Brunel’s One World Week

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This week on campus Brunel held a week-long series of diverse fayres and activities called “One World Week.”

Societies all over campus, particularly national and religious societies, plan year-round for this event as its one of Brunel’s largest campus-wide events of the year. Events this year included an international food fayre, a variety of charity and volunteer-recruitment events, special speakers, cultural arts and dance activities, traditional musical performances representing a variety of countries, free hugs, martial arts taster sessions, and a ton more.

Because Brunel is such an international campus, this week-long plethora of festivities is a great opportunity to educate yourself on the cultural backgrounds represented across campus and get to know your fellow course mates in a different context.

So grab a hold of your chance to gain some super valuable cultural knowledge and go!

Caravan to Cambridge

This past weekend, my Bulgarian buddy Dimitrya and ginger-milk-tea-makin’ flatmate Mohammed joined Brunel International on a trip to beautiful, historical, über-intellectual Cambridge!

We kicked off the day with an hour-and-a-half tour that took us around the university town, through King’s College, it’s chapel, about the town and to the market. Here are a few interesting things we learned along the way:

1. Everything is intellectual, including the grass.
The grass situated within the college courtyards is strictly prohibited- unless you are one of the unversity’s “Fellows”. While it might seem as though Cambridge took “worshipping the ground they walk on” a bit too literally, this was historically an exchange. Up until 1882, Fellows were not allowed to marry. Somehow, Cambridge elites felt that a few square meters of grass was a fit exchange for this sacrifice and the tradition has held.

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2. The Chapel of King’s College has seen it all.
From lapsed construction during the famous “War of the Roses”, to Henry VIII’s six wives, to the threats of WWII, this chapel has stood the test of time. This chapel was easily my favourite part of the tour as its incredible interior, which is a spectacular sight to see in itself, demonstrates so much of England’s history. I won’t share too much detail because I think experiencing the history is too much part of the tour to give away, but one of the most interesting historical aspects of this building is its expansive stained glass windows. Henry VIII funded and supported their construction and installation, and during WWII each panel was painstakingly deconstructed, numbered and packed away in cellars in an attempt to protect them in the face of bomb threats. If memory serves me correctly, it took 3+ years to reinstall each panel.
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3. The pompous pundit’s preferred past-time: Punting.
Beyond these breath-taking brainiacs who are so obviously representing the elite pedantry of Cambridge, you’ll find boats that look akin to the gondolas you might see in Italy. Here, in a city so self-congratulatory that it refers to their rival city Oxford as “the other place”, they bypass any and all recognised watercraft terminology and refer to this sport of “leisure and pleasure” as punting. Visitors can take hour-long rides in the moats around the town, which were originally built and used by the Vikings for trade.
ImageImage4. Cambridge is a goldmine for arts, crafts, clothing and food markets.
At the end of the tour, we meandered through Cambridge’s main market, through some of it’s enchanting side streets and stumbled on another arts & crafts market not too far away. Despite my grad student’s budget, Dimitrya and I couldn’t resist these brainiac beanies that not only increased our IQ with the subtle intellect woven into its knit, but looked fabulous and were only £5 each!
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5. Surprises around every corner.
Distinguished graduates in furry grad gowns, musicians hiding in rubbish bins, tourist trolls hiding behind wooden doors- there’s no end to the list of pleasant surprises we found around the university that graduated world-renowned game-changers like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin.

ImageOne quick tip: there is plenty of free things to see and do around Cambridge if you plan ahead and allot yourself enough time (we had hoped to stop in at the Fitzwilliam Museum, but ran short on time.) Eats at the markets are cheap, many of Cambridge’s 8 museums are free, and there are performers galore about the city to see.

Thanks to Brunel International for another successful student trip!

Fightin’ the Flu in a Foreign Country

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If any of you are like me, you know that nothing soothes a flu like some good ol’ comfort food made by mom. So what happens when mom (and all food that brings comfort) is 12,000 miles and an ocean away?

As I’ve mentioned before in blogs like Birthday Abroad, Flat 66 is quite the international situation. While the Cross-Cultural Psych program I came here to study in has offered it’s fair share of theory and proper methodology, the most cross-cultural learning I’ve had this year has taken place right here in the flat. We’ve got reps from Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kazakhstan, Greece, Malaysia, England, and Vietnam with visitors from an endless list of countries around the world. Needless to say, our kitchen becomes a chaotic storm of all kinds of cooking; we’ve got pancakes on Sunday, kabsa almost every night, moussaka when the Greek is cookin’, keppenaya when the Syrian treats us and samsas for dinner occasions (just to name a few!)

While the comforts of home aren’t easily at hand, the beauty of this kind of environment is that you’re learning about the comforts of others, who share them with you in moments of need. This week, fightin’ a fever and nasty cold, my comfort food came from my super amazing Saudi neighbour, Mohammed, who made me Ginger Milk Tea – Zanjabeel ma Haleeb – to get me on the mend.

Thanks Mohammed!

Reading Week: Weekend Trips and Workshops

About halfway through each term at Brunel (and many universities throughout the U.K.), students are given what’s referred to as a “Reading Week.” From my understanding, the administration provides this time for students to break from the classroom for a bit, dive further into their reading lists and work independently on any upcoming presentations, projects or papers. However, the general consensus among students seems to be that this is a time to dive further into their bucket lists and work independently on that New Years resolution to hit Morocco.

Unfortunately I didn’t book any wild benders to Barcelona or Paris this reading week, but before coming home to a plethora of plans digging deeper into the dissertation madness and workshops galore to fix up my CV, I did take three days to satiate my inner mermaid and hit Brighton with a flatmate and some friends.

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After seeing the Brighton Pier, the Royal Pavilian, the Brighton Art Museum, here were a few noteworthy not-so-touristy spots we hit in the hipster’s seaside hot spot:

1. The Black Lion – This pub/grub/jazz club was the perfect spot to hit our first night in Brighton. Despite the fact that this place shuts down around 11pm and leaves your inner party animal stranded with few other options, it’s worth checking out. The music was great, the food was beyond satisfying (I suggest the Potato Chorizo Salad, it was the right mix of salty-meaty-vinagarettey for a salad) and the prices aren’t too outrageous.

2. The North Laine – I couldn’t believe that we almost missed these streets! Luckily for us, a local hotel concierge gave us stellar directions to a record shop located in this area, and we were SO glad he did. These lanes will find you wandering through vegan and vegetarian cafes, bakeries, music shops, coffee shops, record shops, vintage clothing shops, handmade clothing and jewellery shops GALORE.

3. Brighton Marina – Again, with the luck of a helpful local barista, we were directed to hop on the Brighton&Hove #7 bus to the Brighton Marina. After a mortifying bus trip (I swear the bus drivers in Brighton are retired Fast & Furious stunt doubles) we reached the breath-taking views of the ritzy yachts in the marina and the endless cliffs that follow the shoreline. Sunset was the best time to be there, the light adds to the magic!

4. The Mask – When you’ve had your dinner, had your drinks, hit Brighton’s apparent 10 o’clock curfew and your inner party animal is itching for a little more adventure, this is the place to go! You’ll find it packed full of the best hip’n’grunge Brighton has to offer, shouting and dancing to the best cheese 90’s pop music had to offer. Make sure you try the Tuaca- though you can find this sweet liquor virtually anywhere in the U.K., it’s a tradition Brighton bender favourite.