Tuesday, December 31, 2013

An unconventional holiday

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I can't believe 2014 starts tomorrow (I say this every year, but marveling at how fast time flies never ends) 

I had a quiet Christmas here in Birmingham with a few friends. I am grateful to them for making it easier for me to be away from home. (although my mom has me calling her so often that I might as well be there) 

Today is New Year's eve, and some of my friends and I are going to London to watch the world famous fireworks and basically run around all night until our coach home at 6 am. Hoping to get some cool photos to share. 

2013 was a good year for me. I got my first real job, learned a lot, was accepted to all three graduate programmes I applied to, received my scholarship and made some lifetime friends. 2014 has very big shoes to fill, but I am hoping it steps up to the challenge. 

"I wish you 12 months of prosperity, 52 weeks of happiness, 365 days of success, 8,760 hours of health, 525,600 minutes of luck and 31,536,000 seconds of love." Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

A well deserved break

Well I've just survived what I can easily say was the most difficult finals week I've ever encountered. Dozens and dozens of hours were spent in the library and the main building. I had to push my limits every day. I had four finals and two timed essays to do, and today I can finally say that everything has been handed in, and now all that's left to do is wait for the results later in February. I think I did okay because to be honest, I actually did everything within my power.

Like I said last time, I don't think I will be traveling during break to save money for spring and summer travels, but a handful of my friends are staying here as well, so I think it will be okay for me. Kind of sad not to go home for Christmas, but unfortunately my parents don't live in Europe, so it isn't as easy or cheap for me to hop on a plane. The friends who are staying here have booked a table at a restaurant for us on Christmas eve, so that will be nice, and we've also discussed going to London for New Years which, although pricey, would be one unforgettable experience. Other than that my plans for break include dissertation research, an accounting project and job searching. I know these three weeks are going to fly by, and I will be busy once again. And strangely I am looking forward to it. I hope everyone has the best imaginable Christmas ever! Happy holidays! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Exams are upon us

Well having a life was fun while it lasted, now it's time to work and prove how much I want this. Yesterday, I spent over 12 hours studying for Accounting with two friends. One week exactly until finals. Although it's a really stressful time, it's comforting to know that I am definitely not doing it alone. I am surrounded by those in the same boat who understand and are more than willing to collaborate and help each other get through it. And we'll be stronger once it's over. 

I've decided not to go anywhere during Christmas because I have to do one assignment and begin my dissertation. The topic I chose is 'The food industry and corporate social responsibility.' I am very glad I got my first choice because I am interested in it, and I could see myself actually enjoying the work that goes into it. Now just to narrow it down and make it more specific... My adviser seems awesome and also very knowledgeable on the topic, so I am looking forward to working with her.  

Yes, it's going to be a short post because this is going to be a really long week, and as usual, I am trying to hit the ground running. Wish me luck. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The topics are coming, the topics are coming!

So today, the International Business course students finally received our list of potential topics for the dissertation that's drawing nearer every day. I have to admit that I have never actually written a paper of this caliber, but I enjoy writing and am excited to take on the challenge. 

Hard to believe that I am already in week 6 of my first term. I must say that all of the group work, reading and obligations have done wonders for my time management and internal motivation. I've been warned numerous times to make sure that I don't overdo it and 'burn out.' So far so good, I am going strong. My early morning runs have gotten cold and rainy. Even the geese near the canal probably think I am crazy, but it's times like this that I compare my runs to all of my academic work and ask myself 'how much do you want this?' Because only I can answer that question and live up to it. 

I don't want to sound like I have it all together, I get overwhelmed, I get frustrated (group work is far from a relaxing experience, believe me). It's so irritating to learn that I'm not allowed to ask from others as much as I demand from myself, but hey, life's not fair, right? 

Christmas vacation is just around the corner, and almost all of my friends are planning to go home. After spending so much time with them on a daily basis, it's sad and surprising to realize how much I'll miss them even during the three short weeks. I suppose I should probably figure out what I will be doing. I am thinking southern Europe with its warmth and sun is sounding pretty good (any suggestions?). That's what I did during my last travel extravaganza, and it would be great to repeat the experience. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Personal Challenge

Since my last post, I've finally begun my classes. Studies here are definitely different than back in the US, but I already knew that. Self motivation and discipline are what drives them forward. There are no spelled out homework assignments to hand in every day. I have 3 core modules and 2 optional ones while most of my friends in other courses only have 4 total. I am taking People and World Organizations, International Business, Accounting for Non-Financial Managers, Strategic Management, and Economic Environment of Business. Yes, lectures and tutorials take up a lot of time, but when all is said and done, it's up to me to push myself as hard as I can to be diligent about the reading. I'm pleased to say that the library has welcomed me with open arms. I almost always do all of my work there because I derive motivation from all of the people working around me. The reading takes hours to get through, but I find something very satisfying when I am able to say 'challenge accepted' and come out on top. Even when I am in the library facing a seemingly unending amount of journal articles and book chapters, my friends, who have also become part of the library inventory, manage to make it fun for me. Between making faces, drawing on fruit and laughing about awkward sentence structures, we are self-proclaimed nerds. And I am totally okay with that. 

"Growing up is a trap, don't do it." Michael Porter said it, so it must be true.

On a lighter note, it's important to find a balance. I work hard all week without allowing for distractions, but I am also a morning/day person, so I finish all my work by early evening, and then I relax and recover. On weekends, I still have a life. Study abroad is more than just books and libraries. I am still meeting more new and fascinating people, my friends and I still find time to go out, hang out, and explore. Just this past weekend our group spent a day running around London. I still marvel at the fact that all ten of us, being completely different people from mostly different places, can find so much in common and can organize ourselves into a productive and cohesive team. By spending time together we're definitely learning outside of the classroom. As all self-proclaimed nerds should do. 

International Love

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Other Side of the Pond

It's been almost a month since I arrived in Birmingham. While the first two weeks were busy running errands and getting everything set up, the time that followed could not be any more different. I was (an am) fortunate to meet and befriend a group of over 10 people from completely different countries, and we have stuck together through the orientation and social events of the past week and a half. I don't remember the last time I had this much fun. Being surrounded by so much diversity makes me forget sometimes that I am in England. It just feels like I am in a place of coexistence. Can you blame me when I interact with people from Germany, Slovenia, UAE, Norway, Greece, India, Nigeria, France, China, Russia, and USA on a daily basis? 

Like I said I've been busy with orientation events and seminars. I am still worried about what the start of  classes will bring, but my friends bring me so much support and happiness that I think we can handle it together. Freshers events are great as well, although I am sad to say that I have caught a cold. I think my immune system went on vacation. 

Last Saturday some of my new friends and I went on the trip to Stonehenge. I am so glad Aston organized this trip because I didn't get to go the last time I was in England. Other than the schedule trips and events, my friends and I are enjoying Birmingham. We often joke that we have our own orientation events because in addition to the ones on the induction timetable, we have been going out, exploring the city and visiting the museum and the Bull Ring. 

Like one of my favorite street art murals near the museum says: "Todo es posible!"

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Blisters and Rewards

So I've been in Birmingham almost one entire week. A week of running around, getting lost, setting up a bank account, asking for assistance, confusing coins, breaking umbrellas, and being approached by geese with questionable intentions.

Face of innocence? I think not.

My advice for new students and especially internationals is: be prepared... And then be prepared for everything to change. The ideals you have in your mind aren't always feasible. Not many things can be done on the spot. Bank accounts take days to set up, and phone selection requires research. It's difficult but also beneficial for me to learn flexibility because I like to have a plan. Surprisingly though, as I had to adjust my plans during the course of the week, the adjustment wasn't as much of a crisis as I thought it would be. Although the process has had its frustrating moments, it's mostly been rewarding and liberating. I am responsible for everything. And I am getting things done.

Money spent so far on necessities and food: about 250 dollars. One broken umbrella as England toys with the weather: around 4 pounds. The blisters from running around the city and feelings of accomplishment after every step and interaction: priceless.

As my "have to's" are finally wrapping up (still need a coat for the chilly English autumn and a shower curtain, so I can stop flooding the bathroom floor) I'm looking forward to international orientation and freshers week. I can't wait to make new friends and get out there for the"want to's."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Time flies when... no, flies always

So my flight is the day after tomorrow, and I'm not entirely sure how that happened because it seems to me that just yesterday I was researching universities in England to apply to. Today is my last day of work. As excited as I am to go, I know it's normal to have bittersweet feelings of leaving something comfortable and familiar. However, I know that staying in the comfortable and familiar setting won't help me achieve my dreams or bring me new and exciting experiences that I crave. Today, I received the news that Aston finally received my loan disbursement cheques, so I can stop worrying about that. I have been waging war on my suitcases for about two weeks now. Condensing and eliminating the things I don't need is a necessary evil but also liberating.

I am not really sure what to expect upon arrival. I've done the whole study abroad thing before but in a different city. You never know exactly what's coming, but I know already that there are plenty of people willing to help. I will create my own support system by reaching out. Anyway, in addition to the 'practical' there is also the 'exciting.' I've been wanting to return to England/Europe ever since I left, and now it's finally happening. I'm ready, let's roll.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Puzzles and Communication

Well I've finally told my bosses that I am leaving them in a couple of short weeks. I was really nervous to tell them because I began working in January, and I felt like leaving so soon was letting them down. To my surprise and relief they were very supportive and encouraging. My apprehension was for naught.

As my preparations for leaving continue, I am constantly learning to communicate, persevere, and ask for help when I need it. These lessons are very important to me because ever since I moved to the US at the age of nine I had been painfully shy and always tried to do things on my own instead of asking for help when I truly needed it, but college and studying abroad previously have helped me escape my shell and realize how invaluably helpful people can be. My Visa application process could not have gone more smoothly, and I was able to purchase a plane ticket for about $450 dollars, but I did have some complications with housing and the timely disbursement of my loan. Asking for help, and explaining my situation to those involved helped me resolve the problems. Everything is falling into place through my efforts and initiative. I have always had an appreciation and love for mathematics because it was like a puzzle that had to be solved, that's why I believe that I like this planning process. The rewards of the final image are worth the frustration and hard work along the way.

As the day of my flight is rapidly approaching, I am very glad I chose to go about two weeks before the start of orientation, it will give me time to get acquainted with Birmingham, my flat mates, and prepare for classes (I'm not going to lie, I am very nervous about the classes, let's hope my work ethic is able to help me through). 24 days and counting!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The One Month Mark

My flight is exactly one month from today. It's surreal that things are getting real. I've already received my Visa, it was issued to me pretty quickly after I had completed and submitted all of the necessary documents. I received it in less than a week. The next few weeks are going to be a combination of things I have to do, and things I want to do. The planning, organizing, cleaning, packing, and last minute doctor visits are all part of the process. But this process also includes shopping, spending time with friends, and allowing myself to feel the excitement for what's ahead. Since I was fortunate enough to have spent a semester abroad during my final year of college, I already have friends all over Europe who are looking forward to as many mini reunions as we can manage. To know that I have friends all over the world is one of the priceless results of going abroad. See you in a month, England.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Banco Santander Scholarship 2013

Hi, everyone, my name is Yekaterina, but to avoid pronunciation problems I go by ‘Kate.’ I am originally from Moscow, Russia, but I have been living in the US since the age of nine. Some of my interests include art, travel and running. In 2012 I graduated from Juniata College, a small school in central Pennsylvania. After taking a year off to gain some working experience, I decided that I wanted to pursue my master’s degree outside of the United States. I am honored and fortunate to be chosen as one of the recipients of the Banco Santander Scholarship 2013. I was at work when I found out, and although I had to contain my excitement (no jumping up and down or silent dance parties), it was and is a great feeling to be recognised and encouraged. Planning for studying abroad is challenging and rewarding; it’s an exciting kind of responsibility. Reaching out to people, planning, researching, prioritizing, asking for help, and making decisions guarantee that my learning process began prior to my arrival. With everything falling into place, I am that much more eager to start my studies at Aston University.