Interests · Opportunities · Uni Antics

Living Abroad & Your National Identity

I’ve been in Brussels for exactly four weeks now and my eyes have been opened to so much. I’ve learned loads about the Belgian culture, customs and so much more. And having a very international group of friends here has allowed me to find out so much more about the world. But the thing that has surprised me the most since arriving in Brussels, is my own sense of national pride. I’ve always known I’m patriotic and proud to be British, but I hadn’t quite realised to what extent that was the case.

Going to Brussels for study abroad is genuinely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’m getting to immerse myself in a whole new culture and I’m learning a new language – by the way, Dutch really isn’t as hard to learn as I’ve been making it out to be! And I’ve made friends who I get on so well with – we all have a good laugh and have done absolutely loads in the time we’ve known each other. So Brussels has been pretty exciting so far. And also, it’s an incredibly valuable experience for achieving my goal of becoming a foreign correspondent.

Brussels over the shoulder
Brussels City Centre
Ghent bridge
Ghent

But one thing I’ve found is that I become really excited when I see something typically British. Even things I usually wouldn’t give a second thought to at home: Jammie Dodgers, Robinson’s orange squash and Heinz baked beans to name a few. I began to wonder why being abroad for a long period of time makes you so happy to see things you otherwise wouldn’t give much notice? But I came to the conclusion that it was my sense of national pride and a connection to “home”.

Also, when we visited Ghent the other week, I seemed thrilled to see a guy playing the bagpipes, even though I wanted to be solely exposed to the Belgian culture. I’m not even Scottish, but they definitely caught my attention. But when there’s something from the place in which you live, you can’t help but turn and look.

From the day I knew I’d be coming to Brussels, I was so excited to become as Belgian as I possibly could. (That still didn’t stop me taking a bag of 200+ Tetley teabags and hanging the St George’s Cross on my bedroom wall though). And now I’ve been here for around a month, Brussels has definitely reinforced my ambition to find out about and share the stories of people from all over the world. I’ve met loads of awesome people here, all with different personalities and backgrounds, which I’m delighted about. I absolutely love it. So that’s definitely encouraging. But I’ve also realised that wherever I end up in the world, I’ll always have a strong connection to my English roots, and I’ll continue to be the proud and patriotic Brit I always was.

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Uni Antics

My First Few Days in Brussels

Admittedly, I’ve been neglecting the blog slightly over the past few days, but for a pretty good reason. I’ve finally moved out to Brussels for the next few months, which I was really excited about. So I’ve decided to write a post about how the first few days have been.

I might as well start at the beginning: day one. So I arrived in Brussels at about 9.15 (local time), having had to get up for a 6am flight (killer!!). I think I was pretty tired already but the mix of emotions kind of took my mind off it and kept me going. I was really beginning to feel nervous at this point – I had literally just arrived in a totally new country alone, where nothing was familiar. But I knew it could only get better, right?

So I arrived at the student dorm and unpacked my things. I think I was pretty grateful to have something to keep me busy for at least a while. I kept my door open, secretly wishing someone would go past and I could go and speak to them. A couple of people did walk past the room and said hi, which did make me feel slightly better.

Once I’d finished unpacking, I decided to wander around the area and perhaps find a supermarket. I walked through a nearby woodland area, which reminded me of the woods in the town I live. It was quite nice to discover something that reminded me of home, especially as I was already beginning to feel a little homesick. And eventually, I found a small shop and bought the basics for the next couple of days.

I woke up on the second day feeling slightly better (having actually slept!) but I was still feeling pretty isolated. I still didn’t know anyone yet and it was beginning to wear me down – I had to speak to someone. But when I heard two people speaking along the corridor, I was delighted that an opportunity to do just that had come up. I was quite nervous about going to speak to them, but I knew it’d be worth it. And it totally was! They were both absolutely lovely and invited me to go out shopping with them. I was so grateful to them that they let me go with them – it made me feel so much better about being in Brussels.

And so my second day in Belgium was amazing! We bought some necessities and I even tried my first real Belgian waffle. I learned so much from my two new friends, including how the public transport works and where the main shops are. And I was having a great time exploring more of Brussels. And even now, I’m still so grateful to them that they helped my confidence grow in my new home city.

Also on my second day, I met someone who I have become very friendly with – she was moving in that day. Since then, we’ve both made other mutual friends and, as a group, we’ve seen even more of Brussels. We tried waffles (I couldn’t resist a second!) and the fries with mayonnaise. We’ve seen a fair few sights, and they were absolutely incredible! Each day since I arrived has become even better than the last. And I already don’t want to go back home!

So classes will have to start soon and I’ll have to do at least some studying. But I know there’s so much more I’ll go and see, both within Belgium and further afield. I’m so excited to see what the next few months will bring. I absolutely love my new home and I know I’ll always keep coming back.

Books · Controversial Topics

“The Confession” – John Grisham

I’ve always been a strong believer that good books are powerful things. They bring you into a totally different place, they make you think, make you question things and, ultimately, they make you feel something. And John Grisham’s “The Confession” is one novel that, for me, did all of those things.

Set in Texas, USA, it follows a Lutheran Minister (Keith) and a terminally ill murderer and serial rapist (Travis) as they try to save an innocent man from capital punishment. An innocent man, Donté, who has spent nine years on death row for a murder he did not commit. A murder which was, in fact, committed by Travis.

The unlikely duo’s relationship was arguably turbulent, with Travis not always fully cooperating with Keith. Travis knew, as he was dying anyway, that the right thing to do was to confess to his crime, thus saving Donté. But he was often unsure of himself, even going off the radar for a while leaving Keith frantically searching for him. Eventually though, the pair set off for Slone, Texas, just hours before Donté was due to be executed.

But, of course, neither Travis nor Keith were taken seriously by the police or those high up in the judicial system. ‘They had their man’, as was often pointed out. They didn’t want to admit they were wrong, despite the chance an innocent life could be lost – their politics were far more important to them.

And that’s what made me feel, above all else, rage. In the end, Donté was executed. An innocent man needlessly lost his life. Travis was clearly the main reason for this, having not come forward much earlier. But those at the top did not use their power to stop a preventable death. They didn’t even want to give Donté a chance at life.

But although this novel is fictional, it does highlight several issues surrounding capital punishment. Personally, I think the death penalty should never be an option. Who is anyone to say that another human being should die, even if they have committed murder? Thinking about it, it’s kind of a catch 22 situation. And innocent people have lost their lives because of a crime committed by someone else. It’s awful enough if a person has been imprisoned for something they didn’t do, but once they’ve been executed, there is no going back. They wouldn’t even get the chance to go on with the rest of their lives. Not to mention the huge impact it would have on their families.

I could write a whole post about why I think the death penalty is wrong. But I’ll go back to my point at the beginning of this post, that a good book makes you think, question and feel. And “The Confession” has most definitely done that for me – I feel so strongly about the issues that it highlights. So I would absolutely recommend “The Confession”, having been one of the more thought provoking books I have ever read.

Books

‘The Girl on the Train’ – Paula Hawkins

The Book:

This novel is up there as one of my all-time favourites. In just over two days, I had finished reading it – it has to be the fastest I’ve read a novel. I was so invested in the storyline and it had me hooked from the first chapter. I don’t like to sound clichéd but The Girl on the Train is one of the most gripping novels I have ever read.

TGotT Book

Set in London and the surrounding area, the novel is told from the perspective of three central characters: Rachel, Megan and Anna. While Rachel and Anna’s chapters are set in real time, Megan tells us her version of events beginning three months earlier.

The Girl on the Train begins with Rachel. She takes the same train every morning to her job, which we later find out she lost due to her excessive drinking. She looks at the same house every day and watches what seems like the ‘perfect’ couple (Megan and Scott) enjoying their lives together. Rachel wishes her marriage to her ex-husband, Tom, could have worked out that well. And seeing her old house, with Tom’s lover and new wife, Anna, having apparently taken her place makes the pain much worse for Rachel.

Anna, having had a daughter with Tom named Evie, is very paranoid about Rachel. The house phone is always ringing and she has seen Rachel on their street. Anna comes to the conclusion that Rachel refuses to get over Tom and the fact that he cheated on her with Anna; she therefore continues to contact him. However, by the end of the novel, we learn that it was not actually Rachel on the other end of the phone.

When Megan tells us her story in the lead up to her death, we soon discover that her life with Scott is not as perfect as it seems from Rachel’s point of view. We find out about events from her past that have affected her psychologically and we realise that Scott is not her only lover.

But the events that follow Megan’s tragic death reveal the characters’ true selves and what exactly it is that connects the three women.

 

The Film:

While I absolutely loved the book, the same unfortunately can’t be said for the film adaptation. I wouldn’t say that I dislike it – after all, it wasn’t a bad film. It just wasn’t quite right, in my opinion.

TGotT Film

I know films are never 100% exactly like the books they’re based on, but this one was annoyingly inaccurate. While a British actress (Emily Blunt) played Rachel, the film was far too American for a book that was set in London. And that’s because the film was set in and around New York. They didn’t just change the city, they changed the country altogether. And I feel like that took away from the book’s ‘identity’. Having got used to the idea of the plot taking place in England, it just didn’t feel right watching the film taking place in the United States.

I also don’t feel like it communicated the storyline as well as it could have. It seemed like it would only have made complete sense if you’d read the book, especially at the beginning. Having read the book, I won’t ever know if I’d have followed the plot well or not by just watching the film, but that’s the general impression I got from it.

But despite my criticisms of the film adaptation, I would like to reiterate that I didn’t completely loathe it. There are just certain things I would have preferred had they been done differently.

So in my overall opinion, The Girl on the Train is an absolutely incredible book (5/5), while the film is so-so (3/5).

Interests

The Body Shop Event – Aberdeen 

This past Monday, along with some of the other Aberdeen(shire) bloggers, I attended an event hosted by The Body Shop. It was a really interesting evening, which allowed us to get great advice about skincare, make-up and loads more. We could also make great use of the offers, such as the 3 for 2 and we each got a free body butter of our choice, with a personalised sticker.  

Body Butter with Personalised Sticker

 I learned so much more about my own skin type and ways in which I could improve it. The lovely staff pointed me in the direction of the products that would work best to suit my skincare needs. I’ve already started to use the various products I bought on the night and couldn’t resist another visit to the store two days later! So far, I’m really pleased with my purchases. And I’m especially loving their Matte Clay Skin Clarifying Foundation!

My New Products from The Body Shop

But one of my personal highlights of the event was getting to meet some of the Aberdeen bloggers. Having read their posts and engaged with them online, it was absolutely lovely to speak to them face to face. We all share the common interest of blogging so we had something to talk about right from the very start. No awkward silences! And I found it really easy to get on with everyone. So now, I’m totally excited for the next blogger meet up!  

Music

“Bastards” – Ke$ha

I’ve been listening to Ke$ha’s new album “Rainbow” absolutely loads since its release and, I’ve got to say, I love it. Each song is brilliant for its own individual reasons. But it’s the opening track, “Bastards”, that is my favourite.

It is one of those songs I wish I could’ve heard a long time ago. The lyrics remind me of times when I wish I hadn’t let certain ‘bastards get me down’. It is the song that’ll bring you back up when someone has treated you badly, put you down or even tried to discourage you. The lyrics really motivate you to keep on going, despite others’ negative influences. And even when you’re not going through a difficult time, it’s always worthwhile remembering the song’s message. Because it will definitely help at one point or another further down the line.

And Ke$ha herself has had her fair share of difficult times, especially over the past few years. Despite her allegations of sexual assault and abuse, she has been unable to get out of her contract with Dr Luke and Sony. But her lyrics prove, to me anyway, just how strong a person she is. And I’m so grateful that she’s shared what has become one of my most loved songs.

“Bastards” is a song that reminds me that music really is such a powerful thing. It can be so meaningful. And if you take the lyrics on board, they really can help you through your toughest times.

Health

A year ago, anxiety weighed me down. Now, I’m about to move abroad

Things were pretty bad a year ago. I had plans to get a flat with a friend and we even had one secured. I was finally about to have more independence and my own space, which was really exciting. It was definitely a positive change. But then the anxiety started to get worse and worse. The panic attacks became more frequent and my health wasn’t as good as it should have been. It felt awful having to let go of the flat. I felt terrible for letting my friend down. It was so disappointing for so many reasons. I can’t remember having ever felt worse. It was the most horrible thing.

But a year on from that, everything is completely different. The anxiety is now far better than it was and I’m now able to do loads more than I could a year ago.

And now, I actually am moving away. What’s more exciting is that I’m moving to a foreign country for a few months. As an aspiring foreign correspondent, it’s the most fantastic thing.

It’s the greatest feeling in the world knowing that things are moving forward. And the best part is being able to look back and see how far I’ve come from that terrible place. I can finally get that sense of independence I missed out on a year ago. It has also highlighted to me the vital importance of seeking help when you need it. If I hadn’t last year, I know that everything would have been completely different right now. I would definitely encourage anyone who needs help to simply ask for it. Because I know from experience that it really does go far in making things better again.