Ziqi: A Holiday Well Spent

My first semester at the University of Birmingham has ended with many essays. But my exchange life is not only about studying. My objective for this year is to do as many meaningful things as I can. Therefore, over Christmas vacation, I went to Portugal to volunteer. I was working in a re-food organization which collects food from restaurants and supermarkets and re-packs it to feed homeless and poor families. Before I worked there, I heard the story of how the founder created this organization and I really admired his story. Luckily, I met him on the first day that I worked there when I was building the stage for Christmas dinner. I asked him a lot of different questions because I was curious about him and this non-profit organization.

I asked, “What’s your dream?”
He replied, “To be a good person and help more people.”
I asked: “What advice would you give to the youth?”
He replied, “Always be honest, integrated and help others.”

I asked a lot of questions and he always replied patiently and kindly. What I learned from him is to be merciful all the time and do charity without expecting anything in return.

Also, at this Christmas dinner, the president of Portugal came. Surprisingly, I was the one who served his table. Therefore, I had the opportunity to chat with him. Many residents said that their president is very kind and he is the president of the people. I could see that is true! He always served by himself instead of calling servers and he greeted everyone sincerely once he came in. Such an amazing experience. I met the founder of this project and the Portugal president at the same day!

Finally, my advice about exchange is to study hard and play hard. Studying is always the most important thing for us but it is not the only thing we need. Coming out of our comfort zones, taking part in societies that interest us and traveling is important for our growth as well. This experience gave me the chance to make lifelong friends and it broaden my horizons.

Overall, my exchange experience was very impressive and memorable. I would trade nothing for this experience. If you are considering applying for an exchange, I would say just do it. You will not regret this wonderful decision!

Ziqi: First Impressions at Birmingham

Hey, guys!

Welcome to my new life in Birmingham where the golden breeze blows in October (with drizzle sometimes) and there are ancient style buildings which are made of red bricks.

University of Birmingham

Well, let’s go through the past two weeks and tell you what I have experienced so far. During the orientation week, there was an exchange student welcome party, fresher’s fair, society fair and lots of other fun activities. After I arrived here, I never felt lonely because every day was busy and filled with fun activities!

I remember that “culture shock” was mentioned during our pre-departure session. Some aspects of the UK culture has certainly shocked me, especially when I found out that the official welcome party was held in a club and that all of the orientation week parties were at night. Also, in the exchange student icebreaker event, almost all of the conversations closed with “go for beer or go to club tonight?”. This is not something I am interested in, so my answer was absolutely not. I do want to make new friends, but not in this way. I do not think that not drinking or clubbing means you can’t be social.

This morning I made friends with a German girl who I have a lot in common with. But we just get started with a “Hello”. So as you can see, even if you don’t like beer and clubs, you can still make good friends here.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery


On the weekend, I went to the city centre by train and visited the Birmingham Museum & art gallery. There are lots of amazing art works here which were painted from 15 century to 21 century. If you are interested in Birmingham history, I highly recommend you to go there. There are also many shopping malls and restaurants just near the train station, I can buy whatever I need and have brunch there.

English Breakfast

The second week started with lectures. I have six modules this semester which means it may be more intense now than in Auckland. At the same time, I have joined some societies that I am really interested in, such as the baking society and Chinese society. I hope I can have fun and improve my social skills as a member of these clubs.

Finally, I want to quote a famous aphorism: ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.’ Before arriving here, I never imagine how life will be in here. But now I can surely say that I will enjoy this experience!