Australian views on Brexit

Australia is a country with close political and cultural ties to the UK, and so its people are naturally keeping a close eye on the unfolding political break of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Most news coverage in Australia seems to communicate one main emotion shared amongst the Australian population; confusion. This event seems to have caught the world off guard. The majority of Australians don’t seem to know what to think about the new unexpected direction that the UK has taken. Not unlike most Britons back home, I imagine.

 

Bill Shorten, leader of Australia’s central opposition to Malcolm Turnbull’s government made a statement outlining David Cameron’s “weak leadership” – a point I doubt many would disagree with – and promised a “strong and focused future” for Australia under his lead.

 

One news channel captured a reporter interviewing a number of Australian holidaymakers who said that they were “delighted” by the drop in the pound, as their winter holiday destination had now become significantly cheaper. The reporter predicted that more Australians would now be incentivised to travel to London but also made the claim that fewer Britons were likely to visit Australia as a result of Brexit. Soon after, a vibrant tone of sovereignty flooded into the broadcast as the news coverage changed topics to Tasmania, a dependant state of Australia who’s right to govern itself as an independent country has not yet become a mainstream political argument.

 

I often heard it said before I began to live here that Australia is a fundamentally racist country. It isn’t, but when talking to almost any Australian over the age of forty it’s easy to see why this is a fairly common misconception for visitors.

“The Muzzies wanted their own parallel society didn’t they, the cheeky buggers” I was informed by a fifty year old taxi driver on the way to Sydney airport. “They gotta understand that we’re a Christian country here… You don’t get to just move in and start making demands.” The driver was from Melbourne, and was speaking in defence of an anti-Islam protest he had attended a week or two before I left. “They gotta learn that if they come to this country, they needta adapt to our way of livin’, not the other way around!”

 

In Australia, English people and occasionally Scottish, Welsh & Irish too – as Aussies tend not to make as much of a distinction between us all – are referred to as “poms” or “pommies”. One older gentlemen from Perth I started a conversation with kept apologising for accidentally calling the UK the “United Pomdon”. Old habits die hard, he said. Although you’ll occasionally hear the word ‘pommie’ used maliciously, it really doesn’t have any racial connotations. Most people would use it in the same way we might say ‘Scots’ or ‘Kiwis’. It is neither quite the same as the word ‘Gringo’, which implies wealth as well as racial characteristics, but the word is also not entirely free from stigma.

“People do not have the right not to be offended” claims a spokesperson from the liberal-democrat party in Australia on live television. “Don’t be afraid to say what you believe just because someone else might get offended – vote liberal-democrat and say no to political correctness.”

While in the UK we might see a problem with using a word like ‘Muzzie’, as opposed to the word ‘Aussie’, Australians seem not to beat around the bush quite as much as we do. They tend not to see labels such as ‘Muzzie’ or ‘Pommie’ as particularly problematic, they place heavy value on their right to say what they think without being castigated.

 

The first thing I noticed about Australian politics is that nobody seemed to care about it very much. Most people I talked to would much rather watch an AFL game than a new speech from the Prime Minister. I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing either. Countries that tend not to be concerned with their own politics usually have fewer domestic problems than countries which are. Their lack of interest in politics doesn’t come from a poverty of passion for their country, but rather from the fact that most people don’t see any pragmatic need to become involved. They don’t see many general problems in their lives that could be solved with a vote.

 

But with political parties becoming more and more indistinguishable over the years, many older Australians confessed to me a feeling of isolation among recent times. They find themselves being punished for using words or phrases that were often said by news anchors or on the radio back in their youth. They can sometimes feel that everything they say is being cautiously reviewed and monitored, as though they were treading on eggshells with every word they utter. A feeling I’m sure is not unfamiliar to many older Britons who voted to leave the European Union. There is a higher visible pushback against political correctness in Australia. The pushback in the UK seems to have been largely silent until the results of Friday’s referendum came to light.

 

When asking a barman more or less my own age what people generally thought about Brexit in Australia, he responded with: “I don’t think many people here know anything about the issue really.” He later laughed when I told him I thought exactly the same about the UK. All eyes are on Great Britain post-Brexit, and I feel that most of the world is having largely the same reaction as Australia; they don’t know what to think. It is quite clear looking in from the outside that the whole world is watching the United Kingdom to see what it will do next. Come what may, at least we might enjoy being the centre of attention for a few brief moments, even if it is only to make fools of ourselves.

Tom Brown – (LDC) English Literature with Creative Writing,

Semester abroad at University of Melbourne

Choose Amsterdam!

I am one of the lucky people from UEA who has taken the opportunity to study in Amsterdam. I knew before arriving that the capital was one of the most international, cultural and fun cities in Europe and this is mainly what swayed me to choose to study here.

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Amsterdam isn’t an exotic far-away destination for study abroad, (which is initially the appeal for lots of us when thinking about a year away from home) but hopefully my brief but informative post will explain why it is definitely in the same ball park as places like the US or Asia. If you’re worried that Amsterdam will be too touristy and not an interesting enough culture to experience for study abroad, this is definitely not the case. Not enough students choose to study within Europe, let alone somewhere in relatively close proximity to England.

Within a week of arriving, I had met people from almost every country in Europe, and a lot from the US, Asia and Australasia. There is such a big international community here on campus that you forget you’re studying in the Netherlands sometimes. I’m so excited to be able to visit friends all over the world in the future. The city itself is officially one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and I love it.

Amsterdam is also well known for its liberal attitudes – the red light district and the legal selling of marijuana immediately springs to mind when people think of Amsterdam. But it is a city full of liberalness and freedom in so many other ways – seeing a dad carry two children on a bicycle, (one of whom was standing on the back of it) and our local supermarket giving out flowers to women on international women’s day are just two of the things that come to mind that make Amsterdam, Amsterdam. I will never forget the man who carried a very large plasma screen TV on his lap on his bike… Yep, on his bike!

People might think that Amsterdam is lacking in things to do and things to see, other than what it is famous for – general debauchery! But there is SO much to do in this relatively compact city, and I can’t stress it enough! There are shed loads of beautiful parks, museums and art galleries with some of the world’s best art, as well as daily markets, a bustling nightlife and cute cafes right next to the canal. Some personal highlights for me have been going to one of the big daily markets to get a fresh stroopwafel, going to the Van Gogh museum on Friday night for music and cocktails, studying in the Rijksmuseum’s beautiful library, and getting lost in the tiny, quaint streets of the Jordaan. And that’s only some of it. This place just reeks of culture and fun. There are always things going on and sometimes it’s overwhelming deciding what to do and when.

It is even harder when there is a vast amount of picturesque places just outside of Amsterdam, such as the beach, Haarlem, The Hague, and the world famous Keukenhof gardens, just to name a few places that I have managed to visit.

And finally, the word that sums up this city and my experience is fun – I live in an extremely strong international student community, with weekly events and trips abroad made just for us by the exchange student network. It was through the ESN that I visited Prague with a group of amazing people. The overall experience of cycling past the canals, having unlimited access to world famous museums for a year for a one-off price, great nightlife, and walking through the city dressed in orange for the annual King’s day celebrations, are just some of the things that make this place probably one of the best cities to be a student. No matter how far my friends have travelled during their time here, they say that Amsterdam is still by far their favourite city. Another plus point is that they also speak great English over here, so what’s not to like?!

Choose Amsterdam for Study Abroad!

Freya Turner (LDC)

A Year Abroad Studying at K.U. Leuven, Belgium

Moving abroad had never been an option until a lecturer enthusiastically convinced me that I had run out of reasons to not go. Three years later, I am near the end of an amazing year studying at K.U. Leuven in Belgium. I was particularly fortunate that another UEA law student also moved here because it has been great fun to have a friend from home to share the year abroad experience with. I have found new independence, confidence and interests including taking up photography. A particular favourite I have learnt from Belgium is to have chocolate sprinkles and toast for breakfast. I’m also proud to say I have learnt some Dutch, but sadly to the extent of translating menus, counting to ten and asking “Mag ik een zakje alstublieft?” (Can I have a bag please?)

I have only ever lived in small cities, so settling into Leuven felt like a home away from home. Approximately half an hour from Brussels, Leuven is a vibrant student city full of Erasmus and Belgian students. There is a beautiful mix of both old and new architecture, including the 15th century medieval town hall or the botanical gardens. Whatever time of year, the city is lively and full of entertainment and things to do. In particular, the Christmas Market was lovely!

If you didn’t know it, by the time you leave Belgium you definitely will: the country is in love with waffles, good fries and beer. Leuven is famous for its Stella Artois brewery and the Oude Markt (Old Market) is even rumoured to be the longest bar in the world. Belgium is great for the sweet tooth and those who love beer. Not so great if you suffer from coeliac disease. Thankfully I quickly found out the supermarket near me stocked gluten free waffles and nice wine – problem solved!

I have loved the chance to study new modules here, but it has been a challenge. The university is organised differently and it took a while to understand expectations. The majority of students I have studied with, aside from others on Erasmus, are on a Master’s programme. It was daunting at first but it has been incredibly rewarding and insightful. Another difference is that come Friday, lecture halls are filled with suitcases ready for the Belgian’s to head home for the weekend. International students and tourists are then left to explore the city.

Student events have been something else. My favourite was the ‘Big Lipton Splash’, which is effectively a mini festival and includes a massive water fight competition between the different faculties and societies. A bungee jump, snow tubing, and beach-volleyball were only a handful of other activities that you could experience alongside the water fight. Election week raised the university’s entertainment level even higher. I’m still not entirely sure what people were voting for, but the law building was decorated extensively. This included hammocks, a fountain and what I think was a Greek temple, though my housemate would say it was Roman. The elections also saw us lucky enough to enjoy many different competitions, a chippy van, music and nominees even cooking students breakfast and lunch. UEA Student Union – please take note!

Belgium is a great location for travelling, two of the modules I have taken have even included fascinating trips to legal and judicial institutions in The Hague and Luxembourg. This was great because prior to living in Belgium, I had never visited a courtroom before. The opportunity to see trials at the International Criminal Court and the European Court of Justice were truly inspiring. I also had an intensive trip to Paris with the Leuven branch of the European Law Student Association.

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My own travelling has taken me to various cities in Belgium, but also two trips to Germany. The more I have travelled, the more I have caught the travel bug. So much so that I even took a twelve-hour bus ride to tick Switzerland off the bucket list. Lucerne and Zurich were truly beautiful. I even got to see the Rhine Falls, which is the largest natural waterfall in Europe! Amsterdam and Nice are also booked, whilst Croatia and Budapest are in the planning stages. Safe to say, my travels are definitely not ending any time soon!

The year has not been without some challenges though. I have sometimes felt conflicted, loving my time here in Belgium yet feeling very homesick. For example, it is a pretty weird feeling skyping your family so that you feel involved in family events at home! However, I feel a huge sense of achievement when I look back at my year in Leuven. I can finally understand why previous students described their time as unforgettable and the best experience they had. I have furthered my education, met amazing people along the way and travelled. If you have the opportunity to study abroad or take time travelling, then I definitely recommend it!

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Helena Wareham – (LAW) Law with European Legal Systems

Life on a Bicycle: My Time in Amsterdam

I arrived in Amsterdam in January and I will be here until late July to study International relations at the Vrije Universiteit  (VU). I love UEA, so I wasn’t too sure whether I had made the right choice to spend a semester abroad when applying to study in Holland. However, I have fallen in love with the city and the experience I am having! Amsterdam is beautiful, brilliant, vibrant, innovative, open minded, and above all, inspiring! I am not ready to leave and am so thankful for my experience here. I am even considering doing an internship, or a masters, and living here permanently in the future.

I have travelled before, and I have experienced my fair share of moving about from university to university and school to school. However, this didn’t stop me from being nervous when I first arrived. I just had to ensure that, like all things in life, once the decision was made I must stick to it and grasp it with both hands and I am so glad that I did. On the first night here, Erasmus had organised a welcoming party at the bar next to our halls. It was here that I first met a lot of the international students and this is what has allowed so many long lasting friendships to blossom!

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I chose to live in halls as I wanted to meet as many people as possible, to widen my experience of different nationalities and cultures! I also opted for the cheapest halls as I was told that these are more sociable! I share with 12 other flat mates, and there are 7 floors to our building. The kitchen and living rooms are spacious, our cupboards are filled with bright chalk drawings which we continuously add to, we have our own mini herb garden (which is failing at the moment as we haven’t been watering it!), and some flats have collected random fabrics, rugs and paintings that has made the rooms all the more homely! Each flat has a balcony which has ladders to other flats – this is what I love best about my accommodation! Each morning I wake up and happily make my way to my friends flats via the ladders on our balcony, or wait for friends to climb up to have a coffee on the balcony, overlooking the lovely view of Amsterdam. The halls are super sociable and also play host to some of the most well planned parties I have experienced, thanks to the local DJs who bring in speakers, lights, sound equipment, beers and decorations – transforming our halls into a club!

Before I lived in Amsterdam, I had visited it for a short period of time and I must admit, I didn’t think it was very big. Yet, from living here I have discovered so many beautiful streets and places in the centre, as well as the outskirts of the city. Even though I have been here for 3 months already, I know there is so much more of the city that I have yet to discover! Amsterdam is filled with an array of food and clothes markets, street bars, squares, art space, parks, flower shops and coffee shops! Everything is relatively cheap here compared to the UK and there are many things you can do here for free! I cycle everywhere, taking in nature as I do so and I occasionally drink beers with my friends on the way to a club or bar too!

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On a sunny day we can cycle ten minutes to Amsterdam Bos to chill next to the lake, bringing a picnic and a few beers, spending the day being lazy in the sun, or maybe taking a dip in the water! On Wednesday evenings we may go to Guerrillas Kitchen in a lovely venue filled with colourful old wooden tables, lanterns of all shapes and sizes, random art pieces stuck on the wall and it is always filled with fresh electronic music! It’s a food cycle organization, based in the North, where you receive a three course meal, which you give a donation for (usually I give a euro).

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Another one of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam is go to the industrial warehouses in Amsterdam Nord, a ferry ride away from central station. Here I have attended the IJ-Hallen flea market, the biggest flea market in Europe, selling everything you could ever think of! I have been to a few festivals based here too, for example DGTL festival in which I experienced some of the best techno DJs first hand, accompanied by the most insane light shows, making my techno experience not one to forget!

My favourite day in Amsterdam has been Kings Day, when Holland enjoys a public holiday in order to celebrate the Kings birthday. It is on this day that the people of Amsterdam flock to the streets to party! Live music, DJs, laughter, and bright orange colours (the colours of the king), fill the central streets. It was the liveliest and most exciting atmosphere I have ever witnessed!

The university itself is awesome. The buildings are modern, fresh and unique, helping to bring a creative vibe to the campus. We stumbled across what we call the ‘chill area’ in our first week of attending VU. This place quickly became one of our favourite spaces in Amsterdam. It’s located in the middle of the university, and is a place for studying, discussing, making food and chilling. Inside it looks like a creative living room, with comfy sofas, fabrics hanging across the walls and lights, a piano, a clothes rail with free items, and inspiring quotes and quirky comments written all over the walls and the floor. It also sells beers for just 1 euro, and food to make your own sandwiches!

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The modules I have taken so far have been a mixture of interesting and boring. The lecturers are, I believe, of a higher standard than the UK but there are less seminars here, which I do not prefer. Yet, the exams are relatively easy if you put the work in and I seem to have an advantage seeing as English is my first language.

If you are considering doing a semester abroad I would tell you to 100% go for it! I am having the most relaxed time here which has made me appreciate taking things slowly, soaking up the good things life has to offer and exploring new places!

Jodie Randell (PPL) BA Politics

America’s Clash of Kings: The Utterly Shambolic 2016 Presidential Election

Now that my year abroad is nearly at an end I find myself reflecting on all of the things I’ve seen, done and learnt. The story of the 2016 presidential election has without a single doubt dominated my experience of American current affairs. Throughout the year I have had several conversations with American students, read several articles on The Hill, kept up to date with every primary result and watched quite a few disappointing and monotonous speeches being made by presidential contenders overusing words like “freedom” and “liberty” whilst indoctrinating the country with their generic campaign slogans. So generic are they, that I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not sure which candidate wants to “make America great again” and which candidate wants to “ignite the promise of America”… Whatever that actually means! Regardless of who said what though, I’m pretty sure that no candidate will ever come up with something as brilliant as “Feel the Bern” ever again.

So now that I consider myself an expert in U.S. politics, I wanted to help those in England to understand exactly why this election and the candidates on offer are utterly shambolic. To do this I’m going to attempt to draw a weak analogy with the conflict for the Iron Throne in the HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones.

To start, Donald Trump is quite plainly America’s Joffrey Baratheon. The commonalities are numerous. Both come from a rich family giving them a misplaced sense of entitlement to power, as well as creating an impression of self-sufficiency that their opponents do not possess. Both men hold a false last name with Joffrey truly being a Lannister and Donald truly being a Drumpf. Both are also seen as illegitimate throughout their kingdoms, Joffrey being the result of an incestuous affair and Trump because a vast majority of Republicans despise him and the values that he claims are representative of the Republican Party.

Both are also morally depraved individuals who only value the accumulation of power for its own sake. They possess a mutual respect for torture as a perfectly acceptable way of achieving their goals. Joffrey’s fear of Dothraki hordes invading from the continent of Essos, sacking the cities of Westeros and imposing their “barbaric” culture upon his kingdom, is pretty reflective of how Trump views Muslim immigrants. Furthermore, whilst Joffrey’s Kingdom is protected by a large wall in the north seeking to keep out foreign wildlings, Trump has taken inspiration by seeking to build a wall across his southern border to keep out Mexicans. But most strikingly, whilst Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, Trump has somehow gotten one foot in the door of the White House and his abnormally small hands on the desk of the Oval Office as a result of people believing his lies, vague promises and scaremongering,

Next we have Hillary Clinton, America’s Stannis Baratheon. She claims herself to be the legitimate heir to the two former Democratic Presidents, Barrack Obama and her husband Bill Clinton (who quite obviously both personify Stannis’ late brother, King Robert Baratheon). As Stannis fled to the island of Dragonstone following the death of his brother, Hillary fled to the island of Manhattan to become a Senator of New York following her husband’s term as president. Since then she has sought to reclaim the White House as the obvious successor to Bill and Barrack. Her problem is that nobody really trusts her that much, and she can’t seem to unite Democrats behind her campaign. As Stannis Baratheon faced wipeout at the Battle of the Blackwater in Season Two of GOT, Hillary Clinton’s experience was just as catastrophic following her loss to become the Democratic nominee in the 2008 presidential election. Desperately needing backers and without much popular support, she turned to Wall Street where by February 2016 she had collected $44.1 million in donations from large financial institutions.

This is all a little similar to how Stannis Baratheon had to buy an army of mercenaries with loaned money from the Iron Bank because nobody really wanted to fight for him as their King. The results have paid off thus far, with Clinton just a couple of hundred delegates away from wrapping up her nomination as the Democratic candidate. But her prospects against Trump have dwindled over previous weeks as she receives more pressure from critics who claim that she simply supports popular positions to win over the people, citing examples from her long experience in public office. For example, one could note her opposition to gay marriage. This is a position that she changed her mind on back in 2013, the same year that the Supreme Court supported a decision by a lower court in California that had declared the ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, many are pointing out that her Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, has been an advocate of gay rights since the 1970s. Like Stannis Baratheon, nobody really knows what Hillary Clinton actually believes in, if anything. But if these revelations about her past continue, she may not stand a chance at securing the White House come November. Remember Hillary, Winter is Coming.

Moving on, we have Ted Cruz who I am reluctant to say is the Rob Stark of this election. Reluctant because Rob Stark is far too awesome to be compared to Ted Cruz. First we have the rumour created by Donald Trump that Cruz’ father, Rafael Cruz, was supposedly involved in the assassination of former president John F. Kennedy in 1963. Does anybody remember how Cersei Lannister, fearing that Joffrey’s true identity as the son of her brother Jamie would be uncovered by Rob Stark’s father, Ned Stark, led her to spread similar rumours regarding Ned’s supposed treason that resulted in his execution? Well that’s similarity #1.

Then we also have the fact that Rob Stark sought to liberate the Seven Kingdoms from the illegitimate rule of Joffrey in the same way that Cruz portrayed himself as the obvious saviour of the Republican Party, in the face of whom many considered as an illegitimate Republican candidate: Donald Trump. But as Rob’s death signaled a huge victory for Joffrey in the War of the Five Kings, Ted and his “Courageous Conservatives”, which sounds like something that Boris Johnson would rename the Conservative Party if he ever became leader, failed to convince people of the illegitimacy of Trump’s claim to the Republican nomination, leading to his withdrawal and Trump’s success in the War of the 16,000 Republican Nominees.

Making cameo appearances in this election, I want to take a moment to reflect upon other candidates, who as in Game of Thrones where you can pretty much expect most of them to die instantly once proclaiming their intention to win the Iron Throne, they were quite hilariously out of their depths, resulting in their early annihilation at the state primaries stage of the contest. First we have Florida senator Marco Rubio, the Renly Baratheon of this election. Like how Renly possessed the most allies and the biggest army at the beginning of the War of the Five Kings, Rubio was widely considered to be the fresh-faced front runner of the Republican Party at the very beginning of the election. However, he had a disappointing campaign which revolved around him mechanically spewing out the same rehearsed lines over and over again. Marco became obsessed with letting the American people know that ‘Barrack Obama knew exactly what he was doing.’ So much so that he mentioned it five times in only one debate. It was as though Americans had previously believed that every decision Obama had ever made during his eight year presidency had been by complete accident. Just like how the people of Highgarden quickly switched their support to Joffrey following the assassination of their young and popular champion, Renly, Marco’s campaign ended with Trump winning his home state of Florida.

Next we have poor, old Jeb Bush. The Viserys Targaryen of America and the son and brother of former Presidents George Bush Sr. and George Bush Jr. The only real similarity between them is that Jeb, like Viserys, started out his campaign purely on the basis of being a blood relative to the former leaders of his nation. Other than that, they were both terrible contenders for the White House and the Iron Throne. Jeb’s defining moment is a toughie. The infamous photo of his personal handgun with his name inscribed on the barrel that was posted on twitter with the caption “America” was pretty symbolic of his overall disappointing policy platform. But it just loses out to the time that he attended his own rally, with his own supporters present and had to demand – very politely I might add – that they applaud him once he had finished speaking. Viserys probably wouldn’t have been so polite but regardless, both men faced the same early demise. As Viserys had a pot of boiling liquid gold poured atop his head in the first season of GOT, Jeb pulled out of the presidential race after just three primary defeats. Albeit, three primaries in which he failed to score a single top three result in. And so alas, he never got remotely close to the Oval Office that his brother and father had once sat in.

John Kasich is the Roose Bolton of the Republican contest. Observing how divided the Republican Party had become and knowing that he had no chance in hell of winning a single primary himself beyond his home state of Ohio, Kasich eventually latched onto Cruz’ campaign, similar to how Roose Bolton, lord of the Dreadfort came to support Rob Stark’s claim to the north. However, shortly after this electoral union, Ted’s campaign, like Rob’s life, had come to a heartbreaking end. Kasich still stood for a day more before pulling out of the contest, making Trump the sole Republican survivor. And yet, it’s suspicious how after initially joining an anti-Trump union with Cruz, Kasich’s decision to withdraw coincided with rumours that Trump was preparing Kaisch to become his running mate for the vice-presidency. *cough* Red Wedding *cough* You can see where I’m going with this. Who became Joffrey’s Warden of the North after Rob Stark’s death? The oh so trustworthy Roose Bolton!

Finally, mounting a campaign as an underdog which nobody thought would get anywhere, we have Bernie Sanders a.k.a the Khaleesi of Working Class America, the lord of Brooklyn, the breaker of chains, the father of Trade Unions and the rightful King of Democratic Socialism. As Daenerys Targaryen conquers Slavers Bay, seeking to release people from the chains of slavery to fight against their masters, Bernie Sanders conquers America, seeking to release people from the chains of poverty to fight against the 1% in America who control over half of all of the nation’s wealth. No other candidate in this election receives the same remarkable level of incessant support than Bernie Sanders across my campus at Northern Arizona University. He has however, one disadvantage. Like how Daenerys currently sits across the Narrow Sea in an entirely different continent to Westeros, where the ongoing War of the Five Kings is taking place, Sanders’ brand of democratic socialism has been criticised for coming from an entirely different continent to America, apparently from Europe! This is true to the extent that his policies of free college tuition and universal healthcare are reminiscent of the NHS in the UK or free university tuition in Scotland. But as an Englishman, I have to tell you America: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a bit more like us!

As for my own opinion on who should be the next president of the United States, I will say only that of all the Game of Thrones characters I have just discussed, only one is still alive!

So, there you go: George R. R. Martin, the prophet of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election!

Joe Nutt (AMA)

 

A Touch of Dutch: A Semester Abroad in the Netherlands

Feeling the effects of last night. Exhausted, I was cycling down Vredenberg, one of the main streets in Utrecht, The Netherlands. It was 11 o’clock and I was on my way to a seminar (or a “werkcollege”, as my lecturer frequently calls them, interchanging Dutch and English as he pleases). The sun was shining, the air was warm, and there was a plethora of people riding bicycles around me. I’ve lived here for three months, and I still look around in curiosity as I cycle. Taking it all in. I’d always wanted to study abroad, and now it was happening.

There had been months of anticipation of going abroad. I had so many questions in my head, which I was so eager to finally be answered. What would it be like? What kind of friends will I make? Is it going to be everything I think it’s going to be? As soon as the time came to actually leave the UK, I couldn’t believe it. Everything I had dreamed about for months on end was finally happening. From there, it all happens very quickly. You make all your best friends in the first week. You start your course. You go out and get drunk several times a week. Meeting new people, still. And before you know it, you’re half way through asking the question “Where did all that time go?”

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I chose the Netherlands because I had previously been to Amsterdam whilst interrailing, and I loved it. I had only visited the capital, however, so I wanted to see more of this country as I felt there was more beyond what was offered in Amsterdam. Once I decided on the Netherlands, I chose Utrecht; a student city not far from the capital, bustling with activity, but not too big to feel overwhelmed. I was assuming I would have a cultural experience, frequenting museums, admiring Rembrandt’s work and eating copious amounts of stroopwafel. This was not the case. The only museum I have visited is Utrecht’s Centraal Museum, and the only thing I gained from this is a pretty sweet Instagram photo (see below). This is not to say I have done nothing cultural, I, like everyone else who lives in the Netherlands, ride my bike everywhere I go, to the extent that if I have to walk anywhere for more than five minutes I scorn for days.

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I was expecting to meet a lot of people from different countries and backgrounds, in an attempt to broaden my cultural experience from that of the Netherlands to across the world. How I was wrong. I couldn’t have been more wrong. All but a few of my friends here are Australian. So many Australians. It’s come to the point where one doesn’t ask “Where are you from?” but instead “Are you Australian?” Not that I’m disappointed, I love them all, they’ve made this trip what it is, and now I know I have places to stay whenever I visit Australia. They’re a good bunch.

The nightlife in Utrecht is really fun. It’s nothing like Amsterdam’s infamous nightlife; it’s a lot more typical of what you would expect from a normal university town. There are lots of bars, of many different shapes and sizes, a few clubs, and a couple of music venues which offer club nights on certain days. The place I frequent the most is Chupitos, a shots bar chain which provides the best night out in Utrecht, in my learned opinion. They provide a very wide variety of shots: some which are so nice, you question it’s alcohol content; some of which are so horrible, you instantly get hit with an avalanche of regret. A night out which is always a lot of fun is going to see live music, and there is a lot of that going on in continental Europe. The first act I saw live abroad was Flume, and a large group of us travelled by bus to Brussels to see him. A week later, I went to see Hermitude on my own in Amsterdam, which was one of the best decisions I have ever made, as they were amazing. A week later, a huge group of us went to TivoliVredenburg to see ODESZA and several other acts live, namely What So Not. The music throughout the night was incredible, however it was let down by the fact that that the music was stretched out over the course of eight hours, which led to us feel pretty horrific by the end of it (some more than others).

Amsterdam. After living in the Netherlands I feel like I need to say something about it. I don’t like Amsterdam. There I said it. Tourists (mostly British ‘lads’) flock to Amsterdam in search of the ultimate night out, expecting a cocktail of drugs and alcohol, prostitutes and the sense of amnesia which follows the morning after. This has ruined Amsterdam. There is now such a large hype surrounding what a night out in Amsterdam should be like, and too many clubs offering different sorts of night outs, that there is too much to choose from. The result of this being that a night out in Amsterdam is more than likely to end in disappointment. This is exacerbated by the fact that the city is so large, and all the streets look the same, meaning that you can only find your way round properly if you know the city well and have a bike, i.e. if you live there. I saw Hermitude in Amsterdam, and granted they were excellent, but the night was ruined after they finished as I had to walk around in the rain, unable to get home as I had no phone and no idea where I was. In the end I had to stay at a friend’s house, but I would have much rather been able to sleep in my own bed that night. If you want to see the Netherlands, visit Utrecht, or another student town, such as Groningen.

amsterdam

Two months to go. It’s gone so fast. I don’t want to leave, but also I’m looking forward to getting back to real life.

Dominic Price (PPL) BA Politics