Guest Post: If you don’t speak Castellano you won’t truly understand Spain

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Jessica is a third year Modern Languages student coming to the end of her year abroad in Spain. This guest post considers the Spanish language and its relationship with Spanish national identity and culture…

It’s safe to say that my Spanish has undergone a profound transformation in the last 8 months. From my first day arriving in Madrid when I quite confidently thanked the taxi driver in impeccable Thai, ‘khob Khun kaa’, for taking us to the train station, I knew I had a long road ahead of me. After five weeks in Thailand I had unconsciously memorized a few local phrases, and I wondered how living in Spain would do the same on a much larger scale. Living in a foreign country is vital to truly surround yourself in the language, perfect the pronunciation of words, and obtain a variety of idiomatic expressions and fantastic swear words from first hand sources. But as you start to notice
the subtle nuances a language holds, you notice the hidden linguistic messages through which the Spaniards individually and collectively project their culture and identity. There are some things that just can’t be translated. Continue reading

Return to the Shire

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Adventures in the Land of Fire and Ice

On Tuesday 17th, I began to pack for my return to Shropshire, which would start in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Realising that I had – despite not really buying much (only a new pair of hiking boots, a couple of new tops, some Christmas presents and a dozen or so of books), and despite not having too many extra belongings (only the two coats my Mum brought over for me, the three books my Dad brought over, and the two pairs of shoes, dress and top that my brother brought over) – accumulated too much to fit in to my already overweight suitcase, I took the plunge and bought an extra bag for the plane. This meant that my weight allowance was 46kg of hold luggage, and a further 10kg of cabin baggage.


The first disaster came when I tied to zip up my new…

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Final Days

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Adventures in the Land of Fire and Ice

Apologies for the delay since my last blog, exam period and my final few weeks turned out to be rather hectic! Luckily to get me through, my Dad had very kindly brought me an advent calendar when he came to visit, meaning I was able to have a chocolate count down to my return to England as well as to Christmas!

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Over exam period I managed to fit in lots of Christmas shopping (online, I was thinking ahead!), festive farewells, and my favourite event – making mince pies with a fellow English student and introducing them to everyone else, with varying reactions! We also discovered various customs that are unique to different countries, such as in Greenland, where the whole family holds hands, dances around the Christmas tree whilst singing and then they dance round the whole house, in and out of all of the different rooms. Perhaps a…

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Reykjavik Reflections

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Adventures in the Land of Fire and Ice

Where to start…

Going to Iceland was one of the scariest experiences of my life. I arrived on a grey, miserable day in August, feeling thoroughly alone and wondering why I was there. A few hours later I had met some students who I would remain friends with for the duration of my stay, one of whom turned out to be one of my housemates. I left in December, with lots of friends, beautiful memories and souvenirs, very happy that I had decided to go to Iceland in the first place.

When people ask me how my stay was, I find it difficult to know what to say. Do I concentrate on the trips I did, visiting glaciers, volcanoes, and geysers? Or do I tell them about my day-to-day life, visiting all of the coffee shops in Reykjavik by day, and all the different bars by night? Or do I…

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Blog 5

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Hello everyone, sorry for being MIA the past couple of months. We had a very eventful Michaelmas term in 2013 and after all of the international students arrived everyone got busy with their respective work. I personally had quite a lot of work to do apart from the stresses of third year including dissertation! Not wanting to have any regrets, I still took on quite a few extra-cirruculars this year and it has been a rollercoaster ride!

As the Meet and Greet team leader I met and welcomed in excess of 150 international students. I had the pleasure of meeting some absolutely amazing people and enjoyed their company thoroughly during the first few days. Of course as most were First year Undergraduate students, my time spent with them was very brief. As one can imagine, as a fresher it is best for one to expand their horizons and get to…

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Starting to Finish

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Adventures in the Land of Fire and Ice

Last week marked the beginning of the end of my stay here in Iceland. This was celebrated in one of my courses by a feast of typically Icelandic food, which included the likes of pickled sheep’s head, cubed whale blubber, fermented shark (Hákarl), sheep’s testicles, and an accompanying drink of whey. I have to say that whilst Icelandic cuisine is still not my favourite despite these culinary delights that are on offer, sheep’s testicles are surprisingly good and were definitely the highlight of the meal!

The end of lectures unfortunately also meant the start of exams and I’ve now had my first speaking exam in English. Held in an office with cups of tea (obviously this professor couldn’t be anything other than English!), this felt like less of an exam and more of a general chat about Iceland, so I think (and hope!) I passed.

To celebrate the end of…

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

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Lizzie in Sweden!

The snow has arrived, exams are over and the Christmas lights have come on in Uppsala!  Yesterday the Nobel Prizes were awarded in Stockholm, with people coming from around the world.  Over the next few days I’m attending a conference entitled ‘Challenges for a Peaceful World’, and tomorrow 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Attila Zimonyi will be speaking about a chemical weapon free world, which is really exciting.

The snow is very welcome as it makes the short dark days a lot brighter, and it’s a lot of fun for building snowmen too…

I can’t believe how fast this semester is going.  I’m really enjoying my courses – in ‘Global Distress and Personal Responsibility’ yesterday we interviewed Sister Karin, a 55 year old sister in Alsike convent, which takes in illegal assylum seekers.  The convent has been raided by the police several times, and now it’s just sister Karin and…

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囧 Jiong

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Over bendy crab sticks, baked fish tail and a slug-aubergines for dinner (a hugely unlucky PKU canteen choice), we decided it’s time for another blog post. I really enjoy writing here, but recently we’ve been rushed off our feet :p This one is going to be about environmentalism, volunteering and days out in Beijing…


As I’ve mentioned before, moving to Beijing has turned out to be above all an environmental wake-up call. In the morning, we often open the curtains to grey mist obscuring even buildings a stone’s throw away.


We’ve been trying to reduce our own environmental impact; by reusing bags, eating less meat, choosing food without heaps of plastic wrapping, and making friends with the local guy who earns a living collecting recycling on his trolley. Even more so than in Europe, the supermarkets here are brimming with plastic fantastics; such as apples in boxes, cling-filmed lemons, and individually-wrapped…

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