Travelling in Colour by Valentia

In my first year of university, I was granted the Global Experience scholarship which meant I could study at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea. Later, in second year I applied to the Erasmus scheme and was set to study at the University of Zurich in Switzerland; however, because Covid-19 I did have to put an end to these plans. Currently I’m researching Master’s programs abroad. As such you can see that I have quite a bit of experience researching universities in different places of the world and some experience living in a completely different cultural climate. I will be speaking on my experience as a black woman travelling to give other BAME students advice on how to navigate travelling abroad.

Research

Being a minority comes with a host of anxieties when it comes to travelling around the world, especially when you will be staying there for long periods of time. Going from a deeply diverse environment to one that is homogenous might put you off exploring this opportunity. I would advise against allowing an opportunity such as this one pass you and the best way to curb travel anxiety is through research. While deciding to travel abroad you want to research the countries current political climate, be assured, you are not too paranoid for wanting to avoid places that might make you unsafe or feel on edge- although please do understand that the university would never send students to countries that would put you in danger- however circumstances do change, and political climates can be in upheaval at any points in time. As a precaution please do be mindful of these climates and decipher how comfortable you would be within these places.

For me, when I was researching which summer school to attend, I remember watching Youtube videos of black women who had been to Korea and picking up on the dos and don’ts of being in those countries. YouTube is a great and honest source for the experiences of POC who live in foreign countries. They will share their experiences with being stared at, being praised and generally being different.

Food

For people who have dietary restrictions such as those who follow Kosher, Vegan or Halal diets, I would also recommend researching the key dishes in the countries you travel to and finding out if they allow food substitutes. In Korea, you cannot request for a meal to be altered, so if a dish has a restricted item you cannot eat please do be aware staff may not agree to remove that item for you. For those who do not eat pork, Korea is quite difficult to in terms of avoiding pork as it is the most popular dish, however, from walking through the streets of Hongdae and Myeongdong a few stalls are Halal or vegetarian. So, if you do enter Korea or any other country where it is harder to follow dietary commitments be prepared and open to eating vegetarian.  That being said,  the food in Korea was AMAZING. If you are a fan of spicy foods, desserts, bubble tea, savoury foods or traditional Korean dishes, be assured that you will love it. Every restaurant I ate at was delicious and cheap! Food in Korea is substantially cheaper than in the UK, you could share a meal with friends for as little as £2!

Advice

One thing I would warn people is being smart about your interactions with people you don’t know. No country is entirely safe and travelling with caution will save you from a lot of dangerous situations. Please do not engage with people who ask you for directions, especially if they are native, these tend to be scams, so travel and interact with caution. Also, please travel with friends, do not be too friendly and be extra careful, especially if you are a woman. On lighter notes I also advice on buying Sim cards with data on them at the airport, these tend to be more expensive than at phone stores however, the staff in airports are more likely to speak English and having data when you first arrive will allow you to be connected with your family and friends at home and get directions with ease. Get a card which you can use abroad such as Monzo or Starling. This way you can buy thing without incurring travelling fees. Finally, be aware that Google Maps is banned in Korea so you will need to download their travel app, Naver.

Reassurance

Going from being part of a large diverse country to being an even smaller minority might be the most daunting experience that POC’s or minorities have to encounter, but I can safely assure you that you will be fine. Spoken from a success story of being one of the few black people in Korea I can tell you that I did not encounter any racism or prejudice during my time there. People were respectful, the food was good, workers were helpful, and the public were incredibly responsive to pleas for help. My most fond memory was going into a restaurant and one of the women workers walking us through the menu and recommending the best dish for us because we could not read Korean. Another instance was a gentleman who saw we were lost and took time out of his schedule to direct us to the right platform to get to our destination. I made many friends while abroad and the language barrier was hardly an issue. I had the best time in Korea and the experience has made me want to go back and do the things that I did not have time to do.

I can confidently assure you that you will be fine, and you will have the time of your life.

Contacts

If you have any other questions about global opportunities or want to speak to an ambassador who went to a country that you are interested in, please do not hesitate to contact us at:

Globalopps@sheffield.ac.uk (General/ Administration)

Globaloppsamb@sheffield.ac.uk (Ambassador email)

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME ABROAD – Jacqui Smale

Studying abroad at university was something I had always wanted to do since I’d heard it was possible, but as the time to put these thoughts into action grew nearer I found myself getting more nervous. I overcame this by meticulously researching everything . However, no amount of research could have prepared me for the way everyone I met welcomed me with open arms, and the fact that Copenhagen would truly become my second home.

Having benefitted immeasurably from my time abroad, I thought it was only right I try and help out some of the future Erasmus students by giving some top tips of how best to make the most of your time.

Studying abroad at university was something I had always wanted to do since I’d heard it was possible, but as the time to put these thoughts into action grew nearer I found myself getting more nervous. I overcame this by meticulously researching everything I possibly could about Copenhagen before I arrived – from cost of living, accommodation and practicalities, to all of the city’s best tourist attractions. However, no amount of research could have prepared me for the way everyone I met welcomed me with open arms, and the fact that Copenhagen would truly become my second home.

Having benefitted immeasurably from my time abroad, I thought it was only right I try and help out some of the future Erasmus students by giving some top tips of how best to make the most of your time.

Planning Accommodation

Accommodation is different in every city, but is something worth giving some thought to before you leave – even if planning in advance is not your usual style. In Copenhagen, the Housing Foundation provides accommodation for foreign students by renting rooms in different student halls across the city. This worked well for me and gave me a cheap room, close to the city centre at Øresundskollegiet. However, it is worth being aware that the Housing Foundation do charge more for rooms than the kollegiums themselves, as you get to skip the waiting queue, and so in many cases the rooms can be expensive. Even if there are no student halls you can access in the city you are going to, or you’d rather find private accommodation, I would recommend researching the areas of the city so that you knowText Box: My accommodation - Øresundskollegiet roughly what to expect from where you will be living. Also, some information you find on google about certain neighbourhoods can be dated or a little contradictory, so always get in contact with someone who has actually lived in the city if you can.

Volunteering

I found that volunteering was a great way to meet other students, both Danish and other Erasmus students. Personally, I volunteered at the bar at my student halls, which enabled me to meet lots of Danish people and make more friends within my accommodation. There are also numerous bars and cafés throughout the city, such as Studenterhuset and Bastard Café, which are run solely by student volunteers and provide a great environment for getting to know new people. Although these examples are specific to Copenhagen, many other cities also have volunteering opportunities, and a quick search on Google can often provide lots of great places to work.

Tackling homesickness

The first week in my new home was particularly challenging for me. Amidst concerns I would struggle to meet people, I also had to arrange gaining my EU residency certificate on the other side of the city when I had no bike and the public transport system still seemed a little confusing. However, I persevered and everything turned out absolutely fine. I made sure to attend every single University orientation event that I could, where I instantly made some lasting friends. It is really important to remember that all other Erasmus students are in exactly the same position, and there are plenty of other people who are new to the city. I cannot stress enough the importance of going out and involving yourself with as many activities as possible, even if you are a little apprehensive. You never know who you might meet, and I found that getting well and truly stuck in with all that your new home has to offer is undoubtedly the best way to combat feelings of homesickness.#

Travelling As I experienced myself, Coronavirus of course complicates this element of your time abroad, but don’t be disheartened as travelling in some form may still be possible. From Copenhagen you can take day trips to both Sweden and Norway, with Malmö being just a short train ride away and Oslo being reachable by a short plane or ferry journey. Even if Covid means you can’t leave your destination country, there’s always other great cities and places to visit which can help you get to know the culture really well. Aarhus was a favourite destination for many Erasmus students in Copenhagen, and there were also loads of great towns not so far from the city, like Helsingør and Roskilde. Discovering all the amazing places surrounding your city or town, rather than sticking to the top tourist destinations, is probably the safest way to travel for the time being.

My time in Copenhagen truly changed my life, giving me an independence and confidence I could never have imagined I would gain so quickly. It changed my perspective on many things, and I would encourage other students to take every opportunity they can to go abroad and experience something new. My time in Denmark has proven to me that it is the challenges which may initially scare us a little, that give us the best opportunities.

Working in Australia – Charlotte Pacey

I’m Charlotte, and I did my year abroad at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. This blog post is to give you an insight into what it’s like job hunting and working in Australia, at least in my experience.

Nobody would question that studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity. What drew me in, and probably you too, was the prospect of travelling to a country I’d never been to and doing/seeing heaps of amazing things. The thing that isn’t as fun to think about is the cost of that. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough that financing your year abroad won’t be a worry for you, but I think that realistically this is not the case for a lot of people. At least it wasn’t for me. I’ve had a part-time job alongside uni since freshers week of my first year, and it was only because of saving money during second year that I could afford to do my year abroad at all. A bonus of studying in Australia is that your money essentially doubles, and you can have your loan given in two larger chunks rather than three smaller ones if you want to. However, I had to strictly budget this money to cover essential expenses (rent, food, etc), so I knew I’d need to get a job as soon as possible after arriving in Melbourne.

Arguably the most convenient job to do alongside studying is hospitality – bartending or waiting tables. An important thing to note about working hospo in Australia is that you have to have an individual certification to serve or handle alcohol. This is called the Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate (RSA). To get your RSA you’ll need to complete training that teaches you the laws and regulations relating to service of alcohol in the state you’ll be working in. The way you can get your RSA differs slightly from state to state – in Victoria it is obligatory to do this training in person, but I know that in other states you are allowed to complete it online. Regardless of your state’s guidelines I’d recommend attending in-person training where possible, because there are a lot of scams online that will take your money but not give you a legitimate certification. The course I did cost me $50 (around £25ish) and took about 3 hours (with a break). It mostly involved listening to the course deliverer talk at us, watching a few videos and then answering a multiple choice quiz at the end of the session. Once you gain this certification, make sure you write on your CV clearly that you are RSA certified, otherwise a lot of potential employers will not give your application attention.

Once I had my RSA and newly printed CVs, I just went out to all the bars and restaurants near my house and handed my CV in. As with anywhere, it’s best to avoid doing this during peak service times because chances are people will be too busy to properly talk to you or have a decent look at your CV, and you might not get any response from them. I was really lucky and got a call back on the same day I started handing out my CV, went for a trial shift the next night and got the job straightaway. Where you choose to live will impact how easy it is for you to get a job – Monash accommodation is on campus and is located pretty far out of Melbourne city centre. I opted to seek accommodation independently, and lived in a private rental share-house that I found via a Facebook group. If you intend/need to get a job in Melbourne, I would highly recommend researching where you want to live. North-side of the city has a lot of really exciting up-and-coming suburbs that are teeming with eclectic bars and restaurants, but travelling to and from university would be hard from there. With the pandemic, if your classes end up being taught online then this would actually be quite useful because you would have far more choice about where to live. I lived on the south-side of the city, near St Kilda, for convenience of getting to and from uni and this is where a lot of backpackers and working holiday visa-holders (WHVs) often choose to live too. This means there’s a lot of busy bars in the area, but the closer to summer it gets the harder it is to get a job because of the influx of WHVs around that time – just something to bear in mind. I also recommend joining any local bartending/hospitality Facebook groups you can find because a lot of places will advertise openings on these pages first – there’s a big community vibe between hospitality workers in Melbourne and look out for their own. A lot of places offer industry discounts and other perks via these pages too. The one I joined was called The Melbourne Bartender Exchange, and I found it really useful for finding jobs later on in my year.

Something to also keep in mind is your visa restrictions. With the student visa you will be on, you are allowed to work maximum 20hrs a week during term-time, and as many hours as you want during holidays. Some places pay in cash, meaning your hours won’t be on record and could technically go over your visa limits, but for obvious reasons I don’t recommend this and nor would Global Opps (or the Aussie government). I ended up leaving that first job after a couple months, because of cash-in-hand concerns. After seeing a friend (not an exchange student) get deported for visa/work issues, I decided it was best to look for an on-the-books job and not be affiliated with a business working off the books (as this is illegal – the responsibility lies with the employers who are doing this but it’s best to stay away for your own security). With this in mind, I turned to the Melbourne Bartender Exchange and posted that I was looking for work, briefly listing my work experience and stating I had an up to date RSA. This proved effective, and I got an interview shortly after.

Unfortunately, while this was all going on, I was struggling quite badly with my mental health. Things going on in my personal life were really affecting me and in hindsight I should have sought help via my university. As a result I was very anxious and on edge a lot of the time, and this made settling into a new workplace really difficult. I ended up bouncing from job to job for a while – by the end of my time in Australia I had had 6 different jobs. I managed to make ends meet as I went – during the 3 weeks leading up to me flying home for Christmas I spent every day reading library books in the park or on the beach (free activities only haha). My point here is that you need to prioritise your mental health over other things. I think that if I had taken some time out, made use of the mental health support offered by the university and gotten my head straight early on, I would’ve had a much easier time of it when it came to work.

Despite struggling, I still hugely recommend getting a job if you can. From that first job I had I met many of my closest friends in Australia – most of them were British people on working holiday visas and knew exactly how I felt arriving alone in this new place, because they’d all done it themselves. These were the people who looked out for me, supported me and cared for me while I was going through rough times and they are people who I am still very close to now. They had all been living in Australia for a pretty long time and had loads of suggestions and advice for me about where to go and what to see when I went travelling. I also got to meet loads of people through work, by being introduced to my colleagues’ friends and by chatting to regulars in the bar. I have both Australian friends who have grown up there and friends who were there travelling and have since moved on to a new place – so now I have friends not only in Australia, but in Belgium, Spain, Austria, Italy, Norway, New Zealand, Canada, Israel and more. I think that working a part time job is so valuable to everyone; it is such a good way to build confidence, acquire skills/experience and make friends.

The caveat to all of this is (as I am sure you’re sick of hearing) the pandemic. Things are very uncertain at the moment, so I am unsure of how applicable some of these tips and insights will be to your actual experience in Australia. Regardless of that, I am more than happy for you to contact me with any questions about working in Australia, or any other aspect of the Study Abroad experience. Feel free to shoot me an email at cpacey1@sheffield.ac.uk and I’ll give as much help as I can!

Your first choice isn’t always the best choice – Joseph Cardoza

Studying abroad is a great way to experience new cultures, make new friends and have fun all whilst learning about a subject you’re passionate about, but how should you decide on where to go? Hopefully, by the time you’ve finished reading this you’ll have a pretty good idea of how to start to tackle that mammoth of a question and understand that your first choice may not be the best.

In the summer of 2019, I studied sustainable entrepreneurship at Aarhus University in Denmark and had the time of my life, but it wasn’t my first choice. Initially, I had my heart set on going to Canada, land of maple trees and Tim Hortons, and had pretty much ruled out going anywhere else. That’s a mistake I see so many other students make when they consider studying abroad, so I’m going to give you some tips on how to avoid it and ensure you choose the best place for you.

Canada

First things first, if you do have a place in mind try to dissect it into the specific factors pulling you there. For the sake of argument, I’ll use Canada, or more specifically, the University of Alberta. As soon as I saw the breath-taking photos of the Rockies and the gorgeous aquamarine lakes, I was obsessed, but as it turns out I was just enticed by the idea of wildlife and views which (apparently unbeknownst to me) is not exclusive to Alberta. As it turns out, Aarhus (which before applying to summer schools I’d never even heard of) is every bit as beautiful, perhaps not because of ice topped mountains but Nordic deer forests and beaches instead.


Marselisborg Deer Park in Aarhus

The same could be said for local cultures and traditions; whilst the specific histories of different countries differ, that doesn’t mean that Canada’s culture is more rich and enticing than Denmark’s, just because I’d never really thought about it before. I implore you to break down your first choice in this way, as you may discover a place which is far more perfect than the one you currently have your eyes on.

Some things can be exclusive to specific locations and universities, such as courses, language barriers, costs and requirements. For example, if I wanted to study abroad to learn about Canadian Studies, Alberta may just have the edge over Aarhus. Language barriers are one to check though, as if you’re not on a foreign language course in Sheffield, chances are the course you study abroad will be taught in English (you can find more information about this on the Global Opps. website). The costs of studying abroad can seem very overwhelming but don’t let that fear put you off straight away; there are tonnes of different types of scholarships and grants, plus financial help with visas, essential expenses and medical insurance.

It’s important to recognise which factors are more useful than others. Now these factors obviously change depending on the individual so the only person who can determine your perfect destination is you. One great way to do this is using something called a decision matrix; it’s an analysis technique used to compare multiple options using a selection of criteria that you set (I hope you’re ready for a little bit of maths). Get your main requirements, for example: Affordability, University Rankings, Not far too far from home, Extra-curricular possibilities, Culture, Urban setting, Socio-political aspects and so on. You then give each factor a weight from 1-5 based on its importance to you. Now you score each university option out of five for each factor, then multiply each of these by the weight of the factor.

By adding all of these up, you get a pretty good idea of which option is best for you. Obviously, you’d probably do this with more than two universities, and this doesn’t have to be the absolute decider for you, but it does offer good insight.

Unfortunately, you can’t just pick a university and boom you’re accepted into it (although you probably already knew that). The process of applying is sure to come with some disappointments which is just another reason why it’s so important to have your options open. But who knows, maybe the place you end up in was better for you all along. That’s how it happened for me; whilst in Aarhus I made good friends with a girl from Canada who upon being told about my initial study abroad choices exploded into telling me about how the attractions and nightlife in Aarhus were completely unmatched by Alberta, almost ridiculing me for considering it (no offence Canada, her words not mine).

I hope this has helped you size down that original mammoth of a question a little. Ideally down to a gerbil but even just a smaller mammoth will do. As long as you see that choosing where to study abroad shouldn’t be too stressful and that if you do have a place in mind, there’s a good chance that there’s a better option out there if you just think a little differently.

Not getting first choice destination – Abigail Fenton

Hi I’m Abby and I study History! I applied for a few Hong Kong university’s and didn’t get my first choice. I had looked into university’s based on their rankings (which to be honest differed everywhere I looked) and the modules they offered. I got given City University, and as it was further down my list I hadn’t really looked too much into the modules on offer. I was soooo excited and relieved to have a place that I did not really think about this for a while. But when I began to look into it, I saw there weren’t as many history modules available as I’m used to at Sheffield, which was a sad thought at the time.

As my year abroad was an extra year, so I didn’t need to do any specific core modules for my degree, this did give me more choice anyway, and in the end, I was so grateful to be able to choose a more varied timetable! I studied some more politics modules, which have inspired me in what I may study next year if I choose to do a masters, or what I might like to go into (my particular favourite was environment and society in Asia, which was mainly to do with climate change!). So, in the end this was a great thing to happen as I felt I got the most out of my extra year!

It turned out as well that City U was better located than my other choices, which made such a difference with travelling, seeing the city and going out etc.! It also had a massive international student community that was great, and right next to an underground station. So it was actually the perfect place for me in the end, of course all of my choices were in the same city, but don’t be worried if you don’t get your first choice, there are positives that you might not have realised before you applied!

Here are some pics from the various views around Hong Kong and my walk from my accommodation to Uni (much closer than Ranmoor and Endcliffe!) 

Not getting first choice destination blog – Matthew Jackson

Hi Im Matthew, and I studied abroad in Hong Kong for a semester and then moved to Amsterdam in semester two due to the protests at the time in Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong was not my first choice destination for study abroad, it was actually my 4th choice. My first choice destination was the University of Oregon in the USA. At the time of applying, I really wanted to study abroad in America as I wanted to experience the US college culture and explore the country further as I had been a few times when I was younger and really enjoyed it. As my course has limited options for study abroad, this was the only US destination, but I had done my research and decided this was where I wanted to go. My 2nd and 3rd choice were both universities in Australia (Queensland and Griffith University). I chose these after attending the study abroad fairs and talks, as it seemed like a really fun and exciting place to go on exchange and it was somewhere I had never been before.

When I received the email to say that I had secured a place in Hong Kong, at first it was a mix of emotions. I was obviously happy and excited that I had gotten a place, but I was also pretty gutted at the fact I had not gotten into my first choice destinations. As I explained earlier, my course has limited options for study abroad, so I put Hong Kong down not really knowing if I wanted to go. I had never been to Asia before and, although I was excited to be going, I was a little nervous about the prospect of living in such a different culture for a year. 

However, looking back on my time abroad now, I wouldn’t change it all – even with the protests and the fact that I had to switch to Amsterdam for semester two. I had such a good time in Hong Kong and had experiences and visited places I may never would’ve had the chance to visit if I didn’t end up getting placed there. My advice would be, even if you don’t get the destination you really wanted, don’t get too fixated on this as you will likely have a great time no matter where you get placed and you will meet people you never would’ve met if you had gone to your first or second choices. 

Where I wanted to go, where I went, and why I still had a good time – Beth Wilson

Hi, my name is Beth, and when I went abroad for my Erasmus placement in the Spring 2020 semester I didn’t get my first choice destination. Despite this, I still had a fantastic and fulfilling experience and think it is really important to keep you mind open to all the options available to you. I originally applied for Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland. I was particularly keen to stay in Europe and explore some of the more progressive countries – Sweden was always an area of interest for me, and I had visited Amsterdam before, so I was keen to experience more of these locations through my Erasmus exchange. When I found out that I only had the choice of Turkey or Germany, it was hard not to feel disappointed at first. Germany had ranked at the bottom of my choices, and I hadn’t even put Turkey down as an option! Despite this, I decided to make the most of the circumstances and use this as an opportunity to push myself out my comfort zone and explore a culture and country entirely different from the UK by travelling somewhere I hadn’t initially thought to consider. The University in Germany was in a very small town, so I choose to study in the capital of Turkey instead as I personally thought this would be a more interesting and challenging experience. Despite my initial worries, I still had a fantastic time – although studying in Turkey was a different experience to my initial choices of destinations, it provided me with such a valuable opportunity for personal growth and independent travel. In the end, it really boils down to what you make of the experience and the people you encounter while out there! This experience gave me a newfound appreciation for Turkish culture and traditions, and I would advise all students considering an exchange period abroad to keep their minds open to all possible outcomes 😊

Splitting my year abroad

by Gabriella Tomlinson

As I am writing this I have just sat my final year abroad exam, and whilst sitting it at home and celebrating with my family was not quite what I expected I did on the whole have an amazing year! But one of the reasons my year was as amazing as it was is because I chose to split my year between two places, which is not hugely done with only a handful of students doing this in my year. So, I am hoping by the end of this I will have inspired some people to take the opportunity to split your year and experience two different countries.

I split my year between Hamburg in Germany and Antwerp in Belgium… two countries both known for their beer, but I promise that is not the only reason I chose them! But whilst splitting my year seemed hugely daunting, by splitting your year abroad there are so many benefits which I am going to tell you about before telling you a little about both Hamburg and Antwerp.

Why split the year?

 The vast majority of Erasmus students only do one semester abroad. So, when I arrived in Antwerp in February the students who were doing the full year were the odd ones out so making friends twice in a year was not an issue because almost everyone was in the same boat. So do not let the fear of being the new kid in school put you off, because chances are you won’t be!

Also, you benefit from two completely different learning and exam systems. This is maybe not the most important thing when planning your year abroad but whilst in Hamburg most of the modules were international commercial law based, whereas in Antwerp almost every module was European Union law of some variety. They were hugely different semesters from an academic point of view and I managed to do 16 modules this year, majority of which I cannot do in Sheffield.

Whilst I did not fully appreciate it until leaving either place splitting your year gives you the opportunity to make two amazing sets of exchange friends as you do not stay in a clique all year. Whether it was crying in Hamburg when realising we were all returning to different continents (I blame the beer and I was not the only one in tears!) or the sad realisation that in Antwerp I would not get to say bye to my friends as we all rushed home, I got to meet the most amazing people many of whom I would not have met if I had only been to one country.

Finally, splitting the year gives you the chance to live in two amazing countries! And I cannot explain how brilliant that was. Yes, it can be a little stressful planning accommodation twice especially planning the second semester whilst on your first but once you have done everything once doing it the second time is so much easier! Whether it’s the moving to a foreign country nerves, the stress of figuring out the local transport and the campus at the university, once you have done it once it is so much easier because you are more adaptable!

First Semester- Bucerius Law School, Hamburg

As I have said I spent my first semester in Hamburg, Germany. I know this sounds cliché, but I fell a little in love with Hamburg despite being homesick when arriving. It is a beautiful place which is big enough that you feel like you will never run out of places to explore but small enough it felt like home so quickly. The law school was instrumental in making the city feel like home and had an intro week which involved so many activities, and day trips which continued throughout the term. The highlight was 100% the on-campus Oktoberfest, which was attended by lecturers, students, and my exchange cohort.  

In Hamburg most of the students were either from Australia or the US, and there were only 90 something of us. It almost felt like being back at college as you knew everyone on the exchange and the café was frequently overtaken by a huge group of us… I think the home students were glad to see the back of us! We visited multiple towns around Hamburg, and almost every Christmas market within Hamburg… I have the mugs to prove it! We spent many a weekend in the Irish pub watching the Rugby World Cup, the Aussie, Kiwi and English rivalry was real! However, I do not believe for one second, I got to experience everything Hamburg has to offer because no amount of time will ever be enough to discover every brilliant coffee shop, restaurant, and area. I cannot recommend Hamburg enough because it really does have everything, and it is so well connected for any travelling plans you may have for your year abroad.

Antwerp

My time in Antwerp was limited to a mere 6 weeks, and it rained for about five and a half of those… the winter months were not kind! It is smaller than Hamburg without a doubt and the university was bigger so my experience had completely switched. Everyone lived within walking distance of each other instead of a U-Bahn ride away, and I could connect to the university Wi-Fi from my flat instead of needing a 15-minute U-Bahn trip to Uni. But the university was multiple buildings which required figuring out instead of one big building.

Despite this being a short-lived experience looking back I crammed so much into those 6 weeks. I visited both Brussels and Ghent, went to numerous Antwerp attractions including the chocolate museum and most importantly drank a ridiculous amount of Belgium Beer. My friends and I managed numerous ‘international dinners’ where people brought food from their home country and days spent exploring in the rain. Doing the majority of my semester in Lancashire was not the plan at all but the six weeks I did experience in Antwerp were brilliant! Sadly, I did not get to experience sitting in the squares in the summer when all the restaurants put their chairs out and live my summer Erasmus dream but it just means that one day I will have to go back!

My email is gltomlinson1@sheffield.ac.uk if anyone wants to ask anymore questions 😊

Or you can reach any of the Global Opps ambassadors at Globaloppsamb@sheffield.ac.uk

Managing your mental health whilst studying abroad

Calsie Tyler

Studying abroad can be a challenging time for your mental health – you’re in a new place on the other side of the world where you don’t know anyone and don’t have your usual support system. But it can also be one of the best experiences you’ll ever have if you make the most of it whilst looking after your wellbeing. The advice I was given prior to going abroad really prepared me for the challenges it brings and enabled me to deal with the ups and downs much more easily. In this blog post I’d like to pass on some of the advice from my own experiences.

My first piece of advice is to set realistic expectations for your year abroad before you even go. If you go into it acknowledging that every day isn’t going to be perfect, you’re less likely to be disappointed with the experience. If you’re reading this blog post, you’re already heading in the right direction by taking the time to hear about others’ experiences and prepare.


Film camera print of me making a snow angel, taken by my friend Hette

Building a support network of friends that you can turn to if you’re having a bad day is really essential. This can take some time, so don’t worry if you don’t have loads of new best friends straight away. Of course, you can and should still keep in contact with your friends and family from home, but if you’re several time zones away from the UK you can’t guarantee that they’ll always be awake when you are. You also don’t want to be constantly glued to your phone, so try to balance catching up with old friends and making new ones.

Hiking in the Rocky Mountains

I know it’s easier said than done and I’m definitely guilty of doing this, but don’t compare your experience to other peoples. Everyone is in different places, having different experiences. Seeing your friends posts on social media can make it seem like they’re having an amazing time, just remember that people only share the best bits of their lives and it’s not representative of reality!

Journaling is one of the things that helps me most, when I’m feeling down I like to write something I’m grateful for to remind myself that not everything is bad! Your mind tends to focus on the negatives, getting your thoughts down with pen and paper makes them a lot more manageable.

Standing round a camp fire to warm up

While you’re away you might feel pressure to constantly say yes to every opportunity for fear of missing out on anything. Whilst I do recommend taking as many opportunities as you can, make sure that you also take enough time for yourself. It can be quite hectic socialising more than you’re used to and trying lots of new things. It can also be really fun, just try to find a balance between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and giving yourself time to rest and recover.

Wherever you go for your year abroad, know that you are not alone in facing difficulties. There will inevitably be ups and downs, but that’s part of the experience! However if you are really struggling please do reach out for support, I’ve put some links for resources which you might find helpful below.

Sheffield Nightline: https://www.sheffieldnightline.co.uk/

Togetherall: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/mental-wellbeing/bww

Guide to Support at the University: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/mental-wellbeing/self-help-guide

Switching to online learning

Jess Knee- Robinson talks us through her experience of how she coped switching to online learning during the 1st wave of the pandemic.

3 weeks into my Erasmus semester at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, I found myself abruptly packing up and hauling 6 months’ worth of (mostly untouched!) belongings back to the airport as the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 pandemic.

I was shocked. I wasn’t sure how to react. As the German skyline disappeared from view out of the airplane window, the only thing I was certain of was my dismay at the emergency-style end to my Year Abroad. Initially, arriving home wasn’t much comfort because the differences in the current situation between Germany and the UK left me feeling tense. Germany was further along in terms of infections, so whilst I had been settling in and adopting changes in behaviour there, the UK was still a couple of weeks behind. In a situation like this, I think it’s important to be ready to accept a very different reality from what your family and friends are experiencing back home.

Sigh of Relief that I got to at least try currywurst before I returned home!

The move to online teaching was delayed at first and I think it’s safe to say that a lot of European universities aren’t as tech ready as the UK. I got the impression that this isn’t so much about access to technology as it is about cultural differences. I had been attending a pre-semester language course before I returned home and whilst digital presentations were used, teachers preferred whiteboards and textbooks. This meant that the start of the summer semester was pushed back to early May.

Two weeks into my Sommersemester an der Universität Heidelberg and I was busy with video calls, exercises to submit on Moodle and presentations to prepare. Although, the workload of an Erasmus study abroad semester isn’t typically expected to be as full on as a semester at Sheffield. I wasn’t required to complete the equivalent of a full 60 credits a semester – a study abroad semester is more of a unique opportunity to explore new areas of interests that you perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to study in Sheffield. I chose 3 modules; two language based and one political module about the German Federal Government. For students who were not there to learn German, there was also a wide range of modules fully taught in English.

Being a languages student, I did really want the opportunity to practise with others and I initially worried how easy this would be with online teaching. That said, I enjoyed the interaction during the virtual classes a lot more than I expected. Being in the comfort of your room with the option to have the camera on or off seems to give students an additional level of reassurance when speaking a foreign language. Usually, we spent half the class on a video call and the other half completing worksheets. During the call the teacher often set up “breakout” rooms and we found ourselves on a separate isolated call with a partner to practise speaking as much German as possible. Suddenly, I was getting to know people halfway across the world – from my desk!

Although I was disheartened that I couldn’t experience the campus or take part in extra-curricular activities, the online semester nevertheless offered the opportunity to make international friends. There were plenty of virtual language cafés and ESN (Erasmus Student Network) events such as online quizzes and board game nights. I still felt a strong sense of belonging to the University of Heidelberg and I’m pleased that I could spend lockdown acquiring a set of results from a university abroad that I can now add to my CV.

It may not be perfect, and it may not have been Germany, but I’m grateful for this study abroad experience all the same.