Something a lot of our scholars discover only after moving to the UK is how early the sun sets during the winter months. But, the very positive part to this is how beautifully buildings across the UK light up! Of course, the lead up to Christmas is an added bonus for seeing many cities and […]
Eight ways I celebrated the holiday season
As January sets in fully bringing with it the start of the second academic term, New Year’s resolutions (which may or may not already be broken), and a new year with new adventures to be had, we take a trip back a few weeks to discover eight ways our scholars celebrated the holiday season.
1. 5 DAYS WITH A RANDOM LOCAL AND ANOTHER RANDOM SCHOLAR
HOST UK is an organisation connecting international students studying in the UK with host families across the country. The programme provides the opportunity for scholars to experience life in the UK with local families.
Romulo Gabriel Kintanar, Philippines
‘This holiday season, I decided to try out HOST UK and spend Christmas in a home of a random local, with another random student, in the town voted as the ugliest city in Scotland back in 2015. And it was by far, the best 5 days of my Chevening journey!
My host Allan, made sure that me and my host brother from Nigeria who is studying in Newcastle, got to see the beauty of the grey city of Aberdeen (I loved it), taste Scotland (oh that haggis), and meet wonderful people. We went to a Christmas concert and Scottish Christmas services, attended my first live football match (it was intense!), had beautiful scenic walks at the nautical village of Footie and Collieston, and listened to the stories and life lessons of one another. In the short duration that I was in North Tarbothill, the home of Lord Allan (haha), I found a family.
Thank you HOST UK for these precious memories and experiences you paved. It left an overwhelming feeling, a fresh outlook in life, and a newfound appreciation to newly built relationships. Thank you to my lovely host Allan, for I carry you with me always.
I encourage Cheveners to try out this life changing experience! You can go during the spring, summer, or anytime you feel you need a breather! It’s an opportunity to live the life of a local and make your stay here in the UK extra special.’
2. RAINBOWS AMIDST THE WINTER SKY
Brighton on the South East coast of the UK is one of the leading cities for nightlife, the arts scene, shopping, and festivals. With the slower pace of a seaside town, Brighton is a regular getaway spot for people in surrounding areas including London which is a one hour train journey away.
Wei Ping Kho, Malaysia
‘Brighton has always been associated with the beach and the Brighton Pier but this holiday season, I uncovered another charming side of Brighton beyond these attractions. Venturing around the streets of Brighton has led me to an unexpected surprise. Amidst the gloomy grey winter sky, the brightly-coloured picturesque houses lining Blaker Street pops out like the rainbow. It was such joy trying to capture the colourful sloping hill of houses!
Difficult to miss along the long stretch of pebble beach is a row of quaint Hove Beach Huts, painted in different hues. Each hut was starkly contrasting in colour and design, yet together they formed such a sight to behold.
The next day, as I made my way to the magnificent British Airways i360 tower, I was thrilled at the thought of viewing this beautiful town from another perspective. I can see the burnt West Pier standing in the water getting smaller, as the glass viewing pod slowly climbed its way up the tower. It was a splendid view of coastline and sea stretching away for miles, while at another side was buildings, high and low, expanding across the town. I walked round the circular viewing pod a few times before settling down at a corner, admiring the wondrous town as the ride comes to an end. Hopping in the bus back to London, I immediately knew that I will definitely be back to Brighton for another mini adventure, or maybe just for another dose of summer in the cold winter!’
3. THREE KEY EVENTS
The UK hosts many thousands of events in a range of categories throughout the year and this is especially true for many cities during the holiday season. Of these, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park has been a staple since it launched in 2007.
Enock Musungwini, Zimbabwe
‘My holiday season can be summed up with three key events…
Firstly, the Zimbabwe Young Achievers Awards UK held in Coventry on the 22 December 2018 at Binley Banqueting. I had the opportunity to connect with Zimbabweans, Africans, and other British artists who graced the event whilst presenting the Community Champion Award that honours Young Zimbabweans/Africans in the UK doing extraordinary things that show leadership.
Then there was Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. What an awesome event it was visiting Winter Wonderland with Zimbabwean, Indian, and Chinese student friends. It was an opportunity to mingle, have fun, and experience Winter Wonderland for the first time.
Finally, Stamford Bridge! It was a dream come true to attend a live Chelsea FC vs FC Bournemouth Quarter Final Carabao Cup Match at Stamford Bridge – home of Chelsea FC. Chelsea won the match 1-0 which made it even better.’
4. EXPLORING NORTHERN IRELAND
Northern Ireland has a unique history, culture, and landscape which should be experienced by anyone visiting the UK. In fact, it’s so unique that many production companies use its varied landscape for TV shows and films worldwide.
Wilka Embula, Namibia
‘This was the most amazing Christmas holiday away from home that one could ever dream of thanks to HostUK and my host family. The journey started off with a ferry cruise to Northern Ireland, where I spent time with my host family over Christmas Eve.
I have always wanted to experience all transport systems this world could offer us and I have already explored the road, rail, and air systems. Now I can add sailing which was a dream that came true. We had so much fun with my host family, starting by a walk in Lurgan Park and Lough Neagh a few days before Christmas. I also got the chance to attend the candle lighting sermon on Christmas Eve, get together with my host family and friends for Christmas breakfast, exchange gifts, and have dinner. After Christmas, we embarked on exploring more of Northern Ireland, visiting some familiar places especially to TV Series followers such as Tollymore Forest and Ballintoy Harbour where some episodes of Game of Thrones were filmed, and the Giant Causeway Heritage site for some fascinating geological features. What else could I ask for?!’
5. FIRST CHRISTMAS IN FIVE YEARS
Playing a major role in the history of astronomy and navigation, the Royal Observatory in Greenwich is best known for the fact that the prime meridian passes through it. For this reason, it gives its name to Greenwich Mean Time from where time is measured.
Janet Gloria Williston, Ghana
‘For the past four years, I have worked to make sure children at the Orthopaedic Training Centre in Ghana have an amazing Christmas. This means, I work through the holidays from 24 December to 2 January each year. For the first time in five years, I had six days of fun with my Friend Nura (another scholar) in London. Each experience was mesmerising; from a walk through the city to a 30 minute viewing of ‘the sky tonight’ at the planetarium of The Royal Oservatory in Greenwich. It has been the best Christmas of my life!’
6. HIKES AND JAM
Originally of Roman and Viking heritage, Yorkshire is in the north of England and is home to two national parks as well as many historic cities, towns, and structures. It is a must-see location for anyone with a love of history or simply, beautiful views.
Yousuf Alrawi, Iraq
‘I was happy when I got an email from HostUK telling me that I will have a holiday visit to the countryside of Yorkshire. I immediately contacted my host family to thank them and arrange my visit over the holiday period.
When the day came, I took the bus from Leeds to Wath village in North Yorkshire going through the countryside. Once I arrived there I had a proper afternoon cup of tea (or as the locals would call it: a cuppa) with my host family and we planned for the two days I’d be spending with them.
We started the afternoon by visiting Ripon Cathedral (one of the oldest cathedrals in England that dates back to the Medieval and Anglo-Saxon eras) with Pauline and David (my host family). We then went to wander around the area and visit several villages where only several hundred people live, visit castles, and even horse stables in a surprisingly non-rainy day.
Sharing the same interests, David and I went hiking the next day walking for 9 miles in the farms and the hills learning about birds, Yorkshire stones, and getting my shoes all muddy.
We spent the evenings having discussions about the NHS, political situations, and different cultures as well as trying different traditional UK dishes and foods from pudding to Yorkshire tea (including Marmite).
After two days I went back to Leeds with more knowledge about the UK, a new perspective, and two types of jam.’
7. GASTRONOMY IN LONDON
As one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, London is home to food from more-or-less the entire world. Combined with a strong gastronomy culture, you can experience not only local cuisines but also fusion foods unique to the diverse nature of the city.
Azim Kassim, Brunei
‘Unfortunately for my wallet and monthly Chevening stipend, I spent the festive season embarking on a gastronomic adventure in London to especially settle my Asian food cravings and try out some new places.
Amongst the highlights was this Malaysian cuisine restaurant called Roti King based in Euston as well as smaller branch in Victoria where they serve roti or essentially a puffed up – usually by the chef’s own hands – crispy flatbread served with a rich curry of your choice. I went overboard and ordered the beef rendang.
It was then off to Shoreditch where do-nut mind if I do try out this cute humble donut place called DumDum Donutterie where they have cronuts – what you get when a donut marries a croissant.
Then for some Italian desserts at this bustling vibrant place called Princi in Soho where they have my favourite dessert which is the cannoli – basically a tube shell-like pastry filled with delicious ricotta cheese.
Finally the dish that made me cry and is arguably the best meal I had in two weeks in London was the stir-fried carrot cake – ironically with no carrot in it – which is quite common in Chinese restaurants in Brunei and our neighbours Malaysia and Singapore. The Curry Laksa was hearty and delicious too.
There were more foods but sometimes one gets so hungry that one just digs in right away and forgets to take a photo of it. Overall, London is a gastronomic heaven.’
8. 40 CHEVENERS VISITING KENT
Known as the ‘garden of England’, Kent has everything from rolling hills to historic buildings to multiple beaches. Being so close to the capital, it is a frequented by both locals and tourists looking for an amazing day away.
Feifan Li and Zhang Yiwei, China
‘There’s a Chinese saying that goes: “read thousands of books and travel thousands of miles.”
After studying for the whole term, I went on a special trip with more than 40 Chinese Cheveners to Kent to celebrate the holiday season. It was amazing for all of us!
I remember we wandered in the Leeds Castle’s 900 year history, deeply impressed by its ingenious architectural style and exquisite display. I remember we fed the swans and ducks outside the castle, feeling the harmony among human, nature, and animals. I remember we strolled around the Whistable beach under lovely sunshine and had the tasty seafood leisurely along the sea.
I remember, especially, the Christmas dinner we had together. One of the Cheveners played the violin, touching everyone’s heart with the wonderful Scottish folk song. One Chevener performed Peacock dance, showing us the local customs of the Chinese Dai people. Another Chevener sang a toast song in Chinese Tibetan language, enhancing our mood to enjoy. The dinner was full of fun and sweet chatting.
All in all, celebrating a festival is about being together with the people you love, and it’s always those people that makes every ordinary day ‘THE DAY’. Thanks to my beloved Chevening family, I will always remember this trip!
Thank you to all of our scholars who submitted pictures and stories to this theme.
To submit your own pictures and stories to the latest themes, please check your most recent Scholargram for submission details.
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