So, the sixth week of the semester is drawing to a close, which means that it’s time to reflect back on the past half term. Oh and what better way to end the first half of the semester than a so called ‘reading week retreat’. Yep, the second residential trip of 2018 have just ended, albeit a bit of an unusual one, compared to the ones I am use to. In fact I even want to exclude it just because it involves someone who has close ties with my dad. But if I were to exclude any events involving someone who has ties with my family members, then this would mean that the times spent at my best friend’s place would have, in theory, to be excluded as well as either her mom or her dad has ties with my parents, but in the end I decided to go for a more liberal stance, excluding only events that involves someone who is in my family (including my extended family). This means that the retreat can be counted as another event that I want to write about.
Anyways…we’re getting a bit off-topic, let’s get back to the retreat…
If I were to go into detail how I got invited that will take too long. To over simplify the story…I got a message inviting me to watch a football match and…not wanting to deal with a super boring reading week, I decided to accept the invitation.
The match was on Wednesday, October 31st, in the evening, so me and my dad’s friend decided to meet at Saint Albans.
Hmmm…how do I get there? Oh! I’m too scared to travel alone! help! Uh…come-on…it’s not hard…
You say, but Saint Albans is like 141km away from Sussex University! Well…that’s true, but…guess what, I can take a train!
Yep, in order to meet up with my dad’s friend I have to travel on my own to Saint Albans (remember STA XPO XVI, anyone?). The distance between MUIC and the old STA campus was 20-30km, but the distance between Sussex University and Saint Albans was almost five times that length. And just like with STA XPO XVI, the majority of the distance was covered by public transport (in the case of this retreat, purely by trains).
First, I caught a 10AM train into Brighton, then changed on to another train, which luckily runs all the way up to Saint Albans. Most of what I did during the journey was spent taking photos and videos.
I met up with my dad’s friend after arriving in Saint Albans, and then we went for some lunch. And…oh boy, the lunch was awesome. It was a pure seafood lunch, with fish, shrimp, shellfish and squid. The lunch is probably extremely expensive, but my dad’s friend paid for the whole meal (yep, for this retreat I enjoyed free meals, free transportation, and free souvenirs).
After lunch we went to explore a bit of the town, and he did explained to me a bit about the town. I just knew that Saint Albans was once also a Roman city…
After a good deal of sightseeing, we went to my dad’s friend’s house in Potters Bar, which will also be my accommodation for two nights.
Later in the evening, while I was enjoying myself, ‘trick or treat’ can be heard. Wait. What day is it? It’s October 31st, so what’s up with the ‘trick or treat’?
Oh…yes, it’s Halloween, and…now I got to see for myself the real western style of Halloween. Children going from house to house, knocking on doors, with inhabitants saying ‘trick or treat’ before handing out sweets. I got to try it for myself. At first I was a bit nervous but eventually just say ‘trick or treat’.
After a little Halloween thing we finally left for the football match. We grabbed some Macdonalds at the train station.
The match that night was between Arsenal and Blackpool. Not too interesting, as it’s not a Premier League match. But still, getting to watch a real football match inside a real stadium for the very first time of my life was awesome. There were crowds chanting and singing as the match progresses, and everyone seems to jump up in joy and excitement when Arsenel scored.
During half time me and my dad’s friend decided to go to the toilet and I also grabbed a sausage thing to eat. It’s quite tasty. When me and my dad returned, the second half is just about to start.
The match continues on, and…eventually Arsenel won against Blackpool with a score of 2-1. That’s a pretty close match, isn’t it?
The next day was all about sightseeing in London, albeit only two places. Me and my dad’s friend left home at close to 11AM or so for London. Since I haven’t been to the British parliament yet I decided to ask my dad’s friend to take me there.
As it is an important government building, the security was very tight indeed. We have to go through an airport security (the very same stuff as you would find at airports). There was not much to do there, except to observe the debates.
The first debate we went to was in the House of Lords. The debate was mainly about early life intervention for children. Pretty boring, and after a few minutes we left.
The second debate was in the House of Commons. The debate was on…you guessed it, the budget. Unlike the House of Lords, the atmosphere was a lot more lively and fun. We stayed and listened to I think three or four speeches before leaving. On the way out I picked up a soap for handwash. The one at my university dorm is nearly running out, and so this is a good time to get a new one.
After the parliament we went into the Westminster Abbey. At first I thought it is going to be like other churches where people can walk in and out freely but turns out we have to buy tickets and there is actually a full audio tour available. Given that we were both hungry we decided to do just a brief half an hour tour.
The inside was beautiful, and there were lots of history to be learned. Sadly photographs and videos aren’t allowed. The fact that this was a very old church was really cool, though I do not know if it has suffered damage during the German bombing campaign in World War II.
After that, we went for some Japanese food for lunch, before returning home. The sushi was really nice. That pretty much concludes the second day. Sadly the day wasn’t as beautiful as it could be thanks to the rain and clouds.
And…here comes the third day, which is today. Today is where I left my dad’s friend’s house to go back to Sussex University. Once again I have to do the train journey myself, which wasn’t that hard at all. However one thing that really annoyed me is the fact that the closest toilets to my seat on the Brighton-bound train were broken. Another toilet also had a broken sink. Finally the toilet two cars ahead of my seat had a working sink. Other than that, I spent the rest of my time taking photos and videos…
Overall, the retreat was quite good, but it is indeed an unusual kind of residential trip. But at least I don’t have to pay for anything…
Now, on to the half term wrap up…
Time has gone by very fast, isn’t it? We’re now at the end of the sixth week. Overall I must say that the semester abroad so far was not too bad.
On the academic side, things are not looking too difficult at all. All the subjects I’m taking have coursework, but they’re all group work. Since I can’t be around for the normal January exam I have to submit essays instead, which hopefully shouldn’t be too hard.
Unlike at MUIC, classes here are divided between lectures and workshops/seminars. A lecture would take place in a lecture theator with hundreds of students, and a workshop/seminar would take place in a classroom that houses around 50 students. Whereas at MUIC there are no distinction between lectures, workshops or seminars since they’re all pretty much mixed together and each class only contains between 20 to 45 students, depending on the subject. But in terms of the course content…I must say they’re not hard, except for the managing operations class, which, due to the difficulty of the course content, I might not transfer this subject back.
On the non-academic side…oh well, this past first half was full of trips, albeit day trips only. There were four trips organized by the university, one small trip organized by the residential advisors of my dorom, and one small artificial lunch trip that I went with one of my new friends.
Since I covered the four trips already, I’m going to just cover the one organized by my residential advisors last Saturday…
This is basically a very small trip to British Airways I360 in Brighton. This is basically a moving observation tower that lets you see Brighton and the surrounding countryside. The ticket to get in there was quite expensive; I have to pay £9.
But once we went inside and the flight took off, the view was amazing. The sunset and the music just made the whole atmosphere wonderful. The flight only lasts for half an hour though.
The main mode of public transport we used was busses. I guess the I360 was too far from the train stations, that’s why busses was chosen instead. Originally we hopped to catch the 4:30PM flight but found out that we need to be there like 20 minutes before so we have to wait for the 5PM flight instead.
Overall, I must say, this first half of the semester was not too bad; the addition of trips just made it a whole lot better. Unfortunately up ahead it doesn’t seem too pleasant as it’s where the deadlines are and there would be very few trips, apart from the upcoming trip on Sunday, November 4th.
Anyways, I guess that’s it for now…