London in all its glory

Being a Belgian exchange student in Plymouth finally gave me the opportunity to go to London real quick. Well, at least if you don’t travel by coach… It took me six hours to get there, even though London isn’t that far from the southwest. It was my first time in UK’s capital city, and this is my opinion.



As soon as we entered the city, it got busier and busier. More cars, more trains, more buses, more smell. In the beginning I thought the ‘city smell’ was only temporarily and in some bits of the city, but I discovered quite fast that it was everywhere. After an hour in London, I started sneezing and coughing. A lot. I never sneezed so much at once. This took the whole three days I’ve been there and it stopped from the moment I got back to Plymouth. I realized that the unhealthy air was the reason of my sneezing and coughing. I literally wouldn’t survive as a habitant in London because of all the air pollution.

Hurry, hurry, hurry

In contrast to Plymouth, everyone was rushed. Either they had to go to work, to get their kids from crèches or they just don’t like to waste their time. You couldn’t walk somewhere without being pushed or without being surrounded by calling, rushed people. In the underground everyone was hurrying up the stairs, running to catch their train in time, even though the trains are there every three minutes.


Where are the Brits?

Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely no racist. But on day one I discovered that my English was even better than the average employee in London. There were more foreigners than Brits and it was even exceptional when you saw some. I thought the employees in London were quite rude in general. And no, this has nothing to do with the fact that they were mostly foreign, but it’s just something that struck me. Even the employees in our hotel were rude in every way.

Gorgeous London

You might think I don’t like London, after you read the above. But you are wrong. Despite my previous irritations, the UK’s capital city is definitely a beautiful city. It’s absolutely a must when you are into city trips. Even though the city is quite expensive, there are some things you need to see when you are there. Westminster Abby, the London Eye, a boat tour on river Thames, the Big Ben, The Harrods,… These are only a few of London’s breathtaking attractions. So if you like a city trip and don’t mind my irritations such as the smell, this city should be on your travel list!


Animal Aid advocates veganism and animal rights

“Do as little harm as possible”

Close to Piccadilly circus in London, Leah promotes veganism and animal rights. Working for Animal Aid, she talks to people to convince them that animals have the same feelings as humans. She gives away flyers and makes clear that we should be more aware of animals’ feelings. “Animals need more rights, we forget that we are actually animals as well.”

Animal Aid

As the UK’s largest group, Animal Aid is also the longest established in the world. They campaign peacefully against all forms of animal abuse and promote cruelty-free living. Also, they investigate and expose animal cruelty.

According to Animal Aid, animals do not need the same rights as people. “The rights that should be accorded non-human animals are the rights not to be killed by people, except in their self-defence or to end severe suffering that would otherwise continue.” They think that freedom from torture and exploitation are other basic rights that should be extended to all those species. “While some animals kill others to survive, we don’t need to. There is no other species that has our capacity for grandly choreographed, industrialised destruction.”

Unfair treatment

“Defending animals does not mean caring about them more than about people,” says Leah. “It’s about protecting other species from cruelty and unfair treatment, and not causing them any harm.” There are several practical steps for everyone. “We can cut out animal products from out diet, buying clothing and footwear that use non-animal alternatives to leather and wool, avoiding products that have been tested on animals, boycotting zoos and circuses with animals and many more.”

Animal Aid promotes ways of living that reject using or consuming the flesh, milk eggs and skins of animals. They oppose the trade in pets and oppose leisure pursuits that depend on chasing, bullying, demeaning and killing other species. “While it is impossible in this world to live a perfect life, we believe that the first principle should be: do as little harm as possible.”

Don’t cause deliberate harm

Dogs and cats yelp by everything that hurts them. Animal Aid says that whether in your home, on a farm, in a laboratory or in the wild, animals experience pain and fear and will try to protect themselves from being hurt. Leah adds something as well. “This is the same for fish as it is for people. Fish all have nerve chemicals and cell receptors necessary to experience pain and stress,” say Leah. “Even where we cannot be certain of their experience of pain, for example in the case of insects, we should give them the benefit of the doubt and not cause deliberate harm.”

Free-range is not free

On many free-range farms, hens are still crowded into sheds with limited outside access. “Free-range birds are usually the same highly bred type as the ones who are raised in factory farms,” says Leah. “The birds that don’t reach the outside often have diseases, which makes them die early.” A lot of people think that organic food is a good option if you want to eat cruelty-free food. But this is actually not true. Hens can still be housed in groups of up to 3000 and may only have access to the outside for as little as a third of their lives. No matter how they are kept, the short lives of all egg-laying hens end with a traumatic journey to the slaughterhouse. “They are only 72 weeks old, when they are no longer able to produce the amount of eggs demanded,” says Leah. “They are slaughtered and made into cheap meat products.”

Animal Aid also gives guides to go veggie or vegan. It contains some recipes, and gives information about how to animal

Differences between Marjon University and Belgian Universities

With only the sea in between, Belgium and Britain are so close to each other. Yet there are quite some differences. On the one hand when it comes to cultural aspects and on the other hand the education. Let’s compare Thomas More Mechelen and University of St. Mark & St. John, Plymouth.


Hours of lecture
In Belgium, the average number of hours of lecture are about 20 hours a week. Students there have about ten different modules, which means they have to go to lectures each day. At Marjon there are only three modules, three hours each. Sounds good for students who want to do a job. But having so little lecture, means that there is less time to socialize, which is an important thing especially for Journalism students. But a big difference is that you have to do more work experience at Marjon, as in Belgium you only have an internship in your third year.

Belgian education is much cheaper than the British system. Students pay around €900 a year, which is often paid by their parents. In Britain the fees are up to £9000 a year, paid by students who have to repay a student loan for several years after they graduate. This is one of the biggest differences and it makes people wonder why they have so little lecture, but still pay such high fees. The loans causes debts and that’s one of the reasons why there is so many poverty in Britain.


Uni life
For British students, Marjon seems like a very small university. Not for Belgians, as their campuses are way smaller, with less facilities. At Marjon there is the village, a housing complex where you can live with a few people in your ‘own’ house and the halls, some sort of apartment buildings. In Belgium students just have student rooms in the city their uni is and they don’t have accommodation on campus.


Sea The Difference to think about environment

The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is hosting an event called ‘Sea The Difference’ during the Easter break. About 1000 people a day are visiting the Eddystone tank, where the event is being held. About 14 different organisations are coming over on different days and show what they do. Today on the 5th of April, 8 people are in.


There is the Shark Trust, the Marine Biological Association, they have a stand themselves, the community Seagrass Initiative, the RSPB, Wembury Marine Center and the Plymouth University Marine Institute. Paul Botterill, host supervisor at the National Marine Aquarium is proud of the event being held. “It’s a really nice way to connect with local people and with all the good work that has been going on,” says Botterill. “Everyone does something slightly different, but with the same in mind: the environment.” There are also a couple of different shows going on, which start at 1 o’clock each day.

Environment vs locked up fish

The National Marine Aquarium is really caring about the environment and with the well-being of the fish. But we hear more and more that locking these fish up in ’cages’ is animal cruelty. Paul makes sure that there is no need to worry. “We have a huge amount of care, ethics and we would never keep a fish in our aquarium that isn’t going to be okay in our tanks. We have a lot of monitoring that makes sure that they are stress-free, healthy and that they are well-fed.”

They are busy doing trainings and playing and also doing research to find out which species go along together and which ones they can keep together for their entire life. “It would be wonderful if every aquarium would take care of it and thought about the environment the way we do,” says Paul. “The Eddystone tank is the largest native offering in Britain, it contains 500.000 litres of water. This is giant.


We need to be aware that we are also doing progress with saving the environment. Since the rule of 5p charge on plastic bags came in, just the UK has used 7 billion less plastic bags, that’s an 80% reduction. “It’s huge and it doesn’t only come from the awareness of the problem, but the connection to the animals,” says Botterill. “This is why we are here and why we are doing it. Everything that we do is with the environment in mind. Everyone who works here is a big fish- and nature lover.”



We are forgetting about seagrass

Seagrass plays an important role for both humans and sea creatures. Despite, it’s currently under enormous threat. Even though people are aware of the ocean being contaminated, not everyone knows about these secret gardens under the sea. The Seagrass Initiative is doing ‘Project Seagrass’ and during the Easter break they have a stand on an event called ‘Sea The Difference’, which will take place in the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth.

Seagrass can provide a natural sea defence by trapping sediment and slowing down currents and waves. It is a home for sea creatures such as seahorse, pipefish, anemones and more and it increases biodiversity by providing food and shelter for other important marine life. 40 times more animals live in seagrass beds than the surrounding bare sand. Seagrass is not only necessarily for sea creatures, but also for humans as it produces the oxygen we breathe.

The secret gardens under the sea are one of the fastest disappearing habitats on Earth with a decrease of 7% per year worldwide. “Even though it’s not on purpose, it’s us who are destroying it. Anchors are a big cause, they can rip up seagrass along with their vast roots. Walking over the seagrass can break it and damage the fragile leaves and they can also get cut by propellers on high speed boats,” says Paul Botterill, host supervisor at the National Marine Aquarium. “Waste can smother the plants and reduce their growth.”

Best foot forward
By making some small changes in our pattern of life, we can help saving the seagrass and the ocean. Cleaning products with high phosphate levels can increase nutrients and cause marine algae to grow. Using eco-friendly cleaning products is a big step forward. Also eating organic might help. Avoid buying bottom trawled and dredged seafood, these fishing methods can physically damage seagrass.

Plymouth Arts Centre organizes relaxed screenings

Plymouth Arts Centre has been hosting dementia-friendly screenings for some time. “We’re committed to supporting those suffering from the disease and their families,” says Katherine Peberdy, Marketing Assistant at PAC. “We have only recently renamed them as Relaxed Screenings so they are more inclusive and open to all audiences while still being tailored to suit sufferers of dementia.

Everyone is welcome

The monthly relaxed screenings are open to all, but the cinema environment is tailored to suit those with dementia and autism. “For instance the lights in the cinema are lowered but not turned off completely,” says Peberdy. “This is for easier movement around the room.”


Getting comfortable

All audience members are also aware that people may want to talk and move around during the film, and unlike traditional screenings this is encouraged. “We consider our film choices carefully, and if possible we will schedule a musical or nostalgic film as studies have shown these to help people suffering with diseases such as Alzheimer recall positive memories and feelings.”

Right before the movie started, people could come in and get comfortable already by a soft coloured screen and some relaxing music.

On Thursday 9th March people came to see Oscar-winning ‘La La Land’ starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.