First Week.

So, it’s been basically a full week since I first set foot in Russia for the first time. I’ve posted a lot this week; I wanted to make sure that all of my first impressions and experiences were out there for those thinking about studying Russian or visiting Russia, so I’m doing it for you guys!

My first week has had ups and downs. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t felt homesick. I have. I still do. I miss my family and friends, and I’m still not sure how I’m going to make it through 9 months of life here… but it has to be done and I know that I’ll get used to it here eventually.

Today, for example, instead of staying cooped up in my room studying, I took up an offer from a friend through my new church here (Hope Church) and went to a place called Petergof in the suburbs of St Petersburg. It’s kind of a little town on the outskirts, but we went to this massive palace with huge gardens – might be called a Dacha, but I’m not sure about that yet! I spoke Russian all day long! It was intense but worth it for my speaking skills, because when I got home, a simple conversation with my host about how my day had gone was so much easier!

To meet the people I was going with, I had to take the metro for the first time since getting here. Fortunately my practice on the metro in Madrid this summer came in handy and it was all fine and I got to where I needed to be half an hour early!! It was funny because you have to go right down underground for a really long time here, it’s a good 5 minutes on the escalators to reach the station at the bottom! People are reading books and listening to music on their phones and reading the newspaper on the escalator like it’s completely normal. Which I guess it is, for them. For me it was a new experience!

I was told before I came to just say yes to everything. Every opportunity to speak Russian and experience the culture or way of life. I mentioned this tip in my post about how to make the most out of learning a language abroad… So I guess that’s what I’m doing. I’m taking my own advice, and by keeping busy, it helps me not think too much about everything I feel I’m missing out on at home and how homesick I’m feeling! I might go on about this a bit for the first few weeks while I’m here, but I’m just being real so that others getting ready for their year abroad are aware that it’s normal to feel this way. I’m missing my aunts wedding to be here, and I was meant to be a bridesmaid. I won’t be in any of the photos… and I’m from a really big, close family, so you can imagine how that feels. I also spent my 21st running around trying to buy food and a sim card in a strange, new and HUGE city, in Russian. I’m not complaining, it’s just that it’s not ideal exactly!

What also really helps me is knowing that I’m never alone, because God is here with me. I can talk to him at any time and he is always listening, no matter what! I’m so glad I made it to Hope Church on Sunday last week because I’ve already got friends helping me out and trying to connect me up to other people who can help me and look after me a bit in these first few months. It’s good to feel like you have people who are rooting for you when you feel cut off from what is familiar to you.

Anyway, I’m super tired – mentally and physically – from all the walking and Russian speaking I’ve done this week, so I think I’m going to keep this post shorter than the others this time. This weekend I don’t have many plans other than going to church and going shopping again for some more food and things. I may go to the Hermitage (art museum) tomorrow with a friend but that’s not been decided yet.

Time to get some sleep and recuperate! See you soon! 😉

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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 £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 🙂

Red flowers Mum got me for my new room ❤

Bog roll

Yes be prepared to get through tonnes of it with your flat mates. 

 

Caption in the F3 chat: “I bringeth bog roll”. #F3banter

 
We’ve probably used half the Amazon rainforests’ worth of it in the last 12 weeks. It’s not helped by the fact that we hold so many parties in our flat – this means more people drinking, and then needing the toilet. It’s inevitable.

But hey buying more of it is a way of blessing people I guess! 

It’s almost the end of the week now, which means I’m almost home. The flash mob is tomorrow and I’m gonna go and rehearse with my b-girl Linh at 4 hopefully. So tired – but it was worth making it to my 8:30am lecture today – only two of us (me and Emily, plus Katherine, our teacher) have been to every single 8:30 this term! Record! 

I’m looking forward to the break (let’s pretend for a second I don’t have exams and there will be no revision – humour me!). 

But first things first…. I need to get my Spanish comprehension in ASAP! 

Looking back

I’m amazed that 9 weeks ago I had my first ever Russian lesson… And now look what I can say!

Я живу в эксетере – I live in exeter

Я студентка – I am a student

Я люблю русский язык – I love Russian

And a few other useful things, such as

Слон на крыше – the elephant is on the roof

Ёж в улицу – the hedgehog is in the street

Now we’re learning numbers and the Genitive case… it’s complicated. Especially the Genitive plural. Not even going to try and explain it! There are about a million different endings which I just cannot seem to remember! The genitive case deals with quantities of things. It’s like saying ‘one cow’ (nominative singular) then ‘two of cow’ (genitive singular), then you get to five and you have ‘five of cows’ – this is how we learned it in the lesson. Our teacher is ace. Our new favorite word is cow, which has replaced elephant (слон – “slon” – hence ‘the elephant is on the roof’^).

It’s almost Christmas already – I need the think about presents! No idea what to get my family now I’m a poor student!! Although I saw some awesome sales in town and in the student shop recently on site… I’ve got a few ideas cooking up.

I’m getting ready for my first gymnastics competition in Bath next weekend (5th December). A friend is letting me borrow her leotard. I’ve not worn one of those since I was 6!!! I am excited though! I’ve been practicing a lot so hopefully it’ll go well. I’ll be in the novice bit. A friend is competing on a higher level. My coach says I’ll be fine. At least he believes in me!!

Down here in Exeter it’s getting really cold. Before it was like spring… then overnight it just got all cold and windy – bitter wind. But in gales it was so strong! I was walking to orchestra with my cello and I kept getting blown about in the gusts.

oooh oooh exciting news!! I have an interview at the Ram pub – its this on-site pub for students in the forum – which is basically the centre of all activities. Hopefully this means I can hand my notice in at my job at the hotel – which has been proving a bit hard to handle on top of my studies.

I’ve been looking at getting another meat box like I did a few months back – when I get paid I want one!! But I’m not sure there’s enough room in the freezer for it. The lads in my flat are into weight lifting etc and they have so much meat and frozen stuff that there’s literally no room left. I manage to keep some cod fillets and frozen packets of blueberries and raspberries in there but not much else unfortunately. I might have to wait until after Christmas when they haven’t had a chance to re-order… that will be my moment to strike! So it’s fish and beans and peas for me for now!

I’ve been really tired out by work and working for the hotel… Getting home really late over the weekend means on Monday mornings I have to drag myself out of bed for the lectures I used to enjoy 😦 It’s not ideal really.

I am tempted to go out tomorrow night with the girls in my flat – they’ve invited me out and I feel like I need to humor them and go at least once! I’ve been bad at it really… It’s not my idea of a fun night but hey I think it will mean a lot to them if I were to go.

Bueno… hasta luego 🙂

 

Being Charis… And some Russian

Before I begin I want to give a little shout-out to my wonderful Dad – it’s his birthday today and I’m so sad not to be there right now ‘cos I’m sure I’d have given him a massive hug 🙂 

Resuming……

I’m a little eccentric. I think eccentric is the word? Ok – maybe quirky. That sounds about right! For example – I cycled the whole way to Aldi yesterday for a pumpkin. Yes. And then when I brought it into the kitchen and my flat mates saw it, they were like, “how are you going to carve it?” To which I replied, “carve it? No way I’m gonna make pumpkin purée out of it.” So there I was roasting this massive pumpkin. 

 

My autumn squash collection accumulating on top of my printer in my bedroom 😉

  

Pumpkin Pancakes – using only 3 ingredients!

 
But hey, after I puréed it – there was a little left over which wouldn’t fit the jars I have so I made pumpkin pancakes!! They turned out really well and tasted great, if a tiny bit bland… Working on flavour! I’ll make them again and post the ingredients etc in another post some time 🙂 
So… Life. It’s still happening I can tell you! Break dance is good, gymnastics is good. Russian is great. I’m finding my Spanish oral lessons a little too easy :/ this means I get quite bored in lessons…. The grammar and translation classes are good though. They challenge me a little more. If there’s no challenge it isn’t fun you see. But that’s just me for you. That’s mainly why I picked Russian. For the challenge. I can say a few things in Russian now:

Я говорю по-русски – I speak/am speaking in Russian.

Они говорит, что Марина живём в Лондоне – they say that Marina lives in London.

Но я знаю, что она живёт в Париже – But I know that she lives in Paris.

Слон на крыше – the elephant is on the roof (always useful!)

Banging out some prepositional case there 😉 basically, the reason Russian is so hard isn’t because of its alphabet. Yes, you have to learn that, but it’s the cases that get you. There are six. 

The Nominative Case

The Accusative Case

The Genitive Case

The Dative Case

The Instrumental Case

And the good old Prepositional Case. 

Personally I like the prepositional – it seems straight-forward enough. Very basically, if you have a в (“vuh” – meaning “in”) or a на (“nah”-meaning “on” (as in, on top of something)) you add an -e (“yeh”) on the end of nouns ending in a consonant. If the noun ends in -а, -й or -о, you take off the last letter and add -е.

It’s only if the noun ends in -я (“yah”) or -е (“yeh”) that you add an “и” (“ee”). 

I won’t explain what happens with the nouns ending in soft sign, but it’s seems kinda simple to me. Fancy learning now? (Bear with me – it’s good revision to try and explain it to someone else!)

I added a whole list of vocab to this amazing app called quizlet which lets you test yourself on vocab etc except predictive must have changed it up because some of my words went in wrong and it didn’t save as editable by my Russian class so they were all trying to figure out who Chorizo12 was on quizlet to try and sort it out! I didn’t admit it was me because I didn’t want the arrogant lad in my class to be annoying about it ( he later added a correct vocab list and called it “vocab list without the mistakes of chorizo12”). I admitted it to my teacher alone after class and she laughed but applauded me for putting so much time into making the list. Oops. 

Not going to lie…. I’m getting quite tired now. I’ve not been sleeping very well this week – not since a small incident with one of my flat mates. (Please forgive me not wanting to divulge too much!) it’s been dealt with but I still feel slight tension and it’s tough. In first year, you get who you get in your flat. There isn’t an easy way to change.

Last night I went to this place called Wagamamas with some of my break dance crew – I couldn’t really afford to buy much so I went for a smoothie (it was called raw and it had carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, apple, and orange and it was pretty good!). My friend Mia had beef ramen and my friend Hannah had dumplings. Matt had pad Thai and I don’t know what Jonny had but it looked good. I am getting better at going out with friends. We chatted and had a laugh. It was ace 🙂 before back home i was really bad at this.

This morning, though, my flat mate Josh said he walked by us break dancing in the forum last night on the way to a meeting and he saw me break dance in the cypher. (When you aren’t battling one-on-one and you’re breaking in the circle with friends it’s called a cypher). Awks – although at the same time I’m kinda boosted by it. He said I looked good! Feeling more confident now and it’s kind of a good thing I didn’t see him seeing me – if you get me. Otherwise I’d have messed up big time from the nerves 😛

But today is a rest day – I’ve strained something in my thigh from gymnastics on Monday so I’m not doing more training although I really want to. 

I’m going to my first community group today – it’s basically a Life Transformation Group or Development Group. I’ve been put in the Wednesday one for Grace Church and I’m going to try it out. My friend Josie goes so that’s a definite plus – at least I’ll actually know someone! 

So yeah… That’s it really. Oh no wait – I have another job interview at a place called the Magdalen Chapter Hotel AND they are going to let me have a stall at the Student Traders Christmas Fair for my business!! So excited 🙂 

But yeah now that is everything! I’ll be posting some more recipes soon! I can even post the pumpkin purée one 🙂 Aldi sells ’em cheap so it’s a good time of year to try it. 

Mid-Week Update!

Yay halfway through Week 3 and I’m surviving 🙂 (Mostly anyway!) Good times.

I’ve been posting a few more recipes lately as I just haven’t had time to sit down and write an actual update. Which is fine. Technically my studies should come first. But I like writing… so… well… meh. (Which loosely translates as, I don’t care!)

Today has been rather eventful. I had lectures in Russian, both of which were a lot more challenging now that we are tackling verbs. And there are two types, but within these types there is a type 1A and a type 1B and a type 2A and a type 2B. Complicated, basically. I’m told when we get to something called “cases”, we’ll genuinely feel like committing suicide. Joy. (No worries, I have too much to live for 😉 ).

Other than that, we can now string together basic sentences. Which is cool right? Considering most of us literally started 2 weeks ago. I’m amazed if you aren’t.

Still haven’t managed to find a job. Oh yeah, I didn’t get the job at Coffee #1 – but it’s OK I’m still looking, I’ve applied to a bunch of other places and I’m waiting to hear.

I then met up with a lovely girl called Emily who is one of my Hall Group leaders (from the CU). She lived in Lafrowda before. It was nice to chat to someone – you know, really chat. The thing I’ve found over the last few weeks is that with most people, your conversation will be like this:

‘Hey.’

‘Hey.’

‘You ok?’

‘Yeah, you?’

‘Yeah, I’m good thanks.’

*The End*

And if you’re lucky, or have a bit more time, they’ll ask you for the bazillionth time what you’re studying, because obviously they can’t remember, they’ve met that many people over the last 3 weeks. But when you talk to a Christian, you have a genuine conversation which isn’t so superficial. Sure, I’ll probably progress with the flatmates eventually, I mean, I have to live with these people for a year. But right now, I just feel like the more solid friendships I’ve made have been with Christians. You just relax more and are able to talk about more. It’s hard to describe unless you know what I’m on about and have experienced it.

I met my form tutor – Gert. He’s actually really nice (although his stutter can be frustrating as I badly want to finish his sentences for him – it’s almost painful!). He sympathized with the whole wanting-to-actually-sleep at the weekend/party flat situation. He said that if all else fails, I can talk to him and he’ll do something about it. I’d like to see him try and turn the party down on a Saturday night at 12am. It would be funny to watch.

I’ve discovered I have even more work than I thought I did. So I need to crack on tomorrow – I have a big wedge of an afternoon so hopefully I’ll get my act together 😉

But for now…. bed. Student’s favorite place. (Other than the pub/club). Later folks 🙂

End of Week Two

It’s time to test those ear plugs. Friday means partying, going out, drinking, pre-drinking…. the whole shebang.

Not me though. I have a ton of work I never managed to get round to mid week due to my phone arriving (and taking 4 hours to back up – not kidding). Also my printer took another two hours to figure out on Wednesday. I’m the kind of person where, once I start something, I won’t stop until it’s done, i.e. working. I ended up having to download every single app onto my phone separately and then remember all of my passwords! I almost lost my twitter account – which isn’t particularly important to me, or rather, it wasn’t until I had my wrists slapped on Monday about how I have to know all the current news around the world and twitter is the best way to keep up to date with that. Fortunately, I figured out today that I was still logged in on my laptop so I was able to reset the password.

To be honest, I think everyone in my flat (OK, all the girls at least) are feeling like staying in and working or putting on a movie. Maybe the party bug has died out slightly.

Ellen was a star today and helped me drop off the two bike baskets I’ve had knocking around my room for the past week. Basically, to help with my bigger, heavier Saturday shops, I tried to buy a cheap bike basked on Amazon so I could put stuff in there. The first one turned up without it’s rack to actually fit it onto the bike. I rang customer services and they arranged for a replacement. The replacement came…. with no bike rack. So I had to send both back and ask for a refund. But because of the awkward shape of the boxes, Ellen helped me carry them there. The post office happened to be inside a co-op on the high street anyway and she wanted some apples so it kind of worked out.

Won’t be doing that again.

Feeling a little bogged down by work but I’m breaking it down into lists and prioritizing so so far no panicking. I almost laughed when my lecturer for my Spanish History module said we had to work our way through the module’s selected bibliography and read one book a week. She’s joking. Ok, not really. But still…..

My main technique is to write down Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday for the next whole week and then write in each space what home works are due in those days. Then I just start from Monday. The good thing is I get a week between pretty much every lecture to do stuff, but with all of this reading to be done I’m reluctant to leave it to the last minute.

I also can’t figure out where my tutor’s office is and I have to have a one-on-one meeting with him next week. His name is Gert Vonhoff and he isn’t even doing my languages (as you can probably tell from his amusing name, he does German). Nobody can really see the point in a tutor, apart from the fact that he’s our first port of call when we need a reference should we eventually figure out what in the world we want to do after uni as a career.

Having more interesting conversations with my flatmates about faith/God/Christianity etc.

Last night I got back on a high from Break Dance and there were a few in the kitchen. One guy said something about me having good karma or something, and I said, ‘but I don’t believe in karma.’ So then he said, ‘why not?’ So I said, ‘because I love Jesus instead’. And then he was like, yeah, I watched this thing by Stephen Fry where he questions all the pain and suffering in the world, and how can there be a higher power when all of that bad stuff happens. To which all I managed to say was ‘God doesn’t choose or make that stuff happen.’ It didn’t get much further. He wants me to watch the interview now. All I could think was, I said all the wrong stuff.

I dunno… these conversations are real brain workouts I’m telling you! But then he likes to ask my perspective on things for some reason.

So yeah, anticipating a more relaxing weekend, hopefully ploughing through some work and learning some more Russian (so I can show some of the know-it-alls in my Russian class I’m on the same level. I’m doing an Elle Woods (those that have watched Legally Blonde will know what I’m on about)). That’s another story though – I can’t believe how much butt-kissing people can do :O  Seriously guys, don’t be arrogant. It’s so unattractive!

I love my lecturer for my Russia: Empire and Identity module. She’s very quirky is Katherine Hodgson 😉 Today she was telling us about how she actually met the author of one of our books (Geoffrey Hosking author of Russia: People and Empire 1552-1917) in an interview to work for or with him for something, and she didn’t do well because she was distracted by his mono-brow. Then one of the girls in my class (Nicola) said she had always been told you couldn’t trust someone with a mono-brow, so now she could use that as evidence as to why Geoffrey’s theory about Russia not forming properly as a nation because it was too obsessed with being an Empire wasn’t true – because he’s now untrustworthy (due to the state of his eyebrows). You wouldn’t expect this kind of thing in classes I’m (or rather, Student Finance is) paying £9000 for, but it made for some light entertainment. Don’t worry, we did actually do some work that lesson 😉

Today I didn’t need to think too much about food – I had the other half of my Shakshuka for lunch with a sweet potato, and then made some tuna pasta for tea (with the gluten/egg/dairy free shell shaped pasta that Angela gave me!) it was yummy and simple. Pasta isn’t strictly Paleo as it contains grains normally but this stuff is made with rice flour, and white rice is considered OK as brown rice still contains toxic and hard-to-digest properties in the husk which is left on. There’s a good article about it which you can read here: http://paleoleap.com/about-rice/   at Paleo Leap. So yeah, sorry there’s no picture, but it was the pasta (cooked for 12 mins in boiling water with some Himalayan salt to bring out the flavor), sweet corn, a generous splash of olive oil, and half a tin of drained tuna (in brine). Lush.

That about does it really – I’ve run out of stuff to say now. I guess I just want to crack on, so that’s it for the time being!

Over and out 😉