New Year's Resolutions 2015

It's that time again to sum up everything that has happened over the last year and make some new goals for the new year as I have done for both 2012 and 2014. This year has definitely been the most eventful, formative and rewarding so far in my 18 years of existence. My outlook towards many aspects of life have developed and I am a different person to who I was 12 months.

  • For the first half of the year, I completed my A-levels and ended the major era of my life that was compulsory schooling. I slaved over my design and technology coursework to design and make my own maple and black american walnut music stand. As well as the usual musical endeavors - Tchaikosky's Nutcracker with CYO at the Royal Academy of Music, playing in a show orchestra for Les Mis and a 1960s/70s themed concert with school - I also went about setting up my own physics society at school. I managed to invite an awesome plasma physicist to our school to talk about the Northern Lights. Working at the music center for Saturday morning music was also such a rewarding first job. 
  • Once exams were over I had the best summer holiday ever. Full stop. Being able to chill with my old friends at prom, our beautiful cottage house at Naylands and Brighton was such a great time. At Naylands I cut off 22 inches of hair to donate to the Little Princess Trust. I then began my international travels with an Overseas Chinese summer camp in China which proved to to be such a memorable experience, making so many meaningful friendships from all over the world. The astonishing landscape of Hunan and Guangxi were truly breathtaking. Afterwards I continued travelling with an inter-planing trip around Europe with stops at Amsterdam, Berlin and Stockholm - my first solo travels. Other fun things I did over this awesome vacation was seeing Alt-J live and getting a signed copy of "The Mathematical Secrets of the Simpsons". I went on a Skills Development course at RAE which really inspired me to begin the best person possible. At this point I was the happiest I had been for a long time, not only because I had found out that I had made it into my dream university, but because I felt like I was truly starting to understand myself 
  • The rest of my year has been crazy, insane and intense. These adjectives don't begin to describe the rollercoaster that was my first term as a fresher at university. I say rollercoaster as with every moment of elation and joy, there were just as many times where I found it to be the most challenging chapter of life yet. Freshers at Oxford surpassed every expectation I had (9am start to Matriculash?!) and whether it was a crew date, wine or cheese evening or cocktails with the college family, the social aspect of Oxford was top notch. In terms of extra-curriculars, I really went crazy with trying out absolutely everything I could. I kept up with my music, taking part with Chapel Choir, forming our own college quartet and playing ukulele at the Harry Potter society's Yule Ball(!). I tried my hand at ball-room dancing, rowing, yoga, zumba, college netball and also attended talks with the energy society, OxFEST and media society. One of my main hobbies have been cheerleading. Yes, cheerleading - probably the last thing I anticipated myself participating in. Despite starting with limited flexibility and no experience gymnastics or dance, it has proven to been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things I did all term. When I was not busy doing all these many activities, I managed to squeeze in sometime actually study my subject. I got the first "not satisfactory" of my life and fell asleep in a tutorial due to extreme sleep deprivation in week 8. Apart from that, I think I managed to survive my first term! 
  • Other notable things that happened in the second half of the year was that I was shortlisted for a Women in Science and Engineering award and was invited to a very swanky black tie awards evening with Princess Anne. Another black tie event I attended was the ABACUS boat party on the Thames which was great fun. After term had ended, I stayed an extra week and a half in college to help with interviews which was a very enjoyable experience as I managed to explore the beautiful city of Oxford with a stupid amount of work to do. Being part of the my friend's own orchestra for Tchaikovsky's violin concerto is also something I will never forget! 
So that's a very long list of all the notable things that happened over this year. Probably the biggest changes in my life this year though have been beginning my journey towards a plant-based diet and actually regularly exercising for the first time in my life. This time last year I would've never guessed that I would be a fully fledged vegetarian who voluntarily goes for runs and enjoys it! 

Thinking of what to set as my 2015 New Years resolutions has been very challenging. This year I have accomplished many long-term goals that I have set in my childhood such as getting into university, travelling abroad solo and getting into exercise. However, after my term at university had finished, I felt somewhat empty as I didn't feel as satisfied as I anticipated. I realised that it was the journey towards accomplishing these goals which was really rewarding, not the actual end prize. For someone who enjoys meticulously planning personal development the fact that I didn't know what to resolve for this year was very disconcerting for me. Sometimes you just need to step back and look at the greater picture, recollect your thoughts and consider what truly makes you happy. After doing so, here are my new year's resolutions

Health and Fitness goals:
1. Be able to do both left and right leg front splits. 
My flexibility has actually increased significantly since starting cheer - previously I couldn't even touch my toes! I am about 1 inch away from right leg front splits and 3 inches away from left leg front splits. I would like to be able to do the right leg split within 1 month and left leg split within 3! 
2. Make time again for running.
I have very little free time for running whilst at university, but I would like to make it part of my routine again as I find it highly rewarding and therapeutic. I would like to go to for a jog at least once a week since I am already doing cheer 3 times a week. 
3. Lose the weight I gained over my 1st term at university.
This is the heaviest I have ever been in my life and I would like to lose this excess fat - no more midnight kebabs for me! 

Academic and Career goals:
1. Do well in pre-lims
2. Get an internship/work experience over summer

Other goals:
1. Find my own personal style
Ever since starting uni, I feel like I have lost all sense of creativity in terms of my physical appearance. Considering how much I used to love fashion and style (I even had a blog on it!), I really want to start dressing slightly more edger again

I think that's it! I'll keep you updated on how everything goes! 

Stockholm

I ended my adventures around Europe in Stockholm, Sweden, which turned out to be the cherry on top of a fantastic 12 days travelling. The short amount of time I spent here were the best yet and here is why.

The best bits:
Stockholm is a beautiful city, with places like the picturesque island of Gamla Stan a beautifully preserved, medieval Old Town surrounded by still water. The city is quiet and the clear blue skies I encountered gave the place a wonderful sense of serenity. I recommend spending a mere 40 SEK to climb the City Hall which gave fantastic views over the entire city.
The City Hall
Military parade outside the Royal Palace
Transport by ferry is the best way to get great views of the entire city - it's part of the cities public transport too! 
There are many, many other small things that made me really enjoy my trip to Sweden - no wonder they are often high up in polls for the happiest countries in the world. I am going to list them below as I would be here for a very long time if I were to fully elaborate on each point individually.

  1. Friendliness of the people: if you stop someone in the street, they all seem to be very willing to help in perfect English. The moment I boarded my Scandinavian Airlines flight to Stockholm Arlanda, I suddenly felt at ease. Customer service is also very polite and helpful. 
  2. Sense of trust within society: there was nothing stopping you from getting free unlimited re-fills at Max, the Swedish equivalent to McDonalds or stealing from supermarkets with their self service checkout schemes, but one assumes that there is enough trust among Swedes otherwise this would not to be the case.
  3. Sustainability at the forefront of public concern: none of the many supermarkets I visited during my trip offered free carrier bags and all had recycling points that rewarded those who returned bottles or cans. This made me very happy as someone who cares a great deal about our planet. 
  4. Great public transport: the city is easy to navigate and it's not too expensive either
However, there is no doubt that the best aspect of my trip was visiting my Swedish friends. They were incredibly generous to welcome me into their homes and I am so happy that I have made so many meaningful friendships with people from around the world. There is so much that I can learn from each one of them and I am excited for when we meet again.

The worst bits:
Everything in Sweden is expensive. Food from the supermarket can be two to three times more expensive to the UK. However with Sweden, I suppose this is one of the many cases in life where you get what you pay for. 

So that's it! The end of my 12 day trip around Europe. I come back having lost an entire bag of toiletries and 120Euro after missing my train from Amsterdam to Berlin, but having gain a whole wealth of life experiences, funny stories, feeling more confident than ever about my ability to travel solo. I am just beginning my journey of exploring the world and meeting many wonderful people along the way, making me very excited for the future indeed.  

Reichstag and Rubbish Airports: Berlin Day 5

I have reached the end of the Berlin leg of my European trip, visiting some of the best and worst of German infrastructure. Today was mostly spent flying to Stockholm, but here is what I did in the morning beforehand.

The best bits:
The dome of the Reichstag building is an outstanding piece of architecture. After the original dome to the building was burnt down during the Nazi regime, it was re-designed by Sir Norman Foster (a Brit!) as the architect. The original shape has been preserved but completely designed using modern materials and technologies; it appears to float as a glistening crown to the original Reichstag building. The use of steel, glass and mirrors symbolises the transparency of Parliament and with spiraling walkways up to the top of the dome, it allows unspoilt 360 views over the vast city of Berlin. Best of all was that a visit to the dome with a complementary audio guide is FREE - all you need to do is book online in advance.
The mirrored inner funnel reflected the wonderful views and made the dome even more light
In the center there were photographs sharing the history of the Reichstag
Spiraling walk-ways lead to the top of the dome



The worst bits:
I left Germany via Tegel Airport: i.e. the worst airport I've ever been to and I regularly fly from the likes of London Luton. With an utterly confusing layout, long queues, little seating area and most importantly no free WiFi, this all lead to an overall unpleasant experience. The only redeeming factor was that the transport there was relatively easy as it was within the AB zone of Berlin.

So that's all for Berlin - next stop Stockholm!

Dinosaurs and Doner Kebabs: Berlin Day 4

My marathon museum tour is coming to an end and I've saved some of the more niche museums for last. Here are some of the best and worst things that happened today.

The best things
Over this last week or so I have visited SO many museums that I feel like my head will soon explode from all the culture. It's great seeing world-renowned works of art but I personally feel like when you know a little bit of background knowledge about what you are glancing at whilst listening to a posh lady describe the object on the audio guide, it makes the experience far more worthwhile. Since I did product design A-level, we had to learn about design movements and their characteristics, it was fantastic to see authentic furniture, art and graphic design after studying about them from a textbook. Highlights included seeing Marcel Breuer tubular steel chair at the Bauhaus Archiv and organic, whip-lash motive art-nouveau furniture at Bröhan-Museum. I got lazy and did not take any pictures, but I wish I did as I am super interested in design history.
Geometric and functional: the Bauhaus Archiv building
Another museum that I visited today that was meaningful for myself was the Musikinstrumenten-Museum, which is home to a multitude of musical instruments from the 17th Century to current day. As I mentioned yesterday, everywhere in Berlin is eerily quiet so I was the only visitor in the museum for most of the time I was there. Nonetheless, it was a well-worthwhile visit for any music-lover like myself.
Hurdy-gurdys to harpsichords, music boxes to mandolins, the Musikinstrumenten-Museum is a treasure trove for music enthusiasts
 A third exciting museum was the Museum fuer Naturkunde, the Natural Science Museum. Once you enter the hall you are greeted by an 17.27m high dinosaur - the Guinness World record for the tallest mounted dinosaur skeleton. The museum also featured the usual collection of taxidermy animals (including the famous Knut from Berlin Zoo) and fancy rocks. 
This Guinness World Record holding, 150 million year old dinosaur stands 17.27m tall - I can't even fit it in frame!
The creepiest room I've ever been in - the wet room in the Museum fuer Naturkunde
Half-eaten kebab photo as I already began devouring it
Arguably the best thing to happen to me was that I managed to stumble across this awesome Kebab shop! Since Berlin is such an empty city, I was surprised to find so many people - mostly Turkish locals - queuing up in this one kebab shop just outside Sophie-Charlotte Platz U-bahn station, called XL Kebap Sophie. I decided to go for one myself (a vegetarian doner that cost only 2.40Euro) and it was heavenly - I am salivating just thinking back to it. The kebab was really large and the walls of the kebab shop featured pictures of many different celebrities devouring their deliciousness. It's a shame I've only just found the place as I doubt I will have the opportunity to go back.
Berlin Wall Memorial
My trip is nearing it's end. Tomorrow it is goodbye Germany and hello Sweden. Auf Wiedersehen!

What I Love and HATE about Berlin: Berlin 2 & 3

Travelling is hardwork and things often don't go to plan, but this is what makes everyday a new challenge and exciting. Here is what I thought for days two and three in Berlin where things did not go as smoothly as in Amsterdam.
The magnificent Berlin Dome
The best things
From the elaborate golden hat detailing both the solar and lunar calender in the Neues Museum, to the absolutely humungous Market Gate of Miletus in the Pergamonmuseum, Berlin has a world-renowned wealth of museums. They even have an UNESCO world heritage site island (Museumsinsel) home to the two aforementioned museums, as well as the Alte Nationalgalerie, Alte Museum and the Bode Museum.
Beautiful classical buildings
The world-famous bust of Queen Nefertiti in the Neues Museum - a must see
Just a side shot of the astounding Pergamon Alter at the Pergamonmuseum - it was so big that I couldn't even fit it in shot.
The sheer size of the Market Gate of Miletus also in the Pergamon is crazy; how on earth did they manage to find something millenia old and re-constuct it half way across the globe?
The best thing about traveling by yourself is that you can be spontaneous as you like. Luck was on my side today as I managed to visit the Musical Instrument Museum just in time for a FREE concert featuring a wonderful Brahms Violin and Piano Sonata and other works featuring two talented young musicians. As a keen musician myself,  I really wanted to attend a concert in Berlin and my wish was granted. Unfortunately I did not have time to explore the museum afterwards, but hopefully I will be able to visit again in the next few days.
My lucky free concert: Tomoki Park on Piano, Isabelle Bania on Violin
The not so good things
Other museums I visited in these last two days include the Holocaust Memorial for Murdered Jews, Gamaldegarie and the Deutsches Historiches Museum. I purchased a concessions 3-day Musueumpass for only 12Euro for free entry to over 50 museums, but did not realise that many of the popular museums like the Deutsches Historiches Museum, DDR museum etc. aren't actually part of the scheme.

Berlin is an huge city that is very spaced out, so I have found navigating myself round more challenging than the likes of Amsterdam and London. Berlin is a very bizarre city as there are often very little people walking on the streets, since it is an unefficient way of exploring the city. However, as a solo traveler in a foreign country, it can feel disconcerting when everywhere seems empty, even major tourist destinations and in museums. There is no city centre and finding food outlets can be challenging, due to the fact that the city was only reunified 25 years ago. This does make the city feel untourist-friendly but perhaps I am just spoilt by London having maps and a Pret-a-manger on every street corner.

Another aspect that I did not expect was that not only are most museums closed on Mondays, but most shops/museums don't open until at least 10.00am. This does mean more lie-ins for me, but less time to explore visit as many places as possible.

The bad things
Berliners are rude. And that's coming from me who is used to London city attitudes. Their unwelcoming nature to foreigners can feel off-putting, but what do you expect after foreign powers have caged them in their own city in relative recent history? However, do not be put off from visiting Berlin as this is just part of their culture and nothing is meant maliciously- just don't expect service with a smile!

That is all for today, see you tomorrow!

Rebecca
A gem from the Gamaldegarie

Sight-hopping: Berlin Day 1

While Amsterdam was quaint and compact , Berlin is spacious and completely unique to other European cities I have been to. Overall, it is not a beautiful city as it's turbulent history has meant that it is still in the process of re-building. Little did I know that almost all museums are closed on Mondays, so today was a day of orientating myself around such a vast city with much to offer.

The Best Bits:
Today I managed to see many of the sights from the classical Brandenburg Gates and Charlotteburg Palace, to more modern history as highlighted at Holocaust Memorial for Murdered Jews, the East Side Galley and the Topography of Terror. Since Berlin is huge, I only hopped between locations as I will  get a more in depth understanding of the history later this week when museums are open.
Charlottenburg Palace: classical beauty in an alternative city
Brandenburg Gates and a crane
Holocaust Memorial for Murdered Jews: a poignant experience as the concrete slabs become increasingly towering and overwhelming.
Remains of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery
Vast green spaces right in the centre of Berlin
The Worst Bits:
The biggest bummer of the day was that everywhere is closed on a Monday. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise as it gave me time to explore freely and get a good overview of what I want to do with the next 4 days of the trip.
Another huge bummer is that I have lost my bag of toiletries with my makeup, shampoo and creams. I left it in our private bathroom in the morning and it was not there in the evening. I am lucky that I have not lost anything that cannot be replaced, but it is still a huge inconvenience and I am mildly annoyed.

That's how travelling goes though; some days you have good days, others are not so good. No matter how well you plan in advance, somethings are bound to go wrong. I think it goes without saying though that I will be locking absolutely everything in my locker tomorrow. Let's see how the tale of the lost toilettries pans out tomorrow.

Rebecca

Visiting Anne's Secret Annex: Amsterdam Day 4





Today was my last day in Amsterdam and carrying on with a similar fashion from my last few days, stormed through another several museums. Here is what I thought of my day:

The best bits: 
Her diary inspires and educates millions about the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, so there was no way I would have a trip to Amsterdam without visiting the Anne Frank Huis Museum. I felt very glad to have booked my ticket online as there was a huge snaking queue outside. I wonder when the degenerative effects of having this extreme footfall will take affect on the house as despite the fact that the house was larger than I anticipated, it was not intended to accommodate millions of people from all corners of the globe visiting every year. I felt incredibly lucky to be in the same rooms that the Franks and Van Fels spent 2 years trapped in and to see her original, red-checked journal. Anne's story is just as moving as when I first read it many years ago.
Add caption
Another museum that was far better than I expected was the Tropenmuseum, which was a museum on different ethnicities around the world. There was a captivating exhibit on iconic images from the National Geographic Magazines, including a documentary on the finding the mesmerising Afghan Girl after 17 years.
Locating the Afghan Girl after 17 years
There was even a huge origami installation in the Great Hall - think 7ft paper birds!
Pretty spectacular
The Amsterdam Cheese Museum turned out just to be a shop giving out numerous free samples which made me pretty happy. It's just across the road the Anne Frank Huis and free to pop in and taste some funky cheeses. 

The worst bits:
The Jewish Historical Museum was not particularly interesting and the Rembrandt Huis didn't impress either as it was so small. I would not recommend there places but since entrance was FREE with the Museumkaart, it wasn't too bad.

So that's it for Amsterdam! I've managed to visit a crazy total of 14 museums in 4 days(!) Next stop Berlin!

Rebecca x
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...