Tips for Language Learning while Abroad

Here it is, as promised 🙂 My best tips for making sure you make the most of you year abroad and get as fluent as possible. I’ve also checked some of the things my own uni recommended to add further suggestions, but mostly these are my personal recommendations and things I’ve found have helped me! You can totally reject this if it doesn’t work for you, everyone works differently. I’m a visual and kinesthetic learner before an aural learner – which means that I need lots of visual information and I also need to do or practice the language / grammar for it to actually go into my brain. Just listening isn’t enough. So here’s tip number one:

  1. Find out what kind of learner you are. This is really important because it will change the way you revise and it will help you memorise vocab and grammar easier. You can take free tests online, just Google it 😉 There are about 4 types, Kinesthetic, Aural, Visual and then Traditional (I think).
  2. Say ‘yes’ a lot! People will offer you things, to go shopping, to go see a movie, etc. Just say yes. It’s all good experience and you’ll learn something about the culture from these.
  3. Stay with a family/Spanish friends who speak only/mostly Spanish/whatever your target language is. This way you wake up speaking the language, and go to bed speaking the language. You’ll get so much more out of it, trust me. And if the family has kids, this is a good way of getting practice using different registers – speaking more politely to grandparents whereas with kids you can usually be more informal.
  4. Go over difficult areas of grammar that you notice yourself struggling with. Don’t just leave them and hope they go away! I still go over the past tenses in Spanish and the subjunctive… and ser and estar still catch me out occasionally!! Just because you’re in the country doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll immediately become bad-ass at grammar, so make sure you try and do some exercises / revision a few times a week. Nothing intensive. If you can, take a course at a local uni.
  5. Write down new vocabulary – no excuses! I keep lists of new vocab, and as I mentioned in my last post, we’ve actually stuck up some pieces of blank paper in the kitchen with all of our names on so we can write down new words in English/Spanish and then go over them together at meal times. This is great for kids, but to be honest it works for adults too.
  6. You’re gonna love this one! Watch TV! and films… but in the target language obviously. If possible, use subtitles in that language too instead of in your native language, if you need it that is! But often programs have actors speaking clearly and with good grammar. I watched an episode of El Ministerio del Tiempo last night and it was great! I recommend the site rtve.es for series and news etc. for Spanish.
  7. Read. If you can, get your hands on a novel, maybe one you’ve read before so you know what happens, but trust me, this really helped not only to widen my vocabulary but also to get used to ways of saying things, set phrases/idioms, and the grammar structures. I read the Fault in Our Stars (Bajo la misma estrella) only in Spanish, I’ve also read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter y la cámara secreta), The Last Song (La última canción) and the Hunger Games (book one – Los juegos del hambre) in Spanish, and am currently reading Gone Girl (Perdida). I haven’t managed to get my hands on a Russian novel yet but I’m probably going to try and get the first Harry Potter on my kindle! [*Fun fact, in Russian they sometimes pronounce the ‘H’ sound (х) as a hard G sound like in gutter (г), so Harry Potter is Gary Potter to Russians (Гарpи Поттер), but for us English lot at least this makes it take on a whole different meaning! 😉 ]
  8. Do things that scare you – go for a train journey somewhere so that you have to buy tickets, go to the cinema or theatre, etc. These experiences will bring you into contact with people who don’t speak English/ your native language and will help you use what you have on the spot. 

So there you go – my 8 pieces of advice for helping you use and develop your language on your year abroad. Hope this helps! 

Exams and year abroad plans

Why hello there….

You guys… I’m sorry I’ve not posted in forever, life has been so hectic and over Easter I just needed the break to clear my head and get ready for my final exams (eek!).

Yup, I have 5 exams… most people only have 2 or 3. But no, language students get more. I’ve now taken 4 of those 5 exams, the last one is on the 25th, so think of me if you can between about 9.30am-11.30am!!

Aside from the fact that I’m busy cramming and revising my socks off, I’m also madly applying to work as an au pair in Spain this summer before Russia in September. I think I possibly mentioned plans to go to Mexico in a previous post, if not, then briefly; I was considering going to Mexico this summer but the plans never got off the ground, mainly due to the cost of flights etc. and how it was kinda unwise to spend so much money on that when I needed to pay for my visa and insurance etc for Russia.

Basically, I have Russia on the brain right now so be warned, I will be talking about it A LOT as of now. Hopefully you’re all interested anyway!

OK so I’ve bought my insurance, paid my deposit and admin fees…. so I am officially GOING. Which is kind of scary when you think about how a year ago it felt so far away and downright impossible.

I’m working my socks off in the Ram trying to pay for various flights and such, so that means balancing work with revision. So yeah, that’s why I’ve not been writing in a long time. I’ve been so busy! Yesterday the fire alarm went off while I was in the Ram kitchen and we all had to evacuate… something about oil leaking into the cellar and setting the alarm off. I don’t know exactly. But it was pretty exciting!

I’ve had some pretty good times meeting up with friends – went round to one friend’s house for tea and a movie the other night which was lush… she always cooks amazing food and it’s so much fun to hang out and chill. We watched The Pacifier with Vin Diesel – funny film which I used to watch a lot as a kid….

So yeah sorry this is a brief update I’m sending out there into the world… not sure if any of you remember me I haven’t posted in SO LONG. I’ll try and post more often and the plan is to post a lot while I’m on my year abroad to help future language students out.

So ’til my next post – have a great rest-of-the-week!!

 

The Year Abroad madness begins!

Hello again – golly I need to be more regular with my posts huh?

Here are some pictures taken outside my accommodation one morning this week when it was really misty… we live right by the railway line which I think is so cool because you can watch trains go by!

I think the mist makes it look really atmospheric

I messed around with a grunge filter on this pic to make it look creepier!


Sorry I’m always aware that I go off on a tangent before I actually talk about anything to do with uni or whatever. Oops! So as the title suggests I’m planning my year abroad. I have to have chosen and planned it all by December the 9th and I can’t change it after that – the part involving me going to Russia anyway. So the pressure is on (on top of everything else!)

Right now I’m curled up on my bed having a rest because my group has finally finished its website ready for the presentations we have to do today and tomorrow! I was heavily involved in the editing so I feel like I need the break. I’m also packing before heading home tomorrow for reading week and my dad’s birthday bash on Saturday.

But yeah – where do I even start with the Year Abroad thing? I know I want to go to Russia and study – I will take all the help I can get with the grammar!!! It tends to work out that you have to study anyway because it’s tricky to get work and then get Russian companies etc to sign the paper work saying they’ll take full responsibility for you so internships are usually off the charts. And actually I kind of want to study cos I want to meet people my own age and make friends that way!

I will need a visa and I also have to be tested for HIV apparently… there might be other vaccinations I need too so I’m not looking forward to those!

And although I really want to visit St. Petersburg and Moscow they are more expensive to live in so I might go elsewhere….

You see what I mean… so much to decide – and I need to look at flight costs, insurance and scholarships and things to help get a rough idea of how much I need to save! It’s a lot of work but I hope it’ll be worth it.

Being vegan in Russia will be interesting – I think they aren’t as aware of this kind of thing and meat dairy and eggs and fish are a big part of their diet – especially in the winter when the temperature is -20 degrees Celsius! But from reading other blogs and things I think I can manage it – you can usually get potatoes and beans and nuts and veggies everywhere! And in big cities there will be supermarkets selling stuff too so fingers crossed! I will probably blog while I’m away as it’s recommended to try and keep touch with your writing and things so watch this space if you’ve ever wondered what it must be like to live in Russia – especially right now with the tensions and things.

Life is generally going well at the moment despite lots of work (I know I’m always going on about it but seriously the struggle is real!) and a couple of formative assessments due the week I get back from reading week (so the week after next). Formatices dont count (might have mentioned this before) but they are good indicators of where you’re at and what areas you should work on before the summative exams which do count. So I try and do my best in them, and this year I’ve managed to read a lot more so I feel like I can do this – so pumped! Just as long as my family don’t all try and drag me out to various events then I’ll have time to do this stuff!!

Yesterday I made potstickers and here is a picture to prove it!

They didn’t turn out as good as I’d hoped but I thought it was worth a try making them 🙂 that red stuff is tomato purée which I use like ketchup because I find ketchup is too sweet (and more expensive). I’m one of those people that likes more bitter/blander tastes (except when it comes to ripe bananas made into ice cream or medjoul dates!!) but I will pick a green granny smith apple any day or have black coffee or 90% cocoa chocolate any day hands down. In my opinion tomato purée is just as delicious and my fave go to meal is beans, rice and tomato purée mixed together when I’m in a hurry or need to pack my lunch!

I made an aubergine curry recipe that I’ll have to share with you at some point soon as well 🙂 Actually that’s what I’m all full up on right now, along with the leftover filling for my pot stickers – it was made from cabbage, carrot, mushrooms, garlic, onion and tahini and ginger. It’s a good combo and it meant I had a kind of salad already prepped so I just had that with my main meal – rice and the curry sauce!!

But anyway, I guess I need to start saving because visas are about £100 and I have no idea how much flights to Russia will cost!! I also need to plan if I want to go to Spain/South America during the summer before or after Russia (I think I’ll need it after surviving the winter months in Россия!!

So yeah lots of planning and dreaming. ‘Til next time 😉 пока пока!

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 ❤

Nearly through this :)

Hey-hey!

I know I know, I’ve not really posted in ages. I’ve been revising for my exams – and I can now happily say that my Spanish exams are over and done with. Now for the main Russian exams. I have the writing one this Friday, and then my exam on Chekhov’s plays and then lastly a two hour (yes two hour) Russian listening exam. I’m freaking out a bit but just trying to cover my problem areas in the grammar and listen to Russian as much as possible. Anything and everything. I think good luck is удача in Russian (pronounced “oodacha”). 

I’ve been doing a bit more yoga recently to stretch my muscles out (still can’t run – no sign of my new insoles yet) and cycling and walking to keep active and not just sit in my room all day! Fresh air y’all. I need it. I mentioned some of the issues I’ve had in my flat over the last year – these make me really stressed (more than my exams) and make revising quite hard, but my personal tutor and I have been filling out a special form that might help examiners take this into consideration should my grades suffer. (Because I got ill during but especially at the end of term 2 and missed a load of lectures and had to do some exams even though I felt like I had flu!).

Gymnastics isn’t on at the moment because the club can only afford two terms at the gym… We’re still hoping for two sessions a week next year! I’m just praying I can afford it :/ break dance is even more casual (if that’s possible) so basically sessions are just turn up if you aren’t revising …. And I’m just not really going! I probably should at some point but it’s too much to think about right now! 

I’ve actually been going to CU a lot more recently and it’s been nice to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while. I’ve invited my friend Esther to come and maybe stay with me at my house over the summer and she said she’d love that so that’s exciting 🙂

Went to my community group last night – it got too big and had too many people so we’ve had to split 🙂 I saw my other friend Bethany there – she’s having a really hard time finding somewhere to live next year because her friends and people she’s asked keep saying they can give her a room and then giving it to someone else! So we prayed for her. I actually had a erase for someone – this is the second time in my life that’s happened. God is awesome 🙂 

Holidays are coming…. I can’t wait to go home – I think I’m just ready to go back a step and be in a familiar setting again. I’m still not sure if we’ll actually go abroad over the summer. People ask me if I’m going on holiday and I just don’t know. It depends on if we can affort it! Then they ask why don’t I just go on my own…. I’ve never gone on holiday alone or just with friends…. it would be weird!! Maybe I’m old fashioned in this way but when I think of holiday I think of my family and we go together.

I am probably going to stay an extra week after exams to work and earn as much money as I can before summer and next year. Hopefully I’ll stay sane!!! Anyway… Probably should get back to revising now 🙂 

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 🙂