I have always dreamed of studying abroad, and it really happened in Semester A 2015/16. Thanks to a partial grant offered by my home university, I had a taste of a different experience at the University of Essex, U.K. via the exchange programme.
In spite of my short stay in Essex, I participated in many different activities and sports, joining the Mid-Autumn Festival event, Halloween activities, the One Day Colchester Tour, and Brownies and Hot Chocolate Night and making a gingerbread house with my flatmates, as well as trying archery, fencing and squash. Of these sports, I particularly loved archery. Not only did it strengthen my arm muscles (initially I kept shaking, even though I took the super-light bow), it also helped me set a target and accomplish it. Although my progress was rather slow, I was so glad that I managed to hit the balloon and the centre of the target.
To facilitate cross-cultural communication, I invited international friends to my accommodation to share some Chinese cuisine and soup, such as stir-fried chicken filets with celery and tomato and potato pork rib soup. They also introduced me to some local food! It was so fantastic to stay with friends speaking different languages together.
My flatmates were from different countries: Australia, Germany, New Zealand and Singapore. I often had friendly chats with the German girl, Daniela, in the kitchen while I was cooking. She would talk about what happened to her and about her home country, Germany. She was so nice that she cooked some traditional mulled wine at Christmas for all of us and of course we had a great time. A Singaporean boy called Reuben was friendly too. He generously shared his food with me, such as strawberries, ice cream and cakes. It made me feel warm, although the weather was cold.
Meeting Professor Andrew Spencer and taking his course on morphology was my greatest reward. He is truly inspiring – the adjective “hope-less” is not limited to situations, but can also describe a person; we “de-frost” microwave food, but “de-ice” the car, although the two verbs have the same meaning; “cat” in the compound “catfood” is neither singular nor plural, as it merely denotes the concept of cat; the affix order of “long-haired” is [[long] [hair-ED]] rather than [[long hair]ED] and so on.
From him, I learned not only linguistics, but also important attitudes to the teaching profession and life. Although he is retiring soon, he kept revising his teaching materials up until 2015, and prepared thoroughly for each class discussion. He even told me that he would pursue linguistics research after retirement. His proactive and lofty ideal teaches me that retirement is not the end of learning, and schooling is not the only way of acquiring knowledge. We should enhance our understanding of the world by every means possible, throughout our lives.
Moreover, he helped me a lot, as I was the only exchange undergraduate student there. He arranged special assignments and examinations for me and made me feel more comfortable. I was so lucky to be his student and to have a satisfactory performance, even though the course was for postgraduate students. I hereby salute Professor Andrew Spencer for all his contributions to teaching. As Henry Adams said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops”. I hope that more and more people will be influenced by Professor Spencer.
Travelling in London, Edinburgh, Munich and Paris was also a valuable experience. Instead of hanging out with friends, I decided to travel on my own. It is not easy to plan ahead, especially when the places that you would like to visit are not familiar to you – independence is the key.
I was in Edinburgh in November 2015 when a series of terrorist attacks occurred in Paris. I felt sad about the incidents and also worried, as I had pre-booked a ticket to Paris in December. I hesitated – to go or not to go? I went there eventually. It was worth a visit – the Eiffel Tower was indeed spectacular!
What most impressed me about European countries is that even though people might not share your language, they enthusiastically offer help using body language, by asking other pedestrians to help you or by checking their mobile devices. I was so thankful that not only did I visit so many marvellous places, I also remained safe and met some friends during the journey. For example, I met Josephine at Heathrow Airport upon my arrival in London. She helped me a lot even though we did not know each other. Coincidentally, she said goodbye to me at the same place, where we met before my departure. Because of these friends, my journey was more fruitful and unforgettable.
Relationships are Give-And-Take
All in all, I really enjoyed meeting people from all over the world. As an introverted and quiet girl, I didn’t expect to make friends easily, but a little change made a huge difference. I still remember my flatmate Daniela asking me how I was whenever I didn’t seem alright. This might sound trivial, in fact it was a great step forward in our friendship. Later, she was so delightful when I cooked some food for her when she was sick. Thus, building a friendship is not as hard as I thought – it’s not only about what you learn/take from others, it’s also about taking the initiative and expressing your concern. I believe the same principle applies to every relationship – if everyone was willing to step forward and show his/her concern, the world would be far more harmonious and lovely!