study abroad

Touring Melbourne

For most people who have never studied abroad, you would assume that being in your 3rd year of studies, would come with high stress levels and a large work load. But in reality (well for me anyway), studying abroad hasn’t been too bad and student life in Melbourne wasn’t too different from my experiences in the UK. Most of my classes were at a 3rd year level, but I felt like I was back in my first year of uni.

For one of my modules I organised and ran a charity event with 5 other students, we decided to create a 90s Hip Hop themed event on campus. We raised awareness and money for the charity ‘HipHop4Hope’ and the event was a great success. We even had a surprise visit from ‘Bkode’ a popular dance crew in Australia.

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I finally managed to do more tourist things in Melbourne when Shanalee’s friend came to visit for a week. We went to the Eureka Skydeck which is the tallest viewpoint in the city, It was a spectacular view. We also went to the Crown Casino. I’ve only been to one other casino a few years back so I didn’t know what to expect. In the end I lost some money but then made it back and more! It was a fun experience.

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I’m not one for museums and such, but we thought the Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium would be something different and interesting. I had a bad experience at London Zoo’s aquarium when I was younger so I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I was pleasantly surprised and actually learnt a lot and saw some beautiful sea creatures.

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Melbourne is known for some of their famous eats and restaurants, in my opinion there isn’t as much cuisine variety as the UK. There is a lot of Oriental and Asian restaurants everywhere so you’re spoilt for choice. I wouldn’t recommend the Australian Nando’s if you have eaten the UK version, its just not the same and quite disappointing.

That week we ate at a really good Chinese restaurant, pancake parlour and tried a ‘typical’ Melbournian food known as chicken parma, which was huge but also delicious!.

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Who would have ever known a pink lake existed!

At Westgate park there is! After researching what to do in Melbourne, we came across the pink lake and decided to take the short trip to see it for ourselves. I was surprised of how unknown it is, even from the people who have lived in Melbourne for years. A pink lake is a real natural phenomenon and the pictures don’t lie! The lake is only pink during the summer/early autumn months and it returns to its normal blue in winter. We arrived at the lake a little bit late in the evening so it wasn’t as bright, but it was still bright enough and was such an amazing sight.
Its definitely a must see if you’re in Melbourne!

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We were also part of a live taping of Millionaire Hot seat at the docklands studios which was fun but a lot of work! (We weren’t allowed to take pictures). You would never know how exhausting being an audience member can be until you are one yourself. There was a chance to win some cash during the taping just for being in the audience, unfortunately we didn’t win. But me and Shanalee got pulled up on stage due to our accents to play a game during the break which was hilarious, and on the last taping we got free ice skating tickets.

There is definitely an array of things to do in Melbourne and so much more that we didn’t get to explore. I’m glad that we got to see more of the city and try new things. Especially since we were on the other side of the world, I wanted to make the most of it before heading home.

Koalas, Kangaroos & Penguins | Phillip Island

You can’t visit Australia without seeing a koala or kangaroo, whether it’s in the bush, or the zoo!

One of the highlights of my semester abroad in Melbourne was the day I spent at Phillip Island. Our first stop was to the Maru Koala & Animal Park. I was really excited (and a little nervous) to be up close and personal with the Koalas and Kangaroos! I’ve heard some crazy stories where Kangaroos can chase and beat people up.

There was also a number of other animals at the park from Dingos to Peacocks, Emus to Donkeys and more. Unfortunately most the Koalas were sleeping when we arrived, but just seeing them sleeping in the trees was so cute! We also had a chance to feed some baby Kangaroos; it was a great experience, and Kangaroos aren’t as scary as I thought.

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The next stop was to “the nobbies” which is a place at the edge of the island where you get spectacular ocean views and get to see seals close up. Because of the time we went, unfortunately we didn’t get to see any seals, but it was still incredible being up on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. It was super windy so I would suggest bringing warm clothing if you’re not visiting during the Australian summer months.

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Lastly we arrived at the Penguin Parade. The island is famous for their nightly Penguin Parade where the world’s smallest penguins waddle in from their day hunting for fish in the ocean and return to their homes in the hills on the beach. We had a quick dinner at the cafe before heading to the beach, they give you such big portions so be prepared to take the food away or maybe share a meal if you are with other people. They don’t allow any photos or videos to be taken while at the Penguin Parade, so I have nothing to show you (apart from online image searches) but I highly, highly recommend it.maru4

Overall it was an amazing day and I only paid about $40 since it was set up by the Community Spirit Programme at the accommodation I live in. It normally costs around $104 for a day trip, but it is definitely a worth while trip to make for anyone wanting to get out of Melbourne for the day.

Life’s a beach

IMG_2300Often there are times when we forget to appreciate the simple things.

We can get so caught up in this crazy biosphere we call life, that we forget to stop, unwind and see the beauty of the world in front of us.

After 3 months of living in Melbourne, I finally made it to St Kilda Beach. It took so long due to procrastination, University and all that stressful house hunting malarkey. Even though it took me a while to get to the beach I’m so glad I did when I did. It wasn’t the hottest of days, but it was hot enough for me to catch a tan! (yes, brown people tan too). It was just what I needed – I felt refreshed, at peace and blessed.

St Kilda beach is known for being one of Melbourne’s favourite beaches. I was surprised to see that hardly anyone was around, but I preferred it like that anyway. We wanted to avoid the crowds that the weekend brings so we went on a Wednesday afternoon (probably the reason for the quiet beach). Also from viewing the weather forecast, it looked like Melbourne wasn’t  going to have many sunny days after that, so we wanted to make the most out of the heat while it lasted. We wanted to stay on the beach to capture the sunset, but unfortunately it got quite cold so we decided to leave, but here are a few of the pictures I took that day…

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Now that it’s Autumn/Winter in Melbourne, there are unfortunately no more ‘beach days’ for me. 😦


“Life’s a beach… enjoy the waves”.

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House Hunting: The struggle

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Nothing ever really goes to plan does it?

Many people as well as myself have experienced the woes of a faltering plan. It might sound dramatic but the events that occurred were just that. Only a few people know of the real struggle that went into finding a place to live in Melbourne. I guess you could say we were unprepared and naive to think we could find accommodation so quickly, we assumed, since exactly that happened when we moved to Madrid last year. We spoke no Spanish, yet still found a beautiful apartment within 3 days. This was certainly not the case for Melbourne.

I was so excited to start my 5 month journey in Melbourne. I never thought I would have the chance to go to Australia, let alone to live and study there. Don’t get me wrong the first few days were amazing! The weather was beautiful, I loved being in a new environment, and I was right in the heart of the city. Not long after, we realised the differences in the house hunting process. From my experiences in the UK and Madrid, I am used to estate agents showing you around different places that you are interested in, as well as ones they think suit your criteria. But in Melbourne (CBD), they work on a first come first serve basis for housing applications, so even if you like a place and apply, you need to be quick because it could be taken just like that. They also have a couple of set days in the week where anyone can turn up for an inspection. With the housing market being so competitive, it meant that many inspections would have so many people turning up and would often clash with other companies, which meant you would miss out on a potential place to live. This happened a few times for us, even when we split up to look for places, the timings would overlap and when we sent in our (many) applications, we were told they had already been leased.

We spent our first month in Melbourne running around the city and its surrounding suburbs in the sweltering heat on a frantic house hunt. We viewed places from having a bedroom in the living room/kitchen with a shower curtain to separate the rooms, to top of the range, classy apartments. We saw everything. It was such a crazy time because it was the start of semester at University, and we were still on the hunt. We tried everything. Literally. The amount of times someone suggested we try ‘Gumtree’ became a joke. Even the University couldn’t suggest anything more than what we had already tried.

I started to lose faith and believed that we weren’t going to find anywhere to live. But little did we know that on the 11th March, everything would change. We got a phone call from an estate agent and they offered us an apartment! A couple of hours later, we got a call from someone saying that they also had an apartment available. I couldn’t believe it. All this time and money spent on house hunting and finally, a break through! After seeking housing advice we made our decision and moved into an apartment the next day.

Overall it took us a month (which felt like forever) to find a suitable place to live. We stayed in several temporary accommodations, which you can imagine the cost! I truly thank God for my amazing parents’ and the few lovely friends that knew the full extent of things. Your support meant a lot during that stressful time. I wasn’t going to post this experience but I feel like many times in life people think that ‘life is over’ when something doesn’t go to plan. But that is life. We can’t predict what may or may not happen and it’s how we deal with these things that show us how strong we really are. I could have easily quit, but I decided to stick it out and eventually things started to fall into place.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and one bad experience shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what you have right in front of you. Life is what you make it. Melbourne is a beautiful city with so much to offer. It was just unfortunate that my experience got off to a bad start. I am going to make the most of the time I have left here. Too much went into this trip just to throw it all away by giving up and staying miserable.

As the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”…


 Philippians 4:13 ♥

White Night Melbourne

 After a few nights we had to leave the beautiful apartments in the Docklands and stayed in Flemmington, which is about 20 minutes on the tram from Melbourne CBD (Central Business District). We booked the Docklands and Flemmington apartments with an app and website called ‘Airbnb‘, which Shanalee introduced to me. I think it is very useful and definitely a great way to find last minute accommodation at decent prices and you can also make some money if you have your home or rooms available to host people.

If you book with Airbnb, use my code to get money off your booking! https://www.airbnb.co.uk/c/msmith2000 PicMonkey Collagewn

On Saturday the 21st February, Melbourne held an annual street festival called ‘White Night’, which is an event that has been running for the past 3 years in the heart of Melbourne’s Central Business District, filling up the streets with thousands of people each running year. White Night is a ‘one night only’ event running from 7pm to 7am. This idea derived from the original concept; ‘Nuit Blanche’, created in 2002 originating from Paris, France.

We got to the CBD around 11:30pm as we were told it would be lively at that time. Since we didn’t have a great start to our Australian adventures we thought that this would take our mind off the stress of house hunting and have some fun. I assumed White Night would be something like Notting hill Carnival in London, but at night. We were quite disappointed. It wasn’t that lively, most people were just eating and sitting around and the “light shows” weren’t that great either. We ended up meeting some people and tagging along with them till we decided to leave. I think my expectations for the event were too high, but it was an experience and we somewhat enjoyed ourselves.wertyuytre

Journey to the land of Oz

February 8th marked the date of my journey down under! As always, I was so last minute. I packed my bags the day I flew out to Melbourne. Me and my friend Shanalee (who I lived with in Madrid) met at Gatwick airport and prepared ourselves for the 2 stop overs, 3 flights, 27 hour journey and 5 months of living in Australia . If you have read my previous posts about me flying to other countries, you would know by now  the bad luck I’ve had… I don’t even know how, but once again we ended up running to catch our flight as the gates were closing, even though we were at the airport 2 hours before the flight! I just don’t get it…*sigh*IMG_1266

The first flight was from Gatwick to Dubai, I tried to catch up on sleep since not having any due to my last minute packing, but I was squashed between 2 large men. I just ended up listening to music and watching 22 jump street. The second flight was from Dubai to Perth, this flight was much better because I had an aisle seat and could stretch my legs throughout the flight. The plane food was gross… As usual. The final flight was from Perth to Melbourne, we arrived around 12am and lugged our massive and heavy suitcases to our hostel on Spencer street.

We stayed in a hostel for the first 3 nights, it was cheap. Lets just say we got what we paid for… Our first day consisted of having a lie in and exploring the city of Melbourne. We went on a wander and stumbled upon Federation Square, State Library, shopping centres and more. The weather was a shock to the system as we’d been in such cold temperatures in the UK and then to the extreme heat of Australia!  djs PicMonkey Collagefghghjjkk

 As we were still house hunting we had to leave the hostel and found a lovely place to stay for a few nights in the Docklands. We were lucky to have stayed there when we did because One Direction and their supporting act McBusted were performing at the Etihad Stadium, right next to the apartments. We stayed on the 21st floor and had an amazing view of the concerts for 2 nights. I’m not a fan, but it was pretty cool watching a concert for free from the comfort of your bedroom. There was also a gym and a rooftop pool with amazing views of the city. cityyyyyy ethihad1D McB

During the week we also had Orientation day for University, explored more of the city whilst house viewing literally everyday. I have also been filming/vlogging (lol) so if I am feeling brave, I might just upload the videos to YouTube… We shall see.

La Vida Loca

Before I went to Paris I had two other people visit me; first was my lovely friend Danyal, who I met during my semester abroad in Minnesota (Read about my semester abroad here!). She was studying abroad in London while I was in Madrid and I am so glad we got to see each other again after so long and happy that she got to visit other parts of Europe. It was so much fun, we partied in VIP with Spanish basketball players, we also visited the Royal Palace, went on a cable car ride, ate some churros con chocolate and did some karaoke.

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The other person that came was my Mum! I was so happy for her to visit me and be in Spain for the first time. I really wanted her to have a great time so we tried to do something everyday. We did a bit of shopping, ate out in authentic Spanish restaurants, bowling, visited tourist attractions, museums and we went to some other parts of Madrid and tried Senegalese food for the first time. My mum also made Jollof rice and roast lamb during her visit; it was soo good having a taste of home. She had a great time despite the bad weather but was it was really nice to spend time with my mum.

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After my return from Paris I had the last couple of weeks of class and presentations, celebrated friends’ Birthdays’, visited Madrid’s Christmas market in Plaza Mayor (which wasn’t that interesting) and spent time with the people before heading back to London.

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My time in Madrid was a whirlwind of experiences which I will never forget. Time moved so fast, and once again another four months of study abroad came to an end in December. It’s always a bittersweet feeling returning home after travelling, but the memories and great people is what I cherish the most. If I had one word to describe my 4 months in Madrid it would definitely be crazy! I met amazing people and made some life long friends, I can honestly say that living in Madrid has been one of my favourite experiences in life so far.

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Learning things the hard way!

Following on from my previous post ‘Amigos‘, these are the series of unfortunate events that took place…

First impressions of the apartment were good, the location was perfect, we liked the layout and the space was more than enough for 5 people (he did tell us the fridge door was a bit dodgy, but for one night we didn’t mind). Before getting to the apartment we asked for the “free wi-fi” password. As soon as we put our bags down we tried to log in, it didn’t work for any of us, so we called the guy and he kept giving us the same password but it wasn’t working. He even called the internet provider but it didn’t work. We realised that there was no way of getting wi-fi so we started getting ready for the night.

Like normal human beings, some of us had to use the bathroom. My friend went, flushed the toilet and said the bath plug hole was bubbling but we all thought nothing of it. The next person went, flushed and noticed the bubbling plug hole again, but this time “stuff” was coming out of it (*WARNING* If you have a weak stomach or if you’re eating something, skip the next couple of lines!!!). After the smell that started coming from the bathroom we soon realised what that “stuff” was. POO! yes, poo/poop/excrement, whatever you want to call it was coming out of the baths plug hole!!! I was so disgusted and shocked that in a wealthy area of Madrid you can still find places like this, I have stayed in a village in Africa that had better toilet facilities than that! We had to call the guy to come back and explain what the heck was going on. He came back and was “surprised” to see the situation in the bathroom and claimed he didn’t know why it was happening. At this point I was ready to leave.

The guy left once again and we carried on getting ready, trying to ignore what was happening in the bathroom. Nothing else could go wrong we thought. How wrong were we! While getting ready one of my friends went to sit on the bed and one of the legs broke (after looking at the bed we discovered it was already broken to begin with). Shortly after that the electricity cut out and we had to wait for the guy to come back again. After this point all of us were so annoyed, but tried to stay positive given the circumstance. We finished getting ready once the lights came on, played a couple of drinking games and headed out to meet my friends at the club.

We got outside and met a couple of people, we got talking and the next thing we knew was two undercover policemen came at us demanding to see our ID. We were so confused but soon realised that you’re not allowed to drink alcohol in public. After taking our names down and getting a verbal warning, we finally made our way to the club to meet my friends. (I got us on the guest list which gives you free entry and 2 free drinks before 1:30am), we made it to the door, only to be told we were in the wrong queue! It was either pay 20 euros or leave. So we left and went to an Irish bar down the road instead. I felt bad for my friends visiting Madrid and on the first night out we experienced all of that.

We tried to stay positive despite the unfortunate events, but the reality of it was a mess, literally. We look back on it now and laugh, but it was not amusing to say the least. Moral of the story is to ALWAYS check and listen to the reviews online, not everyone is exaggerating!

BEWARE OF APARTAMENTOS HAPPY MADRID HORTALEZA – http://www.booking.com/hotel/es/happy-madrid-hortaleza.html#tab-reviews

Amigos :)

A few weeks ago I had my lovely friends come and visit me in Madrid for a long weekend. I was so happy to see them and glad they had a chance to see Madrid. We made sure to have a weekend filled with going out and being tourists. The girls arrived quite late due to delays so on the first night we chilled at my apartment and had an early night ready for the next days activities. We decided to book an apartment for one night in Gran Via, which is in the centre of Madrid, so that we could enjoy what the city had to offer and skip the 45-60 minute journey back to Villaviciosa.

The next day we did a bit of shopping, went for dinner and with the help of google maps, headed to the apartment to collect the key and make the payment. We walked about 5 minutes to the actual apartment and the guy gave us a quick tour then left. What we thought was going to be a fun night in the centre of Madrid ended up being a nightmare! (It was so bad that I am going to do a separate post about what went down – ‘Learning things the hard way!‘ ).

The morning after the nightmare we went to a café and decided that we needed to do something to make up for the horrible night before. After some deliberation we came up with go karting! All but one hadn’t been go karting before so we were all excited and ready to try and forget the craziness that happened a few hours prior. We hopped on the metro and made our way to Carlos Sainz Centre. We were lucky to go at the time we did, because we had the track to ourselves for the first race and then a couple of guys joined in on the next race. We all loved it so much, it was definitely an adrenaline rush as I’ve never driven so fast before. I ended up getting a bit carried away at one point and instead of breaking, I still had my foot on the accelerator and ended up crashing straight into the wall which I think I gave myself minor whiplash. But in the end it was so much fun and I would definitely do it again.

Later that evening I made dinner and then we went out to Kapital, which is one of the most famous night clubs in Madrid. Its made up of 7 floors and has different rooms and plays various genres of music. We thought we’d try again after the fail night we had before. This time I knew we were guaranteed to have fun, which we did and ended up in VIP and had a great night with also making new friends in the toilet as girls do on a night out (lol).

Sunday came and we were all exhausted, so we decided to have a lazy day and made a Spanish style Sunday roast and later played a couple of drinking games before the girls packed their things and went to bed. The next morning came 😦 and the girls made their way to the airport back to the UK. It was a crazy weekend to say the least, but im so glad I got to see my friends and enjoyed some of what Madrid has to offer.

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Adiós Inglaterra

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Once again I have said my goodbyes to the UK for 4 months as I embark on my Erasmus journey in Madrid. I have been here for nearly 2 months now and so much has already happened. Before even getting to Madrid me and my friend nearly missed our flight! This set the tone for the first couple of weeks. For the first 5 days we stayed in Plaza Mayor and luckily found a really nice apartment by the end of the week near uni and moved in. But this is where it started going wrong. Our first night we found a LIZARD in one of the bedrooms and it literally took an hour to get the stupid thing out of the window! The night after there was a horrible stench of fish (we still don’t know where it came from) plus we had no wifi in our apartment so we spent ages at uni and outside telepizza takeaway just so we could get some wifi (first world problems lol).

Our apartment.

Our apartment.

The first couple of days after moving in we thought it would be cool to check out the nightlife in Madrid. Its quite different compared to the UK; in Madrid clubs open at 11/12am and don’t get busy till 1/2am and then close around 6am. Long story short, the music was a bit rubbish, the drinks were so overpriced (14 euros for a small glass of wine! When you can buy a bottle of wine in the supermarket for 99 cents!), so we ended up leaving early to catch the metro and go home. What we didn’t know was that the metro closed at 1:30am. We bought a ticket and waited. Heard a loud noise thinking it was the metro coming, but really it was all the exit gates in the station closing! So on our first night out in Madrid we got stuck inside the metro station and I had to call the police for them to open the gates. At the time it was really scary but looking back on it now, its kind of funny.

Universidad Europea de Madrid.

Universidad Europea de Madrid.

After the first couple weeks of craziness things started going smoothly, I took an intensive Spanish language class (which wasn’t really helpful), started making new friends and getting to know the area I live in and the city of Madrid. Another positive has been the weather. Since September till now the weather has been amazing, which always makes everything better.