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.

The end of UNPAR 2013: A memory for life!

Unfortunately, this wonderful conference had to come to an up. After a hectic day in Jakarta and some last workshops. the last day was made of all of our presentations. All the participants in the Global Terrorism Program were divided into 8 groups and we were assigned to present, in front of the whole assembly, what were the conclusions we could draw from the conference.

My group, composed of Chinese, Americans, Indonesians and I (French-Italian-Swedish) focused on explaining why different forms of terrorism required different solutions. After spending so many hours discussing issues like right-wind radicalism, Islamist extremism, lone-wolf terrorism, terrorism in Scandinavia and the consequences of death penalty, it seemed like an obvious end to our learning: speaking of one solution that would eradicate terrorism sounds inadequate and inappropriate.

But this conference, that gathered so many nationalities and different opinions, proved one point: citizens, at the grass roots level, have an enormous responsibility in their shoulders in the fight against terrorism: striving to oppose all the prejudices and false preconceptions that still are wrongly associated to some ethnic groups or religions. As Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a French-German MP of the European Parliament would put it: “Multi-culturalism, tolerance and acceptance for every individual, regardless of religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation are the real barriers against terrorism”.

The second conclusion that I would stress on at the end of this conference is all the love, friendship and care that I´ve received in so few days. In approximately seven days, I´ve met so many wonderful human beings and new friends. They have taken care of me like almost no one has ever done it before. And I wonder now how to give back what was freely given to me.

I want to especially thank Sindy, Azizah, Tiara and Haqqi, students at Parahyangan University in Bandung that took me out every single day, made me discover every of their preferred corners of Bandung, made me try delicious dishes and immersed me into the Indonesian culture, teaching me traditions, words, ways of living. Your attention to me is a priceless gift that I´ll always remember. Our discussions, our laughs, our differences have made me a richer human being.

I want to thank all the members of the Organizing Committee of the UNPAR International Student Conference 2013 for the awesome work they´ve put in into fixing every single detail of the event. All students, they woke up far before us and went to bed far after us just to make sure that we´ll enjoy our time. You all rock 🙂

I also want to particularly thank Anas, Merve, Mickael, Martin, Tejas, all my new International friends from every corner of this planet for being here for me. You all made me a better man!

In one word: Just go to UNPAR International Student Conference 2014! 🙂