July 4, 2014, by International students

A hidden hobby of mine: how studying in England makes my life more interesting

Two years ago, if someone asked me what my hobbies were, I would just laugh awkwardly and say nothing. That was because I didn’t have any hobbies at all! I had no interest in sports, music, literature and travel – it took me years, during my high school, to force myself to find pleasure from reading. And then everything changed when I arrived to Heathrow on 13 September, 2012, ready to start a new chapter of my life. I was so excited about coming to England that I booked a hostel in Oxford Street for five days in order to explore London, a city that I have always adored.

Five days in London was very enjoyable. I refused to use the tube and walked to all the main attractions. Thanks to the fact that most of the best museums in London are free, I had chance to visit all the must-see museums. My thrill to explore this island didn’t stop after this trip. I travelled to Scotland and other cities, towns in the UK – from the big cities like Manchester and Birmingham to the small towns like Wells and Whitby. And every time I have been to other cities, I would always visit their art galleries. Visiting art galleries – or to be more specific, looking at paintings – slowly became my hobby. And before I realised this, going to Room no. 45 in The National Gallery to enjoy Wheat Field with Cypresses became the ritual I have done every time I come down to London.

I started to be able to recognise the works of famous painters and artists even though I don’t possess any knowledge of art history or any in-depth information about artists or art in general. LS Lowry is one of my favorite artists. I saw his paintings on Google for the first time when Google changed its doodle to celebrate his birthday. I didn’t really pay attention to him or his artworks that much until I visited Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow in winter 2012. I saw his painting accidentally, and something inside my back-bone told me that I had seen this before. When I got back to the hostel, I searched his name on the internet and yes, that painting is from LS Lowry!

Thinking about it carefully, I now realise that one of the reasons I like to look at the paintings is because they make me feel significant yet irrelevant at the same time. I feel like I have added some valuable quality into my life when I stand in front of the paintings, which would definitely be in the book called 100 Paintings You Should See Before You Die. Those paintings, which look so fragile, have been on Earth for hundreds of years. I just can’t stop thinking how many people have seen them and how long they have been hung on the museums’ walls. The fragment of my life right now is so short when compared to the time those painting have spent on the Earth.

After travelling and hunting to see must-see paintings in England and Europe, I started to question myself what makes those paintings so influential and valuable. If The Mona Lisa were painted by a mediocre artist in Renaissance period, would it still be the only painting in The Louvre that has bullet-proof glass case and that everyone would desperately try to take a photo of it? How could those colorful triangles and rectangles on white canvas that could have been made by kids be hung in Tate Modern? At the end of the day, I came to the conclusion that beauty of the paintings is totally depended on how a person perceives it. The paintings, themselves, are just paintings – their colors and canvas are real and physical but their value and sometimes their price tags are totally made up by humans’ emotion and perception.

Taechasit Danjittrong, international student from Thailand studying Medicine at The University of Nottingham

Posted in Cultural integrationTravel