Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Hello From The Other Side!

How’s everybody doing? I hope everybody’s having a great time relaxing, or preparing in advance for many things ahead! Summer’s always the best time for everybody – personally for me, this is the first time I am experiencing summer that lasts for around 3 months and this explained fully why summer is said to be the best 104 days (according to Phineas and Ferb…anyone?). Why? Because this is not the case from where I come from, that is, Indonesia!

 

Coming from the other side of the world means that coming home after 9 months of living in London has made me miss home more than ever. Coming back to Indonesia allowed me to meet my family and friends, and also savour all of our dishes and street food and all the small things that I have always been craving for in London. Of course, happiness is meant to be shared and hence I will share my joy with all of you through some pictures to allow you to see through my eyes.

 

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Food as expected – and a bowl of chili!           Nighttime culinary market called Cibadak.

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Nature! Indonesia attracts tourists mostly for its natural scenes!

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A bowl of meatballs in soup would cost about 1.5 pounds and two or three bowls are enough to make you full! Definitely, the picture on the right is a restaurant that serves everyone’s (ehem) favourite instant noodle – Indomie – that is topped with Indonesian traditional spices and sauces!

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Being at home means being able to play with the cats again!

 

Even though summer is such a great time for all of us, let us not forget a few things! For many of you applying to Queen Mary, don’t forget to sort out your accommodation, tuition fees, or even your visas if you are coming from outside the UK. Get prepared for university life! It may be hard to settle and fit in in the beginning, but eventually ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ and you will meet the right group of people for you, and QMUL is even glad to help you out with their buddy scheme which allows you to feel more than welcome on campus. Most importantly, going to Queen Mary means that you are about to be surrounded by a diverse environment, and you will be able to see the beauty coming from the differences every one of us owns.

 

With that, have a fantastic summer and have a good time, and see you soon!

Colour Up Your London Summertime

Summer has come upon us now and let’s all be honest, as much as we love the feeling of not thinking about any studies, we get bored. However, there are definitely some things to do to fill your time here in London, both near campus and away from the campus. Let me give you a sample in-the-day-of-my-life time table:

 

09:00 – 10:00

Wake up, reply to all the texts from back home, make myself a smooth cup of hot coffee.

 

10:00 – 12:00

It’s all about the gains. Hitting the gym at QMotion which is on campus making it so convenient for students that needs to burn off some fats from last night’s dinner.

 

12:00 – 13:00

I usually cook – I’ll get ingredients beforehand from either Co-op or Sainsbury’s which can be found beside the campus and opposite the campus respectively. Again, convenience is key here. Otherwise, I’d go eat in Mile End chicken shops (ahem, Dixie’s £2 for 8 wings) or go around London. Where to go, though? We’ll see below.

 

13:00 – 21:00

Okay, I go out a lot and spend a lot of time outside because staying inside for too long can get my mind tangled thinking about life and such too much. I spend this much time because I usually go out with my good friends that I’ve met in my course, my department, or even the societies I joined. Here’s a list of places you can visit:

  1. Chilling in the park: London has so many parks that you can just sit down and chill on, all very accessible by both the closest stations near campus. Need a closer one? Go to Victoria Park or Mile End Park.
  2. Central London: Of course, who doesn’t go here? Take the westbound central line to either Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus, or Bond Street, and treat yourself for some good food.
  3. Westfield Stratford: Just a stop away, take the eastbound central line and you can spend time shopping, bowl, or ride the Boris Bikes around the Olympic Park, which is right behind
  4. Mile End Pool & Snooker OR Riley’s: Interested in pool or snooker? You should definitely give them a visit – one just very close to the campus and the other in Victoria, which is possible to get to using the District Line from both Mile End station and Stepney Green station, literally approximately 2-3 minutes away from campus.
  5. Tourist-y stuff: Check online some touristy things to do and get the most of London, simple ones like visiting the Museums for FREE, or even watch the changing of the Guards at Buckingham palace.

 

21:00 – 00:00

At this time, I usually have a couple of pints with my friends, just talk about what to do the next day, or even sleep earlier.

 

There’s so much that you can do around London as you study in Queen Mary. First year studying here has been eventful for me but there’s definitely more outside London – in my hometown Bandung, Indonesia – that I will tell you about in the next blog!

One Angry Nan and 76 Minutes I’ll Never Get Back

On the 19th of May, at exactly 12:00 my final exam was over, marking the end of the academic year.  As much as I am looking forward to summer and being a relatively stress-free human for a few months; I am feeling particularly reflective. As well as experiencing all the typical student scenarios; coffee induced late nights in the library, intoxicated Wednesday evenings at the student’s union and subsequently rocking up to your Thursday 9am lecture half still in your pyjamas at 9:10; the most rewarding and exciting moments of the year, are a collation of completely unexpected, spontaneous and terrifying scenarios.  Here are a few of my favourite:

The Time my Grandmother Came to London and Got Very Mad at Theresa May
I had an unexpected phone call off my mum one Wednesday morning, explaining that my Nan and her two friends would be travelling to London to take part in a protest.  I was instructed to go and ensure that she “didn’t get herself into any trouble.”  Assuming this was a slight exaggeration on my mum’s behalf, I arrived at Parliament Square with intentions of a relatively calm afternoon with my Nan.  However, when I emerged from Westminster Tube Station, all I could see was thousands of women draped in purple sashes labelled “WASPI”, yelling, singing and waving their fists towards the Houses of Parliament.  A few hours later I found myself in the heart of that crowd, with my Nan, learning about their struggle and chanting along with them.  After living in London for two years, my first genuine experience at a protest was completely accidental but a completely irreplaceable adventure.

The Time I Got Lost at 4am
We were somewhere in central London, it was 4am, I was exhausted, my friend had just lost her Oyster card, our phones were on low battery, and we weren’t entirely sure of where to get our next bus from.  We decided to walk down the road towards the street map, and stopped to check the name of the street we were on.  Tired, lost and so very ready to be at home in bed, we both looked up at the street name.  Turn Again Lane.  London was surely mocking us.  We looked at each other, both perplexed but desperate enough to be willing to take advice from a street sign, without any exchange of words, we turned around and began walking in the opposite direction.  As if it were a miracle, within 30 seconds we could see our bus stop and within a few minutes we were on our bus, driving through the city centre.  It became clear that being lost in central London isn’t actually something to be hugely concerned about; I mean, I wouldn’t suggest looking to inanimate objects for advice; however, the number of maps, night busses, and people in the similar situations as you almost ensure that there is a way for you to arrive home safely.

The Time I spent 76 Minutes Stuck in a Lift
Living on the 5th floor meant that, occasionally, I had to overcome my slightly irrational fear of lifts.  One morning I was supposed to be travelling to South Wales for a family party and I was running extremely late.  I hopped into the lift with my shoes still untied and clothes falling out of my not very well packed bag.  I was so preoccupied with composing myself that I failed to recognise that the lift was not moving.  It wasn’t until the lights turned off that it dawned on me; I was stuck.  None of the buttons were working.  Everyone I phoned was busy.  After being stuck for 15 minutes, I had to call the fire brigade.  They arrived swiftly but were at a loss when considering possible ways to get me out.  When it got to the half hour mark, I had stressed, cried, gotten frustrated with myself for being lazy and not taking the stairs, called my mum, and finally, accepted the fact that I was probably going to spend the majority of my day completely alone in a glorified box.   One of the firemen stayed outside the lift the entire time, and we discussed a variety of topics from my increasing levels of hunger to the British weather; until finally, after 76 minutes, I was released.

From my first experience calling 999 to accidentally protesting the rising age of pensions with my 60-year-old grandmother, this year has been a series of peculiar events; but I honestly don’t think I would change a thing.  Soon I’ll begin organising my Summer; even though knowing my luck, none of it will go to plan.  I look forward to the slightly terrifying, unsuspected chaos that will almost definitely unfold over the next few months.

 

 

 

 

Sunsets, Science and Sunflowers

Exploring London is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable elements of living in this city.  From scouting out hidden treasures; obscure coffee shops and underground bars; to being able to weave through the crowds of tourists and relax with a book on parliament square with Big Ben in view, the quote “When a man is tired of London; he is tired of life” has never felt more true.  Here are 3 of my best-loved outings at the moment:

 

Columbia Road Flower Market
Between the hours of 8:00 and 15:00 every Sunday, Columbia Road transforms into a vibrant floral paradise.  After popping to The Hackney Coffee Company for my early Sunday morning caffeine fix, a stroll through the bustling flower market is the ideal way to begin my day.  The incredible aroma of the plants intertwined with hint of coffee coming from one of the many independent shops along the street, as well as the hundreds of people socialising whilst boasting their large bunches of sunflowers and attempting to balance their over-sized orchids on under-sized coffee tables makes Columbia Road Flower Market my happiest place in the city.

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The Science Museum
London boasts an impressive range of Museums and Galleries, however the most significant one for me is, of course, the Science Museum.  I could spend hours meandering through the Space section, gawking at the rockets suspended from the ceiling.  Every so often the museum opens its doors after hours and hosts a range of unique workshops and interactive experiences, as well as a silent disco.  An evening spent talking to astronaut impersonators and dancing to Beyoncé below a suspended United States Scout was undoubtedly one of the most memorable evenings I’ve ever had.

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Primrose Hill
After 15 minutes attempting to navigate the streets encompassing Regents Park in what felt like arctic conditions following a rather temperamental phone which occasionally told me to “make a legal U-turn”, I finally noticed a rather large hill poking out from behind some houses.   Honestly, the difficult journey and slight dizziness just made the view from the top even more satisfying.  Roughly 65 metres tall, Primrose Hill offers panoramic views of the entire city and on a wintery evening at sunset, it is one of the most spectacular things I have ever laid eyes on.  At the top very top is a stone with a William Blake inscription, reading “I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.”

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I have an ever-growing list of favourite places; and an ever-growing list of places I want to visit.  I am so thrilled that I have another 2 and a half years in this city; although I highly doubt that this is an adequate amount of time experience everything London has to offer.

 

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.

Returning to Germany

In recent months, I have had very little to write about when it comes to my Year Abroad: the German university system means that the break between the Winter Semester and the Summer Semester was approximately 10 weeks.. If you’re planning on studying in Germany, this might be something to plan for and bear in mind.

I realised that most of my friends in Bamberg would be going home for the break and there wasn’t much going on in the city (its quite a small city), so I went back to the UK to enjoy a relaxing break at home with my family. I had no idea that the holidays were going to be so long, so I was caught off guard and with little to do.

I made a list of things I wanted to achieve, looked for some work experience, I passed my driving test and relaxed. But the whole time, I felt a growing concern that it would be hard to get back into speaking German everyday when I came back.

After a very long 2 months, I booked flights and headed back for the start of the new Semester! And I found that whilst it took a few days for my spoken German to really come back, my understanding of the language hadn’t gone. In fact, it was easier than ever before.

This term I get to study medieval German- something that I would have never been able to do in such depth before. I am also learning more about Linguistics in Morphology and Language Acquisition. The options available to Erasmus students and more generally, German Studies students, is far beyond that of anything I’ve experienced. The sheer size of the University means that they are able to offer this level of variety.

For now, I am enjoying being back and studying again and will update with more Year Abroad adventures!

A Cup (or Two) a Day

I have asked several friends what amount of tea you can consume in a day before it becomes a problem. I’ve always been a tea drinker (unlike most Americans), but my daily tea intake has increased by about 200% since I came to London in September. I’m finally in a country where it’s not considered strange that I prefer tea to coffee, and I’m letting it get to me.IMG_0462

I see coffee as a wake-up drink: a grab it and go shot of caffeine. Tea, on the other hand, is the drink of relaxation. A nice hot mug as a relaxing start to the morning, a calming break in the afternoon, and a way to wind down at the end of the day. Amidst the chaos of classwork and travel and laundry and whatever else comes throughout the day, I always have a cup of tea to look forward to.

Out of deference to my love for tea, I’ve gone for a traditional afternoon tea once three times since I’ve been in London. The first was on my own a week after arriving (sounds odd, I know, but there’s something incredibly lovely about treating yourself). The second was with my parents at the Pump Room in Bath (highly recommended – not cheap, but much cheaper than a comparable tea in London). And finally, just for good measure, I went to the tea arranged by the study abroad office during Reading Week.

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For you nay-saying coffee drinkers out there, you have to give tea a try while you’re in London. It’s a British tradition! Plus, when you drink it out of a fancy cup, you feel wonderfully classy 🙂

Why it’s hard speaking German…

For many people, it was the norm to grow up bilingual. And if, like me, you didn’t enjoy such a culturally rich experience, you may have an understanding of how hard languages can be. Learning a language as an adult is a frustrating experience, but one I am really enjoying.

I often get asked if I’m fluent. I always answered ‘no’, or that ‘I could get by’. This confuses some people- how can you be doing a degree and not be fluent.. ? Isn’t it just learning words?

It occured to me that many people have little or no experience of living abroad or learning a language. So, I have thought of a way to explain everyday difficulties when trying to articulate your thoughts and have translated a standard conversation that you may have in a bakery into direct English- word for word.

 

‘Greet God. Can I to you of help be?’

‘I would have gladly four rolls. What costs that?’

‘One Euro four and twenty. Is there extra there-to?’

‘No, thank you’

‘I wish to you a beautiful day still’

 

Speaking a language involves breaking all your word order rules that come so naturally. When I say it’s tiring speaking another language, I hope this clarifies why 🙂

 

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Learning The Rules

A few days ago I found myself on my bike, on a cycle path that was blocked by a rather large group of German tourists. As I was carrying my heavy shopping and was slow anyway, I decided just to wait.. they would notice it was a cycle path soon enough and move out of the way, right?

They didn’t.. so I was left awkwardly peddling at walking pace.. my British brain couldn’t bring myself to ring the bell. That was far too rude, ordering people out of the way… or was it?

Then an older German gentleman said to me: ‘Sie muessen klingen’- You have to ring the bell. Suddenly my grammatic analysis came flooding back- was he being polite, was it a suggestion, was he demonstrating how appauled he was at my rudeness by his choice of verb? I quickly replied that it didn’t really matter, as I was slow on my bike anyway. And as I said that, the group of people coincidentally parted like the Red Sea and I went on my way.

It is a little talked about fact, that blending into a society is often more subtle than expected. It was confusing to me, that a stranger was encouraging me to do something that I considered quite impolite. But here he was, finding what I was doing to be impolite. Why wait, when you have a perfectly good bell to use?

Slowly but surely, my actions and mannerisms are changing to become what many British people may find to be rude. But what is important is not that I am considered rude by British standards, but that I am being a polite member of my new German society. It may be embarrassing at first to make these mistakes, but you can rely on a stranger to let you know what you’re doing wrong. Learning from your mistakes doesn’t just apply to language. Sometimes, you’re saved by the bell.

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