Friday, July 4, 2014

Santander Scholarship Event in London

The day before yesterday (July 2) I spent a lovely day in London for the Santander Formula Scholarship Event. I went down with Stacey, another scholarship recipient and Katy, an Aston International Officer. It was great that the university funded our transportation to and from London to help us take part in this event with dozens of students from various countries studying in UK universities.

The event was held at the Berkeley Hotel, and we got to interact with other students and hear about Santander's future endeavors from its chairman, Emilio Botin like increasing the number of scholarships that they offer. There was also a special appearance by Formula One driver, Jenson Button. I have to be honest I knew nothing about him, but for those who do, I am sure it would have made the event even more special. Overall I think it's great that winning the scholarship is followed up by events like this and interaction with Santander because it feels like they are continuing to take an interest in you. It would have been nicer if the event was a bit longer and more interactive, but I am sure with coming years they will be able to develop it more.

After the event was finished, we decided to take an hour to be tourists and went to the London Eye where we rode for free because Stacey had passes from work and kindly allowed us to use them. It was not planned, and I am so grateful to have been able to go. This short day in London was my last before leaving England, and I was able to say goodbye to the city in the best way.

Back to my dissertation now after a nice, and I'd say deserved mini break.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A whole year!

It was exactly one year ago that I found out that I had won the Santander Scholarship. (I keep a journal and write these things down, don't laugh) I still remember how cool it felt to find out. It was a boring Tuesday at work, but the news made it far from a regular day. The passage of time continues to shock me. I can't believe it's been a year. Now I am not sitting in an office in downtown Harrisburg, PA but in the student lounge in Birmingham. Craziness. 

Dissertation is going well. I complain about the chilly weather, but I have to admit that it is actually more conducive to writing than sunshine, blue skies, and heat. There's the silver lining I've been looking for. Exams for undergrads have ended, so the library and campus in general is a peaceful place again. Unfortunately it means that goodbyes have started, and some of my friends have already departed (I'm a poet! Totally unintentional) But there are plenty of people staying over the summer, and we'll definitely make the most of it. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The end of May?!

Back from Amsterdam! Quite possibly my favorite city I've seen thus far in Europe. It was beautiful, clean, cheerful and relaxed. The trip there was absolutely exhausting but completely worth it. I met my old friend from Russia and we spent our time taking pictures, visiting museums and marveling at the relaxing beauty of the place.

Now I am back in Birmingham trying to wrap my mind around how it could possibly be nearly June. It feels like I just got here, yet some people are already leaving to go their separate ways. The year flew by for sure as time always does when you are busy. And believe me we were busy. Between the library sessions, lectures and revision, my plate was definitely full. But in the process I've made lifelong friends and learned a lot about myself. I think any experience is as good as you can make it, and Aston is no exception. I have made progress academically and personally. Life is supposed to throw challenges your way isn't it? And the resulting growth is invaluable. My advice again is to be open to new experiences and know that just because something is difficult, it isn't debilitating. (I'll have to remind myself of that one as I continue to write my dissertation. haha)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Organization and Paris 2.0

So despite being chilly and rainy, Paris was really awesome. My friend and I had a very busy few days, but we managed to see everything both of us wanted. Eiffel Tower- twice because you have to see it at night and during the day, Notre Dame, Versailles, the Catacombs, some museums, and other tourist destinations. I came back absolutely exhausted, but the bus station isn't too far away from where I live, so it was definitely a convenient trip. Overall, I would say that I did Paris right this time not like the rushed one day experience from 2 years ago. 

I am not sure if this is shameless self-promotion. (I swear I don't intend it to be.) But I have many more pictures from my travels, studies, and life in Birmingham on Instagram - y1a9c8u9s. I don't have the best camera, but I like to document my life, and the memories I've made throughout this year are already priceless. 

Now I only have about 5 days before I skip off to Amsterdam, and I am trying to make the most of them in terms of research and dissertation writing that is. A topic on CSR is very broad, but I firmly believe that it's better to have too much information even if it seems overwhelming. I've been organizing my sources in an Excel document with the necessary paraphrasing, and although that is helpful, it can still get messy. I can't imagine not having a system to keep track of all of my literature. I have my next meeting with my supervisor in a few days, and I think she is very open to questions and willing to help throughout the process which is great because I will definitely need her advice. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

May - the travel month

One of the things I love most about Europe is how easy it is to travel around and grow as a person by absorbing as much of the world as possible. In a week a friend and I will be flying to Paris. We're very excited because we spent most of Easter/spring break researching for our dissertations. I've already put in hours of scouring through academic journals and have written a substantial amount. Now it's time to have some cultural learning because after Paris, at the end of May I will spend a few days in Amsterdam with a childhood friend from Russia who will meet me there. And a few friends from Aston are also trying to organize a trip to Edinburgh. Although it is challenging to plan and accommodate a group of people, we all want to travel and get as much as we can out of our study abroad experience. 

Today is another research day; I am trying to pace myself with the reading and writing because I know that the more disciplined I am now and the less I procrastinate the less stress awaits me as the summer progresses. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Easter Break

Now that I've finally turned in my proposal and last group project, I can finally let myself relax a little, but I don't want to lose momentum, so even if for just a few hours, I will do research every day. When I let myself slack off during Chrismas I found it much harder to get back to a study schedule, and now I realize that a few hours per day is very reasonable.

Speaking of group projects and work in general, it is extremely beneficial at such a diverse university to interact and collaborate with as many different people as possible. However, the extremely beneficial part depends on who you are put into a group with unfortunately. I've had both amazing people to work with this year and also some that frustrated me to no end. Making group work fair and mutually beneficial is definitely a work in progress because with everyone having different knowledge of English, laziness and procrastination are a curse. We are here first and foremost to learn and challenge ourselves, so it should never happen that in a group of five people only two complete an assignment. And my advice to those groups struggling to get everyone to do a fair share is to speak up; tell your professors, tutors, etc. what is going on and they will take it seriously. You are not here to work for others. Showing initiative, conscientiousness and responsibility should not be so difficult, and I have heard many horror stories of group work problems. That being said, as each year goes by, it would be great for professors to learn from the problems at hand and take them seriously because like I said, I also know how wonderful it is to experience cultural diversity.

As far as Easter break goes, I think I will just be here chipping away at my research, enjoying the sunshine and counting down the days til my trip to Paris in May. A handful of my friends are staying here over break, so I definitely don't feel as lonely as during Christmas vacation.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I smell spring

Well term two is over, and although I still have one group project to finish up and my proposal calling my name, I am finally relaxing a little. 

Yesterday, a group of friends and I went to explore Birmingham. It wasn't a very planned adventure, but we ended up seeing some really nice parks and lovely suburban neighborhoods. I finally got to ride a double decker bus and was way more excited about it than I should be willing to share. I have to admit that climbing to the top while the bus is moving is a bit beyond my balancing abilities. All in all it was a nice spring day. 

Moral of the story is that Birmingham has a lot more to offer than the busy city center like peaceful and relaxing nature. The pictures above are from Sutton Park. 

But now that I am back in the students' lounge to do more research, the thing that will keep me going is my upcoming trip to Paris in may. It's finally booked, and I am thrilled to have something to look forward to.