#Pray it Doesn’t Rain



Dear readers I have some exciting news for you!~

Today is my 21st birthday, and that’s not even the exciting part. For the past few months (and painstakingly for the past few weeks) I have been independently working on a side project of mine entitled ‘Pray it Doesn’t Rain’. The project is a short film or documentary if you will on the problem of homeless in the city of Oxfordshire. The video has been released today and I would love for you all to watch it.

Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KV_5reA1HVY&feature=youtu.be 

I have to write an article about the film soon and I have other administrative tasks such as sharing the video through emails and so I have decided to devote my time to promoting this video and postponing birthday celebrations for a few days. I am a student at the University of Oxford and I was surprised to walk past homeless people on the streets everyday whilst I am living in Oxford during term time. Sure I attend meetings and I do odd bits to help, but I thought I would attempt to use some of the skills I have so that I may at least help to raise awareness of the problem so that higher powers will be alerted to move closer towards a solution. That’s why I do sincerely invite you to take the time to watch this and share it with others. My aims are to provide a platform for those less fortunate to us who are often not even given the chance to speak, as well as raising awareness on an important issue.

The video was given its name as I have often reflected on how grateful I am to have a roof on my head as I am aware that there are people without shelter who are often rained on and deal with other extremities. Of course, I am also referring to rain in a metaphorical sense as well as in a physical sense, as I wanted to highlight how people are often harsh and unkind to the homeless.

I will edit this post in due time to share the article once it has been (written and) published. I wanted to write on here first, and now it seems like I may have to take inspiration from my musings if I can’t think of what I want to convey.

The news I wanted to share however doesn’t quite end there. Perhaps you may have figured it out for yourself by now but recently I have also been making YouTube videos. I will talk about that in a separate post as that deserves for me to reveal a bit more about my identity. Although you can learn most of that for yourself if you take a look at my videos~

So yes, this year I have been heavily involved in content creation for various University projects (in fact some stem from the past few years) as well as now making videos for my own channel. My channel is called GoodLuckNabs, quite similar to the name of this blog you might even say🤔…Please subscribe to my channel if you would like to see another side to me outside of this blog. In the meantime, as I am yet to write in more detail about some of my video endeavours, if you’re curious you can click here to read about how this blog got its name. My writing style has probably changed a lot since then, but it’s still a cute story~

That’s it for now then. I have quite a bit to do but I wanted to formally write about this video on first on my blog to share with you. Please take a look at #PrayitDoesn’tRain and share the video.

If you have been making YouTube videos whilst keeping it a secret from your blog, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼欣妍– From Xinyan.


The Funeral of a Muslim

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A memorial gravesite I came across when visiting Hangzhou for a group of Muslim workers who died in the province.

Are you Malaysian? Neither am I! Who’d have guessed it? Anyone but China it seems.

Assalamu’alaikum, peace be on to you~ If you read my recent update you would know that I did end up leaving this post till ‘later rather then sooner’ as I’ve been a bit ill, but more so because I’m hesitant to write about a topic that I have such precise standards for. This shall be a lengthy post as I’ve been making small notes for it in my phone since the start of my (now completed) year in China. What I’ve come to realise is that as time goes by, the experiences that influence my personal development accordingly affects my writing style. With this in mind, allow me to share with you my take on ‘The Funeral of a Muslim’.

你猜, does the title sound familiar? It’s the name of a popular Chinese novel (shown in the commencing photo) that was recommended to me by a friend and then gifted to me by another😊 The story covers themes of history and love whilst illustrating some of the hardships faced by a Chinese Muslim family living in Beijing. I haven’t gotten too far into reading the novel for myself just yet, but I do want to know the story. I chose this title as a symbolic point for sharing my experiences whilst I was living in Beijing as a Muslim foreigner. Incase you don’t already know about my heritage I guess it makes sense for that to be my starting point…

First of all I’m British. I was born in and (off term time) reside in London. I am female and a Muslim, and have thus chosen to wear a headscarf. My family come from Bangladesh in South Asia, and so although I may be on #‘team light-skin’, my skin color is brown, not ‘white’.

In Beijing I stood out quite a bit. Most people could tell that I’m not Chinese because whilst my skin has olive undertones, it’s still a few shades darker than the average Chinese foundation. My headscarf tends to be another giveaway. What’s more, my love for art is often reflected in my fashion style, and thus could cause an additional moment of staring. I should point out that whilst getting stared at by Chinese people and being constantly photographed both knowingly and without permission is common ground for most foreigners in China, none of this bothered me so much. I would have to say that my pet peeves are having to repeatedly repeat myself, and being incessantly asked questions. In China I got both of these a lot…combined. Perhaps this should have annoyed me instead, but I tried to observe patience in answering the same questions again and again for two reasons.

Firstly I cannot be annoyed at certain remarks or questions if they come from people who have not been informed/do not have accessible means to be informed about much beyond that which concerns their country. Therefore in answering questions about my background etc I carried out the minimum of my duty to pass on knowledge. Secondly I hoped that if more people became familiar with Muslim foreigners through me, it would lessen whatever other Muslim foreigners may have to deal with in the future when they themselves go to China.

As I just noted, foreigners in China seem to share the feeling of being treated slightly differently for looking notably ‘different’. Sometimes this works in their favor and is instead unfair to the Chinese (i.e. in some job opportunities), however most of us get our share of Chinese-people-being-racist-to-us-without-realizing-it. Of course each individual will have different experiences of the same event, however I noticed that my experience of studying in Beijing was different to my classmates in some aspects due to the contrast in our appearance. For instance on several occasions when I was with some of my Oxford classmates and a Chinese person stopped to talk to us and asked us where we were from. When everyone introduced themselves as being British, it was only me who was asked again as I was the only person of colour in the group.

You would be surprised at how many people failed to believe my nationality due to the way I look. At one point I introduced myself as British and added that my family were immigrants from Bangladesh, as someone once told me that’s how I should explain where I was born and where my parents were born (although my Grandmother was born in India), a.k.a the where I’m ‘really from’. Towards the end of the year my landlady texted to ask for the nationalities of the people living in our apartment. Ignoring how it seemed a bit suspicious I simply reminded her that we were British. She then asked me about ‘the girl in the headscarf’. Awkward😳. I told her ‘she’ was me and that I’m British too. I asked her why, and she just said that people from an ethnic minority were a group that get extra protection. I recall one Chinese person telling my that I cannot be British since I do not have white skin and blue eyes. -In other news, Wechat (Chinese advanced messenger app) has created a ‘Facepalm’ emoticon, and at moments like this I wish it were more accessible-. Further to my surprise, this experience isn’t limited to China. I was recently conducting a private tour in Oxford and was stopped by a waitress in a café who insisted on asking me where I was ‘really from’ when I said that I was British. 😶🌴

The question I was asked most about is my ethnicity and where I’m from. I’m somewhat used to people guessing where I’m from as I got it a lot whilst growing up (a classmate once thought I was from a Himalayan mountain when I was younger…). A few non-Chinese people guessed I was British because of my accent when speaking English, and an American Chinese person I once met in an elevator somehow guessed that I was British Bangladeshi. Besides those few, here’s the most memorable places everyone else thought I was from: Iran, India, Egypt, Arabia, Xinjiang, Nepal, Turkey, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Malaysia. The list is pretty much ranked in order of frequency, with the exception of Malaysia as I got that by far the most.

There were a few times where someone would ask if I was Indian and then mishear ‘England’ for ‘India’ and go on to ask a few more times (the first syllable for both countries is almost the same in Mandarin). Some people were shocked to hear me speak Chinese as they expected Arabic. On the day of University enrollment an Egyptian student asked me in two Arabic dialects if I was Egyptian and then also in English. I remember looking up in a daze and tiredly responding in Chinese that I don’t understand until the fourth round where I managed to speak English. One time also at the start of the year a friend was very offended on my behalf for being called out as Iranian whilst the rest of the group were accepted as British. She then proceeded to angrily explain to the man that I was British too, as I thought to myself; “I get that a lot”. I appreciated my friend’s support but I wasn’t angry at the time, the most these guesses ever did was annoy me due to their repetitive nature. It’s quite interesting for people to guess where they think you’re from, but as most parts of England are becoming increasingly multicultural it’s difficult to define our country by a specific ‘look’. The Chinese people I met did not grasp this concept, so long story short: I could not be British since I’m not ‘white’.

One evening I ended up sharing dinner with a clothes seller near my home. As we were talking she held my wrist and told me that my skin is a bit darker than hers, but we’re both yellow (in terms of skin undertones). What I’ll take from what she said is that we are all the same at the core. As a whole it was a truly precious meal.💛

One of the strange things that happened last year was being tricked into attending a nationally televised singing competition on the outskirts of Beijng. [Disclaimer: no danger was involved]. It seemed like from that day onwards people began assuming I was an ethnic minority Chinese. In an audience of a few hundred I was the only person in a headscarf (nothing too strange) and I was the only non-Chinese attendee. Due to this I was photographed like a celebrity during the filming breaks. When people talked to me they thought I was from Xinjiang as I was speaking Chinese and not a foreign language, and since I was wearing a religious headpiece they assumed I was part of an ethnic minority. People have explained to me that whilst there are small groups of Muslims in big cities like Beijing, it is in places like Xi’an and Xinjiang where Muslims blossom in number. Sometimes I got the impression that being from a major city in China and being Muslim was mutually exclusive. For instance the conversation with my landlady gave me the insight that some Chinese people equate being Muslim as being part of an ethnic minority. Fortunately I did visit two mosques in Beijing (the capital of China) and to me the most impressive thing about them was the fusion of Persian and Chinese architecture. I created a separate post to share photos of those mosques, click here to see them. A lot of the female Muslims in cities like Beijing either do not wear a headscarf or tend to style it as a type of turban. Most halal restaurants in China with Muslim staff have female waitresses wearing a headscarf and male waiters wearing a cap (known by some as a ‘toki’ or ‘topi’).

One of my most frequently asked questions (following the classic ‘where are you from?’) is why do I wear a headscarf. Just like the taxi driver I mentioned in a recent post, some people have even asked me if men have to wear a headscarf as well as women. The answer is no. In Islam wearing a headscarf only applies to women, however the grander concept of observing hijab applies to all genders. A headscarf is a piece of cloth that is used by women to cover their hair, neck and chest. An extension of the headscarf is for women (and men) to dress modestly, i.e. cover their figure. The simple reason is to prevent lustful behavior. Some people refer to the headscarf as a hijab; but to avoid confusion I only refer to the hijab as the spiritual concept of being aware of and accordingly controlling one’s actions and thoughts to prevent lustful actions. In sum, although a headscarf is limited to women, dressing modestly as well as the wider concept of the hijab does apply to all genders.

On a shopping trip to Xicheng, I was ushered into a shop by a seller who saw me pass by. I entered as I remembered seeing something cute as I walked past the first time. After a moment the lady began to talk to me and then sat me down and continued to converse. This progressed into sitting with all three store workers as they enthusiastically tried to get to know me. The first lady who was a bit elderly spent a while telling me to get married, and me telling her that I feel a bit young for that😅. We bonded over my preference for Huawei over Iphone (the only way is Huawei🙌🏽) and eventually she felt comfortable enough to ask about my headscarf. She told me that she doesn’t like Muslims because she ‘sees them hide bombs in their clothing on the news’. I explained to them that terrorists do not practice Islam and we should not generalize such things. She said that I couldn’t be a terrorist since I wasn’t wearing a black scarf. That day I was wearing a floral pink scarf, quite standard for me, but I know that a lot of women like to wear black for whatever reason. I save black for certain occasions, but everyone is free to do as they please. Unfortunately I have received a similar remark from a Professor at Oxford in the past. Worse yet, my classmates can probably guess whom I’m referring to.

My headscarf often sparked curiosity, a teacher of mine even asked me to put one on her one time as she thought they look pretty. On the flip side, my headscarf has also gotten me denied several job opportunities. I wouldn’t say this is because of prejudice alone; perhaps it’s also down to misunderstanding. I know I said earlier that being a foreigner sometimes works in ones favour for jobs, but I realized that’s mostly true for native English speakers with white skin. On one occasion I came across a role for participating in a TV show for China’s predominant state broadcaster; CCTV. After confirming some details with the organizer I was asked about my religion and whether it would be possible to take off my scarf for the recording. I said no. The organizer explained that hats are not permitted during filming, and I too explained how my headscarf is not a hat. I think she understood my logic but was cautious to relay it to her boss, so we said ‘next time’ instead. Another more complicated opportunity was to be an extra in an advert supposedly for ‘Urban Decay’. This time I was quite blatantly denied the job because of my scarf. The filming involved extras sitting in a dimly lit set drinking shots of alcohol, so it worked out for the best that I was not involved; however what bothered me most was the lack of professionalism of the liaison involved. A more positive experience was when I did someone a favour by being filmed for a promotional bank video. I was asked about my religion beforehand but this time it was because the workers wanted to be respectful.

The top question from my friends and family was about what I was eating in China. I’m pretty much a Pescatarian at Oxford anyway and this mostly continued into Beijing. To the surprise of many, there are lots of halal restaurants in China, and probably more in Beijing than Oxford (even if you were to shrink Beijing’s size down to match). Peking University even had a small halal canteen (open to Muslims only at lunch due to the meat expenses, and open to everyone at dinner) as well as a halal counter at one of the big canteens. This didn’t mean that I was eating meat all the time, as I don’t do that in England either, but I enjoyed having a few more options. Every now and then I would use leftover halal meat from a takeaway as a tofu substitute when cooking (ironic huh), especially from the meat skewers that are in every Xinjiang restaurant (and need to be in England). I also came across two food markets with counters selling meat in Chaoyang and Sanlitun (Beijing) and did some cooking with a friend. I visited Seoul and Tokyo at the end of the year and it must be said that it is far easier following a halal diet in China than in Korea or Japan. Although ‘Halal Resteraunt Week’ (I can expand on this in another post if you like) has been running for two years now in Korea, I’ve been told that it’s still difficult to even find vegetarian food in Korea let alone halal meat. In Japan you could at least follow a pescatarian diet a little easier.

Are you wondering what halal even means? Halal refers to that which is permissible in Islam. The antonym of halal is ‘haram’. In Islam things are deemed as haram because they are harmful for the body or the mind. Halal meat refers to the way the animal was slaughtered. Proper slaughtering involves performing a short prayer before the slaughter and then killing the animal in the way that would cause it to feel the least amount of pain and produce the least amount of blood. Therefore Muslims eat halal meat because it is cleaner for the body and the mind. However not all meat is halal. Pork is haram because pigs carry out actions that make them unclean. Certain types of seafood are also considered haram because their bone structures do not class them as typical fish, but many people differ on what this list includes. Some of the seafood seen as haram by some are: squid, crab, lobster, octopus, oysters and prawns, which I know is the same for some strict Christians. For this reason I tried to be a ‘pescatarian with limits’ and avoided things like sea cucumber, but I’m guilty of trying some other seafoods. The main substance besides food that is haram is alcohol. Alcohol is haram because it harms your body and alters ones state of mind thus turning them away from God. In addition to what I have just tried to explain, I also learned about the general Chinese understanding of halal. You might learn it for yourself if you go to a restaurant in China as a Muslim and ask if there are any vegetarian options. Expect the response that there are in fact halal options as there is chicken and beef on the menu. A lot of the people I met understood halal food as being anything besides pork, which complicated ordering sometimes. Ordering vegetarian food isn’t always the safest option either as the food is often sprinkled with bits of spam meat. Spam is a fitting term here🙄. A lot of people were shocked when I explained that its more to do with the preparation of the meat than the meat itself, and one person asked me if there is a “halal milk oil”. 🤔

Last year I also spent Ramadhan in Beijing. Ramadhan is holy month in which Muslims fast by abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, as well as limiting activity that draws them away from God. I was able to find a timetable for when to start and end my fasts, but I found it more difficult than fasting in England due to the temperature being so hot (context: maximum heat in England is 30°C, at the time Beijing was around 38°C on average). Although I had a group of Muslim friends, we didn’t meet for Iftar (the meal at which Muslims break their fast) as they lived quite far. Oxford at least has people in the Islamic Society, but in Beijing I was the only person fasting that I knew of around me. It was a new feeling. I sometimes had iftar with friends outside or by ordering takeout, other days I cooked at home. For those who insist on a substantial suhoor (meal before sunrise taken to fuel the next day’s fast), there are a few steamed bun shops that open at early hours, as well as street venders selling food from late at night till early in the morning.

I would like to reassure you that whilst my tone may have come off a bit negative at times, my general outlook on my experiences in China is not negative. The main reason that I created this post is similar to what I said earlier about my attitude to answering questions. Friends and family from England often asked me how I was coping in Beijing with being alone or finding things to eat, and now some of my answers are embedded in this post. In that sense I wanted to share my experiences with other people who may ponder on similar questions. Since coming to England, there’s a lot I miss about Beijing, and actually I was never seriously homesick whilst I was staying there last year. On another note, I will soon be uploading a similar post written in Chinese, so if you can read some Chinese then I invite you to wait for that. The topic remains the same but the content will differ slightly due to the different purpose and audience. I do hope this has been informative to you and if you want me to expand on any points then please let me know~

The title I chose for this post is powerful to me because it’s symbolic in a few personal and public senses. Although my family was worried about me being one of the few Muslims in a place where religious views are suppressed, I felt safer in the East than West as I came across articles throughout the year of increased hate crimes against Muslims; some of which were scarily close to home. Therefore the times we are in do feel like a mass ‘funeral of Muslims’ due to the rise in Islamophobia across the globe, but we should not surrender to fear. It is not my intention to feed negativity, as there are more important things that need attention right now than the racism and ignorance I faced at times last year. I pray that we can all live in peace rather than pray for people to rest in peace once it is already too late.

If you overcome mental blocks in order to write a post that was envisioned under a year ago, good luck 世界。

(此致敬礼) 欣妍 – اَلسَّلامُ عَلَيْكُم – From Xinyan.

*I know that some of my readers and friends really are Malaysian, so my commencing statement does not apply to you, but I’m sure you understand why I started in this way~

**Eid e Ghadeer Mubarak. 💚

Visiting 7 Kings

7 kings cropped

Dear reader, I hope you’ve been keeping well. You may have noticed that the flow of posts has been slow on my blog this year. As I’m not one for excuses I will just say that I’ve been wrapped up in some personal things and therefore have not been as efficient in managing my dedication to this site. I cannot guarantee that I will be back to frequent uploads immediately, but I do hope to share more content with you soon. The post I hinted at previously is on the top of my list but I’ve been hesitant to get deep into composing it as I hold the topic in high regard, 不过 I’ll follow my own advice and take it in small steps~

I don’t think I am aware of so many as 7 Kings being in existence, are you? I finished my year abroad at Peking University (Beijing, China) in June, and recently I came back to England after some short travels. Two weeks ago I was invited by a former Mandarin teacher of mine to visit him at the school he now teaches in, Seven Kings. He invited me to meet some of his current students and told me that I could possibly inspire them by my own academic achievements.

My visit was timed to coincide with a trip by a class of Beijing high school students who came to England to experience British schooling. This had me fortunate enough to experience the day from a few more cultural perspectives. For instance in one class where students were prompted to guess my age most of the British students assumed I was either 15 or maybe even 17, whilst the Chinese students thought I was 23 or 25. I revealed that I’m actually 20 years young, and told my teacher I was once almost denied entry to a 15 rated film because the usher thought I was 12 (until we showed her photos from my at the time ‘recent’ 18th birthday celebrations😅😑).

I experienced a lot in a short day~ I first met my teacher’s colleague and sat in on a meeting with the visiting Chinese teachers. After a brief tour through sections of the school we met some of the students taking a “D&T” class (Design and Technology), and I must say the display of some of the students’ creations were most impressive. I then joined a few of my teacher’s lessons (more on that soon), and afterwards was brought to have lunch in the staff room. Who knew that teachers have their own hot food served to them by a singular lunch lady!? It was a strange privilege to have found out through experience haha!

Whilst having lunch a member of staff who had been eager to talk to me when she saw me during the morning tour approached me. In the morning she thought I was the Translator for the Chinese group and couldn’t think of an excuse to chat. I was humbled by her eagerness to meet me and by the things we spoke about. As a fellow Muslim wearing a headscarf she told me she was proud that I could speak Chinese and that I attend Oxford. I told her a bit about the year in Beijing that I had just completed, and how my experience seemed quite different to those around me as it was to an extent seen through the veil of my headscarf. Just as I told her, this is something I hope to share with you at greater length in due time. Whilst I was humbled to see how our conversation made her so happy, it also felt a bit strange. Perhaps I felt undeserved of the extent to which I was complimented throughout the day; however I discovered that whilst my achievements may not be so special in my own eyes, at the very least they have certainly inspired a lot of people, including those whom I don’t know personally. After introducing myself to one of the classes I met, a teacher explained to me that the students were especially excited that a ‘brown person could speak Chinese’. So what I’ve come to realize is that whilst it might not mean much to myself, some of my accomplishments have motivated people who don’t necessarily have ‘blonde hair and blue eyes’ to dream outside their comfort zone. I can’t see anything wrong with that. In fact I just recalled that on our way back home from the airport our taxi driver happened to be talking about me at one point, not realizing I was sitting at the back seat of his car. I won’t go in to what he said, but what I learnt from that strange experience was that our stories reach people without us realizing, and we can inspire people without intending to. This isn’t just about me, you should know that there are people out there who recognize the things that you have done and probably look up to you in ways that might even seem small. Just keep trying to try your best and let the rest happen naturally~

After lunch I headed back to my teacher’s class to assist with a few more lessons. The lessons I came to were mostly Mandarin, with the exception of one French class. The students were from Year 8 to 10, roughly aged 12-15, and each year group came with a different vibe 😛 I forgot what it was like to be taking my GCSEs (end of High School qualification in the UK) so whilst joining the Mandarin classes, it was quite refreshing to revisit vocabulary and sentence structures from when I first started to learn Chinese.

All the lessons I assisted in involved introducing myself to the class, opening the floor to questions, and helping the students with their work. For Mandarin, the students were revising the exam topic of ‘jobs’ before commencing their summer holidays. In one class as part of a class exercise, the Chinese visiting students asked the British student they were sitting with about their ideal jobs. My teacher also got a student to test me from across the classroom. They asked “你想做商人吗?”/ “Do you want to be a business person?”. I said no. “In my opinion earning lots of money is not what’s most important; I would like to take opportunities that will make me the happiest”. I’m sure I’ve said this before and of course this opinion will differ from person to person, but I myself am on the pursuit of happiness.

The day was filled with memorable moments, like the year 8 class’ reaction to my self introduction 😂, and also some of the questions I was asked by students. Something that stood out was a girl asking me “Can someone who’s stupid but works really hard get into a posh University?”. It’s sad because she clearly wasn’t ‘asking for a friend’, and I’m sure I asked myself something similar in the past. I told the class that no one is ‘stupid’, and no matter where you’re from or where you are all that counts is hard work. To another student who had ample compliments for my so called intellect I said; “we’re both students, we just have different textbooks”. It’s true isn’t it?

I don’t think there’s an exact ‘moral’ to this whole story, I would just like to remind you that you are only limited by your mindset. Oxford is one of the best academic institutions in the world, of course its amazing, but at the same time it’s just a name. Many things are just names with ideas attached to them by different people with mindsets shaped by their experiences of the world. I hope you can follow what I’m saying. The area you’re from, a stereotype that may be attached to you, you’re dream destination; when you get down to it they’re all just names. All that is important is working hard, and the extent to which you can achieve this is based on the mindset you choose to adopt. It’s not always easy, but that’s why I’ll repeat what I said earlier. You just need to sincerely try to try your best, for yourself; and leave the rest to fate. 💜

If you become an assistant teacher for a day, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Xinyan.

The picture I included at the start is from one of the group photos taken with one of the classes of British and Chinese students. I chose to edit the photo, as it felt more sensible to cover people’s faces for Internet safety, rather than share a photo of a group of children without their individual consent. I’m sure you can understand this~

Effective working

Those of you who are part of an academic institution may be reaching the midway point of your first term! With this you may be beginning to feel stressed about the oncoming workload, or something along the same line of thought. But fear not! In today’s post I hope to put forward some practical steps you can follow which will allow you to organise your learning so that you can maximise your time and 减少压力 🙂 I too will need to be following these more closely as I embark on my fourth week of University.

This happens to be one of the topics I have been somewhat planning for quite a while in advance and simply had to wait for the appropriate time to convey. Unfortunately I have misplaced the points I had noted down in preparation 所以I will write this as I go along; which may be more sincere anyway~ Lastly, I wanted to point out that this post will be beneficial for your general learning techniques but is not specific to studying Chinese. Therefore I may compose a separate post about ways to revise Chinese in the near future. For now you will notice however that the points will be numbered in Chinese for the sake of passive revision of Chinese numbers.

一 Firstly, the reason I have posted this at the start of the academic year, now that you may have adjusted to your new learning environment is because effective learning starts from ‘day one’. I’m sure you may have heard this before as it is very sound advice, but you essentially need to not leave things till last minute. Easier said than done, trust me I know. When you are set a task, perhaps record it on your planner to make yourself aware of the time you have to finish it. You could also set yourself a deadline earlier than the actual due date in order to tackle procrastination. But even simpler than that and something you may not have been told is that you should just start. Put pen to paper and just write (depending on the task of course). Your work will only begin once you start, and if you attempt the task early on you will leave yourself time for development. It would also be very satisfying to have finished a task prior to a deadline which gives you time to do other things. It’s okay if the result you reach is not reflective of your highest standard because you will be giving yourself time to improve its quality. Do heed this advice and try at least once to start the task you are given early on and then continue from there. A teacher once told me to “not think and just start”, but I would alter this and advise you to not overthink and just start.

You may reflect on some of your past days as being wasted, however that is also not the case. Credit yourself for the work you have done and skills you have gained to prepare you for the rest of your course(s). Is there a task you have been too anxious to begin? Give yourself some time after reading this post to start jotting down some ideas and just do it!

二 Another point I think is very important is to remind yourself that it’s okay not to be okay (-thanks Jessie). It’s completely natural to experience stress and although I have talked about this in a separate post, just remember that it’s fine to feel low sometimes and it’s not a sign of weakness. Certain stress could indicate that you have been working too hard, and if that’s the case then take a break and resume your work once rested (there will be more on this below). Once you have taken time out of working to reflect on your personal well being, use your stress to propel you to work harder. There are constructive ways of going about it, but at first you can use your stress or frustration to motivate you to complete your work so that it’s simply put behind you (in ‘the dustbin of history’).

三 A smaller point to bear in mind as you work is to prioritise certain tasks over others. Some tasks will require more time than others to complete due to the nature of the task, but you will also need to decide what to dedicate your time to depending on your own personal reasons E.g. Having difficulty processing thoughts may mean that you will allocate more time to completing an essay and less time creating a summary poster for a recently completed module.

四 Following on from this, it’s a good idea to try working in different settings to figure out where you work most effectively. It’s probably best to get this out of the way at the start of the year because of Point One in this post, but if this advice is reaching you a little late then that’s okay too because you can now find a new environment to work in to change up your routine and keep things interesting. Working in a different space every now and then can also be helpful in keeping your brain engaged in your work. It’s also a good tactic for refreshing your mind as an extension of Point Two. Don’t use this point as a distraction from actually doing your work, but do try to venture out to a few different spots to see where you work best. Some examples include:

  • Library
  • Café
  • Park
  • A desk at home
  • Common room
  • Lecture hall/classroom
  • A friend’s house/dorm
  • Random (safe) hipster building

五 One good exercise to try when working is to keep a pen in your hand with some scrap paper. You don’t need to write anything intelligible, simply write what comes to mind without thinking or just scribble (if it works properly it’s also a great to find out what’s been occupying your thoughts!). The movement of your hand will stimulate your brain as you will be working more actively. This is especially effective for tasks that consist solely of reading.

六 One of my past teachers once told me that an effective way of maximising your revision is to engage multiple senses. This can be achieved in different ways of course, but so you get a sense of how to go about it, I’ll list some techniques below that you can try for each sense…

  • Touch – Try step five.
  • Hearing – Try listening to this on low volume on the background as you work. Mozart is a good option too. Try Point Seven。
  • Smell – Get some fresh air and leave the window open for a while if you are able to. Try burning oils when studying. A good combination is rosemary, basil (three drops) and peppermint (two drops). The scent will be associated with your revision and therefore should be burnt out at the end of a study session. For your exam you can also put the same scent on a tissue or your sleeve to act as a memory trigger.
  • Sight – Try using different coloured pens and papers for different pieces of work
  • Taste – Eat healthily and drink water as you work. Lentils and fish are supposed ‘brain foods’, but basically do not neglect your greens and try to vary your diet. Certain foods will slow you down, and being hungry can demotivate you to work so try not to skip meals (我的情况也是这样的).

七 Something I tried during my A-levels was recording my revision notes. 例如 I asked a few friends to record certain quotes from my literature texts that I was expected to know from memory to help me remember them. We recorded the scripts in various weird accents that made the quotes more memorable, and I would say it was quite effective. What’s more, you can make audio recordings of long pieces of texts that you need to be familiar with (like a model essay for instance) and then listen to them when you have nothing to do whilst travelling, on the treadmill at the gym, need to fall asleep…and well you get the idea. Subconsciously at least you will definitely pick up some key information.

八 In this penultimate point I wanted to talk about a method of motivating and inspiring yourself if you ever find yourself overwhelmed by work, or feel that all hope is lost. This is something I created myself towards the end of last year and I recommend you to try it for yourself, although you may be apprehensive at first. What I did was write down a few motivational messages on small pieces of paper, fold them up and put them in a small box. Simple right? The plan was to randomly take one out of the box if I ever needed an extra push, but a strange mental stigma usually prevented me from doing so. However knowing that they existed did the trick anyway. For this to be effective, you should write down messages that are personal to you, rather than the typical quote you can find in search engines that are later used as photo captions. You can remind yourself of a certain person who has faith in you, a phrase that keeps you going, or simple logic like ‘if so many people get through this each year, so can you!’. Simplicity is key with this, so once again don’t overthink but try to note down some meaningful sentiments. Write your notes in different colours for extra appeal and then store them in a jar or a box and take one out when you feel like you really need it. Lastly, try not to refer to the notes too often so that they are more potent in your rare moments of despair.

九 A lot of the points I’ve put forward are likely to aid the system of work you have already put into place for yourself. Therefore assuming that you already are, or soon will be into the swing of work, you also need to make sure to 休息 –rest. If you overwork yourself you will eventually ‘burn out’ and prevent yourself from sustaining a good pace of work. Try following the advice I have given, and don’t become so engrossed in work that you neglect your physical and mental needs. 不要睡眠不足! Try to get enough sleep, and give yourself time to relax.

As this has been a slightly lengthy post I hope it has given you time to reflect and has provided you with some practical advice you plan to put into practice. Let me know if you try any of the points I have discussed, and feel free to ask questions about the topic.

If you want to work more effectively, good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Warrior Spirit – Life Stress



我最新的帖子是关于如何减少生活压力因为我希望帮助那些有些似困扰的人. [这些仅代表个人观点].

My most recent posts have been quite different to what you may be used to if you have been following my blog and I think it’s been quite interesting to experiment with styles. My A2 exams (a pre-university qualification in the UK) will be finished by the end of June, and so I have planned to post more about Chinese culture etc in July 好吧? I’m actually quite excited because I have quite a few projects I’ve been waiting to work on once I leave college. With regards to this blog, I have a list of things I want to write about but I think it would be better to share them after I’m rid of the stress from exams. There are a few in particular I am quite keen on sharing so stay tuned~

When looking at my blog statistics there’s a trend I cannot fail to ignore, and this is the popularity for the post titled ‘Being busy and idioms to help’ Whilst I’m certainly pleased that so many of you have found it engaging, it’s also quite saddening to think that a majority of those who have read the post may be finding it difficult to cope with a busy schedule, as I can imply that you sought help from the title as it offers “idioms to help’’ (I had an English exam this morning as well so I am feeling particularly analytic today). 其实 I noticed the trend a while ago, but I delayed providing my advise because this has been a particularly stressful year for me myself, and also because I hope to offer something that will be meaningful.

There are a few ideologies I have created or adjusted which I refer to during stressful times to keep the bigger picture in sight. Of course, these will be based on my opinions so do be aware of that, but I think they could be helpful. 虽然我用了自己的看法和例子,但我明白每个人情况不同。

One of the thing’s I believe is that ‘everything happens for a reason’. We may not come to learn the reason or understand it immediately, but in times of stress I don’t see how it would necessarily improve how we feel towards a situation. What I take from the saying is that every action has its purpose, and this justifies events we may see as bad. For instance when something I perceive as bad has happened to me I may be frustrated, but eventually I realize that there is a purpose behind it and this makes even some of the bad or stressful situations we face have a degree of meaning.

Another famous saying I have stated in another post is ‘the glass is half full’, 杯子是半满 in Chinese. In essence this reminds me that it is often more fruitful to have an optimistic attitude towards an event rather than a pessimistic one. In practice, I try to outweigh the negatives of a situation with the positives. In doing so, you may feel a lot better towards a stressful situation as you may realize there’s not much to be stressed about because it’s not as bad as it seems.

Something else I think that is very important to remember is that you cannot change the past (regardless of what Jay Gats may believe). Whatever you may have done in the past (near or far) has already happened and you cannot undo that. But that does not mean you cannot learn from the situation or move on by preventing yourself from committing the same mistake in the future. I think that adopting this attitude will help you to get rid of feelings of regret, because each time you learn from your mistake you will be lessening the potential mistakes that will be committed in the future. I should add that the ‘mistake’ may not necessarily be one (由于subjectivism) so don’t be too hard on yourself especially because mistakes are in fact normal and necessary to life.

I almost left this point out, but I’m glad I suddenly remembered it. Something that may give you hope in general moments of stress or demotivation (in the simplest phrasing) is to think that there will always be someone who is worse than you, as well as someone who is better than you; and given the size of the human population, this is highly plausible. Let me illustrate this in terms of intellectual capacity. A student who may feel demotivated for an exam should point out to themselves that there is someone in the large world that we live in who has less knowledge than themselves. The comparison provides reassurance and comfort that the student does in fact have knowledge, which even surpasses someone else who exists. However, the student should also recognise that there also exists a person who has greater knowledge than they do, as this will prevent them from becoming complacent and motivate them to work harder to reach a new goal.

You may notice that my ideologies have a common theme, but I think that life is centered around happiness. Whilst some may dismiss this as naive, my future career aspirations are not based around money but happiness because I think that’s a better guarantor for long-term satisfaction. It’s subjective to each person and not necessarily identified by a smile, but happiness is a feeling of content that only you can identify within yourself. Generally speaking, I think it’s good to do things that make you happy, but do not bring harm to yourself or conflict with the safety and happiness of others. I guess that’s a bit philosophical though, so moving swiftly on. Something else I realized regarding happiness is that it’s a state you choose to be in. When something bad has happened to us, it’s natural to feel sad etc, but it is essentially our choice to remain sad for the sake of it that will determine our happiness. It’s fairly commonsensical when you read it like that, but sometimes its more comforting to go with the former (of choosing to stay sad). Therefore sometimes when you feel stressed out, don’t repress your feelings (talk to someone, engage in a hobby etc) but remember that it is also your choice to stay on the path of happiness.

Lastly, the ‘ideology’, which I ironically misspelt as ‘dieology’ (…it will make sense in a few seconds) that is most meaningful to me is the one that ‘people are dying’, because I think it’s completely my own original thought this time, as I think the previous example of a person existing who is better and worse than you yourself was too (–you heard it here first). The statement that ‘people are dying’ is by no means something that I find comforting because of it’s literal meaning. In stating that ‘people are dying’ I put my grievances in better perspective because my problems will seem less significant in comparison to people who are facing the ultimate trials of death. Not to say that all of our problems are insignificant, but comparing them to the struggles of human suffering reminds us to be grateful for the good things we have in our lives. Moreover in comparison to something as extreme as human suffering, we may realize that we are taking a problem out of proportion or that it really isn’t worth the stress. For instance comparing something as small as not receiving mail in time to someone who faces imminent death may highlight our selfish tendencies and remind us to be grateful for our situations that may seem bleak, but are full of hope.

Initially I had written this post by including tips to help decrease exam stress, but I decided it would be better to distinguish the general life advice I wanted to convey to you, from the exam stress relief that I can pass on another time. There are several reasons for this, but most importantly because exams only occupy a small portion of our lives, so it is more important to understand how to maintain general happiness before battling exam stress or other stressful situations you may be experiencing. 虽然考试在我们的生活中占有很重要的地位,但是除了考试压力以外我们还有很多其他的生活压力。

You may also be wondering about the peculiar picture at the start. Earlier this week a teacher from Brighton came to my college to help my Chinese class with the Literature element of our Cultural exam. I won’t disclose too much, but his Chinese name is 高老师。I also went to Eton college for a few hours yesterday for a similar session (and was at awe in the presence of their impressive collection of Chinese literature!). The picture at the start is of a certificate 高老师 awarded me and my classmates at the end of our lesson…we even had to bow (and he was more than happy for me to include the certificate in a post). The purpose of the certificate is to reward the efforts of deserving students of Chinese, who have the “warrior spirit” as they have survived the ongoing quest for knowledge of Chinese. 真的不断。

Although the ‘warrior spirit’ was explained as recognition of academic resilience, the concept can metaphorically be applied to having a strong will in times of adversity, which is something I hope you can take away from this post. As a follow up of course, I will still share with you the ‘tips’ I have to help you with exam stress for the next academic year (which you may follow if it is of relevance to you).

I hope this post has unlocked the warrior spirit within you, or has caused you to realize that you have a better grip on the things that may be stressing you out than you had imagined. This took me longer to write than usual because I genuinely wanted to be able to share meaningful advice, with the hopes that you can take some ideas away as applicable advice to your own situations. I shared a lot of my personal viewpoints and tried my best to explain my own philosophical ideologies so do let me know what you think, and I hope this was helpful 一起加油.

If you are coping with stress, good luck 世界。

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Being busy and idioms to help


A lot has been keeping me occupied lately which is why I haven’t been so frequent with my uploads. Being busy is a good sign of progress in my eyes, as I believe that there is always something for a person to be doing. There is definitely a lot in store for me (as well as other fellow students) for the rest of the year, but I do not wish to mark this as excuse. Instead I want to outline that I am not abandoning my blog and leaving it dormant, but that I would rather devote time to write posts that I am pleased with once my timetable is more…concrete? I have in fact prepared a list of topics that I wish to cover, and it seems like the list is forever growing. It’s quite beneficial to take a moment to reflect on your progress and then accordingly build on your strengths and weaknesses (like how you may encounter target setting in a school environment); therefore I feel that the past two weeks have allowed me to prepare greater resources and additionally organise separate endeavours. Since this current academic half term I have been acting as a confidant for a few friends, and also helping students manage the stresses of University applications. Because of this I have been particularly focused on future goals, and I hope that this short message can act as food for thought for you during the busy period that you too are experiencing.

Bearing in mind the theme of this post I thought it would be appropriate for me to unveil the grandeur of Chinese idioms by sharing idioms related to being busy and striving forward. Idiom in Chinese is 成语(cheng yu). They are not exclusive to China and can be found in almost all cultures. The word ‘idiom’ has Linguistic usage, however the idioms that I am concerned with are short phrases with a moral that can be learnt from its explanatory story. I suppose the best way for me to define an idiom is by describing that they are like short fables. In order for me to elaborate allow me to give a few example of phrases you may be familiar with that are in fact classed as idioms: ‘’Hit the books’’, ‘’When pigs fly’’, ‘’Scratch someone’s back’’ and ‘’Don’t judge a book by its cover’’. These idioms all remain quite popular and so it is likely you may have you heard these being used. I personally find most English idioms that I have come across to be rather strange, especially when I cared to compare them with the few Chinese idioms that I have learnt. For example to ‘scratch someone’s back’ is not designed to convey an unsightly image of a person scratching someone’s back; but is actually meant to communicate that a person is willing to help someone with a task, so long as they return the favour!

Chinese idioms interest me because their teachings can be implemented into our daily lives, as well as the fact that the stories are so inventive and can be appreciated by people of all ages. There are a couple of idioms that I have learnt in greater depth which I can share on a separate post, however as promised here are some idioms that could motivate you to strive on with work.

今天的第一个成语是(today’s first idiom is): 脚踏实地 (jiǎo tà shí dì). The literal meaning of this is ‘to step on solid ground’. Logically it follows that walking on ground that is solid will be more stable than ground that is cracked. In the same way the idiom illustrates that people ought to work hard and proceed with work in a steady and stable manner. For example, a student should plan or organise their tasks in advance so that they can eventually carry them out with stability.

第二个是 (the second is): 全力以赴 (quán lì yǐ fù) which has the literal meaning of exerting all of one’s strength. The messages in Chinese idioms are based on common ideas. To exert one’s strength is to say that a person should try their best in a task or to work towards a goal. This particular idiom has a tone of formality, but is still used in everyday speech. It should also be noted that it is usually used when discussing actions that are yet to be completed. For example it could be used to say that ‘The little boy should try his best to finish reading the book’.

最后第三个是 (lastly, the third is): 半途而废 (bàn tú ér fèi) literally means to walk half the road and give up half way. This is an example of a negative idiom, which aims to show you how you ought not to behave. The idiom is about starting a task without seeing it through because you leave it incomplete halfway through the task. In the instance of a negative message, the idiom would be understood by telling someone that they should not ‘walk half the road and give up’. In the simplest terms this would be conveyed by using the word 不 (bu) which means ‘no’. So for this particular idiom you can say ‘你应该不半途而废’, which means that ‘You should not leave a task incomplete’.

I tried to include idioms that weren’t too random and fitted in with the theme of being busy and involved in tasks, but still working hard. I hope that you were able to relate to what I discussed and that you can use the idioms to motivate you.

If you find yourself wanting to leave a task unfinished but strive to complete it; good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

If you found this post useful you could perhaps check out something I wrote about dealing with stress; Warrior Spirit.