Challenge Accepted!

This is the fifth post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England.

I still remember my very first “Strategic Marketing and Branding” class at Bournemouth University. We were put in groups of 4 and had to discuss about the future of TV. I was the only Indonesian in my class and also the only Asian in that small group. As much as I was very eager to learn and keen to succeed, I was confused. I did not know what to contribute to the group’s discussion. I thought I am outspoken enough as a person, but at that moment I felt afraid to say a word. My group mates were European students, they appeared much more experienced and more confident.

Of course they were more experienced, at least about the subject we were discussing. Back then in Indonesia TV was still the biggest media. It was still growing in Indonesia, yet in that warm classroom we were discussing about what is next after TV, how can TV survive the future in Europe. They are Europeans, so they must know what was being talked about. They were able to express their opinions and contribute to the discussion. Me? I was struggling to speak, I felt shy, I felt incompetent.

At the end of the session, I finally managed to express my confusion to my group. I was able to explain the situation in Indonesia, where I came from. I managed to overcome my struggle, but I have to admit that it was quite a rough start to my journey in getting a masters degree.

You see, going abroad obviously is very challenging. Behind the glitters of actually living abroad, there’s the learning process, which was very much different to what I experienced back home. It can be daunting, it can be stressful – Oops, don’t be discouraged though, it will be very rewarding in the end, you just got to go through it! 🙂

How to succeed, then? I think, the key is having a careful preparation. Prepare as early as possible – by preparation I mean everything! Prepare to live in a different culture, prepare to study in a different learning environment, prepare to be homesick too, hehehe. Like I mentioned in this post, going to study abroad needs a lot of preparation. I consider myself lucky because I was able to adapt to the “foreign” environment quite smoothly. But still, now you know that I had my challenges. It was hard, but I managed. I wish I had more help though…

Btw, not long ago I had the opportunity to meet with EF‘s country manager in Jakarta. EF may be familiar to some of you for its language schools. But little did I know that EF also means Education First, a worldwide organisation which offers various study programs in many countries (They also run an English program in Bournemouth! 😀). What interests me is that they have a University Preparation program which can help future students to prepare before going to study abroad.

Of course there are also other sources of help, but I think the kind of programs that EF offer would be very much helpful in helping you to adapt – not only to the culture, but most importantly, the learning environment. Because at the end of the day, we all wish to be successful in our education, right? 🙂

Cheers,

christabercerita.wordpress.com
Me, looking very relieved as this picture was taken after I submit my final assignment 😀
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It was my birthday and we were in the middle of nowhere..

This is the fourth post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England. 

After dealing with homesickness, I started to love my new life as a student. Of course there were sleepless nights – those nights before the deadline of an assignment. But there were also other fun days, filled with the excitement of exploring a new place and making new friends from all over the world!

As we were approaching year end and the end of our first term, plans started to come up. Most of our European friends has made plans to come home for Christmas and New Year, basically leaving us Asians with no plans (yet). With a group of other Indonesians, I decided to plan a road trip throughout the UK during our term break/year end holiday. In between assignments deadline we began to build our plan – cities to go, places to visit, modes of transportation, budget, and all that. We also asked a group of friends to join us. In the end, there were 10 of us. 5 Indonesians, 2 Taiwanese, 1 Chinese, and 2 Thai. So fun! I had written the travel experience as a guest post in my friend Aggy’s blog and you can read it here.. what I haven’t shared there is the fact that I had my birthday during that trip! Yay!

We started the trip on the eve of Christmas. We decided to have a road trip and rented two cars for 10 of us. Our first destination was Bath – a small town up north of Bournemouth, less than 2 hours drive away. It was already dark when we arrived, and we were very much surprised to find out that the town was like a dead town! Our destination was the town centre but we saw almost no one on the streets. The shops were all closed, even though it’s only around 6PM. No restaurants nor pubs were open.. except a restaurant called Market, where we ended up having our Christmas Eve dinner!

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Christmas Eve dinner at Bath

After dinner, we spent some time wandering around Bath’s empty city centre, just having fun with each other because really, we felt like the town was ours! Hahaha. And then we left for our next destination, Bristol. Of course, everything was closed as well there. Being international students, we were not aware of the fact that during Christmas eve, British people tend to spend time at home and all shops would be closed. It will continue to be like that until Christmas day.. and then everything will start to go back normal on Boxing day which is the 26th of December. So yeah, we did not get to do much in Bristol except strolling around the empty town centre. We probably spent only a couple hours there before we left to our next destination… Liverpool!

It would normally take us around 3 hours from Bristol to Liverpool but somewhere along the way my friend in the other car called and asked to stop at the nearest motorway service areas. Because I was driving previously, I failed to realise that it was some time past midnight already, which meant it’s the 25th of December and I turned 23 already! That’s why I was so surprised when everyone gathered around me and sang me happy birthday. They gave me some nice presents as well 🙂

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Surprise!!!

It was definitely a moment to remember, It’s not every year I got to spend my birthday so far away from home, in the middle of nowhere, but surrounded with good friends and warm attention!

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With my birthday presents 🙂

After the quick birthday surprise, we continued our journey and reached Liverpool early in the morning. As predicted, everything was closed as well but we managed to find a Chinese Restaurant so we could have a nice dinner to celebrate Christmas and… my birthday. It was a very memorable day 🙂

Surprisingly different

This is the third post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England. 

Moving to another country of course made you have to deal with differences. Especially when you are moving to a city which in size is a lot lot smaller than where you previously lived. Bournemouth – as I mentioned several times before, is a small town. It’s not even half the size of Jakarta. So when I moved there from Jakarta, I had to deal with differences. Here’s some surprising and memorable ones.

Public transportation are reliable

Unlike in Jakarta, People in Bournemouth use their public transportation –  in this case, bus,  to get around town. They are not the best, I have to say, because sometimes they got delayed. Sometimes it’s hard to get from a point to another without having to change buses.. but in overall, the public transportation works well. There were clear schedule which you can access in every bus stops and you can also find it online.

This was not the case in Jakarta (although there are improvements as we speak). Okay I was considered lucky because I had options, but I tried to avoid using public bus in Jakarta. Why? I just could not work out how they operate! One day the bus could show up at 7, the next day show up at 7.15, the next day show up at 6.50! Come on.. how should I work out my schedule then?

That’s why, moving to Bournemouth made me have to learn how to use public bus. There are two major bus companies in Bournemouth, one being the Yellow Bus and the other one More Bus, so you can conveniently choose which one suits your travel needs. The buses were clean, comfortable, although you might have to be careful with drunk lads if you took the bus on Friday/Saturday nights :O

The Yellow Bus
The Yellow Bus –   Image from commons.wikimedia.org
More Bus
More Bus – Image from http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk

Most shops close at 6PM, and they close on Sundays!

It’s either labor and operational cost are so expensive in England, or people just don’t like to shop.. but when I first got there, I found it very weird that most shops close at 6PM. They close even earlier on Saturdays, and fully closed on Sundays… especially in a small town like Bournemouth. Some big supermarkets like ASDA do close a little bit later though, probably around 8PM.. but that’s it. Don’t expect to be able to shop after 8PM, and forget about midnight sale, hehehe.

In a way, this was good for my wallet as I did not have the chance to shop after finishing my classes, and.. some bakeries or grocery shops tend to have 50% discount for fresh items between 5-6PM, right before they close – just the time when I was going home! Hooray!

Image from http://www.anderson-sheppard.co.uk

I think the condition is different in bigger cities like London, for example. When I went there, I could shop in Oxford Street until at 9PM, similar to shopping experience in Jakarta.

People do things on the grass!

Oh, this is one thing that really surprised me. Though moving to Bournemouth was not my first time going abroad, but I never really noticed this. In Bournemouth (and almost everywhere else I’ve noticed after I lived in Bournemouth), people are able to do things on the grass! Why is it so surprising to me? Well.. because..

Flickr
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/bhaktiamsterdam

I bet those of you in Indonesia has seen this sort of picture before! Yep, I don’t know why but we are not allowed to step on the grass! Especially in parks! This messed up my logic because I thought we are supposed to do things on the grass? Like, I don’t know.. having a picnic? sitting around? studying? relaxing? Yet we are not even allowed to step on it.

In contrary, Bournemouth has a really nice garden right in the middle of the town centre, en route to the beach. It has a tourist attraction as well, called the Bournemouth Balloon.

bournemouth-balloon
Image from http://www.tripadvisor.com

As you can see in the above image, the garden looks really nice, right? It’s also very nice to sit there, on the grass, just enjoying your day. Of course it can get really cold during winter days (bear in mind we’re talking about British weather here!), but I loved going there any other times of the year, especially during summer days, just to relax and unwind. I went there for picnic with my friends too. Now that’s what the gardens are supposed to be there for! For the people to relax! Now I really don’t understand why we are not allowed to step in the grass here in Indonesia.. Why is it there, then? just for aesthetic purpose?

Disposable BBQ do exist!

Speaking about summer, there’s a particular tradition that the Brits love to do, and I personally really love as well. It’s BBQ! Since Bournemouth has a pretty nice beach, people often do BBQ on the beach. Or the garden. Or their backyard. Basically everywhere, during sunny summer days.

But what about the props? Do we have to carry BBQ grill everywhere? Worry not, there’s what they call Disposable Instant Grill! I haven’t seen this everywhere prior to coming to Bournemouth. Really. You can purchase it on every supermarket, even mini markets, for as cheap as £2 when I was there. Me and my classmates love to do BBQ on the beach, we simply purchased the instant grill, the meats, condiments, etc, en route to the beach.

This is what it looks like. Have you seen it before? I asked my boyfriend in the US and he said he never even heard of this kind of thing. I think it’s a British thing?

Image from http://www.statichukd.com
Image from http://www.statichukd.com

People eat in Pubs!

Prior to coming to the UK, all I knew about Pubs or Bars is beer. Hahaha. I mean, I think it’s just a place to drink and get drunk. Little did I know that British pubs serve food! Some are actually delicious, I must say.

Image from www.tripwow.tripadvisor.com
Image from http://www.tripwow.tripadvisor.com

Have you heard about Sunday roast? It’s a traditional British or Irish meal and is commonly served in Pubs, on Sundays. I was a bit confused when I first got my first Sunday roast invitation from a friend. She told me to meet at our local Pub at noon for lunch. I thought, “wow British people really love to drink.. they even drink on Sunday afternoons!” Hahaha. But I was wrong. We did not come there to drink, instead we had a nice and proper meal.. Sunday Roast. It became a sort of tradition for me and my friends almost every Sunday, to have lunch together in our local Pub. Again, something I did not expect before, having meal in a Pub! 😀

Image from www.artvertise.co.uk
Image from http://www.artvertise.co.uk

So that’s about it. Some surprising differences I found during my first months in in Bournemouth. At the end, I became accustomed to them and at the moment, while writing this, I’m craving for a good Sunday roast… or BBQ at the beach! (I don’t miss not being able to shop after 6PM though.. Hahaha)

Have you lived abroad? Or simply, when you are traveling abroad, did you find any differences from your hometown? Please share in the comment box below! 🙂

I hate the weather and I want to go home!

This is the second post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England. 

It was early September when I arrived in the soil of England, all by myself. I remember feeling very optimistic, very excited to start my new life. Unfortunately, due to visa conditions, I arrived a week later than I was supposed to, thus making me missed orientations week and only had a weekend to settle before school started.

Worry not, through the help of Facebook I was able to make some friends before school started.. I found 3 other Indonesians in my year (there were only 4 including myself) and one of them – Andrew, pick me up at Bournemouth Coach Station after I spent 2 hours coach ride from London. He helped me find my house and carry my big suitcases (thanks Ndrew! hehe), and later on we met with the other 2.. Poppa and Yovita. Except Yovita who were an undergrad student in her final year, the three of us were postgraduate students.

Later on, I also found out that there were a total of around 20 Indonesians in Bournemouth.. some Bournemouth University students as well but started school the previous year, some working already, and a family with 3 kids. I think the amount of Indonesians were just the right amount. Not too little, not too many… A lovely community. I was happy and not worried that I would get homesick.

Now let’s talk about my house. I rented a room in a 4 bedroom flat.. the smallest room to be exact. There were no communal room, only shared kitchen and bathroom. It’s a tiny flat indeed.. located in Winton, a suburb (supposedly) not far from the university’s Talbot campus. When I looked at it through Google Maps before my arrival, it seemed close, a 20 minutes walk to the campus. It’s not too far from the town centre too, it’s only 3 minutes walk to the nearest bus stop. Oh, my housemates were nice as well. 2 British, 1 Japanese. All girls, no drama.  Everything seemed promising, right? 🙂

Then came the first weeks at school. My class schedule was looking great, I loved the lectures, it was not hard to make friends and I felt like I’m adapting well. I was excited. On my first weekend, I went out to the beach during the day and spent the night painting the town red with my class mates. I had my first experience of hanging out in an authentic British pub, had fun and made more friends. Again, all seemed promising. I (thought) I was adapting well.

Until… I experienced my first British rain. Oh, the lovely rain. I still remember it clearly, even after all these years! I was on my way home from the university; it was around 4 in the afternoon. I was carrying two bags.. one for my stuffs – laptop, books, wallet, etc – and one was my shopping bag – I made a stop at the supermarket to buy milk. The weather seemed pleasant at first. I was halfway to my house. Then, out of the blue.. it rained! I immediately grabbed my umbrella and tried to walk faster so that I could reach my house safely. Unfortunately my umbrella was not big enough so I still got sprinkles of water here and there. As if that’s not enough.. suddenly it became soooo windy. I was having trouble in keeping balance of my tiny umbrella and walking (plus carrying two heavy bags) at the same time. The wind didn’t want to stop, though. I felt it became stronger and stronger until my umbrella got broken… and there I was, soaking wet and freezing. I was lucky that my bag was somehow waterproof that my laptop and books were not wet… but everything else (read: me) were.

When I finally reached my house, I couldn’t help myself from crying. Never in my life before I had to experience being wet from the rain. Everything else went downhill from there. The homesickness started to kick in – I felt miserable, I missed my family, my friends, my (then) boyfriend. I was freezing and I hated the weather, I wanted to go home. I felt like coming here was all a mistake. It was midnight in Indonesia so I couldn’t call anyone.. and kept crying (even in the shower! Hahahahaha so dramatic) until I managed to cook myself a bowl of Indomie.

So that’s how British Fall season welcomed me. Afterwards, I managed to buy a bigger (and stronger) umbrella.. a thicker (waterproof and windproof) coat, and waterproof boots! All to keep myself warm during the rest of Fall and even Winter. I may spent a night crying like a baby because of homesickness, but I managed to live a happy life for the rest of my stay in the UK! 🙂

To end this post, here’s a collage of pictures.. Clockwise from top left: me and my (short hair) plus red (RIP) umbrella before the wind took it away – a glimpse of Winton (my neighborhood) – Bournemouth Beach – a night out with my class mates – and… a group picture of Indonesian community of Bournemouth, wearing none other than Batik! 🙂

Life in Bournemouth

Christa in the UK

I have decided to take a stroll down memory lane and share stories from my study abroad period in the UK back in 2009 – 2010. Starting now, posts tagged “Christa in the UK” will tell you my experience as an international student living, studying, and traveling around the UK. Hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy taking a stroll down memory lane 🙂

How did I end up there?

When I got the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree overseas, I didn’t instantly chose the UK as my destination. Instead, I aimed to go to Australia. It seemed like a realistic option since Australia is closer to Indonesia. I also looked at other options.. the UK, the US and Canada. I deliberately limit my options to English – speaking countries only thus explains the limited options. But, after several considerations (most significant being cost), I chose to go to the UK! woohoo! Oh, did I wrote it right? Cost? Yep, I found it cheaper to go to the UK rather than Australia or the US despite the high Poundsterling exchange rate to Indonesian Rupiah. Simply because most of UK universities offered 1 year master degree program, while at that time not many universities in other countries that offered the same.. mostly were 2 years program. Having done the budget calculation, I decided that the UK was more budget friendly for me and decided to apply.

I applied to several universities majoring in Advertising/Marketing Communications and got accepted to a few. I had to choose between 3 wonderful cities – Leeds, Birmingham, or Bournemouth. The first two might be more familiar to most people. But I ended up choosing Bournemouth, a small town which –  prior to applying to Bournemouth University –  I actually never heard of. Although there were some educational based reasons behind that (I might elaborate later..), but the reason I chose to go to Bournemouth was also because of this!

Bournemouth Beach
Bournemouth Beach!  (Image from http://bournemouthrock.co.uk/)

Who can resist studying in a town with a beach like this? I certainly could not! 🙂

Though Bournemouth beach may not be as pretty as those in Bali or Derawan Islands.. it’s still very pretty to me and the fact that it’s so easily accessible (very close to the town centre) made it very appealing. With the help of Google, I easily could search  images of Bournemouth beach and the city surroundings. I was hooked instantly, and ended up choosing Bournemouth over Leeds and Birmingham.

So that’s how I ended up in the UK, particularly in a small town called Bournemouth in Dorset county, approximately 2 hours away from London. The town is famous as a holiday destination for those in South of England (and of course, for the university  haha).  I lived there for almost a year (11 months and a couple of days, to be exact..) while completing my masters. Did I like it? I certainly did! In fact, it was one of the best period in my life. Why? stay tune to this series and I’ll let you know in the next posts 🙂