Around the world in 21 universities


With fabulous friends living all over the world, I have compiled an article which provides a snapshot of student life at institutions across the different continents.

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USAHarvard College (Julia Mason, Bachelor of Arts, Environmental Science and Public Policy)

One of my favourite Harvard traditions is Housing Day. All first-years live in dorms in the Harvard Yard, the centre of campus, but in early March groups of up to eight friends are sorted (via random lottery) into one of twelve upperclassmen houses they’ll call home for the next three years. On the day of housing assignments, the abundantly spirited don costumes of our house mascots which include noble creatures such as penguins, gorillas, and codfish. In the early morning, throngs of jubilant upperclassmen parade to the yard, carrying stereos and blasting vuvuzelas. We chant and cheer about our house’s supremacy, dance, bound about the yard, and heckle the other houses while freshmen peer out of their windows in anticipation (and some degree of trepidation). When the assignments are released, we race around to every dorm to bang on doors, hand-deliver letters, and bestow welcoming hugs. The celebrations make it one of the most joyful events of the year—a chance to let our school spirit and house pride shine, make fools of ourselves jumping around and cheering in ridiculous get ups, and come together as a community.

University of California, Davis (Elena Daggett, B.S. Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity)

My favourite place on campus is the arboretum, a 3-mile loop on the edge of campus full of plant species from all over the world and teeming with birdlife. Davis also has an amazing alumni network that has helped me to find my current field technician position studying Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming with a UC Davis professor- Aggie for life!

Auburn Univeristy (Natalie Mancini, M.Ed. Higher Education Administration)

In the deep south of the US, we are known for loving college football and traditions more than life itself. Before each home football game, a live, untethered eagle is releaseed to fly a few circles around the stadium.   We are the Auburn Tigers, but our battle cry is “War Eagle”, and so as the eagle flies, the stadium holds a nice, long “Waaaaaaaar Eagle!” until the bird lands. It’s a great representation of the Auburn spirit, and gets everyone pumped up for the game to begin!

Bate College, Lewiston (Blake Schafer, ME aspiring for degrees in Chinese and Economics)

Bate is a small liberal arts college that earns the honour of being the most expensive school in the US!  Its Dining Commons is the ONLY place to eat on campus, so all 2,000 students see each other a lot….it is true to say it makes you a little more responsible on the weekend.The school year is marked by a virtually endless Maine winter that covers late October to late April, but with our month-long “Short Term” in May with only one class, long days sunbathing at the nearby beach make you forgot all those cold winter nights.

University of New England, Biddeford Maine (Michelle Forbes, Medical Biology/Environmental Sciences)

UNE is situated among pristine forests and wetlands that serve as outdoor laboratories – we have chipmunks and squirrels a-plenty! Our squirrels are tracked with radio-collars and decorated with coloured tags, and everyone on campus takes note of colour combinations on the squirrels’ ears to identify families, nests and distributions which we report to the Environmental department. UNE is truly quaint, picturesque and blessed with the beauty of four seasons in New England.

Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland (Ainsley Boynton, Anthropology)

I like that my school is a division three school, as it allowed me to play soccer for my college whilst focusing on my work as well. Washington is a nice close-knit campus and so everyone knows each other, and as a student you get to build great relationships with the professors in your department.

State University of New York College of Environmental and Forestry, Syracuse, NY (Jessica Bartik, Natural History & Interpretation)

“Environmental Education & Interpretation”: my major focuses on informal environmental education at places such as nature centers, zoos, museums, and aquariums. It is one of the more creative majors at our school, as exhibit design and designing posters and brochures are involved. One of the best things about my school (SUNY-ESF for short) is how much time is spent in the field, truly preparing all of us here for our futures, and allowing us to get up and out of the classroom.



canadaUniversity of Alberta (Scott Schilds, Bilingual B.Sc Molecular Genetics)

The University of Alberta has a lot of things to be proud of, but our greatest tradition is The Wildcat (a super-jumbo donair with triple the meat, triple the cheese, and no veggies). It is tradition that first-years attempt to eat one during their first week of class, a feat accomplished by roughly 5% of those that attempt it (you happen to be hearing from one of the few). At the end of their tenure, students may also then attempt The Tombstone. The Tombstone is a wildcat, only expanded with custom made pitas to accommodate a pound of poutine (fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy. Seriously, how have you guys not adopted this yet?). If you finish a Wildcat, you become a hero. If you finish a Tombstone, you die a legend.

University of Waterloo (Mackenzie Kinney, Biology)

Located an hour west of Toronto, Waterloo is unique in having the world’s most extensive co-operative work program, with students rotating between 4 months of classes and 4 months of degree related, paid work.  Every faculty has its own sense of spirit and will defend against one another at great lengths, from stealing mascots to initiating cheers-offs.  There is nothing greater than sitting in the sun by my favourite fountain (shaped like an egg) and having a science student yell “Hey Science, how do you feel!?!” to the whole-hearted reply “We feel so good! Oh we feel so good, oh!” accompanied by a very aggressive hip thrust.  Disclaimer: Just be sure to dodge the goose poop from those pesky Canadian geese that stay all year round (our campus has become famous for having them!).



australiaUniversity of Queensland (Olivia Hoppe, MA Social Anthropology)

Coming to Australia has been the best thing I’ve ever done, and so far I’ve dived in the Great Barrier Reef, sky-dived, cuddled a koala, lived completely independently on the other side of the world, seen spiders larger than my face, and experienced Aboriginal culture first hand. I live in the centre of Brisbane, study on a beautiful sandstone campus, and I travel to and from the university and my apartment on a catamaran. Brisbane is a small city with a big heart, one in which I will love forever.

James Cook University, Townsville (Maddie Emms, Marine Biology)

For a marine biologist, it couldn’t get much better. The lecturers were so passionate; it was infectious. The Life history and Evolution of Reef Fishes was my favourite class to date which included looking at the functional morphology of their jaws by rebuilding the skull of a 75kg tuna! Everyday life included sharing your garden with geckos and cane toads, being a bus ride away from the beach and world renowned aquarium, and the occasional free sausage sizzle on campus. Not to mention, after a day’s work, relaxing with friends with a typical Aussie beer outside Uni Club!


New Zealandnew zealand

Otago (Joshua Mayo, MA Natural History Film Making)

My course has been very challenging and intensive, but fantastically interesting and informative at the same time!  My class is made up of 12 students which include Kiwis, Aussies and a few internationals – we all get along great and bring a wide array of experiences to the course.  The city of Dunedin is set is surrounded by extinct volcanoes, great surf beaches, and wide assortment of wildlife including penguin, seal and albatross colonies. One complaint I have is the weather, which is not as balmy as my native Australia, but I am quickly toughening up as the local Kiwis already enjoy teasing us Australians far too much…



UKOxford (Claire McFadden, MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management)

I had a fantastic time studying and living in Oxford last year, highlights from my time include: studying in Duke Humfrey’s Library, cheering and competing for the Oxford University Athletics Club at the 2012 FEAR Match against Cambridge, and punting to the Victoria Arms for cream tea.

Edinburgh (Andrew Mason, Biological Sciences with honours in Evolutionary Biology)

As one of Britain’s top institutions, the Science and Engineering campus at King’s Buildings has cutting edge technology that we are lucky enough to get to use.  I have been able to access genome sequencing and high throughput analysis which has been integral for my degree, which has inspired me to continue in genomics in a PhD starting this year.

Dundee (Jack Bruce, Medicine)

One. Pound. Jaegerbombs. Need I say more?  The city centre is also only a 10 minute walk away, and it’s incredibly useful having everything so close to campus.  The halls are all shiny and modern (with en-suite bathrooms- the lack of unwanted hair in the shower is sublime) and the union is a 2 minute drunken stumble away.  I could tell you how it’s been voted best union in the UK, but y’know, we don’t like to boast about it. I should also mention that when exam time comes round, the university offers puppy therapy. No joke. You get to play with puppies for an hour to de-stress. Who wouldn’t want that?

I’d like to end my pitch about Dundee with a haiku. *ahem*

Scumdee, or FUNdee?
Clearly, the latter is true.

Glasgow (Emily Rafferty, MA (hons) Geography)

Being a reservist in the Royal Air Force (part of the Strathclyde Air Squadron) is a huge commitment but worth every second: I have met so many wonderful people, travelled all over Europe on adventure training, and learning how to fly from Glasgow International Airport!

University of Cumbria (Hannah Murray, Fine Art)

The art building used to be a small school but is now solely used for fine art students, and comprises of three departments: print, photography, and sculpture. As the building closes at 8.30 long after the tutors have headed home, the students get full reign – we often play sardines (hide and seek) and have pizzas, nachos and cocktails before heading home.  Every year without fail, normally during the degree show period, a painting of a woman’s screaming face turns up. No one knows who painted it, or where it lives for the rest of the year, but it always manages to freak the students out.

University of Leeds (Nathan Chrismas, Ecology and Environmental Biology)

One of the best things about Leeds is the variety of clubs and societies: my personal favourite were the University Union Conservation Volunteers. There may be a certain madness in taking enjoyment from cutting down hawthorn bushes on top of a hill in the Peak District in February during a horizontal hail storm, but it is a madness that several of us shared and made university life all the more colourful for it.



franceSorbonne exchange student from University of Bristol (Jemma Boon)

Paris is a great city to be a student in as there are so many higher education establishments with thousands of international students from all over the world. There are always planned events for international students and often you can take some classes designed specifically for international students. There are lots of restaurants with student deals around the student area, with further discounts to be found in lots of bars.



spainUniversitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Michaela Schickel, Biology)

Studying in Barcelona was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Not only did my semester drastically improve my Spanish but also gave me the opportunity to learn Catalan. All of my classes (my favourite was Bioethics) were taught in Catalan, which posed a bit of challenge, but with extra reading and lots of caffeine before class the language barrier was manageable. UAB is a 45-minute metro and train ride outside of Barcelona so except for classes, all of the socialising happens back in the city. The university is fantastic at bringing both international and local students together so it was easy to make friends from all over the world.



italianbUniversity of Padua, Italy (Olivia Acland, Ma Philosophy and History of Art)

Initially the wise words of my lecturers (all in italian) swept over me, all I heard was an incomprehensible babble. Five months in and things have improved a lot, although I live in fear of exams, known as ‘interogazioni.’ Last semester’s contemporary art exam was terrifying. I was called to the front of the lecture hall and interviewed in Italian for forty minutes on everything we had studied. The only advantage of being a foreigner was that when I didn’t know the answer to the question I pretended not to understand and waited for my professor to think of another.


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