My ERASMUS adventure so far..

Hallo! My name is Parashqevi Pandazi and I am a fourth year MPhys student. Today, October 19th has been one month since the start of my ERASMUS and it has been nothing short of exciting and challenging.

Let me take you to the beginning. If you’re thinking of doing an exchange, you need to research your options very well. Everyone loves an organized student, but even then it is normal to feel lost sometimes. The key point is to never give up. Fast forward to June and suddenly you have a learning agreement and all of this is really happening, so you get yourself a house and start packing.

fa6c9989-aaf4-4770-80fe-b281a8df6a3aOn the 19th of September I officially embarked on my ERASMUS adventure. My room was not free until the first of October, but luckily I found out that one of my friends was currently studying here in Muenster and she was very kind to offer me a bed for the time that I was homeless. Lesson here kids, always keep in touch with old friends!

683bc61d-ac04-42c6-9996-05fafb148184Since that day, everyone that I have met here has been more than lovely. The University of Muenster has more than 50.000 students and Muenster is a very beautiful city. Since it is the bike capital of Germany, you can go everywhere by bike, and if you cycle along the Promenade you will feel like you’re in a beautiful French village. Did I mention the university owns a palace?

The university has a very active ERASMUS support team and they organize events to help you to get to know other ERASMUS students and locals. You are even assigned a buddy, should you need some expert advice. Lesson: There is no party like an ERASMUS party.14470397_10205467947458291_8864736234430521223_n

14801204_10209173158584927_1237387225_nBeing the travel addict that I am, I could not miss the last three days of the Oktoberfest in Munich, So after two year I took up on a friends offer and went to visit her in Munich for a week. Needles to say, it was unforgettable. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a Dirndl (traditional Bavarian costume) that fits.

Upon return, I have moved into my own place. I share with three lovely German students and we alternate between German and English so that we can practice learning languages. Everyone has been very helpful. We live in a city area that is full of students. I have never seen so many students living in one place, it’s a lovely community.

This has also been my first week of lessons. The Sciences campus is massive and I’m looking forward to experiencing learning in another university. Needles to say that I was a bit anxious in the beginning. I found out I had many clashing classes in my timetable and they do things very differently here in comparison to Strathclyde. I panicked for a bit, but then I just went to see my supervisor and she fixed everything. Lesson here, as long as you ask, nothing is unfixable.

The other students are very alike your peers at Strathy. I even meet someone today who did his ERASMUS at Strathy. They were very approachable, friendly and supportive and I can’t wait for the rest of the year. I have even caught myself wishing I could stay here longer than a year. I hope I still feel the same nine months form now.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said:

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”

It is never too late or too early to start packing your travel bag. As someone who left home at 16, I know that leaving the comfort of your parents home is hard, but think about all the beautiful things right outside your comfort zone. So fill that application even if you’re not yet too sure, and you have until May to work up your courage. Until next time!

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The best year of my life!

Well, it is nearly time. It is nearly time for what is most likely going to be the best year at university I’ll have and has so far been the best year of my life. Since my last blog which was a loooong time ago (sorry about that) I feel like so much has changed. As if I’ve moved onto another chapter.

During my time here in Singapore I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in a great circle of friends as well as to be graced with some very close friends. It will be sad when we all have to go back but I do think I’ll see some people again.

My first semester was probably not the best academically and I think I made quite a mistake by not having anything to work on but my final year project because the consequences of that was that it was hard to get started (the term you ‘use it or lose it’ applies a bit here) in my second semester so I’ll just consider that is a hard lesson I’ve learnt. My second semester with my project, my computational physics class and my quantum electronics class shocked me and has really proven challenging (in a good way) and I have felt motivated by the people around me. Both the professors are supportive, with one professor teaching their quantum electronics in a socratic way so to encourage better understanding of the material and even though I’m not particularly great at computational physics, I enjoy it a lot despite the frustrations. My project is also coming along okay I feel, I always enjoy the looks I get when I tell people I’m studying physics but my project is on the house price distribution in England to learn more about housing markets in general and more specifically housing bubbles. It has been interesting doing physics what some others might deem as unorthodox but Econophysics, which uses the statistical mechanics all physicists learn, has proven fruitful so far. Both my project professor and the postgrad are a pleasure to work and discuss things with and I even got invited to my postgrads wedding which was a unique opportunity to experience Chinese culture and it really turned out to be a fantastic night.

Moving on from the academics and onto the travelling… well it has been quite something and I felt maybe even a bit transformed by the month long travelling in December where I went to Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and finally Cambodia where I enjoyed my birthday on a beautiful island. Travelling with just one friend rather than a group was probably one of the best things about our travels, if we had travelled with a group instead I don’t think I’d have met nowhere as many interesting people. The friends we met along with the experiences we had the fortune to have really did make that month pretty surreal.

Alan Ross April 2016

With all that said, I haven’t even really spoke much about my time here in Singapore and some of my other travelling experiences which have been just as good in their own ways but with only 3 weeks to go till my last exam I better get back to studying and writing up my project.

Oh and I’d just like to reinforce what I said in my last blog, if you have the opportunity to study abroad, please just do yourself a favour and go for it!

Alan Ross April 2016 (2)

Alan Ross, April 2016

My International Exchange in Singapore

Hi there, my name’s Alan Ross and I’m a 4th year MPhys student. The beginning of this trip started when I decided in 2nd year that I really wanted to go and experience Asia. That decision has taken me all the way to Hot and Humid Singapore where I have now been living for just over a month, with 8 more months to go, and I’m having a really great time.

To start off, I had no nerves about going to Singapore until maybe the last 2 weeks when the sheer idea and enormity of being away from home for 9 months hit me (I’d always stayed in my parent’s house before then).

Anyway, despite having a bad case of nerves, I pulled through, realising it was just normal to feel that way and soon enough I was on the 16 hour flight to Singapore via Dubai where it felt oh so surreal.

I arrived a few days before my Dorm Room was available and stayed for 3 nights in a hotel in Chinatown, which allowed me a few days to acclimatise and take in my new surroundings!

Then it was off to my humble dorm room on campus, which I may add feels like it’s surrounded by a jungle.

View of my Halls from the Physics Dept.

At first things were pretty hard and I did have some negative feelings about being over here but it really didn’t take long before I started to settle in and enjoy this totally different world and lifestyle.

It has been easy enough to make friends with the diverse and huge group of international students (900+) and also the locals who are very friendly. The only language barrier you’ll have is when Singaporeans speak Singlish to other Singaporeans as opposed to English (the administrative language) where Singlish is a mix of different languages/dialects such as English, Mandarin/Hokkien and Malay.

Academically, things are quite different, the structure and the content they teach is pretty different such as the grading being based on a bell-curve where you’re compared to other students, having different focusses like Econophysics and the 4th year project taking a full year to do.

The staff at Nanyang are very friendly and are always happy to talk to you, while the staff back at Strathclyde have also been nothing but helpful, supportive and accommodating too.

The campus is much bigger than Strathclyde’s where it will certainly take you more than an hour to walk around it at a brisk pace. It contains numerous canteens with all sorts of food, great sports facilities (there’s a gym at each student hall, as well as a 50m outside pool and a 8-lane 400m running track), and a lot of other impressive looking buildings including the Physics building itself.

Overall I feel Singapore is a great option when considering to go on an international exchange. You get to experience something totally different from what you’d get in the West while still having some Western influence. Also Singapore has a lot to boast about, from how multicultural it is, to how safe, clean and efficient it is to finally the great and cheap food you can get from its famous hawker centres. One of the other good things about going to Singapore is that there are also loads of great travel opportunities.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend anyone else interested in going to study abroad to come here!

Alan Ross, September 2015