Eleven of my first impressions of the UK

Eleven of my first impressions of the UK

Chevening Scholars - Class of 2019

Chevening Scholars - Class of 2019

Almost exactly one year ago, we published a blog in October to kick start the class of 2018’s scholar blogs titled, ‘Fifteen first impressions of the UK’. A year on, with a new class of scholars, we wanted to find out again what the first impressions of the UK have been like for our new scholars. At the end of their year in the UK, we will check back in with our class of 2019 to find out if their first impressions remained for the rest of their time here. Or continues to improve (we hope)!

1. SUNNY HIKES

 

Bruna Martins, Brazil

‘Despite all the talk about the rainy and windy weather in the UK, my first picture in this country is of a pretty sunny day at the Peak District. It was quite a surprise for me and I felt like it was an amazing start for this new journey. In fact, the sun was shining throughout my whole first week in Sheffield! It helped me fall in love with this city, which is the greenest in the UK. I can walk through the amazing landscapes of the Peak District, which is located right next to my door!

Fun fact: I started to believe, after this sunny week, that the weather in the UK was not so bad. Since then, it hasn’t stopped raining.’


2. MISCONCEPTIONS

Ejiro Sharon Okotie, Nigeria

‘Commencing my Chevening journey from Nigeria, I had a preconceived notion that the British were unfriendly people because of their conservativeness. This made me very worried as a blind scholar, travelling alone to begin my studies. Arriving in Heathrow, the flight attendants and airport staff were all so welcoming and kind, but I still just concluded in my mind that they had been trained to treat people nicely, and that was why they were been nice to me.

I then took the National Express Coach to Brighton and to my greatest surprise, people on the bus said hi and offered me assistance with my luggage. Even when I had a flat phone battery upon arrival, someone at the bus station offered me a power bank and shared her wi-fi network with me, which enabled me to contact my pickup person.

I have since encountered so many other local and international staff and students who have been really great to me. I feel like I’m in heaven, because members of my department are providing me with all the support I require to study and socialise with fellow course mates.

My perception has changed and I look forward to establishing life-long relationships on this Chevening journey.’


3. THE STAR WARS POSTER OF SURVIVAL

Mariia Levchenko, Ukraine

‘I started to get a feel of the UK whilst my plane was landing when I could see all of the palaces, beautiful parks, and lush green from the sky. It gives you the impression that you are entering some of your favourite books.

Arriving in Norwich was filled with a constant rush. I was trying to get my BRP (biometric residence permit), register with a medical center, police, open a bank account, and figure out what I am going to have for lunch. I tried to get to know the campus of UEA at least a little bit because it is huge and insanely beautiful. I even bought a Star Wars poster to decorate my room and a bunch of other “really useful” things because I felt like I could not survive without them. I mean, come on, who doesn’t need two fluffy blankets.

I ran in the park in the morning and felt myself like Alice in Wonderland, chasing my rabbit, as it was so quiet and peaceful before university opened its doors to all the students.

And what is more important is that I finally met all of my flatmates! They come from China, India, Turkey, and Vietnam, and we have already used World Heritage Day as an opportunity to visit some museums for free and cook together in our kitchen (and we survived)!

I bought a notebook and pen (like a good student) and am looking forward to more adventures to come.’


4. SPIRIT OF SUSSEX

 

Christelle Bay Chongwain, Cameroon

‘I had read that the British were welcoming, kind, and polite but I wasn’t sure how much more this kindness could manifest, especially as I consider the Chevening Scholarship to be the most remarkable act of kindness from the British people to the world.

Yes, the scholarship is big but sometimes, those things that add the most meaning to your life could be overlooked or appear “small”.

It was my second day at the University of Sussex. Hungry, tired, and attacked by a cold, I decided to rush to a supermarket on campus to get some chicken and oranges.

I had left my country with my Visa card and was yet to get my Chevening cashcard. With confidence, I moved around the supermarket, and selected items worth £17.

I followed the queue and when it was my turn, behold, my card didn’t work! I was advised to go to a nearby ATM and withdraw cash but it still didn’t work!

Frustrated, hungry, and sad, I left the supermarket and this lady in her early 40s followed. She had been watching my ordeal. In humility, she handed £10 to me saying, “I realised your card didn’t work. Could you please use this to sort out yourself? This has happened to me before.”

With tears in my eyes, I thanked her. I went in, reduced what I had gotten, and I came out and told her that was going to be my first meal for that day. I told her, with tears in my eyes, “You just saved a life!”

That’s the good Spirit of Sussex!’


5. CLIMBING TOWARDS MY CHEVENING JOURNEY

Joycelyn Sikalu, Tonga

‘During the first week of school at the University of Bristol, I decided to visit Bristol’s very own Cabot Tower.

My afternoon walk saw me go through the steep road leading up to Brandon Hill Park. Then, I had to walk up through a winding and even steeper pathway to reach the foot of the Cabot Tower. I then had to squeeze through the narrow, dark and, steep (again!) stairs to climb up the Tower.

Arriving at the first observatory deck, I was in a state of awe, stunned by my reward which was a 180 degrees view of Bristol city. Taking it all in is when it finally dawned on me how relatable my afternoon walk was, to my Chevening journey so far.

It has definitely been a long and winding journey with Chevening. From the application stage, to being selected conditionally, and from there to the 24 hour flight over to the UK. From the long queue at the Heathrow Airport London border control, to being greeted by the unpredictable and gloomy English weather.

I am half way through my Chevening journey (if we count the application stage), similar to my half way climb up the Cabot Tower.  The moral of the story is, that nothing worth having comes easy. I can definitely say that the Chevening Award is without a doubt worth the steep and narrow climb it took to get here.’


6. EXPLORATION AND WARMER CLOTHES

Suzane William Mollel, Tanzania

‘After arriving in Scotland, I first visited the Union Square in Aberdeen and was quite impressed with how easy it is to get around here, and the weather which is great for walking!

I took a photo with the statute of Robert Burns – the famous poet in Scotland.

I then further explored the city and found amazing street art. The artists here are quite talented and I was highly impressed!

As i continued exploring the city, I observed people skydiving just across the road which I was not expecting but I was so impressed. It looked like a lot of fun and safe too – even children were doing it! Quite fascinating, isn’t it?

I wanted to continue my exploration by trying some new foods here and many were quite different from what I eat back home, but ridiculously tasty nonetheless.

I ended by doing some shopping for next winter because everyone who has seen my outfits warned me that I would need warmer clothes for the winter, but my experience with the weather so far hasn’t been so bad.

Simply put, Aberdeen is just a great place to be!’


7. CHANGING IMPRESSIONS

Yanwei Han, China

‘Within the first three weeks of moving to Glasgow, my thoughts and impressions about the city changed three times.  

As a Chinese person who spent several years studying, working, and travelling in the United States, the comparison of cities between UK and U.S came naturally for me.

Before I came to the University of Glasgow, my impression of the city was “Boston in UK”. Both are not big cities yet are filled with historical buildings, cathedrals, and universities.

After some reading about the city, I started to compare Glasgow with Chicago. Both were once heavy industrialised powerhouses with wealth and glory, struggled in the globalisation era yet are determined to regenerate themselves nowadays.

My third and last impression (so far) on the city of Glasgow changed as I spent more and more time walking and living in the city, as an international student as well as a newcomer. I had many chances to meet and talk to local people, whether it was during the police registration, opening a bank account, or dining in a local restaurant to have the traditional dish haggis. I was impressed by the friendliness of the people – they are so willing to help. I began to realise that Glasgow is just Glasgow. It is unique in a lot of ways with whisky, as a merchant city, and most importantly, with its people.

I think I’ve begun to love this city already.’


8. PARKS OF LONDON

Julia Affonso, Brazil

‘London is a massive city, with a lot of museums, stores, beautiful streets, and also a place with loads of parks. I’ve been trying to visit as many as I can since I arrived here. I have already spent some afternoons at the more famous ones like Kensington Gardens and London Fields, and other not so internationally famous ones such as Hackney Downs.

The one that really caught my attention was Primrose Hill in north London, from where you have an amazing view across the city. The park is so silent that it seemed like I was in the countryside. I went there on a Sunday afternoon at around 5.30pm, and I stayed to watch the sunset over the city. I highly recommend Primrose Hill for a visit or maybe for a picnic with friends. It’s really close to Regent’s Park which is yet another great place to spend some time.’


9. HISTORY, EVERYWHERE

Takehito Kawakami, Japan

‘The first impression I had with the city of Cambridge was “history”. First of all, the University of Cambridge is an (over) 800 year old university and is the second oldest university in the English-speaking world. It consists of 31 colleges and one step inside any of these colleges, and you can literally feel the history all around you. From the oldest college, Peterhouse, established in 1284, to the newest college, Robinson College, established in 1977, I have been amazed by the gorgeous architectures, paintings, courts, and more.

The picture I’ve chosen is the picture of the famous King’s College, which is one of the most famous college in Cambridge. This was one the first colleges I visited when I first arrived in Cambridge, and this is one of those memorable moments that I will be remembering forever.

However, the colleges aren’t the only places with history in Cambridge. If you wander around the city, you might a come across a pub which is famous for the announcement of discovery of the DNA double-helix by two famous Nobel laureates, or find a huge park which is apparently the birthplace of the original “football rules”.

Anywhere I go in Cambridge, there is always some sort of history that amazes me. I am very excited that I will be living in this historical city for the next year, and I can’t thank Chevening enough for providing such a great opportunity to me!’


10. AN EARLY LESSON IN BRITISH WEATHER

Shanoy Harris Coombs, Jamaica

‘What a welcome!

I arrived in Sheffield and was pleased to find the sun was out in full force. As an island girl, it made my heart smile. When my faculty leaders asked who would join them for the meet and greet hike, I thought it was a no brainer.

“Oh this is easy” I thought “I’ve done this a million times back home”.

While it began like a typical hike with lots of chatter, a casual pace, warmed up limbs, and the removal of jackets, it was anything but typical.

We hiked for a bit, stopped to take photos with these goats grazing peacefully in the meadow and then we crossed to the other side of the road and literally watched the transition as we stepped from sunshine into rain!

The rest of the journey was cold, wet, and dreary through the pasture, on the roads, along fields, and rocky pathways at Peak Point. In the end, we were soaked head to toe.

My professor actually laughed about my using an umbrella for a walk through the countryside. I was ill prepared for both the hike and the weather but it was a lesson worth having early. It made me discover sooner rather than later that no day is “typical” in the UK and you should always plan for rain.’


11. NAPS ON THE GRASS

 

Ragene Palma, Philippines

‘For someone who advocates for open green spaces for healthier and more sustainable cities in a congested metropolitan (Manila), living next to Regent’s Park is refreshing. Walking through the park to the university every day is quite the experience. There are swans, birds, squirrels, puppies, royal gardens, roses, and fountains, and there are many friendly people to talk to!

The park’s gardens are so royally picturesque and relaxing, giving passersby a breather from London’s hustle and bustle. The leaves on the trees and shrubs have turned from green to yellowish-green in the short span of September to October, and the air has blown colder, making walks along the pathways a little more nostalgic each day. So far, walking through Regent’s Park has been for delight, reflection, and rest (naps on the grass are great!), and I’m hoping to enjoy it as much as I can before winter comes.’


Thank you to all of our scholars who submitted pictures and stories to this theme.

For submissions to future scholar blogs, please find full details including current themes in the scholar Facebook group and in your monthly Scholargram newsletters.

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