanted some sun and solitude, my own accomodation has been perfectly sufficient. Hidden behind the Prinsengracht rooms is a idyllic grassy backyard and concrete court. Surrounding it is the backs of many of the buildings on the block, providing a vastly different sight to the ornate street-side façades. It’s a vague enough setting that you could be anywhere, and residential enough that there is a constant supply of neighbourhood cats to play with. In a city as lively and active as Amsterdam, where there is always something to do and places to be, it can be nice to duck away from it all – while remaining in Wifi access. It’s also been a great setting for some social building-wide BBQ parties (during one of which a few of us were invited by our beautifully creative RA to make the vege garden sign below, which remains a source of great personal pride) and many lazy morning-after hangouts.

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My O-Week Experience: Freya

UvA had orientation week sorted. We were advised to plan our flights to arrive on Wednesday 1st February, as that would be the only day they would provide free transportation and orientation services. As soon as we landed we were able to quickly find our way to the UvA desk set up in the Amsterdam Schipol Airport, where we were greeted with a traditional dutch snack called stroopwafel, and boarded a bus to the university’s welcome-expo. Here I was able to book a meeting with the leading dutch bank, get information on certain bike-rental companies, and pick up my room key. Once we were sufficiently overwhelmed with appointments and promotional freebies, we boarded a shuttle to our various accommodations. Pretty quickly we were driving through the city, getting our first taste of the architecture and bustle of our new home.

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On my first venture out in the city I stumbled on the bizarre but beautiful floating Flower Market

My building holds just over 150 students and is run by three RAs. On our first night we all got to meet our new neighbours over drinks in the common room and received a few insider’s tips to the city from our helpful RAs. Amsterdam is a huge city, with many different districts and sights to explore. Having a local on hand to tell you where to go was so useful in that first week – I didn’t know where to begin!

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The orientation week activities were an optional extra run by the International Student Network (ISN) that we were encouraged to sign up for. For €40 (around 60 NZD) we could participate a three day program designed to help international students make friends and get to know the city. This program began the day after arrival, so there was no time for jet-lag or sleep-ins. We were divided into groups of around 15 which were each led by two Dutch university students. The first day consisted of a scavenger hunt around the city, a welcome seminar and a dinner at a local club. On the second day we all met for lunch at the university, participated in a Dutch language ‘crash-course’ and a friendship-orientated ‘speed dating’ activity. We then jumped on a canal cruise before dinner and a pub crawl. On the final day we all went ice skating in the afternoon, followed by the final ISN party.

 

All in all it was an intense but greatly rewarding experience. A common theme of the introduction week was disorganization.  Every meal was way behind schedule and our group leaders were sometimes just as lost as we were in terms of what was going on. Activities like the scavenger hunt simply ended up being a wander through the city, and  the speed dating was so loosely organised that it quickly descended into one big hangout. However, none of this affected our fun. In fact, the collective confusion was often a nice bonding exercise itself. As such it was a great experience and well worth the €40. I got to get to know the city with local guides and after only three days I was beginning to feel like a resident of Amsterdam. I was able to make connections with other international students and started university with a degree of confidence in my sense of direction.

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On our first day in Amsterdam we were told of three Dutch stereotypes we would have to quickly get accustomed to: a) Dutch people are always on time, b) Dutch people are obsessed with their bikes, and c) Dutch people can sometimes come across as rude, but are simply just direct. The first point became a recurring gag over the introduction week, but the latter two are veritable truths. The first topic of discussions with the RAs, group leaders, ISN officials and even University staff was always bikes; either asking us whether we had bought a bike, how we found cycling around the city, or when reminiscing over the times their bikes got stolen. Bikes are everywhere in Amsterdam. Every bridge is lined with bikes against the railings, and every street, road and alleyway has cyclists whizzing up and down at the peril of pedestrians. And on the last point, all the Dutch people I’ve met so far have been very friendly and keen to help me get to know the city and the Dutch language. However, many interactions had in cafes and supermarkets have made me realise New Zealand language is definitely more geared towards politeness.That’s not to say the Dutch are any less polite, and ultimately I’ve felt nothing but welcomed by Amsterdam and look forward to the rest of my exchange.

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Food, glorious food: Bryar

Food, food, glorious food!

Now, I don’t claim to be a foodie myself (can’t cook for my life either) so I’m not an authority – but believe me when I say that Japanese food is seriously amazing. Maybe because it’s so different to most food you can find in New Zealand, yet still similar enough to be familiar. I think the only thing I look forward to and savour in NZ as much as the food here, is probably a burger from Burger Fuel (I told you, I have pretty simple tastes). So, this blog post is going to be dedicated to convincing you of the same thing! Here we go…

First off, here’s some examples.

It would take me forever to list off all of the Japanese dishes that I love, so I’ll settle for describing a few. Firstly, tonkatsu. Literally ‘pork cutlet’, deep fried in bread crumbs with sweet sauce, rice and salad. It’s simple, but the combination of the tender pork and the crunchy bread crumb is perfection itself. Udon, soba, and ramen…all are noodle dishes of different types, can be eaten hot or cold, and can be made with an infinite array of soups, meats, toppings and seasonings. Sukiyaki is a Japanese classic; beef slices, vegetables and basically anything you like slow cooked in a hot pot at your table. Once it’s cooked, take a slice of beef and dip it in raw egg (my mouth is watering just imagining it).

You can get a feed for next to nothing.

There’s a lot of crazy expensive restaurants in Tokyo, but they’re pretty well balanced out by the number of places you can get a meal for really cheap. Take Yoshinoya for example; a chain restaurant that can be found pretty much anywhere, specialising in gyudon (beef bowl). You can get a medium sized bowl for 380yen (that’s just under five bucks), and don’t go thinking that price indicates quality – this might be one of my favourite dishes of all time.

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And it’s super convenient.

With a convenience store, row of vending machines or fast food chain around almost every corner, one thing Japan could never be accused of is being inconvenient. You never have to worry about getting thirsty when you’re out and about, because I can (almost) guarantee you that no matter where you are, there will be at least one vending machine in sight offering everything from water to iced coffee and occasionally ice cream on a cone. Convenience stores (of which there are a lot) are also your best friend when you’re heading home after your 7pm lecture and really can’t be bothered trying to scrounge something up. A vast array of pre-made meals are on offer, which the person behind the counter will kindly offer to heat up for you, and a complimentary plastic fork is even included in the deal.

The snacks and desserts are to die for.

Last but not least, let’s quickly talk about Japanese desserts and snacks. If you’re a fan of delicate cakes, pastries and cute sweet treats then Japan is the place for you. I personally am in love with the ice creams here, especially yukimi-daifuku; a little ball of vanilla ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of soft mochi (rice cake). I could eat them every day and I don’t think I would ever get sick of them.

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There’s only one let down…

And that’s natto – fermented soy beans. It’s brown, it’s sticky, it smells strange and, well, it’s fermented. Japanese people love it, but I’m yet to meet a foreigner who will say the same. I’m thinking it’s like vegemite or marmite in New Zealand; if you grow up with it then you probably love it, but if you think about it it does taste a little weird. Needless to say, I won’t be converting any time soon.

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That’s all for today guys! I hope you’re not too hungry now (I definitely am).

Until next time, happy food-ing!

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United Kingdom

University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at various universities in the United Kingdon

Let’s hear what our students have to say…

  • Most people think of going to London when they think UK but Sheffield is an underrated northern city with plenty of history, greenery and home to the Arctic Monkeys. It was voted the most generous and the safest city in the UK in 2015 and really lives up to this reputation. It’s an industrial city, with more trees than people and a village feel. Sheffield is a student city, where statistically the most graduates decide to stay on. (Natalie Wood, University of Sheffield)
  • Being away from home, I always felt very excited and found the people very friendly. It was at times a bit cold and wet in England, but not as cold and wet as I had been told it would be. Generally, it was full of beautiful architecture and public transport was very good. (Richa Garg, University of Birmingham)
  • As a bit of an Anglophile, looking at potential exchange universities in the UK was a no brainer for me. To go live in a society where tea almost literally flowed through the veins of every citizen was an opportunity too good to miss. Further than that, I love the Scottish accent, theatre and really old things, so Edinburgh really stood out as the perfect place for me. (Lauren Andrews, University of Edinburgh)
  • Glasgow is beautiful but so is the rest of Scotland – take advantage of the student tour companies and do lots of day trips to other parts of the country. Close to Glasgow and worth visiting again and again and again is Loch Lomond but there is no shortage of beautiful scenery – go to the highlands, visits other cities, take advantage of the ludicrously cheap flights to the European mainland. (Jessica Stubbing, University of Glasgow)
  • Edinburgh truly is one of my favourite cites in the world, and during my exchange I was lucky enough to see quite a few! Edinburgh city is so rich with history – even the everyday walk to university or the supermarket was interesting. The skyline, which is visible from many easily walkable viewpoints, such as Calton Hill, Arthurs Seat and Blackford Hill, is dominated by old cathedral spirals, clock towers and of course, the Edinburgh castle. (Natasha Neeve, University of Edinburgh)
  • One of the exciting things about going on exchange is being thrown out of your comfort zone and being put into a new environment and calling it home for a while, I remember my very first impression of London being how big it is. I can safely say that it’s the biggest city I’ve ever seen in my life. Kingston was a very suburban town about 40 mins outside of London city, this made it feel quite easy to settle down. I remember walking around in Kingston thinking of how lively and cute it is, as somewhat of a student town I felt like I was going to have a great time living here there seemed to be so much to see and do. (Roberto Panovski, Kingston University London)

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On culture

  • When I first arrived in London I must admit I was pretty overwhelmed. London is a huge city and walking down Oxford Street was nothing like Queen Street in Auckland. I had never seen so many people, buses or stores. However, within a couple of days I quickly realised that I loved London and there was just so much to see. (Allanah Colley, King’s College London)
  • Orientation was incredibly helpful and gave me the opportunity to make loads of friends. Both local and exchange students. Sheffield has the best students union in the country, with plenty of offices, tour guides and drop ins no matter where you are. They had plenty of activities set up, there was a dance, games, historical tours, campus tours, workshops to sign up for clubs and weekly weekend trips to other UK cities. (Natalie Wood, University of Sheffield)
  • King’s offers a rich selection of clubs and activities. Their student union is amazing, and there’s always something to head along to – a student play, or a debate for Black History Month, or the student bar to commiserate about election night. I joined the Literary Journal editorial team, and helped to produce a beautiful edition which we launched with the help of wine and crisps in the middle of the city. (Sophie van Waardenberg, King’s College London)
  • The most unique thing about St Andrews – other than the centuries-old architecture and the fact you might walk past an ancient castle on your way to class – is the tight-knit student culture. Being a small town, student life dominates St Andrews. There are so many unique events (including black-tie balls – I recommend trying to get tickets to Christmas Ball!), societies (which put on heaps of events), and pubs (which I frequented many times) all centred around students. It’s impossible not to be thrown into St Andrews’ student life – which is great for making friends. (Michael Calderwood, University of St Andrews)
  • At first I was slightly apprehensive of the fact that I would be living in Kingston, as it is a 40 minute train ride away from London city, but I quickly learned how amazing this would prove to be. I still remember how excited I was on my first day going to London city, seeing it for the first time I was amazed. I made the effort to go into London city every Saturday to explore and see as much as I could in the city, it became natural walking around in that colossal city and navigating the tube system was so easy I got to the point where I didn’t need to look at a tube map. There were so many benefits to living outside of London city, I got the best of both worlds. (Roberto Panovski, Kingston University London)

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On orientation

  • With the events put on by the Study Abroad team at King’s during Orientation week I found it very easy to make friends (even though I was nervous about this!). I truly made lifelong friends at King’s who became my new family and were a source of invaluable support during my time away. (Allanah Colley, King’s College London)
  • Orientation Week, or Fresher’s Week as it’s known in the UK, was no disappointment and some of my finest memories from my exchange are from that first week. (Sebastian Bailey, University of Manchester)
  • Also, Leeds University had many welcoming parties for exchange students like me which gave me many opportunities to talk to and get along with many other people from different countries. The orientation was good, the staffs were very friendly and easy to talk to. I loved the Leeds University as the campus was so much bigger than Auckland University and academically there was less pressure on grades and the courses were not as tight and difficult so allowed me to have some relaxing time. (Jiwon Hyeong, University of Leeds)
  • Beyond just being outrageously beautiful, I loved my time at Glasgow Uni for the people. Everyone I met was incredibly welcoming and open to me – they are always happy to help with whatever you need. The exchange student orientation was great for meeting other study abroad students and also orients you really well to being in the UK in between the tours around the city and day trips to Edinburgh. (Jessica Stubbing, University of Glasgow)

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On housing

  • The accommodation I stayed in was probably one of the highlights of my experience; it was directly on campus, central to everything you need, and I became very close to all my flatmates who also became my travel buddies in the weekends. (April Wong, University of Glasgow)
  • With King’s College I was lucky enough to live in Borough, which is very centrally located and within walking distance or a quick tube ride away from most of London’s sights. I was living in one of the University’s Residences, and was paying relatively cheap rent for being able to live so centrally. My flat was full of other study abroad students from around the world, and I made lots of friends through my Hall. (Allanah Colley, King’s College London)
  • My accommodation at St Andrews was incredible. I was lucky enough to be in Agnes Blackadder Hall where I had my own bathroom and a double bed! There was obviously a desk in my room to use to study or the study room at the hall was open 24/7. (Olivia Scott, University of St Andrews)
  • My residence hall was unbelievably nice – I had an ensuite bathroom, double bed, and TV in my room. I was catered, and the food was decent enough — there were also so many great options for affordable meals in town, and Tesco grocery store is right in the centre of town. There were events put on by the hall every week, including free pre-drinks before big events. I met most of my friends in St Andrews through hanging out in the kitchen that my corridor shared. (Michael Calderwood, University of St Andrews)
  • In Manchester, my accommodation was “Oak House” which is situated in Fallowfield. I had my own room and shared a bathroom with three other girls. My flatmates and I became very close, we cooked meals and baked delicious sweets in our kitchen throughout the semester. (Briana Putnam, University of Manchester)

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On academics

  • Although the coursework at Glasgow proved to be challenging – if not harder than Auckland – being on exchange helped me put things in perspective. I worked with local students in my classes and we formed study groups after class, and I was regularly in contact with my professors about aspects of Scottish law I found challenging. I realised that reaching out and asking for help when you needed it can do wonders when you’re on exchange. (April Wong, University of Glasgow)
  • I really enjoyed the classes I took at King’s College. I took European Politics and English Literature papers, including a Shakespeare paper where I had classes at the Globe Theatre! My lecturers were all passionate, helpful and very knowledgeable in their fields. (Allanah Colley, King’s College London)
  • All my lecturers were very professional and very helpful especially towards exchange students, always taking the time to answer any questions properly after class. The courses I took were interesting, and actually made me excited for more study. (Richa Garg, University of Birmignahm)
  • The final, and probably most important highlight of my St Andrews experience was the learning environment. Instead of having face to face lectures with the teaching staff, a lot of learning was self directed reading. Each class would then have 1-2 hours a week contact time to discuss and expand on that learning. I feel that this style, as well as the expectation of quality, really challenged me and I was able to understand and analyse concepts more critically. The teaching staff are also very friendly and easy to contact should any difficulties arise. (Olivia Scott, University of St Andrews)
  • Studying at King’s has been an absolutely incredible experience. From the daily crossing of the Waterloo bridge in getting to classes to the afternoons spent in the Dumbledore’s office like Maughan library, from the passionate lectures given by professors with posh British accents to the Friday afternoon tutorials that promised a peaceful sunset view of the Big Ben. Together they take you on a journey through time, a journey through the past 188 years reminding each and every Kings’ student of the rigour and diligence with which the generations of scholars have worked in search of the truth. As a student at King’s I was constantly challenged and thoroughly enjoyed the rigorous academic atmosphere. (John Liang, King’s College London)

 

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On travel

  • One of the highlights of my exchange was being able to travel so frequently and learning about different cultures. I was away from Glasgow almost every other weekend with my flatmates and we took advantage of the cheap air fares! With proper budgeting, I realised that there wasn’t any place that we could not go to. It was surreal being able to experience a different city in a different country weekend, and coming back to Glasgow to study during the week. (April Wong, University of Glasgow)
  • When I wasn’t studying, I spent my time in London going to markets, parks and gardens, visiting Buckingham palace, exploring art galleries and museums, getting lost in bookshops and department stores, being in the Graham Norton audience, wandering past the Thames river, going to musicals and shows on the West End as well as eating delicious food. There really is something for everyone in London – it is such a vibrant city and there is always something amazing going on. (Allanah Colley, King’s College London)
  • I visited the Peak district often, it is a 5 pound return on the bus. There are beautiful cycling trails, hikes and quant villages to explore and its right on your doorstep. Flights to Europe are also insanely cheap. I went to Portugal, Macedonia, Hungary, Ireland, Bulgaria and Germany. All of these flights ranged from 10-30 pounds. This makes it affordable if just for a weekend. (Natalie Wood, University of Sheffield)
  • Manchester also has a very big international airport, and I was able to pick up extraordinarily cheap flights to places all over Europe. I was able to visit places like Tenerife, Hamburg, Dublin, Barcelona and lots more places for outrageously cheap prices. (Sebastian Bailey, University of Manchester)
  • It’s easy to escape, too. As well as exploring Cardiff and Bath, I wandered around Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Munich, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Barcelona, and Paris, and the list goes sickeningly on and on. If you’re lucky, you can grab a ten-pound flight to France and have a weekend away, eating pastries and pretending to speak the language of love. (Sophie van Waardenberg, King’s College London)
  • While Studying in London I took great advantage of this opportunity and visited 12 countries with friends during weekends and study breaks. This has by far been the most memorable experience in my life, the friendships developed during these travels, the diverse cultures explored and the different people I got to meet are all intangible assets that will I cherish forever. (John Liang, King’s College London)

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Tips

  • If I had one piece of advice for outgoing exchange students, it’d be to enjoy each day as if it were your last day on exchange! This helps you put little everyday challenges in perspective and allows you to appreciate the people you have around you. (April Wong, University of Glasgow)
  • I highly recommend doing the exchange programme. Home will always be there, but the opportunity to study abroad may not. I have loved every minute of it, and although I am excited to come home, I am upset that it’s now over and that I must part with my new friends. (Richa Garg, University of Birmingham)
  • I felt this exchange programme gives you broader views of seeing the world because during the exchange period and while you travel, it allows you time to think about a lot of things: about your future, about yourself etc. which, I believe, actually helped me become more mature and gain more confidence through this time. (Jiwon Hyeong, University of Leeds)
  • I learned that I can accomplish a lot more than I thought I could and part of this was due to what I would recommend to future exchange students: make the most of your experience by getting involved in University life, seek new friendships and soak up as much information and culture as you can. Furthermore, even though it may be tempting to spend the semester partying and travelling, university life on the other side of the world is definitely an experience not to miss as well. (Briana Putnam, University of Manchester)
  • Going on exchange is hard. It’s an experience that will force you to grow, to go outside your comfort zone, to challenge yourself. But I guarantee that for every second of discomfort you will be rewarded with months and months of memories that you will take with you for the rest of your life. (Jessica Stubbing, University of Glasgow)

Food, glorious food: Emily

Sweden is filled with a diverse variety of food. It is most famous for it’s meatballs and surströmming, however, being a vegetarian has meant that I have sought out some other options that Sweden has to offer. It’s a paradise for vegos – every café and every supermarket provides a vast scope of vegetarian alternatives which has made living and eating here beyond easy! One in ten Swedes are vegan or vegetarian meaning they have delicious replacements for all animal products, you can always catch me eating ‘chicken’ nuggets and falafel on the daily!

Food I have cooked at home in Lund

The Swedes value personal freedom and choice very highly, which is why every social event or eatery takes into account everyone’s preferences for food, something I hope NZ catches on to soon! ‘Fika’ is a Swedish tradition and basically means ‘to have coffee’, which is often accompanied by a small sweet treat like a pastry or a slice. Having a fika with friends is a chance to sit down and have a small catch up before continuing through the rest of the day, and many Swedes will enjoy more than one fika a day. I love this idea as it gives you a chance to pause and have a short break to enjoy a coffee and cake with others.

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Food I have found in Sweden

My favourite part of experiencing food here has been discovering their Swedish fast food burger restaurant – Max. They have about 5 different vegetarian burger options (one of which is a vegan pulled pork BBQ burger – my favourite!) that taste better than any substandard McDonalds burger. It reminds me a bit of Burger Fuel at home in the sense that it is still fast food but of slightly better quality. They cost about $8 New Zealand Dollars each as well which is cheaper than Burger Fuel but more expensive than McD’s to give you an idea. All of the uni students are obsessed with Max and it’s always our first stop on the way home after a night out! Sweden is crazy for tacos and there is always an aisle in every supermarket dedicated to taco related ingredients alone. On the subject of tacos, Lund has this great little taco shop that barely fits more than 6 people in it at once but serves up the freshest, tastiest little tacos around. Again, they have vegan and vegetarian options of course so no one has to miss out! Sweden has been a vegetarian paradise for me as I have been able to try so many new things that I would normally have to miss out on back home in New Zealand. I am already saddened with the thought of going home in a few months and having to say goodbye to all this glorious food Sweden has to offer… I will have to hit up Uber Eats to see if they can deliver me some Max burgers back to NZ! Sweden has stolen my heart and my stomach, and it will definitely do the same to yours too if you ever visit!

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Food, glorious food: Courtney

Let’s face it – one of my favourite things when I’m exploring a new place is to find the best eats a city can offer, and going abroad was no different! Thankfully, London hosts a smorgasbord of different international cuisines, thanks to it being a melting pot of so many different cultures. This results in London’s huge variety in different foods, so you’re never out of option. Whether its having the cult classic Nandos (I swear it tastes better in the UK), or shopping around one of the many food markets in London, you’ll find something you like. I love Borough Market in London Bridge, it has as many food stalls, ranging from international cuisines, to coffee, bakery, cheese and dessert stalls. In terms of lazy food, my personal favourite is Deliveroo, a delivery service, which for £2.50 or often free, you can get local restaurant food delivered to you. My personal favourite is Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which is UK wide and actually Kiwi owned – they have a Kiwiburger on the menu or even L&P if you’re feeling a bit homesick!

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Amazing Brunch (complete with Cold Brew Coffee) at The Breakfast Club in London Bridge

A must-know for anyone living in London (or the UK for that matter) – the coffee is terrible. The great thing about this is that I’ve dramatically decreased my caffeine intake, but sometimes when you’re getting up at 5am to head out to Luton for a 10am flight, you just want a good coffee. On the bright side – the expat Kiwi community here has meant quite a few Antipodean places have been set up by Kiwi’s and Australians alike (which thankfully, Australians make a pretty good coffee). So definitely have a search around London for some Kiwi classics, although, they are generally located in the city centre, so if you don’t live close, you need to be pretty dedicated to the cause! Because of this, I’ve slowly moved over to hot chocolates – which help to keep you pretty warm in the low temperatures. One of my favourites so far was actually a Galaxy Hot Chocolate on a train to Scotland (Galaxy is a chocolate brand but way better than Cadbury’s!). I’ve also had a pretty good one at Dark Sugars in Shoreditch, which smells incredible!!!

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Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate at Dark Sugars in Shoreditch – complete with chocolate shavings!

A classic stereotype of England is sipping tea and eating scones, one I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve tried! For a friend’s birthday we attended high tea in Marylebone. The cakes, scones and finger sandwiches were incredible, and was funny to watch my American friends discover scones with clotted cream for the first time! We were however, confused when my friend from Ecuador asked the waitress for some salt – we first assumed it was for the sandwiches. However, further questioning revealed she was confused why the ‘butter’ tasted sweet, and was going to use salt on it to make it more savoury. We soon realised she was talking about the clotted cream – and we broke the news to her it was actually cream and supposed to be sweet – but was definitely a cultural confusion for her.

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High Tea in Marylebone

Now unfortunately due to being a student, I sadly cannot afford to eat out every single night. So,  my local supermarket (Sainsburys’) has become my best friend. I will say that the food (even with the awful exchange rate) at supermarkets is much cheaper than at home. I can easily do a week’s shop for £20, which is a great money saver! That then means I can save more money for my travels, or even discovering a few more great food joints! A handy tip for anyone heading abroad – join your supermarket’s loyalty program! I’ve only been here 4 months, and I’ve already managed to rack up £20 worth of points, which you can use towards groceries or even on eligible train tickets, which is paying for me to visit the Lake District later this month! I know some people don’t like to sign up for them and have to carry a card with them, but if you’re on a budget like I am, it can really come in handy!

In the 4 months I’ve lived away from home, my culinary adventures have not been limited to that of London and the UK. I’ve been fortunate to visit several European countries, and so here is a wee follow up of my faves!

The Netherlands: Stroopwafels
I was fortunate to spend a long weekend in the Netherlands with a friend, who is a Dutch native. Her family introduced me to Stroopwafels, and I immediately fell in love (and am now having major withdrawal now I am back in London). They are pretty common there, and can be found in pretty much all supermarkets. They consist of this thin soft cookie-like outside, with a delicious caramel gooey centre.

Germany: Soft Pretzels
Now I know you can get soft pretzels both back home and in London, but I think being in the land of Pretzels make them taste better (a theory in progress). Not only that, you can find them on almost every street corner, and they’re all so cheap! The two girls I were travelling with and I exclusively lived on pretzels the 3 days we were in Germany!

France: Do I even need to say it?
Macarons, bread, pastries, wine – I never want to leave! The culinary adventure in France could almost outweigh the cultural experience – almost. Make sure if you visit to leave some time to have some proper meals – the French take their mealtimes pretty seriously!

However, with being adventurous and trying lots of new food around the world, comes the risk of ordering something not quite what you were expecting. This happened to one of my friends while we were in Cologne. She thought she was ordering fish, however what came out were two raw herring filets – not quite what she was expecting! So if you’re unsure, my top tip is to always ask! (Or at least have a google translate app handy…)

Its exam season here, so I’m off  to find a few good coffee shops to get my study done! If you need any top food recommendations, feel free to ask!
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