Category: Europe

Sogn Of Fjordane – Norway

It has been exactly a month since I arrived in Norway. I am on exchange here at in Sogndal at the Sogn og Fjordane University College. They have this really hands on practical course which I am doing called From Mountains to Fjord, the course is run every Fall Semester (August-December). So far we have more time out in the field doing studies than actual time in a classroom.

It is GREAT! It is the 10th year that this course has been run here at the university college and upon our arrival they put on a weekend of celebration, the YouTube Video that I have put together can be watch here:

The town where I live has ~6000 people and~2500 Students, so it is mainly a town full of university students! So asyou can imagine it is a very social town that doesn’t sleep very often. The surroundings here are just stunning, the fjords drop down to 260m depth while the mountians shoot straight up to 900m right out of the deep fjord.
Most of the international students (~45) are very active so we spend most of the spare time out climbing the mountains for riding our bikes around the edges of the fjords. Check out the things that we have been up to so far!!
Stedjesen Hike

Ride to Fjord

One of the most memorable moments so far is having the opportunity to spend two days hiking on the Smørstabbreen Glacier

It was in our first week of class! I am loving the opportunity to spend so much time out of the ordinary classroom and getting in the field learning the practical things along with
the theory this technique will be so beneficial later on!
My time over here so far has been so great… when you GO you may not want to come back.
Other videos of my time in Norway:

Bergen Hiking

Brenton Owens


Guten Tag!

Lucy in Europe

Excuse me if I write this with a touch of nostalgia, as back home it is currently Australia Day and today I am celebrating by having a German language exam. But the last six months really have been a whirlwind of new experiences, adventures, challenges and new friends.

The opportunity to study in Germany through the GO program has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only am I benefiting my studies but I am doing something that is completely outside my comfort zone! The highlight of my journey would have to be all the amazing travelling opportunities around Europe. Since this is my first trip to Europe I did a couple of months travel before the semester started. I was lucky enough to be able to visit: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Paris, London, Prague, Amsterdam, The Greek Islands and Budapest.

Studying at RheinAhrCampus hasn’t been all easy though, as the German language is very hard to master. I still classify myself as a beginner as I am only taking one class a week. But I am proud to say that although I can’t speak very fast or formulate quick responses, I can understand most conversations by picking out key words.  

When applying for the GO Program I never thought the decision would completely change my life – but it has. Not only did I move halfway across the world, but my life moved with me. Living here in Germany now has become my new life… I have new classes, new friends, a new language and a new way of living. And because I’m just loving Germany so much… I had to enrol for a second semester!

Auf Wiedersehen,


Czech it Out!

I have been in Brno, in the Czech Republic, for almost two months now. And I love it! The town is beautiful and the culture is so thick, you can just get lost in the streets and people. I recommend choosing the Autumn semester as the golden leaves make the town look even more beautiful and if you are like me and have never seen snow, then it is all the more exciting.

The university, Masaryk, offers excellent courses for Arts students that focus on Literature. There are also courses for Economic, Law and Business students too. Masaryk runs an excellent International Student Club that offers great support, loads of fun activities and the best part, a tutor to help you settle into your new town. They also offer excursions and trips to the neighbouring countries for half of what it would cost if you went on your own.

When you apply for this exchange I recommend applying to live in the Vinašká residence. Block A1 is full of international students and you are bound to make lots of new friends as there is always a party going on. The accommodation is very cheap, as is just about everything here! Beer is actually cheaper than water. And, if you love meat, then you must try all the local dishes. They are big, meaty and go great with Brnos own beer, Starobrno. The people in this little town are very kind and most of the students are bilingual and always happy to help if you get lost. I do strongly suggest that you learn a little Czech before you come, just to make life easier for yourself.

And, if there is one thing you must do while in Brno, go and see an Ice Hockey game. I have never seen anything like it! I am looking forward to the upcoming snow and the rest of the trips that the ISC has organised. I try to remember to study, but there is just so much to do and see!

 I hope you too, decide to come and Czech it out!

Jolene 🙂

The past few months!

It’s been ages since my last blog, so much has happened, were to start!

After I returned from Spain I moved out of student accommodation and into an apartment with a Aussie and his Swedish girlfriend. Summer didn’t kick in until July really; however we went to the beach a couple of times in June. Halmstad is a total summer town and the population swells over June, July and August! The nightclubs swell and it’s a big buzz in Halmstad and Tylosand (Sweden’s Ibiza you could say).

Mid July I headed off to Hong Kong and Thailand. Hong Kong trip was to help out an old employer and I flew down to Thailand to meet up with my sister. It was great to get some surfing and sun in after months out of the ocean!

 Once I returned from Asia I went straight to Warsaw in Poland. My Swedish girlfriend was working there for a few months over summer and it was a great opportunity to see another culture than Sweden. I spent two months living in Warsaw and it was amazing! I totally fell in love the city. The culture is amazing and the people so friendly. Drinks and dining out was so cheap compared to Sweden and Australia by that matter. I think we out 6 nights a week usually at our favourite sushi place. The night clubs were totally cool with such a different atmosphere to Sweden, the Polish know how to party and drink VODKA!

 It was sad to leave Poland and head back to school in Halmstad but that’s what I am here for. I’m now spending some time in Helsingborg where my girlfriend lives. In Helsingborg you can see Helsingor, Denmark across the channel and it’s about $10 for a return ticket. Last saturday we headed to Copenhagen (1hr by train from Helsingor) for the day to shop and have lunch.

This is what I really love about Europe; it’s only a hop skip and jump to another country, culture and language. I’ve only got a couple of months left now, so I am just trying to make the most out of my experience. Before I know it I will be back on the coast and at USC for my last semester.


Queen’s Day

Queen’s Day in The Netherlands is the equivalent to our Australia Day, except it is about 100 times bigger and it is held in celebration of Queen Beatrix’s birthday. All semester, the Dutch have been telling me how lucky I was to come in this half of the year, as I would be here for this one very special day.

 To the Dutch, Queen’s Day is basically a day where everything that is illegal (which is not a lot!) becomes legal for one day. Which means that drinking on the streets is acceptable and you can busk or sell goods without a licence. This all makes for a crazy day!

 The night before, Queen’s Night, is spent partying. Everyone parties, no exceptions. Then everyone drags themselves out of bed the next morning to do it all over again! The next day, especially in Amsterdam, is filled with music, dancing, food, drinking, smoking, games and much more, as everyone does their bit to celebrate the Queen.

 The city was a sea of orange, as this is the national colour that everyone wears with pride during the day. People everywhere were dressed with orange wigs, orange sunglasses, orange ties, orange hats etc. Everyone gets really into it, even the tourists who have come from all over Europe to join in on this famously fun day.

 The Netherlands is a rather wealthy country and therefore the government was able to put in lot of effort into the entertainment for the day. My friends and I spent the better part of the day at Vondelpark, where a huge concert was held, with the big act for the day being DJ Tiesto, who I have never heard of, but according to all my European friends, he is extremely famous in all of Europe. The concert was complete with fireworks, balloons and streamers.

 For lunch, we bought burgers from somebody’s barbeque, as all the restaurants were closed, because all the workers were out celebrating! Then, of course, we celebrated with a few Heinekins!

 Afterwards, the city was an absolute wreck. There was rubbish everywhere, the public toilets were a mess, there were many people passing out on the street and the public transport system was not functioning to its best! However, everyone had an awesome day, and I suppose that’s all that matters!

 I’m really happy that I was in The Netherlands for the 30th of April, as I truly believe you cannot fully experience the Dutch culture without celebrating a Queen’s Day 🙂

The great thing about studying in Europe is how accessible the rest of the continent is. A friend took a short break from the prevailing Swedish winter and headed to the warmth of Spain. We landed in Barcelona and immediately headed to the beach to a warm 20+ which isn’t anything special at home but after 4 months of freezing temperatures it was well recieved.

Barcelona is a fantastic city so vibrant and so many things to do. We hit all the tourist spots like Sangria de familia, Rambles, Gaudi Park and alot more. But ultimately the trip became a quest of maximising time in the sun. Our hotel was equipped with a roof top pool and deck chairs where we parked it most of the time.

The night life was fantastic with multiple dinning and club options. We sampled tapas on a couple of occasional which went well with Sangria. The best clubs are situated down at the beach and over look the water.

It was more than difficult to get back on the plane and head away from the sun back to Swedish Spring. Summer is on it’s way so looking forward to the long Swedish days (it’s not getting dark until 9pm already).


Spending a birthday and Easter away from always makes me kinda homesick. My new Swedish friends however helped me keep homesickness at bay, with the help of a little Pask Most (Swedish Easter drink).

Glad Pask (Happy Easter) is Sweden is more of a big deal than a home. Families all get together for the weekend and eat typically Swedish food such as meatballs, salmon and sill. All the trees in the town have colorful chicken feathers intertwined in the branches making them very colorful. This gives a real festival feeling.

An Easter tree...

The Swedes don’t really give chocolate molded Easter eggs as we do in Australia however have these large plastic eggs which they fill with a variety of chocolates and candy.

I was lucky enough to combine my birthday (grattis på födelsedagen) with a Swedish friend of mine. It was a cool pre-party then we all headed to Roberts (a local café which turns into a nightclub once a month). I like that about Sweden things aren’t always as they seem. Cafés sell alcohol and sometimes becomes a bar on particular days of the month. It would be weird at home going to coffee club on a Saturday night to party. The most interesting thing I found when Swedes sing you happy birthday you have to sit and they stand over you it’s a different feeling.

I had a great night and my friends helped me feel better about turning 26.

I’m off to Spain at the end of the month and hopefully get some warm weather it’s still around max +10 here.


Being Australian…

I have to admit, I am really enjoying being Australian in an overseas country. As the only non-European exchange student this semester at Hogeschool INHolland, I get quite a lot of attention from people wanting to learn more about my country. And I’m ashamed to say, I’m really having a lot of fun with this!

 When people find out that I am Australian, the first thing they want to know about are the animals, or more specifically, the Kangaroos. People seem to find it hilarious that Kangaroos are hopping around everywhere. It’s almost like they think Kangaroos are just a myth! The funniest thing by far is telling everybody about all the not-so-nice creatures of Australia, i.e. snakes, spiders, sharks, stingrays etc. On my first day in Amsterdam, I was staying in a hostel. When the guys behind the counter discovered where I was from, they started talking about Australia and how amazing it would be to go there. However, they stated that they never would, as there are “too many things to kill you over there”! Watching people’s reactions when I tell them that I have been bitten by a snake is also extremely amusing, as a snakebite is something of a horror story over here!

 But aside from the wildlife down under, I find that many people already have very high opinions of Australians. Often in bars I receive high-fives merely for telling people that I am an Aussie. This works out well for me, as I don’t have to make much of an effort to make friends! One of the most popular bars in Amsterdam, Coco’s is an Aussie bar. Sure, it is a little over the top, with the benches made from rotting wood, Aboriginal artwork covering the walls and the toilets labelled with “Sheila” and “Blokes”, but it plays good music, serves good food and sells cheap drinks!

 I do, however, get a few laughs here and there as my accent is incapable of pronouncing many words. Also, when I talk about wearing thongs and togs I get extremely strange looks! Many times I have had to back up and repeat myself, as I use a lot of slang, or catch phrases. For example, “Charter boat? What charter boat?” and “Not Happy Jan!” are definitely only used in Australia! Once or twice I have accidentally used the “Ya Mum” joke, for which the only response I got were blank stares.

 I’ve learned that a sense of humour differs from country to country. Sometimes I’ll say something sarcastically, and some of my friends will believe it. I then have to tell them that I was only kidding, only to be responded with a confused look and “Then why did you say it?”

 All in all, it’s a lot of fun being an Aussie and travelling to Europe, as people automatically want to be our friend. I’m having an awesome time teaching my Euro friends about Australia, but am also enjoying learning about countries much different from my own.


The ESN is one of the best things about studying at Hogeschool INHolland! It consists of a group of students (most of whom are Bulgarian, doing their whole degree in Amsterdam) who work together to make sure that our exchange semester is packed with lots of fun and cheap social activities.

 During orientation week, I payed 5 euro to sign up with the ESN, which was definitely worth it! The ESN not only organises activities for us, but they get us huge discounts wherever we go. We always have a lot of fun and it is always cheaper than if we had gone by ourselves.

So far the ESN has taken us to:

• An Erasmus party with all the other exchange students from other universities in Amsterdam. We got cheaper entry to the night club and got the chance to meet all the other exchange students, which was fun!

• Zaanse Schans Open Air Museum, a museum of Dutch culture. Apart from getting a discount on the train ticket (Zaanse Schans is about 40 minutes out of Amsterdam), none of us would have even known about the place had it not been for the ESN!

• Ice-Skating, where we got a half-price ticket and I got the chance to show off my ice-skating skills, much to the surprise of every one of my friends, who thought I was kidding when I said we had rinks in Australia!

• The Ice-bar in Amsterdam, where even the drinks are served in glasses made from ice! The bad thing about the ice-bar, however, is that it is quite unpleasant to sit, since the bar stools are also made of ice and you cannot stay in there for longer than 45 minutes without causing serious illness, as it is so cold!

• An exclusive dance party, where we were put on the VIP list and got free entry!

• Laser Gaming at Zwanneburg, which is the biggest centre in all of Europe! We only paid 1/3 of the price and had so much fun! I did however cause serious injury to myself, due to running into a barrel in the dark, in an attempt to avoid getting “killed” by a laser beam! Was still a lot of fun though!

The ESN still have many more activities planned for us, especially once the temperature gets warmer and we can stand outside for longer than 5 minutes without whinging!

This week there is a karaoke party in celebration of St Patrick’s Day, with free drinks for those who are brave enough to get up on stage. Should be a fun night! It really is an awesome organisation, as it is totally run by other students, purely for our enjoyment. It’s the best way for us to make new friends and see things that we probably wouldn’t have on our own  🙂


Speaking Swedlish…

The past few months have been an adventure, Perth, London, Paris, Copenhagen, Prague and now settled in at my new home in Halmstad, Sweden. It’s spring now and still bitterly cold. I’ve never experienced such cold weather but enjoying the benefits that come along with it, such as snowboarding and hot chocolates.  

 The snow is starting to melt and I am now starting to be able to see the true landscape of the area. The town I live in Halmstad is a small summer town. It’s quiet during the winter apart from the large international student population. It’s a real melting pot here, I’ve made so many friends from around Europe. I’ve learnt almost as such about mainland European traditions and customs as I have Swedish. However, as the International school is kept away from the Swedish student population,  I have made a real effort to make friends with Swedish people. Now have some good Swedish friends to hang with. Being Australian in Sweden has its perks. Everyone in Sweden is fascinated with warm weather and surfing.

 The university work is different than Australia, you do two classes for half the semester then the other two in the second part. This makes the classes intense but short. I’ll be also starting night school shortly studying Swedish. Nearly everyone in Europe can speak at two languages and it’s a real motivation to learn another language. However everyone speaks great English in Sweden thanks to American TV and their school system. My ‘Swedlish’ however is coming along and I can now order drinks and the bar and coffee shop two important forms of communication.

 There is always something going on here party wise, and plenty of people who are keen to travel on the weekends. Next month I am heading to Stockholm for my birthday celebrations with some French, Brazilian, Swiss and Dutch friends. Then off to Barcelona late April with a Swedish friend who is also keen for some sun!

 It’s exam period now so I better knuckle down and get some study done!

Malcolm Haylett