Friday, 10 May 2013

Testing, Testing, 123

I downloaded a Blogger app for my iPhone so I can write posts when I'm not at home, so this is me using it now!

Anyway, I'm off to Soup & Nem with Ash now for some more Vietnamese food! Check out my blog post later today about Erasmus!

Until then,


Thursday, 9 May 2013


As I'm sure you're aware, I'm living in Leipzig. Located in the state of Sachsen (Saxony), it's pretty close to Dresden and Chemnitz, near the German border with Poland and the Czech Republic. Deep in the former communist East Germany, it's still a fair way behind catching up with the West, as is the vast majority of the East of the country.

That said, whilst Leipzig isn't internationally-renowned for its beauty, the city centre itself is pretty nice, with a fair few huge, old buildings. Outside the centre is a different story, it would seem that a good proportion of the buildings are derelict and covered in graffiti. 

Anyhow, particularly nice buildings are the old town hall, the new town hall and the newly-built Paulinum, shown below in that order. 

The Paulinum was a church until 1968, when it was demolished by the communist government, and has only just finished being rebuilt. It's now used as another of the university buildings.

Leipzig has loads of options for eating out. One of my favourites is Schnitzel Culture which, predictably, is a schnitzel restaurant. What I like about it is that they have an absolutely massive menu with loads of choices of sides and toppings, as well as a choice of meat for the schnitzel itself; you can choose from pork, turkey and veal, as well as cauliflower, tofu, aubergine, celery, cheese, and oyster. I'm not really sure how anything other than meat would work, but it must do! Anyway, my favourite schnitzel is the "Strammer Max", which I usually have with pork, and comes with chunky chips, salad, boiled ham and two fried eggs. It's good!

Besides that, there are a lot of Asian restaurants in Leipzig. There's the Vietnamese restaurant, Soup & Nem, which is cheap and you get huge portions. Somewhere I'm looking forward to going back to is Sushi & Nem, where there's an all-you-can-eat offer (anyone remember my blog post about 食べ放題?) for €10 every weekday afternoon from 2 until 4:30. Needless to say, when I went with Ash and Natasha, we got stuck in.

There's another Japanese restaurant I like, called Umai, which specialises in Ramen and Onigiri. This is a bit more expensive, but when I'm really hungry and in a particularly nostalgic mood about Japan, it's a good place to go.

There are a lot of curry places too, but I'm yet to go to one. That said, over the past few days I've been really fancying a good curry, so I might go out sometime soon.

With regard to drinking, there are so many places. One place I really like is Spizz, which I only just went to for the first time last night. It's a jazz and music club, although I didn't see any jazz on when I went (which for me is a good thing). The upstairs bit is a bar and restaurant, whilst the downstairs bit is a club. Outside they have a load of tables and chairs. When it's mild, which it was last night, you can sit and watch everything happening around you. Spizz is located on the central Markt, or market place. There are loads of bars and clubs everywhere, and people milling around, so it's a nice place to sit and have a drink. There's also a HUB-style British pub, The King's Head, which is nice to pop into occasionally for a taste of home.

A little distance outside of the city centre is the Red Bull Arena, a 45,000 seater football stadium. When we first got to Leipzig, the university gave us free tickets to see an RB Leipzig match, against FC Plauen. I haven't been to a football match since I saw Spurs beat Chelsea in the League Cup final (hehehe) at Wembley over 5 years ago, so it was great to see another match. Although the football wasn't quite of the same calibre, it was definitely a lot of fun to watch. Add to that cheap lager and plenty of good sausage-based food, and you're onto a winner.

There are some good museums too. The two I have been to so far were a museum of Germany since 1945, focusing on East Germany, and the Stasi Museum. I recommend both. I especially liked the Stasi Museum, set in the old headquarters of the Leipzig Stasi. There are untouched offices and cells to look at, as well as loads of artefacts. I particularly liked all of the examples of Stasi surveillance gadgets; cameras built into suitcases etc.

There's plenty of stuff in Leipzig which I've yet to do. When my parents come to visit me in a month I'll write a post about some of the more cultured things in the city! One place I really look forward to going to is Auerbachs Keller, an old beer hall and restaurant, which Goethe used to visit often. Several scenes from Faust are set there. It looks fantastic, and I can't wait to go there! 

I hope this post was comprehensive enough...I could go on for ages talking all about Leipzig but I think the things I've written about today are my personal highlights so far. Anyway, tomorrow I shall be posting about the Erasmus grant, which will hopefully be a useful guide (sort of guide, anyway) for anyone planning on studying abroad in Europe as part of a degree.

See you tomorrow!


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

My Flat & Grünau (Part 1)

Hello hello! As promised, here is my post about my new home. 

I didn't get to choose where I lived when I applied to the university. All I could do was select some criteria from a list to show what sort of place I wanted. I can't remember exactly what I put, but I just said that I wanted somewhere fairly cheap in student halls, and to be living with Ash.

A couple of months later, we received an email to tell us where we'd be living. Both Ash and I would be living together in a two-person flat (2er WG) in the student halls on Mannheimer Straße, in Grünau. We're on the second floor, and Natasha Clancey is in a 2er WG upstairs.

Grünau is a suburb of Leipzig roughly 25 minutes on the tram west from the city centre, and is...fairly run down. I don't have any pictures (I'll try get that done for another post, My Flat & Grünau Part 2), but it was originally built as a council estate when Leipzig was in the former East Germany. Hm. So it's not particularly pretty. Below is a photo of the view from my window.

So you get the idea. The local amenities aren't too bad, though. There's a Lidl supermarket about 2 or 3 minutes away on foot, and over the other side of the estate there's a shopping centre, with supermarkets, cafés, electronics shops, a post office, a pharmacy, and much more. The nearest tram stop, Stuttgarter Allee, is right next to the Lidl, and trams are regular.

The downside to where I live (besides the fact that it's an East German council estate), is the fact that there are no bars or restaurants, so we have to go into the city centre for any sort of socialising. That said, there's a small student-run bar, Die Oase, actually within the student halls themselves. It's only open on Monday and Wednesday evenings, but the drinks are super cheap (€1-€2, and on Mondays all beers are €1 for a 500ml bottle), and it's a good opportunity to practice German and make some friends. They do occasional film nights as well, but I haven't gone to any of those yet.

Anyway, my flat. Other than my room it's pretty messy at the moment and needs a good tidy, so when that's been done I'll put some pictures in the second part of this post in a few days' time.

My room is quite small, maybe a bit bigger than the one I had in Japan but certainly smaller than anything I had in Leeds. That said, I'm not complaining when it's €160 (£135) per month. Ash's is bigger than mine and costs €185 a month (I think). I'll go into more detail about the rest of the flat when I upload pictures of it, but we get a kitchen/dining room and a bathroom, besides the two bedrooms. We were annoyed with a lot of things upon moving in (as with too many aspects of this university), but again, I shall go into that in the second part of this post.

My walls are pretty bare as you can see, but I don't really see much point in spending a load of money on decorations as I'm only here for another two and a half months. Despite the bare walls, it feels homely enough! 

In that €160 per month, all of the utilities are covered, including internet. Ah, the internet. I was really happy when I finally got it set up (the set up instructions were so convoluted and the procedure so pointlessly complicated, not to mention the fact that there weren't any instructions for Macs, that I think you needed to be a computer hacker to do it). The internet speeds were very fast, and there was no downtime every two hours like in my room in Japan. BUT it turns out that you're only given 40GB of usage per month. If you go over that limit, they cut your speed to 256kbps, meaning that you can barely do anything online, and certainly not watch videos. 40GB sounds like a lot, but if you think that a film streamed online is roughly 600mb-1GB, and you're doing things like watching stuff on YouTube and Skyping as well, 40GB can go really quickly.

Anyway, I'm happy enough here. The important thing is that I feel settled and it's a nice place to come back to after class or whatever. It's the first time I've had my own flat, so it's a good few months of practice before I move into a flat with Ash for my fourth and final year in Leeds.

That's all I really have to say! Check my blog over the next few days as I'll be doing a post a day (as I said yesterday). Tomorrow I'll be writing about Leipzig itself, and then about Erasmus and the university on the following days. At some point next week I'll do part two of this post, as well. Anyway, as always I shall put links on Twitter as and when I write each post. 

See you soon!


Tuesday, 7 May 2013


Well hello, and yes, I know I said I would be posting in a couple of days last time and yes, I know that was two months ago, but I'm here now, alright?!

I'm writing this blog post in my flat in Leipzig, which I'm sharing with Ash, looking out over Grünau, the suburb in which I live. It's fair to say that Grünau is the grimmest place I've ever lived. Just watch any episode of Shameless (which is nearly over for good now, wahh) and you'll get a good idea of my area. Just add East German communist buildings. I'll give a proper run down of my flat and area (with photos) in a later blog post, but I'll say now that although this isn't the nicest area, and although I have to get a tram for 25 minutes to get to university every day, the fact that this place only costs €160 (£135) per month, as well as there being some great people living in the same block, definitely makes up for it.

Today is the day that I receive the first part of my Erasmus grant. As with my flat, I'll do a proper blog post about this soon. As this blog was originally designed to be helpful for people wanting to study abroad, and the process is pretty complicated (too complicated actually...), I think Erasmus deserves its own post.

Moreover, soon I'll do a proper post about the university too. I like it now that I've settled in and everything has worked out fine, but believe me, there's plenty to moan about regarding the whole registration and orientation process. Trust me, this does need its own post.

I know these days I only ever seem to publish posts promising more posts, but I really am going to be doing one a day for the next few days. I've been meaning to get back into this blog for a while, and I've had a fair few people asking me to start again (I never realised you lot cared!), and due to the fact that I'll have plenty of time, with me only having one class tomorrow, and then Thursday and Friday off, I'm going to do one a day! Here's the list:

Wednesday 8th: My Flat & Grünau
Thursday 9th: Leipzig
Friday 10th: Erasmus
Saturday 11th: Universität Leipzig

I look forward! I've not really posted any decent posts since the Autumn of 2011, when I was settling into life in Tokyo (crikey that seems a long time ago now), but watch this space!!


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Getting Back into Blogging

Crikey, it's been a while since I've been here.

So yes, my hectic life in Japan got the better of me and my blog towards the end of the last term at ICU, but as I'm going to Germany to study for a term at the University of Leipzig in just over three weeks, I thought I ought to get back into the habit of writing this!

In the next few days I'll write a sort of summary post for my year abroad in Japan, and then after that I'll get cracking with all things German...stay tuned!


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Leeds Exam

Goodness, it's been a while since my last post...sorry! I've been really really busy recently, and to be honest will be busy until I leave Japan (which is in three and a half weeks...blimey!)

Something definitely of note to blog about is the Leeds exam, which I sat on Monday, 7th of May. It's the biggest assessment of our year abroad in Japan, and it was compulsory that we pass it if we were to go onto the third year at the University of Leeds.

For the exam, we had to learn hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of kanji compounds (words made from various combinations of Chinese characters), as well as a fair bit of grammar. The exam itself was pretty hellish. For the first section we had to write the kanji for various readings, and then write the readings for different kanji compounds in the second section. Each of those was worth 20%. After that, we had to translate ten Japanese sentences into English; worth 30% overall. The final section, also worth 30%, was an essay which we had to write in Japanese (we could choose from three titles).

If I'm honest, I left the revision a little late, but after a few weeks of intensive cramming, I managed to scrape a pass. Most people seem to have passed, but a few didn't quite make it. They'll have to study pretty hard over the summer, and then they'll have one more opportunity to pass it in the resit in September. If they don't pass it then, they won't be able to progress to the third year, and will have to drop out. I was really worried about not passing, so it was such a relief to find out that I had made the grade. Even so, as I  didn't exactly do spectacularly well, I'm going to have to study a fair bit over summer anyway, just to make sure I stay on top of everything. But anyway, my resounding thought after the whole Leeds exam ordeal is just....phew!

In other news, this Sunday my friend Rachel, with whom I used to live during the first year of university, will be flying out to visit me in Tokyo! I'm almost wetting myself with excitement (this is hyperbole; my actual bladder control remains uncompromised). She'll be staying with me for nine days...and only leaving Japan a week and a half before I do...the end is very much in sight!


P.S. I'm aware that my comment on bladder control sounds extremely Alan Partridge-esque. I can only apologise.

Monday, 21 May 2012