October

5 weeks down. 31 to go.

Hello again! Here is my weekly post, although nothing much of interest has happened this week so far other than my church’s weekend away to Komarova (near the Finnish border, it’s about an hour north of St P on the train). And yes, I am ridiculously proud of myself for buying my train tickets all by myself AND managing to get a student discount on them!! 

Komarova is right by the Finnish border and the sea!


This week has actually been quite tough for various reasons. I think it didn’t help that I wasn’t as busy, so I missed home more. When I get tired and frustrated I end up thinking about the past and the future/what I’m going home to and wondering about things, but this tends to not help me. Also, my lessons were so hard. I’m not the only one who feels like their Russian has actually got worse recently. Most of my classmates have complained about it, so in a way it’s reassuring that I’m not the only one feeling the strain. I was talking to my flatmate about it and she said she spoke to this lady that teaches the highest level of Japanese but isn’t a native herself, and she said that when learning a language you go through small phases along the way where your brain just can’t take any more in, but then you get through it and advance again. So apparently it’s normal. It’s just frustrating when your in one of those phases.

My flatmate left on Friday morning; her course finished. She was on a different one to me because she’s from America. It was 3 months long, and at a different school to the one I go to (I go to the state uni). I miss her a little bit. She really helped me out during my first couple of weeks when I didn’t know where anything was. She’s given me a load of stuff she couldn’t take with her – a pillow, an extra towel and blanket, some jumpers and clothes and leftover food items (some were from one of her course mates too). She’s been so kind. Apparently my host ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ won’t take anyone new on for a while – they want a break, especially after the last students that were here before us. Apparently there was this guy who wasn’t very easy to live with/get on with. So it’ll just be me and my hosts. To be honest, I think it’ll work out better for me because I’ll speak more Russian. And I think they have quite a soft spot for me. I’m quiet and polite and don’t intrude when they have guests. I’m also quirky and interesting because I’m a christian that meets in a hotel not a church/cathedral (trust me, this is a mind-blowing concept in Russia) and I’m vegan… so I guess my perspective on life is always, shall we say, interesting(?!). My host ‘mum’ invited me for a cup of tea this evening after I’d got back and their friend had left (they came for tea) and asked about my weekend in Komarova, which was nice. We talked about family (her grandson is staying in the spare room for a few days) and I showed her some pictures of mine. Unfortunately I think the caffeine in the tea was the reason I ended up unable to sleep and feeling wired at 1.30am! But I appreciated that she wanted to hear about my church weekend away and spend some time talking to me.

So yeah, the weekend away turned out to be fun and a nice break. I’m so tired, but I got to really solidify friendships and make some new ones, take some silly photos, sing silly songs around a bonfire…. these things make precious memories which last a lifetime. I feel really challenged this year to really discover what it means to give my life and everything I have over to God, to lay it all down to follow him. This might be a bit deep to read on a Monday morning but it’s something I’ve been learning about since getting here, and especially this weekend during the meetings. I had to give up on time with my family, my 21st… and is it worth giving up these things which mean a lot to me? Honestly, from what I’ve learned about God so far, yes it is. It’s not an easy decision to make but I know that his plans for my life and the person he is helping be to become will definitely be so worth it. Every challenge I face will just help me grow and become a stronger and better person. And I love the fact that I don’t have to do it alone, because I believe he is always there, protecting me. 


Urrgghh I don’t feel like uni today…. I feel so tired and Mondays are my longest and hardest days… but I managed to get a lot of my homeworks done for the first part of the week so it means I can take my time this morning and relax a bit. I think my mum might FaceTime later so that will help keep my spirits up for the rest of the week! The days are getting shorter and colder here, we’re definitely feeling the autum-winter weather! 

Until next time πŸ™‚ 

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Term 1 Year 2 – God and other things :)

Life has got crazy pretty quickly down here in Exe.

This year, sadly, I haven’t joined any clubs. Not break dance, not gymnastics, no orchestras. I have my reasons… primarily, the cost. Gymnastics is Β£90 for the year, which, long term, works out pretty cheap, but as an upfront cost at the start of term, when you haven’t really had a good solid summer job to earn tonnes of money, is pretty steep. Likewise with the orchestras… the price is huge up front – but also, my course is pretty full on this year. I mean, it was full on last year, but this year its 13 lectures/classes and they are adding TWO MORE for Russian. Which is great – but not great at the same time because it means two more hours that I have to get to everyday. Plus my timetable is so spread out it’s unreal. I might have one lecture in the morning, then two hours, then another one, then one or even three hours, then another one. There isn’t enough space in the library and around campus all the time for students to study so I tend to go home. By bike its quick and not so bad – but Exeter is hilly. Really, really hilly. So some days I’m cycling to campus 3 times. I’m hungry all the time… and, like last year, I have a small budget for food. Add to that the fact that I’m now a Deliveroo rider (on my bike) and basically I am hungry ALL THE TIME.

So yeah I have a second job – casually mentioned that^ – but this means time for me is scarce. I’m still trying to go to CU every once in a while but it’s not likely to be regular. I’m prioritising church and going to my community group every week and church on Sunday… but apart from that I have to spend all my time doing my work and reading before my next module lecture. Such is life in your second year. I was comparing hours/work with a friend of mine doing medicine the other day and we have the same amount of hours and work each week. I’m effectively doing the equivalent of a medicine degree but in languages. This is when learning Russian really bites you in the bum. Like, why Russian???

It means that I might find it harder to meet up with friends and things around all of my various commitments. Oh and I’ve signed up to do peer mentoring and I’m helping a friend with a Spanish module she’s taking on the side of her degree….. The list goes on!!

Basically, it’s so good that I’ve got God with me. Because if I didn’t have God on my side, I think I would be having multiple melt downs right now.

I’m learning not to worry. I’m learning that sometimes you have to say no. Even though people always want a piece of me and are inviting me to socials and training etc. I have to accept the fact that my degree and my sanity need to come first. I mean it’s flattering that people want me around, but this IS what I’m here for after all. (And why I’m so in debt!) It was interesting because I found an article (it’s on my wall on Facebook) about why uni at the moment is one of the most unhealthy places to get your degree – so many people are suffering from mental illnesses and have this warped mentality that uni is meant to be the best years of your life and if you aren’t enjoying it an  going out to all of these events etc. then you aren’t doing it right. It’s not true. Honestly.

Last year I was definitely a victim to this mentality surrounding uni and the moving away from all that is familiar thing. I thought I would be fine and that uni would be the best 4 years of my life. Then, slowly I realised that some of my flatmates were really difficult people to live with and be around, and actually that I was spreading myself too thin and this was stressing me out making my IBS flare up – so I was getting ill. I’m so glad that I’ve come out on the other side stronger for it and ready to tackle the year ahead with a smile on my face. I feel so free now that my eating disorder is gone and I’ve stopped believing a whole load of lies about myself that I’d been carrying for years. It’s amazing what happens when you start seeing things positively and speak blessings over yourself and not curses. All the rubbish falls away and you’re just left with happiness… sometimes I think I’m so happy now that people around me can’t handle it. Wow.

You will definitely grow at uni – There’s  no other option. Either you grow and make it through, or you don’t and you drop out. Probably because you weren’t ready to change. You have to be ready to adapt to this lifestyle. Some people are lucky and they pick a course which has 4 lectures a week but most people either don’t do enough work or kill themselves going after that 1st (as in the grade). You have to find balance. It’s this word which floats around and no one really knows what it means or how to get there – but that’s because it takes practice And practice is a day-by-day thing. A teacher of mine always used to say that practice makes progress, not perfect. I believe her. I will never be perfect. But I’m definitely further along in my progress towards a good k-life balance than I was before because of all of this time management I’ve had to do to keep organised and on top of things. Actually, I prefer the phrase keeping afloat. Sometimes it feels like you’re swimming in deadlines and work and only just keeping above water enough to breathe.

This is where God comes in – I try and have a little bit of quiet time to read my Word For You Today (UCB) and a bit of the Bible or listen to a good podcast (I have some Bethel ones) and this really helps ground me. A lot of people on social media are talking about meditation and its benefits for grounding you and helping you live stress free. So I guess this is my ‘meditation’, if you will. Talking to my best friend and looking at life from His perspective and trying to be more like Him. Trying to show love and kindness. Trying to be available for people even when you have so little time and it feels like too much.

It’s all good.

 

Anyways, that’s update for those interested πŸ™‚

Red flowers Mum got me for my new room ❀

March

Spring time finally! Ok so it came a bit early this year but still – daffodils are everywhere and the weather has continued to be mild. We’ve had the warmest summer ever – I don’t think I can remember having one so warm throughout my entire life!

Lots of work as usual – this time I am reading up to get started on my summative coursework essay (summative means it counts towards your final grade for the year). This is my Latin American History module – so on a positive note it means one less exam next term. Term three is basically just exams – there won’t be any teaching. I’ll be done by the end of May. Then that’s it – first year over. Survived. Thank goodness.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve learned so much being here. But my flat is starting to get a little hard to live in! I think it’s natural anyway as most of us won’t be living together next year, so we have better friends on our courses etc. But things have gotten a little difficult recently for some reason – I’ll spare the details, I’m not going to back stab or gossip. I’m just being real about how things are. Unfortunately you don’t always get on with your flat mates. I’m just glad that next year I’ll be with people who I’ll be able to relax better around πŸ™‚

I’m still loving the student life – the discounts (get an NUS extra card it is so worth it!), self catering and experimenting in the kitchen, my course (although demanding I love the challenge of it), and church and stuff. Making new friends too. It’s great!!

Someone said to me once that uni either makes or breaks you. I think it does a bit of both. It breaks down what you used to know and think and brings out your weaknesses; but it makes you into an adult, brings out your strengths and beliefs, helps you reinvent yourself and become who you are – it’s such a great place to do that.

I’m definitely a different person from the girl that got dropped off on the 13th September last year. I’m a different person from the girl that got dropped off on the 1st January this year! It’s like a character growth spurt I guess… hey that’s not too bad a description/simile/metaphor. (I don’t know which one it is, but something along those lines!).

I’m considering some tricky career stuff at the moment and just praying God will guide me through it all. No idea what I want to do but there are some amazing offers out there and languages can take you almost anywhere! The good thing is, I don’t really need to sweat about it until after my year abroad as I can’t really consider a job until I have the language nailed! But obviously networking and experience are important.

BIG NEWS: I can finally do somersaults in gymnastics! All the hard work payed off! So proud πŸ™‚

Woke up today and made the best porridge ever. I love that stuff – every morning I have it. Oats, frozen raspberries, frozen chunks of banana and hemp milk πŸ™‚ my goodness it was good – I’ve run out of dates though which would have definitely  taken it to the next level! Forgot to take my phone with me to snap a picture but I may make it again so I’ll post it if I do! Here’s a shot of my banana and blueberry nicecream from yesterday for you πŸ™‚ it was sooo good – basically it’s my nicecream recipe from before but with 1/2 cup blueberries instead ❀ Here’s the link if you want to try making it:

https://adventuresofababelfish.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/raspberry-and-banana-icecream/

There was more in the cup than this but I’d eaten it already!


Have a great weekend πŸ™‚

 

A few things you didn’t know about me.

*Deep breath* I secretly pretend I’m a unicorn and dance around my room in a bikini.

NOT! πŸ˜‰

I’ve noticed that I haven’t been 100% honest with you all (my lovely readers), and forgotten to mention one very important detail. I am a business owner. My business page is on facebook – it’s called Glow From Within. (http://www.facebook.com/charis121996 – add me and then I can invite you to the page if you want to see!).

Basically, I work in conjunction with a 40 year old company in the health and wellness sector, which is actually set to be the next trillion dollar industry, with massive annual turnovers of around 2.8 billion already. It has an amazing product range that underpins the fantastic business opportunity, which is flexible and I currently work it around my studies (previously around my two part time summer jobs). It has changed lives. I can show people how to make more money than their boss, and build up a six figure income in over 3-5 years. Incredible right? Sound too good to be true? Well maybe you and I should have a chat about it and I’ll explain it better πŸ˜‰

But yeah, I had a wonderful planning meeting today with my mentor Cassandra Gillgan. She is so encouraging and she really inspires me. It’s so nice to connect with people that are from your ‘home’ sphere.

Anyways. Today – I have hall group this evening. Thankfully I am going today so I will actually get to meet people and solidify some friendships which is always great πŸ™‚ I’m hoping that my flatmates aren’t seeing me as being really annoying and ‘Christiany’ – you know, fitting the stereotype “Christian”, because I totally DON’T and never intend to. I have a faith. I believe in God. I see him as my best friend and my dad, and he’s right here at uni with me, doing my degree with me, and making friends with me. That’s how I see it. I don’t see pews and rules and incense – it’s not rigid like that…. I just see it as – raw, real life. You know? (If not, we REALLY need to chat πŸ˜‰ ).

The other day (might have mentioned this already – so pardon me if I’m repeating myself – *note to students* prepare yourself for your brain becoming like a sieve. Diaries are recommendable!) one of my flat mates randomly asked me ‘Are you a Christian?’ Already I knew from his tone and expression that this was going to be a debate as far as he was concerned. I was right. He wanted to point out why he believes the Bible is a load of rot and why Christians are silly. He also added (defensively) that he was atheist. (They usually (say they) are). So I asked why he asked me that, and we discussed it. I tried to explain what my faith is like, how I’m non-denominational. How the Bible isn’t what he expects.

I had to go eventually. But my friend Ellen continued arguing my case (she’s a Christian too).

Situations like that are hard. I don’t pretend to know all of the answers. And I think that’s actually OK. Because at the end of the day no one does. Right?

Today I was mortified – I missed my first lecture. Actually, it wasn’t so bad – it was my oral class. But still, I was mortified. I emailed my teacher straight away once I realized and fortunately she offered for me to come to one of the ones on Friday to catch up. It wasn’t really my fault as normally the oral lesson would have been on a Friday at 4:30, except that she’d changed it for us so we wouldn’t be so tired! But the timetable didn’t change until this morning or something because I didn’t see it (and trust me I check that thing very regularly). So fortunately this time it wasn’t such a big deal.

Tonight for dinner, I had a venison burger (from my Piper’s farm Box – I still have so much left from it, it’s proven so cost effective! I’ve only used 4 items and these have made me at least 10 meals already – I still have a whole drawer full of meat! (my flat mates thought I was crazy but then they realized how I’m the opposite and just quite practical!)). I also had 1/2 avocado and some parsnip chips πŸ˜‰ yummy

2015-09-30 17.38.30-1

For those interested, the parsnip chips were made by peeling the parsnips then cutting them into chip shaped wedges, then roasting them in coconut oil for about 30 minutes with some paprika and mixed herbs. I did some food prep on Saturday so I wouldn’t have to think too much about meals during the week. I also roasted leftover chunks of butternut squash in coconut oil – MARRIAGEΒ made in HEAVEN!!!! The left overs were from my meals the week before – I made a chili con carne with butternut squash (it was divine and lasted 3 days!)

But yeah, still going strong and loving life. I got so many parcels today it was awesome. From Mum and Dad mostly. And some ear plugs and things from my Granny to help me sleep while my flat parties over the weekend!!!

Feeling very loved and special – I’m so lucky to have a great family who support me πŸ™‚

At the completion of week 2

Woo survived another week! Bring on the next one.

Just to say, I changed the theme as I wasn’t quite sure that the previous one really reflected my studies and general working out of life alone as an adult….so chalk board it is πŸ™‚

*Moving swiftly on* I tried out Grace Church today and to be honest it was the best experience I’ve had so far. I really want to stick with this one. ForgetΒ trying all of them out….. I felt a lot more at home there and I also met this lovely fourth year Russian student (called Josie) who was really friendly and giving me the low down on her year abroad and what to expect! She’s even invited me to her house so she can cook me some Russian food for a little trial πŸ˜‰ Another plus was one of the guys from the break dance society (I’m reliably informed that he’s called Hugh – but I’ve met that many people that I can’t be 100% sure). There were also a few other friendly students helping out and they were so lovely. I think this one might be a keeper? Who knows – I just think I want to go back next week and try it again. I might try a third one but I want to go back to Grace Church next week. They’re also doing a really amazing Bible study in Romans which is one of my faves :’) I don’tΒ want to miss out.

I got back and felt really refreshed and recharged, which is good because most of block F crowded into our flat again to drown their sorrows in Carlesburg after the Rugby match last night. I’m not sure whether to be sad that England lost, or happy that Wales won because I drew Wales in my flat’s sweep stake. Maybe I should just go back to not caring? My flat mate Sarah was happy though, she’s Welsh!

Little update on the audition and the job interview at Coffee #1….

The audition was so relaxed – It’s probably the most comfortable one I’ve ever done. I made a few mistakes, which is annoying, but generally I think I played well. The guy judging actually played piano with me and enjoyed the piece so much that he didn’t stop me after the first page like I’d been promised he would but continued to the end, so I had to play all of the hard bits on page 3 which I was hoping to miss πŸ˜‰ They always do that! Then I had to sight read, but he played with me so I actually found it easier, although it was super easy already – D major and basically crotchets and quavers the whole way through. Standard cello part. Although I made the mistake of playing in the wrong clef so we had to restart. (This can happen on the cello and is actually perfectly understandable really, as there are 3 clefs and it has a massive pitch range – but still not ideal in an audition and particularly when playing an extract from Mozart.)

The interview was with a lovely bouncy Lithuanian lady called Gertrude. (Try not to laugh too much at the name – she was lovely πŸ™‚ ). We tried to figure out some times that would suit me around lectures (which was hard), and then she asked me some questions about situations I’d been in in the past when working for Costa etc. I did my best, and it seemed really positive. There’s some training and a trial shift involved, all of which is paid, but I’m still concerned that it won’t fit so easily around my studies and church and societies/clubs. So we’ll see. It may or may not work. If it’s going to make me stressed, I’m not doing it. I learned the hard way what happens when you take too much on and I’m not risking it again.Β No way.

Fortunately Josie (who I met at Grace church) said she knew the rugby club was often hiring out for weekend staff and it would have flexible and more student friendly shifts. Sounded much better than trying to fit four shifts into my busy schedule for Coffee #1, which yes, would be a great place to work, but I am not risking my sanity. I don’t even know how I passed my A-Levels considering how much I was doing each week. :O

Basically, I need about 1-2 shifts a week max, and preferably at the weekend. So I’m still looking. Josie also said she’d get her flat mate who works on the uni campus to send some info about where I can apply for jobs on campus which will be useful as well.

But yeah, now I’m back in my room writing this and about to start some work. Not that I have a lot (I keep on top of things) but I have to read a Spanish novel before my lecture sometime this week. And learn more Russian vocab. Wooo πŸ™‚

So. Bring on week 3. What’s it got in store for me this time?

And it starts to sink in…..

Homesickness. They tell you it’s normal. Everyone feels it. Most pretend they don’t. I totally fall into that category – for now. It’s not like a massive thing. It’s more like I miss little things. Like spontaneous hugs. My mum and I have worked through some tough things and one thing she and I do is spontaneous hugging. Dad isn’t so bad at it either πŸ˜‰ I miss that.

I kind of miss my privacy too. I mean, I always had my bedroom door open and Beth was next door to me in the attic, but here, if you leave your door open EVERYONE has to say hi as they walk past. And if they don’t, YOU have to say hi.

Making big decisions is hard too. *Being totally honest now*. I’m a little overwhelmed by the idea of finding a new church. And the CU? I missed the halls dinner/social thingy last night for Lafrowda (where I live). Probably missed out, but I feel like I’m out every night! I kind of want to focus on just finding a church first and going every Sunday, then build from there…. but worried about all the friendships being made without me? Maybe just worrying too much!

Oftentimes I play the cello when I feel like this and it makes me feel better.

I wonder if it’s an actual condition – when you’ve met so many new people that you just want to shut yourself in your room and shut the world out for a bit?

On the flip side, lectures are FABULOUS. I love Russian, we’ve really got going on the alphabet and they gave us all a new Russian name so we get into the Russian persona – I picked Sonya after my mum’s name (which happens to be the Russian version of it) – it looks like this for those interested: Боня

Awesome right? Spanish is ACE too we’re getting into lots of history, which will explain the culture behind everything πŸ™‚ So yeah I’m happy.

But I do miss home a little tiny weeenyy bit πŸ˜‰

#Feelinglikeanalien

Tomorrow Lectures Start…

It’s kind of sobering to realize that the hard work begins tomorrow. I know that for your first year you only have to pass about 40% to be able to carry on with your course, but I always put a lot of effort in because I want to do well.

Tomorrow, I will have my first lecture in Russian. Not in Russian, but for beginners I mean. So it’ll be in English πŸ™‚ Thank goodness!

I’ve already started learning the alphabet on this amazing app called Quizlet where you can test yourself. It’s great for verbs and vocab etc. And learning the Russian alphabet, should you be interested πŸ˜›

I made a chicken korma curry for lunch today which was probably too spicy to actually qualify as a korma, but it stank the room out and made my clothes smell too. My flat mates (especially the lads) are very impressed with my cooking skills. (Thanks mum!)

I’ve tried to explain a little bit about how big my family is… like how my uncle is only 4 months older than me. That gets most people. But this is why I know how to cook. I come from a huge family, where leftovers and reheating food is life. Double. Quantities. For. Everything.

….Plus I just like to cook, so that always helps πŸ™‚

Ok, so today is more chilled. No one is going out tonight. Everyone wants to get organised before lectures tomorrow. I’m still desperately awaiting the arrival of some clothes hangers mum bought me on ebay because we forgot to pack any so my clothes are on the floor of my wardrobe right now. This is survival to the extreme, seriously πŸ™‚

I’ve been to my first church today – Belmont Chapel. It’s ok, but I felt like it wasn’t for me. So next week it’s Grace Church.

Still madly practicing the cello for my audition next weekend. Aaah scary!Β It’ll be ok though, apparently they usually don’t listen to the whole thing anyway so they will probably stop me after the first page. Mmm what can I play that has an easy first page…? πŸ˜‰

Anyways, this entry was going to be brief as I too want to get a bit more organised for tomorrow. My first lecture is at 9:30am – it’s Spanish Language. The worrying thing is I have no idea where ‘Harrison 004’ is…. might want to ask about that one!