International Students

Breathing the London Air

Hal: Palace of Westminster Moving in to London, a bustling metropolitan city saturated with cultural differences and varied social backgrounds is to me an exciting challenge. During the first few weeks I moved in, I was busy with opening my student bank account, sorting out all the books that I need to purchase and decorating my room. Mingling with people here at first is difficult, especially when the kind of humour is different from where I come from – Indonesia! (If any of you wonder what and where on earth Indonesia is, it’s a tropical country home to Bali located in the Maritime of Southeast Asia.) The weather to me is a shock, perhaps more shocking than the cultural differences as the chilling wind stung my skin and made me shiver constantly. I underestimated the cold…I really did.

As a slightly socially awkward person, making friends and breaking the ice was tough. It took me time to find people I became comfortable with, and eventually spend time studying and playing around with.img_5232 Transitioning from school to university isn’t too rough if you keep this in mind – be open-minded! I’m glad to say, some first year modules supported the process of this transition, simultaneously refreshing your knowledge of the course that you are taking. Moreover, studies isn’t everything – you need your fun. I have joined the rowing club amongst the other hundreds of societies that the institution offer and I have been enjoying it to its fullest extent. Overall, eventually things get better over time and as the days and nights go by, Queen Mary and London feels more and more like home. Now I wonder what will London surprise me with next!

Trolley Dash in Olympia

It was a happy day. One of the happiest day that I had. I’m talking about the Trolley Dash of course.

I used to love toys and my favourite would be my cooking set… Or Barbie… Or my Sylvanian set… 🙂 Ahh~! I just love them all! <3 Having said that, I on the other hand, cannot recall precisely when was the last time I actually played with them… Probably some time during my 8th grade or… even long before that. I still like them, trust me I do and that should be the exact reason why I was thrilled when I saw the SU offered an opportunity to collect toys!

OMG! Count me in! x)

Volunteering group 2014 at the Toy fair

QMUL Volunteering team at the Toy Fair – Barnardos Toy Trolley 2014

At the time, the opportunity was organised by Barnardos with the permission of the Toy fair in Kensington Olympia. Volunteers come in on the last day of the fair and for the last 30 minutes, would take a trolley (sponsored by Tesco) and collect as many toy donations as we could . Sorting out them afterwards, according to size, we would then load them on to truck after truck, sending them to disadvantaged children in need.
But for the whole process of sorting up until loading, we had some fun ourselves admiring the toys we loved. There was a huge giraffe I remembered, tiny shopping trolleys, countless cooking sets and so many dolls! Then there were construction toys, teddy bears, tiny figures, mobile phones, colourful fruit baskets and so much more than I can name. It was like a toy heaven!

Huge Giraffe on top a trolley full of toys!

Huge Giraffe on top a trolley full of toys!

The event took place on 23rd January 2014 and it actually was the first time I volunteered through QMSU Volunteering service. It was the start for a series of all the great opportunities I continued to get involved in later days. Now looking back it felt even greater :’)

Me pushing mini trolley, "nagging" for more toys

Me pushing mini trolley, “nagging” for more toys

January 2015, I looked forward so much to another memorable trip to the wonderful toy-land and my heart sank when days after days checking the website without seeing the opportunity pop up. What could I do if there was no event held altogether.

But I felt the worst when it came back in 2016 and I could not go. This time, organised by Kids Out.

QM Team at KidsOut Toy Trolley 2016 - Olympia

QMUL Team at Toy fair – KidsOut Toy Trolley 2016 – Kensington Olympia

The event crashed with my school schedule but I wanted to go so much that I was considering skipping class… Everyone who went told me the same thing – it was amazing! 🙂 I knew that, I knew that all along. And I’m glad that they had great fun volunteering at the Event as I did 2 years before.

There’s not much to say besides it’s a really really really really nice event that one should definitely consider going (if it doesn’t crash with your classes xD) Take it from me, and from those who were there.

My Life at QMUL

Having been born to Iranian parents in Denmark, I suppose I was bound to be somewhat of a cosmopolitan. Of course this meant that I always had an incessant desire to explore as much as I could from outside my country of birth. My interest in social justice led to an opportunity to become an exchange student in the US, and at the age of 15 I embarked on an experience, which would guide my trajectory towards a career in international politics. I’m currently in the third year of a BA in Politics with Business Management at Queen Mary, aspiring to go on to studying international human rights law. A lot of the afore-mentioned, particularly my parents being refugees, has led me in this direction. Crucially however, it’s the experiences I have had, especially while here at Queen Mary, that helped me on that path.

Besides the generous help received from the Students’Union in my first year when I endeavored to start a magazine venture tackling political apathy (Politics Made Public), the University’s Careers and Enterprise Centre helped me fund the development of ‘favourful’. Favourful, like most of my extra-curricular engagements, has a social purpose to fulfill; in this case, allowing for the exchange of services or favours, for gifts rather than currency. Working on favourful was invaluable, and proved very useful during my participation in the Cambridge Long Vacation Scholarship Scheme this summer.

Although the scholarship is given primarily for the purpose of conducting research towards one’s dissertation, I was eager to get involved with an actual human rights research project at Cambridge University. Having chased up a number of academics persistently, I got involved with an academic project called “The Whistle”, a digital human rights reporting platform, led by Dr. Ella McPherson at the Department of Sociology and the Centre of Governance & Human Rights, in its very early stages. I joined the project as an intern and developed the website thewhistle.org, and helped conduct extensive market research across the digital human rights sphere. Following the conclusion of the scholarship scheme, I was invited to stay on the project as a Research Assistant, and am still working with the project which has now received funding from a significant corporate partner.

 

 

University Scholars Leadership Symposium  working on issues such as poverty and refugees

University Scholars Leadership Symposium working on issues such as poverty and refugees

 

 

One of the most noticeable things about Queen Mary is the abundance of opportunities, if students choose to get involved. Having served as the Humanities & Social Sciences Faculty Representative in 2014/2015 put me in the fortunate position of being offered to fly to Hong Kong to participate in the University Scholars Leadership Symposium. The symposium gave 1800 students from around the world the opportunity to engage with leaders in the sphere of humanitarian affairs, to work with issues such as poverty and refugees. Crucially, the sheer diversity of nationalities and cultures present gave a truly holistic perspective on the concerns and issues surrounding the topic, as well as a platform to share experiences, which would serve as the cornerstone of potential solutions. I have never been at the center of such international and high profile networking. And yet, all of us could come together in our experience of the depravity we experienced volunteering in Mong Kok. In the aftermath of the symposium, several of the delegates, myself included, maintained our contact with the leaders and peers we had met, and started collaborating with them on various social ventures.

 

 

I was in the fortunate position of travelling to Hong Kong to participate in the University Scholars Leadership Symposium

I was in the fortunate position of travelling to Hong Kong to participate in the University Scholars Leadership Symposium

 

 

As I look back at my experiences at Queen Mary in the midst of writing applications for US law schools and postgraduate programmes in human rights in the UK, they all culminate in two realizations: The importance of networks, built through getting involved and meeting new and interesting people at university; as well as not being scared of saying yes to an opportunity, however difficult or out of your league it may seem.

From London to Jeju: a trip to South Korea

My name is Annabelle Wilkins and I’m a final-year PhD student here in the School of Geography. In September, I was invited to participate in the first academic conference to be held at North London Collegiate School on the island of Jeju, South Korea. Jeju is located off the southern coast of the mainland, around an hour’s flight from the capital, Seoul. The island is incredibly diverse, with volcanic peaks, idyllic beach resorts, hiking trails and a rapidly developing urban centre, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.

Views of the island from Sunrise Peak, at the top of one of its many volcanoes.

Views of the island from Sunrise Peak, at the top of one of its many volcanoes.

 

NLCS Jeju was established in 2011, and is one of a growing number of international schools on the island. The school offers a British curriculum including the IGCSE, A-Level and the International Baccalaureate. In addition to NLCS, the island has also supported schools affiliated with institutions in Canada and the US, all of which are located in the recently developed Global Education City. The majority of pupils at these schools are Korean students, many of whom are planning to study at some of the world’s leading universities.

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Contrasting architecture in Seoul, where visitors can stay in restored traditional houses looking out over the modern city.

 

I was one of seven visiting academics invited to take part in the conference, participating alongside a mathematician, a classicist, a composer and a poet. The theme of the conference was based around improving subject knowledge. We were encouraged to introduce the teachers to our research interests and to suggest ideas for how they might develop and enhance their lessons and teaching methods. Before the conference itself, I also spent two days working with Year 12 and 13 students who study Geography as part of the IB syllabus. I introduced them to geographies of home and my research on Vietnamese migrants in East London, as well as talking to them about globalisation, migration and identity.

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Presenting my research to Year 12 and 13 geography students in one of the school boarding houses.

 

During the three days of the conference, each academic gave a lecture about their research to an audience of teachers from different subjects. I gave talks to staff from Maths, Chemistry, Languages and PE departments, among others, which made for some fascinating question and discussion sessions as people contributed ideas from their own backgrounds. Once they discovered that the focus of my research is on home and migration, many teachers were keen to share their personal experiences of being an expatriate teacher living in South Korea, and the objects and practices that helped them to create a sense of home.

Statue of the Buddha at Sangbansan temple, Jeju.

Statue of the Buddha at Sangbansan temple, Jeju.

 

In addition to presenting my research, I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet the Geography teachers and share some ideas as to how they might be able to enhance their teaching on globalisation and migration. I introduced them to critical geographies of home and other research by academics here at QMUL, and they were keen to incorporate these perspectives into the syllabus. By the end of the three days, we were discussing how to devise projects about students’ bedrooms and their material culture, possible interviews with the school’s cleaners, who used to work on the land around the school building, and inter-generational interviews between students and older people on the island. I had a brilliant experience at NLCS and also had time for trips to some of the island’s amazing beaches, temples and museums.

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A woman diver selling her catch of seafood – women divers are famous within Jeju’s island heritage.

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Hyopjae, one of Jeju’s beautiful beaches.

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Sunset in Moseulpo, a fishing village close to the school on Jeju.

Germany In The Sun

I booked my final journey home last week. Since I arrived it’s felt like I have forever to explore and learn the language. Now I am in panic mode, trying to fit everything into the next four and a half weeks. One thing that is especially hard is the language. When I make mistakes or forget words I feel even worse because I know that in a month I won’t be here to ask my housemate what words mean or be able to practise speaking every day! I am also planning for moving. I arrived here with a small suitcase and a large ‘gap-year’ rucksack and will leave with the same.. but packing it all again is going to be a challenge! I will also have to do some administrative tasks before heading home which I will tell you about in a separate blog for those also going away on a Year Abroad. One of the truest pieces of advice about the Year Abroad is that is goes really quick. I cannot explain how unbelievable it is to think that I have been here for a whole year! It has been one of the most wonderful experiences and it is clear why so many people recommend it. Since the summer has arrived in Germany, we have spent a lot of time going outdoor swimming. It is in the woods and a section of the river is protected for open swimming. There is also a little pool and chairs for sunbathing and reading. Our heatwave started during exam time, so people would bring revision notes to read in the sun!   This town seems to get more and more beautiful:

Room with a view- the river you can swim in from the terrace

Room with a view- the river you can swim in from the terrace

 

Team Alps 2015: Why are we going back?

In November 2014, I wrote about the rain we encountered during the Team Alps 2014 fieldwork trip.  As it turns out, four of us are going back, along with three others, for TEAM ALPS 2015! So, why are we going back?

Well, the good news is that two undergraduates appreciated their research so much still after handing in their third-year dissertations, that their inquiring minds are willing to explore yet more unanswered questions! So, while they have signed up to carry on studying at masters level (here at QMUL Geography – yay!) we get to return and start exploring their MSc theses!

Nature Nap

Lucky enough to have inspired these two undergraduates to come out for a second summer. Are they ready to work hard, or enjoy the art of the nature nap?

 

Unexpected findings last summer led to a side project primarily investigated by my supervisor, Dr Sven Lukas, and this project will be revisited for more information. My personal project will also be revisited following the findings of last year, primarily the need for more robust methods for mapping landforms.

Additionally, three new Team Alps members bring a diverse set of fieldwork skills, backgrounds, and adventurous spirits to help us tackle our research questions and to perhaps develop their own.

This leads to what I like to think of as a mini-workshop for the group this summer. We will be conducting terrestrial laser scanning and ground penetrating radar to better understand the morphologies of landforms in two valleys. These techniques are new to our group, and will therefore allow each of us to broaden both our skill-sets as geomorphologists and the findings of our projects.

Schwarzensteinkees Colt

Maybe this young one will be in the valley again this year (although all grown up)! It’s always nice to have someone greet you as you walk into your field area for the day.

Those of us returning are so excited to get back to the magical Berliner Hütte (complete with excess amounts of meat and cheese, bathing in sinks, and [hopefully] less rain) and of course to show off one of our favorite fieldwork base camps to a new crop of researchers!

Dinner’s view of the Hornkees (left) and Waxeggkees (right) glaciers from the back porch of the Berliner Hütte.

Dinner’s view of the Hornkees (left) and Waxeggkees (right) glaciers from the back porch of the Berliner Hütte.

 

Did that last photo look familiar? Maybe you have seen some of the Austria tourism ads throughout the London transport network; the Berliner Hütte is famous! (Here: Green Park tube station)

Did that last photo look familiar? Maybe you have seen some of the Austria tourism ads throughout the London transport network; the Berliner Hütte is famous! (Here: Green Park tube station)

Where Geography meets Biology! Environmental Science students visit Croatia 2015!

Ever wondered what Environmental Science students in the School of Geography get up..? Well, below is a glimpse of what happened when they joined students from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences on a field class to Croatia!

“As a part of our biology module in Environmental Science we had the opportunity to visit Croatia. On a day-to-day basis we were taught by professors specialised in their field from the University of Zagreb. We were taught through interactive fieldwork and we covered a different aspect of biology everyday. This involved studying springs, lakes, and vegetation to bats, crayfish, birds and frogs.

 

Croatia 2015

First sunset in Croatia, before the fieldwork begins

Sunset in Croatia, our first night before the field work begins!

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Croatia fieldwork 2015  Cetina springs, where students were classifying invertebrates, measuring water pH, and conductivity.

  Wading in... 

 

Krka National Park, Croatia

Bat hunting

Eco-Location! (Bat communication) On our way to a Bat cave

Bat 

 

 

Boat trip, fieldwork on a boat! Does it get any better!!  Boat trip

Tree frog

Tree frog

Prof. Nichols demonstrating to the students

Croatia 2015

Bird watching.. It isn’t as easy as it looks!

Field work

SNAKESSS!

Franziska, PhD student & demonstrator with our little friend we found along the way!

Crayfish

Crayfish galore! No animals were harmed during the taking of this photo.

Professor Nichols exploring Church of holy salvation

A little history lesson whilst in Croatia!

 

 

 

On Returning to London

In my travels to other countries and cities in Europe this semester, I often find myself sincerely missing London and particularly Queen Mary. My returns to campus were strange in that I began to find this new place relatively old. As a student studying abroad, I found it amazing to experience a sense of the familiar in a formerly unfamiliar place. I think this sense of belonging somewhere that I had never even been to four weeks prior is one of the most incredible aspects of my Study Abroad experience.

When leaving home or school to study in a completely different country and take part in a different society and culture, students often consider the possibility of feeling homesick. I think a crucial aspect in the success of studying abroad is the ability to feel at home in a new place. The moment at which I felt this connection with Queen Mary was when I returned to the campus, excited to see my flat and my flat mates again.

The idea that I could feel so comforted by a place I had only lived in for a few weeks is in part due to its relative familiarity in comparison to Edinburgh, which I had visited the weekend before. Still, I think there’s a really profound importance in students’ ability to connect with a school that is not only far from their home, but reflects an entirely different sense of academics and culture. Yet, I felt like a QMUL student after my first weekend away from campus, because I had actually missed my classes there and its familiar buildings.

For this reason, I think studying abroad is more than just experiencing a new place. I think it’s becoming familiar with that place, and its culture, in a way that reveals a key aspect which travelling lacks. Successfully living and studying abroad means understanding that you as a person, are in many ways defined by where you live, study, go out and make friends. For this reason, I found myself capable of recognizing London and Queen Mary as familiar places.

Canal near Mile End

Canal near Mile End

Thames

Thames

QMUL’s English department: Because literature is more than just books.

When I decided to go back to school for my Masters, England was an obvious choice. What better place to study English Literature than its birthplace, right?  But choosing a school was a bit more complicated.  I spent several weeks researching schools around England, but ultimately chose Queen Mary because they are the only school to offer a pathway specifically tailored to by academic interests.  Although my research on American schools was minuscule, I don’t think many universities in the States offer explicitly defined areas of study for Masters students.  You have your general ‘American Lit’ or ‘English Lit’ programs, but I never cam across any programs that were specifically ‘Romantic Lit’ or ‘Shakespeare’ or anything very detailed.

audrey literature queens building

Queen’s Building, QMUL

Photo courtesy of: The Student Room

My pathway, Eighteenth Century Literature and Romanticism (ECLAR), has completely broadened my understanding of not just literature but history, philosophy, politics, theology, and early science. The professors teaching the modules for this pathway are top scholars in their field and having the opportunity to learn from them has been invaluable. It was a completely new experience for me to be reading a book or article and find that my professor had been quoted as an expert. I would get quite star-struck the next time I saw the quoted professor. 🙂

Queen Mary’s English department also goes out of their way to bring our studies to life. In almost every module I took, we spent at least one class at a location other than Queen Mary using archives, making connections between literature and other subjects (London has an amazing number of free museums!), learning the procedures for different libraries available to us–the British Library was particularly different from any library I’d ever used before, and visiting relevant historical sites like Newington Green Unitarian Church, London’s oldest nonconformist place of worship (founded in 1708) or the Tate Britain to talk about the Turner exhibit and Romantic themes.

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 Archival experience with the National Portrait Gallery

We even took a day trip to Margate, which is on the East coast of England. That was absolutely one of the most lively and entertaining classes I had the chance to attend. We left just after noon on a Friday, spent the afternoon visiting various landmarks, discussing the literary and historical significance of Margate, mingling with the locals, and ended the day with a beautiful sunset and delicious fish and chips.

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Our brilliant day trip leader, Dr. Matt Ingleby (left), and a rhapsodic Margatian (right).

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 In addition to exponentially broadening my understanding in many different fields, ECLAR and the English department as a whole are dedicated to providing their students with real-life connections to their studies. There are weekly Postgraduate Research seminars which bring in speakers from a number of academic institutions to discuss their current research, and the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies also hosts regular seminars and an annual conference.

I could not envision a more preparatory English program than the ECLAR pathway at Queen Mary. Obviously if your research interests are different you should seek out a department that can support your pursuits, but when looking into potential universities make sure to think about what they will offer you outside the classroom. Get in touch with people in the department to ask any questions left unanswered by the websites. I’ll be the first to admit that Queen Mary’s website isn’t particularly insightful, but each of the professors I e-mailed responded within a couple days…and that was over their summer holidays!

Takeaway Tidbit: Ultimately the choice of university is yours, so make sure to do your research, but Queen Mary provides an excellent approach to Masters-level study and real-world preparedness.

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