The UK, your window to the world

Given the merit of UK’s unbeatable location, studying here not only offers you opportunities to explore a single nation-state but also provides you singular experience to travel around the European countries on a budget.

During the New Year break, I visited Iceland, the so-called “Land of Fire and Ice.” Even though I’ve learned about this country from geography textbooks, the astonishing opening scene (shot in Iceland) of Prometheus, a 2012 science-fiction film directed by English director & producer Ridley Scott, is the reason for my visit.

 

 

The country is of two extremes, with glaciers in proximity to volcanic craters. The crystal clear glacier lagoon, dreamy diamond beach, fascinating geyser eruption, mesmerising northern lights, all in all, a must experience for everyone. The natural landscapes are scenic and surreal, while the human-made landscape of Harpa elaborates the beauty and power of geometry.

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If you would like to visit a place like Iceland, travelling from Asia could be a painstaking and an extremely expensive experience that takes you an enormous amount of time and money. But if you start the journey from Cheltenham, you can benefit from the borough’s proximity to Bristol Airport and enjoy direct flights offered by EasyJet, a low-cost British airline which operates direct services to most European countries at affordable prices.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to save you both time and money, and opening your eyes through travelling when you are still young at heart?

Iceland is a place I’ve been craving to go, and studying in the UK has offered me this precious opportunity to turn my idea into reality. Do you have any dream destination in mind? Do you have any aspiration for the future like studying abroad or starting a new chapter in life? Let’s stay positive, work hard, and make it happen.

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January – New Year, New Start

So, Christmas came and so did a new year. I was able to come home for that period of time but I do recommend for new students international or not, to return in January as it’s normally future conference week, I missed it this year and I won’t be missing it next year.

Some have exams after Christmas but I had them before so now I’m looking forward to starting two new subjects and finishing my first year at uni.

Coming home has been amazing and I don’t want to leave. Struggling with homesickness is common but not as common after three months. I don’t have the answer to how to deal with it as each person is different, but me? I write down each night 3 things I want to achieve the next day and stick to them. This gives me a short-term goal each day and helps me focus on where I am and where I want to be.

Weather in the UK this time of year is cold and if you’re lucky snowy. I’ve never seen snow so I’m also looking forward to going back.

So I’ll be packing my bags and flying back to uni soon but I’ve booked my April flights so at least I know when I’ll be coming back. I’ll write again after landing.

 

My Future Plan

After Christmas break ended and we all came back to uni, it really made me realize that for some of us, myself included, that this was going to be the last semester of university…ever. Our second semester starts at the beginning of February, and we are given a week for our “Future Plan” that offers courses, workshops, and tutorials, to help prepare us for our future, as if we even have a clue! Looking at this a month ago, I would’ve just considered it another week off, but realizing I’m on the home stretch of my university career, it’s something I really wanted to take advantage of.

One of the most memorable events for me this week was with one of the keynote speakers, Bianca Miller-Cole. Not only was she a finalist on BBC’s the Apprentice, but she was also hilarious and extremely relatable. Although I’m not going into a career in business, I knew her message was important for anyone with a passion for success. At the end of her presentation she brought up a quote that really resonated with me. She asked us to always keep in mind that if your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough. As she quoted Richard Branson you could look around the room and see the wheels turning in people’s heads, you could see the scribbling of pens on notebooks, and the furious typing on laptops. I was in a room with about 100 other students, and we were now all questioning if our dreams could be turned into reality. We heard Bianca’s success story, and the steps that took her there, but I think the most important takeaway from her presentation wasn’t the fact she was a really successful entrepreneur, it was that she has stood in our shoes just years ago, yet she was able to turn her vision into something real. Hearing about peoples success is one thing, but seeing it right in front of you is a completely different story.

Walking away from that speech on Tuesday gave me a little bit more confidence that everything I’ve been doing up to this point in my university career has been a significant step towards my end goal. I think it’s important to realize that every small move towards your dream is an important one. Whether it be writing that goal down on a piece of paper, or even just buying a notepad (like Bianca made us all promise to do) it’s comforting to know that even the most successful people around us, were once sitting in a lecture hall wondering the exact same thing.

Lights and Wishes

After a whole year away from home, I am in Brazil enjoying my time with my family and friends. It’s always beautiful to see how Christmas can make people’s thoughts and feelings more transparent and sensible. Although Brazil’s situation is declining, Christmas time can be a therapy for those who have been facing difficult moments in this political-economical crisis.

One of my favourite aspects of Christmas is the decoration that enlights the street in the darkness of the night. The urge to buy and organise the presents, cards and speeches, full of memories that warm our hearts and stamp a smile in our faces, especially when shared on the family table.

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Lights in Sao Paulo

This event of the year reminds us of ours strengths and weaknesses, preparing us for the wishes and resolutions we will bring up, sometimes from the bottom of our hearts, at the turn of the year. Although many won’t become true, the desire to persuade this lists can be enough. The main objective should be to try to make 2017 better than 2016, as year after year.

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Interactive Shopping Mall

Barbara

An unconventional Christmas

Does your family have Christmas traditions? Mine does. Most Christmas eves were spent watching the Polar Express, even though we knew the girl was going to lose her ticket, and the golden bell was going to be the first present given on Christmas day. Well this year, unless we all pointed our iPhones at the TV while simultaneously on FaceTime with each other, we will not be continuing that tradition. When my parents first asked if I was coming home for Christmas I was excited to tell them that I would be spending it with some of my best friends that I’ve made here at the University. I honestly think they were a little bit caught off guard, but when they looked into things a bit more and realized a round trip back home to Canada cost about as much as a 2008 Ford Fiesta, their expressions soon turned from surprised to grateful.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am saving my parents a lot of coin by not deciding to fly home (you’re welcome mom and dad), but spending Christmas in England is so much more than just saving money, it’s about the experience I know I won’t get the chance to have again. My first stop is Cornwall where I’m sure I’ll have enough traditional Cornish pasties to last me the next 3 weeks, and my second stop is Oxford, a place my Grampie actually used to call home. As I’m writing, I’m about 20 minutes away from the beach in St. Ives, Cornwall, and it makes me think that this Christmas may not be that different than at my home back on Vancouver Island. Sure, the faces are different, there’s no snow on the ground, it’s a completely different ocean, and I’m pretty much butting into two different families Christmas traditions, but I couldn’t be happier, and that’s what Christmas is all about!

I like to think that my parents and I love the Polar Express so much because it’s a fun cartoon about Christmas, but once you’ve watched it a good 8 times you start to realize the message. While taking you on a fun adventure, the film makes Christmas about spirit, about family, and about believing in something a little bit more than that new iPad you hope is wrapped somewhere under the tree. The next time someone asks me about my family’s traditions, I won’t forget to include the Christmas of 2016 that I spent in England. Maybe I’ll tell them that our new tradition will be making the most of wherever we are in the world, whoever we’re with.

This year I’ve traded in pumpkin pie for Christmas pudding, and although I had to get used to the acquired taste, it’s something that I know I’ll never forget.

Merry Christmas y’all!

Emi

The Room with the Blue Window

Christmas has always spun the same humdrum images of families in tacky Christmas sweaters and Instagram-worthy dinners with hashtags that are optimised for maximum amount of ‘likes’. More or less, we’ve reached peak commercialisation for Christmas — tell me which major religious holiday isn’t (yes I know, there’s a bunch holidays you could name). Still we’ve had the glamorisation of togetherness and world peace plastered on the billboards, television screens and social media feeds since mid-October. However I’m here to say that it doesn’t have to be limited to those three months.

 

The Faith Space at Park Campus is a special place. It’s where the religiously devoted and stress-prone come together to take refugee from the daily grind. Mind and spirit are encouraged to wander around, or if you’re shameless enough to do it: take a nap on one of the couches. There’s very little pretensions of it being religious — besides the sign. Everyone is welcome: free tea, coffee and biscuits are provided; board games; newspapers; lots of electrical plugs; a piano and guitar.

The main four highlights of Faith Space at Park — personally — that I believe makes it a wonderful place is:

 

  1. The ever so lovely Jo Parkin who runs the place: she’s a woman who spreads joy and happiness whenever you get the time to chat with her. She’s the soul and heart of the Park Faith Space as she brings a feeling of togetherness amongst groups of people. A patient listener, offering sage advice; Jo is a good person to see if personal difficulties are hard to overcome — and recommends the wellbeing team if you need more guided help.

 

  1. Atique Miah, the university’s Muslim Chaplain who’s usually at Park Campus on Wednesdays and Fridays: a cheerful fella who has a tendency to compliment things you hadn’t noticed about yourself. A firm believer of positive thinking; Atique — like Jo — is also a patient listener and advice giver, but usually says it from personal experience whilst growing up. He’s good to talk to.

 

  1. The Prayer Room: The main highlight of the Faith Space; the prayer room is extremely unorthodox in nature as it emphasises on multi-religious use. Modular in its design and aesthetically neutral — all faiths are welcome to use the room for prayers or meditations.

 

  1. Les pièces de résistance — the blue window in the prayer room. The glass came from the original chapel that stood at Park Campus. Found in a garage somewhere; it’s hard to describe the significance of this particular window, except the phrase: it’s very holy, indeed. More art installation than window. This particular glass embodies the peaceful nature that the Faith Space represents. Especially, at the right time of day, the sunlight hits the glass and casts a mesmerised sequence of blues and greens. Useful when you’re trying to have a deeper connection with god. Or to forget how broke I am and all the nice things I want to buy. Still the sense of inner-peace does help soothe my anxious soul.

 

If you need a break from reality, just stop by the Faith Space and chill for a bit. There’s an event everyday, if you want meet some new people. Mental and spiritual exhaustion can hinder your ability to go through life easily – Especially at times when deadlines are due — it helps for you to step back, reflect and understand that insignificance of each task that may seem over-whelming.

http://www.glos.ac.uk/life/support/Pages/faith-and-religion.aspx

Always, Always Say YES to chances for authentic Christmas meals!

So it is almost Christmas time already and I am so happy for all my friends and myself who completed another term of our course, this means one more step closer to our goals! But now is the time to enjoy our holiday break and refresh ourselves to face next term with full energy. Many international students go back to their mother countries at this time of the year to see their families and friends and celebrate Christmas holiday. However, there are also many other students who plan to stay in the UK for many reasons.

For those who have planned to stay for whatever reasons, I would like to share a tip what my other friends recommend me all the time. It is to always say Yes to invitations from your English friends or teachers to join their Christmas meals. It is always good to experience a traditional Christmas meal (roast turkey, vegetables, stuffing and gravy) with an English family which you cannot have outside of the England or after you finish your degree here. So while you are here, it is the best to join their special day and see how they celebrate this most beautiful time of the year.

I have already received an invitation from one of my teachers who also lives in Cheltenham and this year I am going to join his family Christmas meal with some of my classmates. I am so happy and excited about this and I also would like all my international friends to have this wonderful experience as well.

Wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Have an awesome holiday!!!

Home

Exams over, grades given and Christmas is here. As international students most of you will travel home to see your friends and family. That feeling of landing and arriving at the gates, waiting impatiently to see your loved ones.

For me it’s been amazing, I’ve not been home since leaving for university. And I’ve missed everyone so much. Seeing everyone was quite overwhelming.

My friends prepared a surprise party and it was incredible. And they’ve planned so much for this week.

The house has been decorated, the tree is up and everyone is in the Christmas spirit.

I only get to spend 10 days abroad with my family so my advice is to just make the most of being home. Leaving again is going to be hard and I’m already dreading it but I’ve already got my April flight tickets. By already having these tickets it gives me some sense of security in the fact that I know when I’ll next be back. Also by booking in advance you can get cheaper flights.

So not much more that I can say just I’m sooo happy to be back…

Happy Christmas everyone and enjoy the time you get with everyone from your home because time is the best gift of all.

A special visit and Christmas’ break.

Missing my family has been my biggest challenge since I arrived here. But I was lucky that while I go to university in England, my boyfriend goes to university in Portugal, which has been very positive for us since we are both going through the same experiences as international students and we get to see each other more often than if he was in Brazil for his studies.

Two weeks ago, he surprised me by coming to Cheltenham without telling me anything about it, it was a shock for me and I couldn’t be happier. He stayed here for 5 days and he was amused at Cheltenham’s beauty.

This is us enjoying the coldest day here in Cheltenham:

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On the other hand, it is almost Christmas, and not everyone is going home to stay with their family, just like me. If that’s the case for you too, then I suggest you to keep yourself entertained with your friends or classmates so you don’t feel alone. There are a lot of international students going through the same situation as you, that’s why you can always find someone to be friends with.

A good option to have fun with your friends in the Christmas’ break is to cook together. I’ve always loved baking and I decided to bake some cookies with my friend Camila, from Colombia.

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I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and a happy new year!