My Chevening month: Discovering more about yourself in January

08 Feb 2018
Christine Franciska Social Media Ambassador

January is a stepping stone. It is a perfect time to step out of your comfort zone and do things that you want to do.

And that is what I did. New events to attend, new network, new projects, and new goals. Overall, it was a fantastic winter: hard to forget.

The city where I live

New Year’s Eve was one of the memorable ones as I had a chance to watch fireworks near London Eye with my Chevening friends. Despite hours of walking, standing, and waiting, the experience was awesome. I remember how sweet it was: groovy songs played in the background, the new year countdown, beautiful fireworks, and us - hugging and wishing each other a happy new year. ‘Let’s travel more!’ one of my friends shouted enthusiastically. I nodded instantly and shook her hand. ‘Deal! Let’s do it!’ I said.

This new energy, I think, is the one that we relied on during the first week of January. After the new year, everybody rushed back to Coventry. The mood suddenly shifted from festive to tense. Yes! Essays’ deadlines were approaching. In my head, things were getting wild. ‘What should I write? I need to read more! I can’t build a solid argument from these!’

There was one time we spent all night in the library. We were drinking coffee, eating pizza, all while talking about the difficulties we had (it’s not healthy, I didn’t recommend this). But, studying with friends is the best. They always lift you up when you feel down! My precious!

A new year in London with very cool friends. What else you need?
A new year in London with very cool friends. What else you need? 

A new term began right after that. The second week of January we were back to class learning new modules and facing new challenges. I was excited when I saw the campus filled with students again and finally met my classmates. Other than that, the University of Warwick always offers different kinds of activities and societies. I had a chance to volunteer at Coventry Food Bank to sort food for the ones who need it, as well as being involved in a mapping community, a group of people who are passionate about mapping vulnerable areas in developing countries.

Another highlight of this month is my experience spending one weekend with a British family. Thanks to the Host UK program, I met John and Jenny, a retired couple who kindly introduced some bits of British culture. It included: drinking tea with milk, a walk in the park, Yorkshire pudding, and a 500-year history of Baddesley Clinton (a manor house which was also a sanctuary for the persecuted Catholic priests in 1590s). A weekend very well spent!

First time to taste Yorkshire Pudding
First time to taste Yorkshire Pudding!

The month was ended by a visit to Cardiff where I met the best tour guide ever (my fellow Chevening Social Media Ambassador, James G Matheson). Cardiff is weird in a very good way, and it is so easy to fall in love with the city. Welsh cakes, tiny secret statues, a unique local language, and Cardiff Bay. A lovely trip even on a rainy day. How could I resist?

Rainy Cardiff
Rainy Cardiff

And finally, we cannot talk about January without talking about ‘change’. I am trying to avoid the ‘new year, new me’ cliché, but it is nice to have a specific goal for you in mind. And this year, I committed to invest my time with people around me and have valuable friendships. I want to live in a present moment, enjoy and appreciate little things, as well as fight for the values I believe in.

A little project: I asked people I’ve met to draw their face on a book

Beyond all the experiences, a Chevening journey, I think, is about answering the question that Lord Hastings asked during the Chevening Orientation event in October. ‘Why do you exist? And what will you do with the privileged assets you obtain?’ he asked us. Five months in the UK and I keep thinking about this, and I try to figure it out.

Of course, I know more about myself now. I don’t like Marmite. I am addicted to digestive biscuits. I appreciate the sun more and I am very grateful to have a hot shower in a cold, bleak winter. I value friendship and good deeds more than I did before. I love my country more as I am embracing other cultures. And I am getting more and more critical of the world and the system we live. But how I can answer this question?

I believe that there is another question that needs to be answered before I find out first. It is a quest about choosing who I want to be. And what kind of person I am. Lord Hastings’ favourite poem (now my favourite too) somehow guided me to find the answer. So, I made this video with friends as a reminder.

‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling.