September 29, 2010

New York, London



I was starting to get used to Heathrow by my fifth visit and found my way to the Heathrow express to Paddington. With a student fare I was in the city within 20 minutes and made my way to the underground. At the Euston square I was confronted with ever more stairs to haul my year stay suitcase up and down. I whipped out my little map and headed to Astor Hall which was just a 15 minute walk away. On the way I passed the main entrance of University College London (UCL) and what seemed like one of the older buildings, a red brick colossus with all sorts of turrets and 4 distinct wings. Immediately I was in awe of this old institution I would soon be involved in. It wasn't long before I was re-directed to my permanent halls being told that the document I had received regarding early check-in at this Astor wasn't happening. It was just around the corner so I was happy to be able to move straight into my permanent residence rather than having to move out of Astor in a couple of days.

September 20, 2010

Stockholm, Sigtuna and Skånes Djurpark




Arrival in the morning was perfect to get the most of my first day in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. Walking along Vasagatan, I was taken from the central station to the waterside and the water took me to Kungliga Operan (The Royal Opera) where I planned to meet Lena. I found the stage door and signed in, receiving my security pass as Lena arrived at the door. She took me to her office where I could drop my heavy luggage before we set on about a tour of the opera house. My first opportunity for amazement was when we slipped through a warren of doors, finding myself right in the middle of an orchestral rehearsal for Rigoletto. The music was exciting and very polished, getting ready for the opening night a couple of days later. We moved on towards the back stage area and then to the under-backstage area where we found interesting contraptions like trap door riser platforms, the heavy mechanisms to change the rake steepness of the stage and even the very low pistons to sink the whole stage down for scene changes.

September 14, 2010

Småland




Taking a thereputic train journey with my digital right hand reattached, I arrived in Nässjö and was met by dad's brother, Peter. We drove through the forest lined highways, passing the occasional elk sign. Eventually we came to the vast expanse of water by the name of Vättern, marking our arrival at Jönköping, Peter took me to the waterside of the lake, remarking about my time there as a young child, playing in the sand in the warmer months of the year. This sight was just minutes from the home of Owe and Ann Marie who greeted us at their door. It was a rather strange experience to walk into this place where I saw old photos from over a decade ago where Ann Marie is sitting beside their white upright piano and I am sitting with her, white-haired and small.

September 9, 2010

Gateway to Sweden: Malmo and Copenhagen



With Niklas and Aija in the perfect position, they were the first people I saw as I came out of the Copenhagen Airport arrivals door. We shot off along the coast for some lunch at the Rungsted Havn, a beautiful marina, covered by a board walk of great lunch restaurants servicing the great Danish thirst for good frokost. With a meal complete with chilled Flädersaft (traditional elderflower summer drink), I was happy to eat something after the rushed morning departure and commute from Kingston in London. We moved on to get some ice cream, indulging in the summer atmosphere of the well-lit harbour side.

September 5, 2010

Performing in London and Recording with Rodolfus



A short sleep in was very welcome after the last 3 weeks of comprehensive singing but I had to get onto some more serious matters. With my primary communications hub (the mobile) lost, I had to communicate my situation to the outside world and also arrange recovery or replacement. Making use of the first wireless internet connection on the laptop I had had in 2 weeks, I got in contact with the police and my parents to figure out where to go from here. I still wanted to explore the very minute possibility that I had left the device on the coach at Coventry but being a Sunday, I would have to wait until Tuesday when they reopened the office.

August 29, 2010

National Youth Choir of Great Britain Summer Course 2010




Having begun the next part of the journey, Beky and I set off from Merton, aiming to catch the next train to Banbury. We already knew that it’d be tight on the time side having spent a little too long at the café. Only 5 minutes up the street from Merton, we saw a bus pull in. It happened to be the bus bound direct to the train station so we hopped on and were at the station in 10 minutes, making us thankful that we didn’t walk the route that was really much longer that we thought. Arriving at the station, we used the automatic ticket machines. When trying to use my travel card for the ticket purchase, it was declined despite the fancy little VISA logo sported by the card and the ANZ banking advice that came with it.

August 19, 2010

Eton Choral Course: Oxford 2010




I woke early on my first full day at the Eton Choral course to join Ralph and some of the other singers I had met the previous afternoon for the daily morning run at 7am. We joined at the Merton College Quad and then set out towards the Christ Church College grounds. With a crisp summer morning, the green grounds of the grounds took an idyllic tinge, acting as the perfect distraction from the pounding of feet on the well-trodden path.

August 11, 2010

Departure and the sights of Oxford



The plane lands at terminal 4 and I'm off! I make a rail transfer to terminal 5 and arrive at stop 10 just in time to knock on a closing Oxford coach ('The Airline') door. I meet a flustered driver who takes a good amount of time expressing just how lucky I was that he was running late. The bus ride goes quickly as I log into the bus WiFi and chat to an Oxford student at Linacre College who is doing his doctorate in engineering. He gave me some advice on where to go and what to do and then we parted at the Queens Lane stop. After some general wandering in all the wrong directions (the attractions are quite distracting) I eventually found my way to the Oxford University Club where I could leave my luggage prior to check in later in the day.

August 10, 2010

The Adventure Begins

So the journey is afoot! Having said my goodbyes and cleared customs, I enter the Malaysian airlines flight to find my seat. I like this seat, its possibly the most ideal flight environment I've ever had the pleasure of being in since not only do I have luxurious leg space, I am soon to find that my adjacent seat will be vacant for the whole flight. Having donned my new Senheiser HD280 headphones, I know that despite having said my heavy hearted goodbyes for my longest trip by far, I'll at least have the comfort to get started in the best way possible. It's at this point that I'm very thankful so much preparation has gone into this trip. All I can do at this point is to sit back, nibble on my peanuts and relax for the 5.5 hour flight.

August 8, 2010

Planning and Packing

As mentioned in an earlier post, I was recently granted a Robert and Maude Gledden studentship. The other day, I received the call to pick up the cheque. Upon arrival, I asked about other forms that I may have missed earlier. Turned out I hadn't returned a form that outlines my travel itinerary and arrival dates for travel insurance purposes. Luckily I had started the itinerary earlier so all I had to do was whip out the laptop and print off the page. Travel insurance sorted.

July 29, 2010

UCL Offers and Oversight

Back in May I was sent my formal offer for acceptance for study at UCL. This email contained details on how to accept the offer as well as how to apply for accommodation within the UCL halls of residences. When receiving this, I immediately jumped at the accommodation application, filling it in as soon as possible, especially since the deadline was very close to the late date I received my offer, forwarded through the exchange office. Recently, I rang through to the UCL residences to check on the status of my application and the awarding of a place in a hall of residence somewhere close to the university.

July 19, 2010

National Youth Choir of Australia 2010 Season



Having just arrived back from an intensive week in Adelaide on the National Youth Choir of Australia (NYCA) 2010 tour in Adelaide, I thought it would be nice to share some developments that have arisen from singing with the group.

July 8, 2010

Time moves quickly

Exams are all complete! Having finished about a month ago, some work has been given towards figuring out those precise little time frames of travel. One thing which also plays a part here is the use of travel insurance. As explained at the first pre-departure session, while away on exchange, we are all covered by the UWA student and staff communal travel insurance policy. This cover applies from a week before the first UCL orientation day until a week after the last official exam date. During exams, I received my official paper acceptance offer which also told me that the undergraduate orientation would be from the 21st till the 24th of September, giving me a concrete day to plan for. I will be leaving on the 9th of August at 4:25pm. UWA recommended that if we needed to, we should extend our travel insurance before or after the covered period with the same provider, Chartis insurance. Having followed the weblink on the relevant pre-departure session sheet, it was quite simple to book and pay for this online.

June 5, 2010

Cards, Accounts and Accommodation

One of the points brought up in the pre-departure briefing the other day was how to deal with accounts while away. As we may already know, Australian banks do like fees, an issue that shows itself quite obviously when asking about transfers in currency and overseas usage of a card. With a 3% conversion fee and a withdrawal fee of $5 when using any overseas ATM, regularly using a bank card from Australia does not seem like the clever choice for a year long stay. As one of the Study Abroad Office staff said, it is quite common for exchange students to open a local bank account while away.

June 2, 2010

Oxford Accommodation and Final Pre-Departure Session

Another day and seemingly another couple of days have passed where a number of exchange matters have been addressed. Having known of the arrival time in London and the choral course date for some weeks now, I decided it was about time to finalize accommodation in Oxford the night prior to the course's commencement. Its amazing what fantastic resources there are available for this task. Within minutes, a quick Google of 'Oxford Accommodation' gave me a couple of useful search engines for local lodging. I used laterooms.com primarily since it gave good a good map overlay for finding proximity to my Oxford arrival point (the rail and bus stations to the west of the town center) and my first port of call being Merton College on the following day. With a bit of cross-referencing on the good old faithful Google Maps, I settled on the Oxford University Club which offered just what I needed for the night with the only vacancy being for the 10th of August. Perfect! I can already imagine myself walking the old town lanes with the noisy wheeled suitcase in tow and the smell of burning brains wafting over from the colleges scattered over the town.

May 31, 2010

Manual Driving Licence

Having only applied for an automatic drivers licence when I began driving, I thought it a good idea to add the capability to drive manual cars before leaving. Since the majority of European cars (and most hire cars) are manual, if I found myself in the position where driving would be useful, it would be very handy to have. With plans to travel in Sweden (and a bit of Copenhagen and Oslo) between the 22nd of August and the 21st of September (plus or minus a couple of days depending on the earliest move in day stipulated by the UCL hall I am allocated), this little licencing thing may also help my getting around between the harder to reach towns. That being said, I think I might be attached to cars being from Perth. The public transit system really seems to go everywhere anyway.

Today I spent the customary 30 minutes queuing (perhaps a good practice exercise for this notorious London habit) in the O'Connor Department of Transport to get my manual licence learner's permit. Upon finishing the consult, I tried to make a booking for the required practical assessment but it seemed to be booked up for the next 7 weeks. The attendant said that cancellations were common and that I should probably inquire every Wednesday afternoon to catch one. I hope I can get an assessment date in before I leave!

May 30, 2010

Openings, Applications and Acceptances

Welcome:
With a compulsion to share the process of exchange and having found such a limited amount of information from exchange students regarding the actual application process, I have decided to write my first Blog, detailing just what my experience of student exchange is over the 2010-11 period. I hope it provides a mechanism for friends, family and other exchange students to keep up with all of the things that will be happening while I'm away. So what better thing could I do but start at the very beginning. While I don't expect future posts to be anywhere near as long, I believe this one must account for a fair bit of catching up. I hope readers can feel free to post any comments or opinions they might have about what I am doing, suggestions and perhaps even some suggestions on writing style as I guess this will be somewhat of a literary exercise as well. Please read on and I hope you find it as enjoyable to read as I have found it to write!