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 🙂

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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 🙂