We have come to the end of semester one. Are you surprised? Imagine international students here at Cardiff are. Didn’t we just start our classes the other day? Didn’t we hug people and bid them goodbye saying we will be back home in a year’s time, which sounded like a lifetime? Ahem, that year is almost coming to an end. Yes, if the end of semester one is anything to go by.
I will explain our shock. I will try and make it practical for you to understand, from an international student’s perspective. Our semester started in late September 2019, 23rd September to be precise – a four-month semester. In between we had a midterm of some sort. It is what they call ‘reading week’ I can’t remember if I read anything during that time. I gave myself a break and slept – I love my sleep, so it’s always the right thing to do for me. I should have been wiser. If only I knew.
See, as an international student, you are dealing with many things. You are dealing with panic attacks and all forms of anxiety- separation anxiety, settling down anxiety, worry about whether you will like your housemates, or whether they will tolerate you and your personality, worry about your classmates and your lecturers, will you like them, will you understand their accents – will they understand yours, will you meet people you like and call them friends, people you genuinely like, how will you tell between fake and genuine friends? Will you like your house well enough to call it home for some time, how will you deal with loneliness abroad, will you have enough money to cater for life abroad, should you consider taking a side job, do you have the time for it, how will you deal with homesickness? How about the confusing London transport system? Did they say that when one is tired of London they are tired of life? Well, I still love my life, but, London leaves me broke, so I am tired of London. How about the weather? Some of us, our bodies were not made to deal with temperatures below 5 degrees. Our skin breaks out and we have no energy to deal with it. How about the many apps and passwords to remember? Man, it has been hard. You are in constant motion and your mind, body and soul are on the move. You are asleep but you are awake. Your spirit and body are in two different worlds. You live in a world of waking up and reassuring yourself ‘You got this. You can make it’ and before you know it, a semester has come to an end. By the way, how long does it take for one to completely master the various denominations of the UK currency? I struggle. You see, in Kenya, we stopped using cents long time ago. We only have one, five, ten and tweny (twenty) shillings coins. Simple and straight forward.
With some of my classmates at the Prince of Wales after submission of the final assignment
There’s a culture that I have seen in Cardiff University and well, I understand it too well. My classmates and our crop of Cheveners have made a deliberate decision to celebrate end of every assignment. Lately, it has been parte after parte. See, writing 4,000 words essay is not a joke. No, its not, especially when the question itself is about 300 words. It is hard understanding a 300 worded assignment.
You read it all, then you get lost. You start again, read it in bits. Break it down into 50s, then 100s (maybe even into cents … like their currency) then read it again and again and you end up saying…I really don’t understand what is expected of me. You meet your fellow students around the school corridors, and they go like “Did you understand the question? Should we add..xyz, does it mean…abc? You feel good because, misery loves company. You are glad to know that you are all sailing in the same boat. You either swim or sink 😊(Hey Sanjana)
This conversation moves from the school corridors to the class digital chat and reading comments in there, you understand that confusion is real. The same question is being answered in ten different ways and in all those ten different ways, none is close to what you have done. Now you are at 2,500 words. Stuck and you are sure that this approach won’t work. You won’t make it to 4,000 words, you are completely unable to reason beyond 2,500. In addition to that, you are not even sure if these words make any sense.
You take a walk then come back. Stare at your laptop, read the question again and decide, let me take a different approach. So, after three weeks of writing 2,500 words, you have hit a dead end. The solution, Control -All-Delete. You hear a voice asking you…are you sure you want to delete all this effort? You answer yourself, but of course. I don’t have 1,500 to finalize on this essay. I can’t do it. Are you sure? The voice asks you again. Now you are getting mad. Then you click, delete and save the page afresh. This means, you have deleted all your writing. But it is okay to delete it. It wasn’t making sense even to you. How was it going to make sense to the lecturer?
You have deleted your assignment, one that you struggled to put together in three weeks. Now you have 4 days to go. Confused and bored, all hear is a song playing in your head…..Yesuuu..nitie nguvu, nimalize mwendo salamaaaaa! It can’t stop playing in your head. You look for it on You Tube and you play it looped in the background as you gather your thoughts afresh. baf88f27-0f2a-44ad-a7c9-b67c2ebf55f5
Well, it is practically impossible to deliver 4,000 words in 4 days. Impossible. You are tempted to ask for an extension, but this might just mean cooking a lie to justify as to why you need an extension. You are not ready to lie.
So, what do you do in 4 days …you start afresh and decide trans-nighting is the way to go? You do it, just for the sake of getting to 4,000 words. Two minutes before the deadline, assignment submitted. Case closed. Happy with yourself, no, not at all. Now, you can only pray that your lecturer understands that….. in any badly performed essay or assignment, no student plans to fail, but there are circumstances beyond their control that makes them fail, including, not understanding a long-phrased question. It is complicated and complicates our lives. Please read this blog post, you will understand the pressures of word count.
Truth is, we all landed here with expectations of getting a distinction, now the vibe has changed to “You know what, getting the knowledge is more important, we don’t have to get distinctions. These grades are overrated” I laugh at such comments, because I know exactly what they mean. It means, people have started receiving their results and it’s not looking good…hahahahhah! I feel you, yes, distinctions are overrated, but please, don’t give up on your distinction dreams. Every dream is valid but as we say in Kenya, bora uhai “of importance is life” hahahaha!
So how has your semester been? “It feels like a flash. It feels like I have lived my semester in four days. Landed in the UK on day one, day two started class, day three I had exams and day four my semester ended” Remarked Tassio, a Chevener from Mozambique.
“I cannot believe we have come to the end of semester one. When did it begin? It sure went way too fast. Just as I was catching my breath, it was done. Now I get to understand what everyone meant when they said this was going to be the fastest and shortest year of our lives”. Remarked Tshepo, a Chevener from Botswana.
Well, Chevening wants us to have a fruitful experience in the UK. Now, that I have been to London enough times, how about ticking some other destinations on my “Places to visit while in the UK?” This weekend, my bags are ready and my flight ticket is ready. I am off to Scotland. All along I thought it was a city within the UK, not until I started booking my ticket that I realised it will take me almost 10 hours road or train and I was like, where is this place? Then, I realised it’s a country within the UK. I am informed that the Scottish people have a different accent altogether and that’s the first thing I will notice upon arrival. Once I am back, I will tell you about it. This is part of rewarding myself for managing 10,000 words in semester one!
See you again next week, Inshallah. #MyCheveningJourney #IAmChevening