Spring Break – Boston, MA

As the title suggests I went to Boston for Spring Break! Not only did I venture south across the US-Canadian Border, but I experienced the home of some of the top Universities in the World, the Boston Celtics, Red Sox, as well as Irish Americans, the Freedom Trail, the Boston Massacre and many more historical sites associated with the American Revolution. For a complete American history imbecile like myself, it was a steep, but interesting learning curve.

So my journey began in Montreal at Lionel Groulx Metro Station, where Jonathan, a friend of an American I met last year on exchange at Glasgow, was driving two other Boston bound friends to the state of Massachusetts. This would be my first rideshare; a cheaper and faster alternative to taking the bus or train. The premise being that a driver is going from A to B at a certain time, he then posts this on Craigslist and passengers sign up, paying a reduced fare in comparison to Greyhound. For example, this journey only cost me $40 for a 6h+ one-way journey.

Anyway, the journey went much quicker than expected because of the awesome company, plus, Jon is a humanized version of Wikipedia. This is how I learnt about and even visited the border town of Stanstead. Due to a border surveying error the town is split in two, the international border runs through individual homes, so that meals prepared in one country are eaten in the other. Crazy eh?

The US border is pretty strict for foreigners, lots of questions and finger print taking, but if you’ve got the right documentation it’s legit. Compared to a bus, it probably saved me an hour because they have to interview everyone, so being in a car of 4 was pretty handy. Oh, and it costs $6 US to cross the border. They’ll give you a green ticket which they staple in your passport, which is valid for 3 months, but you have to hand this in at the Canadian border on your return, unless you know you’ll be back to the States before then.

Upon arrival in Boston, I was pointed in the right direction towards Boston College, where I would be staying with Andy and Rich, friends I’d met up in the hostel in Montreal. The public transport isn’t as good as Montreal, but they don’t have to suffer -30 oC winters, so it’s understandable. All I had was an address, as I didn’t want to use my cell abroad, but I bumped into some friendly BC students straight away who told me the way. I did however have to make a few phone calls eventually, which resulted in a $70 more than average bill- not cool!

So the 1st night, Rich took me and Margot, my Dutch travel companion who came down on a later rideshare, to a Frat-style party. The drinking age being 21, and me being 19, this made sense. Definitely an experience, but crazy busy, full of drunk freshmen. So afterwards, I went to find Craig- a fellow Glasgow Uni student, who showed me the delights of an alternative form of Beer Pong. I can’t remember the name, I just know that I’m a pro! It was short, but sweet. But, Craig’s coming up to Montreal next weekend, so i’ll be sure to show him a good time here.

During the day, we did all the historical sites, and there’s a lot! Just following The Freedom Trail takes up most of the day, but we also visited the prestigious Harvard University. It’s ok I suppose….it’s no McGill. Randomly we bumped into some fellow McGillers next to the statue of John Harvard, the founder. We went for lunch, shopping, and then back in time for dinner with Andy. Who then took us to an International house party somewhere near campus. I’m always amazed how small this world is, but Margot met a fellow Dutchman from her Uni, and I met another fellow Glasgow Uni student, Mark. It was definitely cool to meet all these international students from Boston College, but I also felt totally out of my depth, like being back in the 1st week of uni. I’m so used to knowing everyone, or at least recognizing some faces, but here, it was the complete opposite. It was cool though; I got chatting and met some French people who knew my French friends back in Montreal.

I have to also add that I met some fantastic Americans! Firstly, Andy and Rich our hosts, but also their roommates, girlfriends and everyone else who I met whilst at BC. Everyone was super-friendly and welcoming. And a word of advice, I think Americans like the British accent even more than Canadians, which I didn’t think was possible!

For our final night, me and Margot attempted to cook Fish & Chips as thanks, however, there seemed to be no supermarkets, so after half an hour of searching I found a Chinatown supermarket. Not recognizing the fish, apart from Cod, I ordered a couple of lbs, but, a fellow shopper translated the fishmonger’s response, “you have to take the whole fish”. The reason for this…The fish was still alive, in a tank. Soooo, I ended up with a 6lb cod and a sack of potatoes. On the tram back to Boston College, my plastic bag started twitching…strange because the man had just smashed a mallet over the fish’s head. It wasn’t just twitching though, my bag was physically wriggling, and all the other commuters started giving me “fishy” looks. Obviously the fish was dead, but it was still sending nerve impulses…Having never filleted a fish properly, I quickly decided to just oven cook this beast. And, eventually, the meal was a success!



Semester 2 Begins

An update from me is long overdue so here it is!

After volunteering for 2 weeks on Anchor Island, Fiordland for the Kakapo Recovery Programme, I then flew by light aircraft to Codfish Island to do 2 more weeks there, home of the legendary Sirocco. I feel honoured to bear scars on my legs from when he tried to mate with me!

I came back to Dunedin in january, suffered severe culture shock being back in a town with people and cars! Dunedin was quiet at first but then the students started coming back.

Great to get back to studying again. This semester I’m doing a whopping 5 papers, so it’s intense with lots of internal assessments, but really loving it, I love my department and the staff in my department. I’m going to a zoology orientation drinks & pub quiz evening tomorrow night which will be fun. I joined the tramping (hiking) club and have done a couple of short trips to enjoy the great New Zealand outdoors. Tonight we had high tea and scones on the top of a hill. I’ve also started learning to dance Ceroc, which I’ve become totally addicted to. It’s a wonder any work actually gets done by the students here at Otago Uni because there is truly too many cool things happening on every single night of the week!

It’s only week 4 of semester 2 and already the mid-semester break is almost upon us. I was going to spend it packing and studying, but now I’m thinking I should travel and make the most of what little time I have left here in this beautiful country. I’ve yet to visit the North Island, and may try to arrange to visit some relatives in Perth, Australia.

Will try and post some photos up soon 🙂

Semester two

Hey there,

So I’ve been back in Oz for about 4 weeks now and have settled back into life quite easily. To be honest there’s not much new to report back on. Classes started again and I feel its slightly easier this term knowing what I’m getting myself into. Luckily enough a few of my mates stayed out here over summer and so finding a place was relatively easy yet still stressful from the UK but eventually we found somewhere that is really close to uni and quite fairly priced. So if you’re planning on being home for xmas try and sort something out before you come back because it makes everything so much easier.

Met a few more Australians this semester because I’ve joined the rugby club here. Its very different from back home and I’m still getting used to running around in temperatures that would normally be associated with sitting on the beach and not doing a lot. I also got really badly sunburned the first day and am still peeling because of it so you really do have to slip slap slop because even though its much more pleasant than back home its really not worth it. I find rugby is a really easy way to meet like minded people and so i would recommend joining a club or two when you arrive.

I have Mid-semester break in a couple of weeks not really mid-semester at all but easter so hopefully I’ll get my life in gear and something sorted for that so there are a bunch of opportunities to travel whilst you’re here. I know this is quite short but there isn’t much to report that you probably don’t already know. Any future students to Australia especially Queensland, if you have any questions just get in touch.


Back to school

I just realized that I wrote a post over a month ago and I just saved a draft without publishing it. Ehh, bad memory. Anyway, here’s the post :

So,  January.  This semester seems to be much busier than the previous one. Anyway, past 3 weeks were pretty nice, we have a new wave of international students in our dorm, so we spent much  some time socializing instead of studying. Also, I finally managed to explore our gym (one of two on the campus) and I was really amazed. They have hundreds of machines there, 2 swimming pools, big sauna, 1.5 indoor track and many other things. Very impressive.  As one of my New Year’s resolutions was to finally get some excercise I will be going there more often (well , maybe not that often – usually my muscles are sore for a week after 15-minutes excercise, ehh:(  )

Back to academic stuff. This term we didn’t have to meet with the advisor (last semester’s meeting wasn’t really useful, so I didn’t miss much). Of course, there was a big problem with choosing courses. I’m really jeaslus of people from aero department coming to UIUC next year. They can learn by my mistakes.  I wish I had taken slightly different courses before, but whatever. This term I’m taking 4 engineering classes (some interesting ones, finally!), Spanish again and the best class in the world – ice skating 101;p. I couldn’t really believe that you can get 1 credit for doing things like bowling, playing foodball, skating etc.  I wish I could transfer this 1 credit to my engineering credit in Glasgow, but I somehow doubt my advisor will be enthusiastic about this idea;p. Actually, I’m quite upset today, as I found out I will probably need to take resit(s) in August in Glas, so I get credit for the required classes I’m not doing here:(:(

I’ll post something new in a few days, as spring break is approaching and I can go traveling  again. This time – Florida! YEY!

Semester Two at SUNY Albany

I cant believe that I’m already half-way through the second semester of my time here in America. This year certainly flies by. I was warned by the students here that the second semester passes quicker than the first, and they have been true to their word.

So Im doing the five mandatory courses for the credits to qualify at Glasgow; I cant stress enough how important it is to check with the Glasgow advisors that your courses are good enough. Im already doing the mid-term exams, even though I feel like I’ve only just started back at university.

One thing about SUNY Albany is that it is very easy to get involved with extracurricular activites. This semester, Im doing knitting club, dance council and the Project Inspire Fashion Show. The fashion shows are the ‘big deal’ events of the semester so its great to be a part of it. The fashion show is in April and the dance show is in May, just before the final exams.

After the mid-term exams, its time to enjoy Spring Break (typically known as Easter Holidays in the United Kingdom). SUNY Albany normally celebrates Spring Break a few weeks after most other American universities. It lasts just over a week and I am lucky enough to be spending it in Miami! I’m so excited!

The ISSS office (thats that international student help office) is very accommodating. They send out emails every week with things to do and helpful advice. They also arrange nice days out, including to the local ice rink (which is a lot of fun) and snow tubing on some local hills.

As many will be aware, there is a huge Irish population in New York and in light of this, St Patrick’s Day is a massive affair. There is a local Albany celebration known as ‘Keggs n Eggs’. This entails waking up at 4am (this is mandatory) and drinking and then having breakfast (eggs, obviously) and then drinking and then finding a frat party and then drinking; basically its a day to drink beer from 4am until you pass out. And for the more cultured of you, there is also a parade downtown by the Capitol Building in the early afternoon. This year, the weather wasnt that great but that didnt prevent the Irish dancers and the fire trucks and the Irish societies from marching down teh streets.

Continuing the culture theme, there is such a thing known as First Friday in Albany. Its the first Friday of every month and it means that the shops stay open later than usual and the art galleries are free and offer free glasses of wine and food. Its a nice idea and rather popular.

I’m looking forward to making the most of my time here as I only have a few months left. The semester finishes in early May and thats also when the Visa is up, however there is a grace period of 60 days for you to enjoy travelling around a bit. Who knows what I’ll do with my time!

Spring Break = FUN

Hi everyone,

One week on from Spring Break and I’m just about at the end of the road to recovery. Ended up going to Costa Rica with about 15 people, mostly Americans, but a couple of internationals and a few of the Americans from the exchange programme. We got a huge villa 5 minutes walk from the beach that backed onto the rainforest, was pretty awesome. Weather was ace, the house was great and the people too. We managed to get away and do a few day trips too and not restrict ourselves to simply the ‘traditional’ spring break activities – at least during the day. We did a rainforest tour and saw some cool animals, did a boat tour through the jungle where monkeys climbed onto the boat and we got to feed them fruit, went to a waterfall and some people did a canopy zipline through the rainforest, although by that time I was keeping a bit of an eye on the money front.

It was a great week and a really good break from the stresses of midterms, projects and countless activities at BC. As much as I love the place it does take a lot out of you and it was good to get away for a wee while. I would highly recommend going there for anyone in the states next year. Wasn’t a massive tourist spot but its unlike anywhere I’ve ever been, the beach runs into the rainforest and the neighbouring towns are full of bars and places to eat with a great buzz about the place. Basically Costa Rica is just a fun place.

Before all that fun though 6 weeks of class have flown by. Much the same as last semester, work is tough and you get a lot, but everyone here is on the same schedule so we get through it together. By this point in the year even all the exchange students are used to the work load, and it doesn’t even seem too bad anymore. Anyway, there are countless activities to act as distractions that take your mid away from it! Parties all weekend, things running mid week, and the weather is improving so there’s no need for those big winter coats any more thankfully. I even managed to get 18 holes in yesterday! I was also graced with a visit from Andy, one of Glasgow Uni’s other exchange students in McGill, Montreal. He stopped over for a weekend during his spring break, so was cool showing him a few things and people about campus, albeit briefly. Hopefully I will make it up to Montreal soon – maybe in the easter break in a few weeks time.

It’s a bit scary now to think that there’s only a little over 2 months of class time to go and by the end of May I will be on a plane back home to Glasgow. Time here has passed so quickly and I hope I can make the most of what I’ve got left. Currently a trip for easter break is in the planning process and then hopefully a week or so in California after the summer exams before it’s time to face reality and fly home for the Scottish summer.

I hope that many of you are considering or have applied to do an international exchange, and especially one at BC. For me, it’s been an incredible experience and one that I would repeat every year if I could. Everything here I cant recommend highly enough; from the classes and professors, to the sports and extra curricular, and of course all the people involved in the international programme at BC, who have made my time here what it has been. Awesome.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions about any part of the exchange or about anything at BC.

Cheers for now


i love vancouver – just thought i’d let you know

campsite funsies….

So much to tell……

……….but i’ll stick to the main points

Firstly – BURNS NIGHT : )

There are loads of new exchange students so it’s been lovely meeting them – french, spanish, mexican’s – amazing food and dancing. So….back to burns – we had multiple burns nights that week but unfortunately haggis was hard to come by. Ally (a new guy from glasgow) did manage to find iron bru to add a touch of scottish class….i’m not a fan at home but here (where i can’t have it) it was surprisingly tasty.

Secondly – WHISTLER

So many trips to the slopes!! If you buy a pass in first semester it’s amazing. i thoroughly recommend it. If you can find a friend with a car then it’s cheap as chips to get up there too. A handy money saving tip is to take a microwavable lunch as there is a microwave etc available for general use in the cafe on the hill. Also, if it’s gotten to that inevitable in the minus point in the bank balance (all to easy to do over here with so much to do) then you can even take your own tea bag (scottish cheapness all the way). My flatmate is the queen of minimal spending and it’s definitely rubbing off on me. So yeah – go skiing/boarding, even if you’ve never done it before its great fun. ps – snowsports club do free lessons in the morning.

that’s my flatmate and her friend fixing a tire on the way to whistler – many girls make wheel change. Sorry it’s the wrong way round.

Thirdly – OLYMPICS!!!!!!

Lizzy - a lovely lass : )

The madness most certainly hit – 2 weeks of free concerts, street parties, red and white and ‘oh canada’ (sooooo much ‘oh canada’ – the national anthem). I got to see a bunch of Canadian and American bands and Matisyahu was amazing!! The atmosphere here is amazing. The streets were continually buzzing at all – 24/7 – i’d never seen anything like it. The free stuff (not only concerts but food tasting, zip wires in downtown, extra ice rinks etc too) has all been amazing to my sad looking bank balance. The atmosphere was also unbelievable, especially after the final hockey match victory (extra time, first point wins – you could feeeeeeeeel the tension) – the public transport system turned into a party bus network and the streets were a mass of red and white bodies topped with the word’s widest smiles.

I waited in ‘line’ for 3 hours for a pair of olympic mitts. Some would call it dedication, others stupidity – either way they’re cozy.

This is the Art gallery – all desked out for olympic maddness

I could go on for ages but you get my gist – incredible!

Fourthly – HAWAII !!!….. aloha

I got to go to Hawaii! – a bus to seattle and a cheap internal flight later and i’m there, surfing with the turtles. I know there is loads to do around here, but it was definitely worth heading out there while i was in this neck of the woods. Ten of us went out during reading break and we hiked up to get panoramic views a couple of days, sunbathed on the beach, swam in waterfalls, and surfed in one of the best sports in the world. Although Hawaii is home to some of the biggest waves in the world alone the north shore there are various ones for every ability with some perfect waves breaking at the beach right by our campsite. The friends of Malakahana campsite is literally right on the beach and it was only $8 a night. There was a lovely surf instructor who hung out there during the day and you could rent boards off him pretty cheap. There are also really cute beach shacks to stay in and outdoor showers – very back to nature esk.

If you do go, whatever you do, don’t spend the whole time over in honolulu. As blue crush etc should show you, the north shore is definitely where it’s at – the shrimp, the sunsets, the music, the views – it really has it all. I wish i could live there.

We went to Pearl Harbour, as a history student it was really interesting hearing the American version of WW2 – it’s erm ‘different’.

Remember tho, if you do leave canada you need to tke your UBC acceptance letter to make sure you get back in!

last thing,

FOOD….. a wee bit of Vancouver info

for those coming out here, here’s a heads up on food. Firstly, for anyone veggie there are plenty of cheap tasty places to go out…..the naam being one of the best – yum yum.

In terms of ‘groceries’, the closest place to campus (if you are in the fairview residence at least) is Save on Foods. For there make sure you get a loyalty card, it’s free and it saves you loads. If not then there is ‘no frills’ – a bulk buy place on forth avenue that is much cheaper  and just a shortride on the number 4 bus. There are a couple of safeways too, also a bus ride away and pretty pricey.

if there is anything specific you want me to write about then just let me know…

: ) Rachel