Wednesday, December 22, 2004

# Newcastle and Sunderland Trip

Went to visit friends in Newcastle and Sunderland. And realized I fell in love with the places, particularly Sunderland.

Newcastle is vibrant with the pubs and activities that are so alive at night (Though I don't really drink or go clubbing, the atmosphere during the night still awed me a lot.) During my stay, I realized the difference of culture in Britain, and in Malaysia. While Malaysian spend their nights in shopping malls, pasar malam or mamak stalls; British have their own clubbing culture and lots of great pubs, both English pubs and disco pubs. Personally, I prefer Malaysian night activities which are more family-oriented, but at the same time, I quite enjoy the quiet, cosy atmosphere that a traditional English pub offers.

Sunderland is located near the sea. It is a small town - just like SP, my hometown - quiet, slow-paced, tranquil. The moment I reached, I noticed the fresh air. And by the time I saw the canals and sea, I have totalled fallen in love with this small town. I love this town, partly because of the similarities with SP, partly because of my passion about sea and beaches. During the stay, I gobbled down so much fish and seafood, since in London I don't usually have the luxury, and money, to do so.

During this trip, besides touring the places of interest such as Quay Side of Newcastle, Durham, Wintergarden and the Bridges of Sunderland, the biggest enjoyment came from seeing old friends again and spending time together. Met up with many Malaysian students who are studying here, and we had a great time cooking so many Malaysian dishes in such a short period of stay. The highlight was the Winter Festival on 21 Dec (a chinese celebration with 'tang yuan') - we celebrated it together. Amidst the laughter and jokes, we have grown one year older together, hopefully more mature too, and the tang yuans have become an invisible link for our friendships.

It was also during this trip that I got to know many new interesting friends, from different nationalities. I realized the integration of culture and understanding of one another's traditions are such an exciting process. Different people, coming from different parts of world, meet with one another and learn from one another. I think, this is the best part of international education - to learn and exchange culture, outlook, values and traditions. It prompts me to think about a normal phenomenom of students from same nationalities clustering only in their own group - the attitudes have to change, there is so much more out there to learn and to explore. I am not advocating students to discard their own roots. I am hoping that with interaction, we not only discover the beauty of other people's culture, but at the same time rediscover the beauty of our own traditions, our own roots.

This trip reaffirm my belief about travelling and education. Travelling around places is not just only looking at new places. It is about learning the local culture, observing the local people, interacting with people, learning new experience, and reviewing ourselves. The same applies to the international education. There is always a chance for us to learn, unlearn, and relearn (quoted from Recom Malaysia).

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