By Iona Middleton and Amy Layton
In my second year of university, I embarked on a semester abroad in Dunedin, New Zealand at the University of Otago. New Zealand was somewhere I had always wanted to visit and as soon as the Study Abroad opportunity arose, I jumped at it. The country itself is truly stunning. When I arrived in New Zealand we decided the best way to get around would be to purchase our own car so we scanned the Facebook buy and sell groups and managed to secure a pretty cheap and sturdy car (called Manuel) so that we were free to explore!
One of my highlights was the famous Instagram spot, Roy’s Peak located in Wanaka. We climbed up to the 1578 metre summit, starting our ascent at 3am so that we’d get there in time for the sunrise. It was a tiring day but totally worth it! Another of my highlights and something I’d recommend for anyone travelling to New Zealand would be to head to Milford Sound. A beautiful area to take a boat tour, seeing incredible waterfalls! We were lucky enough to see dolphins swimming alongside our boat, which made the trip even more special. Although
New Zealand is obviously very westernised, the country has a really different vibe to the United Kingdom. The country has its own speed – no one is in a rush to get anywhere. It was lovely to live life at a slower pace and overall, I think it relaxed me.
Academically, I feel prepared for third year. Initially I was worried that the academic side of university might start coming second to the other experiences I was having, however, modules in New Zealand worked differently to Cardiff. Whereas often here I’ll have two assessments both equally weighted for a module, at Otago University assessments were much smaller, weighing about 10-15%. This helped me to remain focussed all semester as I often had weekly deadlines and my grades certainly improved.
Studying abroad was genuinely one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I loved every minute and feel so lucky to have climbed mountains, kayaked humongous lakes, driven spectacular roads, made lifelong friendships and to have attended such an amazing university!
By Amy Layton
My semester abroad in Amsterdam was eventful to say the least: the flat from hell, the mice infestations, the flooded room and, worst of all, the traumatic attempted break-in. Yet, even with all these issues, it is easy to say that studying abroad gave me some of the best five months of my life. Currently sat in the sunny UK, I can reflect on the experience that has helped me to grow in confidence, maturity and life experience as well as make lifelong friends from all over the world.
Amsterdam is well-known for its relaxed drugs laws as well as its infamous Red-Light District. The city’s liberal outlook on such taboo matters has enticed many a tourist, yet this can overshadow some of its other attractions. One of my most cherished memories of my exchange is travelling to Vondelpark by bike, basking in the sun amongst the vibrant flowers and glistening canals. Nearby, there is the Albert Cuyp Market where you can taste many Dutch delicacies such as Edam cheese, bitterballen and, my personal favourite, stroopwafel.
If you want to experience a quieter and less tourist filled area, you can hop on the train and visit the nearby town of Utrecht. Here, you can kayak down the captivating canals, passing the medieval Dom Tower at just €7 for 2 hours. Later, reward yourself with a refreshing Dutch beer or cooling Chocomel, after all, kayaking is thirsty work.
However, I was not in Amsterdam just to simply explore the delights of the city and country: I was there to study. As an exchange student, I was offered modules where I could extend my knowledge of Dutch politics and society, meaning that I was better integrated into society due to a better understanding of it, enabling me to enter discussions about affairs with the locals themselves.
It is not only the studying that helps you to grow and learn, it is also being integrated into an environment where you are constantly around so many different cultures, learning about how people live and socialise all around the world. It was the people I met that made my experience complete; sharing potluck dinners in which all flatmates contributed a traditional dish from their home country to nights out dancing until the early hours of the morning, and weekends away visiting many different European cities.
I would highly recommend studying abroad to anyone who wants to open their horizons, both to the wider world and to opened borders of knowledge. My semester abroad has allowed me to experience so many places in Europe and has now given me a wanderlust to travel further lands. The UK is one tiny corner in a vast world, let’s explore it!