Pre-Autumn Semester Shenanigans – Week 1

An Introduction of the Author:

Greetings,

My name is Diala and I am a 21 year old Lady (got proof of this claim) from Denmark. Situated in Denmark I’m currently taking a bachelor programme called English Studies at Malmö University in Sweden. The said programme has allowed me to study abroad in Guelph, Canada as an exchange student. The following semester will last all Autumn, and end in December. Throughout these months I will be documenting my observations, experiences, and mischiefs adventures.

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you will enjoy these posts as much as I will enjoy writing them.

 Best regards,

Lady Diala of Chaol Ghleann

 

Over-Friendly Canadians and Suspicious Michiganders.

Dear reader,

My first impression of the Canadians, I was forced to share an 8h 20min flight with, was a relatively good one. They were quiet, polite, and very apologetic. Even their children lived up to those adjectives! They only spoke when spoken to and they apologize a lot. Also, they never showed signs of impatience or anger. Impressive.

IMG_1175IMG_1159IMG_1161IMG_1214Apart from having prepared a long list of essential and semi-essential items to purchase for my dorm room and stay in Guelph, I also had an empty list entitled “Canadians”. However, this one was a mental one and not written on paper. I knew absolutely nothing of this country and its culture before traveling there; nothing aside from Tim Hortons, the people’s over friendly/apologetic nature, Canadian goose (the brand, too), moose, and the rumoured “eh”.

I did see several Tim Hortons on my way from the airport, and I did experience the over-friendly Canadians who would apologize for the simplest of things such as spacing out, not standing in your way, you bumping into them etc. I have seen no moose as of yet, but I did see Canadian goose by the river the next morning.

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The city I am currently staying in is called Windsor. Windsor is located about a 5min drive away from Detroit, Michigan. The day I went there I was relatively excited. The last time I had been to the states was back in 1996, and a lot had changed since then.

After crossing the border I was stopped by a couple of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. My goodness did they take their roles seriously. The hardest part of the entire procedure was for me to keep a straight face. I was questioned by both a white officer and a black officer. Their accents were pure American Hollywood movie accents, and so were their body language and facial expressions. I managed to get though the customs after filling out a form, going through a series of questions, having my fingerprints taken, and getting called ma’am.

Would you blame me for bursting out laughing after getting back into the car?

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Sincerely,

Lady Diala

Pre-Autumn Semester Shenanigans is a special series of blog posts posted once a week in August.

New beginnings: moving to England

Before coming to Newcastle, I knew nothing neither about the city nor about the country (I have never been to England before). It was also a choice of the university, not the country. I haven’t thought about the left-sided traffic, and I didn’t even consider the charming British accent I have never been too fond of anyway. But then it actually came to arriving at Newcastle upon Tyne. My idea was to take courses related to journalism, which I recently became passionate about, in order to gain more knowledge in this field than studying English Studies in Malmo University could provide me with.

This blog is not a fresh experience, as I have been writing one for some time (and still am). However this one will contain posts concerning my life in Newcastle: my new experiences, insights into the British culture, as well as the local Geordie culture, student life, events and anything else I will get excited about. I am hoping to write 1-2 posts weekly so that this blog accurately reflects my new experiences and adventures in the area. Suggestions for new posts are always welcome, so feel free to do that as well, if there’s something in particular that you want to know.

As they say here in Newcastle, cheers!

p.s. Even though I love taking pictures, my camera broke just before I came here, so all pictures in my posts will be from the internet. However, I am hoping to get a camera soon, so hopefully they will start to appear in my posts soon.

The Magical City of York

Just three weeks to go until I leave this amazing city and am finished with my all too exciting exchange in England. This week I finally decided to do a little tour in this beautiful historical city and capture the “magic” it clearly has. So on Wednesday as it is my day off, I took my phone and my crappy little digital camera (which wasn’t much of a use) and went for a hunt for some nice pictures. Times like these I really miss my SLR camera (damn you, thieves!). Nevertheless, I will let the best pictures I managed to capture with my little Samsung Gio to say it all. So here it is- my own little Game of Thrones!

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We want you.

 

we want you

Receiving a newsletter from a store, fashion label, human rights group and whatever you have sign up for to get a one-time-extra-discount and whatever you have sign up for when rushing through the streets of a busy city and got stopped by some teenager to sign something for a good cause, via mail is rather common. These constant mails, call them spam, inform you about important discounts or new arrivals or even if you should sign some petition to save the world from its utter evilness (means from us). However, after a time the inbox is filled with these kind of mails and it’s a mystery how some of the stores go you mail address. However, after a time the adverts just land directly in the bin and the attention is captured just by the tagline. Thus, the other day I got the weekly newsletter of some fashion label I used to buy my clothes from, I was about to delete it when I saw the headline:

‘We Know What Girls Want, We Know What Guys Like’

Well, I thought to myself ‘really?’ you know what I want, that’s interesting, so yes I clicked on it and voilà…

Obviously they didn’t know what I want, but I guess it’s a nice tagline to upset people like me. Hoping to be FINALLY enlightened in ‘what I want’

Nevertheless, my personal desires aside, I also noticed something else and I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t have noticed it some months ago.

Before I went to the University of Melbourne, before I took a class in Gender Politics.

Yes, this text will address feminism. So don’t stop reading.  In fact, I was convinced to do it. When I first started studying the course ‘Sexual Politics’ at Uni Melbourne I thought

‘Why should I engage in this class? I AM a woman, I am naturally a feminist, I know what it is about!’

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My friend showing provokingly her unshaved armpit and our courseliterature

Also, I had a quite strong belief that many so called feminist are totally against men, in a mystical sphere of overanalysing and self-pitying ; basically, that they are somehow crazy. In fact, if you type in ‘crazy feminist’ on Google images you will be surprised how many memes and pictures are ridiculing that movement. However, a friend of mine said that it wouldn’t hurt to attend the course and she believed that I should go. Another thing that stroked me when I discussed it with her was something that some people would undeniable call a female reaction.

I was scared. I was scared that I might find out that feminist are not crazy, that they have a point, and that I not just belonged to the biological sex  which is supposed to be weak, but also that I wasn’t doing anything against it, that I was laughing about jokes which were sexist, but hey ‘it’s just a joke’, that I was one of the girls which laughed with the guys when a sexist joke was outspoken and that I judged  the girls who weren’t, that I looked at them and said:’ what a prude’.

I do have the strong but strange feeling that many women do feel like this, and that so many men don’t what to have the feeling of being ‘the evil one’ maintaining the system.

How stunning it is, how personal feminism is; as nowadays the decline of state-identity men and women tend to search for another identity-pool which is mostly to be a man or to be a woman, thus the theory (which was widely supported in the 60s) is instead condemned by ridiculing it, or by claiming it is too extreme. The radical voice is always the loudest, so in which theory don’t you hear about the radical views first?

Back to the newsletter I got the other day from the fashion label; the ad suggested that girls want:

Make-up

Hand- Bags

Nailpolish

Nailstickers

a hair straighter

Shoes

Trendy clothes

Feminine watches

and a book about fashion.

 

Guys liked (notice how the brand knows what girls want whilst they just know what guys like)

A pencil case

Shoes

Clothes

Two wallets

A case to put your eventual writings in it (uh wait, that could be something for for me but ahh.. no. that not what I would want.)

Headphones

A watch

2 books about hobbies

1 comic

… well, of course it could  be claimed that there is no difference and of course it could be said that this choice of products is based on demand, but then again:

That’s not the point is it? The point is that girls just want something which includes looks, whilst guys like something which includes action, includes reading something with content (not just plain picture of how you are supposed to look), having something which has an actual purpose: headphones-to listen to music, writing utensils, a wallet to put all themoney in which is earned.

we can do it

Clearly, as a girl I wish to have more choice and my choice to study feminism brought me closer to this wish.

London

1424310_10152054122888792_1577068181_nThis week we’ve had a reading week which means no classes. I was a good student enough last week and did all my assignments to not feel guilty of going to London for a couple of days. I left York on Tuesday morning and got back on Thursday. One whole day was perfectly enough to see all the main sightseeings in London and meet up my friends. Luckily my childhood friend/neighbor from Finland studies there, so I had a place to crash for these two nights.

On Tuesday night, my friend and I just strolled in the Westfield shopping mall and ate some Chinese food. We also passed the bridge that played an important role in last years London Olympics. I didn’t know much about it, but my friend had worked there last summer and enlightened me on that.

We woke up really early on Wednesday. I had written down a whole list of places to go and see, so we were determined to finish off the list by dinner. We took the tube (that’s how they call metros here lol) to Waterloo Station and started off from the London Eye. The Eye was way bigger than I had expected. It was also more expensive than I could afford, so I settled only with the pictures for this time. Passing the London Eye, we walked along the South Bank and had a gorgeous view on the the Parliament House and Big Ben. The sun was shining warmly and the day seemed to be favoring us.644511_10152054118253792_1637446164_n

We crossed the River of Thames and got to the other side where Westminister Abbey was welcoming us with a garden full of poppies for the Remembrance Day.

1466194_10152054121103792_1332035486_nBy noon, the weather was extremely nice and warm, so we decided to walk to the Buckingham Palace through St James Park, which was quite close to the Westminister. I was looking forward to see the changing of the guards at the Buckingham Palace. Once we got there, though, for my disappointment the change in autumn is only every other day. I took some pictures and figured I could just come back tomorrow before my train leaves.

I couldn’t have left London without going to Notting Hill, so our next stop was to go and find the famous blue door from the movie “Notting Hill”. It used to be my favorite movie of all times, so needless to say how excited I was was we arrived there. Looking for the door took us quite a while, on our way we actually found the bookstore (also from the movie) first. They had closed the bookstore and now had a shoe store there instead. We passed the market, also noticed well in the movie, and decided to turn back as we realized we had probably missed the door somehow. It wasn’t until we got to the very corner of the street (our starting point) when I suddenly saw the nr 280 (according to Google that’s the one). It was exactly as I had remembered it from the movie. It definitely made my day 🙂

Mr. Grant was not home

Mr. Grant was not home

Our last stops for the day were Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery, Picadilly Circus, Harrods and Oxford Street. I didn’t know much about Trafalgar Square apart the lion statues. Because of the gorgeous sunny day, there were a lot of tourists and British youth sitting on the stairs leading to the gallery. We peeked into the gallery for 15min and saw an exhibition about saints. It would have taken us until the night to see all the floors, so I was happy enough to just take a quick look of the paintings on the first floor. It reminded me the Art Gallery in DC, but I guess most of the art galleries look the same.

I have been to Picadilly Circus before, so we didn’t stop there for long. Instead, we headed to Harrods. I had never been there before and wanted to go in and see the fancy place I have heard so much about. I was determined to buy something and found the cheapest thing in the sweets store. After paying for my strawberry cream fudge, I was ready to leave the store, happily holding on to my green bag saying Harrods on it.

Before meeting my friend for dinner, we also stopped by Oxford Street which was totally decorated for Christmas already. It was full of people running their Christmas errands and for just a second it really felt like Christmas 🙂

537095_10152054132388792_1981470499_nOn Thursday I was determined to go back to the Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. I was happy I did, because it turned out to be Prince Charles’ 65th birthday and the guards were on fire lol. They fired cannons in the Hyde Park and played different ABBA songs for his honor. So ironic, feels like Sweden is haunting me wherever I go. It was definitely the coolest things of this trip and a great end for these three days in London.

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I am back in York now and school starts in 2 days. I only have 4 weeks left until I leave, so unbelievable how fast time has gone. It makes me rather sad to think about leaving, but then again, it would be nice to be home for Christmas before I need to go back to Sweden for my last semester.

I am planning to go and explore more of York next week, haven’t even been on the wall yet. Until then, cheers!

 

Hallowscream 2013 in York Maze

For the past 2 weeks, I have worked at the York Maze for this Halloween event called Hallowscream. It basically means that each week from Thursday to Saturday, the maze changes into a Halloween spooktacular where people come and get their scared off of their pants lol. I am part of the team of freaky clowns, scary zombies and other freaks. It has been such a fun time working with all these amazing people. The doors are opened at 6 pm, so we need to get there around 5 to get our make-up done and costumes on. I have probably one of the best characters to play- the three breasted lady lol. There are different houses with different themes and I am obviously at the freak show. Next to my cage I have a fellow freak the Elephant Man. There is also the fortune teller, werewolves our lovely ring-master and a couple of zombie, soldiers and victims are scattered in the maze behind our tent. The people (audience) who come each night is so diverse at this is really the best part of the day to see their reactions. Most of them want to take a picture with me and even though they are not allowed to touch me, 80% of them do. A couple of nasty comments from guys, some naughty little boys, a lot of mentioning of “Total Recall” and some offended oldies is a every day thing. It’s definitely a too fun experience to call it a job, but hey, someone’s gotta do it, ey! Today is our big Halloween night, looking forward to what it has to offer 🙂

with my fellow freaks

with my fellow freaks

Hallowscream 2013

Hallowscream 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides my job at the maze, school has been great as well. I’m still enjoying my courses and have managed to find enough free time to enjoy the societies. Basketball society had a fresher’s party last week which was a lot of fun. We were dressed as farm animals and the second and third years were are farmers. Long story short, it all ended in York’s biggest and newest nightclub called Kuda.

Basketball Fresher's Party

Basketball Fresher’s Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week is a little special for York as a city as well. There is this gorgeous event called Illuminating York that takes place form the 30th until the 2nd. As I will be working all these days, I went to see some of it yesterday. It was exactly the same like we had in Sydney in May. Basically, the whole city is in lights and the most famous buildings have different light shows on them. It really is gorgeous!

 

That’s all for now, but it’s never boring in York so until next week 🙂

 

Sleeping at Last.

Since July I am wandering through the majestic campus of the University of Melbourne. Surprisingly, my time here at University will soon be over and I have one last challenge to master:

The examination period (a little thunder would fit remarkably after this sentence).

The courses have their final exams in November and the students here are becoming slightly nervous. If not to say: they are panicking! Every morning I witness hysteric students at the university libraries, struggling to maintain a good position in front of the doors so they can get a seating place in the library with access to a plugin. I witness angry comments at the universities Facebook page condemning all students which are ‘blocking’ precious plugin access while just reading or making notes, seating at a plugin-place without using the plugin is not tolerated easily. I witness threats, like spilling holy Latte Macchiato over fellow students to get access to a university computer. I witness how every screen is structurally checked if fellow students are on avoidable pages such as Facebook, Twitter or their email account, and in case they are: loud protests are heard from the help-desk that ‘the twats can check their Facebook at home! I NEED THIS COMPUTER’

Yes, the examinations period is indeed a state of emergency; where the students mutate to zombies with dangerous coffee-cups. I have to say the sign ‘no drinks allowed’ gets a totally different meaning during this period. Also, when I talk about students becoming zombies I don’t mean the harmless zombies struggling to keep their eyes open; slurping from computer to printer. NO. I talk about the horrible dangerous once, being smart and aggressive like you can see in Marc Fosters World War Z or Francis Lawrences I am Legend. As they are reacting extremely aggressive to noises and are avoiding the sunlight; also they like to gather in groups and breathe simultaneously whilst studying with maniac eyes.

Giblin Library

 

Unnecessary to say that as a Swedish student I am not really used to this collective amount of stress at one place; having my exams evenly distributed at the end of each month. However, even though I am slightly irritated by the change of behaviour of my fellow students, I found it even more surprising that after an approximately 3h working session they take a nap (!) In Uni. Wherever they occupied their belongings, students fall asleep. It seems like the effort they put into snatching a seat in the earliest hours is so vast that they simply cannot leave their place, not yet to say that the effort in itself is rather tiring. Of course this totally contradictory behaviour of falling randomly asleep triggers the other students’ anger, who are still searching for places to work at. Hence, the hands holding coffee-cups are scarily starting to tremble when passing one of the sleepyheads. It seems to be a vicious cycle. Nevertheless, after the nap I found it even more astonishing to see how the person just forgets it and continues to work in a total serious manner, as if the dribble spot does not exists on his or her shirt. I would say: this is commitment, and since studying is always so extremely prized for its ‘best time of your life’ and it’s ‘you will never ever have so much fun’, I feel there is also a need to congratulate all students for their unbelievable strength in stress-coping.

First weeks in York, England

It’s been almost 4 weeks since I arrived to England, can’t believe how fast time has gone! Needless to say that it has been busy and I have had too much fun, as I haven’t managed to post a single blog post since then. (Well I also don’t have my laptop anymore which makes it harder). Anyways, there has been a lot going on within these 4 weeks. I guess the best idea would be to start from the beginning, but I will try to keep it short 🙂

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The first week (Sept 15th-22nd) York St John University had a Welcome Week or Orientation Week as some call it. During that week I familiarized myself with the gorgeous campus, learned to know the beautiful historical city and joined for all the fun events that were organized for us. I met a lot of people and got many new friends, mostly fellow Erasmus exchange students from Germany, Spain and Sweden, but also a good amount of young British lads lol.

 

York as a city is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities I have ever lived in (and I have lived in quite many countries). It has the sense of history most definitely- you can’t really escape from that having walls surrounding most of the city center and towering churches echoing Britishness from every corner. It does have a younger vibe to it as well as not all the people you see on the street are tourists. I think York St John University has  a role to play in it by inviting younger people from around the world to come and be part of this well known and established university as well as of this historic city.

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Ok, that sounded a bit like an article for a newspaper haha. Anyways, it is great here and I am not ashamed to acknowledge it 🙂

 

The International Office here also organizes trips across the country. The first trip we had was a day in Whitby. Whitby turned out to be very typical British like seaside town. Unbelievably beautiful and definitely more than I had expected. Bram Stoker even wrote his book “Dracula” there because he simply got inspired by the beauty around him, no lie. We had an amazing day strolling along the haven eating fish and chips. Even “Prince Harry” showed up 😉559800_10151930479048792_254697509_n1240666_10151930477743792_211251717_n2013-09-21 13.58.372013-09-21 14.09.41

 

I can’t remember much more, but there have definitely been a handful of concerts, comedy nights, parties, pub nights, sightseeings and readings (especially within the past two weeks). I have joined the drama society and basketball society that have also kept me busy.I also managed to go to Leeds last weekend to check out the famous Primark. Man, was that worth going or what! It is literally as cheap as WallMart in the States- I’m in heaven now 🙂

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I will try to get myself on a schedule now and post weekly, so until next week.

 

Cheerio!

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.