Study Abroad: A semester in Sweden

By Isobel Beech (Year 2 BSc Geography)

In the middle of August I arrived in Sweden as a flustered exchange student laden with suitcases and I could never have predicted what the next 6 months studying in this country would hold.

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After an emotional farewell at Manchester Airport, Patrick, Diana and I (my fellow Liverpool students) departed for Sweden. The day we travelled to Sweden was the official arrival day for Lund University with 1100 exchange students arriving. After sorting out some essentials such as picking up the keys for my accommodation, I was taken to my halls ‘Greenhouse’ in a mini bus. It was on this journey I realised the distance of my accommodation to the main town which meant getting a bike became one of the first things on my to do list. Greenhouse is very isolated and located in the centre of Swedish countryside, this holds some disadvantages but these all disappear when watching autumn sunrises while cycling to your 9am lectures! The accommodation houses a small group of international students whom have become a tight knit community over the semester with many social events and everyday shenanigans.

The first two weeks in Lund consisted of an orientation period allowing time to settle into the new environment before classes commenced. During this period we were introduced to our international mentor groups lead by student mentors who arranged activities for the new exchange students such as a tour of the town, a trip to the beach and other activities to get to know people and explore the new surroundings. The orientation also included a Swedish language crash course and an obligatory trip to Ikea to sample some of those iconic meatballs.

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Lund is a small picturesque town located in southern Sweden with university as the focal point. The campus stretches across the whole town with a number of flagship buildings including ‘the whithouse’, the AF Castle and the university library. Nations are scattered across the campus which are student organisations hosting a full weekly programme of activities including meals, pubs, clubs, sporting opportunities and more.  Nations have a noivsch period at the start of the semester where you are put into mentor groups and compete against each other. This Novisch period ended with the Novicshfest which was traditional Swedish dinner party known as a sittning, this included ceremonious speeches, awards, singing and of course a little bit of drinking too. During my time here I have become very accustomed to the Swedish practice of fika which is a break in the day marked by coffee accompanied with pastries; I think I’ll be continuing this daily ritual back in Liverpool!

The Swedish university system varies compared to the UK. Only one module is studied at a time here, with a lot more contact hours. The class sizes are also significantly smaller ranging from 15-20 people.  Modules consist of lectures and exercises with assessments in both group work and individual assignments. The courses are also very dependent on fieldwork and excursions which was a great way to explore Sweden. While in Sweden I decided to study geology modules, focusing on quaternary geology which has strong links to physical geography. The first module focused on glacial geology and this course began with a fieldtrip to Norway which was an unforgettable experience and undoubtedly a highlight of my study abroad semester. The trip included climbing up the Blåisen glacier to the plateaux and to Jökullhytta glacier. This required climbing equipment and training which had taken place the previous week at university by hanging from a tree outside the geology department and practising the procedure if we fell down a crevasse!  The views on the glacier trek were incredible and quite unforgettable. Another highlight of the trip was abseiling down a crevasse and climbing back up using crampons and an ice axe. The second module I am studying is focused on palaeoecological methods and environmental analysis. This module involves analysing cores which we took in groups in Pilevad in Southern Sweden and ultimately creating a poster showing our findings.

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In addition to university and everyday life in Lund I have had the opportunity to travel around a little. So far I have made trips to Gothenburg, Copenhagen and Helsingborg. In Sweden a child is classed up to the age of 19 which meant travelling to these places was relatively cheap. I also hope to make it to Stockholm before the end of my time here.

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To summarise my time so far, I have made great friends, embraced the Swedish culture and created unforgettable memories. To any first year students thinking about applying for study abroad I would without hesitation encourage you to do so. I am now 4 months into my study abroad adventure and excited to see what my last 2 months in Sweden will hold. The winter is fast approaching with plummeting temperatures as low as minus 2 degrees, Christmas decorations are appearing round the town and I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas Swedish Style before my return to Liverpool in the New Year.

Isobel Beech (Year 2 BSc Geography)

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Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

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As we enter 2015 we look back at the top 10 most viewed blog posts of 2015. These include posts by current and past undergraduate and postgraduate students and staff and give a good idea of some of the things that we do here in Geography at University of Liverpool. We look forward to more posts in 2015 and wish you all a happy new year.

 

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10. In Tenth place, a post from February 2014 by PhD student Madeleine Gustavsson on her first publication: First publication – ‘Procedural and distributive justice in a community-based Marine Protected Area in Zanzibar, Tanzania’

 

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9. In Ninth place, a post from June 2014 by James Wilford who graduated with a BA (Hons) Geography in July this year on the Singapore Field Class 2014

 

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8. In Eighth place, a post from June 2014 by Dr. Paul Williamson on the winners of the Edinburgh Field Class 2014 Photo Competition

 

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7. In Seventh place, a post from May 2014 by Samantha Brannan who graduated with a BSc (Hons) Geography in July this year on Geographers on Tour: Santa Cruz Field Class 2014

 

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6. In sixth place, a post from January 2014 about Lisa Reilly who graduated in July this year about her success as National Student Award Winner

 

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5. In Fifth place, a post from December 2014 by Dr Bethan Evans on a Disability, Arts and Wellbeing Workshop with DaDaFest

 

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4. In Fourth place, a post from October 2014 by Sean Dunn who graduated with a BSc (Hons) Geography in July this year and is now studying for an MSc. His post is about the final year Santa Cruz field class on California Field Class and Travel

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3. In Third place, a post from August 2014 by Alexandra Guy, currently a second year BA Geography student on A Year in the Life of an Undergraduate Geography Student

 

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2. In Second Place, a post from August 2014 by PhD student Natalie Robinson on her research with homeless people in Chicago ‘This is My Story: A Photographic Exploration of Chicago’ – Notes from the field.

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1. And in First place, our most viewed blog of 2014 is a post from February 2014 by Jonny Clark who graduated in July with a BSc (Hons) Geography on How a work-based dissertation re-affirmed my confidence in my subject, my own ability and my future

My internship at Barnado’s

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Blog post by Emma O’Connor, final year BA Geography student

Having spent weeks thinking about how I am going to spend my summer, I thought it was probably best to gain some work experience, considering I was going to be starting my final year of University in September and still had no idea what I wanted to do when I left! After checking the university’s CareerHub, I discovered that there were so many opportunities available to students and came across my internship advertised on the website.

I spent this summer working as an intern for the children’s charity Barnardo’s. During my 12 weeks working in the VIP team, there was never a dull moment.  My main project throughout the summer was to secure celebrity prizes (very exciting) for the annual Firecracker Ball. With previous prizes including a meet and greet with Daniel Craig, expectations were high and the pressure was on.  Emailing and liaising with agents and publicists became daily tasks and at times very frustrating but once I secured my first prize, the rest kept coming! With prizes from Michael Bublé and McIntyre, I am sure that the ball will be nothing less than a success!

During my time at Barnardo’s I also worked on some of the main events over the summer, including the Young Supporters Concert which was held at the Royal Albert Hall. Throughout the day, my responsibilities ranged from organising the thousands of children through the dress rehearsal (without a doubt the most hectic hours of my life), briefing the celebrity presenter, helping with photography and ensuring that the event ran smoothly. The event was a huge success and having been a part of it from the beginning to the end, I learnt how much time and planning goes into these fundraising events but after working a 12 hour day, I was beyond relieved when it finished!

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As part of the internship scheme, the interns were given the opportunity to join the development board, where they could organise and run their own fundraising events. During out 12 weeks, we held two fundraising events which were both hugely successful. The first was a Barnardo’s Summer BBQ Fete. I was head of the entertainment committee which meant that my responsibilities included deciding on the stalls, including a photo booth, wellie toss and penalty shootout (summer fete classics!). We were also in charge of the music and prizes. Who knew there was so much red tape to go through when organising an event?! The second fundraising event we held was a comedy night which was one of the most successful development board events ever! This was so much fun and was a great opportunity for all the interns to get to know each other!

The internship offered two insight days throughout the summer. The first was a service visit to ‘The Hub’ which is an alternative educational provision, aimed at improving attendance and encouraging involvement in education and community life for those at risk of social exclusion and young mothers. This gave me the opportunity to really see and understand what the charity does and how they help children at risk. It was really insightful and was definitely a highlight of my internship! The second insight day was a CV and Interview training day. This was the opportunity for all the interns to receive feedback on their CV’s and advice on interview techniques. This was an invaluable opportunity that Barnardo’s offered the interns and I will no doubt be taking everything I learnt from it away with me. The CEO of Barnardo’s, Javed Khan, also came and spoke to us, giving us valuable advice on how to succeed in our future.

My internship at Barnardo’s was an amazing experience and I learnt so much from my time there. Although, most importantly, I can say that I emailed Michael Bublé’s…agent!

California Field Class and Travel

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Santa Cruz Boardwalk Beach

Post by Sean Dunn, graduated BSc Geography 2014, current MSc student

The beginning of our trip started in Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport with a mixture of excitement for the trip and dreading the long flight ahead of it. After a couple of good films, singing along to songs in Frozen with Amelia, my teddy bear George and I landed in San Francisco. Due to some severe jetlag we barely made it to midnight after a slice of pizza and a local beer. The next morning we made our way to the Airport to meet the rest of the Santa Cruz goers and the lecturers, where our journey began to Santa Cruz in some rather lively minivans playing California themed songs.

Once we arrived in Santa Cruz we had some time to explore and get orientated with this new city. It may be fair to say on the first night some of us enjoyed the local selection of alcoholic drinks and the novelty of being 21 in America. The next day we were taken on a walking tour of the city by the lecturers making friends with some lively seals, crossing a disused railway bridge and exploring local lagoon systems (which we revisited during our group project). The evening was then our own to begin planning for the next working day on our projects.

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My group did a project concerning drought and whether it had heightened arguments between recreational users and conservationists of state parks and wetland areas. I think I speak for all of my group when saying we thoroughly enjoyed this experience and our project. At times we felt a bit out of our depth choosing a more human geography related topic but wouldn’t change it at all in hindsight. Our methods included interview and volunteering days and I believe this way we were fully able to experience the most of being in California and meeting the locals. It was a lot of hard work but enjoyable at the same time. We had the opportunity to travel throughout Santa Cruz County meeting countless interesting locals from keen fishermen all the way up to conservationists for global companies.

As well as our project work the lecturers took us on trips around the County which I really enjoyed as there isn’t much point going so far to visit a place without learning about your surroundings. The locations visited included the University, San Andreas Fault line, Redwood forests and a beach site where the famous surfing brand O’Neil was founded. I feel like I learnt a lot about the city.

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When we weren’t working on our projects, the evenings and night time were ours to do whatever we wanted. Obviously some privileges come with our first trip to the USA being over the age of 21… a well-deserved night out!  One of the best nights was for our pal Liz’s 21st where the lecturers gave her a cake and card. Most evenings were spent on the beach playing volleyball at the public courts and just soaking up the last of the California sunshine for the day. My room and I bought food from the local supermarket to make group dinners and lunches but if you didn’t feel like that there is no shortage in options. I don’t think there was a day when the boys didn’t have at least one Mexican from the little taco joint opposite the hotel! Apart from that there was a large selection of restaurants and small takeaways both in the city centre and along the boardwalk.  One of the best places we visited doubled up as a restaurant and bar. It is a pizza place called Woodstock’s where we searched online finding a voucher which is pretty good. If you sign up to the newsletter you get half price extra-large pizzas which is about 20 inches. There were 8 of us with 4 pizzas and enough for lunch the next day! Whilst there we saw they had a dollar night, so we returned that day. When you buy a beer it is just one dollar for a refill!

After all of our fun in Santa Cruz and 10 brilliant days it was time to leave the city. It was a weird feeling to be returning back to San Francisco Airport. Once we arrived the goodbyes began but not before a big group photo of the whole trip. It feels weird saying it but it was emotional seeing everyone slowly walk off in different directions with suitcases rolling behind them. Everyone had made different plans whether it was travelling, first flight home or visiting family. For us, we were travelling.

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Our car

First thing to do was collect the cars. It started well when the guy upgraded us to an SUV for free. I was the person driving and when I saw the car, I was in shock. My car at home is a Ford Fiesta and this was huge! Once I managed to get out the small lanes of the car park we were on our way due south! 8 of us in two cars starting our California Adventure. Our first stop was in Monterey at the opposite end of Monterey Bay to Santa Cruz. We grabbed a bite to eat in a restaurant and had a drink before going back to the hotel. We were absolutely shattered and I was preparing myself the drive the next day.

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The next day was the drive down Highway 1. This is possibly the most picturesque driving I have ever done. Every few seconds was a perfect picture moment. Navigating up and down the cliffs on windy roads we finally arrived at Big Sur. We climbed to the top of the mountain to a beautiful waterfall for a photo moment before climbing the other way to one of the best views I have ever seen: looking out onto the redwood forests with the Pacific Ocean in the background. After this we continued to Santa Maria our rest stop for the night. The next morning we set of for LA. We stayed in a hostel on Hollywood Boulevard and drove up Mulholland Drive to take a picture of the Hollywood sign. This was the best part of LA as from this viewpoint you could see the entire skyline of the city.

Our last driving point was San Diego. This was one of my favourite cities we visited and I finally had some time off from the driving. We spent 3 nights here and did so much in such a short space of time! We drove on the interstate to the last exit before Mexico to an outlet mall. I would 100% recommend visiting one of these! I ended up getting a pair of Reebok classics and a Ralph Lauren polo for the equivalent of £40 where that would be about £120 over here! We also went to watch a baseball match between the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants. I couldn’t attend without getting a foam finger! Our last day we spent on a local beach watching the sunset all together before an early night for the morning drive back up the coast towards San Francisco. We stopped only for some lunch in Santa Barbara which was beautiful. Lunch at the natural café for some healthy vegetarian food and a quick look in the thrift stores! One overnight stop and 16 hours of driving later we made it to San Francisco. The next two days we spent walking around the city, sampling the seafood and getting some presents for loved ones at home! Our last night was a bit emotional after spending so long in America!

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I would 110% recommend this trip to anyone. I still look back on it now knowing it was the best experience of my life. The photos just remind me of what a good time we had. It was the most amazing way to end my University experience with some of my best mates over the previous three years! I hope I haven’t bored you too much and I hope you enjoy the photos of my teddy bear and his tour around California!

A Year in the Life of an Undergraduate Geography Student

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Post by Alexandra Guy – about to start year 2 BA Geography

Before I visited the UCAS Higher Education Conference at Liverpool, I’d had my sights set on a university elsewhere. Being from Merseyside, I didn’t intend on staying local for uni, however, I was finding it really difficult to find a geography course that I could tailor to my interests. It was at the HE Conference that I discovered that Liverpool offers exactly that, and, one year on, I’ve just completed my first year of the BA Geography degree.

Our field trip to Wales in October was a really interesting way to start the course. We were given a list of topics to research in groups, alongside larger group activities like a debate, and then put together all our findings into a poster presentation once we got back to uni. I enjoyed the independence we were given during the field work, which continued throughout the year. There’s also a module that involves field work in Liverpool (Human Geography through Merseyside), which involved using observations from around the city to create unusual projects like an exhibition for a museum and a brochure for tourists. I was surprised to find that not all the field work and coursework related to it was essay based – it kept things interesting throughout the year by having a variety of essays and presentations combined with more creative tasks.

Photos from Liverpool field work

However, my favourite module (Research Frontiers in Human Geography) involved a series of lectures on the recent work staff in the geography department have been carrying out, in areas such as cultural geography and geopolitics. We then had to relate this research to a recent story in the news, for an assessed group presentation. This introduced us to areas of geography we had never studied before, while highlighting its relevance to contemporary issues – making deciding what modules to study in second year a lot easier. I’ve been able to identify exactly what areas of geography interest me, and I’m looking forward to focussing on them in second year, particularly with my optional modules in Social and Cultural Geography and Political Economies of Globalisation.

Support in the department is second to none, due to the fortnightly small group tutorials with a member of staff. These sessions helped me get used to university-style studying – knowing that I have a member of staff available for me to chat to or send a quick email to, regarding everything from academic advice to careers, has made such a difference to my first year and has really helped me settle in to university life well. From my friends at other universities, I’ve heard that this kind of support is quite rare, so I know I made the right decision to come to Liverpool! There’s also support with pretty much everything else outside of the department too – Liverpool Student Homes were a great help during my search for a house for second year, and the Financial Support Team were invaluable while I was trying to reapply for student finance.

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Shanghai

A geography degree also gives you plenty of opportunities outside of your course to develop your CV and help you relate geography to potential careers. Thanks to a reference from my tutor and the support of the Careers and Employability Service, I was selected by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to take part in the Government’s Study China Programme. I spent Easter at Zhejiang University, near Shanghai, studying Mandarin and political changes in Asia, with students from across the country. Additionally, the amount of group work I’ve done this year has proven useful in job applications – team work is a key skill that employers look for, and it’s partly thanks to this that I’ve secured a part time job acting as a student rep for the company I hope to work for after graduation.

Receiving my certificate of completion from the Chancellor

Receiving my certificate of completion from the Chancellor at Zhejiang University

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Liverpool to anyone considering studying Geography.

Singapore Field Class 2014

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Post by James Wilford, 3rd year BA Geography Student

It is a surreal experience when you’re standing in a lift and overhear an apparently English conversation that suddenly morphs into a mixture of Chinese and Malay, becoming impossible to follow and throwing you into a sense of uncertainty and confusion. Culture shocks such as this appeal to me. Resultantly, I was unable to resist a subsidised trip, with friends, to a country that is perhaps one of the most culturally diverse – and different to the UK – in the world, especially considering its small population and geographical size. Singapore was the destination of our third year geography field trip.

People arrived in the Lion City up to three days before the start of the field trip, seeking to maximise their time acclimatising to the heat, humidity and time difference. Having recovered from obscure routes across the world by taking leisurely tours around Singapore and relaxing by the roof-top pool, we were ready to start work. In groups of 5 or 6, we were tasked to plan and implement a piece of research. Prior to the trip, each group produced a research proposal, detailing our intentions and methods, enabling feedback to be given, which would then be used whilst researching. The remainder of the two weeks was split between a continuation of this research and further exploration of the city.

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The group that I was working with investigated the perceptions and views of the Singaporean public towards tourism in their city, examining how they felt about its future and government tourism policies. We scheduled interviews with members of the tourism industry and stopped locals on the street to gain their insight and views. Once we had overcome the awkwardness of bothering people for their views, the latter of these become easy. Amazingly, there were few hiccups!

We had 9.30 meetings every morning and organised trips to meet local stakeholders including an NGO working with transient workers, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and group work with fellow University of Liverpool students based in Singapore. The great thing about the trip was that students were in (almost) full control of their schedules – we were able to plan our time, meaning that we could occasionally take a break from being researchers and be tourists. The city is fascinating: we spent time on the country’s islands, such as Sentosa and Ubin and visited skyscraper roof-top bars with spectacular views of the city and its architectural audacity. When group work was finished, the nights were spent chatting, swimming and drinking beer by the hotel pool.

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My favourite aspect of Singapore was the food (probably unsurprising to those who know me). As a hub for expats from the four corners of the globe, the city has a unique cuisine: it combines its own dishes with those from the rest of Asia and the world. Focusing on the Asian food, there are huge food courts, called Hawker Centres (The Maxwell Food Centre and those located at the top of shopping malls are highly recommended), that serve large portions at insanely cheap prices. Add friendly and masterful chefs to the mix, it’s as close to rice and noodle heaven as you can get. If that wasn’t enough, small, independent restaurants line the streets of Chinatown and Little India, offering a truly authentic taste of their cultures. Home comforts are important too: we were never far from a McDonalds, Burger King or KFC, allowing us to get our fixes of fast food, only more cheaply than in the UK.

For many, the opportunity to visit other countries in South East Asia after the trip was a major attraction. Extensive travel plans were initially drawn up, with students attempting as many sojourns on remote, unpopulated tropical islands and stopovers in chaotic Asian cities as humanly-possible in a week-long period. However, feasibility and financial cost meant that these fell through shortly after being anything more than an idea, leaving students with the more realistic options of the more mainstream tourist destinations. These turned out to be equally-incredible experiences. Two friends and I visited Thailand, splitting our time between the beaches of Ko Phi Phi and the nightlife and temples of Bangkok, before travelling back to the UK via Beijing. Others rewarded their work in Singapore with trips to Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.

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The Singapore field trip was a great way to end a geography degree and a perfect send-off to an interesting three years. The chance to travel with friends in such a large group to the other side of the world will provide unforgettable memories.

Edinburgh Field Class 2014 Photo Competition

Post By Dr. Paul Williamson

Congratulations to Polly Oates and Ben Berkson, joint winners of our 2014 Edinburgh Field Class photo competition.

Here are their winning entries:

'Just say no' by Ben Berkson

‘Just say no’ by Ben Berkson

'The Edinburgh Perspective' by Polly Oates

‘The Edinburgh Perspective’ by Polly Oates

The field class took place in mid-April and saw 26 Year 2 BA Geographers and 2 staff heading north, braving a week of intermittent rain and gales in order to put into practice a variety of research skills acquired over the last year and a half of study.

These included interviewing Members of the Scottish Parliament; surveying any member of the public unable to run away fast enough; focus groups with local activists; and participant observation of the local nightlife.

This year students researched topics as diverse as sauna licensing and Scottish independence:

Word cloud generated from student project titles

Word cloud generated from student project titles

The final part of the field class focused on data analysis, ranging from graphs and tables of survey results, discourse analysis of interview responses and as the map below shows, mapping of the relationship between deprivation and sauna location:

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One headline finding from surveys carried out by students studying Scottish independence was that Edinburgh says ‘no’ to independence:Blog image 5

You heard it here first!

The Edinburgh Field Class is just part of our wider three-year field class programme, which includes trips to North Wales, the Lake District, Spain, California and Singapore. All of these trips are designed an ethos of ‘learning by doing’. Or, in Edinburgh’s Case, ‘learning by doing whilst dodging showers and battling strong equinoctial gale’. Happy Days!