Birling in Birmingham

I'm Mari, a 25 year old student of hospitality management in JAMK. This Blog is about my exchange period in University college Birmingham, England. Autumn semester 2011

At home…

I got my assignments returned on time and finnish UCB smile on my face. It was great to be there, good school, nice professors, quality courses….

Now I have been home in Finland about a month. I’m still waiting for results form UCB. I have no idea did I pass all the courses. When I get the results, I can apply the second part of Erasmus support money. I could really use those moneys, so hopefully results are ready soon!

Everyone says that this return is going to be a cultural shock. I don’t think so…I wasn’t  gone that long. But, what is bothering me: Those same problems what are the reasons for me going to UCB from the beginning. Those issues aren’t change… I’m still broke, have no motivation to study, study wrong subject…


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Last two assignments

Tomorrow is also my last day in UCB. I can not believe how fast time has pass… I just arrived!

I needed to buy another luggage 😀  I haven’t shop that much.. Althoug, that what i believed! 😉 Hey, I’m a girl, I need clothes and shoes 😉

*sight* I have spend a lot of time in a school library. I need to return last two assignments tomorrow and still I’m not ready yet….

I got back my first and second assignments. First one went nearly pass (C-), but i was aware that it sucks. Second one went a little bit better: B-, still full of spelling mistakes and other silly mistakes. I didn’t have a time to get them check in language center, even that I’m aware that my grammar is poor. Why I don’t learn to do assignments EARLY enough?

OK… back to work. This is going to be a looooooong evening!

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Only one week to go in B’ham!

This is it! The last week! Feelings are mixed.

I’m stress to get everything done before leaving (still 2 assignments to hand in). I’m not so happy to go back to my personal work+school hell, but i miss my dog,friends,home and family so bad. After all, i’m kind of relieved that soon everyone speak finnish and I don’t need to write assignments in english… It took so much more time and motivation than writing in finnish. 😀 So I’m starting to be excited to go home 🙂

Something how i did over here: I pass both spanish test successfully! Got an A+ from first one, and the second one went good as well, if not an A+, close at least. =) First assignment wasn’t that great: lot’s of spelling mistakes, and I did write little bit out of the concept… Stupid mistake, but I pass. That enough. I hope that others went better.

I suppose to be part of one assignment but that’s a group work… We havn’t even start yet, so I have no idea how I can be part of that. Need to find out on friday.

I’m also wondering, do I need to apply again student support form Kela, or does it continue automatically? I really need those moneys on January…


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Successfully pass!

Huh, I pass the second spanish exam. It’s so scary situation to end up alone with professor to take a speaking test. First of all, instructions are in english, of course, and then you have so little time to translate those in your mind in finnish, and the figure out what to say in spanish…  That is a challenge! But i made it and get a good grade again 🙂

And last saturday we had pre christmas party. Girls had made finnish food like Karelian pies and roast. Was sooooo GOOD! =) And everyone else liked that as well. We had really fun night, but i don’t recommended drinking games to anyone 😀

I can’t belive that I only have two weeks time over  here 🙁 If i have more money, I would definitely stay!

…And i had one problem whit my dog. I needed to find a new place for her for these two weeks. What a nightmare to try to do it from here!!! But thanks god I have really good friends. I don’t know what I would do without them. They make this exchange possible for me, by taking care of my dog. I know that many people wouldn’t understand how important that animal is for me, but they do! 🙂

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The past month…

Oh yes…. This blog! 🙂 I have almost forgat to write this blog, life has just begun to be so normal over here. This has been such a busy month… Assignments, exams, lectures, seminars… U name it!
But I have to be proud that  I have done every assignment on time and I go to lectures. That usually do not happen in Finland. I enjoy my time over here because I can be only student and i don’t need to split my time to work and school. That was (and will be back home) exhausting. This non working –time gives me a time to actually put effort on assignments. Back in Finland I usually just do it and hope i’ll pass… And usually everything is handed in late. I wish I could stay and study over here. Somehow, I just experience studing here more interesting and useful. I don’t know is it because i’m studing in english or what…  And pofessors has such a much real experience of working in tourism industry. We get so many ideas, perspectives and knowledge.
How about results: Well, I got A+ (THE BEST MARK!) on first spanish exam! It was easy, i know, but I’m still proud of my self! And i’m waiting for results of 3 assignments. It is quite hard to do assignments over here, because I have no idea what kind of work professors are expecting. And it also hard to write offical english, because I need to think every word and sentence, and ofcourse check the spelling. It takes a lot of time, much more than writing same assignments in finnish.

I have three more weeks to go in school over here, and I still have lots of things to do! 3 assignments, one group work, one debate, one exam… So I will propably spend lot of time at school library. I can’t belive that i’m actually spending time voluntarely at school. That wouldn’t happen in Finland! Ofcourse back there the biggest reason is that i don’t have time… I need to work and i own a dog. So There is no such much free time during the weeks, and my dog would be too much alone, if i would stay at school more than I need to.
Well, that was about school… What is going on with other general stuff:

Sometimes i still feel homesickness. I don’t miss Finland as a country, but i miss my home,dog, friends and family. But still I hope I could stay, because i’m better student here than back home. If I had my own appartment and i could bring my dog overe here, Why not? Oh yes, because of money! ☹ Unfortunately studying here cost a much, and I don’t have that kind of money… Not even if I find my self a place to work. So have to go back… I hope that I could put some of this motivation in a can and use it back in Finland.

I have get couble new friend also. Not from the erasmus group, but elsewhere. So I don’t feel that lonely anymore. That gives hope for me in a future. I CAN make new friends, even in abroad. It just takes more time of me than I was hoping…
The most annoying thing is that I don’t have money. I realised that i have exceeded my incoming limts for finnish student support money, so I need to pay back a lot to our government. Therfore, I’m penniless. It is a shame because I can’t explore a country, shop, go to clubing or do anything what others are doing. ☹ But I guess that is a part of being a student. I know that I shouldn’t be complaining, because school is free, but still… it still feels bad and feels like i’m beeing left outside from things, because my friends knows that I can’t come, they don’t even ask anymore 🙁
I have only three weeks to go anymore. This period seems so short. Feels that all this time i have been mostly on holiday. I hope that next time when i go abroad, I will go for longer time, to actually build a new life. Now I feel that I have been stressing all the time what will happen when I need to go back to my school-work-hell.

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Too much time to think?

Plaaah… I’m starting to suffer homesickness. I don’t miss Finland, people, work, school or my life over there.But I surely miss my dog and my privacy. I miss my home and all my stuff: clothes, tv, bed, silence…

I’m quite used to that my friends and my family aren’t round every day, so keeping touch via internet and phone is normal. I don’t know how to miss them more than usual. I propably wouldn’t see them before christmas anyway. But I so badly miss my dog. It’s always around, feels naked to go for run or walk without it. Feels odd that I don’t need to take it for a walk before school or in a evenings. Next time when I move abroad I’m taking my dog with me. I promise!

And other thing what I badly miss is my home. I havn’t share a flat with a roommate before, so it’s a new experience. And honestly: I don’t like sharing. I like my privacy too much, I don’t know how to relax if I know that someone can come home any minute. I don’t know when she is coming or going, we don’t communicate that much. Childish but true, I hate beeing cleaner than I am… i’m not THAT clean. And here I feel like i’m on my toes all the time: is everything clean enough? I know I would be happier if I had place of my own, unfortunately they didn’t rent apartments for short term stays 🙁

And I miss even my clothes. I have nothing to wear. Everyone who has been an exchange student, said that ”don’t pack too much, you going to bay so much that you have trouble to bring them back to Finland.” Yeah right, I havn’t find so much clothes that I feel i’m wearing the sames all the time. I was thinking that I’m a so bad shopaholic that I find enormously much stuff, but I havn’t… Maybe because everything what I like, is too expensive, and cheap clothes… Well, are so cheap you can actually see that from fabric and model. PTHYI!

One thing what I have learn to appreciate about Finland: Honestly way to trade… My internet is a dongle, because my landlady don’t have internet at home. So i need to organise that by my self. OK, I went to one shop and ask wich are my opportunities, and they sold me a pre paid dongle, they said it’s going to las 30 days. Yeah right. It didn’t. It was 2GB within 30 days. So suddenly my internet just stop working. And it didn’t approve my creadit card (or Maarit’s) so i need to go center to shop top up brochure. I didn’t like the fact that anyone didn’t tell me about the limit! How should I know? Unfair!..And Now I know how lost I would be without the internet: pretty pathetic

This period seems so short that in this point feels quite unlikely that I make long life term friends over here. Sad but true. I need more time to actually start calling someone as my friend. Hard to believe that I need to cry for someone when I leave, I don’t think so…

Maybe all these feelings comes up now, because I have too much time to think? I didn’t go to uni today, because I have flu, and I didn’t feel well in a morning. I spend rather one day in home and feel better tomorrow than suffer longer and try to go to school every day.

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FIRE! …or not!

Today we had a Fire alarm in school. So everyone need to get out. I gotta say, I really hope that our school doesn’t really burn, because it takes for a while to get out of there (I was in 6th floor). All staircases were fully blocked in a couple minutes and one emergency exit was locked! And there seems to have alarms so often that people don’t take those seriosly anymore. So, hopefully real FIRE is’nt happening anytime soon.

Back to the other things:

We went to have early dinner with groupe of erasmus students. Apparently we just need to keep trying to get to know them. And on Friday we are going to bowling with other groupe. An idea of bowling was Maarit’s and I organised it. We will get to know them if we just keep trying hard enough.

One new course started today: International tourist operations. It’s kind of similar than adventure tourism, but it more generally focused on package tourism. It’s good to have both courses, those support each others. So good choises for this far. And professor said that they going to give me some other thing to do, because part of this course is group work with a presentation after christmas, so I can’t do that. They were understanding, again.

And I also learn how to use library’s borrowing machine. I borrowed 3 very interesting book about tourism. In our school you can borrow books for 7 days. ONLY 7! I think that is quite short time for reading and doing your assignments. I hope there is possibility to re-borrow those books online, so I wont need to drag those books back to library to do that. Have to find out.

OH YES! I need to tell about two previous nights! We have some kind of construction zone next to our apartment, in a middle of the nights! This is residental area, I don’t understand how they are allowed to do such a noisy thing in middle of the night! (of course because of traffic, but still!) And because of thin walls and simple layed windows: It’s like sitting on top of the street drill. YEAH! I really hope this road work doesn’t continue long.

PS: The Weather started to look like UK eventually. Clouds, possibility of rain and even the temperature is going down. Sunshine was too good to be true! But it’s still warmer than in Finland.

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The first day!

Today was my first real day in uni! I like it!

I like the course, Adventure tourism operations, wich started today. I like the teacher and my classmates. And most of all: I like the subject itself. We get basic knowledge what the course going to be, what has to be done and when. Then we learnt what managing of tourism is all about. At the end of lecture we watched an episode of Wallance & Gromit.  My first thought was: “What? Am I in a high school? Or in elementary?” But actually our professor has a really good point to show that to us, so it maked sense after all 😉 Liked his method to get us to think more deeply about that episode of “Cheese trip”: It gave us to good base to discuss how potential costumers get to know opportunities about travells and what is going to effect their decisons, how to manage whole package tour thing and get more profit of that. So it was GREAT lecture! Easy, but great!

A Perfect start for a monday morning. Didin’t feel like Monday to me, until was aftenoon. There was tiny mistake in my timetable: My spanish starts hour earlier than my timetable says. So I was one hour late, but it wasn’t my fault, so that was ok. I was still able to catch up others easily.

Learning Spanish was fun! Our professor of spanish makes us to SPEAK a lot, which is the most important thing when you start to learn new language. And maybe I get to know other students more, because we need to do discussions.

Both professors was ok with the fact that I’m going home for christmas, and don’t come back after that. I can give my assignments earlier and do my exam of Spanish before christmas. Great!

Learning in english isn’t so hard what I was fearing of. For this far: professors speak really proper english, so no hard accents yet in school. And written part: I keep doing my notes in english just to practise, and tomorrow I have support class for academic writing and basic grammar on Friday, so hopefully I will improve!

So everything seems to go really smoothly. Wondering if the reality is going to hit me on a face later?

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Being an Erasmus student is not all about the school. As important as school is to get to know country and culture. I havn’t been in London before, so that was new experience for me. You can not live in UK and not to visit in London. Isn’t that right? 😉

London was great. Really good place to visit and because awesome weather and my friends, I really had great time. London is a little bit too big for me, i think, so I’m really glad that I don’t need to live there. I didn’t like the area where my Friend lives, and those areas wich I like, I couldn’t porpably ever live there, because it’s so expensive city to live at. And for my opinion: People in it didn’t seem so satisfies and happy than in Birmingham. So After great weekend over there, I was glad to come back to Birmingham. This is my home now. I made a great choice when I picked Birmingham. I love this city!

But of course in London there was couple good things comparing to Birmingham. Number one: Hyde park. In a center of city you have such a huge park where you can go roller skating, biking, running or just to hang out with your friends. That was so great. In Birmingham, there is no large park in the city center :(. Number two: Tubes: I just love tubes! Number tre: Shopping! Shops are open until 9pm or even in 10pm, here they closed at 7 pm or 8pm. But I can’t have all at the same time, so rather Birmingham than London 😉


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Cultural differences

Now than I have time to think this: This post is mostly about Cultural differences.

First thing was the peoples friendliness and helpfulness, but I have told already couple times, so let get to some other things:

Buildings: I knew that here is lots of whole floor carpets, but seriosly: in a bathroom? How well that will work!?! I think that’s disgusting and unhygienic. Those kind of bathrooms are probably a full of mold! And in corridors they have those carpets also. Crazy. I’m really happy that in my appartment has ceramic tiles in a bathroom.

Food: Hamburgers, pizzas and fries in School and lots of take away ads. And this crappy food is much cheaper than proper food. Now I’m not suprised why people here are overweight! We try to find healty stuff in supermarkets, and that was challenging. So much convenience food! And my landlady clearly isn’t cheff-kind of person at all: she doesn’t even own cheese slicer or knives. (those are in my shopping list!).

But there is something similar here than in Finland. I don’t know if that is a good thing (I know, it isn’t!): People, especially students DRINK a LOT! We went to a one nightclub, and it was crazy. Way too much people in it, WAY too LOUD music and so much drunk people whom has just turn 18 or something like that. I didn’t like it at all. I usually stay out until nightclubs are closed, because I love dancing but now I didin’t. We probably need to find places where is more mature people, these new student are way too… umpf… how to say this nicely??? way too young? Seem thay have their first experience of freedom and living without their parents. I’m too old for this kind of partying!

Getting to know other Erasmus-students is little bit tricy as well, because it’s all about the partying, and if it’s not, they do something in a group of people who lives in students halls. But I will keep trying to, I won’t give up!

I’m really looking for to school to start! Monday it really starts! Am I going crazy? Me? Waiting for School to start? Yep, I must be ill! But there is so many interesting courses coming up, and I can’t wait to get to know older local student as well. And I’m starting to learn spanish, so i hope I can practise that skill with those erasmus-student whom are from Spain.

…And I bought my return flight. Depressing! This time is so short. I would love to stay longer, but I don’t have goverment support left after christmas. So no incomes, no fun. Must to go back to work. If I could get my dog with me, I would be so happy to stay.

But I still have lots of time and so many experineces to come! Example tomorrow I’m travelling to LONDON for a weekend! To see my friends from Astralia and Sweden. This is my first trip to there! I’m so exited! 🙂

…Bye the way, I need to say this: Every my friends were laughing to me, that here is going to rain all the time. Yeah right! Sun is shining and it’s more than 20 degrees celsius every day, and this has been lasting whole week now! And it’s raining in Finland. So guess who is laughing now? I AM! 😉 (…although, I konw that this laugh doesn’t lost long, but still! )


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