Ziqi: Day trip to London

Hey guys!

Here’s what I have been up to in the month of November.

My life in Birmingham

There are three words to describe my life in Birmingham: colourful, busy and fun. I have joined some student societies such as, the baking society, the Chinese society and community challenge. During my free time, I attend the baking society twice a month to bake some cookies or cakes with my friends. I also work in the Chinese Society where I have made lots of new friends and learned how to find sponsorships and organize activities.

ziqi_2a
Christmas market in Birmingham

 

Academic Life

The workload at Birmingham University is different from the University of Auckland. At UOA, we have many assignments and quizzes throughout the semester which each count as a small percentage towards our final mark. In contrast, at Birmingham I don’t have to take quizzes each day; however, I need to prepare for final essays which may count as 100% of my final grade. Therefore, I don’t have many deadlines recently but I still need to undertake my five essays which are due at the end of this semester.

 

London day trip

It is very convenient to visit London during the weekend because it just takes me one hour and a half on the train from Birmingham to London. Below are pictures of some impressive scenic spots in London that I have visited.

ziqi_2b
Oxford street in London at night

 

Firstly, I went to the British Museum which is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Also, it shows the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. I highly recommend that if you have enough time to visit London, you spend a day exploring this amazing museum.

 

Secondly, I went to the national gallery which exhibits many incredible artistic works. There are many rooms that display different themes of painting such as flowers, people, scenery and religious themes. Certain painting captivated my attention and couldn’t help but stare at them for a long time. It was a little bit busy at the weekend, but everyone inside the gallery was trying to keep quiet.

 

Then, it was my lunch time! I walked across to millennium bridge and found a fancy restaurant called Swan which has a view of the river Thames. Later, I ordered a steak salad and a cup of Earl grey (my favourite!). If I could rate this restaurant, I would give them full stars because the atmosphere and kind staff made for a very relaxing lunch.

ziqi_2c
London tower bridge on a rainy day

 

In the afternoon, I visited two famous landmarks: London Tower Bridge and the London eye. Although, it was a cold and rainy day, there were still many tourists. Later, I went to Oxford Street to go shopping. Here I found almost all brands I wanted to find. The street was decorated with beautiful neon lights which remind me that Christmas is coming next month!

ziqi_2d
angel light in London oxford street

Finally, I would say that London is a big city which shows prosperity and is rich in history.

When I walk on the street, I was constantly amazed by the British architecture. Also, I can get start to know Europe history and culture by visiting Museums and art galleries to broaden my horizons. So I like London with no doubt, I would always travel back to London when I have time.

ziqi-sarah.jpg

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.

Ziqi_1a
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.

Ziqi_1b
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.

Ziqi_1c
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!

ziqi-sarah.jpg

Anshula: Birmingham

As I arrived on Aston Webb Boulevard after 48 hours of relentless travel, Birmingham was pitch black at 11 pm but Old Joe (the clock tower) towered proudly over the sprawling campus. With the campus on a daunting hillock, it felt like entering Hogwarts for the first time, and I knew I was ready for the magical ride that was going to be this exchange.

Anshula_1a.jpg

I never thought my first play performance at university, would be while on my exchange! We performed a pantomime of Treasure Island. Interestingly, the opening number – Shiver Me Timbers – was based on the New Zealand Haka; so it was nostalgic to sing and dance to it! Being the only international students in the play team of about 50 Brits was definitely an exciting and welcoming experience.

Anshula_1b.jpg

I was doing courses under the Business and Psychology departments, so I went to their course scheduling workshops to get my timetable sorted: highly recommend arriving earlier than the class start date to attend these! It was often easier to get a response in person as over 200 exchange students can have vastly differing requirements, which can be difficult to understand via email.

Anshula_1c.jpg

Courses rarely had assignments and were mostly assessed at the end, but this is changing in the 2019-2020 session as Birmingham attempts to make assessments more distributed throughout the semester. Lecturers are very understanding and helpful, so make sure to introduce yourself at the beginning of the semester!

Anshula_1d.jpg

Accommodation wise, it is best to apply for Bournbrook or Jarratt Hall as they are close to Bristol Road, which has cheap supermarkets like Aldi and Tesco and is the hub of social life at university. For those preferring to be catered, Shackleton Hall at the Vale has the main dining areas (although the meal plan can be purchased even if you are not at Shackleton).

Anshula_1e.jpg

This was the first time that I had moved from a halls to a flatting situation, so it was a huge learning experience! It was also the first time that I was going to fully cater for myself, so have definitely learned some quick, healthy meals. I would recommend being open, engaging and patient with cultural differences as there are quite a few even between NZ and the UK!

Anshula_1f

Handy tips:

  • Take the 61 or 63 bus from outside campus for 1 pound only to the city centre!
  • Plan weekend travel beforehand: book buses/trains earlier as prices rise like flights!
  • Recommend joining clubs, especially those that we don’t have at UoA! 😉
    • Harry Potter Club
    • Dance Club Latino
    • Pole Fitness
  • GYM MEMBERSHIP IS LIMITED AND GETS SOLD OUT MONTHS AGO SO PURCHASE ONE AS SOON AS YOU GET YOUR VISA!!!
  • Put yourself in new situations (socially and otherwise); you might find new hobbies! Eg: If you are an outdoorsy person, try origami or board games with friends and try to have different social circles both in and out of class so that you don’t restrict your social activities or travel to the interests of one group
  • Must-visit places: Cardiff (Wales), Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Liverpool, Scotland, Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace), London (of course

Anshula_1g

 

  • Get in touch with the Careers Network at UoB if you want to plan a future in the UK
  • Network with UoA alumni in Birmingham or even just professionals in your industry of interest
  • Keep a list of people you meet (professionals and friends) so that you can keep track later on: Facebook and Linkedin are not enough!
  • Budget! You can only work part time if you get a visa for the whole year, there is much less contact hours here than UOA so it is possible to work
  • KEEP A TRAVEL DIARY and/or vlog
  • Invest time in a good ol’ Spotify playlist
  • Write down your priorities for your exchange before you leave, and take note of how they evolve during and after your exchange
  • In decreasing order of priority, write down your reasons for choosing your countries/universities in the Prospective Host Universities form. Sleep on this list and note how these reasons (or their order or priority) evolve with time and as you interact with other exchange students. Potential reasons: Travel, University/department rankings, Professional networks, Stepping stone to future study/career
  • Learn proper cooking for at least a month before you go on exchange
    • Must-haves: portable rice cooker and mixer/chopper/blender
  • Birmingham was my FOURTH choice and I was hesitant to accept it but in hindsight, I would not change it for the world! Do not let the lack of your first/top 3 choices put you off the best experience of your university life 😀
  • Try to vary your experiences as much as possible but do not let your FOMO (fear of missing out) exhaust you. This is YOUR exchange and there is no such thing as too much or too little of travelling/clubbing/socialising: do what feels natural!
  • Having said that, be bold because it is, after all, a once – in – lifetime experience! 🙂

Anshula_1h

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED

  • Exchange is more than worth the stress and sleepless nights. That is all 😉

MESSAGE TO OUTGOING EXCHANGE STUDENTS (TO BIRMINGHAM OR ELSEWHERE):

  • If you have any inhibitions or fears regarding your exchange (or are just losing sleep at 3 pm), call me on Messenger and I am happy to chat about absolutely anything!

Roald Dahl once said: “Those who don’t believe in magic, will never find it”. I’m glad I did (and still do), because I found Birmingham!

Anshula