Five days to go!

newcastleuponI can’t believe these are my last five days in Newcastle. It all went incredibly fast and I feel like I wanted to blog more; I should have blogged more. I have so many things to say, so many blog posts drafts started and never finished, so many ideas on what to write. Without wanting to sound cliché, time was, and is, not on my side. My staying here was never boring and I was always occupied with doing something, that being either studying, seeing places, talking with my family and friends, hanging out with my housemate, etc.

My exchange here exceeded all my expectations. I will continue to blog about this until I won’t have anything to say. I will go back to all my drafts and write about the places I loved visiting, people I’ve met, things I’ve learned (because I’ve learned a lot especially about myself). I feel like I’ve grown to be more responsible, more tidy, and definitely more confident. Living in a foreign country where you start with no friends and no idea where the train metro is, brings out the best and worst in you. And then you have to choose between being afraid of going out of the house or just go out, ask questions, get responses, make friends, and get going. There is no choice, really. You have to do these things. Personal growth will not give you academic credits but looking at things in the long run, it’s the main thing one can gain from an exchange semester.

Right now I am wrapping up my affairs here. I have one essay to finish and hand in, and one sit-in exam and then it’s all done. Then packing, crying, saying my goodbyes. Then taking my plane to Sweden, doing more crying, this time out of joy (because as great as this was I do miss my home, boyfriend, friends, etc.). I can’t believe Monday I will meet my three best friends who I’ve missed like I’ve lost my limbs. All I’m thinking is if they will find me changed, if they will understand how much this meant for me, if they will still like me. I wonder if this is a common thing that runs through every exchange student’s head before they go back home.

My plan for my blog is simple: keep on writing. I want to write about the things that have been great and not so great. I would love it if prospective exchange students would read my blog and find interesting information. I want to write about the things I would have done differently and about the things that I’ve done well. The do’s and don’ts. I’ll try and write relevant advises for anyone considering applying for an exchange semester.

I don’t think I will have time to write anything until Friday when I will officially be done with my exams. So I guess this is goodbye, England. You’ve been magnificent. Goodbye Newcastle University. You’ve been one of the most inspirational places I’ve ever stepped in. Goodbye exchange semester. You’ve been one of my best (if not the best) decisions in my student life.  And Sweden: Vi ses snart!

Assessments- same, same but different.

99Back at MAH (Malmö University), my assessments in two years of university have been divided in essays, sit-in exams, and presentations. Sometimes a portfolio makes an appearance but this has been pretty much it. I’m sure this can be very different depending what people are studying, but I will try and only talk about my experience. At Newcastle, things revolve around the same things: a presentation here, an essay there. However, there are certain differences in how this is executed.
You know…same, but different.

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Armstrong building, where I have some of my courses. Yes, I know-amazing!

Yesterday I did my first (and last) presentation at my adoptive university. It was the first time I felt extremely confident about presenting. I’m not the type of person who takes assessments lightly. I don’t have the que sera, sera attitude. As a matter of fact, I get really nervous days before, thinking of all the worst case scenarios that could happen. This paranoia, although annoying to the people around me, helps me in a way. Having all this extremely bad scenarios in my mind, reality never proves to be as bad as I paint it in mind. I always do extensive research, much more than I would need to serve the purpose of a ten minutes PowerPoint presentation, so no question can ever take me by surprise. And they never really do. I’m always super early at school just in case the planets align that day and clog the traffic. And I’m never late. Things like that. But for this presentation I was there only ten minutes early, had a nice chat with the teacher before, started my slides, went through them very naturally, even affording myself the luxury to crack a joke or two on the subject of my presentation. And it went well. So how come? Why did I feel so confident about it? I think it has to do with what happened a day before. The teacher encourages us to come see him in his office and go through our presentation, tell him what we want to do, ask for advice, etc. I did that and I felt extremely confident knowing that I’m not blindly jumping in something like a twenty minutes presentation without knowing if I’m really on the right track. Of course after doing so many presentations back home I knew I was on the right track, but reassurance works wonders. Also, something interesting about the whole thing was the fact that it was an individual presentation (YES!) and not mandatory. Now, this is the different part. In this course, we could do a twenty minutes presentation only if we wanted. If we did it, it would count as 30% of the grade and we would have to write a 3000 words essay as part of the last 70% (due late January). If we decided we don’t want to do the presentation, we would have to write a 4000 words essay that would count as 100% of the grade. It’s debatable which would be the “best deal” but I can tell you that an hour seminar is much livelier with a presentation.

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Original KCACO poster at Barter Books Bookshop. Yes, I was there. Yes, I find it fitting to this post.

Another interesting type of assessment that I will go through in December is a so-called individual presentation that is really nothing like it sounds. It is in fact a debate, done within a pre-established group, but graded individually. The teacher gives us three topics. We choose one and end up in a group with the other people in our seminar who also chose that topic. So we have the group. That group can meet as many times as it wants, or be spontaneous (and insane) and just go to the debate the day of the assessment. There, we have twenty minutes to talk about the subject. This can be as staged as we want it to be. We can have meetings before and script it, knowing who speaks when and what, so we don’t create chaos and talk over each other. If we want to talk more than twenty minutes we can have friends in the audience asking the questions we couldn’t fit in our time. Even though this is a group debate, it is graded individually. Even if you don’t say a thing at the debate, the teacher assigns 3 minutes for every students to say his/her own conclusions on the matter at the end so everyone gets to talk. The grade is all about the quality of what you say rather than the quantity. To me it sounds a bit chaotic at the moment, but I’m sure things will clearer with time. Next seminar we will do a mock debate and see how things will go.

The essays are the same everywhere, except the style of the house is Harvard, not MLA. It seems to be much more official though. To submit an essay I need to submit it online and as a physical copy that needs to be stamped by the department secretary before I can drop it in the teacher’s pigeon box. I also get a receipt as proof that I submitted my work.

So far my courses are going really well, I am very pleased with my decisions. Next assessment is on the 7th November, a case study for the (amazing) Advertisement course. So I guess I should go back to my research now…

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Greetings from Newcastle, United Kingdom.

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Newcastle University. King Edward VII building.

Today I have been in England for one week and three days. I travelled to Newcastle filled with fears, hopes, dreams, and big plans, all in one suitcase and body. I wanted to write my first post Tuesday, when I was in England for exactly one week but sometimes it’s not that easy. I tried my very best to write something but I kept deleting everything after only a couple of paragraphs. I wanted my post here to be smart, witty, funny, and inspirational. Instead, I think I will just go with honest. So here we go…what I honestly did in my first week in England (ever).

My flight went well and uneventful. Upon arrival, while waiting for my luggage to appear,  I kept repeating the words “ please don’t lose my stuff, please don’t lose my stuff, please don’t lose my stuff” like a mantra. I guess it worked since they didn’t lose my stuff. They lost my colleague’s.

That day I also learned that I should always read the fine print. The Meet & Greet service that promised me someone from the University would come and pick me up was apparently available only for the students who arranged accommodation in the University owned rooms and houses. That, as you may have guessed by now, was not my case. Fortunately, I have the best housemate and landlord ever, and she was more than happy to come pick me up from the airport. When we got home she told me I had mail waiting for me. “Well, that’s weird” I said. But weird was not the right word to describe it, since amazing is a much better fit.

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My letters and cookies that helped me through my first (cold) night in England.

The mail was a small package from my best friends in Sweden, in which they each wrote a letter with all their good wishes for me as well as baked me 4 cookies. I’ve read the letters my first night in England thinking I have the best friends ever. I will miss them terribly but I was happy to know they were glad for me and thought it was a good idea to spend a semester abroad. This small package made of paper, cookies, and good thoughts, is a memory I will always have of my first night in England, when freezing in my bed, I learned how much I am loved and missed at home. Oh, and the cookies are gone. Yum!

Last week was just filled with introductory meetings meant to give us, international students, an idea of what to expect, where to go if we need help, etc. I can honestly say I can find my way around the campus with ease. Everything seemed overwhelming the first few days but after a while you see the logic in things and start to function just like any other student. There are maps of the campus and signs everywhere; and, if that fails, the people are more than happy to give you directions. Which leads me to my next point….

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View over the South Africa War Memorial and St.Thomas Church.

Geordies! Geordies are the people of Newcastle, the friendliest on Earth, the most funny, the best. They speak a very distinct dialect of English called Geordie. It’s Scandinavian influenced (those Vikings…), which makes any Swedish speaker go crazy about it (Ok maybe not every Swedish speaker but it sure interests me).It’s frankly quite fascinating and I hope I will have time to learn more Geordie and write something about it here. The people here are very proud of their heritage and I think they should. Geordies are very funny and welcoming. As a matter of fact, this region is well known for the hospitality of the people here and I sense this every day: when I shop, when I ask for directions, or when I go to a lecture. It’s just a natural wittiness and friendliness they have about them that I love. Sure, people are very nice in Sweden also, but this is another kind of nice- this is a funny, cracking jokes kind of nice. Lovely!

I got to go a bit in the toon, as Geordies affectionately call the town. Newcastle is extraordinary. There is something for everyone and I have a long list of things I want to do. The Millennium Bridge and the Tyne Bridge are amazing, and I want to go see them at night, since they apparently give a spectacular view. Tons of lovely shops and pubs everywhere, and I like to take  a walk before going home through the main street, Northumberland Street, and just window browse or go in and take a look inside a bookshop.

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The Millenium Bridge and The Sage music hall.

Teaching starts next week and I am looking forward to start my classes. Being a tourist is very nice, but I didn’t forget why I’m here in the first place and I’m so excited to see my teachers, hear the first lectures, attend the first seminars, and generally get into the skin of a student abroad.

 

 

Looking at this page, it seems my student-abroad-writer’s-block thing passed, so I am looking forward to report back from the lovely Newcastle Upon Tyne. See you soon!

P.S: My colleague’s luggage has been found and sent back to her. We both have winter clothes now and are having a terrific time.