Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Road Trip (more UK travels)

Time May 26th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

My flatmates and I decided to take a little road trip to the northern part of England and Wales! We all really wanted to go to Wales and the only way to do that would be by renting a car and driving down. My flatmate, Julia, graciously offered to drive! She also let us stay at her aunt and uncle’s house! It was such a great opportunity so I couldn’t say no! I really love road trips and I was so happy to be going on one with my friends! We started our 3 hour journey from Glasgow! The drive really wasn’t terrible at all and to our surprise there wasn’t many cars on the road the whole drive. Of course a lot less people live in these areas than most places in the states! After our long trip we made it down to England. The house we stayed in was very quaint and it was along the shore about 10 minutes from Blackpool! We had a lovely home cooked meal and no meal is left without drinks. Without even realizing it I had a whole bottle of prosecco to myself! Luckily, it was over about 6 hours so I felt fine!

The next day we ventured to Liverpool in order to see the Beatles museum! Getting there was easy but parking in Liverpool was atrocious! We drove around the same street several times before we were able to find a parking lot! After the whole parking fiasco we walked up to the street to get to the museum and there was some type of train parade! We had no idea what we just walked into! It wasn’t too hard to navigate through the crowd but it was still strange! We saw a ferris wheel and decided that we wanted to go on it! The top was such a wonderful view of the city! We could really take in all that is Liverpool. Once we got back down to the ground it was time for the Beatles museum! The museum was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. It was one of my favorite things I’ve done this entire semester! It wasn’t set up like a normal museum. It was as if you were walking through their lives. It didn’t contain that many artifacts rather it contained storytelling and recreations of the actual pubs they played in. The audio tour provided most of the information. This is something that I would highly suggest for anybody who goes to the UK! I could really go on and on about the museum but you’ll just have to visit for yourself!  beatlesstory Don’t want to show too much so this is just the entrance! Read More »


Trains, Planes, and Buses that Depart at 2 AM

Time March 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | 1 Comment by

Spring has sprung! And Cardiff is filled with blooming daffodils that are literally everywhere. Each day that I run through Bute Park (gotta counteract all of those Welsh cakes) brings more and more of the bright yellow flowers that are sprouting up everywhere. I’m pretty convinced that by the end of the month I won’t be able to see grass anymore, just daffodils. Speaking of the end of the month, it’s March. Who would have though I’d have made it this far?

Anyways; it’s March, my hair has gotten longer, I’ve turned in three essays, I’ve learned how to make a proper meal, and I’ve gotten to season six of Gilmore Girls. And if you have any intentions of watching Gilmore Girls sans spoilers I suggest that you stop reading this now because I am about to spoil the ending of season five, and I’m deeply sorry for any pain this may cause. Rory is leaving Yale. She’s dropping out. She’s having an existential crisis, doesn’t know what she wants out of life, and is making rash decisions that will have pretty big repercussions in her life.

So you’re probably thinking, Alex, why are you writing about Gilmore Girls? Well I’ll tell you: watching her make these big, monumental decisions made me feel some sort of solidarity with her. Not that I’m dropping out of Drake, or Cardiff, or moving into my grandparents’ pool house, but I’m reaching the point in my semester where I’m questioning what I want out of my time here, and if I’m getting it. I’ve blinked and suddenly I’m halfway done with my time here. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m realizing one distinct fact: four months is not enough time abroad.

I remember my first week here—I was so sick, which made me homesick, which made me wonder what I had gotten myself into. I remember talking to my mom about how many of my friends who went abroad for j-term were just getting home and getting ready to go back to Drake for the semester. I asked her, “Should I have just done that?” She told me no, I’d be mad at myself if I didn’t have a whole semester.

Mom, I know you’re reading this and so I’m just going to encourage you to refrain from jumping up and down with glee as I write these three words: you were right. A j-term simply wouldn’t have been enough time. It wouldn’t have given me a chance to get homesick every now and again, to struggle through the tough days where everything seems unfamiliar, and to learn how to be on my own. All of which aren’t always pleasant experiences, but what self-growth comes from easy days and familiarity? A j-term also wouldn’t have been enough time to travel everywhere I want, to see all of the sights that are on my bucket list (which seems to get longer and longer every time I go to cross something off), and to make the friendships that I’m finding myself surrounded by. I’m not even sure four months is enough for all of those things even with every weekend jam-packed with travelling like mine have been, which I will now segue into describing.

The other weekend I left my cozy room in Cardiff to head to the lovely town of Lucerne, Switzerland—a place I fell in love with completely. It was one of those places that make you say “I have to come back here someday.” It had all of my favorite things—mountains, a lake, and really great cheese. The weekend was magical for many reasons, but there are two things in particular that I will probably always think back on with a smile when I reminisce on my trip to Switz: Fasnacht and Mount Rigi.

Fasnacht taught me something about the Swiss people—they are doing something right. It’s a carnival that runs from Thursday to Tuesday right before Ash Wednesday that’s dedicated to eating, drinking, and dressing up in elaborate costumes that put my 20 years of Halloween outfits to shame. Confetti covers the streets where marching bands parade up and down playing music all throughout the night (and at 5:30 on Monday morning because apparently that’s part of the tradition too). Food trucks are everywhere with grilled sausages, raclette cheese, and warm wine. There were people of all ages, all adorned in costumes, and all seemingly having a wonderful time. It was amazing. It was filled with joy, and I consider myself to be so incredibly lucky that my one weekend in Switzerland fell over this carnival.


But it gets better. Ever heard of the Swiss Alps? That was a joke I’m sure you have. Have you ever seen them from across a sparkling lake on a sunny day? I’m bragging now but Katie, Annelise, and I hiked up Mount Rigi and had lunch on a grassy hill with a view that can only be described as a glimpse of heaven. I’m pretty sure I heard the hallelujah chorus to Handel’s “Messiah” as I took a bite out of my prosciutto sandwich.


My final note on Switzerland is the inspiration for this blogs title “Trains, Planes, and Buses that Depart at 2 AM.” I’ve decided that when I’m old and rich and much less spry I am always going to get the most direct mode of transportation everywhere I go. And I say this because Katie and I left our flats at 2 AM to catch our first bus, which took us to London. After, we took a second bus to get us to the airport. We flew. We landed in Zurich, late, and had to find our way through a Swiss train station and figure out how on earth to get to Lucerne. Our trip took 15 hours. That’s all that needs to be said on that.

Another trip that took half a day (literally 12 hours on a bus) was my journey to Scotland. Riley and I left our flat at 6:30 AM and were on a bus for pretty much the rest of the day. We ate dinner that night at a place called “The Boozy Cow” and were so hungry I think we both finished our burgers in under four minutes. On Saturday we went on an all day tour through the highlands, saw loch ness (the lake not the monster), and met a few other girls who were also travelling. We went out with them that night and on a walking tour through Edinburgh with them the following day. Then it was back on a bus for 12 hours, but Scotland was beautiful and the trip was so worth it.


In between Scotland and Switzerland was a weekend trip to Lake District, England planned by IFSA-Butler. The food was delicious, there were mountains abound, we went Ghyll Scrambling, and most of all: it was a trip that I didn’t have to plan a single thing for. I was told when and where to be places and all I had to do was show up and enjoy the weekend, which feels like paradise after a weekend of navigating a 15-hour long puzzle of transportation.

ghyll ld

So I’m at this point in the semester where I’m halfway through and I’m wondering what I want out of my time here, and if I’m getting it. And here’s the answer: I don’t know what I want out of it anymore, but I’m getting something. When I first signed up to come abroad I thought it was going to be all adventures and wild stories but I’m finding it to be more of an educational experience than anything. I’m learning how to travel, how to interact with people who have had completely different upbringings than myself, and I’m learning what I like and what I don’t like. I’ve learned how to travel independently, how to cook a meal, and, thanks to my flat mate Katie, how to say the longest Welsh city, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

So you stuck with me through this odyssey of a post and another small glimpse of my time abroad. Enough realizations about life and such for now—I’m off to go eat more Welsh cakes.



Three Cliffs Bay, Bath, Stonehenge, and Snowdonia National Park

Time February 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

The other night, I couldn’t sleep. I spent the day doing pretty average stuff; I went for a run, made myself breakfast, walked around the city with some friends, and worked on homework. You couldn’t pick this Monday out of a lineup, but that night I couldn’t sleep. And here’s why: I started to get an itch. A hum in the back of my head. A small little devil-version of me sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear, “Hey Alex, let’s go somewhere.”

It all started with Three Cliffs Bay. It was a day trip my friends and I signed up for that looked like a promising way to spend a Saturday. After a two-hour bus ride we arrived to what I can only describe as a photo out of a National Geographic magazine. The ocean was bright blue and framed by beautiful, magnificent cliffs. We hiked along side the cliffs for a bit, then climbed down a steep slope to the beach. After a few miles up and down the beach, we hiked back up the cliffs and to an old, rustic castle that overlooked the ocean. It ended up being somewhere between eleven and twelve miles of hiking—we were all so tired by the end of it. But every second of the hike was insanely beautiful.

16387184_10207916342097775_3991708008571813486_n 16174905_10207916346377882_1566753570149248555_n Read More »


From London to Wales

Time January 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | 1 Comment by

Wow, has everything changed! After a long journey from the Minneapolis airport to the Newark airport and finally to the Heathrow airport in London, I can now say that I have hopped over the pond. We arrived in London around 7:30 AM, went through a long customs line, and met with our IFSA-Butler guide. At this point I was feeling so many emotions, but most of all, I was exhausted. I had woken up at 4 AM on Thursday and we landed in the morning on Friday. I managed a 2-hour nap on the flight but surprisingly, plane seats are not to best accommodation for a good night’s sleep. But I didn’t have time to feel tired, because we had landed in London and had a full day ahead of us. I was excited enough to be able to push my tiredness to the side. Read More »


Casey is Counting…the days until she can go back, the amount of money she has left, the number of memories she made, etc.

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

It’s official. I am back in the US of A. But before I talk about that, let me tell you about my pre-Christmas adventures!

The first weekend in December was my last real weekend in the UK, so I figured I’d make the most of it! First, I headed to Bath for the crowded Christmas Markets, where I stocked up on Christmas presents for my family, and the Roman Baths. It was quite a fun little trip! Next on the list of places I had to visit was Northern Wales. I got on my first train of seven for the day on my way to Blaenau Ffestiniog, a slate mining town, home to Bounce Below–the largest underground trampoline park in the world! I had a blast at the underground trampoline park! Then, I made it to the town with the longest name in the world–Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

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Casey Still Celebrates

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

Have you ever gone to school on Thanksgiving? Up until today, I hadn’t. The UK doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, remember? So last Thursday was a normal school day, filled with professors, reading assignments, lectures, and a full on American Thanksgiving feast.

Yes, that’s right–my flat celebrated Thanksgiving! We had turkey, stuffing (oh my gosh, so much stuffing), mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, rolls, corn–we went all out. For dessert, we even had apple crisp and pecan pie! We made hand-turkeys, listened to Christmas music, and shared lots of laughs. In case you missed the stellar video we all made, please watch it here:

After my Thanksgiving in the UK, I got on a plane to Amsterdam for my US squad weekend with Emily, Bailey, Sara, and Jessica. We went all over the city on a canal tour, saw the Anne Frank Museum and House, pet lots of rescued cats on a cat boat, went ice skating in front of the Rijksmuseum, and took tons of photos in front of the famous “I amsterdam” letters and, of course, the big yellow clog. We ate giant Dutch pancakes, blue-colored cheese that tasted like lavender, and stroopwafels–all delicious!

The weekend with them made me realize just how much I’ve missed seeing each of their faces every day like I have for the past two years at school. Lately, I’ve been missing a lot of things, actually. Mostly, it’s just been little everyday things that I took for granted before moving to a different country–97 cent Suave shampoo and conditioner, Wendy’s junior cheesburgers, dryer sheets, etc. It would seem silly to me if I were the one reading this, but, as I write it, it makes perfect sense. These things used to be constants in my life, and I never thought a time would come when I wouldn’t have the option to have them. It’s made life a bit more interesting. Trying to find a deoderant that wasn’t spray-on, or a box of Kraft mac and cheese to make for dinner, while trying to keep the “trolley” (shopping cart) under control–all of the wheels move, not just the ones in the front, so they can be kind of hard to steer–has been quite an experience, I’ll admit.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy trying new things and being in a new place–I absolutely love it! All I mean to say is it has made me a bit more thankful for the things I used to take for granted. I am really looking forward to getting my hands on some of these “delicacies,” but also know that when the time comes for me to leave in just a few short weeks, I will be missing the things I’ve come to see as normal here. I’m already dreading the goodbyes I’ll have to say in 12 days…


Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser:


Home Sweet Home

Time December 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

After a whirlwind of exams, packing, planes, and turkey overload I finally find myself recovered from jet lag, back on American time, sitting on my couch basking in the glimmering lights from our Christmas tree. My reunion with my friends and family has been warming.  Kind of like when you come home from your first semester of college and the only question you get asked is “How’s school?!” or “Don’t you love college?”, the only question I’ve been bombarded with is “How was your trip?” It’s safe to say I’ve been the talk of the family since I’ve been gone, and I’m more than happy to share my experiences with everyone who asks.

I genuinely can’t believe that it is already over.  I remember moving into my Urbanest apartment like it was yesterday.  But, at the same time, when I think back to those four months they are a blur.  Honestly, I sometimes feel like I dreamed it all. When I scroll through my camera roll on my phone and recount all of the amazing places I visited, adventures I journeyed, and friends I met I feel nothing but gratitude.  It’s no corny exaggeration to say that it was the trip of a lifetime, and the longer I spend at home and the further it gets behind me, the more and more I appreciate it. Read More »


Casey Finds a Cache

Time November 14th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past two weeks, it’s this: if you ever want to see a part of the world—and really see it, like the locals and tourists see it—open up your geocaching app and start walking.

Cork in Ireland, Fort William, Glencoe, and Glasgow in Scotland, and soon to be Cardiff in Wales, would not have been as interesting if it weren’t for the geocaches along the way. The different caches hidden around these cities and villages tend to have a little description about the place they are hidden in, and that little description is usually pretty interesting to the wannabe queen of quirky fun facts (hey, that’s me!). For example, did you know there’s a clock tower in Cork that is called the Four Faced Liar because each of the four faces on their respective sides tell a slightly different time until the hour hits and they all read the hour correctly?? Or that the “fort” in Fort William wasn’t completely destroyed during a war or battle like most castles and forts were, but by a train company in 1894, temporarily turning the fort into a rail yard?? I didn’t think so.



As you can see, some of the tidbits of information are a little more historical than others. Sometimes the information about the location of the cache is a memory of the person who hid the cache. Other times the descriptions are blank or don’t have any fun facts, just hints. It’s still fun looking around the area each one is hidden in. Some caches are teeny tiny, only big enough to fit a log for you to sign, while others are huge and hold neat little treasures to trade in and out.

If you haven’t been geocaching, or don’t know what it is, you totally should, especially if you want to know more about the town you’re living in! Even if you just want to pretend your Nicholas Cage, hunting for your own little National Treasure (like me), that’s cool, too! For all my E&H friends back home, there are a couple by Emory that are fun, quick finds—I’d totally recommend it.I’m looking forward to finding more geocaches in more of the places I plan on traveling to. It really has been the best way to find all of the best spots in town. Give it a try—you might just find a new hobby, too!

I’m off to find my next cache! Wish me luck!

Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser:

Casey Cuts Class

Time November 7th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser:

Casey Has A Cold

Time October 17th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

6 boxes of tissues,
5 cartons of orange juice,
4 hours of sleep a night on average,
3 packs of lemsip,
2 bottles of cough syrup,
1 day of missed lectures,
and about a million cups of tea later…Yes, it’s true. I have a cold. Or the flu. Perhaps even both. Regardless, I am sick, and have been for about a week and a half now. Not cough-cough-I-feel-icky sick, but body-aches-all-over-can’t-stop-coughing-up-my-spleen-lungs-filled-with-snot-fever-gives-me-cold-sweats sick. It has been absolutely horrible. BUT it hasn’t kept me from having a blast here in Wales! Picture

Last Wednesday, I visited Cardiff Bay. I took the touristy pictures (all of which can be seen under the Places I’ve Been tab on my blog), went to a pub, saw lots of pigeons and seagulls, and went home on the train. It was a perfect little afternoon outing.

Friday, I got to participate in the Student Sleepout with my flatmate Meg (until we had to leave because I was too sick to be outside all night). The Student Sleepout was a fundraiser/volunteer experience to bring awareness to the amount and severity of homelessness in

PictureCardiff. A group of students raised money and/or showed their support for a couple homeless shelters in the city by sleeping out on the streets as long as they could. We were each given a cardboard box to sleep on and could only bring whatever we could carry. Some people brought sleeping bags, others snacks, and some just brought the clothes on their backs. At the beginning of the event, two members of the homeless community came to speak to us along with a staff member of one of the shelters in the city. The conversation was very open and honest and helped ease some of the nerves and aided understandings of the experience. It was eye-opening for many of us there.

Monday, I went to the Big Pit National Coal Museum (also under the Places I’ve Been tab on my blog). It was awesome! I got to wear a helmut with a headlamp and go underground in a real coal mine for a tour given by a retired miner. Every time a question was asked to our miner/tour guide, he answered it with a story from his, his father’s, or grandfather’s mining days. I thought going to school in Appalachia gave me some insight into the mining world, but, boy, was I wrong. There is so much more to it than I could ever imagine. The culture, history, and traditions behind the entire coal mining industry here in Wales is rooted deeper (haha, deeper–get it?) than anything I’ve ever known.

Every night, my flatmates and I play a game of cards, specifically the game Contract Rummy. If you don’t know how to play, any of my flatmates and I are well-versed and would be happy to teach you, I’m sure, as we’ve played it practically every night for the past two weeks.

I’ve only got a few little life updates for now. This weekend I’ll hopefully travel some more and be able to give some more exciting updates other than “I smashed my thumb in my bathroom door after being woken up by the fire alarm this morning.”

Until next time! Thanks for reading!

Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser:

Casey in Class

Time October 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

Now that I’ve accomplished what seemed impossible last weekend–enrolling in classes–and have completed my first week of classes, I feel like I’ve had a decent amount of time to compile the list below:

​10 Things to Know About Uni When Studying Abroad in the U.K.:

  1. Courses are called modules. Classes are called lectures. Schedules are called timetables. Semesters are called terms. If the accent doesn’t give away the fact that you’re from the US, using any of these “American English” terms will.
  2. Professors are not called “Professor” until they’ve earned the title, much like how you wouldn’t call a professor who hasn’t gotten their doctorate “Dr. So-and-so.” Lecturers is a more appropriate term.
  3. My lectures have between 30 and 230 students in them, as opposed to back home, where I’ve never been in a class with more than 20 students. I definitely just feel like a number here (except for in the class in which I was called out for “being the American who emailed a lot of questions ahead of time.” I felt more than just a number in that class for sure…).
  4. University (Uni, for short) and college are not the same thing here like they are at home. When people ask what school I go to back home, I feel like I have to explain myself every time I say “Emory & Henry College.”
  5. Students attend Uni for 3 years, not 4. They don’t use freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors as descriptors, but say they are in Year 1, Year 2, or Year 3.
  6. Every lecture is set up the same way. The lecturer stands up in front of the class, opens up a PowerPoint presentation, and begins the lecture, not a second too early and not a second too late.
  7. Lectures are once a week. Not Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Not Tuesdays and Thursdays. Just one day a week.
  8. Lecturers will send/upload the slides for their lectures before the actual lecture, sometimes as far as two weeks in advance apparently. Students are expected to look at the slides beforehand, take notes on the slides, read out of 20 different books, take notes on those, and then show up to lecture just to take more notes, which they should review and rewrite later, combining them with the notes they took before the lecture. When looking at the amount of prep work students do here compared to the amount I do at home, I feel like I’ve been “college-ing” wrong this whole time.
  9. There is no such thing as a liberal arts education. It is completely unheard of to take classes in different schools. Students pick a school (or major) they want to be in and will only take classes in that school. For all of my E&H readers, this means no Transitions, no Foundations, no GWIC, no Connections, no Modes, etc.
  10. There are no pop-quizzes, no quizzes in general, no tests, no mid-terms, no reflection papers, and hardly any coursework. You can wave participation grades goodbye because there aren’t any of those either. Most of the time, each module will have one or two grades total. Whatever those grades are amount to your final grade. In a couple of my classes, I will have one graded written exam–a 2000 word essay–and in others I will have two written exams that will be averaged together. Yikes!

Side-note: I don’t mean to generalize with this list. It is just what I found to be true with my experience. Although some of these things will probably be a little difficult to get used to, I still feel like I am a normal college student, boarding the struggle-bus and fighting the battles of non-essential spending and procrastination.

In the end, my lectures seem like they’re going to be pretty interesting! I’m already super excited about this semester, and it’s only been a week! 10 more weeks to go! Wish me luck!

Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser:


Casey in Cardiff

Time September 28th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

I’m in Cardiff and I’ve survived my first week at Uni–what everyone calls University or College here–and am beginning my second! This second week is really Week 1 of Uni, meaning classes finally started today.

Since being here I’ve found a lot of things to be different than back home. For example, Orientation or Week of Welcome doesn’t exist. I was literally dropped off at my flat, handed a sheet of paper with a couple events on it, and told “Good luck. Call if you need anything,” despite not having an international phone plan at the time. Picking classes (the term used here is modules) has been an absolute nightmare. Everyone in Uni here in Cardiff gets put in to classes for their specific school (or major) and only for that school. A liberal arts education does not exist here. Students take classes that apply to their degree and then they graduate–all in three years. And here I am, trying to squeeze everything I want to do in to four! However, I will say that I feel pretty accomplished now that I’ve got a working schedule (everyone here says “timetable”)! Although it was difficult, it got done. I am taking Cross-Cultural Management, Managing People in Organisations (have to make sure I spell it “correctly” here), Reformation History, Globalisation and Social Change, and Power, Politics, and Policy (In class today, there were four stabs at the United States, thanks to last night’s debate…). Not bad, eh?

Freshers Week–Orientation week, if you subtract the academic parts and multiply the social parts by 10x–was loPicturets of fun. I met lots of new people and got to know the city a little better. I still have a lot to explore, though! I plan on exploring more of it this week. Tomorrow, hopefully, my flatmates and I will head on over to Cardiff Bay! This past weekend, some of us took a trip to Brecon Beacons National Park and hiked to the peak of Pen y Fan–one of the best hikes I’ve ever done! I was blown away–literally and figuratively, meaning it was absolutely breathtaking, but the wind was so strong, I found myself almost blowing off the mountain a few times! Check it out under the “Places” tab under the “Connections” tab on my blog! There, you’ll also find photos from my trips to London, specifically from the day trip I took to see Sara and Bailey! It was great seeing them. #wheredasquadat #squadabroad

I’d love to share more, but my tummy is pretty full from my flat’s second Taco Tuesday, which is making me kinda sleepy. I have to write up some notes from my lecture today (Yes, just one! Another fabulous difference between the US and UK! I only have each class once a week and no more than two classes in general a day!) and prepare for my two lectures tomorrow. Wish me luck as I brave the next week! I’m super excited for everyone else I’ll get to meet, everywhere else I’ll get to go, and everything in between!



Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser:

Let’s Talk Politics

Time May 18th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I can hear the collective groans of everyone reading that title, but hear me out. I know politics isn’t everyone’s favorite topics and would probably rather read about some other adventure I’ve gone on but let’s try this, at least for one post. To be very honest, politics has probably been the most exciting part of my life for the past couple weeks. I’m in the middle of exam season and knee deep in notes so exploring the country has been put on the back burner for the moment, so I’ve had to resort to current events to spice life up a bit.

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I See The Sea

Time March 25th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

Time continues to fly by over here, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the plus side I’m moving away from schoolwork and towards break, but on the other hand I’m moving closer and closer to having to leave. I’m both extremely excited and incredibly anxious about the next few months so I decided to take it day by day and try not to think too much about what I have coming up.

Since about the time I first decided that I wanted to study in Wales, I’ve been online searching for ways to really see this country and embrace everything it has to offer. During those hours of endless Internet searches I discovered a company called Where When Wales, which is a small tour company operating out of Cardiff that offers affordable tours to amazing places around much of Wales. When I finally got over here I did some more investigating of the tours, and based on suggestions from numerous people, the Gower Explorer tour to the Gower Peninsula was the must-see. Everyone I have ever talked to has said the Gower Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places in Wales so I had to get there.

We booked the tour about a week before we were intending on taking it with no problems at all, and then spent the entire next week patiently awaiting Sunday. I was so excited.

Sunday finally rolled around with an aggressive 7:30 am alarm and a quick breakfast before we set off for our day. One of the best parts about this company, at least for us as Cardiff residents, is that the pick up and drop off location is in front of the National Museum, which is an easy walk for us. Our walk ended up being way faster than we anticipated so we had some time to just sit on the museum steps and watch the city of Cardiff wake up. I realized how little Cardiff feels like a major city, it may have a population of over 300,000, but it still genuinely feels like a smaller city. We still have a lot of the accessibility of a major city, but not so much the overwhelming atmosphere.

At a little before 9am, the WhereWhenWales mini-coach pulled up in front of the museum and we were greeted enthusiastically by Jan, our fearless leader, and her husband John, the courageous driver. There were nine of us (seven American) and from the start, Jan and John spent time getting to know us, so much so that it felt like we had known them for years. They were so incredibly kind and welcoming it made the amazing tour even more fun.

Our first venture brought us to Swansea, the second largest city in Wales, and the National Maritime Museum. We weren’t there long, but we got to see the marina and all the boats in front of the museum before heading inside to check out some of the exhibits. It’s a relatively small museum, but it was recently refurbished so it’s very nice and innovative. There were some really cool transportation vehicles from history, including a two-person bicycle from the Victorian age and a one seated, tiny car that was designed to battle London traffic. After our brief viewing of the museum, we were back on the bus listening to Jan narrate the ride with tons of interesting facts about the area, and Wales as a whole, including making sure we all knew when we were passing Catherine Zeta-Jones’ house. We were finally to the coast and the views.


We pulled off the road into Langland Bay and I was blown away. This kind of tropical view is probably one of the last things I expected to see in Wales, it’s like the true hidden treasure of this to often overlooked country. It may be one of the rainiest places, but it has incredible tropical beaches with surfers and everything. This stop of the tour allowed time for a walk along the coastal path from Langland Bay to nearby Caswell Bay. I learned that Wales actually has a coastal path that follows the entire perimeter of the country, and is the first country to ever do so. The path we walked along was absolutely breathtaking. It was by far one of the most amazing moments of my entire life. I have never seen anything like it, but it wasn’t just the views, it was the entire atmosphere. It was an absolutely pristine day; sunny and blue skies, and we were surrounded by people who were also out there enjoying the gorgeous environment we were surrounded by. By far my favorite part of the walk was the smell. You always hear about the “fresh ocean smell” and you see it in all sorts of air fresheners and candles, but out there it was real. It was fresh and clean, and it was mixed with the faintly floral smell of the flowers that line the path, and it was amazing.


After our walk, we set off to Rhossli Bay, which has been voted the #9 best bay in the entire world, and it is much deserved. The bay is immaculate; sandy beaches and limestone cliffs at the base of mountains that we explored for hours. There is an adorable little town at the top of the cliffs where we grabbed some sandwiches before heading down to the beach.


Down on the sand we wandered for a while, taking in the scenery and just enjoying the weather. It was really cool to be down there because not only is there the ocean, but there is the remains of the shipwreck of the Helvetia, which is kind of surreal to see. I don’t really know anything about the ship (and have forgotten what Jan told usabout it) but it’s very strange to think that the pieces of wood sticking out of the sand used to be a massive ship. To leave the beach, we scaled a small incline and climbed a very steep hill that left us out of breath, so we rewarded ourselves with some delicious Welsh ice cream.


Helvetia shipwreck.

The rest of our time in Rhossli was spent exploring the path along the cliffs leading out to Worms Head, a very uniquely shaped landmass so named because it looked like a serpent to the people who discovered it (worms head in their native tongue loosely translates to serpent). We tried to make our way down to climb it but unfortunately didn’t really have enough time; I’ll just have to come back some time to try again.


Our last stop on the tour brought us to a more inland portion of the peninsula to see Arthur’s Rock, a location thought to be a Neolithic burial ground. To get to the rock, we had to walk through a field that just so happened to be the residence of a local herd of wild ponies. It was pretty spectacular to just walk through this herd that remained seemingly unfazed by us.


The rock itself didn’t really stand out that much (I think after you see Stonehenge any rock is just sort of a rock) until John got to telling us about it’s history. Originally it would have been built like a mound that you could go inside of, but it has since collapsed. Historians thought it might be a burial mound, but as no human remains have yet been discovered, they think it may have just been a ‘mead stone,’ or magical rock worshipped by the pagans. Tradition held that visitors would walk up to it, rub their hands together (‘to get the energy flowing’) and touch it with both hands to absorb the magic, so obviously we did the exact same thing.


However, this stone may not have just been for magic. John told us that legend has it that this rock was the rock that housed the legendary sword of Excalibur that could only be removed by King Arthur. Sure enough, on the front of the rock is a slit that would have held the sword. I would have never believed it had that slit not been there. Why else would it be there? I am 100% convinced that we touched the rock that Excalibur was embedded in, absolutely surreal to think about.


Unfortunately, our encounter with a legend was also our last stop and we were then on our way back to Cardiff. I had such an incredible experience that I will no doubt be taking another WhereWhenWales tour. It was completely worth the money to see more of the spectacle that is the country of Wales.

While it was by far the highlight, the tour wasn’t my only adventure this week. As a spontaneous last minute decision, I decided to join some friends on a Wednesday afternoon trip to a different Welsh coastline. We hopped on a train after lectures and made our way to Bridgend, where we grabbed a seat on the bus to Porthcawl. Our afternoon was spent exploring another amazing beach. I have a very strong attachment to seeing the ocean, which is ironic seeing as I have a very strong aversion to the sand that so often comes along with it. For the most part this beach was stone (which I absolutely adored) but there was a bit of sandy portions that I tried my hardest to avoid.


I don’t know how I’m going to be able to cope with returning to landlocked Minnesota after falling in love with being by the sea. We may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but it’s just not the same. Just add spectacular ocean views to the list of reasons why Wales is amazing.

This Friday is officially my last day of classes before Easter Break, which is also the beginning of my three-week adventure around Europe. That means very limited time and Internet connectivity. My goal is to get a post up about each location we get to so hopefully I’ll find the time to make it work. They’ll all get up eventually, it’s just a matter of when. So hopefully the next time you here from me I’ll be in *drum roll* Marseille, France!



Adventures in Space, Time…and Southern Wales

Time March 18th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

This post is a bit of a conglomeration of a few different adventures because I wanted to keep last week’s post only about Adventure Weekend, as it was a pretty big event. So technically this post is about this week and last week, but rather than make two separate ones I figure why not just write them together and save the extra post for something more productive (I’ve got a couple of ideas brewing for some less narrative posts and more informative/reflective stuff but I’m waiting to find time to sit down and plan them out and unfortunately procrastination keeps rearing it’s ugly head around here).

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Adventures In The North

Time March 11th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

I’m back in Cardiff sat at my desk, alternating between writing this blog, editing an essay I have due Tuesday, filtering through pictures to post, and unpacking my suitcase. Earlier today I spent 5 hours traveling from North Wales, into England, and back to South Wales, even though I wish I could have stayed in Snowdonia for another month. This past weekend was the big IFSA Adventure Weekend, and it was probably one of the most amazing weekends of my entire life.

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No Capes.

Time March 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

I may have already experienced this week, but I still can’t really believe that it happened. I got to experience some incredibly surreal moments, all whilst dealing with being a college student. The study abroad experience offers so many incredible opportunities, that I will likely never have the chance to experience again, and I am so incredibly excited to be here.

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From Tourist to Tour Guide

Time February 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

This week was really exciting because not only was I finishing up my first major assignments and officially checking them off of my to do list, my friend Shelbie was coming to visit for the weekend. I spent so much time last week working on schoolwork I was very excited to get out of my room and not have to worry about word counts or PowerPoint layouts. However I did learn a lesson or two outside the classroom.

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So this isn’t a 5 month vacation?

Time February 18th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | 2 Comments by

So unfortunately this is the first week that I don’t really have any big adventures to report back on. As of today (16/2) I have officially been in the UK for a month, and apparently that’s about when reality sets in and you realize that a semester abroad isn’t all travel and fun.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll

Time February 12th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

It’s been multiple days since this weekend, but I’m still trying to make up all the sleep I’ve missed, all whilst trying to keep up with school (can’t forget the study part of this whole study abroad deal) and I have a paper due next week and a presentation the next. Time management is going to have to become my best friend if I want to try and avoid a full on stress meltdown. Despite the exhaustion and incredibly sore feet, this past weekend is not something I would trade for anything. It was absolutely incredible. Read More »


Living Like a Tourist

Time February 5th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

About two days ago I was thinking about things, just a jumble of things, and the thought of how long I’ve been in the UK came to mind, and while I was fully convinced I had been here for three weeks, I was later reminded that its really only been two. I’ve only been here for about two weeks but I feel like I’ve done three months worth of living. In 14 days I’ve flown over seas for the first time, discovered one of the World’s biggest cities, and started school in a new country, and while I’m living like a local, I’m still exploring like a tourist.

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The Land of The Castle

Time January 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

One thing that makes Wales one of the coolest places around is that it is believed to have more castles per square mile than any other place in the world. I have absolutely no reason to doubt that fact because almost every day, I get to walk passed Cardiff Castle. Where the city has an amazing City Centre and shopping area, there is also a castle planted smack dab in the middle of the city.

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Wale, Wale, Wale(s) What do we have here?

Time January 26th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

What we have here is my first week in CARDIFF! It feels incredibly surreal to finally be here, especially after all of the planning and research time that I’ve put into this trip. Obviously a weekend in London was cool, but I’m finally in the city where I’ll be living for 5 months. Holy cow.

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A 4:30 AM Run for a Sight Seeing Saturday

Time February 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

 One fantastic thing about studying with IFSA-Butler is that they plan day excursions throughout the semester so that we can see and explore various historical sites in the UK. Naturally, who am I to turn down a planned excursion!?! Since the departure is out of London, I had to get my own transportation to the departure site and back. By train, Cardiff is about 3 hours away, which meant catching the 4:55 ride so that I could make it in time for the 8:30 departure.

I was feeling really good about it all. Sure I had gone to bed later than desired (what else is new!), but I had a lunch waiting in the fridge, clothes laid out ready to go, all electronic devices charging and multiple alarms set! Although I had woken up a little later than planned, I was still feeling confident that I could make it to the station in time since it was only a 30-minute walk from my residence.

I finished getting ready being sure to pack my rain gear and even made a coffee to-go. Leaving at 4:15, I put on my fast-pace and got to walking.  About ten minutes out  my stomach dropped to my toes as I realized “Oh no! I didn’t write down the address of the office!!!!” Normally this slip up wouldn’t be a problem, but when Wi-Fi is your sole source of internet, that feat isn’t as easily achieved! Thankfully I noticed my slip-up while I was still by campus and was able to pick up a signal. Unfortunately, if I walked too far the signal was lost which meant having to stand stagnant by the school to ensure I could pull up the address and information. This took about an extra five or ten minutes and the thing is…THE TRAIN WAITS FOR NO ONE!!!

Finally, after resurrecting my email from the depths of my inbox and retrieving the information I needed, I knew there was only one thing left to do- I had to run! Yes, imagine it now: as others were stumbling home from a night out in the city there I was running toward them. Now mind you the station is right next to the gym that I go to; so I knew I had, at the least, a mile left to trek. On I went passing drunkards, fellow morning runners and a few cops—I can only imagine what was running through their minds as I passed.

Thankfully, I made my train with about ten minutes to spare, and did so with coffee in hand! The rest of the day was much more relaxing and did not involve any more running – thank god!

Arriving at Paddington with address in hand I caught a cab to the offices where we were meeting.  We took a coach bus to Warwick Castle and Stratford-Upon-Avon (the birth place of Shakespeare).   Sitting at the front of the bus proved interesting as we had mini-heart attacks with how large the bus was and how skinny the streets were.  Our eyes widened various times throughout the drive with anticipation of something happening, but we had little to be concerned about.   The driver navigated like a gazelle through the streets and roundabouts.  I think he found a little pleasure in our uncertainty and the gasps that came out of some peoples mouths at times.  In my defense, I’m still trying to grasp driving on the opposite side of the road.

Upon arriving, we had two hours to explore Warwick Castle.  We went quickly through the buildings and rooms and made sure to walk up to the castle on the hill as well.  Wax figurines were placed throughout to add some realism to the space – I even made some new (figurine) friends as we pondered over…well I don’t really know, but we looked deep in thought! I didn’t get to see any simulations of jousting unfortunately, but I did see some folks dressed in costumes and even got to be put in the barracks for being a drunkard.

Next we went on to Shakespeare’s birthplace where our immediate thought was FOOD!!!  We went into a small restaurant that served Chinese and then continued to explore all of the little shops that lined the cobblestone streets.  Although there were different tours and buildings that we could go in to truly explore Shakespeare’s home, we were too stingy to spend the money.  But hey, at least I can say I was there, right?  After walking, and having a sweet tooth in mind, we went to this little café that had some of the most insane desserts I have ever seen.  The glass case was lined with cheesecakes, pies, bars and pastries of literally a million different flavors.  This was obviously a difficult thing for an indecisive person like myself, but in the end I settled on a raspberry-rhubarb crunch slice and OH MY GOD!  Literally just thinking about how good it was makes me want to hop on a train to head back now.  After our time there we then headed back to London and I made my departure back to Cardiff. You can probably imagine my relief to make it to my bed, that night.  Needless to say, I slept like a baby.

Although the day was long and adventurous, it was definitely worth it!  Plus, I can officially cross attending one of the planned day trips off of my abroad bucket list!



Cardiff? What’s Cardiff? Whales or Wales??

Time February 13th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 3 Comments by

Hello there my loyal blog readers!  Do not worry if you don’t know the questions above; that is what I’m here to talk to you about.  I have noticed along my travels that not many people (including some Brits) know what Cardiff and Wales are!  Cardiff?  Wales?  Ugh, it’s like a foreign language to some people, and in a way it is; it’s not England!  For all you non-geography majors out there, Cardiff is the capitol of Wales.  Wales is one of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom, and it sits on the main island of Great Britain.  Whoa, what??  Don’t worry, I have a map below to help you.


The United Kingdom

So the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (extreme official name) consists of: Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  Great Britain is the name of the giant island that homes Scotland, England, and Wales.  No, the Republic of Ireland is not in the UK; they wanted to become independent in 1916, and now they are a separate EU (European Union) country with zero ties to the Commonwelth.  Unfortunately, the top/north half of the island wanted to stay in the UK, so Ireland split into two countries: Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Actually, at this very moment, Scotland is trying to become independent.

So enough about them, let’s focus on Wales.  Wales is pretty small to say the least.  In total area, it is slightly smaller than New Jersey.  About 20% of the population speak Welsh, the rest English.  In the larger metropolitan cities, like Cardiff and Swansea, English is more widely spoken.  I still have yet to hear people conversing in Welsh.  The Welsh are very proud of its language and culture.  Every single sign is written in both languages, from signs in grocery stores, street signs, school buildings, and my residence hall.  It’s easy to pick up a few words, but it’s definitely not easy to pronounce.  Here’s some examples:

Croeso i Gaerdydd = Welcome to Cardiff (actually, Cardiff is Caerdydd, but the “c” changes to a “g” after an “i”, hence Gaerdydd)
Cymru = Wales
Os darganfyddwch dân = On discovering a fire (that was on my fire prevention poster in my room)

Money, money, money, money, money…oh money.  I like the money here: every coin is shaped differently (and there are more coins), and the paper notes are all different shapes and sizes.  You can tell what is in your wallet by the color without having to take it out, unlike US Dollars.  So, what currency?  The Great Britain Pound Sterling (£).  One of the girls in my orientation came to London with Euros in her wallet.  Yes, you need at least a 3.0 GPA to get into Cardiff University.  Ignorance is bliss, until you realize you can’t buy anything with Euros in the UK.


British Pound notes…what a colourful creation


From left to right: 1 penny, 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, one pound, two pounds

So what is Welsh culture?  My English flatmates say it consists of four things: sheep (there are more sheep in Wales than there are people), Tom Jones, leeks, and daffodils.  It’s more than those stereotypical items.

Welsh Love Spoons.  What’s more romantic: men carving love spoons for their girl or men giving flowers to their girl?  Please, flowers are so cliché; the real romance lies within Welsh love spoons.  This tradition started hundreds of years ago where a young man would spend hours carving the spoon in hopes that the girl would accept it.  If the girl accepted the spoon, she would demonstrate her interest in him and commence a relationship.  Where do you think the origin of the word “spooning” came from?  The word might have evolved a bit over time, but the same basic love element is still there.  Spoons could also suggest food on the table and a cozy family life, which would impress the girl and his ability to care for her and her family.  Wales was a poor society whose youth could not afford presents or expensive jewelry, so the men would do their best to create the most beautiful spoons possible.  This also demonstrated the young man’s skills.  The more complicated and difficult the design, the more it would symbolize the depth of the creator’s love.  How romantic!


Beautiful Welsh love spoons

Dragons.  There are dragons everywhere, and actually the Welsh flag has a giant red dragon on it.  One of my university buildings, the Bute Building, has a giant red dragon on the roof.  But seriously, what’s up with this dragon?  Well, here’s the folk tale:  There were two dragons, one red and one white, that remained at Dinas Emrys for centuries until King Vortigern tried to build a castle there.  However, the castle’s walls and buildings were demolished by some unknown force.  Vortigern is told by his advisers he needed to find a boy without a father to sacrifice (nice, right?).  This boy, named Merlinus Ambrosius, is to become the powerful wizard Merlin, whose father is supposedly the devil making him half demon.  I know, complicated story, but it gets better.  This wise boy told the king of the two dragons fighting in the hill.  Vortigern dug up the hill, freeing the dragons.  The white dragon was about to defeat the red dragon, until the last minute where the red dragon defeated the white dragon (the part of the story where the red dragon defeated the white dragon in the final moments is an important attribute for the Welsh attitude).  The red dragon symbolized the Welsh and people of Vortigern while the white dragon symbolized the Saxons.  It also symbolizes the constant struggle the Welsh had with the English.  The red dragon is also a prophecy of the upcoming King Arthur.  Whew.  I hope you understood that because that was a lot to grasp in class.


Flag of Wales


The dragon on top of the Bute Building, Cardiff University

Rugby.  These fans are crazy about their rugby.  They also like their cricket and football (soccer for you Americans), but rugby is the main sport.  For February and March, there is the 6 Nations rugby tournament that consists of six nations: Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Italy.  They play at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff in the city centre, just south of my campus.


Go team!

Welsh cakes.  Honestly, I don’t know how important Welsh cakes are to Welsh culture, but I have been eating a lot of them, so I think they’re important.  They are made up of eggs, butter, flour, sugar, and currants.  They look like mini pancakes, but they are much more firm.  You can find these anywhere, especially from vendors in Cardiff Market located in the city centre.


Yum…Welsh cakes

I am located in Cardiff, which I said is the capitol.  It is the largest city in the country, with around 330,000 people.  This is also one of the cheapest cities in the UK, and that’s great for my wallet.  Cars are driven on the opposite side of the street (like the rest of Great Britain), but I’m pretty much used to that by now.  Cardiff’s city centre is known for their shopping arcades, which are like mini shopping malls between the buildings and main shops.  The city centre also consists of the most high-tech library I’ve ever been in.  I got a library card and took out two books, and honestly it’s one of the nicest buildings there.  There is no circulation desk, but there are a bunch of computer stations on all floors where you can “self-check out” your books.  Just scan your library card, scan your book, and you are good to go!  However, the books are the British versions (obviously) and the grammar and terminology is different.


The front entrance to the Queens Arcade


Cardiff Central Library: one of Cardiff’s 20 library branches, this is the biggest located in the City Centre.

Cardiff has the reputation of being “UK’s party city.”  The nightlife is pretty awesome.  The routine is pub-hopping (traveling from pub to pub), then settling down at a club.  The students don’t go to the city clubs on Saturday because that’s when the rural Welsh people from the boondocks come out.  Everyday besides Saturday is fair game.  I have found the best night out has been Wednesday, which is convenient for me since I don’t have class Wednesday, and I start at 2 pm on Thursday.

My school is Cardiff University.  Even though it is located in a larger city right next to the city centre, a museum, city hall, and Cardiff Castle, you know when you are on and off campus.  It is not like DePaul or other city schools where the city and campus blends.  My uni (short for university) has about 30,000 students, so it is quite a big school, but everything is in walking distance!  I live just under a mile from campus, but once I’m there, all my buildings are close.  The Student Union is so cool, with a pub and nightclub right in there!  Sometimes, the union nightclub is the largest one in Cardiff.  Crazy huh?  We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.  I have joined the Cardiff University Tennis Club, and the courts are right next to Cardiff Castle.  Literally, the far court is pretty much touching the wall that surrounds the castle.  How awesome is that!?  I play tennis next to a castle.  I bet you have never said that before.  The only downside is that we don’t have any indoor courts, so, rain or shine, we are out there to play.  They have hard courts and astro-turf (basically fake grass).  I could not get the feel of the astro-turf, and I thought I was going to slip and do the splits any second.

I am still adjusting to the academic system.  It’s hard reading for class when some textbooks are unavailable to students.  Students do not buy their books; they check them out of the library.  The professors give a ridiculous reading list (maybe 50 references), and we (students) select what we want to read.  This is such a different concept; I’m still figuring it out.  There are almost no online articles that I’m used to in the States; everything is in textbooks.  No procrastination allowed.

British word of the entry: Quid.  Slang for British Pounds.  Instead of saying something costs 50 pounds, you say it cost 50 quid.  Just like US Dollars, you would say 50 bucks.  Same idea.