Posts Tagged ‘study abroad’

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!

Life is for living.

I’m sure many of us have heard the phrases ‘life’s too short’ or ‘you only live once’ and these are phrases I believe to be very true. With so many great things to do, see, taste and accomplish, surely we can’t do everything on the planet, but we may as well try. Luckily, being a biology student, studying at QMUL and having the great chance to be in this fantastic capital, there is at least a place to start.

Aside from lectures and labs, my course has provided adventures across the globe. A field trip to Somerset in first year meant I could discover the ecology of a beautiful part of Britain. Second year ventured further afield, reaching Eastern Europe with 7 days in Croatia. Finally in third year, a trip to South Africa meant I could experience safari adventures like no other. I have seen parts of the globe that I perhaps would not have seen if it weren’t for these opportunities. Not only with my course, but other great chances have allowed me to travel to Asia. In the summer between first and second year, I went to China with QMUL on the study abroad programme. Two weeks at Sichuan University provided insight in to Chinese culture (and cuisine!).

The Kruger National Park,  South Africa

The Kruger National Park, South Africa

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

Returning to my base in London, there is so much to offer when not gallivanting the world. Numerous parks to wonder, cuisines to taste and things to see, there is always something to do, and it doesn’t have to be costly. For something different, I danced a ceilidh with the Ceilidh club, went swing dancing in Victoria Park, or have cycled the city by night on a Borris bike. Nowhere else is there such variety, in amongst a vibrant atmosphere of culture and fun.

Reflecting on some of the memorable experiences I’ve had so far, I can’t think of anywhere else I would have chosen to do my undergraduate degree. These times maks me realise I must live my life more than ever, as this is only the start. Life is for living. So live it.

Sundays in the East End

As someone who grew up in quite rural areas, when I applied to universities, they had to be in London. Spending half my life in Cornwall and half my life on the Isle of Wight, I really wanted to move to a big city.

I’m not going to lie, it was a big change. There are so many more people, it’s easy to get lost and not everyone I meet smiles, says hello and asks me how school is going. Shops are open after 5pm (this is still a fact that I sometimes have to be reminded of) and there is always something to do, even on a Sunday. Plus, being in the East End, there are a lot more quirky things to occupy your time with. One of my favourites is something me and my house mates like to refer to as “Brick Lane Sundays” where we go to the Sunday market to browse and get food, sometimes venturing as far as the flower market at Colombia Road.

Map of the East End with Queen Mary, Brick Lane and Colombia Road circled. (courtesy of google maps)

Map of the East End with Queen Mary, Brick Lane and Colombia Road circled.
(courtesy of google maps)

As you can see from the map above, Brick Lane and Colombia Road are both fairly close to the university. It’s about a 30/40 minute walk, which is also quite enjoyable if you want to look at all the shops along Whitechapel Road (the main road running between the uni and Brick Lane), or you could take the bus or the tube to get there even quicker.

Colombia Road is a personal favourite of mine. It’s a small, narrow street (top left of the map) where every Sunday, flower sellers fill both sides of the road and thousands of people turn up. The crowds are insane, and it gets so packed that you have to shuffle along the road, like you’re at a festival. There are also loads of unusual little shops selling cute bits and bobs for home decoration, garden ware, art, antiques and food and drink. Even if you’re not a fan of flowers, it’s worth seeing all the people, enjoying some of the music from the buskers and looking at all the shops and flowers. Also during the lead-up to Christmas, the shops open late on Wednesdays and they have carol singers and Christmas trees out, which is great for picking up any unique Christmas gifts.

Some of the flowers in Colombia Road market

Some of the flowers in Colombia Road market

My mum and sister clutching some flowers from Colombia Road

My mum and sister clutching some flowers from Colombia Road

Brick Lane is also another great place to visit on a Sunday (bottom left on the map). Every Sunday, the road and a number of halls on the road fills with stall sellers, selling everything from festival sunglasses with interchangeable lenses to an adult-sized peperami costume (no, seriously). They’ve also got, you know, normal stuff too, like books, vintage clothes, antiques and jewellery. They also have an incredible food market, selling food from all over the world for really reasonable prices. Brick Lane is also famous for its beigels, sort of like bagels, but they’re incredibly cheap and really delicious. There are also all sorts of different musicians that perform every week, from full live bands to a guy who beatboxes with a harmonica, and for those into art, there is a load of street art all along the road that photographers come to capture every day of the week. Again, just like with Colombia Road, the spectacle is worth seeing, even if you’re not a big fan of the sort of stuff they sell. Plus, outside the Sunday Market, Brick Lane is around every day. There are a huge number of shops including the Cereal Killer Cafe, a cafe that (you’ve guessed it) only sells cereal. There’s also an incredible chocolate shop called Dark Sugars that often hands out free samples (yum), loads of cafes, a bowling alley, a record shop and so, so much more.

Some of the street art along Brick Lane

Some of the street art along Brick Lane

The Thirst performing on Brick Lane

The Thirst performing on Brick Lane

Some more Brick Lane street art

Some more Brick Lane street art

Going from never really having anything to do, to having so much to do and see it’s almost overwhelming is a big change. Despite this, it’s sometimes easy to forget that I am living and studying in one of the biggest and most impressive cities in the world. In between studying I like to try and explore as much as I can and try and see something new. London caters for everything – last weekend I went to a cat cafe! And the crazy part is that that wasn’t even the first cat cafe I’ve ever been to, but TWO are also within walking distance from the uni. You think of it, London probably has it, and whilst I’m here I’m going to enjoy and do as much as I can, and potentially stay forever!

One of my favourite cats from Shoreditch's London Cat Village

One of my favourite cats from Shoreditch’s London Cat Village

That’s why I’m so grateful for the opportunity university has given me – to go and live somewhere new. If you’re not ready for that yet, you can always stay at home too (as long as you’ve got a university fairly nearby), but it’s nice having that freedom of choice. You can even choose to study abroad for something even more different! In fact, Queen Mary offers study abroad programmes and the Erasmus Programmes also offer this study abroad option. You can choose to move as little or as far away as you like, and I loved having that choice. Although it’s hard being away from home, London is a big transport hub, so it’s not too tricky to get home, even though I do have to get a boat! For now I’ll just go on exploring London in whatever free time I get – in fact I heard there’s a jungle themed cat cafe opening in West Hampstead…

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

 

Entrepreneur boot camp and fun at Hampton Court Palace

I spent Saturday with my LUIP Ambassador friends, first at Kingston University and then exploring Hampton Court Palace. Our time at Kingston was wonderfully impelling because we were led through an entrepreneur boot camp by Dr. Martha Mador, the head of Enterprise Education Strategy. Dr. Mador began by explaining the entrepreneur process:

  • A successful opportunity for entrepreneurial pursuit can occur at any point on the continuum of discovery, evaluation, and exploitation;
  • In order to be successful, there must be a healthy balance of creativity (the generation of new ideas) and innovation (the successful exploitation of new ideas–ideas being accepted in a marketplace);
  • Dr. Mador further clarified that innovation is not just a product or invention, and it’s not necessarily a new idea nor a ‘light bulb moment’. It is a combination of finding novel solutions to peoples’ problems.

After her thought-provoking explanation, we spent the next hour or so working through the entrepreneurial process ourselves. We split into groups, were given photo cards, and told to brainstorm a list of problems based on the pictures we had. The pictures were quite nondescript– a woman running through a field, a row of wind turbines, a person helping another climb a rock–but from those pictures we generated 10 general problems that could be fixed.

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We could even write on the tables…I was awed. English majors don’t get to write on much, other than notebooks.

After generating a list of problems, we chose one and brainstormed solutions to the problem. From there, we created a viable solution and developed and pitched our service to the group. My group decided to focus on the lack of work-life balance for many professionals. We developed a company called Stress Less, a consulting agency that businesses could hire to help convert their offices so that they promoted a more healthy work-life balance. Our pitch even had a jingle, set to the tune of ‘Call Me Maybe’. We won the ‘Best Brand Name’ award…go Team Stress Less!

After boot camp we headed over to Hampton Court Palace, the palace of King Henry VIII (the one who created the Church of England, and had 6 wives in his attempts to have a son. He also fathered Queen Elizabeth I, who is by far my favorite English monarch.). The palace was beautiful, but I was much more enamored with the grounds. The gardens were absolutely stunning, especially the ones along the bank of the Thames. And I was impressed by how successfully lost we became while wandering through the maze. Most of all, I couldn’t have chosen a better group of friends with whom to spend the afternoon.

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The English love their roses. Especially those Tudors. 🙂

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fun

Kim and her band of merry ambassadors. Photo Cred: Divi

Being guided through the creative process of identifying and developing a business was unexpectedly motivating. I left boot camp feeling like I could actually create a viable business–on paper, anyway. I started brainstorming ventures I would be interested in and that might actually work. However, after my original elation wore off, I realized I would have some serious work to do on the numbers side of developing a business. Let’s be honest: although I find an odd satisfaction in getting the correct answer on a math problem I am nowhere near confident enough to trust a business’s finances to my numeracy skills. Creates a nice opening for a partner, though. Any takers?

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 Pilgrimage to Canterbury

While studying in London and travelling to different countries, it’s sometimes hard to remember that there is more to England than this incredible pocket of diversity. A weekend trip outside of London can be a great way to counter that perception and the county of Kent was my choice for this experience. My journey to Kent included a visit to the well-known city of Canterbury, where I saw the Canterbury Cathedral and a very odd tour depicting Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Canterbury

Canterbury

While Canterbury has been a significant religious site for centuries, literature lovers like myself think fondly of it as the inspiration for Chaucer’s tales. One of the best aspects for me of being abroad has been seeing the actual places I’ve read about in some of my favorite works. I’ve gotten to read Virginia Woolf’s novels while actually living in the city she often tried to capture in her writing. I saw the Brazen Head Pub in Dublin, where Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, a work I’m currently reading in my Satire course, used to hang out. Traversing the final point of Chaucer’s pilgrims’ journey was certainly just as spectacular.

The Cathedral with its incredibly detailed design gave me a greater understanding why people would have made extensive journeys to this place, even though I only took a two-hour bus ride from London to get there. The rich history of the Cathedral including the murder of Thomas Becket provided me with a foundational background for Chaucer’s work. It was spectacular to actually be in a place that was so intimately connected with something I had read in a classroom. My trip to Canterbury allowed me to have an interactive experience with a piece of writing from the fourteenth century, which was eye-opening for me, in part because I don’t have that opportunity in the U.S.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

Of course, the city of Canterbury acknowledges this connection to a very old text, and provides an interactive museum of manikins, which I can only describe as creepy and uninformative. It was still slightly entertaining, though, and mimicked the kind of unclear humor lurking beneath Chaucer’s writing.

 

Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands

This past weekend, I went to Scotland with my study abroad program. After class on Friday, I rushed to get to King’s Cross Station to board my train, which took around 5 hours to get to Edinburgh Waverly Station in Edinburgh’s city center. Since I arrived at Edinburgh late in the afternoon, I didn’t have as much time to look around, but I did get to see some attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, the National Gallery of Scotland, and St. Giles’ Cathedral. In general, I just enjoyed walking through the different areas in Edinburgh–both Old Town and New Town. On Princes Street, there are a lot of high street clothing stores. On Royal Mile, there are a wide variety of shops and restaurants. Edinburgh is probably one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. Many of the buildings in Edinburgh look as if they were stained with smog, and this is because, when homes were heated with coal fires, the soot and smog from chimneys stained the buildings, but the dark color of the buildings makes Edinburgh look even more historical and beautiful.

The next day we got up early for our bus tour around the Scottish Highlands. First we stopped by Forth Road Bridge to take some pictures. Then, we headed over to Blair Castle in Pertshire. The castle had large rooms with interesting displays and the entrance hall’s walls were impressively decorated with guns, swords and shields. Walking through the castle was like going through a mansion! The rooms were large, and everything looked so extravagant. After thoroughly touring the castle, we boarded the bus and traveled through Cairngorms National Park in North East Scotland. This is the largest national park in the British Isles, and it was a very scenic route. I enjoyed seeing the red deer and greenery as we drove by.  We then went to Culloden Battlefield. Here, we looked through the exhibitions, watched a four minute film of a reenactment of the Battle of Culloden, and walked around the battlefield on Culloden Moor. The tour was very informative, and visiting the battlefield was a great way to learn about Scotland’s history. Afterwards, we headed out to dinner in Inverness, where we stayed for a night.

On Sunday, we started the day at Urquhart Castle where we saw breathtaking views of Loch Ness and the Great Glen. It was nice exploring the various parts of Urquhart Castle and going up the tower to look out at Loch Ness. I was hoping I would find Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, but sadly, that did not happen! Later, we traveled through Glen Coe, a volanic glen, where we stopped for a few minutes to take pictures. Glen Coe was such a spectacular sight! There was fog circling the tops of the mountains, and there were small waterfalls scattered around the area. The area was so beautiful to look at, but it was horribly cold and there was lots of wind. However, enduring the cold wind was definitely worth looking at the wonderful scenery.

I do wish I could have spent more time in Scotland because Edinburgh was so beautiful and I loved seeing all the greenery in the Highlands, but at the end of my trip (as with all my trips, actually), I just enjoyed returning back to London.

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Edinburgh with some street construction

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Entrance Hall of Blair Castle

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Culloden Battlefield on Culloden Moor

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Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness

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Glen Coe

 

Student in the City

London is a lively city, and it seems as if there’s always something to do–whether it’s attending a gig, watching a play, going shopping or browsing the markets. According to my Bandsintown App, which allows you to search for local gigs and concerts, there are literally gigs almost every day of the week! And they are all accessible with the tube. If you love theatre, you can attend one of the many shows in London’s West End, which is such a large and lively area at night. If you’re a shopaholic, you can go to Westfield Stratford which is one tube stop away from Mile End and is one of the EU’s largest shopping malls! And if you want to just socialize with friends, you can visit one of London’s many pubs. I really believe you can find anything that suits your interests in London. If you’re ever bored, you can just head over to the nearest tube station and the city is an Oyster tap away.

Although the universities in London don’t have large campuses, there is no lack of study space in London. There are so many cafes, especially in the East End near QMUL. These cafes are perfect to go to after class to revise and work on coursework.

And though living in London adds up to be expensive for students, there are still many frugal options available. For example, browsing the many museums in London is free–not to mention educational. Living in London is hard on one’s wallet, but it does end up being a good lesson on budgeting as a student.

So far, I have really enjoyed studying in London. In addition to having wonderful experiences exploring my interests in the city, there are also so many places in London that are relevant to my studies in English literature. For example, I’ve been to John Keats’ house and even visited the pub where Charles Dickens frequented while writing his manuscriptsand then I wrote about my visit for an assignment! When I first arrived in London, I admit I didn’t think the city was that great, but now that I’ve been here for seven months, the city has really grown on me, and I’ve come to appreciate the vast amount of options available. Whether you want to spend your day studying in a cafe, going shopping, or browsing museums, any option you choose will be easily accessible in London.

 

 

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