Hi! We are Brooke and Fi, two students (from Uni SA and Adelaide Uni, respectively) who are currently studying at the University of Cambridge, thanks to AIM Overseas. We're only here for a few weeks, but we wanted to share with you some details about the incredible time we've been having, and all the things we've learnt.
Here's a few little tips and tricks for getting the most out of your own overseas study experience - whether at Cambridge, or anywhere else.
1) Pack for the weather
Although it's currently summer in the United Kingdom, it's also the United Kingdom; there's been rain, there's been shine, and Fi got sunburned*. It's like Melbourne weather, but on steroids.
However, what we didn't know was that there is no air conditioning over here (or at least, it's incredibly rare). There are also no fly-screens fitted onto windows. What we're getting at is, bring shorts and summer PJs, but also an umbrella - expect the unexpected.
While we're on packing, it's a good idea to have things like deodorant, a fresh shirt, and even some baby wipes in your carry on luggage. At the end of a long-haul flight, these can work wonders to get you feeling human again.
Also, keep in mind that under-packing isn't the end of the world. Even in Cambridge, the shopping is excellent - so you may need the extra room in your luggage anyway.**
2) Make travel plans before you arrive
I (Fi) am going to take over for a second here. While I had booked all of my flights months in advance, I didn't think much about how I would actually get from Heathrow to Cambridge. Considering how delayed my flight was, it's actually a good thing that I didn't book my train ticket, but I definitely wished I'd looked at train timetables before I'd hit the station.
I also didn't have a UK SIM at that time, so my desperate Googling for help was sadly limited to whatever free Wi-Fi I could pick up. And also, I arrived in Cambridge on a Sunday, after 5pm, when pretty much everything was closed.
What I'm saying, pretty much, is don't do a me. Print some maps. Have a rough idea of transport options and timetables. If you can, plan to meet up with someone and travel together.
3) Befriend the locals
We learnt more about Cambridge chatting with the friendly barista at Indigo Coffee House (shameless plug) than from any tourist guide. It's one thing to visit popular tourist areas (which are undeniable amazing and best seen when less busy, on weekdays), but cosying up in a tiny coffee house or perusing a vintage bookshop enables you to truly submerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle of wherever you're studying.
Also, meet our new bestie:
4) Check out your sweet digs
We could rave about how beautiful Newnham College is, but it's easier to just show you.
Everywhere in Cambridge is steeped in history, we think we could be here for years and still learn something new every day. The architecture is spectacular; it's like living in a fairytale.
So while it's important to commit to your study, take a break every once and in a while to appreciate where you are. Catch up on your reading in a cafÃ© or park. It will do wonders for both your grades and your mood.
5) Figure you'll keep in touch with people back home
It's pretty par for the course to get a little homesick when you're on a solo trip overseas, no matter how experienced you are as a traveller. For us, communicating with friends and family back home has been somewhat complicated thanks to initially dodgy Wi-Fi and terrible mobile coverage. We would recommend buying either a travel SIM or a local one, and having apps like Viber and Skype already downloaded and set up.
One of the other great things about AIM Overseas is that they established an online community of people in the program. Definitely take advantage of this to get in touch with people who are already there or have been recently, to discuss plans and seek recommendations.
6) Make friends and have an amazing time
That's all from us for now! We'll check back in at the end of the first term! - Fi and Brooke
Follow us on Instagram (FiFray and thatbrookegirl) and Twitter (FiFrayWasTaken and thatbrookegirl)
*An Australian, getting a sunburn, in Britain. I've never been so ashamed. - Fi
**I'm going to the post office tomorrow to ship home clothes. Don't make my mistakes. Topshop is more powerful than one thinks. - Brooke