My experiments with the CWIT Fellowship Chichester University, March – May 2016

by Shweta Taneja
Speculative fiction author
Charles Wallace Fellow, Chichester University, 2016
Contact: me@shwetawrites.com

What I like most about the Charles Wallace fellowship is that it can take any shape you want to give it, any direction you want it to take. This freedom of choosing, or not choosing, to write, to read and explore, worked quite well for me, someone who plans her book meticulously, with each scene in place and then decides to go into a tangent while writing it.

After the initial bouts of joy on being accepted had settled in (including a series of screechy phone-calls, a drinking party with friends and other distractions that expectedly derailed my work for a week in December 2015), I prepared for the UK visa. The process was as smooth as it goes considering one has to deal with the third-party clerk layer called VFS Global. I applied for the visa application with the following: The Trust’s letter; A letter from Dr Stavroula Varella from the Chichester Univerity; another letter from the British Council stating my travel details and the fact that I’d received the fellowship; a cover letter where I explained what this was all about and why I was heading to England; and finally, a print of my airplane tickets, though those weren’t required. I forgot to add in health insurance to the pack, but the Visa authorities-that-be must’ve understood the levels of my health from my cover letter, for within ten days I had my visa. (I took a health insurance later from HDFC, the cheapest one I could find.)

End of February 2016, armed with my passport, panic and excitement as well as a mini elephant, I left for London. London Heathrow was a breeze to negotiate. The marvellous Richard Alford, the one-man-army behind the Charles Wallace Trust based in London, had arranged for £600 to be collected at the Western Union, which happened with average ease. I chose to take this in cash (though they do give you a prepaid card loaded with the same money at a £10 fee, which is a better option if you don’t want to handle too much cash) and headed to Chichester.

From Chichester station, I took the bus, a rookie mistake when you have to drag the said mini elephant who is having a bit of a tantrum. I would suggest my successor to opt for a taxi from the station which takes a mere £5-5.5 to reach the campus. Dr Stavroula Varella, the linguistics professor who I’d been in touch with from India and who handles the CWIT fellowship at the university, met me at the library and helped me get a university staff card, an essential for making sure all doors open and you can issue books from the library. She also introduced me to that apartment that was to be my home for three months, located in the Oaklands building, a mansion house surrounded by lawns on all three sides and a road in between with beautiful sunset views and a few ghosts floating around. Creative.

There were two new things that happened for my fellowship in terms of logistics which I found really useful (the older fellows haven’t availed either of these facilities): One was the catering option I got added to my staff card. Catering option costs about £50 per month and gives you £8 per day allowance to spend at the campus canteen. The canteen offers hot meals for lunch and dinner as well as healthy sandwiches with a lot of vegetarian options if you’re so inclined. This covered two meals a day during the week and I just needed to arrange for breakfast and weekend meals. Saved me a lot of time, money and visits to the grocery shop. (Also helps if you’re sheer lazy when it comes to housework as I am inclined to be.)

The second thing was the prepaid card that Stavoula, the very helpful Lorna Sargent, programme administrator for the department and Jenny and Jody at the Finance department arranged. It was a University of Chichester prepaid card loaded with all the leftover grant money after the accommodation and catering had been subtracted. The card made it easy for me to book tickets, transact online and pay my bills, use in pubs and restaurants, anywhere really. I easily tracked all transactions on Expensify (a free app for most smartphones) and send the report to the Finance team at the end of my stay, with all the physical bills, something they would require as it’s a corporate card.

Another thing I found useful at the university was the gym. The membership to the gym is quite cheap for staff members (I got it for £12.5 for three months) and there are fitness instructors to help you with a personal plan if you’d like to know which machine does what to which part of your body. The gym also has an extensive indoor sports facility. Do bring your fitness gear with you.

WHAT DID I DO?
Having been a city-girl all my life, it took me a little time to adjust myself to quiet country life and set up a writing routine. After a rather late start, I managed to finish a draft of my long pending novel (the third in Anantya Tantrist series); took a two-week Easter break in London to explore exhibitions and get inspired in British Library reading rooms and museums; found the beginnings of a new satire I’m working on now; and finished the final editing of a paranormal novel which releases in July/August 2016 with Juggernaut Books. Alongside I wrote eight articles for my regular gig at Mint, attended classes, had conversations, travelled and read a lot, exposing myself to varied speculative fiction and comics. I also explored similarities and differences in social and political norms and perhaps came back with a somewhat clearer understanding of what makes us all humans.

I’d applied specifically to Chichester University for two reasons: One, the Folklore library, which intrigued the amateur story-collector in me. It’s located in professor Bill Gray’s study. Since Bill was unfortunately unwell, I couldn’t explore his library as much as I would’ve liked to. (Though the Folkore Centre was kind enough to accept and publish an excerpt of my latest book Cult of Chaos, in their journal Gramarye.)

The second reason was the phenomenal Creative Writing faculty in the department, something that turned out to be a brilliant decision. The English department at Chichester is small but very active and welcoming. They have a tradition where each of them take turns to take the CWIT fellow out for a cup of coffee or experience (which meant for most months, my timetable was packed with coffee/tea/cake treats, experiences and conversations). I not only made lasting friendships with most in the department, but also learnt a lot about writing, the business of it, and the challenges faced by others. Alison MacLeod, professor of contemporary fiction whose book Unexploded was longlisted for the Man Booker, taught me the art of writing short stories, a medium I’ve not really explored. She also played host to me, inviting me over to her lovely Brighton house and prepping breakfast as we discussed cultural differences, the business of teaching creative writing and what it takes to continue to write. With Dr Naomi Foyle, who is an author of a sci-fi series inspired by the political scenario of the Palestine-Israel conflict, I discussed elements in science fiction and fantasy and how to pace a story—over multiple fish and chips dinners. Hugh Dunkerley exposed me to modern poetry, while Stephanie Norgate explained to me the usefulness of writing workshops and feedback. Stephen Mollett introduced me to radio screenplays; Karen Stevens fed me food while we discussed the art of teaching writing and of writing. The department also had multiple author visits and events, which meant I met and interacted with established British and European authors like Jim Crace, Adam Marek, and Dorthe Nors and literary agents like David Godwin. Needless to say, it helped me learn and understand trends in contemporary writing in English and make some connections.

I’m a wandering soul and love to soak in nature and creative arts to inspire me into new directions. For this Chichester University was a hotbed as the university has active departments in dance, music, films and theatre. There was something or the other happening at least two-three evenings in a week, most of the things free. I became a regular at the jazz evenings, saw operas and orchestras, experienced modern dance, plays, dramatization of the Palestine-Israel conflict by a historian, attended a conference on Shakespeare and heard a panel on how sets are designed for theatre productions today.

Since I was in a university and had the freedom to choose, I’d decided in advance to attend a few classes. For this purpose I got in touch with Dr Hugo Frey, the HOD of History department at Chichester (who is also a fellow comic nerd and now a good friend), and attended quite a few history lectures on slavery, death rites, and racism. It was very interesting to go back in a class, listen in and also to understand how teaching happens in modern classrooms. It was also because of Hugo that I did a talk on Indian comics at the prestigious Cartoon Museum in London after attending a workshop there on British comics.

THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH
When you head to a new country, a new place, it’s both exciting and slightly panicky. A heartfelt thanks to Stavroula Varella, Simon Barker and Lorna Sargent for making sure I had everything I needed at the university and accommodating all my demands with bucket loads of patience and an unwavering smile. Though I’m a writer, I’m blessed with a personality which is hyper-extrovert. Which meant living in a mansion of 20-rooms, alone, wasn’t too much in the comfort zone. This loneliness vanished like smoke within a few weeks thanks to the welcome homes of Sandie Divers and her husband Ian who fed me multiple teas (yes the grammar works here) and loaned me a bike (loaning me another when my husband came visiting); Karen Stevens who let me sleep in her house, took me on hikes and multiple get-togethers. Other friends I made in and outside the university and my friends Anubhav and Neha who sheltered me while I was in London.

Finally an affectionate thanks to Richard Alford for meeting me at Trafalgar Square in London and then again coming to Chichester to spend a day around and making sure I was doing okay. And also listening in patiently as I rambled at the comic talk at the Cartoon Museum.

SNAPSHOTS
Here are a few images from my Instagram feed where I maintained a living journal of my fellowship. You’re most welcome to head there, browse through, see and comment.
Pic1
Finished a draft of a novel; started a new work and edited a third which releases in July-August 2016 with Juggernaut Books.

Pic2
Read a lot of unexpected titles and unexplored authors to force the mind to think and produce new ideas.

Pic3
Explored the countryside, breathing a lot of the sea, the fresh air and the skies. Also realized why the British talk about the weather all the time.

Pic4
Exposed self to a lot of pleasurable exhibitions and cultural stimuli. This is from the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the British Library.

Pic5
Tried to understand the British culture as it’s now, its varied differences and similarities with my own.

Pic6
Tried, really, really hard to understand the difference between dinner and supper. Realised that JRR Tolkien hadn’t imagined the word ‘elevenses’.

EXTRAS
These are just tips and things I found useful as well as a few links for future fellows. Feel free to write to me and ask more on any of them.

HEALTH
- Hot and cold: I know it’s the obvious one, but I found the weather in UK fluctuating dramatically within a day, with cold winds that can grab by the neck if you’re not careful. Indians for most part are not used to it. My suggestion is cover up ears, head, neck and chest. Always, even when the weather feels warmer as it’ll happen in May.
- Hydration: All buildings in the UK have internal heating which can make it a very dry affair and even give you headaches if you’re not used to it. So drink a lot of water and eat fruits.
- Sickness: If you fall sick and haven’t brought any medications with yourself, the first step you can take is go to a Pharmacy. UK pharmacists can prescribe basic medicine. Also, the docs there don’t prescribe antibiotics easily, so do bring whatever you may need in a medical bag. For more serious things, head to St Richards Hospital’s Emergency ward, a small walk from the campus.

TRAVEL
- Trains are really expensive but not if you book in advance. So always plan ahead and book your tickets at the NationalRail website.
- Local buses are expensive, each way costing £5 (this is in 2016, for West Sussex area), so plan your travel around the area. I got a bike from Sandie and her husband Ian and used it for two months to go around the city as well as explore trails across countryside. Would highly recommend that as Chichester is pretty bike friendly. I also asked a lot of people I met to pick me up. They did go out of their way and it was kind enough of them to show me around the city and the areas.
- Chichester University has tied up with HostUK, an organization that arranges for British families to host international students for a weekend. I would suggest you to try it out. It costs £20 and your travel to the British family’s home. I made some great friends due to this organization.
- Since I need to hangout with people when I’m not writing, I also found Meetup, a location-based social network quite useful. I was able to go on multiple hikes with groups found here.

LONDON
- British Library: If you’re heading there, get your reader pass registration done online in advance. It makes sure you don’t waste a day when at the library.
- Home to stay: If you’d like to stay at someone’s home, my friends David and Oonagh, a really interesting couple who live in Finsbury Park, have a 4-BHK and are looking for tenants. They want someone for a minimum of 2-3 months. There’s a direct bus from their home to the British Library. You get quality conversation and a kitchen space to cook. Oh, and David also has occasional passes to Arsenal games (he’s a huge fan), so definitely think about it. You can email him for any queries you might have regarding London. Contact: david.todd.hunter@btinternet.com

All the best, you!

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The 5 Cs of Email Writing

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The 5 Cs of Email Writing 

Written by- Kamini Taneja, Academic Manager, British Council.

 

Please do the needful and revert back asap.’

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We see sentences like these in emails all the time. However, it’s not the most effective way to write since it doesn’t state what needs to be done and by when.

Emails need to be written as clearly as possible to avoid causing confusion, especially when transacting with partners/stakeholders overseas. A common complaint among Learning and Development managers is that their team members, while excellent in technical skills, can’t communicate successfully in writing. This leads to a lot of time being spent correcting and proofreading emails before they are sent out. This is especially true when emails are written to senior managers or important stakeholders. Furthermore, it has a negative impact on employee productivity and decreases efficiency.

Business communication is heavily reliant on emails – an indispensable tool in the business world today. So let’s look at the 5 Cs of email writing.

Complete: This is about stating your purpose up front and providing the right amount of information. It is a good idea to explicitly state what action will follow and when, and who will do it.

For example, let’s look at an email that starts with the sentence ‘I am writing to enquire about the new photocopier model manufactured at NEWX.’ Is the purpose/reason for writing clear or obvious? We usually state the reason for writing in the opening sentence of the email. It is also vital that all information is logically presented in the message.

Clear: This relates to using specific language. Which of these sentences specify exactly what action is required from the reader?

  1. We might extend the deadline to some extent on the condition that necessary measures are taken in a timely fashion.
  2. You now have until 31st March to remove all machinery from the site.

Additionally, using linking words, paragraphs to logically connect ideas is of utmost importance.

Correct: Let’s consider these sentences:  ‘I received many informations from you last week.’ or ‘I have received a letter from you on Monday.’

Can you spot any errors in these sentences?

You got that right – information is an uncountable noun so doesn’t take a ‘s’.

The second sentence can be written as ‘I received the letter on Monday.’ We use the past simple to state completed actions in the past (i.e. the action of receiving the letter is complete). The use of present perfect, in this case, brings together two contradictory elements: I have received the letter (recently received the letter) on Monday (with a past time phrase, time that is complete and over).

Grammatical accuracy plays a big part in how you come across to the reader and if the message was received as intended. Remember, words are powerful, but the right words are dynamite.

Concise: It is important to use short sentences (15-20 words).  Take a lo at this sentence:

The recommendation I have, and this is the area which I will now address in this section, is that relating to the issue of whether we need to provide refreshment for the employees of our company. It being my considered opinion that in fact, it would save time if the aforementioned meal could be provided by our company rather than having the employees go outside for any eventual refreshment.

The importance of keeping it simple and concise cannot be stressed enough when drafting crisp and easy to understand messages. Sentence length and “big” words can distort the message. Besides, who has the time to read long-winded emails! A better sentence is:

In order to save time, my recommendation is to provide refreshment to all staff in the office rather than having them go out.

Courteous: Our relationship with the reader influences our choice of language (formal/informal). When talking to your reader, you need to tailor your writing to fit their specific needs. One needs to consider what the tone of the message is and strike the right level of formality.

If you like the article,  share it with someone who will like it too!

 

 

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs. Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant on our courses.

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact Alisha Debara on +91 9643200831 or email us on B2BTrainingSolutions@britishcouncil.org.

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Make meetings matter – Expert tips to improve your meetings

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Make meetings matter- Expert tips to improve your meetings

Written by- Shonali Khanna, Academic Manager, British Council

Think meetings are a waste of time? Think again. Our top tips for managing meetings effectively can help you make meetings matter!

What’s usually your first thought when you get a meeting request?

  1. Oh no, not another meeting
  2. Why am I even invited for this?
  3. What a total waste of time
  4. Fabulous, I love meetings!

If you chose 4, you’re one of those few individuals who is clearly doing things right. For the rest of us, however, meetings that run on endlessly or one where everyone is preoccupied with their gadgets can be a really frustrating part of regular work. Well, it doesn’t have to be this way and you don’t have to jump on the “boring meetings” bandwagon. Here are some ways to hold effective meetings that energise your team and leave them with clear objectives.The end game

The end game
Often, general weekly meetings with no clear outcomes end up becoming opportunities to catch up on lost sleep. So first things first, ask yourself what you are trying to achieve through this meeting. In other words, clearly define what will happen as a result of the time spent together as a group. Define this with a tangible action such as ‘by the end of this meeting we will have created a marketing action plan with timelines and leads for each action.’
Putting the D in digital
Once you clearly define your objectives, you might even find that a meeting isn’t the best medium to achieve a particular outcome. That’s ok. In fact, that’s good! Maybe a shared, collaborative document or an online meeting platform such as Zoom or Skype for Business can help your team review a proposal in real time. Perhaps project updates can be shared more effectively through a project management tool or communication platforms such as Basecamp, Asana or Slack.
An invite gets the clock ticking
The meeting actually starts when the invite is sent out, not when the physical meeting takes place. Meetings can be way more productive if you use appropriate ways to engage your invitees even before the meeting happens. This could be done by sharing a clear agenda so people know exactly what they can expect or giving a pre-meeting task that they have to complete before they come to the meeting.
Pre-wire meetings with important topics
For important or sensitive topics, where you want people to collaborate and don’t want any surprises, use the pre-meeting time to approach the key players attending the meeting. Get a preview of their thoughts on the meeting even before it happens. This will also help you anticipate concerns or questions or challenges so you can go into the meeting with clear solutions.
What are your top tips to make meetings more interactive? We’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave your comments below.
If you know someone who spends a lot of their time in meetings, share this article with them.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs. To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact Alisha Debara on +91 9643200831 or email us on B2BTrainingSolutions@britishcouncil.org.

 

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Planning your company’s L&D strategy for 2017?

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Planning your company’s L&D strategy for 2017? 

Written by- Tapsi Chhabra, Academic Manager, British Council.

With rapid globalisation, English has emerged as the lingua franca for international business. Add to that the rise of the internet, and you have a situation where there is a high demand for proficiency in using English a.k.a the ‘universal language on the internet’.

Even within organisations, English takes centre stage.
Need to share information with your team? Write an update on Yammer or Basecamp.
Need to report to the CFO on numbers? Make a presentation.

Considering all of the above, here are the three main reasons why English language training should be your top L&D priority for the year.

To avoid communication breakdown:
Non-standard English aka ‘Indianisms’ in international contexts can cause confusion and pose barriers to building good business relationships. If not corrected, they may even lead to communication breakdown.

For instance, the oft-asked question What’s your good name? may confuse an expatriate colleague or a native English speaker. That’s because this is a direct translation of the Hindi expression, ‘Aap ka shubh naam kya hai?’ and the use of the adjective ‘good’ needlessly complicates a very simple question. Instead ‘What is your name?’ works for all situations.

To save time, save costs:
Did you know that we spend 28 per cent of our work week reading, writing or responding to emails, and a whopping 35 percent on meetings? That’s because most communication on emails and in meetings is to get things done. When employees improve their Business English, messages conveyed are clear and the need for clarification is drastically reduced. On the whole, employees are better able to grasp what is expected of them and perform tasks more effectively.

In addition, many companies report that highly paid senior managers often have to edit presentations and emails riddled with a non-standard use of English. If that’s the case in your organisation, it may be time to think about English language training.

Boost confidence and propel leadership:
You may have hired people with excellent technical skills, but are they able to lead on projects that require a high level of communicative competence? Equipping these techno-wizards with the ability to use language effectively empowers them to embrace leadership and take initiative beyond their basic job responsibilities. Don’t be surprised when a middle manager who recently attended a negotiation skills workshop cracks that deal with a coveted client all on his own – yes, the one that the management has been eyeing for months!

So tweak that L&D plan today – save costs and shape leaders by making language learning your top priority for 2017!
Have you struggled with communication breakdown at the workplace and a high cost of training? What do you look for in language training programs? Comment below and let us know.

If you like the article, share it with someone who will like it too!

 

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication related solutions targeting specific needs. Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant on our courses.

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact Alisha Debara on +91 9643200831 or email us on B2BTrainingSolutions@britishcouncil.org.

 

 

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What’s so perfect about a ’10′ anyway?

Apparently, none of us really look good. We are all either too fat or too thin; our hair and skin are not of the right colour or texture; or some part of our body is not of the right shape, or size. If only that one aspect were different, if only…

WHAT IS BODY SHAMING?

In its broadest sense body shaming is, either overt or covert, criticism of deviance from an accepted body norm. This body norm attempts to codify how the body should be presented and represented if it needs to be perceived in certain ways – as beautiful, or as ugly, or funny, mysterious, etc. In its most simplistic and hyper-analysed form, one can think of a body norm as a two-dimensional table where body features or traits point to certain “meanings.” This is how “tall, dark, and handsome” means a desirable lover in romantic pulp fiction or in sitcoms, a short, bald, or fat guy has come to mean a shallow loser who provides comic relief.

WHY DO WE DO IT?

We have always been body shamers. We are social beings and there is an awareness of (consciously or unconsciously) agreed-upon norms. We show our conformity to the tribe by reiterating and reaffirming these norms. One way this happens is through the choices we make about presenting our bodies (including but not limited to body shaping, styling and even colours). However, sometimes we pledge allegiance by interpreting and then communicating value judgements (“I don’t think you should shave your moustache; it makes you look womanly” or “look at how high she wears those trousers”). In saying something positive, we may by accident, be body shaming.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

The body norm is neither universal (apparently, women with tiny feet used to be quite the thing in China) nor timeless (think of the robust beauties of renaissance art). It survives and is replenished through its agents – us. One way to fight body shaming, especially its more pernicious effects, is to offer a genuine counter discourse – one that stops short of a too lazy normalisation, one that is more inclusive and diverse in its representations, and one that not only accepts but also celebrates pluralism through its language. We have the agency and herein lies hope.

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Written by Anshuman Manur, Teacher of English, British Council – Chennai

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Hey skinny! Your ribs are showing!

Is fat really the worst thing a human being can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil or cruel?

J K Rowling

A number of new words have been added to the dictionary since the turn of the century. Many are interesting- wackadoodle, bookaholic, some are weird- schvitz, TPing, and a few abbreviations of existing words that we can’t be bothered to say in toto- adorbs, bestie. And then there are a few that should never have come into existence- Body-shaming! Fit-shaming! Skinny-bashing! -, which are however being used in increasingly vicious attacks by unknown others, imaginatively called Trolls! 

Jokes about people’s bodies are not new. Neither is it new to create unrealistic body types as benchmarks- stereotypes that sections of the population feel compelled to conform to. Nor is this a gender specific, contemporary trend. ‘Hey skinny! Your ribs are showing!’ In the 1920’s this caption for a mail order workout course showed a skinny guy being beaten up by a bully in front of his girlfriend; until he followed the course, became buff, and beat the bad guy up! It reinforced stereotypes that a man had to be strong, muscular and attractive, not a bag of bones. Captain America, anyone?

If thin is in, in most places, there are countries where the opposite is just as painfully true. In the West African nation of Mauritania, thin is definitely not in! Young girls and teens are force fed, much as one does a goose for foie gras; a fat girl is a prosperous girl!

There is no doubt that things have changed. The beach bully of close to 100 years ago has migrated. They now shame anyone across the world with impunity, hiding behind the anonymity that the internet offers. The quest for the perfect body shape has led to an increase in the number of young people afflicted with eating disorders who hate the way they look.

As the wheel of fashion turns, things will change. Just as the Rubens-women of the Italian Renaissance gave way to the corseted shape of Victorian England, in turn replaced by a celebration of the almost boyish women of early 20th Century, this idea of beauty too shall pass. So, why all the fuss over an ephemeral idea?

If only we could accept people for who they were and not how they looked.

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 Written by Shailaja Mani, Teacher of English, British Council – Chennai

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Collaborating, innovating, learning and unlearning: UK-India Education Week

It wasn’t the first time I’d visited and observed an educational system of another country. It wasn’t the first time I’d met international (education) entrepreneurs/leaders and had some dialogue with them. It wasn’t the first time I’d been in a delegation that brought diverse people together on a study tour.

The delegation at The Open University

The delegation at The Open University

Yet, it was my first time experiencing a group that ‘worked’ so well together. It was the first time that right from the moment that I received an invitation until I received a ‘thank you’ email, I found a warmth exuded by the hosts. Kudos to British Council India for making this week long UK-India study tour the first for me in myriad ways.

In such study tours, it remains the participants’ responsibility to grab the most that they can. And I did that. But this was assisted by the well-planned and diverse interactions I experienced. The British Council team had put together quite an eclectic blend of stimulants. From a school visit to a meeting with key members of a university, there was a range of conversations that helped me assimilate a lot of educational ideas, triggering strong forward-looking thoughts on the domain.

My favourite part of the tour was the time well spent in an elementary school in central London. Direct interaction with the leaders, teachers and the students gave deep insights into classroom pedagogy and the incredible climate of trust within the school. Reaffirming several aspects of our own organisation’s programme back home, it was an eye-opener and a reassurance at the same time.

Higher education visits seemed irrelevant to me when I first looked at the agenda. However, interactions here set the context for the formative years’ education in which Chrysalis, my organisation is deeply involved. The most exciting of these was the detailed conversations at The Open University. The power of ‘open’ learning struck me like it never has before.

A surprise bonanza for me was a sudden invitation to speak in a panel at the Education Innovation Conference in front of an audience of 150 key players working in education in the UK and India. An Indian perspective came pouring out when I had to speak about an educational leader’s approach to the fluid and ambiguous nature of global education. I couldn’t quite hide the joy when I received great feedback for the talk.

It was a week that emphasised the importance of collaboration, innovation, learning and unlearning. That the two countries had a lot in common, and yet are unique in their own way was made clear with this first person experience.

Post is by Chitra, Founder and CEO, Chrysalis.

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The CELTA course has had an immense impact on my professional life – Swastik’s #CELTA Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL (3)

Hi, my name is Swatik Guha. CELTA happened to me when I was on the verge of getting lost in the corporate rat race. Being a corporate trainer for over 5 years had turned me into a thoroughbred corporate professional for whom meeting deadlines took precedence over developmental needs of trainees. As I lurched through the corporate maze chasing the next promotion, I often wondered and questioned the efficacy of the pedagogical methods used in corporate training.

Some of the training techniques seemed too traditional, so I tried to innovate and introduce new ones. But with no formal training on teaching, I often found myself in at the deep end. At this time CELTA offered me a new glimmer of hope. A Cambridge certification in teaching English was reason enough for me to jump onto the course.

I remember walking into the British Council on the first day beaming with confidence. Even though, I expected to gain a new perspective on teaching English I had underestimated the magnitude by half. The variety the course offered soon left all of us scrambling to cope with the stress. Our very able tutors, Steve and Charles, were always there to guide us and pick us up when we stumbled.

The course was very well structured with observed teaching practice every day. I learned something new with every teaching practice and by the end of the course, I had the confidence to design my own lessons to teach English as a foreign language.

The CELTA course has had an immense impact on my professional life. Soon after the course I applied for a job at British Council, New Delhi as a newly qualified teacher and within a year of completing the CELTA course I started working at the same center I did the course from. The CELTA course has opened many new doors for me.

I have been teaching at the British Council for a year now and I have taught various age groups ranging from primary kids to adults. I have also taught a range of courses from general English to exam preparation course. The experience I gather at the British Council is rewarding as it helps me to become a better teacher every day.

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English is everything for me – Sanjay’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL (1)

Hi, my name is Sanjay Gupta. I have been learning English at the British Council for one year. English is everything for me and my hobbies include reading books, writing poems and listening to music.

I got to know about the British council through my friends. My decision to learn English was my lack of confidence in speaking, which improved drastically after joining the British Council. Apart from learning English, the one thing I will always remember is my first film club in British Council. It was an enjoyable experience, one I could share with new friends.

The British Council follows a good teaching methodology. After my course, to keep practicing and stay connected with fellow students, I am currently enjoying Edmodo.

My advice for friends would be to learn new things about the English language and enjoy reading, writing, speaking, watching and listening.

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Creative Writing Course at the British Council – Ashank’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL

Hi, my name is Ashank Chandra. I opted for the Creative Writing course at the British Council for two reasons: I wanted to be an English language teacher and I could always relate to writing. I had previously worked with startups after which I started writing commercially. It was a suggestion by one of my colleagues to join this course.

I have always been fascinated by the code of conduct that the British Council follows. Everything is extremely organised, the time schedules are fixed, and the books are apt and easy to use. The diversity inside the classroom proved to be the biggest advantage and the environment was extremely conducive for effective learning to take place.

The course was very well structured and dealt with each component of creative writing. The methodologies used to teach were different and easy to grasp for all the learners, making the classes engaging and interactive in nature.

This course has helped me in learning various aspects of English such as the appropriate usage of vocabulary, structuring of the text, how to express ideas more effectively. My favourite takeaway from this course was to learn how to make people enjoy my style of writing. The course has changed my writing style positively, as every time that I now sit to write a content piece, I know how I should frame my thoughts and structure them effectively.

Penning down my own thoughts was once a hassle for me but now it comes naturally. I find it easier to plan the plot for a story. I also practice different styles of writing which I couldn’t do earlier.

Most importantly, the changes that I have undergone as a person, surprises the people around me the most. I now talk and listen to people more patiently which is a result of the course. Seeing this, many of my friends have also joined different courses at the British Council.

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