Manchester

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Recently, instead of writing my dissertation I embarked on a day trip to Manchester!

Manchester is a 1 and 1/2 hour train ride from Chester, an easy distance for day trips and concerts. As an Australian, my ideas about Manchester revolved around the industrial revolution; I expected to see factory buildings on each and every corner. I was not disappointed! The architecture of Manchester does not hide from its past and history (nor should it), but I loved that like Warsaw, Berlin, Budapest and Bologna, Manchester is using its historic buildings to support the growth of the city’s art and music scene (i.e. Soup Kitchen).

After arriving in Manchester we wandered through the city and found ourselves surrounded by museums. I highly recommend visiting the Museum of Science and Industry, especially for their Cravings Exhibit. Did you know that the material that our cutlery is made from influences the flavour of the food we eat? Apparently gold spoons taste creamy and are therefore well suited to eating dessert! No matter how many times I think about it, this little fact will always blow my mind.

As well as museums, we also visited the John Rylands Library. This neo-gothic building and its spectacular library rooms, gave me Harry Potter-esque chills. The library had an exhibit while we were visiting called Magic, Witches and Devils in the Early Modern World. If you are coming to Chester or the UK this year, I hope you keep these places in mind when planning trips away.

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One of the reading booths in the John Ryland Library, Manchester.

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The Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester. 

 

 

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

 

 

My Chester Story

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Hi, I’m Rosie. I study a Bachelor of Education in Australia, and I have been studying at the University of Chester for four months. My Chester story truly began in October 2014 when I first applied for the CSU Global exchange program. You might think that was a long time ago, but honestly, the application process takes a while. If you are contemplating an exchange be prepared for some waiting. The reasons for this wait are 1) application processes always take time 2) the differences between the academic years of Australia and England. I was accepted into the University of Chester in June 2015.

Tip: The academic year in the UK starts in September/ October and ends in May/ June. The University of Chester doesn’t have mid-term breaks but Student Development Weeks. There are two Student Development Weeks per year, one in November and one in February. The university suggests this week is for catching up on work and readings, but after talking to Student advisers and fellow classmates, most people go on a short break, home or holidays. I went to Poland in November and am off to Austria, Switzerland and Denmark in February.  

Pre- University Traveling
Before settling in England I managed to squeeze in a substantial amount of traveling around Europe and the United Kingdom. Because I chose to begin my exchange in semester two (Australian standard), I started classes at the University of Chester in early October, which gave me a little over two months of free time in Europe.

I left Australia in August and landed in Barcelona, Spain. The next two months hold some of the best memories of my life. Spain, France, England, the Netherlands and Poland are some of the countries I have navigated alone. I also had time to join a tour which included many popular western European countries as well as, some in eastern Europe. Bosnia and Herzegovina is still one of my favorite places in the world. Traveling internationally seems daunting at the beginning but truly enriches your life and perspectives, both personal and academic. I highly recommend traveling and exploring before, during and after your exchange.

Freshers week
In England ‘O-Week’ is called ‘Freshers week’ and is a week of introduction lectures, markets, festivals, games, society sign-ups, activities and parties. During this week the main campus Parkgate is full of stalls, signs and herds of people (campus tours). Being an international student is a fun experience during freshers week, you will meet hundreds of new faces, learn that the Australian accent is a novelty, and discover that there is a realm of new English words to learn.

Tip: English-isms 101
– A bread roll is called a bap, butty or batch.
– Pouring vinegar over hot potato chips is normal.
– Londoners walk at triple the pace of other humans.
– “Are you okay?” means “Hi, how are you?” (this one took me a few months to grasp)
– In university a lecture is an Australian tutorial.
– In university a tutorial is a private meeting with a teacher.
– The sidewalk belongs to everyone but you, prepare to dodge.

Starting classes
In Australia I left as a ‘3 and a 1/2 year’ and started classes in level four and level six. In England, university years are called levels. For example, first year= level four; second year= level five; third year= level six. The UK education system differs to Australia, in that students complete the 6th form or college (or years 11 and 12 in Australia) studying subjects which are directly related to the tertiary course they wish to pursue. For this reason undergraduate degrees are three years. This level system continues to masters (level seven) and PhD (level eight). When selecting subjects to study on your exchange it is important to keep in mind their difficulty level, in relation to your ability. On my exchange I am studying 5 subjects over the academic year, one of them being a double credit subject.

Tip: If you’re motivated, while on exchange you can also study CSU subjects by distance. CSU Global recommends only one distance subject per exchange; I imagine this is to lessen the study burden and make sure there is time to socialize and explore! I am studying a CSU distance subject beginning in March (302016), because I have a lighter study load at Chester.

University itself is similar to that in Australia; as a guest of the university, normal courtesies apply: attend classes, hand in work, participate and engage in activities. The pass mark for assessments is 40%, and semester long subjects require a 2000 word essay or equivalent (year long subject require 2 x 2000 word essays or equivalent; double credit subjects are dissertations which require an 8000 word thesis).

Societies and sports
Sports groups and societies are a big part of the University of Chester, during freshers week I was asked to sign up to at least 67, 890, 247 groups. The groups are hugely diverse and can vary between the rowing club, the yoga club (of which I am a member), the ski club (also a member), and the Disney movie appreciation society (why am I not a member?!), as well as loads of other sports and charity and humanitarian focused groups (also a member!). Each group has a ball at the beginning of the year, and parties and get-together’s throughout the semester. It’s a really great way to meet new people and make friends with the same interests. 

Living in Chester 
Being an Australian, you probably know by now that we are not the most valuable nationality in regards to the exchange rate. Sadly, against our British fore-fathers we fall short; 51 pence short to be exact (as of 13:46 30/01/2016). The exchange rate against the British pound (GBP) will make you feel as though you have been robbed of the happiness brought to you by your glorious savings figure, when it is halved, or reduced to a third in my case #feels. The cost of living in Chester is completely do-able and you will survive- stylishly too! Sure, you won’t be eating caviar on crackers while watching Strictly Come Dancing or Great Canal Journey, but I would compare the price of groceries, clothing, meals and activities to a little less than average Australian prices. If you’re happy to live on the budget side there are six competitive grocery stores in Chester (Aldi, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, the Coop, Mark and Spencer and Waitrose) as well as independent grocers, a market, and student heaven Pound World, where, you guessed it, everything is one pound. Chester itself has a tight city centre, lots of shops, cafes, and restaurants, and has a solid night-life atmosphere. There are buses which service all major areas of Chester (most of Chester) as well as between university campuses. Chester also has a central train station in town, with connections to most of England and Wales, including Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Wales and London.

Tip: London is a two hour train ride from Chester, or a four hour drive. The cost of train tickets depends on the season and how far in advance tickets are bought , but range between £15 – £40 return. I would recommend looking into rail-passes such as student passes and the ‘two together card’ if you have a travel buddy for 30% savings.  Try to buy train tickets at least a month in advance.  

Like my fellow bloggers I can not recommend exchange enough. Although it may seem crazy daunting now (as a prospective exchange student) those feelings will melt away once you cross the departure gates. It is the best experience.