My First Month In Kentucky

It has been officially about a month since I packed up everything and moved to the University of Kentucky. To be honest, I don’t even know how to begin explaining my experience so far. From saying goodbye to my family at the airport till now, it still feels surreal.

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^ This is me and my mum (Caroline) at the departure terminal. My step dad had to take this photo because iPhones are way too complicated for Nan hahaha

The lead up to going on exchange is so long and you have so much time to think about what you’re going to do and what it’s going to be like. Once I got here I knew it was completely different than what I expected. It’s like starting year 7 again except you have bigger responsibilities, you really stand out from the rest, you go to frat parties and there are 30,000 more students walking around campus. It is all extremely exciting and a little intimidating.

I arrived in Lexington KY on the 3rd of January after 3 terribly LONG flights. There was the sweetest university volunteer waiting for me at Lexington Blue Grass airport named Esther. I have never been so excited to see someone in my life after travelling for so long. We spoke about her family and she told me about her kids as we walked around Target late at night trying to gather all the essentials I’ll need to sleep, shower, eat etc.
(A few weeks later Esther invited me over for dinner with her family and her children all made drawings for me *nearly cried*!!! and mind you, I was so pleased to finally have a home cooked meal)
The first few days on campus I was completely alone, my other 3 room mates were not back from holidays yet. This gave me time to meet the other internationals and settle in perfectly during all the orientation activities the university had planned for me that week.

Let me skip forward a few weeks..

Okay, so its FREEZING. Who knew Lexington actually got this cold. I’m going to put a picture in here of me standing in the snow because I was so embarrassingly excited that there was snow fall. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN SYDNEY!! I would be walking to lunch and there is snow just falling all around me, it’s just so amazing and so much fun.

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^ You can obviously see how excited I am

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^ Bathurst seriously needs to pick up its game, the campus is beauuuutiful!

I have made friends with freshman and juniors now and have become closer to an English girl thats also on exchange, I have been to a few frat parties (yes everyone, they are exactly like the movies) and I have eaten A LOT of food. (American food is so bad for you but everything tastes so good) There is food everywhere you look, it’s incredible.
I have had to make so many adjustments that I didn’t know I would have to. Socially, America is very different! I think it comes down to sarcasm? I mean, I honestly don’t know but making friends (whether you are out at night or not) is more difficult than what it is like in Australia. When I say difficult, it’s not negative…just really different! This makes it all really interesting.

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^ These are freshman girls I met and this was my first night out!!

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^ Taelah is on the left (she is from my home town but she is doing exchange in Indiana!!!! which is so cool. I am doing all my travelling with her at the end of exchange) The girl in the middle is Bailey, she was so excited to meet an Australian I honestly thought she was going to cry

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^ This is Taelah again at Local Taco, best tacos ever!

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^ This is just a cool photo of the old Kentucky theatre that I thought everyone should see hahaha

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^ This is my friend Kelly (We are going to spring break together in Florida…I mean how American!!!) and myself just eating more food

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^ This is Shelbi!!! Shelbi and myself met when she did exchange at CSU a couple of semesters ago. Why is she painted in gold? Well… there was this event called Greek Sing where all the fraternities and sororities have this massive dance competition! Yes, the boys dancing seriously for a 5 minute routine was very entertaining!

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^ This is Shelbi and I at the movies after we ate our body weight in sushi. This just proves how amazingly unhealthy America is…
Pour extra melted butter on everything?! Yes please!

Adapting to new learning styles has definitely been the biggest adjustment so far! America has homework every week and exams more often, AND attendance is marked every class (which is twice a week). It kind of feels like I have gone back to high school in a way, so managing my time has definitely changed due to having so much on all the time.

ALSO!!!! I went to my first basketball game a couple weeks back. I don’t know if you (whoever is reading this) are aware of how serious college sport is here in America but MY GOODNESS. I have never seen anything like it. I mean, these basketball players are literally famous and the coach is like the highest paying employee here!! AND its all on ESPN?!?!? This is sooooo different to good old res cup down in Bathurst and I absolutely loved it. It was a packed out massive stadium with thousands of people all dressed in blue yelling ‘Go Wildcats’. For those of you who don’t know me you will not understand how excited I was when this happened. Growing up, High School Musical was everything which mean I had a little obsession! So yelling out ‘Go Wildcats’ in the eruption zone (where all the students stand and scream) was like my childhood dream coming true.  Who knew going on exchange could make all this happen! (seriously best moment of my life)

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Where is my Troy Bolton?!

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^ This is when we won!!! Ps. None of these photos or videos do it justice!

ANYWAYS….

I have honestly learnt so much so far and its only been a month. On a sad note, this whole experience is going so fast and I am going to look into staying for a year because I just don’t want to leave.
I feel as though I have rambled about so many different things for so long but it’s all just so incredible and I can’t wait to keep everyone posted on what I do next.
Everything has been so exciting from getting my student card (I was way too happy to get my first offical Kentucky ID) to going to typical American events and even sitting through long classes! University of Kentucky has definitely out done itself and it’s only been a month!

– Abbey

My acceptance into the Student Exchange Program

When I learnt that I was accepted into CSU Global Student Exchange Program (SEP) I must admit that I was absolutely surprised, and even more so when I was accepted into La Salle – Ramon Llull University of Barcelona for one year. I kept thinking “what a wonderful opportunity” to learn a new culture, and language with a fresh vista to promote my future studies and career. A great way to open new doors for a mature age person in search for a new life in different industry or career path.

Visa interview

One piece of advice for applying for your Spanish visa is plan ahead of time! Start planning early as there is a long check list of things to do prior to applying for your appointment at the Consulate General of Spain. Some of the check list items may take between 2 to 5 weeks, like the Police Fingerprint Check Certificate. I started planning from October and by mid-November, when I had all my documents ready for the visa appointment, the Consulate General of Spain informed me that they were booked out and I had to wait till January. Getting closer to my departure date without a visa, I was very nervous, however with the support of the SEP team, I never felt I was alone and when the visa arrived, I quickly announced it to everyone. Feeling of happiness!.

Now, looking back, during all my planning I really would like to thank my family, teachers and the CSU Global team, who were extremely supportive in many ways, especially getting my visa, throughout my journey.

 

More than just packing

Many friends advised me that packing less is better and since the climate is so different to Sydney, I will be better off buying a new wardrobe from Barcelona.  Yes, I liked that idea, however I still could not comprehend taking one suitcase of clothes, shoes, souvenirs and toiletry for a whole year. So, I packed away my wetsuits, surfboards and my favourite hair straightener. Matter of fact, it was a big move as I had to packed away my whole apartment and temporarily closed part of my business, as I would not be able to do the service part from overseas. Being organised and making a priority list of what to do helped smooth the transactions.

Barcelona, here I come!

 

 

Ready To Go ….

It’s been an interesting project preparing for my trip to Spain. I know I’ll miss my family, friends and the love of my life, the ocean. However, how could I resist this fantastic opportunity. I am Suzan Rundle, a mature-age student studying Business Studies and very interested in international business.

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My first month in Canada (the calm before the storm)

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Okay, so one thing I did not realise before embarking on a year exchange, was that my month long holiday before school starts in my new home would be SO jam-packed full of foreign fun activities.

I arrived to Vancouver on the 7th of December, and because my (Canadian) best friend lives in Vancouver, we have been looking forward to this moment for a LONG time. I was picked up from the airport, and after so many hugs/tears and smartfood popcorn (my favourite food on the planet) I slept through the night and the very next day we were set for a trip to the USA. Being so close to the border means it’s something Vancouverites do often, so after a (mildly scary) border cross, we were in Washington. We spent one night in Seattle and the next in Portland, and it lived up to every expectation I had. So many friendly and generous people (I’m talking free Ubers and photobooths just cause you’re ~international~), we went to endless craft breweries and ticked off a few bucketlist items, like the Gumwall and Pike Place Market (and also Olive Garden because you can’t get any more American than a chain food restaurant).

Processed with VSCO with s3 preset(Pike Place Market, Seattle)

Shortly after our USA weekend, we also had another holiday planned to Kamloops (further inland BC) to spend the weekend at Sunpeaks ski resort, celebrating my bestie’s 25th birthday and coincidentally- New Years. There was a group of us 7 girls in a lodge right at the base of the ski hill. We did the usual thing, like go to Walmart and Costco to get enough food and drink supplies for 8 hungry and thirsty girls for a New Years Eve weekend. Our lodge was even equipped with an outdoor hot tub, so we lived our best lives all weekend, snowboarding and skiing by day, relaxing in the hot tub by night (especially relaxing when it is -18 degrees outside).

sunpeaks view(Just one of the views from our lodge).

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Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset(Fireworks on New Years Eve, at Sunpeaks)

Another highlight since my arrival and before school starts is I got to see an ice hockey game, another item off the bucket list! My friend got given 2x free tickets to go see the Vancouver Canucks vs the Calgary Flames, this was a huge game and the stadium was full to capacity, unlucky for us the Canucks lost, but the game was so much fun to watch!

flames vs canucks(Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames, Rogers Arena)

Now it’s over a month later since my arrival and I’m already in to my 3rd week of school at the University of the Fraser Valley, in Abbotsford. Everyone has been really helpful and friendly so far, I’m making friends in my classes and I’m loving all the new content I’m learning. I’ve settled in quite nicely, found a waitressing position in Yaletown and my friend and I are moving in to our new home next week. I can’t wait to be settled and to make even more friends 🙂

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset(View from my favourite place in Vancouver, a 5 minute walk from our new home)

Two Months in Chester

It has been officially two months since I shed a tear or 70 as I went through international security at Melbourne Airport. Since then, there has been more tears (I’m a cry-er) but also many amazing memories already made.

I spent my first few weeks in Chester walking (almost literally) every inch of downtown Chester. I was promised a beautiful, typically ‘English’ town centre, fantastic shops and enough coffee to fill a pre-service teachers’ quota. And MAN OH MAN did Chester deliver. A brisk (has to be brisk otherwise my fingers freeze) 15-minute walk from my accommodation and I am in some sort of English wonderland. Black and white timber buildings, cobbled streets, every English shop I love and yes, coffee shops and restaurants galore. Little did I know this would only get better as Christmas mania hit- I will give this ‘season’ the recognition it deserves in a separate blog post to come.

As a CSU Global student I was guaranteed university accommodation at the university of Chester. I have never lived in ‘student halls’ before so this was something that excited me. I spent hours looking at all the options on the University of Chester website and secretly hoped for one specific location. By some miracle, I was placed in Grosvenor House on the main campus of Chester. This mini “studio” room included a little kitchen and ensuite and felt perfect from the pictures. Although a little on the pricier side, I was thrilled to have a little place of my own.
As an international student I was moved in a day before UK students. After being picked up from the airport by the Uni International Team, I found my building and my room quite easily. I got to work unpacking my single (extra-large from Aldi) suitcase and began the process of making this room feel like home for the next 9 months.

Fast forward 2 months and my room, apart from needing a bit of a deep clean, finally feels like home. There are enough fairy lights, Christmas decorations and throw pillows to fill my heart.

I was fortunate enough to be in contact with some people who live on my floor through Facebook leading up to moving in. This really helped when everyone arrived and encouraged me out of my room and into the ‘corridor’. The corridor is yes, a corridor but also the hub of floor 1. Even though I am good 3 years older than most of the people I live with, they were nothing except welcoming, fun and understanding and have remained so.

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The final few weeks

Only 3 weeks left at Western!! It’s getting to crunch time with one more week before what is known as “dead week.” It’s pretty much when final presentations, papers, group projects – everything is due before finals week. No teachers are allowed to assign any homework but a few of my professors have sneakily added quiz dates before we went on Thanksgiving Break.

I’ve just come back to Western after a week off, and experienced two family Thanksgivings in Chicagoland, and also ticked off a few bucket list items that I didn’t get to do during my first visit. It’s funny because usually when I have a break like this at home, I will use the time to do assignments or prepare for exams etc. I did none of that. I was a busy bee, going up 103 floors to Sears Tower, or driving to neighbouring states, doing Black Friday shopping.

It’s crazy how the time has flown. I keep reflecting my time at Western and one of my biggest regrets is how long it took for me to establish myself in this new environment. I was feeling homesick, and I would go out with my friends and think of my friends back to home. But now, I want the days to go slower, I want to savour every moment, write down every minute detail, because I know in a couple of months I’ll forget everything.

Whilst the next few weeks are going to stressful in terms of workload, nothing is more stressful than knowing that you are going to have to say goodbye to some very special people that have impacted your life so greatly.

My advice for anyone considering an exchange program? Home is always going to be there for you, no matter how far or long you are away from it, so whilst you’re away from 4, 6, 10  or 12 months, make sure you are living in the moment and saying yes to every opportunity. The first couple of weeks are always the hardest, but before you know it, you have three weeks left and you have to start to say goodbye to your teachers, your classmates, your friends, your boyfriend/girlfriend, and you’ll be left wishing that you could stay longer

Journey To Exchange

Hi, I’m Claire. I study a Bachelor of Education based on the Albury Charles Sturt University campus. I have now been on exchange at the University of Chester, England for a little over a month.

My road to exchange started at the beginning of 2016 when I first stumbled across the idea. I started researching and although I had missed the application date to leave in 2016, I had plenty of time until the next one. This was a blessing and a curse. I spent the next year & a half excited and wishing the time to hurry up, however, it took almost that long to complete the application and prepare myself for the big move.

The Application Process

This, I will be honest, can be tedious and at some points disheartening, however very worth it, as the more organised you are on arrival the smoother settling in will be. I’m  unsure if it is the degree I am studying but it was a lengthy process to find and approve equivalent subjects to study. My course director and the CSU Global team were incredibly supportive throughout the whole process and always responded to my many emails (often irrelevant and sent at 1am) quickly and with great advice. Once you have a subject set approved the process is a lot kinder. I am incredibly fortunate to be a dual citizen with the United Kingdom meaning I did not have to apply for a VISA.

Packing

About two months before I was due to depart I grabbed a huge whiteboard and some markers and wrote everything I thought I needed to pack. Over the next two months I wrote and rewrote on the whiteboard, piled clothes and items next to it and subsequently took them away again. This process, apart from an attempt to make the time go quicker, gave me an opportunity to really think about what I was packing and to make sure I had everything.
I said goodbye to my beloved hair curler in favour of a good raincoat (good decision) and traded my favourite pair of heels for a sturdy pair of Dr Martins (another surprisingly good decision by past Claire). Upon reflection, anything I left behind I have been able to buy here (except my fav teddy  which I am glad made the final cut).

Pre-Departure checklist

As the weeks until departure dwindled I made sure to do all the last minute jobs. This included sorting out banking, bills and all those boring things. I said goodbye to the many families I babysit and my numerous jobs whilst completing a few final subjects with CSU. This time was a very busy and emotional one, but reminded me how lucky I was to be embarking on such a big adventure with an amazing support system behind me.