All Hallows Eve

As most of the international students are now halfway through their student exchange programs, we are becoming increasingly familiar with the Nanchang lifestyle, which has resulted in some of the students being recruited to help some of the local Nanchang children learn English. As a result I was invited to assist with a children’s Halloween party with some of my fellow JUFE students.

This invitation required  us to dress up in costumes which we hired from a local store (these included a geisha, an army general, Wednesday Adams and the Joker), play some traditional western party games with the children, such as apple bobbing and trick or treating and help them learn some of the English language.  This experience was not only a lot of fun but it also provided me with some insight into some similarities between the Australian and Chinese cultures.

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For example, I have been finding it rather challenging to learn the Chinese language especially the characters, tones and grammar.  At the party I discovered that the Chinese students were finding it just as challenging to learn English as to them the letters and words were equivalent to the lines and squiggles of my Chinese characters and the pronunciation of the “r” and “l” sounds were also rather difficult for them.  I also discovered that the students were as equally as interested in increasing their understanding of Australian culture asking lots of questions about the food, animals, landscape and traditional celebrations.  This provided an excellent opportunity to explain what a kangaroo was and to clarify that the do not live and jump down the main streets of Sydney, tell them about Santa Claus and the various ways in which we celebrate Christmas in Australia and to compare our cuisines which are viewed as cold in temperature, bland in flavour and strange in texture by the Chinese people as they prefer warm and spicy dishes.

In turn, I discovered that some of these western traditions, such as Halloween, were finding a place in the Chinese culture. The Chinese now celebrate Christmas as well, however it is not the big family gathering that I am accustomed to in Australia but rather a time where young couples spend time with their boyfriends and girlfriends, enjoy a meal together and exchange gifts, a custom very similar to that of western cultures valentine’s day.

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We ended the event feeling as though each culture was able gain greater insight into and harbor higher appreciation for the other and that we had also made some dear friends in the process.

Traveling Alone

At the moment university is going really well. I’m currently in the 9th week out of 15 of my semester so I’m more than halfway there! Since I’ve last written I’ve taken two trips away. Firstly I travelled to Belgium with a group of friends when we had 2 days off uni. Then the following weekend we had a bank holiday so I went to Brighton by myself. I had a fantastic time on both trips but it made me think about the differences between traveling alone and traveling in a group.

I’ve always been an independent person, I’ve never felt the need to have someone else around all the time. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get lonely or want friends. I really value all my friends and family and love spending time with them. It just means that I don’t mind going to the movies or shopping by myself. It therefore made sense that I wouldn’t mind traveling by myself and its actually something that I really enjoyed. My opinion about traveling by myself is that for me it was all about preparation. Making sure that I had all my hostels and transport booked well in advance made me feel better about being in a foreign place alone. I also found it handy to have a google map saved on my phone of how to get to the hostel from the airport.  When you travel in a group you tend to prepare a lot less, because there are more people to rely on. There are more phones and maps to follow so you feel safer, but you can still get really lost…trust me. Story time, with Alanna:

When we got to Brussels, we had 5 people and so we had to split into two cabs. We had the address of our apartment and I jumped into the cab with 2 of my friends. Our cab driver told us that there was a protest in the city but he got us to the apartment pretty quickly. My friends weren’t so lucky, their cab driver decide it was too hard to navigate the protest and dropped them at a metro station. Now they had the address, but no map and no wifi. They did have a working phone… but we didn’t. So they didn’t know what station to go to. Eventually they found a hotel with wifi and made it to the apartment after being lost for 2 hours.

So you can get lost in a group but I guess you feel safer. Although there is safety in numbers, as long as you’re smart and don’t have all your valuables in one place I’ve found it perfectly safe to travel buy myself.

Something that I loved about my trip to Brighton is that I got a chance to walk along the “beach” and have a think about the incredible experiences I’ve been having on my exchange. I’ve found that my time in Ireland is incredible but I spend my time either at class or with friends or studying so it was really nice to relax in Brighton.

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( One downside to traveling alone is that you have to take a lot of selfies)

Belgium was a completely different experience the 5 of us all had different things that we wanted to do so our time was filled with activities and I was so grateful it was.

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( This was the last time I ever saw that hat)

For example going up the bell tower in Bruges was a scary experience for me but I wanted to do it because the group did it and I was so glad that I did. Another experience I would have never done if I had been alone was going on a boat tour in Bruge, here’s me and some swans in the most well timed selfie ever.

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However in Brighton I decided to book tickets to see a show in London and take a day trip, which is something that is harder to arrange especially if you have a big group. You can also go back to the hostel for a nap without feeling guilty if you’re by yourself. So when you travel buy yourself you have complete control over what you do, but in a group you get the opportunity to see things you may not have considered. My recommendation? Do both! Traveling in a group is always fun, but sometimes its also fun to concur your fear and take a trip by yourself.

Getting involved in campus life… Yay or nay??

So I thought I’d dedicate this post to talking about campus life and my thoughts on getting involved in the different opportunities available to you. I’ve always been very proactive and enjoyed being involved in my community (work, university etc.) but I never could have imagined how much it would enhance my study abroad experience!

Incase it’s not clear enough, my recommendation regarding getting involved in campus life is a big YAY!!! (I hope that makes sense…)

Since arriving on campus I have been involved in various opportunities including:

  • Hall Government – organising events to promote a sense of community in the apartments I live in
  • Model UN class – a class that revolves around preparing for and attending a Model United Nations Conference in Seattle, Washington
  • ESB Research Lab – provides the opportunity to conduct research (within the business school) in a personal area of interest
  • French club – to learn about French culture, watch French movies, play games & most importantly – eat French foods!

These experiences have really helped me to get the most out of my time here, learn about American (and other cultures) and also learn more about myself. I really think that getting involved in student life at your host university is one of the best ways to make new friends and have a rewarding and valuable experience whilst studying abroad!

My advice is to join clubs and sign up for opportunities as early as you possibly can. Also, make sure you are proactive in finding opportunities, don’t just wait for opportunities to come to you – look at notice boards, read emails and ask around!!

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Model UN team from University of the Pacific in Seattle