First semester done and dusted!

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Hello readers,

Exams are out of the way and the summer vacation has officially begun. I’ve been taking time to reflect on my first semester here. I’m also aware of the approaching deadline for next year’s exchange applications so I hope that these thoughts might be in some way useful if any of you were thinking of applying.

  1. Money

I think I am finally getting the hang of paying for things in dollars. Every now and then ‘pounds’, ‘quid’ or ‘pence’ slips out of my mouth but is quickly  corrected. When I first arrived it was hard to gauge exactly how expensive (or not) things were. I was never sure if I was calculating exchange rates wrong in my head or if things genuinely cost more. Imagine my first trip to the fruit and veg aisles of the supermarket and finding a single pepper for $5 (or approx. £2.50 in Copper’s conversion rates!) – and that’s not the most expensive that I’ve seen them. Other things are lot cheaper than back at home though: Dominoes is only $5 for example…

2. Academics

What we would call modules in Durham are known as ‘papers’. Most people take 3  or 4 per semester – you can take more but you’re either a genius or mad. This semester I took:

GEOG 287 Plants, People and the Environment

GEOG 298 Coastal Geomorphology

ENVI 311 Understanding Environmental Issues

SPAN 132 Introductory Spanish 2

Studying abroad has given me the opportunity to explore area of Geography that we don’t manage to cover in Durham as well as branching out of my subject.

Overall I really enjoyed these papers and found them really interesting, particularly Understanding Environmental Issues. This was very discussion and workshop based and brought together students that major in loads of disciplines from Geography to Musical Theatre and people from across the world. I found it extremely refreshing to look at issues from new perspectives and with new opinions that people brought instead or purely from a geographical point of view. We were also assessed through a group film making project!

A tip for anyone thinking about applying to Otago: Many of the papers (at least in the geography department) are offered at both 200 and 300 level. I opted for 200 level in my first semester to take off some of  the academic pressures and assignments whilst I settled in.

3. Flatting in Dunedin

The university owns a group of houses/flats close to campus (known as uniflats) where many international students choose to live. Although I did initially apply to live there in the end I opted to go ‘flatting’ in Dunedin. I found a room that was available to rent and have been living with 5 other Kiwi students since I arrived. This has been a great option for me and I don’t think I would choose differently. Programmes such as the Otago International Friends Network (OIFN) has allowed me to still connect with other international students.

I won’t lie, Dunedin flats are cold. I spent the first while wrapping myself up in as many layers as I could, blankets, and a sleeping bag just to study in my bedroom during the winter months. The house we live in at the moment is about 100 years old so it has lots of character and history but not much insulation! But this is the true Dunedin student experience. When you think Durham student life perhaps you think Klute, rowing or college bars. In Dunedin cold, slightly less than perfect flats are one of the most important parts of studying here you could say.

I have really enjoyed my first semester here and am looking forward to the next one already. But first, its time for summer and to start properly exploring further afield in New Zealand!

Good luck to everyone completing applications!

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