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

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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

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!

Christmas Market Trips

Christmas market trips are one of the most popular events at this time of the year. With exciting Christmas decoration and lights, many cities have Christmas markets which are very fun to walk around, take photos and shop. From Cheltenham to Gloucester, Bath, Bristol and nearby cities, Christmas market events offer a range of local food and snack, multi-sized handmade Christmas gifts, winter clothes and accessories and many other beautiful and lovely things.

Unlike your normal shopping, what they offer is a sense of tradition, culture, and community spirit which cannot be experienced in high street brands and outlets. Products of local people, traditional structure of market display and Christmas spirit make Christmas markets very different and enjoyable not only for local people but also for international students and tourists.  For students, it is such a good experience to walk around with your friends to see the decoration, lights, people, and local-made souvenirs and buy some if you are going back home for Christmas holiday. Since they are displayed for a limited period of time and just before Christmas, it is always good to wander around to taste this remarkable pre-Christmas symbol of the UK.

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Depending on your preference, you can just visit Cheltenham Christmas market or if you want a new taste and go away from town, you have a range of options to visit any nearby cities which are very easy to reach by either train or coach. The best option is to join the Christmas market trip which is normally arranged by the university so that you can go with a large group of your friends and it is much cheaper than going on your own. Also there will be staff that will guide you and help you along the way. I joined Bath Christmas market last year and had so much fun with my friends seeing around the market. I would recommend other students to go for a try and enjoy this beautiful culture of the country.

December

So, it’s been a while now and here I am assignments done and exams coming up. It’s a stressful time but everyone goes through it. Here are some of my recommendations for getting through the winter months:

  1. It’s getting darker earlier and colder so not too good if you’re used to sunny weather. Just remember to plan ahead, because I didn’t and I’ve had to buy jumpers, scarfs, hats, gloves… so yes, even though September isn’t too cold once December hits it’s freezing.
  1. December here at university is also revision, revision, revision… The noise in halls is a bit unpleasant when trying to study but as a last resort there is a 24hr computer room that is available to all students. This is brilliant if you need one of those nights with no sleep and like 60 coffees
  1. People are still going out but if you’re like me and prefer to stay in don’t worry. The university has loads of different clubs and socials you can join One of the most common ones for international students is the International Café which takes place every Wednesday at the FCH chapel. It’s a great way to meet new people and make friends. While sipping a nice hot chocolate, and gives you plenty of time to study.
  1. If you’re an older student, from personal experience, I do recommend looking for a house if you can before coming to university instead of halls. I think it’s the one mistake I made because I’m now living with 18 year olds when I’m 22 so it isn’t what I expected and I would recommend attending a house-hunting event Especially because you can meet people before moving in.
  1. December is also a good time to get involved with UK Christmas culture and food as it may vary depending on where you’re from. For example, something new to me has been mince pies or mulled wine. A good place for this is the Cheltenham Christmas market, located on the promenade about 5 minutes from FCH.
  1. Another recommendation is to book your Christmas flights well in advance to be able to get the best rates but do remember to book these around you’re lectures, assignments, exams… if you’re not too sure you can always talk to your personal tutor beforehand. I’m really excited to go home as it’s only a week now until I get to see my family. The hardest thing for me has to be being separated from my loved ones.

Christmas is coming!

So, I v’e now been at Gloucestershire University for nine weeks and time has just flown by. I’m a Spanish undergraduate Psychology student.

So far, I v’e handed in two assignments and I’m currently working on my next two which are group projects. One of the things I was most worried about before starting was the fact that I’ve never written an essay in my life before but, my worries were put to rest with all the help I got from the Student Achievement team and my teachers.

The Student Achievement team are a great group at the university which helps you with any kind of academic problems such as writing assignments, understanding feedback…

Here is a link to their section of the website http://www.glos.ac.uk/life/support/pages/student-achievement.aspx

When I first arrived I was nervous, not going to lie, but not only because of the academic requirements but also because of moving to a new country with new people and different customs. However, everyone at the university made me feel very welcome. I attended International Week which I recommend if you are thinking of coming to this university it is a great way to get a head up on what the university is like and a great way to meet other international students from all over the world.

http://www.glos.ac.uk/study/international/pages/international-students.aspx This link provides all the information you need about international students. It s’very good as it has a broken down easy to follow structure of what paper work and documents you may need and where to get them from or how to provide them.

Any enquiries you may have the university is excellent in responding to emails and getting back to you as soon as possible also they r’e very helpful if your’e stuck and not sure what your’e doing as I was when applying for the first time.

Once you arrive, after induction week, you should feel more settled and comfortable but not all people do. I for instance found it very hard to adapt and have been very homesick but its’ OKAY your’e not alone. There is always someone to turn to and have a talk with. The Help Zone is amazing and they are “the mothers”of the university any problems you have remain confidential and they help you instantly. There is one help zone in each campus.

Another good thing about this university is the mental wellbeing and student support team. Which can also be found here http://www.glos.ac.uk/life/support/pages/mental-health-and-wellbeing.aspx

But after nine weeks you are just longing to go home. I v’e booked my Christmas flights and can’t wait to go and see my family.

Cheltenham Chinese Student Fellowship (中华学坊)

xiantingToday I would like to introduce the Cheltenham Chinese Student Fellowship (中华学坊) which runs by St. Phillip and St. James Church (White House). The Christian volunteers here aim to help Chinese students to learn about English language and culture, meet more local residents and integrate into the community in Gloucestershire. Since 2010, the CCSF has helped several Chinese students to improve their English and be confident chatting with local people. Continue reading “Cheltenham Chinese Student Fellowship (中华学坊)”