Year two: reflections 

 

Yay! Second year completed – no more exams, revision… just relaxing and enjoying the sunshine! Not for long though..

I fly out to Spain next weekend for 2 months to work as an au pair, and then come back for august before flying out to Russia for 9 months. Is this real life? I cannot believe that it’s happening already! My year abroad is finally upon me, and I have to admit I’m excited but also a little nervous.

Last summer I had a not so optimal au pair experience, so I’m really hoping and praying that this year won’t be like that. I’ll be living in Madrid until the end of July, and I’ve never been there before so it will all be new to me! I’m hoping to make some friends at the church I’ve found and intend to go to while I’m there, but I also hope to gel well with the family.

I will take as many pictures as possible so hopefully a few will end up on here, and also I’m going to do some year abroad posts – things like what to do/what not to do and how to go about studying your language while abroad and making the most of your time out here. I hope it will be useful!

The weather in Exeter is beautiful right now, I’m loving the sunshine and clear blue skies. I’m missing my church camp back home (this weekend) which is sad, but I rang my family yesterday to top up on some lurve before I go home on Tuesday. Yeah, I know, I’m already about to go home and leave for the summer!!

I will admit, this year hasn’t been easy. It’s been somewhat easier than last year in the sense that I knew what to expect a little more. You can usually tell the difference between and fresher and a second/third year because of their confidence levels and how they behave. I definitely feel more confident and well on my way to being a True Adult. Although I’m not sure I’ll ever fully grow up! But I can at least feed myself decently well and put a wash on once a week so we’re doing good so far!

I was so glad to walk out of my last exam yesterday knowing that that was it. The thing is, I’d been struggling with the more complicated grammar stuff we learned this year in Russian, and even Spanish was giving me a run for my money! The step up was bigger than I expected… so I had to amp up my game and work harder than last year. I pretty much coasted last year – which is not the best approach, but then it doesn’t count towards your degree so most people do even less work than I did!

So yeah that’s the first thing – this year was harder work-wise. Because it counted. So everything had to be good. I had to read tonnes of books and things while doing all of my grammar/homework for my lectures and preparing before the lecture in order to write my coursework in my second term. And I had to revise hard over Christmas for my January exams, which is never fun at that time of year.

Secondly, I learned to trust God a lot. I couldn’t work a lot this year because I was so busy with my studies, so there were some hairy moments where I had barely enough money for food and things. Don’t worry – I made it through, but it was a little rough in places and this is also partly because I didn’t really earn a lot of money last summer. It’s hard to get a job as a student because bosses look at your CV, realise they’ll train you up to only lose you again in 3 months and say nah not having you. #studentlife.

But this summer that won’t happen as I’m working as an au pair through a company and the family has to pay you. But anyway, back to my point. I had to learn to trust God with my finances… to trust it would all be OK and try and still meet up with friends even if I couldn’t buy food or a coffee, but to just be there to enjoy being with them because that’s the important bit.

Lastly, I learned to forgive myself and love myself for who I am. It’s something I’ve found hard my whole life, and I’m sure I’m not alone with this. But this year has really been a turn around in many ways… and that has definitely been helped by reading the Bible and discovering what God thinks about me and not worrying about what other people think.

Bring on summer… I hope you’re all well and enjoying the weather as much as I am!

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!!

 

End of term mess and Year Abroad preparation! Busy life…

March. Already?! It’ll be Easter soon and I’ll be home again revising for my exams. And preparing even more fervently for my year abroad… Life never stops when you’re a student! It’s kind of good though in a way because it never gets boring… every week is different and every day is different. Gotta think of those positives 🙂

I think I might have mentioned that my grandparents came down this week gone and they totally spoiled me rotten! We went to Ask Italian and Zizzi’s for a meal and they even bought me my weekly shop – it was so kind and I feel so happy to have seen most of my family in the space of one week.

 

 

There’s nothing like family to get you back on track and re-align your perspective when everything gets a bit stressful! A couple of weeks ago I was flooded by formatives (and not much has changed to be honest) but I was getting really down, so I decided that I needed to get away from it all. Other people I know go back home more regularly (unless they are international students) but this is the first time I’ve managed to go home for a weekend when it’s not someone’s birthday or something. It felt good. I slept in my own room – ate meals with my family instead of scoffing something quickly before a lecture… watched films, laughed and talked. These things mean a lot to me, and once I got back Sunday evening I can’t tell you how much calmer I felt.

But now I need to get my head down and work hard again – I know I go on about this a fair amount but hard work pays off (usually! – I got a good mark in both of the formatives I handed in before I went home). And this term all of my module assessments are before the holidays – which is a good thing in a way because although these next few weeks will be tense, at least I’ll have more time over my holiday to revise for my most important exams and do some work and complete my TEFL course. It just means that I now have to somehow fit all of the reading and preparation I would have had more time for during the holidays (like I did at Christmas) into my term time – so around all of my lectures and other homeworks etc. And formatives. It’s a joke – I handed one in yesterday late at night and that same day I’d been given 3 more for next week! It’s exhausting!

I managed to get onto a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) course using a coupon code so I got it cheaply and it’s just another qualification you can put on your CV so you can teach English when you go abroad. I’m hoping I have time for it now – I know it’s the holidays and I’ll ‘have more time’ but I’m one of those people that fills her holidays up so much they can sometimes not be a holiday anymore. The course is 150 hours, and I have to fit working (Deliveroo and potentially childminding), studying, and relaxing and having a real break around this. Wish me luck….

It’s going to be useful having TEFL because although I can’t really work in Russia (and get paid) on a student visa, you can kind of get away with quietly teaching English on the side, and having a qualification will help recommend you. It also gives you ideas – so if you are a language student like me and are thinking about working a bit whilst going abroad, then maybe consider doing this.

Russia. Russia, Russia, Russia. I’ve heard so many scary stories about visas, accommodation, lecturers at the uni… I’m going to try and just get it all done but it seems so huge. All the things you have to get and stuff – and all the money I’m going to need to save. It’s in these moments where I ask myself why? Why am I doing this? Why didn’t I just pick Italian, or French, or German. Something easier. Something safer.

Because… that would have been so boring! While it’s a big deal and can be stressful, I am happy with my choice. It might not make sense to all of you, but I’m doing something really different and that sets me apart a bit. And given the current tensions around the world, some initiated by Russia and some encouraged by it, I think it’s actually going to be quite useful to be able to speak Russian right now. Am I right?

We have one more preparation session this coming Wednesday to talk about things, and then it’s up to us. Well, mostly, because you can’t really apply for a visa or anything until you have an invitation from the uni you’ve applied to, and while this is pretty much guaranteed (surprisingly there isn’t a lot of competition to go to Russian unis), you could receive this up to 10 days before you need to get on your plane and fly out there – so we’ve been told we can’t leave the country in August. Maybe I’ll do a post that goes into it in more detail, and I’ll probably blog it as it happens this summer for anyone else thinking about going to Russia who wants to know more about the process.

So yeah – it’s really happening now. Scary right? I’ve been writing about it for 2 years and now it’s actually happening. We’re being prepped on the culture and everything, but I don’t think any of it will really prepare us for what it’s truly going to be like. The culture shock and everything. I shouldn’t really be that worried; after all, I moved to Spain and lived there for a couple of years when I was eight, and back then I didn’t know any Spanish or Catalan at all before going, so at least for Russia I’ll know a little bit of Russian beforehand. But this time I’m moving out there alone. And, to be quite honest… My vocab and grammar still need some work.

It’s interesting because the other day we were learning about Russian traditions re flowers – if you give someone flowers, they mustn’t be yellow, because the colour means ‘treason’ or ‘treachery’. Red flowers mean bravery and victory and are used on Victory Day and given to men on their birthdays. White flowers mean purity. And if you give flowers, you can’t give an even number, because an even number is for funerals, so it has to be an odd number more than 3 – so 3, 5, 7 etc.

Maybe I’ll do a post on that too. I think for now I’ll just post whenever I can snatch some time, because I’m not kidding when I say it’s really busy at my end!

I’d be interested to know if you or your family have any traditions… comment down below!

 

 

It’s not even half way through term yet!

Fellow students – I know you’ve been there!

That weekend when you’re so tired you can’t bring yourself to work, and you kind of feel like you should but at the same time know you need a break. Yes, that’s where I am right now! Yesterday was the worst – by the end of the day I was half asleep in my final lecture (which started at 4:30!) and it’s like I didn’t sleep deep enough or something because I’m still tired!

Assessments are stacking up… not that they haven’t been doing that since week 2 but now it’s even more full on – if that’s possible.

I have some Formatives due by the end of February, and a lot of reading to do (as always). Formatives are basically mid term tests, which don’t count towards your grade, but they are your only point of feedback before you do the Summative, which does count. So basically, if you want to do well, you do the formative. Simples. But stressful. As if doing just the normal grammar/exercises from lessons wasn’t enough. (To be honest, as if turning up to said lectures wasn’t enough! Where’s my medal? 😉  ).

Fortunately I haven’t needed to do Deliveroo this week because I’ve had a lot more work at the Ram. I’m constantly balancing the two, which works out well most of the time because I can adapt to the weather. But also if there isn’t work in one then I just do the other one. Sadly, the Deliveroo app has kept on crashing since before Christmas so I’m glad I’m not part of that drama. Also, it seems as though every day my Team Leader is recruiting new Roos (yes that’s our nickname as riders) and now there are SO MANY of us it’s almost no wonder the app keeps crashing when so many people log in at one time!

Plus, it’s been so cold recently that I probably would have lost my hands to frostbite… it’s actually currently snowing a bit as I write this… not the kind that settles, but it’s pretty 🙂

I’m not the best at selfies but I thought this one summed up my mood that morning 😉


Year abroad plans – a couple of things have changed. Us modern languages students have lectures every week scheduled on Wednesdays to talk us through the key components – so last week it was about our assessment. We have to write reports and compile a portfolio, etc. I can’t remember what the coming lecture is about but they follow the same theme really. Just stuff we need to know.

So yeah it’s set in stone now – I’m going to St Petersburg. I have managed to contact some people from a charity called Love Russia and I’m looking forward to maybe helping out if I can while I’m there. The situation in Russia surrounding Churches etc is a little tricky at the moment; there is a law about sharing your faith with other people and being a ‘foreign agent’… so that is going to be interesting to experience. The church I’m planning to go to is on a ‘watch list’, which sounds quite ominous, but apparently I have nothing to worry about according to my contacts/the people I have met through my friends/family.

I’m taking a module called Understanding Russia, and it’s really interesting learning about the current situation there (and in the world generally – it’s all kind of interlinked). I’m not going to post to much on here about it because at the moment I don’t know if that’s a good idea (as in, if it could affect my getting a visa or something), but if I find out it’s OK then I will. I might have to leave it ’til I get back in 2018! Seems so far away but time literally flies here at uni… no day is the same and I think it makes time seem to speed up. Sometimes it feels like the week only lasts 3 days. Anyone else get this?

On another note: I miss the kitten so much. My family posts pictures of her on Facebook and I wish I could play with her and cuddle her again!! She’s still absolutely bonkers but she’s the cutest.

Absolute tinker 😉


I also miss hugs – feels like at uni you can’t get enough of them! My family knows I love getting hugged a lot… I read a study the other day about how hugs can improve your mood and immune system etc. I can believe it! 😉

Sorry I’ve not posted in a while, I’ve literally had nothing to post about or no time to post in. I have some recipes to post, and some to try, so hopefully that’ll make stuff more interesting on here! I am going to get some flour today hopefully to make some pelmeni (пельмени) or vareniki (Вареники) – they are like dumplings #russianfood – so I’ll try and take some good quality pics this time with my camera and not with my phone. Naturally I’m going to be experimenting making Russian food so I hope you’re all down for that.

Oooh, funny story before I go… I joined the Russian equivalent of Facebook a few weeks ago and a load of strangers tried to add me. I got a couple of Egyptian guys trying to message me and one of them pretty much proposed after a short polite convo, saying he’d fallen in love with my picture etc. I checked all his followers and they are all women -_-. Don’t worry – I don’t add them, I block them or delete the friend requests unless I know them. But they can still message me if I haven’t blocked them. Still, it was a very bizarre experience!!

Anyway, until next time guys – have a good weekend 🙂

January blues – the highs and lows of uni life.

Exam week. I don’t know about you but – I don’t like exams. And after having what was probably my best Christmas ever… getting dumped back in Exeter is a bit of a downer!

….Buuut it’s finally over!! I had 5 exams, unlike most people, and 3 out of 5 of those went really badly. We’ll see when results come out, eh? I honestly don’t get how chilled out they are about preparing for exams at uni. During my A-Levels, we did two to three essays a week. At uni, we do formatives… which might just be an essay plan or just the introduction. Or maybe a short commentary. Either way… that’s all the prep you get. Unless you’re super keen or an absolute BEAST and can somehow find the time to do test essays in your own steam.

This is probably really boring but I’m gonna explain what I did to revise, because this blog is kinda for the students out there.

1/ Basically I do ‘smart’ revision. In other words, I pick the stuff I know I will need to know, or that I know are my weak areas, and start there. If I plan it right, I usually cover everything, but if I don’t get that far, then I’ve at least covered the key areas.

Also… I never consider an exam ‘lost’ and stop revising even if it’s the hour right before the exam. NO exam is lost. Any revision you can do before or in advance COUNTS. Especially if you target key areas. Say you have tonnes of books to just read. Don’t try and read them from cover to cover. Just look at the contents page and pick the chapters that are relevant and read those. Or parts of them. This tip is kind of a 2 in 1.

2/ I look at past exam papers. I don’t necessarily do them, but looking at them and even at the mark scheme really helps. If there are some titles I don’t think I could write an essay on under pressure then I might have a go at mind-mapping everything I know related to that title and then try and read up on those areas.

3/ This one mainly applies to history modules etc. I make a time line. My A level history teacher frowned upon it saying it would make me narrate events in chronological order. Obviously DON’T do that… but it helps me (personally) to get the key dates in my head and memorise them in relation to one another, i.e. one thing led into another thing… and so on. Because you associate one event with another event, it helps you memorise it.

4/ Figure out your learning style. I’ve probably mentioned this in a previous post but take a free online test and find out if you are a visual, kinesthetic, aural or traditional learner. Do you need colours, do you need to hear it over and over again, do you need to write it out… etc.

5/ TAKE BREAKS. Even if it means watching a silly YouTube video for 10 mins.

6/ Exercise. This could literally be just going for a walk. This week I went most evenings for a little walk near where I live. When I’m at home, I go and bounce on the trampoline for an hour or so before bed.

7/ Eat well. I know most students live on pot noodles and pasta… but add some veggies and your body will thank you. It’s easy to get run down, so make sure you’re getting lots of nutrients in and not just coffee!! And revising uses a lot of mental energy… so you will probably feel quite hungry!

That’s all I can think of for now. Hope this helps someone!!

Anyway… back to general life stuff… I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things. My room is my little house (obviously). It has everything I need and use in it… All my books and some of my food things that won’t fit into my kitchen space. But everything has it’s little place and what with all of my colourful revision posters and mind-maps it just looks really cool. Yeah just complimenting myself I guess 😉 All about that positive outlook!

Term starts on Monday, so I’ll probably begin reading and doing (more) Russian grammar. Oh and my application for St Petersburg is in and I’ve paid the deposit… I’m officially GOING. AHHH 🙂 I still need to figure out flights and a visa and insurance, but it’s actually happening and you have no idea how excited I am! I’m gonna post my first Russian recipe shortly so watch this space!! I made голубци (golubtsii) – they are like stuffed fig leaves but made with cabbage. Please don’t let that put you off though they honestly taste really good!!

Oh yeah and over Christmas I passed my driving test! I look pretty gormless in this picture but I was so happy I didn’t care 🙂 

Anyway, until next time!! до скорого!

I’m learning

Hey guys I’m back! (Finally!)

Sorry I haven’t posted in ages I’ve been busy juggling work / sleep / friends / jobs / life generally so I’ve not been able to really sit down and write in ages.

Honestly, my weeks have been quite long and tiring as I’m cycling absolutely everywhere and while it’s great for fitness it does tire you out. On average I cycle between 4.5 – 8 miles+ a day depending on if I’m going to Aldi or town / to meet friends or if I have to make a couple of trips to campus! And then on Thursday I spend 3 hours with other girls in my group for a project we’re doing together trying to joint-write a commentary on a video which was absolutely exhausting – not made any easier by the fact that we’re all feeling a bit upset with one member as she’s not really doing any work but relying on us to do it all!

This term Russian is really biting me in the bum. I mean I understand a lot more than before but it’s still complicated. Still, every little sentence I get right, every word I remember when asked… all of these are little wins in my opinion. It shows progress – and that counts.

Little things are keeping me going – people from back home are sending me lovely little presents which make me smile when I get them out of the postbox – today I got a Nakd fruit and nut bar and I just love them – they have so many flavours but I love the gingerbread one the best ❤ especially at this time of year…. anyone remember my pumpkin sesh last year? Well trust me it’s happening again… the moment Aldi starts selling them I buying one (or more!) and making as much pumpkin soup and pancakes as I can!!!!

Autumn is the best season!

Recently I’ve been really challenged to read my Bible more. We had a preach the Sunday before last about Recycling Prayers… as in, the more you read the Bible, the more that it becomes ingrained in you and then in situations when you don’t know what to pray, you can rely on the things you’ve read in the Bible to guide you.

I thought that was a great idea… so I’m trying to make time to do that in the morning before my day kicks off. I’m also listening to some interesting podcasts from Bethel about laughing at lies and this has been really helpful too. Things like, I can never do that, I’m not good/smart/pretty enough… all of these little things we tell ourselves which so aren’t true!!

I still have 2 jobs – The Ram and Deliveroo, so that adds more cycle time to my already very physically active lifestyle which I kind love if I’m completely honest – it means I don’t have to worry so much about doing a workout – I’m being paid to cycle!! And if I want to get to lectures on time cycling is the quickest way. So it means I do it without thinking, and it just takes the pressure off. And that’s the best kind of exercise because you enjoy it more!! Although not gonna lie the elevation here in Exeter is big!! My thighs were so sore a few weeks ago when I was getting used to it. But at least I’m getting plenty of sleep having worn myself out through the day!!!

So yeah no worries guys I’m still here, alive and well… just being a student I guess!! Hope you like my new recipe which I posted earlier – it was so good and makes a massive batch so you can save it to have through the week if you’re cooking for one or just have it as a family 🙂 It’s amazing what good food can do for the soul!

Here’s the link: https://adventuresofababelfish.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/autumn-chilli/

Hope you all enjoy the beautiful colour and atmosphere that Autumn brings 🙂

 

 

Exams around the corner – dealing with stress

It’s that time of year again… exams are coming. I have a week exactly before I go home (I mean to Exeter… my home from home) on the 23rd. Then I just have 4 weeks of exams and some work at the Ram and I’m done for the summer woo! Powering through and going over everything I’ve learned, watching a few sneaky episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S and visiting my real life friends is pretty much my life right now. I feel kinda proud that I managed to knuckle down and get some good solid work in this week. I spent about an hour at least writing out my personal statement in Russian to help with my oral exam in two weeks. I’m freaking out about it but it’s only 10 minutes long so it’ll go by in a flash. Hopefully!

I was worried that I wouldn’t get any revision done (like Christmas 2015) because I don’t know why but I just ‘slumped’ – no other word – and I just couldn’t bring myself to do ANYTHING at all. It was so bad. But I think the problem was a) since GCSEs (year 9-11) until the end of A-levels (year 13) I have pushed myself to my absolute limit trying to get A*s and exceed at everything I do. I’m a perfectionist and I never do anything by halves, but when you’re balancing a ton of things at once, it does run you into the ground eventually. I had a mini panic attack (my first and hopefully my last) back in March I think last year (2015) and I could hardly find the energy to write my coursework. I was drained.

I’m amazed that I didn’t get glandular fever or something. Plus I was rowing and running and dancing and doing Insanity about 10 hours a week and I had a job on top of that. I’m so glad it’s over. Over that summer I actually worked so I didn’t even go on holiday with my family, I thought I didn’t need it. So by Christmas, I was exhausted. So, lesson for today is, take a holiday. Please. For your own sanity. (And for the sanity of those around you too, am I right?) 😉

So yeah, this summer I fully intend to get some kind of job if possible, but I also intend to switch off and have a good rest from everything. I’ve learned my lesson and I’m not doing it again!! Fortunately I’ve had a month off this Easter so I’ve been able to have a full 2 weeks of light-to-no work and these final two weeks are power weeks of revision. My head’s a lot clearer and I’m memorising things better again. I’m also away from the environment in my flat which helps a TON. And I can get as many cuddles from my mum as I want – WINNING! (She also makes us delicious juices in the morning for breakfast which are delicious).

  
  
Both of my best friends are in town right now, one of them (Ellie) is staying with me right now in my house, and Ruth is at hers. We chilled the other afternoon which was cool. She has a dissertation to write or something. My other friend Sarah (not the flat mate) has her dissertation to write and she’s almost a physiotherapist now!! We actually went to talk to this youth group in Pershore (UK) the other weekend about what it’s like going to uni, and what a gap year is like etc. It was a great evening and I think the girls that came took a lot away from it. We left it feeling pumped that’s for sure 🙂

So yeah… that’s most of the news. So have a holiday and learn when too much is too much and listen to yourself. I have seriously driven myself into the ground from stressing out too much and it’s not good. It used to get to the point where I was so wound up that the back of my head would actually ache and I couldn’t sleep properly and I lose my appetite. It’s better to tell someone what’s up, even if they turn it on its head and point out just how trivial and silly it is to be worried about a silly little thing or something, and even to just back off and not do it for a while. Maybe sleep on it. Sleep is good. #student

Also reading the Bible and knowing that God has a plan for you. I like reading this magazine thing from UCB called TheWord4U2Day (youth version) and often the paragraph for today is really relevant which is great 🙂 AND and and and…. talk to God and tell him about it. He cares. Even if it’s a stupid little thing. He loves it. Trust me.

ThisgirlAudra posted a really great video on her YouTube channel about stress and what it does toy your body which is really good so be sure to check that out 🙂

I am so excited for summer – I can’t wait!