Final Exams!

As my flat mate and I entered the building, I took a deep breath and thought to myself “here we go,” hoping that the last few weeks of studying had been enough to perform well enough for the marks I desired.  Final ExamsUpon seeing the examination room, I was taken aback due to the size.  It was a huge room filled with desk chairs neatly lined up and numbered.  Because of the reduced size of my class during my undergraduate degree, I could tell this was going to be completely different experience.  In addition, the format for the majority of my exams were essay styled whereas in my undergraduate it was multiple-choice or problem solving.  Although exam marks are not released for another few weeks, I am confident that the time that had been sacrificed to prepare for the exams will have paid off in the end.

There were 3 in-class examinations and two parts to a take-home essay that I had to get ready for.  One of the biggest factors to consider was whether to complete the papers before studying for the final exams or to wait until after they were completed.  Because I am naturally motivated and do not like the idea of waiting until the last minute, I decided to try and complete the essays first as quickly as possible before initiating my studies.  Fortunately this proved to be the better decisions due to the fact that I was able to fully concentrate on my other studies whereas many other students were trying to focus on both or even had to work on them after completing the in-class exams.  When the actual studying began, I felt a bit rusty on some of the areas, especially for my economics class.  Because the class format had only been lecture without any homework or practice I was going to have to put a bit more emphasis on this.  In the examination, it turned out to be an even more difficult than the professor had made it out to be.  Although I felt I struggled a bit on this one, I feel that I was able to perform with the higher percentage of the class.  The other examinations went extremely smooth to which I believe I should achieve a pretty decent mark.

In conclusion, although I encountered a couple of rough spots during final examinations, overall I believe that I performed extremely well and will hopefully earn the marks to demonstrate this.  Now I have some time off on break before I start the next term.  With this time, I hope to make the best of my time here in Europe by traveling and creating memories.  It has been a good term, ready for round two!

High Rolling with Aston Villa

Aston Villa ParkAs our small group entered through the lit doorway, we were greeted by a beautiful young woman who announced, “Welcome to Villa Park! Right through here.”  She then escorted us to a dining room for VIP guests where she took our drink order and asked us what pie we would like to eat during halftime of the Aston Villa vs. Southampton match.  As the match was about to start we were then guided to the VIP section in the stands, which included seats that were much more comfortable than the ones available to the rest of the crowd.  My group sat down with anticipation as the match was about to begin.

“Holt Enders in the sky!” The crowd chanted as the game played on.  The match was in the heat of the first half with both teams baAston Ticketsttling out.  Although the weather was freezing, none of the International Ambassadors from Aston University were bothered due to the intensity and energy of the game.  There were great opportunities for goals on both ends of the field, but as it drew near to halftime, the goalie from Southampton made an error in judgment which caused Aston Villa to score a goal.  Everybody was in great spirits as it came to the 45th minute.

As we entered back in the VIP lounge, our pies and drinks were waiting for us and we were able to enjoy the tradition football food as we discussed the occurrences of the game with some of the other fans.  After returning to our seats in the stands, we noticed that the second half of the game grew even more intense as Aston tried to hold onto their lead.  Unfortunately, as the time passed the 80th minute, Southampton was able to sneak a goal in to the dismay of the crowd.  Although both sides struggled to finish with another goal, the game ended in a tie.  However, this was actually a better outcome to the Villa fans than expected due to the fact that Southampton is considered the superior team this year.  After getting our things together our group of International Ambassadors were able to land a taxi back to the University, but it was definitely noted that ‘high rolling’ at the Aston Villa match is definitely the way to do a football match.  Match in progress

German Friends, German Food, German Market

It’s starting to look like Christmas here in Birmingham and there has been one thing that has been coming up in conversation over and over.  The German Market seems to be a big deal among the students and residents in Birmingham.  One of the reasons for this might be because of all the Germans at Aston University.  After much stress and studying during the week, I decided to get a group together and go out to the market on a Friday evening. We must have had one of the most diverse groups there, but there was no doubt about it, I was sticking close to a couple of my German friends: Moritz and David.

As we entered the market, the first thing I noticed was how all the stands were decorated for Christmas.  It almost resembled a small German town in the winter.  Moritz and I decided to start off by grabbing a couple of pints of beer and then slowly make our way to the half meter sausages.  According to my friends, German sausage is quite a big deal among Europeans.  As they handed me this foot long bun with a sausage folded over (because it was almost twice the size), I was a bit taken back and did not have any words.  I must say though, it was probably one of the best sausages I’ve ever had.  Of course, this might be due to the fact that I was starving and had been looking forward to this for a few days.

While finishing up and socializing with the rest of the group, we decided to explore a bit and see if there was anything else that might interest us.  There were candy apples, waffles with Nutella, crepes with fruit, little German themed trinkets, and much more.  From all this, I realized that this was truly a German themed evening.  I indulged myself with German friends, German food and drink, and the German Market

German Market

Doing the London Thing

As I disembarked from the “Underground” and walked up the steps towards the light above, I came to my first impression of the city of London, which was a huge clock tower referred to as “Big Ben.”  People from all nations crowded around on the side walk snapping pictures of the massive structure.  I myself, was caught up in the rush, taking selfies with my friend Judith (my personal tour guide for the day).  I couldn’t believe all the different cultures and languages I was seeing and hearing around me.  It was incredible to see actually how big the city was compared with what I see from the movies.  My companion and I walked across the bridge watching some Russians trying to con people into playing their gambling games on the street.  From here I was able to see the London Eye, which is this gigantic wheel which people can ride in order to see the whole city and all its wonder.  Although we decided to pass on the ride that day, I am sure I will get the chance to participate on my next visit to the great city.

Big Ben

After traveling to the next location, my personal tour guide led me to what seemed to be Buckingham Palace.  She announced that at the moment it was tail end of “the changing,” which is a tourist spectacle where the guards march around in order among the streets.  Unfortunately this meant there were larger crowds, and also signified that I wasn’t going to get the chance to mess with one of the Royal Guards.  Either way, as we were walking along, I was able to get some spectacular pictures of the palace.  I started to feel like a professional photographer: climbing up onto walls to get a clearer shot.  Of course, this meant that I looked like a complete tourist, but decided to just embrace this and have fun with it.

Buckingham Palace

In the late afternoon, my friend and I decided to get some ice cream where she took me to this charming place where real Italians served up some amazing flavors.  Honestly it was the perfect spot for a quick first date, which we observed another couple in that exact situation.  Unfortunately, it was at this point that I realized my return train ticket to Birmingham was missing.  Because of this, I knew I was going to have to purchase a new return ticket as well as an “Oyster card,” which is a pass so I can travel on “Underground” throughout the remainder of the day.  After taking care of these logistics, we noticed it was starting to get closer to evening, so Judith and I decided to start heading towards Tower Bridge.

As we approached the other side of London, we were able to see beautiful sights of all of the corporate buildings and hotels along famous bridge.  The lights across the bay were spectacular and I was able to get quite a few pictures.  After dinner at a nice Thai restaurant, we decided it was time to start making the long trip back to which was now considered boring Birmingham.  Until my next trip to London, I will hold the wonderful sights and memories of this last trip to keep me studying hard so I might see it again.

London at Night

Working Through the Struggle

“Michael, you have been assigned to Group 7.”  I looked around for the table and sat down with the four other students that were already sitting down.  I then realized that I must have one of the most diverse groups out of the whole class.  Sitting with me was a girl who was Nigerian, but was born and raised in France.  Across from me was a girl from China and as well as someone from Taiwan.  Lastly there was a young man from India also sitting next to me.  I was definitely the only native English speaker, and before I knew it the professor was announcing our first group project that was due in a week.  Before I even had a chance to become properly acquainted with my group, we were already planning and organizing the structure of the task at hand.

We were instructed to come up with a business plan for a brand new TV show.  One of the things that I appreciated about our group is that they were for the most part very punctual and did not have the tendency to procrastinate.  The only thing that I felt that we struggled with was the fact that because we were all from different parts of the world, we had a difficult time being flexible with our opinions.  In addition to this, writing and speaking skills became a huge issue to the other members because of their lack of experience with the English language.

Although I sometimes have difficulties with my team members, I continue to strive to be patient and work with the group that I have been assigned.  This is something that I have dealt with in the past and could possibly run in my future endeavors.  Because of this, I will make the best of the situation and work with what I have.  Therefore, I will “work through the struggle.”

Diving In!

“Michael! You have to join the Hockey society! No join the volleyball team, or the dance club.  What about the Entrepreneurship society?”  It seemed every way I turned, people wanted me to join and participate in their club or organization.  After some much debate, I finally was able to narrow it down to what I thought would be most enjoyable or useful.

For athletic purposes, I decided that I would try-out and join the volleyball team.  Because this is a sport that I have been playing most of my life, this just seemed like an obvious choice for me.  In addition, I might be able to do some convenient traveling around the UK while competing in away games at different universities.  Another club I joined was Hockey.  I did this mainly for social reasons, and also so I can become acquainted with other students that attend Aston.  For academic and networking purposes, I joined the Entrepreneurship society in order to network with potential employers as well as explore another side of business which I do not have as much exposure to.  Finally I decided to join a football (soccer) club that one of my flat mate’s organizes, so I can not only bond with him, but also develop my skills in the sport.

Although I took on quite a bit of extracular activities, I believe that this will help me get more involved in school during my time here at Aston University.  I intend to not waste any time outside of my academics in order to take full advantage of the opportunities presented as an international student.

Work Hard, Play Hard

My first week in the United Kingdom has been somewhat of an active blur.  Already I have worked and played so hard that I’m having a minor setback and broke out with a fever due to the fact that I have been away from the college life for the last two years.  Because of my prior work schedule at PwC I had learned how to maintain a balanced lifestyle, but now I have to learn how to balance my social life and ensure that I keep my priorities in order.  Luckily nothing has taken priority over my studies and including the particular task that is due this week, but when it comes to exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep, that could definitely use more attention.

In the last week and a half, I have explored quite a bit of Birmingham as well as met a wide variety of Aston students from all over the world.  I have to say that even though I am a well cultured person who has been living in San Jose (An extremely diverse city) the last two years, this seriously has been an incredible experience to meet young people such as myself from all over the world.  I even had the opportunity this week to go on a luncheon with a girl from France in the City Centre.  I have also been to several clubs/bars with the Student Union, who are seriously some of the friendliest people I have ever met.

All in all, even though I am having a vast amount of fun and excitement in my life, there always is a limit on the kind of routine that someone can handle.  Luckily I have learned my lesson early before the first term has even started.  A well balanced lifestyle is key, and I hope in the future to be able to demonstrate this better.  Although the known saying is “Work Hard, Play Hard;” I think the lesson to take away is “Know Your Limits.”

My Tour of Europe

It all started as I was arriving at San Francisco International Airport as I was about to depart on my way to Aston University in Birmingham UK.  I knew that there was a possibility that I might run in some difficulties on the way so I ensured that I packed a carry-on item with a couple days clothing as well as all my electronics and valuables.  As I was boarding my first flight, I discovered that my airline (Air France) was having a strike, and that I might run in some delays with my connecting flights.  At this point, I knew that the next 24 hours was going to be interesting.  My 10 hour flight to Amsterdam actually turned out to be rather smooth and the time went by quickly, even though I didn’t get a wink of sleep.  As I exited the plane and was walking through the airport I noticed the friendliness of all the locals there, but I also noticed the MP5’s that the security guards were carrying, which caught me a bit off guard.

The next encounter I ran into was the news that my connecting flight was to be delayed, and even though I went up to the counter and gave warning that I would probably miss my next flight, they said there was nothing that they would be able to do.  Well as you can probably imagine, I did miss my flight in Paris, and I had to be re-booked on another airline (Lathander), which wasn’t for another 6 hours.  At this point I am completely exhausted from traveling and was trying to catch quick naps in the airport while guarding my personal belongings.  Finally after a long 6 hours I boarded a quick flight to Munich and was on my way.  As I awoke from my nap on the plane I was greeted with a very impressive sandwich and a glass of wine, which I have to say was quite the unexpected treat than what I was used to in the United States.

After boarding my final flight to Birmingham for one last quick flight, I counted up all the hours I spent traveling and I realized I had spent over 25 hours flying within 5 different countries across Europe.  I assumed I was finally finished, but of course I had to run into one other dilemma, which of course is to say that my luggage was “misplaced” and because of this I had to stay an extra hour at the airport before I could finally get into a black cab and make my way to the university.

Overall, it was a long and tedious experience, but I know that this experience not only will make my entry in the UK a funny story, but it will give me more confidence for future endeavors that I may face.