Study Abroad Blog by Pavel Vassiljev

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Theme Parties

Now let's get down to business... After sending my final thesis draft and the rest of the day to enjoy... I want to write about the most important thing when studying abroad... PARTY! You know it!!!

Parties make people get to know each other and have a lot of fun. Common sense, right!? House parties are probably my favorite as you do not need to worry about queues, running out of money in the bar (Well, we're students, remember!) And most importantly you have the people you like around you. Minor house parties are happening every weekend, I don't need to tell you that. However, theme parties are a lot more fun (If they are well organized, of course) So let me tell you about the most fun parties we had in UK and Sweden. But first a checklist for you.
  • Create a Facebook event, where you give all the information, add your playlist and ask people to add songs they want to hear (To make sure nobody will say the music was bad)
  • Make sure people know about the dress-code much in advance (It's just lame, when you are the only one in a costume). Your guests need to have enough time to think about it and visit the closest second hand store at least.
  • Create a playlist that would include the most relevant songs for your party. (Make sure it's long enough to keep people dancing until the morning)
  • Clean your place and get rid of anything that can get dirty, broken, damaged. (Oh, I've been there)
  • Enlarge your space as much as possible (Friends bring friends you know)
  • Decorate (I like putting posters and pictures around that contain images relevant to the theme)
  • Buy plastic cups (If you don't you're screwed...)
  • Make sure your speakers and laptop are in a liquid free are (OH, it is hard to make sure of that.. Last time I used duck-tape) 
  • Invite neighbors (so they cannot be angry at you for the noise. I mean you can at least try)
  • Book a cleaning company to come in the morning (Just kidding...)
So once you got it done you are ready for some hardcore partying with your friends...

I can tell we have made some epic theme parties in the past few years.

Luton 2009 - Soviet Party 

  • Russian food buffet
  • Soviet posters around
  • Cheesy music
  • Vodka was the drink of the party
  • Around 50 people in a small English House
  • Whole day of cleaning afterwards

Lund 2010 - 90's Party
  • Some old school 90's clothes
  • Graffiti on the chalkboard
  • Some great 90's hits
  • Around 40 people in the corridor kitchen
  • Whole day of cleaning afterwards 

Lund 2011 - 80's Party
  • The best clothes from a local second hand shop
  • Graffiti on the chalkboard, duck-taped DJ place, 
  • 80's artist posters all around the kitchen
  • Some 80's rock
  • Around 50 people in the corridor kitchen
  • Several days of cleaning

But remember all fun must be followed by...

P.S. I hope thats not how the corridor will look like after END OF THESIS PARTY...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

South of England Road-trip

As promised I took a break from writing the thesis and am taking a walk down the memory lane. (oh God... I do study to hard.) I mentioned previously my great French house-mates took me on a road-trip around South of England. It was mid-May and the weather was mostly kind to us. Of course occasional rains hit us during the road-trip (But, hey, its England!). Nevertheless, let the journey begin:

We headed out of Portsmouth early in the morning of course stopping at the 24H Tesco to grab breakfast and snacks. (Who doesn't). After driving for a couple of hours we got to our first place of interest, which was the White Horse in Westbury. A pretty weird thing to see... A giant horse engraved on a hill... According to Wikipedia: "The origin of the Westbury White Horse is obscure. It is often claimed to commemorate King Alfred's victory at the Battle of Eðandun in 878, and while this is not impossible, there is no trace of such a legend before the second half of the eighteenth century. " As you can guess we took a picture and continued to go. 

Our next stop was a lot more exciting - Bath. When I first heard of Bath and Bath Spa University, I was sure they only teach Spa stuff there :-/ But NO... The city has a name because of the baths Roman empire built there. Its a pretty neat city with nice gardens and old town. The most interesting fact about it is that all of the city's buildings are the same color. Golden-colored Bath Stone all the way. You may be thinking its lame, but no its not! The city has a very special feel to it. It does not really feel like England because of so many Roman buildings and such. 

After a nice walk around Bath and some Starbucks we headed to Cheddar, the village that gave the world Cheddar Cheese! The village located in the Cheddar Gorge has a narrow but beautiful road. Taking a stop at the village we went to sample some fresh cheddar (The French love their cheese you know!) The variety in small family-owned shops was amazing. You name it, they've got it... Oak-smoked cheddar, bacon cheddar, chili cheddar and my personal favorite cider cheddar with pieces of cider apples. The cheese was so fresh that we couldn't cut it, it was so crumbly. 

After eating all that cheddar we got back on the road and headed to Glastonbury, the city that is home to Glastonbury Festival and the mysterious Glastonbury Tor. But first we found Mr Roger Wilkins and his cider farm. The guy was amazingly friendly and treated the non-driving part of the crew to some home-made cider. Never tasted anything better in my life. The cider made our conversation more laid back and Roger in his mid 70's told us he used to drink 12 pints a day, but unfortunately the doctors made him cut down to 6-7... But still he thinks that "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". After a couple of pints we bought another 20 liters and continued with our journey. When we reached Glastonbury it was already getting dark, so we checked in the local backpackers hostel and then went out for dinner. The dinner was in a very, very and I mean VERY old pub, it was screaming the middle ages! After some fish pie and a couple of pints we returned   to the hostel and went to bed. 

The next morning we went to see the Glastonbury Tor, a roofless tower on top of a hill. The view from there was nice and there was a feel of mystery around the tower. There are several myths about the Tor regarding King Arthur, Celtic settlements and many others. If you want to know more... Google it! :)  

After walking around the Tor and taking tons of pictures we moved on to reach Cornwall. In a couple of hours we reached Boscastle a village that changed me. You cannot believe how beautiful it was. A small village in a valley next to hills and cliffs and the ocean. We spend a fair 2-3 hours walking around and climbing hills and cliffs. Took tons of pictures from every angle. I bet you are wondering whether it was scary to make this ------>
picture. YES it was! But I always wanted one so i went for it... Once we got enough of Boscastle (No we didn't, but had to leave) we carried on going to Tintagel, the birthplace of King Arthur and a place where Merlin's cave is. 

It was only a 20 minute drive from Boscastle along a beautiful road over-viewing the cliffs and the ocean. Eventually we found a cheap parking space and went to discover Tintagel Castle. Even though there is not that much castle left it is still impressive. The castle used to be located on two huge cliffs and is believed to be the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur. The atmosphere was quite creepy because once we got to the top everything became really foggy. It was scary to walk around because you could not see where the cliff ends... But yet again we survived. After taking tons of pictures (YES, tons again) on the cliff and going into every single cave below the cliff it was time to start heading back to Pompey...

That two day road-trip was packed with action and beautiful places I highly recommend everybody to visit Cornwall if you have the time. It is A-mazing! 

Check my Flickr for more pictures of Cornwall. 


Monday, May 16, 2011

Traveling in UK

During hard thesis writing days I changed the design a bit to make it brighter :). I also decided to take a break and write a post here about the good old days traveling within UK. 

To be honest when I was living in Luton I thought that there is nothing to see outside London. (How English of me :D) However, after moving to Portsmouth and meeting two great French house-mates that were amazing enough to take me road-tripping I completely changed my mind. Bare in mind that I only traveled within UK's south coast so it doesn't mean there is nothing to see up north. 

Firstly, some tips when traveling in UK. 
  • Rent a car
It's not only cheaper but also gives you the power to control everything. Some amazing places are hard to reach by train. So it would take you ages to try getting to places like Boscastle or Cheddar. Highways are also good so you reach places fast unless you get stuck in a small country road!!! :)

Every student traveler knows that hostels are fun and cheap. Hostels in South England are around 15 GBP per person per night. And the standards are pretty good for road-tripping. Most of them also have pubs inside (Of course, its England) so a nice pint will relax you after an exciting day. Most of tehm are centrally located so you can park the car and enjoy a walk exploring the city.

  • Engage in communicating with the locals
Being friendly is always good and its even better in England. People from South of England love their part and are always willing to share a story or help out if you are lost. For example we met Roger Wilkins (OFFICIALLY THE KING OF CIDER) with whom we had a great conversation and ended up buying 20 liters of farm cider. (Did I mention I love cider? Well, I do!) 

  • Try everything you can (I mean legal)
Engage in tasting and sampling local specialties. I have never tasted better Cheddar cheese, than in Cheddar. (Did I mention I love cheese? Well, I do!) And never tasted better cider than in Somerset. Oh, and Cornish Pasties are much better in Cornwall :) 

  • Don't be afraid to leave the planned route (If you do not have a work shift to come back to)
If you can extend your road-trip and don't have a work shift or uni deadline right after coming back, do not hesitate to leave the planned route. There are so many cool things in UK that you would not discover if you wouldn't dare to take a turn. For example you can find great sea-view roads in Cornwall, that are not the bigger ones. However it is worth it. 

  • Ask locals for interesting spots
Don't hesitate to ask locals to recommend you places to see. They know it better than any guide book. Simple as that.

  • Buy souvenirs and local products
It will be a nice memory and you also support locals which is a nice thing to do. 

I guess this is my top 7 tips about road-tripping in South of England. Follow them and you will have a great time traveling and discovering new things.

In my next thesis break I will write about the actual road-trip we did last Spring. Meanwhile you could check my flickr set and get the feel of South England.

p.s. I would appreciate if you follow the blog and share it with your friends. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

10 Reasons To Study Abroad

Not so long ago I encountered a post at, which gave 10 reasons to study abroad. It may be useful for those who are still in doubt about going abroad or not.

1. Study abroad is the optimal way to learn a language. There is no better and more effective way to learn a language than to be immersed in a culture that speaks the language you are learning. You're surrounded by the language on a daily basis and are seeing and hearing it in the proper cultural context. Language learning happens most quickly under these circumstances.

2. Study abroad provides the opportunity to travel. Weekends and academic breaks allow you to venture out and explore your surroundings - both your immediate and more distant surroundings. Since studying abroad often puts you on a completely different continent, you are much closer to places you might otherwise not have had the opportunity to visit. Some more structured study abroad programs even have field trips planned in or around the curriculum.

3. Study abroad allows you get to know another culture first-hand. Cultural differences are more than just differences in language, food, appearances, and personal habits. A person's culture reflects very deep perceptions, beliefs, and values that influence his or her way of life and the way that s/he views the world. Students who experience cultural differences personally can come to truly understand where other cultures are coming from.

4. Study abroad will help you develop skills and give you experiences a classroom setting will never provide. Being immersed in an entirely new cultural setting is scary at first, but it's also exciting. It's an opportunity to discover new strengths and abilities, conquer new challenges, and solve new problems. You will encounter situations that are wholly unfamiliar to you and will learn to adapt and respond in effective ways.

5. Study abroad affords you the opportunity to make friends around the world. While abroad, you will meet not only natives to the culture in which you are studying, but also other international students who are as far from home as yourself.

6. Study abroad helps you to learn about yourself. Students who study abroad return home with new ideas and perspectives about themselves and their own culture. The experience abroad often challenges them to reconsider their own beliefs and values. The experience may perhaps strengthen those values or it may cause students to alter or abandon them and embrace new concepts and perceptions. The encounter with other cultures enables students to see their own culture through new eyes.

7. Study abroad expands your worldview. In comparison with citizens of most other countries, Americans tend to be uninformed about the world beyond the nation's boundaries. Students who study abroad return home with an informed and much less biased perspective toward other cultures and peoples.

8. Study abroad gives you the opportunity to break out of your academic routine. Study abroad is likely to be much unlike what you are used to doing as a student. You may become familiar with an entirely new academic system and you will have the chance to take courses not offered on your home campus. It's also a great opportunity to break out the monotony of the routine you follow semester after semester.

9. Study abroad enhances employment opportunities. Did you know that only 4% of U.S. undergraduates ever study abroad? Yet, the world continues to become more globalized, American countries are increasingly investing dollars abroad, and companies from countries around the world continue to invest in the international market. Through an employer's seyes, a student who has studied abroad is self-motivated, independent, willing to embrace challenges, and able to cope with diverse problems and situations. Your experience living and studying in a foreign country, negotiating another culture, and acquiring another language will all set you apart from the majority of other job applicants.

10. Study abroad can enhance the value of your degree. While abroad, you can take courses you would never have had the opportunity to take on your home campus. In addition, study abroad gives your language skills such a boost that it is normally quite easy to add a minor in a language or even a second major without having to take many more additional courses after the return to your home campus.

p.s. Do not hesitate to comment about posts and ask questions if any. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My first job in UK

Finding a job in Luton was a headache. I guess now it is kind of easier to set up bank accounts and get your insurance numbers in order to start working. But 4 years ago it was a pain… And yes employers don’t like fresh emigrants J. First job to find is always the hardest… I got lucky to be employed at a local pub where the management had a certain view on East European workers, which was: “You guys come here and work a lot harder, than us… and I like it”. So most of the staff were East Europeans. It was easy to adapt and become friends with people at work. But making friends was never a problem, the problem was adapting to English drinking habits.

The first problem was the accent and pub slang… “Can I get a pint of lager?” – I had no idea what’s a pint and what’s lager… We have litres and light beer back home J

I previously worked a couple of shifts in bars back home and knew how to make some drinks… BUT I was astonished by how and what people drink there… Of course later I got used to it and some of the drinks I like now. A few examples that blew my mind away:

Lager Shandy – half a pint of light beer mixed with half a pint of lemonade
Bitter Shandy – half a pint of ale mixed with half a pint of lemonade
Cider and Black – apple cider with a shot of blackcurrant cordial
Guinness and Black – Guinness with a shot of cordial
Vodka Lime and Soda – vodka with extremely sour lime cordial and soda water
Vodka Soda – a shot of vodka with tasteless soda water                                           WHAAAAT !?!?! O.o

(I mean some of them sound not bad and maybe are consumed in other countries as well but vodka soda is not how you should treat vodka! Every single Estonian will say so! J)

Once when working  a shift at the front bar with Alex (My housemate) we met two crazy guys. They were drunk and made the funniest jokes ever. Suddenly they started dissin’ Alex and buying drinks from me saying I’m the real bartender and giving me more tip. After another joke Alex smiled and those guys gave him something like 10 GBP and said: “Here ye go mate, that is for you not to smile anymore!” Later that night they asked me to “hit them with a manly drink”, so I decided to make a double b-52… Both guys almost puked and asked for a Sambuca afterwards... “Since when Sambuca is a manly drink?” Me and Alex were wondering…

As you can guess it took me a while before I got used to local drinking habits and mixtures. Insane amounts of beers were miss poured and beverages mixed not right. However, eventually I got there… But I still was freaking out when customers said: “Can I have a pint of lager?”. THERE ARE 10 DIFFERENT LAGERS ON DRAFT… WHICH ONE YOU WANT… CAN’T YOU READ? (I thoughtJ) Occasional snaps like that were only in my mind of course.

Later on you get used to the pub life and start liking it. Pubs have mostly same clients all the time so you become buddies and while talking to them time flies quicker. Working in a pub rather, than in a restaurant takes some responsibilities off. The atmosphere is much more laid back and customers do not expect exceptional service skills (Thus, when you provide a great service the customers are a lot more happier and tip you). Another great thing is that pub customers offer bartenders drinks! And at the end of the shift you may have an impressive “portfolio” of receipts with earned drinks to enjoy.

Working abroad in a pub is sometimes heaven and sometimes hell... But I think it is still one of the most fun places to work, while studying.