The little things 

I have recently begun an education placement outside of Chester, and thought I would share some pictures of the Chester area.  

Walks to Riverside campus along the River Dee

This esplanade is full of people in spring and summer (as you can see). There are restaurants facing the river and you can usually find some buskers or bands playing music in the afternoons. I love walking to uni along this path. 

Alleyways of Chester

Chester has so many little lane ways and alley ways with shops, restaurants and cafes! My favorite is one near the cathedral and town hall, there are fairy lights during the summer nights.

Cheshire country side

This is the view from my house, Chester is quite high above the River Dee. You can practically see Wales from this point! 
 

 
 

 

My Chester Story #2

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The University of Chester is a historical, large and traditional English university, and has been teaching for over 150 years. The university is predominantly based in the historic town of Chester but has other campuses around the local area. The campus I spend most of my time at is Riverside. It sits on the edge of the River Dee, and is only a three minute walk from the very centre of town. The main campus is Parkgate, a little outside the town centre but still only a ten minute walk. Most of the university groups, clubs and events are held on this campus.

However before I arrived in Chester (this time last year) I was going through the motions of organising my exchange. My to-do list was filled with tasks like:
– research flights
– research travel card options
– organise visa
– research holiday options

My list was never-ending;  as I chose a one year exchange I was faced with a lot of flexibility time wise, not something you want when planning for a year with no place to start. Hence my post today, with a few things I learnt while planning that will hopefully be helpful to you.

FLIGHTS

Looking back this part of organising was both the most difficult and easiest step. Booking a flight is a great place to start when preparing for exchange, it gives you a time and place to start. Personally  I scanned the webjet website before I made my decision to fly to Barcelona, as the website’s comparison feature made researching a million times more efficient and easier. When looking for a flight make sure you factor in, flight time, layover time, the company, number of stops and price! On a long haul flight from Australia you will want the shortest and most comfortable flight you can afford. As I haven’t flown with every airline in the world  I won’t recommend any airlines, but here is the 2015 Top 100 Airlines list that I consulted when making my decision.

When researching flights within the country or continent you’re travelling to, I use the Sky Scanner app (the app is much more user friendly than its website equivalent). Flights within Europe can be incredibly affordable depending on the season and how far in advance you buy tickets. Also, the Sky Scanner app has a feature which allows you to browse cheap flights from anywhere- to anywhere. It is my absolute favourite feature, and I use it for most of my holidays. If you are a spontaneous person and are interested in $30 return flights to Slovakia, download this app now!

MONEY

For bringing all your hard saved savings with you, the humble travel card is the only option to consider (are there any other options?) Each major bank has their own version, but are all fairly similar; you can load them up with as many currencies as you need. Things to factor in are, withdrawal fees, transfer times and accessibility. The fees factor is straightforward; now that you have the world at your feet you won’t want to be throwing away perfectly good travel/ food/ tacky souvenir money just to withdraw a measly 1000 Hungarian Forint from your card ($4.82 AUD). Researching fees may seem tedious but can save you a lot of money. Transfer times however, is something you only think about when you are in a ‘situation’. Make sure you know how long your money takes to transfer, so you can transfer enough money ahead of time.

VISA

If you need a UK visa the application process can be intimidating and overwhelming. The forms, the elusive appointment, the time and the price. Something I can recommend is to organise your visa as early as they allow you. If you leave a few accommodation bookings to the last minute, oh well. Didn’t book that limousine transfer, you’ll survive. Organising your visa should be priority number one, because without it, you are not going anywhere. The forms are so long and individual that I cannot possibly go through it all here, however I can guide you to my saving grace The Aussie Nomad. Enjoy.

HOLIDAYS (yay)

Holidays are my favourite thing to plan! As I arrived in Europe a few months ahead of university I had some time to play with. I would recommend making a list of places you want to see and composing draft itineraries to fit your timeline and budget. I would recommend looking at some tours, if you are money conscious it is usually much cheaper per day to travel on a tour rather than on your own (and everything is planned for you- fuss free!) As mentioned before, the skyscanner app is great for finding flights. If you really want to experience everything you could take a bus around Europe. I’m not really a fan of long haul bus travel after a delightful 26 hour bus trip from Barcelona to London, yes that is longer than a flight to Europe. When you arrive at your destination from your transport of choice, you will need accommodation and for this I offer you booking.com and Air BnB.

I hope you enjoy planning as much as I did.
Rosie

 

 

Road trip to Wuyan

I have been at JUFE for over one week and classes are now in full swing!  This semester I am taking mostly Chinese language courses including reading, speaking, listening and comprehensive Chinese.  I did take some comprehensive Chinese classes last semester, however, despite this, the classes this semester are proving to be equally challenging, especially listening and speaking classes as many words sound similar but have different meanings depending on which of the four tones they are spoke in!!  Our teachers have suggested that the best way to practice improving on these skills is to become immersed in the Chinese culture and what better way to do this than for a group of newly found friends to take a short weekend trip!

My new friends from Germany, Lena and Sebastian, and my new friends from Czech, Sophia and Lenka, decided that it would be nice to experience some traditional Chinese culture by exploring the villages of Wuyuan together.  Wuyuan is located in Jiangxi province, north of Nanchang and is renowned for picturesque landscapes, rapeseed and tea leaf crops and architecture that dates back to the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1636–1911) dynasties.

Our journey began on Friday where we took a high speed train from Nanchang to Wuyuan which was such a unique experience!  These trains travel at over 300 km per hour however being inside felt like you are flying in an airplane or taking a casual drive down a country road! It was so smooth and cut our travel time in half from over 5 hours to just over two and a half hours.

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Train Speed

On arrival at Wuyuan the first village we visited was Likeng where we strolled the winding streets built over creeks, saw traditional homesteads and visited a Taoist temple where we lit incense and gave thanks….a truly humbling experience! We each brought a “wish” that was written on a red ribbon and blessed by a Taoist monk and then tied our wishes to the “wishing tree” outside of the temple. In Chinese culture the colour red symbolizes good luck and joy and it is believed that tying the ribbon to the “wishing tree” will make the wish come true. The higher the ribbon is tied, the more likely it is that the wish will come true.

After our tour of Likeng, we needed to check into our hostel and this brought about the first opportunity to test out our new found Chinese language skills as we negotiated the size and price for the rooms and also to have breakfast included the next morning! While this was a rather difficult task as our Chinese was very limited and the residents of Wuyuan spoke with a different accent to those of Nanchang as they belong to a different minority group and no English, we felt very proud of ourselves once we reached our end result!

The next two days were spent exploring Xiaoqu, Huanling and Guankeng villages where we saw rapeseed crops, tea leaf plants arranged on terraces and local crafts such as calligraphy and rice wine making, all whilst trying our best to order food, ask for directions and organise transportation all in Chinese language!  While we are far from expert level, I believe that these experiences have increased my appreciation and understanding of the role history has played in the shaping of Chinese culture and have greatly assisted in the continuing improvement of my Mandarin abilities and I am very much looking forward to the next opportunity where I can put them into practice!