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Review: Decadence

This risqué two-hander directed by Rosie Solomon was thoroughly engaging to watch. Steven Berkoff’s play shows snippets into the lives of two couples, played by the same actors multi-roling. One of the couples is the upper class Helen (Katy Owens) and Steve (Joel Heritage) who take delight in hunting and gorging on expensive meals. The other couple is the working class Sybil (Owens) and Les (Heritage) who are plotting to murder Steve. The play is a series of monologues accompanied by exaggerated, stylized physical gestures.

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In an interview with Burn FM’s Culture Vultures, Solomon said ‘the characters don’t show their true selves to the world.’ The set in the Dance Studio was full of mirrors; the mirrored wall was visible, as well as hanging mirrors on the other side, and a full-length mirror on one end of the traverse stage. The make-up was like French mime artists, which created a sort of mask for the characters. The set and make-up linked with this idea of falseness. The audience could see different sides to the actors in the mirrors, but ultimately they were hidden behind their heavy-duty make-up masks.

Owens and Heritage are undoubtedly brave. In one scene, Owens performs oral sex on a banana while standing back to back with Heritage who fakes having an orgasm. This was cleverly staged, as the audience could see the actor with his/her back to them in the mirrors. In another scene, Owens mimed horse riding on Heritage, whipping him, and bouncing up and down while delivering a monologue. This evidently required a lot of stamina. The scene itself was very amusing with Owens exclaiming lines such as ‘hunting is so f**king thrilling!’ and ‘some kid’s pet cat is torn to shreds!’ with a gleeful smile slapped across her face.

Heritage had great physicality. Particularly when acting like demons after having five shots. His movements and facial expressions were really expressive and entertaining. Additionally, in the scene where he eats a ridiculously extravagant meal with what feels like a million courses. After the meal he crawls about the floor and exclaims that he needs to be sick, piss, and sh*t all at once. He then spasms on the floor and shakes out his trouser leg. Despite this all being mimed the audience were still pretty revolted.

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In one scene, Heritage has a racist rant where he shouts racial slurs, which I found the most uncomfortable part to watch. However, it was clearly in place to highlight what a horrendous character Steve was.

The transitions between the working class couple and upper class couple scenes were smooth and seamless. Owens and Heritage had great chemistry. Although, I thought that the characters of Helen and Steve were a lot more developed than those of Sybil and Les. The Sybil and Les storyline was slightly confusing and difficult to follow at points.

Overall, the production was really hilarious; members of the audience were cringing, slapping their knees, and laughing shamelessly. Solomon will be directing an original play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. I look forward to seeing more of her work!

Review: Birmingham Footnotes Level Up

Last weekend The Birmingham Footnotes presented a new sketch show directed by Will Jackson and assistant directed and produced by Laurs Oakley. The sketch show Level Upwas centered on the theme of video games. This was perfectly complemented by an electronic soundtrack. The six performers (or ‘players’) were really strong and it was encouraging to see a female heavy cast with lots of freshers. A bit of word play was even used in the cast list with the cast being called players, which could refer to players of a video game or Jacobean actors.

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Some of my favourite sketches included The Great British Bake Off, which became The Great Yiddish Bake Off and then The Great Quidditch Bake Off. The cast came on stage removing the icing from the top of cupcakes and wiping it on to each other’s faces. This meant that they had icing all over their faces while they impersonated GBBO’s Mel and Sue. Another amusing sketch was a recurring scene of Mathilda “The Blonde Bombshell” Blythe deciding to do stupid things and then Paul “The Silver Fox” Kerr would run on wearing a cardboard sign saying ‘Brain’ looking distressed, as Mathilda had forgotten to use him. The moment that got the most laughs from this sketch was when Paul the Brain ran on after Mathilda decided not to use a condom.

Mathilda was excellent throughout the show, her facial expressions are very amusing and she is thoroughly entertaining to watch. Hats off to her for eating sellotape for a disgustingly long time and then moving on to paper later on in the show. Taylor Hebert was also brilliant. She shone in her portrayals of Kate Bush and the puberty fairy (don’t ask, you had to be there). Jack “Mysty” Beresford also had some great moments, for instance, in the zombie sketch where someone asked ‘did anyone get bitten?’ and he replied ‘I bit my tongue!’

There were several references to pie charts, which seemed a bit random and got lost on most of the audience who presumably weren’t in on them. There were a few other sketches that went completely over my head including one where bricks were placed on the floor, and the diving sketch, which seemed to fall flat.

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Will Jackson’s directorial presence was certainly felt, with the lip-syncing, dancing, and silly string reminiscent of his recent production of Anthony Neilson’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia with 3Bugs Fringe Theatre. The Queen of Pie Charts scene was rather similar to the Oathtaker scene in Dissocia and other sections of the play.

This was the longest sketch show I have ever watched, and the cast looked pretty exhausted by the end. I can’t fault any of their performances and would love to see some of freshers try stand-up as well. Unfortunately, the writing was mixed, and I really wished that I found the show funnier overall. The sketches that stood out were ones that the cast kept returning to throughout the performance, which brought the random mix of scenes together.

Review: One Man, Two Guvnors

Ciara Cohen Ennis gives a glowing review of Infinity Stage Company’s production of the classic comedy ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, a play by Richard Bean.

Infinity Stage Company’s One Man, Two Guvnors was a hilarious and enjoyable piece of theatre from start to finish. Set in the 1960s, it tells the story of how Francis Henshall (Euan Codrington) manages to acquire two ‘guvnors’. One being Rachel Crabb (Zoe Head), in disguise as her late gangster brother Roscoe, and the other, Stanley Stubbers (Tom Inman), a posh boarding school bloke who Rachel is in a relationship with – despite him killing her brother! Head gives a comedic performance in disguise as Roscoe, with amusing facial expressions and a low tone of voice. The accents were consistently strong throughout the play, which is no mean feat, as Guild performances can often seem particularly amateur if the accents are shaky.

James Corden has previously played Francis Henshall, and although I haven’t seen the West End version, I imagine that Codrington gives Corden a run for his money. Codrington is constantly running around the stage trying to serve his two guvnors while keeping the two of them apart so they don’t catch on that he has two employers. His energy and stamina is impressive, particularly in the scene where he has a physical fight with himself, choreographed by Jessica Barber. Codrington pulls his own hair, slaps himself across the face, strangles himself till he falls on the floor, and then hits himself over the head with a bin lid. If that’s not commitment to drama then I don’t know what is.

Inman is another standout cast member. His portrayal of Stanley is absolutely hilarious and constantly has the audience in stitches. It turns out that he edited the script to say that he was at Harrow, instead of its rival Eton. Inman certainly had some great lines to work with such as ‘I wouldn’t trust a Spaniard alone with a Swiss roll’ and the not-quite-swear-words, ‘buggerello!’ and ‘country life!’

The play was very well cast, with strong performances from Brad Carpenter as the slightly clueless Charlie Clench, and Hannah Dunlop as his ditzy daughter Pauline. Pauline and Alan Dangle (Lucas Rushton) provided an entertaining subplot. Pauline was engaged to the late Roscoe, but since thinking he had died she entered into a relationship with actor Alan. Dunlop and Rushton were almost caricatures; Dunlop with her exaggerated blinking and Rushton with his hammy melodramatic declarations of love.

I can’t go without mentioning the audience interaction. Charlotte Boyer was selected from the audience to guard Henshall’s stash of food. She proceeded to be a very good sport by going up on stage, being forced to hide under a table, and then soaked with a bucket of water. I’m told that the amount of water increased each night. After the interval Boyer emerged from backstage in a much needed dressing gown.

The sixties costumes were great, especially for the female characters. Dolly (Olivia O’Neill) had a pink cardigan wrapped over her shoulders, and Pauline wore a cute floral dress. The elderly Alfie (Ben Evans) emerged complete with the classic Guild Drama talcum powder hair dye. This provided additional comedy at points when Lloyd (Charlie Harris) rubbed Alfie’s head and got talc all over his hands, and when Alfie fell on the floor he was engulfed in a cloud of talc.  The play was really entertaining, and James Harrington and Will Poysner did an excellent job of directing. It was telling that extra seating had to be brought in for the final performance because so many people wanted to see the show.

All proceeds of the play will go to Dignity in Care at the QE Hospital.

Refugees: Dispelling Myths

There is a lot of conflicting terminology that surrounds refugees. The media often mixes up the terms ‘migrant’, ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘immigrant’. So how are these words actually defined? And what is the UK really doing to support those who seek entry from overseas?

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Definitions:

Migrant

A person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions.

N/B This could be an expat.

Immigrant

A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.

N/B This could also be an expat. Many British people decide to live permanently in foreign countries and/or work abroad for many years.

Asylum seeker

Someone who has left their home country and applied for recognition as a refugee in another country and is waiting for a decision on their application.

Only asylum seekers who are granted refugee status are allowed to work in the country.

The majority of asylum seekers do not have the right to work in the United Kingdom and so must rely on state support. Housing is provided, but asylum seekers cannot choose where it is, and it is often ‘hard to let’ properties which Council tenants do not want to live in. Cash support is available, and is currently set at £36.95 per person, per week, which makes it £5.28 a day for food, sanitation and clothing. They receive no money for transportation.
(Source: Home Office)

Refugee

A person who has left their home country because they are afraid of being persecuted. As a result they cannot seek protection from their home country.

When a person has been given refugee status the Home Office has acknowledged that they cannot return to their country of origin for their own safety. They may have been tortured or worried for their lives.

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Internally displaced person (IDP)

A person who has been forced to move within his or her own country as a result of conflict, natural disaster, etc.

Citizens of New Orleans who had to seek refuge after Hurricane Katrina should have technically been referred to as IDPs. They were still American citizens, however many news reporters classed them incorrectly as refugees. This was discussed on NBC news and NPR.

Asylum Seekers in the UK

Far fewer people come to the UK to apply for asylum than you might think.
More than 50 million people throughout the world were forced to flee their homes last year. There are more than 13 million refugees worldwide – but developing countries host over 80% of people.

There are an estimated 126,000 refugees living in the UK. That’s just 0.19% of the total population (64.1 million people).

In 2014 the UK received 31,400 asylum applications. This was less than Germany (166,800), France (63,100), Italy (56,300) and Sweden (81,300).

Just 41% of people applying for an initial decision were granted asylum and allowed to stay.

Many are initially refused because it is difficult to provide the evidence needed to meet the strict criteria of a refugee.

(Source: British Red Cross)

This year Birmingham agreed to take just 50 Syrian refugees. This is an incredibly small number when you consider that by the end of August 2014, the UN estimated 6.5 million people had been displaced within Syria, while more than 3 million refugees had fled to countries such as Lebanon (1.14 million), Jordan (608,000) and Turkey (815,000).

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How to Help

Asylum seekers are required to have been in the UK for six months before being permitted to participate in Skills Funding Agency (SFA) funded courses.

(Source: Refugee Council)

It is possible to teach English as a volunteer with refugee charities. This will be vital in the first six months when asylum seekers or refugees are not allowed to attend classes.

Here are a few of the charities in the UK dedicated to helping refugees:

British Red Cross
Restore UK
Refugee Action
Refugee Council

It is possible to donate money to and/or volunteer with these charities to show your support.

Terrible Tales of Bad Landlords

Every student in the UK has their own horrifying story of bad landlords and disgusting houses. Letting agencies and landlords are legendary for ripping students off, failing to pay back deposits, and providing practically unliveable houses. There have been cases of a bedroom ceiling collapsing in Bristol, lucky escapes from carbon monoxide poisoning, and of course; mould.

Minna rented her house in Cardiff through an agency and never met the landlord. She noticed damp in the lounge, but no action was taken after she reported it. The damp spread to her bedroom and across three walls in the house.

Minna said, “I started getting panic attacks, went to the doctor and they said that my asthma from when I was a child had come back. I told them about the damp and the doctor said that was definitely causing the asthma. I phoned the agency again and explained what happened so they sent out two people to look at the house, they were very sarcastic and told us we need to keep the windows open and that we had caused the damp. I explained to them we keep all out windows open all the time and never have the heating on, as it was summer.”

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The agency finally sent out a contractor after a series of complaints. He noticed that an outdoor pipe was broken and leaking into the lounge. The landlord still made no efforts to fix the leak. Minna noticed that after about three months of moving back to her parent’s house her asthma became better and has now practically gone.

Tom, also living in Cardiff, was shocked by the state of his flat in his third year of university.

“There was a huge chunk of jagged metal jammed into the doorframe leading into my bedroom, which also had a slanted floor and a stained mattress in which the springs were twisted and broken. There was mould around the windows of two of the bedrooms which were also filthy; used tissues and cotton buds under the beds and behind the desks, there were no curtains in the front room, the taps for the bath didn’t work, and in the kitchen there was a stain on the wall that made it look like someone had been executed there.”

Tom reported all of these problems to the letting agent, who refuse to provide the tenants with the landlord’s contact details. When Tom and his housemates moved out, they each received £10 of their individual £400 deposits back. This was owing to the problems that Tom had reported before they moved in. Tom encouraged the landlord to check the inventory the tenants and letting agent signed.

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Tom continued, “when we went to request a copy (of the inventory) from the agency we were told that it had been misplaced after copies had been sent to the landlord. Fortunately we had the idea of asking for the inventory from when the previous tenants had moved out. Sure enough there were all the same issues that we’d been accused of causing. We sent this copy to landlord who didn’t address the fact that he’d been caught out. That was two years ago… I still haven’t got my bond and I don’t think I ever will.”

In Birmingham, housemates Hollie and Emma had a nightmare with their third year accommodation. Hollie’s bedroom was a converted bathroom, with a mouldy extractor fan still in the centre of the ceiling. When she asked the landlord to remove it, he left a whole in the middle of the ceiling.

Hollie said, “over time, mould started to appear in the room. Sometimes, the room was so damp the walls were soaking wet. The curtains and a photo-frame became so mouldy they were unusable. The landlord’s solution was to say that we weren’t allowed to dry our laundry or hang our towels in our room, but he refused to give us a tumble dryer, so there was no other way of drying our clothes. He only did something about this once we threatened to get the council involved, because I got a chest infection due to the mould.”

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Their landlord did eventually repaint the room, but did not give the students any notice that he was coming round, and spilt paint over a jacket and a coat that were hanging in the living room. In addition the freezer was broken, the shower fell off the wall in the bathroom and was not fixed for months, there was no hot water for a week in October, and there were slugs everywhere – even on the toothbrush holder! When the girls moved out on 1st July, the new tenants turned up at the same time as they were told they could move in on the same day. This led to Hollie and Emma having to rush out of the house, losing and breaking things in the process.

Emma added, “sometimes we couldn’t get hold of the landlord for days due to a ‘family problem’. He eventually admitted to us that he didn’t know what was expected of him, as he never actually read our contract.”

These horror stories are endless. Landlords and letting agencies need to start treating students and young people like adult human beings and charging such outrageous fees and rent prices! It is completely unjust to keep deposits of hundreds of pounds when students are moving into unclean, mouldy, dusty houses, which are making them ill.

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Liebster Award Nomination

I was lucky enough to receive the Liebster Award, by Meghan of Travelingking. Make sure to check out her amazing blog and follow her adventures! Thank-you so much, Meghan, for the nomination!

The Liebster Award was created to help new bloggers connect with each other, and spread awareness about bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

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Here are the questions I have been asked to answer…

  1. Where are you from?

I’m from Cardiff, Wales, but I study in Birmingham, England. I have one more year left of university and after that I don’t know where I’m going to live!

  1. What was it that first motivated you to travel?

I was very fortunate and privileged to receive a means tested bursary that allowed me to attend a GDST school. During my school years I went on trips to Berlin, Krakow, New York, Washington DC, Paris, Croatia, and China. In sixth form I volunteered with the 5Cs charity in Belarus. A returned volunteer from a charity called Project Trust gave a presentation at my school, which led to my decision to teach English in Senegal for my gap year. I now give these presentations myself, and haven’t stopped travelling since!

Beijing, China
Beijing, China
  1. What is your best travel memory?

This is a ridiculously hard question, but now I’m looking down the list I can see a lot of them are very hard… It’s going to have to be something from Senegal. I lived with an amazing host family who I became really close to, so I think the best memory is really just being accepted into their family, and the community of Joal. Probably just the last week of my stay in Senegal, when my Wolof was the best it’s ever been and I had so many friends to say goodbye to, which made me feel like I was leaving my second home.

Joal, Senegal
Joal, Senegal
  1. What festival would you like to visit the most?

I was sure that I would go to Coachella when I studied abroad in the States last year, but sadly, going there from New Orleans would have been far too expensive. I still hope to go one day. I’d also really like to go to Primavera in Spain, and so many others. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Saint Louis Jazz Fest in Senegal, Jazz Fest New Orleans, Voodoo Fest, Buku Music Fest, Glastonbury, Green Man, Bestival, and Reading Festival.

Buku, New Orleans
Buku, New Orleans
  1. What has been your scariest travel experience?

About six months in to my stay in Senegal I got mugged. I was feeling extremely comfortable and stupidly put all of my valuables in one bag. I was in the capital city, Dakar, and the next day I would be picking up my sister from the airport and travelling to the Gambia for my Easter holiday. When I got out of the sept-places (taxi) around 9pm, with two of my male Senegalese friends, three guys ran up to us and grabbed our bags. At one point I honestly thought we were going to die. It was like being in a nightmare. After they left I was screaming so much and crying and had to run into the road to hit car windscreens in the hope that someone would stop and pick us up. Luckily someone did. When we were in the car I noticed blood on my arm but I didn’t feel physically hurt. I thought maybe the adrenalin had numbed the pain. This wasn’t the case. It turned out that my friend had been stabbed in the head and the arm. We had to rush him to hospital where he was given stitches with no anaesthetic. Fortunately none of us were hurt too severely and my friend is completely fine now. Someone even found my passport, though I lost everything else, that was definitely the thing I was most happy to get back. I just kept reminding myself that this could have happened anywhere, I could have been in any city. We were just really unlucky, as this kind of violent crime is extremely rare for Senegal. I have returned to Dakar since and it’s been completely fine.

  1. Where is your favourite travel destination?

I love travelling to lots of different places, rather than having one favourite. However, I will probably go with India. I did an internship in Bangalore for two months, and also visited Pondicherry, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Jaisalmer. India is incredible beautiful, the people are lovely, and the food is amazing – especially as a vegetarian.

Flower Market, Bangalore, India
Flower Market, Bangalore, India
  1. What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten abroad?

As I’m a vegetarian I haven’t eaten too many strange foods, although I did become a pescatarian for a year in New Orleans. I guess these foods are going to seem really normal to most people but for me it was weird eating crawfish and muscles. I couldn’t bring myself to try catfish or alligator – the other Louisiana delicacies. I did try a fried Oreo in America though, that’s pretty weird.

Crawfish, New Orleans
Crawfish, New Orleans
  1. Do you prefer travelling solo or with company?

I always prefer company. I think it’s great travelling with organisations as you always meet the nicest people and make great friends. This is definitely true for Project Trust, and Career Journal International. If you think travelling with these kind of organisations seems too expensive (which believe me – I did!) look out for travel bursaries and scholarships. After doing an application and an interview, I received £800 from the University of Birmingham to go to India, and £500 to go to Senegal through my secondary school). I have a bit of a fear of doing anything by myself. I recently went to London and saw the Carsten Höller exhibition at the Hayward and ate at the Southbank market alone, which was embarrassingly pretty good going for me.

Carsten Holler Exhibition, London
Carsten Holler Exhibition, London
  1. If you could only travel in one country, which would it be and why?

This is another crazy difficult question. At the moment I think I’m going to have to go with the USA because it is so vast and so varied. You have incredible cities like New York, Chicago, and New Orleans, as well as National Parks, some of the Seven Wonders of the World, etc.

Chicago, USA
Chicago, USA
  1. How long have you been blogging?

I started blogging when I moved to Senegal, so that would be four years ago.

  1. What inspires you?

People.

I am nominating:

  1. Tansu from Tastingwithtansu.com
  2. Elizabeth from elizabethpilar.wordpress.com 
  3. Olivia from oswildlife.wordpress.com
  4. Anju from travelingnoodles.com
  5. Rachel from theworldinaweekend.com
  6. Carlotta from nomadswind.com
  7. Keren from year-34.blogspot.co.uk
  8. Lucy from lucycheseldine.wordpress.com
  9. Cammy from wanderinglesbies.com

Instructions for Nominees:

  • Create a blog post on your site, answering the questions that I’ve provided below.
  • In your post, be sure to link back to the blog who nominated you with a thank-you and shout out) (aka myself, Ciara from CIARA COHEN-ENNIS)
  • After completing the questions, add a section for your nominees. Select, list and link other bloggers with under 200 followers. Provide these instructions. Finally, create 11 questions for them to answer.
  • Notify your nominees and provide a link to your post so that they know what to do.
  • Once you’re done, come back here and comment with the link to your post so I can check out your answers.

Questions for nominees (and visitors!)

  1. Where are you from?
  2. If you had to live in another country, which would it be and why?
  3. What is the luckiest thing that has happened to you while travelling?
  4. What festival would you like to visit the most?
  5. What has been your scariest travel experience?
  6. What travel destination most exceeded your expectations?
  7. What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten abroad?
  8. Where did you make the best friends on your travels?
  9. If you could only travel in one continent, which would it be and why?
  10. Do you prefer travelling in large cities or smaller towns and in the countryside?
  11. Where did you feel the most at home while abroad?

Why We Want International Students to Work in the UK

Originally posted on HuffPost Student Voices

Theresa May has decided that international students in the UK will be booted home after graduation. In addition, they will not be able to work part-time alongside their studies. According to the Home Office, this is to ensure “that student visas are used for study and ‘not as a backdoor to the country’s job market.’ “

As someone who has just completed a year abroad at Loyola University New Orleans, I know how difficult it can be to survive without having a part-time job abroad. In my first year at Birmingham University I was deep into my overdraft. This led to me taking on two part-time jobs in order to cover my rent and basic living costs in my second year of study. I am also a recipient of the maintenance grant, which is now to be scrapped. If you can imagine that two jobs and the maintenance grant just got me through my second year of university, you can see how impossible it is going to be without the grant, and how difficult it will be for those who are not allowed to work. Only the elite will have the privilege of studying abroad. The tuition fees are already significantly higher for international students. Universities make a vast chunk of their money from them.

Under my student visa regulations at Loyola, I was only able to get a job on campus, which was related to my course. In my first semester I worked for two hours a week, as an actor for training student counsellors. In my second semester, I had the same job but for only one hour per week. The pay was $10 an hour. Although I enjoyed the work, it was not enough to support me and I had to borrow money from my parents and Grandfather to get me through the year. Most students would not have had this luxury.

Before the end of my final semester abroad, I auditioned for a play that the Theatre and English departments at Loyola were putting on. This would be performed at a theatre festival at the University of Toronto. I happily got a place in the production, and this meant staying in New Orleans for a month after the semester finished to rehearse. I noted that my visa expired on the 9th June, but I applied for an ESTA visa in addition, allowing me another 90 days in the country – just to be extra safe! I planned to come back to New Orleans for one night after my trip to Toronto to collect my belongings before flying home. When I got to the airport I was separated from the rest of the cast and the professors, being the only international student on the trip. The first border patrol officer refused to look at my ESTA visa, to my confusion, and sent me into a different room for more security checks. I asked the next officer I encountered if I could phone my professor to let the others know where I was, so as not to worry them. The officer replied that I could not use my phone, and when I asked how long she thought I would be there, she retorted, “well, it won’t be so long if you stop asking me questions!” I really had no idea why I was there, and when another person asked what would happen if they missed their flight, they were told that they would have to pay for another one.

Eventually I was called up for questioning. The officer asked me what I was doing in Toronto and New Orleans, how I had paid for my flight, how I had been earning money, where I was living, etc. She told me that my visa was expired and I should have gone home as soon as my studies ended, despite having paid extra for an ESTA visa, as advised by the study abroad office at Loyola. The officer told me that I should have been deported and to stop playing ignorant, she initially made me believe that I would not be flying anywhere that day, and that I would have to wait in this holding room, without being able to inform the others on the trip what was going on. After copious amounts of apologising, near tears, she took pity on me and I somehow managed to make my flight back to New Orleans. This was only after I was able to show her proof that my flight back to London was the following day, so she was aware that I absolutely did not want to live or work illegally in the States. She informed me that when I returned to London I would have to apply for another ESTA visa, stating that I lived in the USA illegally. Obviously, I was distraught to hear this. After a year of building friendships, I may never be allowed back into the USA. When I returned home, I looked over all of my documents, and discovered that I definitely had paid for my ESTA visa before my original visa expired and that my original visa had still not expired!

I would hate to think that an international student in the UK would be treated like this, simply due to fear that they might want to work there. I had no desire to ever work illegally in the United States, and was still treated in this way. The international students in the UK provide British universities with so much money, it would really not be detrimental to us in any significant way for them to work part-time or find graduate jobs after studying. Many of us Brits love to travel, study abroad, work abroad, and retire abroad. We need to be more open to those who wish to do the same in the UK.

Student Union Elections: Does Your Vote Matter?

Around the UK, different universities hold elections for their Student Union or Guild of Students Sabbatical Team. For the majority of universities, these positions include: President, VP Education, VP Welfare, VP Activities and Development, VP Democracy and Resources, VP Housing and Community and VP Sport.

Students seem to be divided in terms of how much they care about Guild elections. Some will be up all day painting cardboard signs, to decorate (or litter) campus with, publicising their chosen candidate. On the other hand, at the University of Birmingham only 5,357 people voted despite there being around 28,000 students. At Birmingham, Poppy Wilkinson, was re-elected as the Guild President. This year she turned to social media with her campaign, using the website Buzzfeed to gain votes and popularity.

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Some candidates were less thoughtful with their publicity campaigns, such as Will Cusack at Bristol University. Cusack sent his campaign poster to the Bristol Uni DJ Society Facebook page and received a lot of unwelcoming feedback. Cusack, a law student who was running for Treasurer, edited a picture of himself as a cartoon bird diving into a pool of money. Cusack said, “I’ve been warned it’s a tough job guarding the society gold, but someone’s got to do it.” His comments sparked a series of angry responses from fellow students. Stuart Donaldson said, “I hope your legal advice is better than your campaign strategy.” Other students at the university expressed concern that candidates used their current positions in student media groups to get support from some of the student papers.

In Oxford Brookes, Sabbatical Officers introduced a safety bus system which takes students home after a night out. Although this sounds like a positive idea, some students have commented that it is used as a social club for friends of the team. However, in general, Officers do strive to help their fellow students. Last year, Poppy Wilkinson introduced longer library hours, more water machines on campus and free printer credits for undergraduates.

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James Hitchings Hales was runner up for Guild President at Exeter University. He said, “the absolute priority of the Guild must be the students they’re supposed to represent. I’d like to think that my campaign showed me as just another student, with the urge to represent interests that I was intimately in touch with. I went out to talk to as many students as possible to pool our ideas. My key manifesto points surrounded the student experience and how it could be improved so everybody could get their money’s worth. I also wanted to bring the student body closer together, by uniting minority groups with the rest of the university, whilst addressing key issues within the wellbeing centre of the university, to provide greater assistance to students with mental health issues.” Despite having some popular ideas, Hitchings Hales also mentioned his greatest obstacle, indifference of students, “The only way to combat that indifference is through infectious enthusiasm, and showing students why they should care about using their vote. There was a small oppositional minority that tried their best to undermine what we were doing, but they were vastly outnumbered by people who wanted to see positive change.” Although the majority of students do not aim to undermine the candidates, they choose not to get involved with the elections and abstain from voting.

With candidates making promises to have a pay-as-you-go gym, a free annual music event or free printer credits, it seems a shame that the elections still fail to capture the attention of the majority of the student population. Students should try to engage more with Guild politics to get the most out of their university experience and ensure that they are fully represented by the best possible candidate.

Fundraise to the finish line: UoB student driving to Mongolia for charity

Three students plan a crazy mission to drive to Mongolia, all in the name of charity

 

Three students, including Rhys Briggs, a third year UoB English Literature student, are raising money for Cool Earth and St David’s Hospice Care.

In order to raise the funds, the boys will be driving from the UK to Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia. Instead of taking an easy approach in a 4×4, they intend to make this journey in a ’93 Nissan Micra, (and come out of it alive!)

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Speaking to The Tab, Briggs said: “for some strange reason, this summer, we have decided to partake in the annual charitable event called the Mongol Rally.

“We will be attempting to drive across 1/3 of the planet, cross the borders of up to 20 countries and travel through a total of 8 time zones covering over 10,000 miles all in all.

“This will be done in the most unsuitable car with no modern technological navigation or communication aids. We are doing it not only for an incredible chance to see some of the wonders that this world has to offer but for great charitable causes. Will we survive? Who knows..”

Sion Thomas and Robert Morgan are joining Briggs on his crazy mission. Together, the boys have named their team ‘The Smart Casuals’.

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So far, the students have raised over £270, but their overall goal is £1000. Half of this will go to Cool Earth and the other half to their chosen charity.

The students’ choice, St David’s Hospice Care is committed to providing bespoke, individual care for all their patients and their families. They work alongside patients and hope to support them at the most difficult times in their lives.

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To help them reach their target, sponsor the boys by clicking here.

You can also follow their progress on Twitter.

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