That’s a Wrap

I have always been amazed at how fast time truly passes by.  It seems as if it was yesterday when I arrived on campus in the middle of the night lost and confused.  As I have come to the last chapter of my postgraduate degree here at Aston University, it can be determined that not only will I takeAston Business a couple of key aspects away as I continue on my career pathway, but I also have achieved and learned a couple things that would be helpful for other students who might follow a similar track.  Because of this, it can be determined that my time here in the United Kingdom has been one of the most unique experiences of my life.

Although I already had a couple of year’s work experience under my belt, I feel that I have developed over the course of the year not only through academics, but also through critical thinking and world culture awareness.  Many of our modules focused on discussing and analyzing the topics at hand, which is also how we were usually assessed.  This was to ensure that not only were we able to regurgitate the material, but actually understand it to its full extent.  In addition to this, the fact that I was always surrounded by students and lecturers from other countries helped me become more culturally aware of how people respond to certain topics of that country.  There were only a couple of other American’s who I only saw on a time-to-time basis.  I utilized this opportunity to learn as much about these different cultures to enhance my future endeavors once I finish my time at Aston.

unnamedComing into the 2014-2015 Academic Year, there were a couple of various goals that I wanted to achieve.  Besides academic excellence, I desired to learn and experience as much as I could while living abroad.  I have a huge passion for learning about various cultures and the best way to do this was to travel to different areas and interacting or residing with locals.  I would always interact and befriend the locals I came in contact with when traveling.  Because of this, I feel that I have contacts in many countries in Europe, South America, Asia, and some parts of Africa.  In addition to this, I was also recruited for Aston’s Volleyball Team where I was given the opportunity to travel throughout the United Kingdom for away matches at various universities including Nottingham, East Anglia, and Cambridge.  Because of this, not only was I given the opportunity to travel through Europe, but also in many cities of England.

Through my time spent here in the United Kingdom I have come to realize that although the United States is one of the larger countries in the world, there really is so much more to the world than that.  I remember thinking about how many of my friends from America have never left the country, but in reality it is only a small fraction of what is really out there.  In addition to this, many people from the U.S. believe that “their way” is the “right way”.  Obviously living abroad has been a huge eye-opener to what is happening on an international level.  universities-04

For potential students hoping to come and study at Aston, my advice would be to make the most of your time while here and not only perform well academically, but to also get involved in as many aspects as you can.  I say this with the intent that way students will get to know their professors and colleagues in order to create everlasting contacts of various countries.  By doing this, a student will not only come out from Aston with a degree from one of the most prestigious schools in Europe, but also with an extensive international network.

Favorites of Birmingham

BirminghamUpon returning from my holiday break after Term 2 of my postgraduate studies at Aston University, I realized that I have not really explored the different areas of Birmingham.  Because of this, my friend Moritz and I decided to take a day and walk to a couple key areas including the Canals that traveled through the City Centre.  One of the places quite close to the campus of Aston is a small espresso shop that a couple of my colleagues and I like to grab a cup of coffee.  This is called “Yorks” which has a certain charm of authenticity and also has pretty friendly customer service.  There have been many times where Moritz and I decided a study break was needed, which led to a quick trip to the café.

Another place that has been fun to explore now that the weather is a bit sunnier than in the past are the Canals that go through Birmingham.  Besides the fact that these are one of the prettier spots in the City Centre, there are also a variety of pubs and restaurants lining up the waterway.  One of the unique sights to observe is how the dock and boating crew raise and lower the boats from the different levels using Canal locks, which is similar to a damming system.  Besides this, the walk alongside the channel is really easy and would be a nice walk after an afternoon date. image7

Because of this, it can be determined that there are a few different secrets about Birmingham that I did not know of but can look forward to exploring over the summer as I continue to work on my dissertation.

China

As I suddenly woke up from a nap, I heard the pilot announce over the intercom: “We will be landing in Chengdu in about 15 minutes.”  At this point I noticed the young girl sitting across from me who I learned was flying back home on holiday from London where she attends university.  After chatting with her for a couple minutes, I obtained a ride to my friend Stephen (who I knew fromimage5 California) and a quick lunch in the city.  One of the most spectacular things about China is how cheap everything is.  The father of my new Chinese friend was able to purchase lunch for the five of us for about £8.  Besides the local areas in Chengdu, I was supposed to see the Panda bears as well as travel to Chong Qing where my other friend from California lived.

While walking through the Giant Panda Research Facility, I could tell that this was a huge tourist attraction in China.  My friend Stephen joked image6that the bears were treated better than humans and basically just slept the whole day.  Because of this we left earlier in the morning in order to catch them while they were awake and active.  As we approached them, I was fascinated at how silly and amusing they were while tumbling around, sitting in weird positions, and eating their food.  After leaving the park, we decided to eat lunch at this unique spot where the food is cooked in a brick stir-fry/stove.  As we were doing this, we were invited to eat and drink with a group of locals.  They were fascinated with my friend who could speak Mandarin fluently and all the girls kept pointing and saying “so handsome” to us guys as many of the had never seen a “foreigner” in person.

Chong Qing is a huge city with almost 33 million people and lots of hills and tall buildings.  It was during my stay in this city that my other friend from image4California (Derrick) and I traveled about an hour outside the city to see these spectacular wall carvings and gardens.  I seriously have seen nothing like this, and it was amazing to see how far back the culture goes.  Overall, the whole trip was spectacular, and although I had an unforgettable time, it was nice to come back to a more westernized civilization where simple items such as bread or western toilets are readily available.  Because of this trip, I can honestly say that my traveling experience during my postgraduate studies here at Aston University have been unreal and I am not sure anything could come close to the memories I am creating here.image1

Digging My Way to China!

Applying for my Chinese Visa has been one of the most bizarre experiences that I have encountered during my time here in the United Kingdom.  Upon discovering that I was going to travel to the country of China after my exams were over, I was told that I would need to acquire a visa.  Unfortunately, it is required for me to submit my application in person which meant I would have to travel to either London or Manchester.  Because I had been to London several times and knew that it was easy to maneuver around, I decided this would probably be the best location to apply.  I was totally wrong.  After arriving, I ran into a flurry of confusion and frustration as the rude receptionist told me I had filled out the wrong application form and needed an invitation letter as well as scanned copies of the invitee’s passport and visa.  After contacting the person that invited me and trying to get all the necessary documents together, it was determined that it was not going to happen that day.  One of the things that really was frustrating was how rude and unhelpful the people who were checking my documents.  I believe the exact words she asked me were “Are you incompetent or have trouble understanding English?”

Because of this, I decided that I would travel to Manchester for my second attempt to apply for my visa.  In this scenario, I was greeted by a friendly and smiling receptionist who waived my straight up to the window to turn in the documents for my application.  It was upon arriving to the window that I was told that my invitee that was living in China was unqualified to be an official invitee (due to his type of visa), but was given other options in order to complete the application procedure.  I was able to discuss with my friend really quickly and the problem was solved.  Although there was a bit of inconvenience, the people at the Manchester Chinese Embassy were so much more helpful than those in London, and I was truly amazed how much location truly matters.  Because of this, I was able to pick up my passport with my Chinese Visa the next week (which is valid for 10 years), and I am anticipating my trip out to Chengdu, China.

Champions!!! #AstonVolleyball

“We are the champions!!!”  These were the chants as the Aston Volleyball Team celebrated their final victory after winning the BUCS Cup.  10389349_742404922524766_2056029827064518938_nUpon beginning my time here at the University, I had been recruited to play for the 1st volleyball team here at Aston.  Although it has been somewhat difficult to balance study and training, it definitely has made my time here in the United Kingdom that much better.  After making the team, it was then decided that I would start as a ‘middle’ position while competing at different matches.  This was amusing because this player’s role is usually performed by the tallest member of the team.  Because I only stand at 6’0”, I am the fourth shortest person on the team.  Even though this made my job a bit more difficult, I was able to perform exceptionally well due to the fact that I possess a high vertical jump and have long arms.  My responsibility is to mainly block on defense, and attack (hit) on offense.  I only play front row, and when rotating out of the serving position, I am then substituted out by the libero.  This person only plays back row and substitutes either Martin (the other middle), or myself.

After reaching the Cup finals with a flawless record (undefeated), we took the court with energy and passion.  With a bit of effort, we won the first set, but the second set presented some motivational difficulties and we were defeated (3 out of 5 are needed to win).  The third set went to us, but injuries started taking down our team.  Our best hitter went down with a sprained ankle, and then I took a hard hit and rolled my ankle causing it to not function properly.  Although I was able to finish the final game, it definitely was a struggle.  Upon hitting the final point in the last set, the entire team ran onto the court and start embracing and jumping to the rhythm of the chant “we are the champions” over and over.  It was definitely a well-deserved victory, and there was no better way to take home the win with the medals presented to us.  It was a good season for Aston’s Volleyball Team, and I am thankful that I was able to be a part of it. 11054343_10207022269814302_8087135743642702777_n

“As long as I got my suit and tie”

As I exited the taxi, and entered towards the ballroom of the Aston Villa stadium, young men and women were dressed to the “nines” and were crowding around the doors.  The hype and excitement of the evening only made everyone more enthusiastic while everyone was ordering drinks and cocktails at the bar.  There were three reasons why I felt this night was going to be a great night: all the students looked fantastic, we were to receive a three-course meal, and there was going to be an after-party at B4 Bar.  Because of this, the AU Ball was one of the best events here at Aston University thus far.

The fact that every student was dressed in their best suits and gowns made the evening a special occasion.  Even I was dressed in a three-piece black suit complimented with a bow-tie and pocket square.  Ladies were outfitted in exquisite dresses that made me take a second look at some of the ones I had crushed on earlier in the year.  The whole event was a massive success and a good change of pace from the simple university events typically put on by the student union.  Another great aspect of the dinner was the fact that we received an upscale three-course meal.  I was seated mainly with the rest of the volleyball team and their dates for the evening, who were great company to converse with at the table.  Upon the closure of the evening, a group of us decided to take a cab back to Aston to attend the after party at the B4 Bar where we could continue dancing the night away.  Although it was a bit crowded, I can honestly say that this made the evening that much better.

Because of the well-dressed students, the three-course meal, and after party at B4 Bar, it can definitely be assumed that this was one of the most fun events put on by the university.  All I can think now is when the next time I will be able to sing “As long as I got my suit and tie…”

Expecting the Unexpected

It seems like yesterday that I came off Christmas break and started the new term, but before I knew it I realized that I am already in Week 7 of my second term of my studies as a postgraduate student here at Aston University. This new quarter has brought many changes in my life, some that I was aware would happen, but many that I did not expect. The unexpected changes to my time-table, the reduction in my free time, and the particular models that I enjoy most are three different items that totally caught me off my guard. Because of these, this term has flown by in a whirl of activities.

My time-table is an aspect of Term 2 that has thrown a major curve-ball in my direction. Originally I was enrolled in a class that I was greatly looking forward to: Outsourcing and Offshoring. Because of issues with the availability of the professor, the class was postponed until April. This presented quite a problem for me who had been looking forward to having all of my lectures on Tuesday through Thursday. Due to this, I was forced to enroll into another module named Operations Management. Although I have been learning more about this topic over the weeks, it definitely has been a letdown compared to what I had been expecting. Another change from what I had presumed about this term is the fact that I have much less free time in my schedule. Besides my lectures and coursework, there has also been an increase in my away volleyball games and extracurricular activities. It has been quite entertaining to try and complete the assignments while traveling to and from matches all over England. The last item that has completely caught me off guard is the module that has turned out to be one of the most interesting lectures. The course CSR and Public Policy has been some of the most entertaining and nurturing discussion based tutorials I have attended here at Aston thus far. Although a majority of this can be contributed to the teaching style of the professor, the topic has also been enjoyable to ponder and discuss.

Because of all of these alterations to my expectations for this term, it definitely has kept me on my toes and proactive. Through the change in my time-table, the decrease in my free time, and the lecture that has kept my interest the most, I have learned that it is best to not have to high of expectations, but rather be prepared for whatever my time at Aston might present.

The Future Dr. Bragonier?

The other day I saw a movie that had an extremely big impact on myself: It was called “The Theory of Everything.”  Something that has always been on my mind is considering the possibility of performing research in an area of business for a PhD.  Although at the moment I do not have the perfect topic in mind that I could use my research such as Stephen Hawking, I believe that this might be something that I could pursue in the future that could create opportunities to teach, publish written works, and also give back to the community through the research that I perform.

The first aspect that I could gain from achieving a PhD is the possibility that I could teach at the collegiate level.  Some of the people that most inspired me were professors during my undergraduate studies as well as my postgraduate degree here at Aston University.  If I were given the opportunity to imitate this and invest in another student’s life, I would probably feel that I am actually contributing back to society.  In addition to this, I might also be able to produce written works of research that could one day be published.  I have always enjoyed the thought of having my ideas and theories available to the public.  The last attribute that would be achieved through a PhD is the fact that I would be able to give back to the university through the research that I perform.  This would allow me to come up with theories and expand on those to answer the difficult questions regarding my topic.

Although I don’t think I will apply for a PhD next year, I could I see myself doing this sometime after a few years more of work experience.  By doing this, I will allow myself to teach at a higher academic level, publish written works, and give back through the research I perform.  If I ever come up with the perfect topic that I am extremely passionate about similar to how Stephen Hawking was regarding time, then you can be sure that I will pursue the research through a PhD.

Assessing the Student: The British Way

One of the things that I have noticed is the differences between how students are assessed back in the United States compared to here in the United Kingdom.  During my undergraduate degree in California, it was a common expectation to usually have homework due about once or twice a week, a paper or presentation of some sort, and then two to three examinations throughout the semester.  Of course this can vary from module to module, but you could always expect some sort of course outline similar to this.  Sometimes there attendance and regular quizzes were included as well.

As I have finished up my first term here in at Aston University, I have noticed that my entire grade markings rely on only one or two examinations or projects/papers.   This is interesting because there are pro’s and con’s to this method of assessment.  A couple of the good things are that all of the assessments or projects are meaningful and the student does not have to worry about a ton of extra homework to stress about.  One of the disadvantages of this is that you really have to keep up with the class and won’t know how you will do in the assessment until afterwards.  This can be extremely hurtful because a student does not get the chance to make up for anything if they performed poorly in an examination.

Although I have mixed feelings about the examination process, I feel that there are advantages and disadvantages to both.  But in reality, I have quite enjoyed the different method of teaching and assessing of students and I hope to do well in the near future.

The Irish Getaway

Me: “Hey Moritz, so what are we going to do this week until you go home?”

Moritz: “Maybe we could go to Scotland or Ireland?”

Me: “We should totally do that! Let me check flights…€25 round trip to Dublin.”

Moritz: “Looks like we’re going to Ireland!”

One of tDublin Streethe places that I have always wanted to visit was Dublin, Ireland.  Although my colleague and I did not have any set plans of what we would do there, we decided to be spontaneous and travel to the place of Jameson whiskey and Guinness beer.  Upon arriving, there was really three different activities that we did: firstly we just explored the entire city centre and all of its beautiful sights, in the evening Moritz Dockswe hit Temple Bar and all of the other pubs, and lastly we took the Jameson Distillery tour.  After going through all of these, it was determined that we definitely got the full Dublin experience.

Exploring the biggest city in Ireland with a guy such as Moritz was definitely filled with great sights.  To be honest, I took way too many pictures and made my friend stop to pose here and there.  One of my favorite spots was on the Dublin Docklands, where they had amazing views and bridges always crossing from one side to another.  There was also Trinity College, the Bank of Ireland, and even a small castle of some sort.  As it grew closer to evening, my buddy and I decided that we should go back and change and get ready for dinner and the night life.

Trinity College            Although Irish food is not extremely common, Moritz and I were able to find an Irish pub that had a pretty decent menu, and after receiving my order of an Irish seafoodDocks chowder, I can honestly say it was definitely better than any clam chowder I have ever had in my entire life.  After dinner we decided to head over to the infamous Temple Bar for a couple of pints of beer.  Although this whole time my goal was to find some local Irish redheads to socialize with, I seemed to keep meeting anything but this including two French aux pairs and a group of girls from Greece doing the exact same thing as us.  The next night we had a bit more luck and met some local nurses (none with natural red hair though).

Jameson Disterllery            The Jameson Distillery was one of my favorite events of the whole trip.  Not only was there unique sights and an educational side of how the whiskey was made, but they even allowed us to have a tasting to compare the Irish whiskey, to Scotch and American whiskey.  One of the things that was really entertaining was the fact that the tour guide seemed to be picking on Americans a bit saying that we did not prepare our whiskey properly because we only single distill and use new barrels rather than old ones.  Although I usually refer Jameson, I can honestly say that I like all three country’s whiskey for different reasons.

Overall, the trip was quick, but extremely fun.  Moritz and I were able to get a bit of a taste of Dublin, Ireland and appreciate the sights and culture to some extent.  Although it was nice to get back home, this city is definitely a place that I wouldn’t mind seeing again.  Until next time Dublin, keep doing that Irish thing.Castle