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Monday, 16 February 2015

My Headway Experience (Part 5)

Chapter 5: “On how we all met and became friends for life”


I’m a quite shy person. Many people don’t know this, but I have to overcome a series of personal obstacles whenever I want to approach someone and say “Hello!” -and when you are in an English-speaking country for the first time in your life and you´re not a native speaker, this is even harder! However, I must have turned into a completely different person on arrival at Exeter, for it was so easy for me to start talking to the others. Everybody seemed so friendly and happy to be there! Anyway, getting used to the variety of accents was particularly difficult for me: there were 60 teachers attending the seminar, and we were from 20 different countries. Pretty impressive, don’t you think? I had never lived such a cosmopolitan experience in my whole life!


And of course, there was the cultural factor… Should I shake hands or should I bow? Do people kiss in such-and -such a country? Do they kiss once or twice? I was really anxious because I wanted to give a good first  impression! My piece of advice is: when you find yourself in the same situation, whether at Exeter College or anywhere else in the world, there’s something everybody understands: a sincere smile! Just relax, smile and say “Hello!” nicely. The rest will be a piece of cake!


The second teacher I talked to was this nice smiling girl from Poland, Roksana. It was before 4 pm, the time all the participants were supposed to arrive and register, and I was hanging about at the incredible front quad at Exeter College, eager for the adventure to start. We smiled, said “hello!” and five minutes later we were like birds of a feather…


My friend Roksana from Poland and I


At 5.30 pm we all gathered at the Fellows’ Garden for a welcome drink. It was a warm summer afternoon, the sun was shining and the birds were singing as we mingled enthusiastically. All those new faces and unheard - of names… It was a wonderful idea to be wearing our name badges from the very beginning . It was a magical moment.





Two weeks later it was unbelievably hard to say goodbye… And it was then when I knew in my heart that a part of me would always stay in Oxford...













Sunday, 8 February 2015

My Headway Experience (Part 4)

Chapter 4: “On how I arrived in the UK, Heathrow Airport and Oxford”
I have a confession to make: I fell head over heels in love with England the moment I set foot in it. I must say tears ran down my cheeks when the plane landed. The flight had been long – 13 hours! – yet quiet and interesting. 

My flight on time
It was a night flight, but I didn’t get to sleep much – I was so excited! I arrived at Heathrow Airport at 6:30 am on Sunday, 27th July, 2014. I went through Customs and Passport Control very quickly. Friendly staff, documents and letter of recommendation from Exeter College OK, no problem at all.

OUP had made arrangements for a chauffeur to pick me up and there he was, holding a tablet with my name on the screen. It was so touching! I just had to take a photo of the nice Indian man!

The trip from London to Oxford was charming. It was a nice summer morning and there wasn’t much traffic due to the early hour.

We got to Oxford at around 8 am. The chauffeur dropped me half a block from the entrance to Exeter College, on the corner of Turl and High Street. (Most of the streets in the downtown area in Oxford are pedestrian streets). I had to drag my suitcase for about 60 metres. Unfortunately, the College had no sign outside, so I went right past it and got to the corner of Turl and Broad Street. It was very early for the Tourist Information Office to be open, and even the shops on Broad Street were still closed.

I was starting to worry when I met my first colleague: KK, a nice teacher from China, who couldn’t find the entrance to the college either. We introduced each other, shook hands with enthusiasm and finally found the entrance to Exeter.  We rang the bell and the nice porter let me leave my suitcase in my room, though it wasn’t the time to check in yet, and the room hadn’t been cleaned.

My room
After doing that, I decided to go for a stroll and start taking pictures of the downtown area. It was like being in a movie! I just couldn't believe it!  I was on the verge of tears the whole time. I made great efforts to take in everything I saw as I walked along, for I knew any experience would eventually become a memory to treasure. And I was right...


The Malmaison Hotel
First selfie in Oxford
Hertford Bridge (popularly known as the  Bridge of Sighs)
Oxford Castle

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

My Headway Experience (Part 3)

Chapter 3: “On how I got ready”


The following three months were incredible. I think I had never felt so proud of myself in my whole life. I’m not used to that kind of recognition. I just couldn’t believe that somebody had noticed me and considered my work was worth a prize. Besides, it wasn’t just any person: it was OUP!

At least once a week I had something to attend to: answer emails with personal details, send my scanned passport, send an application form to Exeter College, keep in touch with Francesca, the nice girl who arranged my return flights, send a photo of me smiling, arrange my domestic flight and travel insurance, the list could go on and on. Although there were so many things to see to, I enjoyed every single one of them, for they reminded me of my scholarship. There wasn’t a day during those three months when I didn’t think of Oxford.

I should probably add that all this came after a very difficult year in my life. I suffered a lot, on a personal level, but I walked through the darkness and became a stronger and more confident person.
                                                    


That may be another reason why this whole experience was of such importance in my life: When you’ve suffered a lot, it seems you have the emotional ability to enjoy the bright side of life even more. You just embrace this kind of things and take them for what they are: a gift.


It was pretty hard for me to focus on my work and studies, since I devoted many hours to read about England, Oxford, Exeter College, the weather there in July and August, the places to visit, the food to eat, the seminar, the workshops, the tutors, etc...


I felt I had been blessed. This would be my first time in England and I was determined to make the most of it.

Magdalen Bridge

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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

My Headway Experience (Part 2)

Chapter 2: “On how I found out”


I had been out of town for the weekend, doing a seminar related to my Post-graduate course on “Secondary Education and IT”. I got up that Monday morning, 7th April 2014, and after having breakfast, I decided to check my emails. (I was at home since I had asked for an absence leave at school).
There it was! The email that would change my life in so many different and amazing ways!


Dear Gloria
CONGRATULATIONS!

On behalf of Liz Soars and the Headway Scholarship Foundation, I’m delighted to tell you that you have been awarded one of the Headway Scholarships for 2014 which means that you are entitled to a place on the 2-week English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar at Exeter College in Oxford. (https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/details.php?id=X162-2#pagetop)

We will send you more details shortly so that you can apply for a visa (if necessary).  In summary, you have won:
·         A place on the ELT Summer Seminar Sunday 27th July to Friday 8th August
·        Accommodation and most meals (except lunch on Saturday and Sunday and meals during optional weekend excursions)
·         Certificate of Completion from Oxford University
·         Social activities
·         Return flights to UK and transfers to Oxford
Please let us know as soon as possible, preferably by return email, that you are able to accept this prize, and also give us your contact details including your full postal address and telephone numbers (home and work).

Many congratulations and we look forward to meeting you in Oxford.

Best wishes
The Headway Team

And this was my reply to them:


Dear Liz and people at the Headway Scholarship Foundation


I cannot express in words how happy I am about the good news!
I wanted this scholarship so badly, yet, with so many teachers applying, I never expected to be awarded one of them. I don´t think I can ever thank you enough. 
I accept the prize, of course.
My contact details are: 


XXXXXXXXX

I'm looking forward to hearing from you soon!
Regards,
Gloria

My life would never be the same.


Turl Street in Oxford, where Exeter College is located.

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My Headway Experience (Part 1)

Chapter 1: “On how it all started”
  
Six months have already gone by and I still can’t believe my luck. Now I know, with the kind of certainty that comes once in a lifetime: DREAMS DO COME TRUE. Mine has. I’d better start writing about this turning point in my life or I’ll forget about the precious details that made this experience a life-changing moment.


  In November 2013 I got an email from Oxford University Press (OUP) inviting me to take part in a competition. “Win a two-week all inclusive English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar in Oxford”. This had always been my dream. For a number of reasons, I had never been able to achieve that goal. Yet, as it was the end of the school year in Argentina and I had loads of work to do, I read the email, thought “why not?”, but did nothing about it. Lessons finished eventually, I celebrated Christmas and New Year with my family, went away for the holidays and forgot about the whole thing.


  I came back home by the end of January, as happy as a clam at high tide, and there it was, again: another email from OUP reminding me of the competition and telling me I still had a few more days to prepare and send my project to take part in the Headway Scholarship Competition. There were three different projects to choose from, and I seriously began considering the possibility of applying for it. I realized that the reason why I never win anything is because I don’t give it a shot, so I decided to do things in a different way this time.


  This is how it all started: I devoted two full days of my life to write about “Headway makes a difference to teachers as well as students”. On 29th January, two days before the deadline, I had come up with the following:
Ten slides in Google Drive that pretty much comprised the work done with my 12th graders at school during the last couple of years, and how Headway had inspired us to do it.

 I filled out the form, wrote a 100-word account on how winning this scholarship would make an impact in my life, attached my presentation and sent everything to OUP, with the secret hope of being the lucky one once in my life.


Exeter College - Front Quad



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