Pre-departure – Australia

Ok, so I’m leaving to start my Australian exchange 13 days from now and I have to admit it is getting pretty scary but thankfully I have got most of the things I needed to do done.

So far, getting to Australia has seemed relatively easy. The flights I found were reasonably priced but I did have to book a couple of months in advance. It is much better booking in advance than waiting to find out exam results as the nearer you get to departure, the more expensive flights become. I am not really a fan of the “long haul flight” but luckily enough Emirates fly out of Glasgow through Dubai and onto Brisbane. This makes the journey slightly more acceptable as I only have a 7 hour and a 14 hour flight rather than a 22 hour monster flight.

Getting a Visa was remarkably easy as well! After receiving my confirmation of enrollment from UQ I simply applied online and 3 hours later I had a Visa that was electronically attached to my passport. The Aussies definately have a better systems than the Yanks.

What you don’t realise with an exchange is that there is an awful lot of organisation that needs to be done before you leave. Often your UK bank account will not work abroad or charge high rates to withdraw cash. Therefore, I opened an account in Australia. Luckily enough I am with the Clydesdale Bank, a subsidiary of the National Australia Bank, and so setting up an account was easy enough. I also set up an account with a company called Moneycorp who specialise in overseas exchange rates which make it cheaper to transfer money from the UK to Australia than it would be if you carry out a electronic transfer.

I also wanted to make sure once I leave that I do not have to deal with things I’ve forgotten about back home. Things like pre-registering with Websurf and ensuring SAAS know that I am going away and pay my fees and give me a loan are important to do as you don’t want to have additional worries when you are away from home.

One of the major things that I have not managed to do so far is find somewhere to live once in Australia. I have looked at Halls of Residence but they seem very expensive and give you little reposnibility. They provide meals so if you are out with friends or something and you miss dinner you go hungry. This is really not the kind of thing that I want to do and as I have lived independently for the last 2 years I would see it as a step back. I am therefore looking to finding a share house (in Queensland they tend not to have flats but houses). The only problem with this is that you are expected to view it so can’t really sort out anything until you arrive and so I am leaving 3 weeks before term starts to find somewhere to live. UQ are really helpful though as they have a rentals database that is updated almost daily. They also provide an airport pick up service and temporary accomodation. I have chosen to stay in a Backpackers Hostel for the first 6 days, however there are also places available in halls but expect to pay a bit more.

As i said most of what needs to be done has now been done and I can’t wait. Next time you hear from me will be in Australia and I will have hopefully have found somewhere to live and be settled. Until then, goodbye.

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4 change-overs, 3 continents, 2 days, 1 year abroad

I started this post at the beginning of my outbound journey from London Heathrow airport, but internet access was £1 for only a mere 10 minutes there so I decided I’d finish posting at the next earliest opportunity. I’m now updating from an internet kiosk at Auckland airport (completely free I might add) in New Zealand, 2 days after setting off from Heathrow!

The journey itself was quite an experience – my first long haul flight! It seemed like a never-ending trip but I was never bored or uncomfortable. My intinerary was as follows:

  1. Glasgow > Heathrow
  2. Heathrow > Dubai
  3. Dubai > Bandar
  4. Bandar > Brisbane
  5. Brisbane >Auckland
  6. Auckland > Christchurch
  7. Christchurch > Dunedin

I’ve become quite accustomed to airport lounges! I like the atmosphere of airports, and people-watching from coffee shops. There’s so many people in the world going somewhere, it really amazes me to see it… to think only a generation ago opportunities such as this were simply not available.

For some reason I was convinced jet-lag was a myth, something that happened to other people, and something I would be immune to. After all, how difficult could it be, crossing time zones and adjusting your body clock? Having now experienced it for myself, I can say the answer is VERY difficult!

All of my bags, including my scuba diving equipment, have also arrived safely in New Zealand which was a relief. For certain sports, you transport equipment for free as long as it’s not above a certain weight. So if you’re a sportsperson and want to continue with your sport whilst studying abroad it’s definitely worth checking with the airline what they allow you to take.

For some reason I was convinced jet-lag was a myth, something that happened to other people, and something I would be immune to. After all, how difficult could it be, crossing time zones and adjusting your body clock? Having now experienced it for myself, I can say the answer is VERY difficult!

All of my bags, including my scuba diving equipment, arrived safely in New Zealand which was a relief. For certain sports, you transport equipment for free as long as it’s not above a certain weight. So if you’re a sportsperson and want to continue with your sport whilst studying abroad it’s definitely worth checking with the airline what they allow you to take.

Also worth mentioning – remember and book in-flight meals in advance if you have any specific dietary requirements! If I hadn’t requested vegetarian meals I would have gone very hungry indeed!

The flight, though long, was a comfortable one. I had a window seat and was sitting next to a lovely and tiny little man from Brunei who was travelling back home from London. For the last leg of the journey the flight was pretty empty and I was able to move to a set of 3 unoccupied seats, lift the hand-rests and have a lie down. Some memorable moments include experiencing Dubai airport with no shortage of gold-encrusted decor and indoor palm trees (luckily I wasn’t there for long enough to spend money as I believe it is very expensive), and flying over Brunei looking out over buildings with that characteristic Asian roof with sweeping upturned curvature at the corners.

The Beginning

In three days’ time, I am going for my visa interview. Its a little nerve-wracking, considering all the required forms and photographs and statements and given the fact that if you have a scratch on either of your thumbs, you have to reschedule the appointment all over again! But everything is going according to plan. I think I have filled out all the forms (and photocopied each one, just in case) and I’m getting my visa photos dne tomorrow-they’re not the same as passport photos so check to see where in your area does them. In Aberdeen, there is a place called Quartz Photography that does the photos to visa standards. I’ll look all tanned since I’ve spent the last week in Oman, as opposed to the Glaswegian pale!

Still flipping between student accommodation and privately rented apartment, as both have pros and cons. Leaning more to the student accommodation option, simply for the social aspect. Plus there is no need to worry about bills etc as with an apartment.

And then I have to book my flight over, which costs about £500 direct single. Searched online and used Expedia to find the cheapest flight, so I think I’ll be flyin with KLM.

SUNY semester starts late August so I think I’ll be heading out there mid-August to settle in and get to know the area before classes. SO excited! I’ll keep you posted,

G

McGill Preparations

Ok, so I’m almost up to date with everything…i think

For Unis in Quebec you need something called a CAQ (this costs less than $100 CAD), just a certificate to study there. Well that’s arrived, took about 4 weeks, but you need it before you can apply for your study permit. I had to rush to send it off before going off on holiday, as it takes approx. 6 weeks.

My advice: Contact SAAS or your LEA to get a financial notification (how much loan, grant they’re going to give you for the following year). I also sent bank statements, any savings statements. Basically, just evidence to prove that I have enough money to live their for a whole year.
Do this early as mine took ages and only arrived 3 days before my holiday.

It’s a bit of a pain, plus they require 6 passport photos. It costs $125 CAD too, but without it, no studying abroad.

To date: No flights booked, I’ve got to wait until i receive my study permit. They’re about 300 quid each way with Air Transat to Montreal Airport. I also have no accommodation, according to McGill they don’t offer “Uni Rez” to exchange students, but it’s worth emailing to confirm. However, they do have a system set up to easily find student accomm. And to be honest, lots of exchange students don’t want to be back in Halls of Residence with a bunch of 1st years.

So currently i’m in a wee internet cafe on Ko Tao in Thailand, but i will do a few more posts explaining the process i’ve been through at a later date.