Happy 1 month!

As the rain passes by and the sun is afriad to show, we’re sitting here realising. 1 month has passed. The days are everyone passing by and we’re all starting to live a new life in a new reality. Still, 1 month after arrival I can have a hard time understanding that I’m actually here.

Even though I most of the time understands that I’m here, I can still pinch my arm to see if everything that’s happening is for real. And it is. From the first moment i open up my eyes every day to the moment I close my eyes to go to sleep. It’s kind of amazing to be here!

But, even the good things have it’s dark places. Sometimes the dark clouds are dragging in over your mood. These dark clouds affects your mood for the day. I can’t speak for everyone else, but my dark clouds are the home sickness. Maybe it’s just 2 hours flight to get back to sweden, and England is a pretty good country. There is homesickness. The things that you are used with. Walking around in a ICA and can find everythings place. Cook whatever you want. Sleep in your own cosy and comfortable bed. Have the oppurtunity to call who ever you want whenever you want. And have your second half close to you.

BUT, as the life passes on, I’m starting to realize: My life here is pretty good! I have my friends, from all around the world. The Cathedral, the place that makes me calm and get me enjoy the things I love. Every trips we do, from Sherwood forest to Bristol. The things that makes me laugh! Worcester is from now on a part of me.

1 month has passed, 1 month with both happiness and sadness, 1 month where I found friends for a lifetime!

We celebrated 1 month both wednesday and yesterday. Wednesday with italian dinner at a restaurant in town and later on quiztime at a bar. And yesterday we where out partying. I can say one thing: Jägerbombs are scary things! But I’ve had so much fun and I’m gonna enjoy every day until it’s time to go back to sweden! 😀 <3

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Until Next Time

XoXo

Winter Break- Part 1

Salut!

I´m currently on winter vacation. YES, we have vacation here :). My first destination was Paris. Uhhhh, yes you read correctly: Paris. Even though I was in Paris just two weeks ago my first stop was once again the French capital. I did not plan to go to Paris so soon again, but my buddy from Korea was in town and I took the opportunity to meet her 🙂

Day 1

This time I took the train on Thursday afternoon. I showed up to my classes, got my luggage from home and headed to the train station. The train ride takes only 3 hours (compared to 8 hours a BIG difference). I found a cheap ticket for 35 Euros over the SNCF webpage, so it´s definitely worth checking it out even if you don´t have the SNCF jeune card. The journey was short and comfortable. I arrived in Paris-Montparnasse in the evening and straight away headed to my hostel. I stayed at the same hostel, which was very convenient as I knew where to go and everything. I booked a dorm for 10 people and got a 4-bed room. Felt like a VIP 🙂

After some miscommunication I met up with  Annie (my buddy and friend from Korea for those that can´t remember) to catch up and have dinner. It was extremely weird to see her in Paris, I can only imagine her in the Korean context. Well, it was fantastic to see her again. Even though she was my buddy (forced thing), we ended up being great friends (voluntarily) and we had a lot to talk about. Annie just spent the last 1.5 (!!) months travelling around Europe. She´s probably seen more than most Europeans 😉 Paris was her last stop before heading back to Seoul.

Great start to the vacation!

Day 2

BLUE SKY AND SUNSHINE!! First time ever to have AMAZING weather in Paris. I met up with Annie at the station to take the RER (long distance metro) to Versailles. It is very convenient to take public transportation to Versailles Castle, since it´s cheap and quick. We went early to escape the masses. The entrance was free for me, Annie unfortunately had to pay since she is not a EU citizen (unfair). We headed to the castle and were stunned by it´s vastness! It´s huge!! When I think of Versailles I always think of the Treaty of Versailles for some reason ( History Higher lever heheh). Inside you get an audio guide in various languages (German for me ; Korean for Annie). The audio guide is great since you can walk at your own speed and look around as much as you want. There were some people in the castle but it wasn´t too crowded. The rooms were very impressive. So much gold and decorations! The king really wanted to have an impressive castle.

The garden is also huge, like everything in Versailles Castle. In summer it obviously is nicer, but in winter it also has it´s flair. We also visited Trianon (Grand and Petit), which are super cute little castles.

After spending 4 hours in Versailles we headed back to Paris. We had lunch close to Notre-Dame (for some reason we ended up in a restaurant with 60% Koreans!!) and walked around. We went to a shop (“Merci”) where apparently all Korean tourists go in order to buy a bracelet. Since I was walking around with a Korean, we obviously had to do exactly the same. I don´t think I´ve never seen so many Koreans in one single store !! Hilarious. Annie told me about the Korean hotspots in Paris and I was able to spot many of them around the city. Koreans are very easy to identify for me, since they all have the same style of clothing and hair cut. I had to smile ever time I saw Koreans (awww, lovely people). Another very popular thing to do in Paris if you are Korea is to go to a certain Pharmacy and shop till you drop. I think that this is a bit to extreme but if it makes people happy. I don´t think that Germans (or Europeans in general), google “souvenirs in Paris” and then buy the things that they have been told to buy. Cultural difference I guess. I would buy macaroons and a magnet or something, but I´m not as stylish as Koreans are.

We had dinner in a brasserie. Croque Monsieur (as french as it gets) and some drinks. I was not fully recovered from my cold, so headed back to the hostel afterwards.

We said farewell. Annie´s flight was on Saturday evening and before she wanted to do some more shopping. I had such a great time with her! Can´t wait to see her in summer.

Day 3 and Day 4

The next two days basically were all about Museums.

I visited 6 museums (3 a day). Since museums are free for people under 26, you should absolutely go to Paris whilst being that age! I cannot stress this enough, it will save you sooooo much money!

I love museums! I Love history! I love art!- Paris is a cultural heaven. Unfortunately the tickets for the Opera were so insanely expensive (surprise, not!) so I couldn´t go. However I really went to some great museums.

Musee D´Orsay: the building itself is super interesting and beautiful. The museums mostly has impressionist art ( all famous people are there).

Musee du Moyen Age: I went there simply cause I was in the area and my tour guide said I should go. It is worth it. Very interesting exhibitions about the middle ages. Better than expected.

Centre Pompidou: This museum has my favorite art: Modern Art (Expressionism and Impressionism). The exhibition had it all, only not Franc Marc (my favorite painter) but I can live with that.

Musee Rodin:  I´m not a big fan of statues but Rodin definitely knows his stuff. The museums is in a beautiful village and had a great garden. So even if your not interested you have something to look at.

Musee d´Armee: Basically the war museum. Naja, the usual arms and weapons. I was bored and walked out after 30 minutes. If your interested in the “art” of warfare it might interest you more. Napoleon´s grave is there too.

Orangerie: Once in a lifetime you have to see Monet´s waterlilies! The huge paintings are amazing. The exhibition room was made just for the paintings. The rest of the collection is also worth a visit but the Monets are unbeatable!

Cemetery Pere-Lachaise: Not a museum but lots of history. All famous people are buried there (if you manage to find their graves). Mysterious atmosphere included.

I also did a Seine Boottour, it was soooo worth it. On Monday morning I took the bus back to Bordeaux.

Some tips about Paris:

  1. Download the metro app: saves a lot of time.
  2.  Buy the day card (Saturday or Sunday) for the metro.
  3. Walking a bit more saves you a lot of money
  4.  Do a Seine Cruise, I did that it was AMAZING. Such a great way to explore the city (and to relax your feet).
  5. Get up early! Tourists are lazy so you better be at the museums/sights when they open in order to have some peace. 9/10 is perfect.
  6. If you want to go to a concert, show etc. you have to book several months in advance.
  7. Randomly walk around Paris and explore: there´s so much to see
  8. Don´t be intimidated by the security checks or queues in front of the museums. Mostly only the security check takes a while.

Now I´m back in Bordeaux before heading to Barcelona. This vacation is all about big cities and reunions 🙂

Lena

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worcester+Lochness odjuret=Sant?

Lochness odjuret, har det hittat ett nytt hem?

Är det en val som hamnat fel?

Eller är det någon källa som sprutar vatten?

Runt om nätet här i Storbritannien sprider sig nu rykten, filmer och bilder på vad det egentligen är som sprutar vatten i en översvämmad galoppbana. Men vi kanske ska börja från början, innan vi drar några förhastade slutsatser.

River Severn, Storbritanniens längsta flod. Med sina 354 km räcker sig river Severn från Wales till Bristol och mynnar så småningom ut i Themsen. Men riktigt så långt söderut ska vi inte, vi tar ett stopp i den lilla staden där jag numera bor och där ryktena sprider sig. Worcester. River Severn flyter genom vår lilla stad och delar in staden i en vacker oas. Men ibland kommer det till den punkten då barriärerna man har satt upp för att hindra vattnet från att stiga inte hjälper och regnet fortsätter dundra ner. Då är det bara ett faktum, översvämning. Parkbänkarna som står längs promenadvägen syns knappt och trapporna som leder till roddklubbarna är borta, täckta av vatten. Vackert intill denna flod ligger en galoppbana, en stor bana med ett perfekt läge intill både stad och flod. Men floden kan ställa till det, som det har gjort nu. Numera är galoppbanan en sjö med små byggnader som syns i mitten. Här bor nu alltså Lochness, en val eller något helt annat. Vad exakt lär vi väl få reda på när vattnet har försvunnit. Sakta men säkert försvinner vattnet, men det vet man ju inte hur länge det håller sig. England är ju känt för sina 365 dagar med regn. 😉

Förutom vår stads nya mysterium så flyter livet på. 3 veckor har snart passerat och jag har kommit tillrätta i både rum, universitet och stad. Jag har hittat mina egna små smultronställen i staden dit jag kan gå för att få några timmars lugn och ro, drömma mig bort eller tänka tillbaka på det man saknar där hemma.

3 veckor in, betyder även 2 veckor in i terminen och nu börjar förberedelserna för 4 uppsatser som ska in lagom till påsk. Nu börjar läsningen, pluggandet och skrivandet. Men jag försöker att ha något att göra varje helg och på kvällarna för att inte bli uppslukad av universitet. Jag spelar badminton två dagar i veckan, går på högmässa i domkyrkan varje söndag och sociala kvällar och helger med nyfunna vänner runt om från världen. När man håller sig sysselsatt blir hemlängtan lite mindre.Under de kommande 6 veckornas dagar existerar endast 4 uppsatser. Men det lär bli bra uppsatser då jag studerar väldgt intressanta kurser. 🙂

Until next time. <3

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Paris

Salut!

After being in France for a month, it was time to visit the French capital. I have been to Paris before, but it was for a Model UN conference and we didn´t have enough time to actually see Paris. When I found out that you can go to Paris by bus for 5 Euros I started to plan a week-end trip with my friends. The three of us took the night bus on Thursday and arrived early in the morning, after a 8 hour bus ride.

Day 1

We arrived at 6 AM after a very long bus ride. Since by now I´m rather used to sitting in buses or airplanes for a very long time, I even managed to sleep a bit. The Megabusses stop at Quai de Seine which is right next to the Metro stop Bercy. We were tired but happy to finally have arrived. We took the metro to our hostel, which was right next to the Sacre-Coeur. We got lucky and could check-in straight away and even have some breakfast (the croissants were amazing!). After some food and a lot of coffee we were ready to start sightseeing. My role during the trip was to be the guide, whilst the other two had to make sure that me took breaks and ate frequently, if you have ever traveled with me you´ll know that I am a hard-core tourist and have to see EVERYTHING. I hope that my friends actually enjoyed themselves,they didn´t complain so I guess it wasn´t too bad.

First stop was the Louvre. We first saw it from the back and where like “what building is this?”, then we realize it is THE Louvre (in our defense: we were tired and the Louvre is famous for it´s front side and not it´s back). We were there a few minutes after it opened. As we all are under 25 we had free entry, which is the case in most museums in France, so you better go while your under 25!! We directly went to see the Mona Lisa, it´s not a very impressive picture (really small) but it has something special. Since we were early we actually could look at the picture in peace (okay, with like 10 Chinese tourists). Sightseeing in winter as its benefits 🙂

After the Mona Lisa we had a look at some more paintings. We saw the highlights and also saw the Egyptian exhibition. Not only does the Louvre have some great pieces of art but simply the building is impressive!

After the Louvre, we walked through the Jardin des Tuiliers to the Place de la Concorde. The weather overall was very cloudy but at least it didn´t rain. Overall, we were rather lucky.

We then took the bus to the Eiffel Tower. The first time I saw it I wasn´t very impressed. Seeing it in daylight and having enough time to walk around made a real difference! I was fascinated! It is really impressive after all and I do not understand why I remembered it as being rather small and disappointing the last time. We didn´t go up as we thought it was expensive and the weather wasn´t great anyway. From the Eiffel Tower we walked towards the Arc de Triomphe. On our way we saw many beautiful building (like nearly everywhere in Paris!) and passed by some great shops. A highlight was the Elli Saab store, I´ve never seen the dresses in real life, AMAZING. Unfortunately slightly above what I usually spend on clothes 😉

For lunch we had burgers from Quick (the French McDonalds). As we where on the Champs-Elysees when we got hungry, we didn´t have many options as everything is insanely overpriced. It was our first time at Quick and it was quite nice.

After we had lunch we went to the Arc de Triomphe. After walking around for several hours we were exhausted at went back to our hostel to rest a bit.

In the evening we walked around Montmartre. We passed by the Moulin Rouge and  the bar from the Amelie movie.We found a nice place to have dinner and some wine. In Montmartre prices are fine and you can actually afford eating or drinking something there. After dinner we walked up to the Sacre-Coeur and enjoyed the beautiful view over the city. It was a perfect end to a great first day

Day 2 

After getting a good night of sleep, we had breakfast and continued our sightseeing tour.

We started with the Notre-Dame. Notre-Dame is architecturally way more impressive than Sacre-Ceour and it is definitely a must see. Afterwards we walked to the Sorbonne University. The building is amazing and it was really great to see the place where the French elite is educated at. The Pantheon is just some streets away, so we visited it as well. Voltaire, Rousseau and the Curies are buried there, so it has a lot of history.

Later on we went to the Jardin du Luxembourg. Afterwards we went to the Marche aux puces de Saint-Quen. The market is huge, and you can find a lot of different things there. The first section sells clothes and shoes, whilst further along the street you can buy antiques. I´m not a great fan of antiques or second-hand stores (I hate the smell in these paces) but it is a big thing in Paris and the atmosphere was great.

For lunch we bought some sandwiches and ate them in a park close to the market.

Later on we visited the Centre Pompidou and walked around in the area. We didn´t actually visit the museum as there was a long queue. It was finally sunny and we enjoyed walking around. We went to the Galeries Lafayette, shopping in my opinion belongs to a Paris trip just like visiting the Louvre. From the roof of the Galeries Lafayette you can get a great view over the city (FREE), so we did that. Afterwards M. went to the Centre Pompidou whilst Z. and I went shopping. We managed to spend around 2 hours in the Galeries Lafayette! I was successful and bought some really nice things ( on sale so don´t worry I´m not broke just quite yet). We really enjoyed it and I was happy that we had decided to separate.

In the evening we had Thai food (very Parisian!) and some wine. The next day we took the bus back to our beautiful Bordeaux.

Overall Paris was amazing. Paris has so much to offer, especially for people that love culture. Even if the weather wasn´t that great, we still had a great time and managed to see A LOT. I would definitely advise you to go off-season as there are way less people and the Parisians seems more relaxed and are way friendlier. 

One remark about safety. Paris, just like any other city attracts lots of people and sadly also criminals. However claims that Paris is particular unsafe is an exaggeration. If you follow a few rules you are fine: NEVER buy things from the sellers at the touristic places, as chances are high that you´ll get robbed. Also: many people walked around asking us to sign things, simply answer “Non” (or any other language) if the ask you if you speak English. It is rather annoying but it is the most efficient way. Also, we were unlucky to be tricked at the metro station by a fake metro staff member (they are extremely sneaky and professional). Only buy tickets (for anything) at the official ticket offices! 

One last remark about the atmosphere in Paris after the attacks. It has been some months and Parisians instantaneously after the attacks tried to live their normal lives again. This is very impressive and takes a lot of courage. Police presence in Paris has  always been high, however since the attacks it is common to see heavily armed soldiers. This might be disturbing at first, however you get used to this quickly. 

I already look forward to visit Paris again in order to explore the city a bit more!

 

Worcester, den lilla staden mitt i den engelska landsbygden

Ja, det stämmer väldigt bra. Men jag tror att det är mer än bara en liten stad. Det är en oas, en tillflyktsort, ett hjärta i den engelska landsbygden. Du kan gå och strosa runt staden, oavsett tid på dygnet och alltid känna dig säker, du kan gå omkring och alltid veta att du har alltid någon att fråga om hjälp ifall du går vilse och om du bara vill ha en stunds vila, ta då och sätt dig på en parkbänk med utsikt mot river severn och katedralen.

Jag har bott i denna mysiga stad i 1 vecka nu, och jag kan börja kalla denna stad mitt hem. Jag bor i ett typiskt engelskt hus byggt av rödbrunt tegel. Huset som ser så litet och gulligt ut från utsidan, är långtifrån litet. Här finns 7 sovrum, 3 badrum, 2 vardagsrum och ett stort kök. Här bor jag, i rum nr 7. Med utsikt mot St. Johns Campus, fotbollsplaner och små kolonilotter. Mitt rum är det minsta av alla i huset, men det gör mig ingenting, jag får plats med allt jag behöver och ett litet rum gör det bara mysigt. Jag bor tillsammans med 3 killar och två andra tjejer, så här är rätt fullt när det ska lagas mat. Jag är den enda utbytesstudenten, mina rumskamrater pluggar alla här på heltid och är riktiga britter (vilket hörs på deras dialekt) 🙂

Från mitt lilla rum ser jag St. Johns Campus, det Campus där jag kommer ha alla mina lektioner, förutom sportkurserna då jag kommer hålla till på University Arena. Jag kommer under min tid här läsa 4 kurser, eller modules som de kallar det här. Jag kommer läsa två education modules med inriktning på specialpedagogik och lärarens psykologi. Utöver det kommer jag läsa två sport modules, group dynamics och physical activity och health. Jag har haft min introduktion i en education module och en i sport. Både kurserna verkar otroligt roliga och lärorika och ser fram emot att få börja på de andra två också. Däremot tror jag att det jobbiga kommer bli att läsa 4 kurser samtidigt, då vi i Sverige läser en kurs åt gången. Men om man börjar i tid och använder både kalender och planerar så ska nog allt gå bra.

Jag har under min första vecka här upplevt otroligt mycket! Bowling, en mässa i den äldsta katedralen i England, jag ska tydligen lära mig spela lacrosse, fått många nya fina vänner och upplevt både skillnader och likheter mellan Sverige och England.

Ikväll väntar introduktion av en till kurs, och ja, den börjar vid 5 och håller på till 8. Inte alls vad jag är van vid i Sverige. Efter det ska jag antagligen ut tillsammans med mina rumskamrater. 🙂

Så livet rullar på i vanlig takt, med regnet som ramlar ner från molnen titt som tätt och blåsten som drar in och man undrar om Malmö och Worcester har bytt plats, men lite härlig sol har vi trots allt fått. Nu ska jag fortsätta min dag, försöka ta mig upp från sängen och bege mig mot dagens introduktion.

Until next time,

Sophie

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Amazing weekend with elephants

This weekend Theresa, Migle and I went to Elephantsworld in Kanchanaburi. http://www.elephantsworld.org/ here is the website if you want to have some more information. But basically this is a place where we, the people, work for the elephants instead of the other way around, which sadly is happening a lot in Thailand. We chose to do the overnight program.

Theresa, Migle and I

Theresa, Migle and I


Most of the elephants here have been rescued from logging, where they are dragging tons of logs to the woods, and trekking camps, which is the tourist attraction of riding elephants. However trekking is taking a big toll on elephants. Their backs can only carry 100 kg, and only the seats weights 50 kg. So imagine putting two full grown persons on those seats… not good nor healthy for the elephant. In these logging and trekking camps the elephants are also underfed. An elephants needs to daily eat 10 percent of their body weight. So a full grown elephant needs around 400 kg food, per day.

On Friday afternoon we left Rangsit campus to go to Kanchanaburi. As we left in the peak hour of traffic jams the journey took a bit longer than it should. All in all it took us 4 hours, when it should have taken around 2,5 hours. We checked into our hotel for the night and went out for some late evening food.
On Saturday evening an open back truck picked us up and our 45 minute journey to the countryside began. The first thing we see when entering the gate are huge elephants walking with their mahouts. Amazing.

First elephant we saw

First elephant we saw


First thing we got to do was feeding the elephants some corn, pumpkins, bananas and watermelons. We gave it them from our hands straight to their trunks or even their mouths. Pretty cool to be so close to them. After feeding we took them down to the river where they drank and some of them went into the river. After that it was time to cook some more food. We were split up to smaller groups and our group made sticky rice and pumpkin for the two oldest who no longer has any teeth. The oldest one is 80 years! When that was done it was time for our lunch. Lots of gorgeous Thai food to choose from as they had a smaller buffet style serving.
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After lunch we watched the elephants cooling down in the mud. They have two elephant kids who were very playful and clumsy, one of them pushed the other one down in the mud pool and he had then later problem getting out of it and kept on sliding down again. Adorable.
Then we went back to finish making the food, this time adding pellets and some fibres and vitamins and rolling it into balls. And lastly feeding the two elephants that had been standing outside of the hut cheekily trying to get into under the roof to have a piece of the food. Once again we fed them straight from our hands to them.

Now it was finally time to bathe the elephants! Down the river we went together with the elephants and scrubbed and washing them. Water was thrown here and there and we were all soaked after that bath. After this the one day visitors leave. We were offered to follow some of the mahouts to go with them and their elephants to the bottom of the mountain where they sleep during the night. So we left and walked them there. Back again we checked into our bungalow we were to stay at. It was located with a view of the river with a porch going around half of the bungalow. The rest of the evening we took it easy with some dinner and a beer and had a semi early night.

View from our porch

View from our porch


Day two we got to decide ourself what we wanted to do. So after breakfast we started with some feeding of the elephants out in the open and then took 3 elephants down to another part of the river away from today’s new visitors. We fed them some more and then taking them down in the river and had a bath with them. So nice being only 5 plus 4 workers with them. You could really get up close with them without a lot of people flocking them, so nice.
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After an hour or so we joined the others to the other part of the river and had a bath with those elephants.
After lunch we had booked us into floating. Which meant we were to be floating down the river in the stream for an hour. We jumped on to the back of a truck and went further up the road. We were told to put on the life vests as diapers if we wanted a nicer floating, which of course I wanted so despite feeling silly doing so it was on and we went into the river. And wow, such a relaxing and cool experience. We floated down the river and had a nice time. And I got to say we chose the right day to do so as the temperature was up to 38 degrees! An hour later we arrived to the river opening where the elephants were about to go down again. As it wasn’t that much time until we were to leave we went up and had a shower and change into dry and clean clothes. And that was how we ended our amazing time at elephant world. If anyone is going to Thailand then it is defiantly taking a trip out there!

Have a nice day,
Sara
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Biggest Buddah I’ve ever seen

Yet again some time has passed. And a lot have happened. Hence why I haven’t uploaded in a while.
I started off with once again spending the weekend in Bangkok. The city is starting to grow on me. There is quite a lot to explore, which I like.
On Thursday last week, I went out exploring with two girls, Theresa and Migle, who are also studying here at Rangsit. We visited the temple Wat Pho, where the famous reclining Buddah is. It was so much grander than I had first thought. We had an amazing dinner by the river with a view of another temple in sunset. Bangkok is truly beautiful in sunset. Then we went to one of the popular areas called Sukumvit for drinks, where we met up with some other exchange students from Netherlands.

enterence to the reclining buddah

enterence to the reclining buddah

reclining buddah

reclining buddah

wat pho

wat pho

dinner view

dinner view

The Saturday was spent at the Chatuchak weekend market with four finnish girls from Wasa. Surprisingly enough I didn’t shop that much, just a small bag, fresh coconut ice-cream and food. But the market is huge, we walked around for four hours and still didn’t see it all! They went back home and I went to my hotel for the night that was located at the 30th floor which, granted, had a spectacular view. I went for an evening swim and had some street food for dinner. A fun fact is that it turned out that the manager of the hotel is a friend of a friend I met when I lived in Australia, such a small world!

view from my hotelroom

view from my hotelroom

On Sunday a weathercock occurred, the temperature had dropped down to 22 degrees which felt so cold after being used to the daily 35 degrees. Despise the “cold” weather, me and the Wasa girls went to a small waterpark located above a shopping mall for some fun. After a few hours there we explored Khoasan Road for a Sunday sesh.

This week all my lessons have been as scheduled and finally there is some structure. So far I like my class of PR, which has an Australian professor, and my photography class the most. But I reckon these few months are going to go so fast. The first midterm exam will be in 2 weeks, whaaat!

This weekend was spent with elephants, but that will be in another post!
So I will see you soon again,
Sara