Category Archives: Teaching and education

Final semester at SEK

The third and final semester of my placement here in Madrid has been eventful. A lot has been going on at school and I’ve done some exciting activities during this time. Work has been busy because the academic year is coming to an end so we’re having to sort out all the end of year grades, evaluations etc. The weather has drastically changed and we’re not in out high 20 degrees every single day – so nice! This is probably the one thing I will miss the most when I leave! ^^’

El Escorial – farm school : 27.04 – 29.04 

So, I got rewarded a two night three day school trip to the farm school back in May for my consistent hard work. My teacher and co-ordinator suggested this idea and I couldn’t have been happier. I was thankful and grateful that they managed to do this for me. I had such a great few days spending time with my teachers outside of the classroom! We had good food and spent the days laughing at the talking parrots ^^’ I’ll always be grateful for this reward because it showed that hard work really does pay off and it never goes unnoticed.

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Madrid Zoo Aquarium : May 2nd 

Since the weather was getting better, I decided to take a trip to Madrid’s zoo/aquarium! It was only 20 euros for entrance to both the zoo AND aquarium – bargain right?! It’s definitely worth a visit… we saw lots of animals, including BEARS!

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Madrid Open 2016 QF : 05.05

One of the highlights of my placement is watching Nadal play tennis live! I watched him play in the Madrid Open semi finals and it was amazing. The atmosphere was amazing! It’s such a shame that he lost in the semi finals but nevertheless, I still got to see him play 🙂 the stadium was very cool.

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Faunia : 26.05

Last Thursday, I went on yet another school trip to Faunia which was like a small zoo for children! My class are currently learning about animals so it was perfect for them to go and investigate about all the different animals that exist. This was my final school trip with my class and it was bitter sweet. I’ve been on 4 trips with these kids and I’ve loved every single one. Nothing beats seeing them smile so much when they’re away from the class ^^’

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As you can see, I’ve had quite a busy final semester… and I’ve been having such a great time! It’s sad to think that it’ll all be over in a matter of days!

Tiffany

 

 

 

 

 

Bonjour à tous!

If you’re interested in visiting or maybe even taking a placement in France, I’d recommend one city, and one city only: Toulouse.

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I lived in La Ville Rose for my first semester of my Year Abroad, where I undertook a Work Placement with Air France as an English Tutor. It was the most rewarding, challenging and enjoyable six months, and I’m dying to tell people about this small, beautiful and quirky city in Southern France.

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I first arrived in Toulouse at the beginning of July. My Dad drove all the way from my hometown (near Portsmouth) to Toulouse in one day. It was a journey that I thought would never end, firstly because it’s a 9 hour drive from Caen, Normandy to Toulouse; and secondly because I was so nervous to finally arrive, part of me wanted to stay in the car. But at the height of summer, the further south we drove, the hotter it became. When we finally arrived in Toulouse, the temperature was 36·c, and I really did want to get out of the car.

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The first thing that I noticed in Toulouse was pink. Everywhere. There’s a reason that the French refer to this as The Pink City: The architecture is superb and something exclusive to the Toulouse region. For the whole six months I was in Toulouse, I never stopped marveling at how beautiful the buildings all over the city were.

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The city is very well organised, with such friendly people (this is where Toulouse wins hands down against Paris). It has 2 metro lines, a tram and bus; and if you’re a student, you get to use unlimited transport for just 10€ a month! Even better: If you’re on a work placement with a big company, they pay for 50% of your transport… This made my fee just 5€!

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What’s more, I got to spend my summer discovering the south of France and even parts of Spain, seeing as Barcelona is only a 3 hour car journey away, it’d be rude not to hop down to sunny Spain! During my time in Toulouse, I managed to visit: Lourdes, Carcassonne, Agen, Albi, Montpellier, Béziers, Sitges, Barcelona, Madrid, Salamanca and Sevilla.

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My work placement with Air France taught me so many things. I absolutely cannot recommend this placement enough. The staff in Toulouse are an absolute delight. After a week, I felt right at home. Not only were they welcoming, but they were so enthusiastic to learn what I had to teach them about the English language, no matter their level of English.

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It taught me to be creative and really have fun with my work, because I knew how much it was appreciated by my students. Thanks to my placement there, I have become a lot more patient, organised and prepared. I was so happy to have a job that I looked forward to going to every day.

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I was the only Aston student out in Toulouse this year, which had both its advantages and disadvantages. I study French and Spanish, so my only objective was to improve my French, which is always easier when you’re not surrounded by English speakers. I also got to keep this little slice of French heaven to myself and it meant that I really had to throw myself in at the deep end. I was on a work placement, thus making it really difficult to meet other people my age. But I got there, after numerous tandems and erasmus events, I met people and made friends.

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One thing that I regret about Toulouse is my living arrangements. I feel this is too important to leave out of my Toulouse experience, and I’d say to anyone to meet the people you live with before moving in. My flat was in a beautiful quarter of Toulouse, in the centre. However, the devil does exist; it wears orange leggings and was my landlady who lived with me. I’m not joking when I say that I was chased out of my own house, shouted at, and generally been taken for a complete and utter idiot. “The nightmare” stole my keys, didn’t care if I couldn’t get in at night, asked me to clean a toilet with my bare hands, and even went as far as washing my baguette. So please, if a lady called Martine offers you residence in Toulouse, say NO. But she has equipped me with enough storytelling for a lifetime, I’ll thank her for that!

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But as far as Toulouse goes, it’s an incredible city, there’s always something happening: from quirky little markets to gatherings at Capitole. This is my favourite French city for a reason. It has the buzz of any big city, yet a local, familiar atmosphere, which is what made it feel like a second home to me.

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Even though I haven’t been back to Toulouse since December, I still feel like I’m going back tomorrow. It felt so much like home. I seemed to know this foreign, French city 100 times better than my university city of Birmingham… That really does say something about how welcoming TLS is.

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Thanks to my time in the most beautiful city in France, my French speaking has dramatically improved, I’ve made some friends for life, and I discovered a truly French atmosphere.

Toulouse, it’s been a pleasure.

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À bientôt,

Amy Hares

 

What it’s like living abroad / in Spain

Living abroad is a scary yet exciting decision to make. It’s slightly different from moving away to live out for University since you can just casually take the train home whenever you like and whenever you’re missing your mum’s home cooked food. It’s a whole different story when you live in another country. It’s a new experience that you will remember for the rest of your life and it’s the honestly the best opportunity to learn to be independent and to gain new experiences. You decide where you would like to go and ‘break free’ from your standard home routine.

One of the biggest perks of living in a country like Spain is definitely the weather. From August to late October, the weather is beautiful (still)… but from then on, it gets a colder. Most people (myself included) assume that Spain is ‘hot’ all year round… please do NOT make the mistake of thinking this! It is most definitely not good weather all year round as I have experienced heavy rain, strong winds …almost as bad as England! Ok, maybe that was slightly exaggerated.

If you live out for University then you’re pretty much half way there to living abroad. You’ve already entered the independent life and you’re fine to fend for yourself (kinda). If you’re lucky like me, you’ll meet great people on your placement and you’ll make lots of friends! But some aren’t as lucky and find themselves quite lonely – it’s really important to venture out and at least attempt to meet new people…otherwise you’ll be isolating yourself in a foreign country that barely speaks your language! Believe me, you don’t want this to happen to you.

Money is something you have to personally watch over when you’re living abroad because before you know it, 3/4 of your Erasmus has gone and you don’t realise what and where you’ve spent it all on! Most the times you will eat lunch or dinner out and eventually that will add up. If you have a kitchen, try and cook as much as possible! But that’s not saying you can’t go out and treat yourselves to a nice meal every so often. Thankfully, we have our Erasmus and Student Loan to rely on and think about getting a part time job whilst you’re out there. I currently tutor three students every Saturday for two hours for extra English classes. My placement is unpaid so I took the initiative to get myself a job to earn some income.

Transport is great in Madrid – I pay 20 euros a month for access to the metro and buses which saves SO much money. One journey to Madrid city centre from where I live costs 3 euros 60 alone. If you’re from London, then you’ll be more than used to using the underground or taking buses… if you’re not, you’ll learn to use the metro ever so quickly and nowadays, we have smartphone apps to help us get around on them! It’s all about learning and finding your way.

Be open to trying new things…this is important. Wherever you end up, the country might not be 100% to your likings and it might not offer everything you’re used to having. Travel to different cities, try new food, meet new people – just have as much fun as possible and make the most of your time abroad. There are tons of different cuisines in Madrid – from the typical Spanish tapas to Japanese food, Chinese, Indian, Turkish etc.

The Spanish culture is very different from the English. In Spain, everyone is very laid back and some people are not so polite. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving involved on the metro and lack of personal space. But this is something that you get used to …eventually! Your normal dinner 6:30/7pm dinner routine will be pushed back to 8pm, sometimes 8:30pm. Again, something you have to adapt to and you learn about another culture whilst on your year abroad ~

The last thing you want to do is finish your year abroad regretting this and that – so make the most of it and choose your destination wisely 🙂

Tiffany

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A Day in the Life of My Placement

Before I write any more about the challenges and experiences of my time in Vietnam, I thought I’d give you all some more information on what I actually do on my placement.

I’m on a working placement in Danang, Vietnam as an IELTS instructor at VNUK, a new, Western-style University partnered with Aston,  and a day here is a lot different to a day as a university student.

6am: The Alarm goes off

The Vietnamese day starts a lot earlier than the British one, and I’m in work at 8am. (I’m never complaining about a 9am lecture again!)

7.45am: Coffee Time!

A Vietnamese coffee goes a long way to help me cope with such an early start. Stronger, sweeter and icier than the coffee I’m used to, I think I’m addicted.


8am: Work starts

After a quick moped ride, navigating the hectic streets of Da Nang, I get to the office at 8, check some emails and make some final preparations for that morning’s lesson.

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10am: Lesson time

I tutor university students in English and it’s my favourite time of day. Despite all the challenges (I’m sorry to all my teachers for ever talking in class- it’s so frustrating!) it’s really rewarding to be able to see students improve every week. My students are friendly, engaging and fun to spend time with, saying goodbye to them will be one of the hardest parts of leaving this placement.

11.30am A snack and a nap

We are given a nice long lunch, so after a trip to my favourite restaurant (I don’t even have to order any more, they just see me walk in and my food appears) I give myself a refreshing nap – it’s like I’m still at university really.

1pm: Back to work

After I’ve woken myself up I finish up my lesson plan for the afternoon and catch up with any marking I need to do.

3pm: English Club

Once a week we run an English club called Tea Time Talk. This offers a more relaxed environment where we get to teach students about life in Britain, and help them improve their English with informal conversation.

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5pm End of work – to the gym

Weekends are spent on the beach, which means weekdays are spent at the gym, and who wouldn’t want to work out to Vietnamese dance music next to a woman wearing denim shorts with no air conditioning?

7pm: Grab some street food

The best way to dine in Vietnam! Sitting on chairs that are way too small, eating delicious food of slightly dubious origin, drinking a cold beer and watching city life pass you by. This is the life.

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I hope this gives a bit of an insight into how I spend my days here, after 6 months here (where did that time go??) I’m now used to all the subtle differences that working life in Asia offers. I don’t even look twice at the sight of a moped with 5 people on it and torrential downpours are really no biggie. And with a schedule like this, I have really been able to focus on refining my napping skills!

Thanks for reading!

How I got my Placement | What my Placement is.

As promised, I’m going to tell you all about my Placement and how I got it.

During the summer holidays of summer 2014, I had already started thinking about placement and what exactly I wanted to do. I’ve been wanting to be a teacher for a very long time and with the help of working at KUMON for three years, I was able to comfortably decide on which field I wanted to get myself involved in – teaching. Originally, I had the idea of teaching in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is basically my second home – where my parents were born. I love the country. I spent a few weeks emailing International schools in HK asking whether they would take on an intern for one year. To my disappointment, all responses were negative. Nowhere in Hong Kong were looking for/taking on Undergraduates with no real qualifications… Which is fair enough. It was definitely worth asking! Even if I did get a ‘no’ from everyone. I then decided to stop looking as it was during our summer vacation so I didn’t really want to stress myself out before second year of University had even started!

Second year had started and that was when the real search began. I turned to Aston Futures. I’m sure you are very familiar with Aston Futures by now…and if you’re not, what are you waiting for? Get yourself in there with the website! I actually began looking for teaching internships in Asia… There were many on offer in China, Vietnam, but they weren’t quite what I was looking for! So after a while, I gave up                  …on looking for teaching placements in HK.

My next option would be to do my year abroad somewhere in Europe and to my luck, there were several teaching opportunities in Spain – I guess you could say I was spoilt for choice! So in November 2014, I applied for a TA – teaching assistant role at a Spanish International School called SEK El Castillo, Madrid. I was nervous to apply because it was my first placement application but with the ever so useful help from the Blackboard resources, I was able to update my pretty non-existent CV and write up a well-written cover letter. A few days later of applying to this placement, I received an email offering an interview! I was quite surprised at how quickly the process was going – of course, I didn’t know what to expect, being my first application.

The Interview
My interview was held via Skype and was not as formal as I thought it would be. I had prepared by researching the institution and practiced speaking with a confidence attitude. Again, I used Blackboard to help me with what I should expect during the interview.
The questions asked weren’t as ‘serious’ as they could have been. I’ve heard about job interviews and the random questions they ask you to catch you out but my interview was more of a ‘get to know you better’ one. My employer asked several questions from my first year grades to what I want to do in the future to do you like to clean. (Quite a selection, eh?)
I think my interview went fairly well and I was even told that I was ‘beautifully spoken’!
I was told that I’d get told whether I’d been shortlisted in a couple of months so it was a pure waiting game from then on.

On January 23rd 2015, I was offered the role. I received an email of congratulations in the afternoon and I was ecstatic! I didn’t stop applying for other placements after this one – I think I applied for 4 or 5 in total so it felt amazing to be offered the job by the first application!

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What is my placement? 
My job role is an English Teaching Assistant at a Spanish International School called SEK El Castillo, Madrid. I live next to the school in University halls with full board – this means, I have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the school canteen.

I assist two classes of 20 students (40 in total) and I work with Primary 1 (kids aged 5-7). Some of my responsibilities are;

  • marking work
  • checking their diaries
  • playground and lunch duty
  • preparing classroom materials
  • creating presentations for the school blog
  • taking/picking them up from swimming

I actually don’t speak much Spanish myself but I’ve found that I’ve picked up some words and phrases during my first 4 months here in Spain, so I feel like I can understand a little more than I did before. It also helps that the majority of my students can speak English, despite being so young.

Sometimes I teach the classes alone when the teachers are off sick or busy with some other job – this is a great opportunity for me to gain some teaching experience! After all, I’m just an assistant. But saying that, my teacher treats me like another teacher and my students give me full respect of that role.

Working with young children is rewarding and fun…they always know how to make you smile and your relationship with the students grow ever so quickly. I feel like I’ve grown closer to all of them so much and I know that they appreciate my presence (they tell me off when I am not there haha).

If you’re someone who enjoys working with children and being creative, then teaching could be the role for you. You’re not restricted to one role… you play a big part within the classroom and you’re always occupied.

Feel free to comment with any questions!

– Tiffany

My Class

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Surprising Things I had to Adjust to after Moving to Vietnam for Placement

So there are some things you expect when you move to a developing country, and some things that take a little more adjustment. After six months on placement here, here are some of the things I’ve had to get used to since moving to Vietnam.

1.  You’re going to be sweaty. A lot. Like 95% of the time.

Now I knew it would be hot, especially coming from the UK, but summer in Asia is another level. I’ve now embraced the fact that living in a hot country means my sweat glands will be working overtime. When January lows don’t go below 25 there is no getting around it.

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This isn’t sweat but it may as well be

2. Your new fragrance is Eu Du Deet

In the west we are endlessly warned of the dangers of Malaria in hot countries, so when visiting or moving to Asia, it’s likely you aren’t going to be stingy with the insect repellent, and that stuff isn’t fragrance free. Although it isn’t a bad smell, it takes a little acquainting to the fact that that is what you will always smell like.

3. Ever wondered what it is like to be famous? Now I know!

I stick out in Da Nang. It may be different in places more popular with tourists, but my pasty skin means I get noticed. I’m now so used to being stared at that it no longer registers. I do still find it weird when people ask for pictures with me though. Paparazzi Please.

4. The sound of car horns

I thought the noise adjustment I made when I moved from the countryside to Birmingham was big, but nothing could have prepared me for the commotion that was an Asian city. The Vietnamese, it would appear, are very fond of their car and bike horns. I’m so used to it by now that I have no problem falling asleep to it, which is just as well.

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Beep Beep

5. You question whether rats  or cockroaches are really that big a deal

Seeing a rat in a restaurant in the UK may mark its closure, but I’ve seen rats and roaches  in almost every eatery I’ve dined in. It freaked me out at first, but I’ve not been sick yet so… Plus we’ve all seen Ratatouille.

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Is there something scurrying behind me?

6. Searching Out Home comforts can be tricky

Living in a big city, I had assumed that it would be fairly easy to locate a few western comforts. I was wrong. Every few weeks we engage in a city-wide treasure hunt that involves advice from colleagues, Google Translate, some bad miming and compromise, all for a good cup of tea, or spinach, or even a bit of fast food. Challenge accepted.

7. Everyone who speaks English is a person of interest

English is not as common in Asia as we’re led to believe, so meeting someone who speaks English as a first language is a rare treat. You begin to lose any inhibitions you had about talking to strangers (sorry mum!) and strike up a conversation with anyone who’ll tolerate you. Having said that, you do quickly work out which ex-pats to avoid.

8. Your students have no issues calling you fat

It does not take long to notice that the Vietnamese have a very different filter than we do in the UK, well they don’t really have one. They don’t see any problem in calling you fat because they see it as just another adjective, they are just describing you. I had a haircut a few months ago and asked one of my students if she liked it, her response: “No, I think it’s ugly”

Thanks for the ego boost guys.

9. Beer is often cheaper than water

You’ll often find that when eating out, a bottle of water is just as expensive as a bottle of the local beer. Well when in Asia…

10. Breaking my binge-watching habits

You  know how your parents always tell you about when there were only four channels to choose from? That is my life. I get to pick and choose from four whole options of English speaking TV.

If you think you can escape this with the sweet relief of Netflix… think again. The wifi is a new level of slow – and that’s even after living in both a village and student halls. Grim.

On the plus side you break some bad habits and find some other things to do with your time – so maybe it’s a good thing.

 

So there it is, as well as the obvious, there are little things to adapt to, that may seem insignificant, but for some reason stick out like a sore thumb when you’re faced with them daily.

Despite all of this I do really enjoy living in Asia. At the halfway point now, I can really appreciate what this placement has brought me, even if, among other things, that’s a real appreciation for home.

And if things get too crazy there’s always the beach…

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It’s not a bad life really

Hello, Hola!

Buena noches! (Good evening! For the non-speaking Spanish readers)

As this is my first post on the Student Blog, I’d like to introduce myself a little bit before I proceed onto the more important stuff ~

My name is Tiffany (from Leicester) and I’m a third year English Language undergraduate on my placement year abroad. Some of you may know me/have heard about me from Badminton Society – last year I played the roles of Social Media Marketer as well as Captain of the women’s team. I enjoy playing the piano, sports, travelling and working with children.

For those of you who have already succeeded in finding a placement – to work or study – congratulations! And for those who are still in the process of securing one, keep going. Whatever  you do, do not give up! Finding a/the right placement is a scary process but don’t let that idea put you off. You may struggle at the beginning but just remember there are so many other students out there in the same position as you – all searching for the same thing.

It’s not easy, but it’ll be worth the effort and patience.

Tune in to my next post to find out what my placement involves!

Happy New Year, all

Tiffany

Feel free to check out my other Placement blog over on Blogspot! ^^ www.myjourneytomadrid.blogspot.com

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Proud endings and hopeful beginnings

…yes, in that order.

As you may, or may not know; the Japanese school calendar begins in April and ends in February. This means that the Spring Break for Japanese students is equivalent to the Summer Holidays in the UK. As a result, I was able to attend the graduation ceremony for the final year students I worked with and the entrance ceremony for the new group of freshmen.

It takes work to look this good

It takes work to look this good

The graduation ceremony was a grand affair. The students were dressed in their finery (most of the girls in beautiful 着物 and 袴) and the university was adorned with fine displays of flowers.

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The ceremony itself was VERY formal with a strict schedule and very traditional execution. It was a great insight into the culture of Japan to witness it and a proud moment to see the successful students pleased to accept the proof of their hard work.

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Of course no graduation would be complete without a celebratory ball and this Japanese university is no exception! I was lucky enough to be invited along and share in the fun! The party was held in a very swanky hotel in Shijuku and all organised by the students.

If you look REALLY closely, you can just see me in the back.

If you look REALLY closely, you can just see me in the back.

They all looked fantastic in their (different) best outfits and the buffet was delicious (you thought I might make a blog without mention of food huh… nope). There were performances by talented student musicians and speeches from the elected class representatives. It was really a wonderful evening.

Would it be a Ryan blog without food? Maybe, but it would be a sad one...

Would it be a Ryan blog without food? Maybe, but it would be a sad one…

Just a week later, I found myself working in the team ushering the new freshmen into the hall for the welcome ceremony. They were all dressed in formal suits and I can only describe the average facial expression as equal parts hope and fear. I wonder if that’s what I looked like on my first day at uni?

I certainly don’t think so, but I like to hope I looked half as happy to be there as these new smiling students did. Just three weeks later they are all settling in well and proving to be a pleasure to teach. I only wish I had more time here to see them through to their eventual proud graduation day!

Becoming Native

I’ve always been quite proud of being able to blend in when going abroad and not looking to British. Really, who’d want to be in this category?

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Some of my blending into a native is great, some needs work and some just needs to stop.

Driving

Driving in Cyprus is, at best, awful. General rules of the road are considered more as guidelines and horn beeping is an absolute essential. Up to now, I have considered myself quite a good, considerate driver. Since moving to Cyprus I find my indicators are rarely used; parking is somewhat challenging; horns are a first resort; who cares about that zebra crossing or cheeky cutting someone up?! Coming back to the UK is going to be a shocker. I mean, I considered this to be pretty decent parking. Oh dear dear.

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Thus, my blogging addiction begins.

Since I came to Japan, I haven’t really stopped typing. It began with writing emails, social media posts and messages to my friends back home. I guess part of that was to check in but I know there’s a big part of me that wasn’t entirely sure about the decision I had made at first. Keeping in contact with Home like that was kind of my trail of breadcrumbs if I needed to find my way back in a hurry.

When even a packed lunch is post-worthy, you know you've got the Social Media Bug!

When even a packed lunch is post-worthy, you know you’ve got the Social Media Bug!

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