Tag Archives: international students

We’re not “made out of sugar”

A student from Brazil recently shared that in her country, people who are reluctant to go out in the rain are teased with the question, ‘Are you made out of sugar?’ Last week’s day-out to beautiful and historic Greenwich proved that while they are certainly sweet people, Birkbeck’s international students are not ‘made out of sugar’, willing to brave the pouring rain. Read this account of the day.

International students visiting Greenwich

Our day began early morning at Westminster Pier, to take the Thames Clipper boat service to Greenwich. On arrival, despite the weather, students were keen to put up their umbrellas and enjoy the sights with tour guide Andrew to discover the history and stories behind this fascinating part of London.

In Greenwich Park, Andrew led the group up the hill to see the famous Royal Observatory. Before ascending, commenting on the grey skies and rain, he joked, “Who knows?  Maybe there’s bright sunshine at the top!”

On arrival, a low grey mist obscured the usually impressive views. Even the tall buildings of the nearby Docklands were hidden. However, within a few minutes the mist cleared, the sun shone and students were folding up umbrellas and reaching for sunglasses. Everyone enjoyed the stunning views of London. “What I said earlier was a joke!” laughed Andrew.

International students standing by the Greenwich observatoyTo round off the tour, we visited the famous Goddard’s Pie & Mash shop, where students enjoyed this hearty and delicious traditional London food.

International students at a pie and mash shopAndrew explained that Pie & Mash predates Fish & Chips as a traditional British dish, and that Goddard’s has been a family-run Greenwich favourite for over 130 years.

International students on the tour of GreenwichStudents ended their day in Greenwich full-up, maybe a bit wet, but also happy and, we hope, with some new friends. Sweet!

 

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Life as an Indian scholar in London

MA Journalism student Vimal found studying in London a totally immersive experience, so much so he wrote a book about it. Here, he uncovers his own story and shares perspectives on the differences between the media in the UK and India, with a personal take on the COVID-19 pandemic news coverage. This is his #BBKStory.

Vimal Chander Joshi

In 2020, Vimal published his first book though he refutes any notion of being the main character in the story: “I am not Ajay but our experiences are closely linked and all the places Ajay visits are places I’ve either visited or lived in.”

Gentlemen: Stories from London tells the story of Ajay Vashishth, a young man from Delhi who comes to London and lodges in different parts of London including Bexleyheath, Ilford, Southall and Golders Green. Even with the exclusion of the Bloomsbury location, where Vimal would have spent much of his time while studying at Birkbeck, you’d be forgiven for assuming he and Ajay are one and the same.

However, Vimal insists not and divulges the details of his own upbringing, sharing aspects of life within a middle-class family, having a lawyer for a father and a grandfather hailing from Pakistan, with family members keen for him to follow a ‘conventional career path’ in either law or medicine. With gentle resistance and with more creative inclinations, he pursued his undergraduate studies in commerce at the University of Delhi then decided on journalism at postgraduate level.

In 2019, his academic transition took him to Birkbeck and a city he’d never visited before. “It was the first time I’d been to London. I enjoyed the opportunity to visit places. I would see people wearing a coat and tie with office bags and a newspaper in hand.”

He accepts that the pre-pandemic period presented him with his best chances of socialisation saying, “I attended all workshops and events which were either very relevant or marginally relevant. I would go and meet people from other departments and would attend most of the events. I never skipped any classes. I would go out with friends. I went to the library as much as I could, including at Christmas. I even met friends from my country.”

Studying an MA in Journalism was a logical choice. He’d always liked writing and was fascinated by India’s booming television industry and the increasing acceptance of a career in the media. Prior to his studies, Vimal had spent ten years working in the media, primarily in India.

He has noticed subtle differences between the news in the UK and India, “The biggest difference is the way in which newspapers are heavily subsidised in India. I couldn’t imagine spending the two pounds or so on a newspaper in India. Of course, the newspapers in the UK can be found across the world but Indian newspapers are less likely to have that international reach.”

With a pandemic still in effect and with India having faced the brunt of it earlier this year with the Delta variant of the virus, Vimal shares his own personal reflections of how the media has handled the coverage: “I felt really pained watching the Covid-19 news. I was there when Delhi had one of its earliest lockdowns and I watched how the media covered the evolution of the virus and the spread of the variant. The media has an important part to play in exposing the pandemic but there needs to be accountability and the true picture should always be reflected. But we should also balance that because the reality of the situation can also spread panic.”

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International students’ summer event: a guided tour with open-air music and afternoon tea at the Kensal Green Cemetery, London

Cecilia Danielsson, BA Linguistics and Language student, writes about the science-themed summer event, that brought Birkbeck international students together to learn more about the College’s history by visiting the final resting place of its founder, George Birkbeck.

Birkbeck international students’ stand by the Birkbeck family mausoleum at the Kensal Green Cemetery. Credit: Harish Patel, School of Science

After over a year of meeting in the ethereal cyberspace, the glimmer of spending time face-to-face was a welcome return to normal, even if we all had to re-learn our interpersonal skills again! Fortunately, these skills were all firmly intact and everyone was delighted to engage in real conversation.

The weather was kind to us with slabs of blues and green, contrasting sharply with grey stones of the graveyard all reignited by the sun. It was the perfect day to celebrate George Birkbeck, and a chance to reflect on the extraordinary vision actioned to bring higher education to the working people of London. Birkbeck has been transforming lives since 1823, and the university has transitioned through various colourful identities through its long and extensive history. In 2023, Birkbeck will be celebrating its 200th anniversary.

Developed as an engineering and science faculty, the tour of Kensal Green Cemetery was a chance to not only pay respects to the University founder, but also to consider works in Literature, Botany, Languages and Royalty from notable pioneers in science, such as Brunel and Babbage.

Students gather for a group photo at the Kensal Green Cemetery. Credit: Harish Patel, School of Science

The enthusiastic tour guides were rich in their knowledge of tombstone architecture and the famous residents of this corner field in West London. For the architecture fans among us, the tour talk referenced some of the neogothic styles of concrete structures, as well as Egyptian and post-modernist designs.

Glancing around there were parallels with the built environment we are familiar with in the London buildings around Bloomsbury, including Birkbeck’s luminous neighbour, the British Museum. Once we had paid respects to the family of George Birkbeck, there was a chance to reflect on the requirement for institutions to continue to support access to cutting edge research-led higher education and to London, and the need for lifelong learning.

Students on their tour of Kensal Green Cemetery. Credit: Harish Patel, School of Science

After our meandering weave through the stony paths and tall green trees, it was time for afternoon tea. With a delicious spread of lovingly home-baked fayre by the very kind hosts of Kensal Green Cemetery, it was time to kick back and reflect upon our day in the sun to the soundtrack of the talented The Dionysus Ensemble and the opportunity to thank the organiser of the event, Professor Sanjib Bhakta, Assistant Dean (Internationalisation and Partnerships) who put together a memorable day for us all.

The Dionysus Ensemble. Credit: Harish Patel, School of Science

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Welcoming the year of the Ox

Di Luo, Chair of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Birkbeck, reflects on this year’s virtual Chinese New Year celebration that took place on 15 February and what hopes the group has for the year of the Ox.

An ox hanging with some ornamentsThe year of the Ox began on Friday 12 of February 2021, and this is an especially exciting new year, as people all around the world cannot wait to say goodbye to the year of the Rat in which we have suffered heavily and lost due to the strike of COVID-19. The Ox is the second of the 12-year periodic sequence of animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar, it represents values of reliability, strength, patience, and trustworthiness. People from all around the world have wished and hoped to see that this new year will start a new chapter in life and will defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday 15 February 2021, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Birkbeck University of London (BBK CSSA) hosted an online gathering event to spread good wishes to everyone and start to recruit its new community members. All students and scholars from all cultures and countries are welcome to join BBK CSSA.

Students and staff who attended the event were invited to share their new year wishes and targets, not surprisingly, after a long lockdown, everyone jointly wished to meet each other and come back to campus again once it is safe to do so. Indeed, since the first lockdown was issued by the UK government on 16 March 2020, the year of the Rat has been a memorable one for all of us. Students cannot attend school, people have to work from home, COVID-19 has physically separated us. However, distance cannot stop our hearts from growing closer and cannot stop our kindness and wishes. This is also one of the small goals that BBK CSSA hoped for its online gathering event on 15 February 2020.

Games and awards were also organised during the online event to bring more joy and fun. One of the games was to guess the correct Chengyu from the emojis. Chengyu is a type of traditional Chinese idiomatic expression, most of which consists of four characters. Although they are widely used in Classical Chinese, but still very common in today’s Chinese speaking and writing.

One of the new year’s wishes that the BBK CSSA makes is that everyone can “niuqi chongtian” in the year of Ox. This is one of the most popular new year blessings Chengyu that every Chinese person says to each other. “Niuqi Chongtian” refers to the spirit of the Ox and means that with a strong faith in conquering any difficulties and challenges, life and work will both be awesome. BBK CSSA believes the spirit of the Ox will certainly bring the most blessings for the year of 2021 for us to look forward and move on. All the challenges and difficulties that we have had in 2020 are now in the past, we will not forget those precious things and the loved ones we lost. Our faith in life will not be stopped by this pandemic! Lastly, BBK CSSA wishes everyone in the year of 2021 “Niuqi Chongtian”!

 

 

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