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

Scheduling, Train fun, and York

Time March 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

This isn’t a process unique to traveling abroad, but it’s rather more applicable now than it is when I’m at home. University is going well; I’m enjoying two of my classes, and surviving my third, which in a pass/fail environment is just fine. I’m enjoying my free time on campus immensely, but a lot of the time I want to travel. Sometimes to London, and sometimes somewhere else. The challenge is finding the time, when weekends are often booked with closer-to-home activities. Thankfully, the trains here run like clockwork, and my schedule has an open Wednesday. Enter York: a one night, one-day trip with a loooooot of train time at both ends. When your weekends are for travel and manuscript editing, creativity, booking in advance, and bringing a good book for the train are your best friends.

York is only about four hour’s travel from Norwich by train. Not awful, but not great either. I picked it because I wanted to meet my friend Conor, who’s currently studying at St. Andrews up in Scotland, somewhere roughly halfway between us. York was the answer we came up, more than slightly influenced by the absolutely gorgeous architecture and historic sites the city is known for. I booked the train tickets and the student hostel we spent the night at a couple weeks in advance to save money, and so the journey was set. We both left Tuesday afternoon, and arrived just in time for a late dinner in the city. We were tempted to stop at the Pizza Express that had taken residence in the fanciest building I’d seen thus far, complete with marble pillars outside and everything. Seriously. I guess that’s what happens when all the buildings in the city center are centuries old: you get to have fun with the space you rent. We spent the following day hitting all the sites York is famous for: York Minster, the cathedral with some of the most stunning stained glass I’ve ever seen and a climb to the top of the tower that almost killed me, Clifford’s Tower (famous for less pleasant reasons, but still a very pretty standing ruin on a hill covered in daffodils), the York Castle Museum, the old Roman bathhouse ruins preserved under a local pub, and of course the walls that still surround the city center. Walking around the city from atop centuries-old walls was probably the best way to start the day that I could have imagined.

And then it was over. We had a great time, and got on our respective trains and back to our respective universities a little after ten o’clock. I don’t know how eager I would’ve been for the trip if I hadn’t spent so much time planning it out in advance, so let me just make that very clear: planning ahead is your friend, especially when you need to get creative about not missing class. Studying abroad has it in two words, and you can’t forsake one entirely for the other. So spend that extra hour making sure everything is good to go a week before it happens, and see if you can’t squeeze in that visit to a centuries-old cathedral between classes.

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Classwork and Comfortable Seats

Time March 14th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

So passes what the University of East Anglia refers to as “Do Something Different Week.” In theory, this is a week where no students have class, the professors and lecturers get to go free and happy, and everything is wonderful on campus. Events have been carefully created by the faculty to address student interests in numerous areas, ranging from a stress therapy coloring session in the Faith Centre to an intensive course on making your entrance into the publishing industry (I very much wanted the latter, but unsurprisingly it filled up fast). I suppose it was a nice dream, but the reality is that everyone scatters and goes on vacation for a week, leaving the campus with a skeleton crew and a ghost town vibe. I didn’t mind; London is very nice this time of year. But that’s besides the point. Do Something Different Week is a vacation whether it’s billed as one or not, and as everyone knows, work builds up after vacation. Thus we enter crunch time, and the deadlines are fast approaching. Essay plan for History? Sure. Collection of short works and a writerly appraisal for Poetry? Why not? Complete short fiction and a workshop for Prose? I imagine you get the idea, and I’ve no doubt others had it far worse than I did. So let’s talk survival instead. Read More »

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The importance of good tea (and timing the trains right)

Time March 6th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

I’m running on less sleep than is probably wise, but that comes as a university standard across the world, I think. Granted, for me it’s more to do with out-of-university affairs than anything, but we’re aiming for relatability, here. Fortunately, there’s a little thing that the Brits really have down right that helps a lot with sleepiness, exhaustion, and more or less everything else in life: tea. I’m no connoisseur, but I’m learning. My tastes go a little fruitier than most, but even so. (and I’ll never quite manage to leave coffee behind, I suspect. Too many years of dependency.)

First off, tea is an excellent writing companion. I’m drinking tea as I’m writing this, I was drinking tea as I worked through revisions last night, and I have no doubt that I’ll be drinking tea when I’m outlining that essay plan I’ve been putting off for three weeks tomorrow too. …I’m not saying tea is an enabler of bad behavior, but, um. Read into that as much as you like. Some teas are caffeinated, others are herbal, others taste a little like someone contemplated adding some milk to that sugar and decided at the last minute that no, sugar’s probably enough on its own. Everyone can find something. I’ve been fond of the red berry tea for a while now – the fruity taste is just enough to make it feel like a treat, and the hot beverage aspect of it is enough to calm my mind and settle my thoughts into something I can work with. It’s also pretty cheap though, and this is the land of tea; I wanted more. Read More »

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Voice From Beyond (or perhaps not quite that yet)

Time January 30th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Hi again! It’s been a little while since my last post, but this is just to say that I’m alive and, um, doing. I’d say doing well, but at the moment I’m currently struggling with what is probably the flu. I’d like to say this has lent me a lot of time for introspection, but really, it’s just been kinda gross all around. Still, I have some awesome stories from before I landed myself with a cold, so I’ll share them now to valiantly ignore my current well-being.

Last weekend I got the chance to head back into London for couple days, to visit my friends Rebecca and Miranda! They’re also on the IFSA program, just at Kings College in London instead of out here in Norwich with me. We had promised each other many adventures together, and we did our best to start that. Rebecca spearheaded this weekend’s charge. Our target? The Magical Lantern Festival, out in some middle-of-nowhere park in London. As a newbie to the tube, I was wholly reliant on the solid one week of experience my friends had to guide me around. I’m honestly surprised we didn’t get lost. I was half-expecting to be like, one of those ghosts just doomed to eternally wander the London underground without ever reaching my destination. I have it on good authority that that’s a thing. That, and apparently the story behind the “mind the gap” voice guy will make you cry every time you hear it.

So we made it out to Chittiwick Gardens (the spelling of that may or may not be atrocious), and after some fruitless wandering and then defeatedly asking a friendly passerby for directions. Once we were finally there, though, it was worth it. The Magical Lantern Festival definitely lived up to its name, with displays of cultures from all across the world rendered in brightly-lit cables and sculptures that stretched across the lawns. I got myself a mulled wine to keep my hands warm, and wandered among designs that showcased the entire Aladdin cast to a rendition of a giant masted galley ship in bright blue and white lights. For lack of a better word, it was a magical night.

The following morning, I had to go back to Norwich, but I wasn’t in too much of a rush. Plus, morning by college standards more or less means any time before dark. We spent a little time wandering Hyde Park, and then went off and had afternoon tea at a tiny little french cafe that made me feel horribly underdressed on principle. It was a wonderfully British experience.

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, and it’s not like Norwich doesn’t have its own appeal as well. I came back to campus, went to class, got the chance to do a little pub exploring (the Adam and Eve pub is apparently over a thousand years old, which amazes me), and visited the beautiful Norwich Cathedral as well. I’ll tell you more stories later; right now, I’ve got a cold to beat.

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Weary Arrival (England, Spring 2017)

Time January 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Hi everyone! Spencer here, and I’m to be one of IFSA-Butler’s Spring 2017 bloggers.

First off, apologies for not posting sooner. I arrived in England (Heathrow, to be exact) early on the morning of the ninth, coming off from a fresh snowstorm back home in Massachusetts and about half an hour of sleep nabbed on the plane ride over. I meant to post before coming, but things ended up happening so fast that I lost track of time and wifi faster than I anticipated. I’ll give you a brief overview of my feelings pre-departure now: panic (did I remember to pack everything?), excitement (accents, yes please), and restlessness (enough of things about to happen, let’s get to the things happening part). Thankfully, once transportation actually started all of that faded into the background as I tried not to look too helplessly lost.

Given that I arrived in London at the same time as the tube system workers were going on strike, travel into the city and to the St. Giles Hotel promised to be… interesting. My flight was due into Terminal 3, the same location as the group flight, only about half an hour ahead of them. Originally, this meant nothing – I was to make my own way into the city and meet everyone else there. Thankfully, the IFSA-Butler team reacted quickly to the news of the tube strike and instead of panicking I got to hitch a ride with the coach the group flight was on instead. I still spent three hours in the airport waiting due to a delay, but everything ended well, and more importantly I got some coffee. Then came orientation.

First off, London is huge, and moving around feels not unlike moving through the centuries at times. Building styles changed rapidly as the coach took us deeper into the city, ranging from more modern cement-block-of-gloom types to buildings that’d seem right at home 300 years back. It was exciting to watch the change from out the window, and a welcome distraction to keep my eyes from closing of their own accord. The hotel where we were staying at was more modern than some, and built with the high cost of space in the city in mind (politely, the rooms were a cozy size. Less politely… well, I had a bed. I’ll count my blessings). We had a run-down on safety and emergency and contact procedures for IFSA-Butler over the next couple days, a guided tour of London, and a lot of free time for those who could keep their eyes open after seven without keeling over from jetlag. Pub life is everything you might imagine it’d be; I had a porter and Fish&Chips and felt very British.

Yesterday, I came to UEA. The train ride (while squeaky) was efficient and comfortable, and the countryside sped by in shades of green, grey, and sheep. I arrived a little before noon, caught a glimpse of Norwich – which along with being absolutely gorgeous apparently has a castle in the middle of it – and then started to move into my flat. Haven’t met my flatmates yet, but it should be interesting when I do get around to it. The room itself is nice and the kitchen looks good, so that’s a plus. I’m living with the U.K. equivalent of freshmen, so that’s a… something to deal with as it comes. I had a bit of sorting out to do classes-wise, but everything is a lot more settled now, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of campus with every passing day. East Anglia is quite modern, and quite pretty, and promises to have everything I could want so long as I’m willing to look for it.

I’ll end on that note for now. The rabbits here are as large as some cats I’ve seen back home. I worry about an uprising, but comfort myself with the knowledge that I probably won’t be the first to go.

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Oxford from Above, Packing, and Leaving

Time December 19th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

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  1. The Radcliffe Camera in all its glory

 

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2. High St as seen from the University Church. Make sure to ask for a student discount (only for Oxford) when climbing the tower

 

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3. The central part of Oxford. The sidewalks are often too narrow to accommodate all pedestrians

 

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4. The lawn and iron railings are protecting the library from hundreds of tourists

 

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5. The final international get-together of Michaelmas in Freud, the bar located inside an old church in Jerico

 

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6. Oxford loves subtle colors and classic fits. (Packing neatly is often the key to fitting more clothes into your suitcase)

 

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7. The Queen is saying “Good Bye” in London Luton Airport

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A Scottish-American Thanksgiving

Time December 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland, Scotland | No Comments by

November 24th was like any other day in Edinburgh. The grocery stores were not flooded with people picking up forgotten instant stuffing mixes, or that additional can of cranberry sauce, in case one wasn’t enough. Thursday classes were on schedule as normal at the university. No “turkey-trots” were closing the streets in the morning. However, for American students, November 24th meant Thanksgiving (most likely his/her first) away from home. IFSA Butler, my abroad program, threw an American Thanksgiving get-together the Wednesday night before. We had a Ceilidh, with a Scottish band and traditional Celtic dances. I got to reunite with many American students who I had not seen in awhile. However, when I got home, the worst wave of homesickness rushed over me. I come from a huge family of fifty-three (!!!!) cousins and the idea of not seeing a majority of them over this holiday was tough. I missed my parents and of course the many “dad jokes” that surface around Thanksgiving. I called my parents and they comforted me by reminding me that I was lucky enough to have two of my cousins flying in the following day to help me celebrate the holiday.

On Thanksgiving, I met my cousin Madelyn for brunch following her red-eye. We walked around the city a little and then grabbed an “it’s five o’clock somewhere” pint in true Thanksgiving fashion. When Roman, Madelyn’s brother, landed, it was time for me to go to my last seminar of the term. We met back up for dinner and although it was not a turkey with all of the trimmings, it was still an incredible feeling to be with family so far from home. After dinner, I Facetimed into my Aunt Rose’s Thanksgiving party and was promptly circulated around the gathering of roughly thirty of my family members. I even made it into a few pictures through the screen of my cousin’s iPhone. Afterward, Madelyn, Roman, and I celebrated with my American friends in our favorite pub. I am SO happy that they were able to come and spend the week with me. It was a Thanksgiving I will always remember but of course, I am looking forward to next year’s gathering surrounded by my whole family.

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Tick- tock…is it time yet?

Time November 30th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by

The countdown has begun! In less than a month, I will be back home, home to the peach state of good ol’ Georgia. I can’t believe time has flown as fast as it has. I’m so excited to be home. The other day as I was cleaning my room, I got inspired and I started to pack. I packed all the winter clothes that I had brought to Peru (there is really no need for them now that it is spring time here). I also packed some of the souvenirs that I have bought from when I went to Iquitos and Cusco. I have yet to be close to finishing with my souvenir shopping, but for now, I’ll pack everything that isn’t breakable into my massive pink and black suitcase. I’m hoping mom will take it back home when she comes to visit me for Thanksgiving break…

In preparation to my leave, I plan to exercise as much as I can because I’m going to be eating as much Peruvian food as I can, because truthfully I will miss it. Peru has a huge variety of fruits and potatoes. My host family is not much of vegetable eaters, so getting back to the U.S. will be good for that reason. The main reason though that I want to be home is that I miss people. Peru is a very (VERY) affectionate country. You are greeted with a hug and a cheek kiss, but it doesn’t fully make me not want to be hugged and kissed by my family and friends. *cough, cough, and boyfriend.

I’m anxiously awaiting the day I go home. It’ll be a good change of things. I’ve gotten used to having my breakfast waiting for me in the mornings, and I need to do my bed more than I should. I also need to eat better. Having a sweet tooth is not good when you are staying in Peru for 6 months. There’s delicious mouthwatering sweets at every corner. Peru is too good for my own good. Haha. I just hope time flies and that final exams are not too stressful! Smooth sailing is the plan. Let’s hope it happens that way. Until then, I’ll keep enjoying Peru.

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5 Stunning Photos of Oxford at Night

Time November 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

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  1. Bicycles in front of Hertford College

 

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2. The Bridge of Sighs (Hertford Bridge)

 

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3. All Souls College, home to 6 (!) graduate students

 

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4. Broad St with the very first Oxfam shop

 

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5. Red telephone box

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How to Choose Your Oxford College

Time November 15th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

When I was considering to study abroad at Oxford University, I was surprised to learn that I had to choose and apply to a single college within the university. Although Oxford consists of over forty different colleges, applying through IFSA-Butler does help narrow down the options to seven colleges: Hertford, Lady Margaret Hall, Mansfield, St. Anne’s, St. Catherine’s, St. Edmund, and Worcester. A large portion of my decision was influenced by the information on the IFSA-Butler page describing each college. As a student who double majors in public health and philosophy with a minor in entrepreneurship & management, I recognized that I was not the typical Oxford student. A typical student studies one subject or two closely related subjects, and they have been studying these topics for years even prior to attending Oxford. A key defining feature of St. Catherine’s is that it is a very new Oxford college and also one of the most flexible with regards to tutorials and available subjects. As a student who wanted to take tutorials in philosophy and management (and despite my convincing argument that the two are in fact very related), I figured that such an accommodating atmosphere would be a good fit for me.

 

Now that I have been at Catz for about five weeks, I am completely happy with my decision and I have no regrets. However, once I arrived I realized there are some factors to consider that I completely did not think of during the application process.

  1. Location: I had no idea where Catz was located within Oxford until I arrived. During the application process, I completely did not consider how the location of a college could affect my study abroad experience. St. Catz is located in the very eastern part of Oxford, so my walks to my tutorial, the grocery store, food, city center, pubs, and other colleges are all decently far. On the minimum my walks are about 10-15 minutes while going across the city can near 30 minutes. St. Catz, St. Annes, and especially Lady Margaret Hall are all farther from the central Oxford hub, whereas St. Edmund Hall, Worcester, and Hertford are all much more central. A college’s location is largely influential of the time you need to allot to transportation, the potential need for a bike, your diet, and the accessibility of certain resources. For example, I utilize books in the library much more than I do back in the U.S. (where I usually buy my books for the term), so being closer to the library is actually very important. I know some St. Catz students actually chose Catz because we are very close to the Social Sciences Library and as someone who is studying a social science, it was extremely valuable to be near this resource. I am not saying location should be the most important factor; however, I do recommend looking up the college you’re considering on a map. Doing so will help you conceptualize where you will be located within the Oxford community and establish realistic expectations for how much walking you will be doing over the term.
  2. Physical Buildings: Oxford is a large tourist attraction and people love the beautiful architecture. It is no secret that many scenes of Harry Potter were filmed in Oxford. With that being said, some study abroad students want the “Hogwarts” experience and if that is a priority, then it is important to google the college your considering to see what it looks like. St. Catz was built in 1962 and it has a very modern appearance. It is not important for me to live in a Hogwarts castle; however, I do know that some students were slightly disappointed. It seems like such a simple, intuitive thing to do, but it is important to be honest and reflective about what you want to see when you look out your dorm window.
  3. Size: Colleges vary in size and it really influences the culture and environment of the college. Although the range of undergraduate students at the college does not vary as much as they do in the U.S., it is still something to consider. There is not really any college that is massive; the largest college is Catz with almost 500 undergrad students. The smallest college in terms of undergraduate population (that you can apply to via IFSA-Butler) is Mansfield with just over 200 undergraduates. One of my friends comes from a very large university back in the U.S. and she specifically wanted to experience the small college feel. On the reverse, I liked the fact that Catz is the largest college because I figured that I could continue to meet new people up until my time was up.

Choosing which college to apply to can seem daunting; however, I do not think there is a bad choice. Do your research, try to find people who have studied there and ask them about their experiences, and then make the most of your time once you arrive! On that note, if any of you are considering St. Catz and want to ask me questions about my experience, don’t hesitate to e-mail me: zaya.amgaa@gmail.com

 

Cheers,

Zaya

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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: www.caseyincardiff.weebly.com
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Freshman Year (Pt. 2)

Time October 28th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

At the start of each school year I often find myself telling the incoming freshmen “Ah, what I wouldn’t give to be a freshman again.” The truth is, I don’t mean it. I am perfectly happy to have my friends, know where all my classes are, and not be at the bottom of the totem pole. But I have come to appreciate as much flak as freshmen get for being clueless to the ways of the world (or at least within the microcosm of a college campus) there is also something to be said for the fleeting virginal pleasure of being immersed into so many new experiences all at once. Arriving at Oxford, I have certainly felt like a freshman again. And while I have been quickly reminded why I am so glad to no longer be a freshman, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t also nice to do it all again. I have even found myself eating in the dining hall again (though when your dining hall is straight out of Harry Potter it has slightly more appeal than the buffet style cafeterias that defined freshman year).

Here all new students are called “Freshers” and they are grouped together based on the unifying characteristic that they are new to Oxford. Regardless of age, nationality, or area of study, we are all Fresher’s. The approach is quite a welcoming one, and while I have often felt inundated with orientations, safety briefings, and inductions, they are all admittedly quite useful. Knowing how everything worked at my home institution may have been old hat, but crucial information like library hours and best places for a late night snack have all had to be relearned. For this reason, it is exceedingly helpful to be treated like a freshman.

It also gives you a unique opportunity to reinvent yourself. Every year when New Year’s Day rolls around, people embrace the opportunity to make positive changes in their lives. Gym memberships soar, healthy eating abounds, and bad habits are kicked to the curb… for about a month. Occasionally New Year’s resolutions lead to lasting changes for a better lifestyle, but ultimately the same habits creep back in. The numbers may have changed on the calendar, but not much else has. If you are in the same environment with the same routine and same temptations, trying to make significant changes, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, will be supremely difficult to maintain. However, when you’re entire surroundings are new, no one knows you, and you haven’t even adjusted your sleep pattern (much less a daily routine) you have a golden opportunity to build your new lifestyle however you like. You have enough independence to sleep all day every day, or not sleep at all. It’s like freshman year all over, but hopefully this time with some added wisdom. We will have to see how long it lasts, but I have welcomed this opportunity with open arms. I am trying to force myself to eat healthy by only buying (somewhat) healthy groceries. I have joined the crew team, which practices at the ungodly hour of 6 in the morning (serving the dual function of getting me out of bed to start my day and getting some exercise). And in class I have taken the initiative of being responsible about my work. I realize that I chose to come here, I am here to learn, to take advantage of the academic prowess of this esteemed institution. If I wanted to skate by and follow along, I should’ve stayed home. Surrounded by some of the most historic and beautiful architecture in England, walking in the footsteps of some of our world’s greatest minds, I would like to be the best version of myself that I can be. I aim to leave Oxford having made my time here worthwhile, taken advantage of every opportunity available. After all the planning, hoping, working, packing, travelling, stressing, wondering, and everything else, I am finally here. I didn’t just come to visit, to pass through. I came to grow, and I intend to do so.

 

 

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Top 5 Study Spaces in Oxford

Time October 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

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5. The first floor of The Radcliffe Camera is very spacious and atmospheric. Read More »

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7 Mistakes I Made as an American in England

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

I thought going to an English-speaking, Westernized country meant “culture shock” would be minimal. I could not have been more wrong. The differences between England and the U.S. are too many to count and I have had my fair share of uncomfortable experiences. Today I share with you 10 instances in which I really felt like a confused foreigner in hopes that you will learn from my experiences.

1. Not looking both ways (or the right way) when crossing the street: I remembered that they drive on the opposite side of the road here when I got into my taxi at the airport. It was so strange; I felt like the entire car ride I was slightly leaning to the right as if my body weight would move the car over to the side that I normally drive on. While I would never EVER attempt to drive in this country, I failed to realize that this difference in road movements affects me even as a pedestrian. I will be the first to admit that sometimes I lack the patience to wait for the “WALK” sign at a crosswalk. If I see an opportunity, I usually decide to cross. This has proved to be a dangerous habit if you look the wrong direction in search for cars. In an attempt to avoid the national health service, look both ways before crossing the street.

2. Yellow light does not always mean stopping: Along the same lines of different road rules, here in England (and I have heard this applies to other European countries) the stoplight uses yellow on two occasions: before red AND before green. So if you’re like me and you see a yellow light as essentially the go-ahead to begin crossing, this is also another dangerous habit. Unless you were watching the stop light for awhile prior to know which color is going to follow the yellow, it is not safe to assume that the car is stopping. On a slight tangent I think the use of yellow to essentially mean “get ready to _(stop/go)__” is really interesting and I wonder whether it was added or if the U.S. eliminated it.

3. Bikes are just as dangerous: My final advice to fellow pedestrians is to be wary of cyclists. In my hometown people who bike are usually doing so recreationally – some in the sidewalk and some in the street. Here biking is an entirely different ball game. It is an efficient form of transportation and they are ruthless. My eyes widen as they weave around massive, double-decker buses and as they speed right towards me coming down the street. I have not seen it myself, but my friend told me that today he witnessed someone get hit by a bike and just hearing about it made my body ache. Treat bikes with the same vigilance as you do cars (and honestly maybe more because since they are smaller they can easily sneak up out of nowhere) and hopefully that won’t happen to you.

4. Be cognizant of operating hours: Unlike in the U.S. where things are open 24/7 for 7 days a week, most businesses in England have much more limited operating hours. Stores close much earlier and Sunday evenings are a ghost town. I discovered this the hard way when my friend and I got a late dinner and wanted to grab some dessert sweets from a grocery store on our way back. Our chocolate cravings were sadly unfulfilled as we walked past the dark doors of every store. At the same time stores do not always open as early either. It is completely normal for a store to open at 10:00 am as opposed to the 8:00 AM or 9:00 AM that I consider normal back in the U.S.

5. Mind your manners: This tip is more applicable to Oxford students. While it varies amongst colleges, most Oxford colleges have some sort of formal dinner. At St. Catz we have the option to go to a formal dinner (called “hall” short for formal hall) every weeknight. While dress code is completely casual, the dining etiquette is more refined. You sit in these long tables with attached desk lights, which almost make you feel like you should be studying. Every seat must be filled by top to bottom, so you can easily be seated next to a stranger. There are waiters, multiple courses, and you can BYOB. Something very important about hall is learning the etiquette. Luckily, the people I was seated next to at my very first hall informed me of all the rules before I broke too many of them. A notable rule is that you cannot eat until everyone around you has received their food – something that I wish I had known before I started inhaling these amazing potato wedges.

6. BYOB (with the second b standing for bags): Because England is much more advanced in terms of environmentally-minded rules and regulations, it costs money to purchase plastic bags at the grocery store. During orientation I attended the freshers fair/activity fair/clubs and societies fair where different student groups try to recruit new members. After the event I had 3 different canvas bags which have all been repurposed into grocery shopping bags. Even though the plastic bags are cheap, it is much easier to carry groceries in a sturdier bag. Sometimes when I know I’ll need a substantial amount of groceries, I go with an empty backpack. Depending on where your college is, the walk to the grocery store can be over 20 minutes and it will feel like more than that if you have plastic bags digging into your arms.

7. Don’t be offended if people aren’t outrageously friendly: This is something I learned at orientation but also experienced first hand on my way there. I took a quick train from Heathrow airport to central London. As one would expect, I was bursting with excitement and wonder. The train was pretty full, so I placed my luggage in the racks and sat in the closest open seat next to this man. I turned to him to ask if the train went to Piccadilly and his eyes opened so wide. He nodded twice – silently. I didn’t fully realize this was probably him telling me that he was not interested in talking to me, but my excitement was so high that all I could do was look out the window. I made some remark about how beautiful the city looked, how it was my first time in England, and how I’m so eager to begin my journey. He looked at me with a slightly bewildered look on his face. I asked him if he had any recommendations on what I must do while I am here and he responded with, “Not particularly.” At that point the train was arriving in the station, but I had gotten the message. This man was not interested in having any sort of conversation on the train. After an orientation lecture on cultural differences between the U.K and the U.S., I was informed that making small talk with strangers on public transportation is a very American habit. People in the U.K. tend to be more reserved in public and do not consider a train ride to be a social experience. So don’t be confused if the person you sit next to does not want to be your best friend or offer to be your tour guide, it’s not personal.

 

I apologize for writing another “list-icle”. I promise my next blog post will include pictures of campus now that I am here and really settling in for the season.

 

Cheers,

xx

Zaya

 

 

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A Morning Walk in Cloudy Oxford

Time October 10th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

The view of St. Aldate's The view of St. Aldate’s

 

Colorful buildings on Broad St. Colorful buildings on Broad St.

 

Cyclists next to the University Church entrance Cyclists next to the University Church entrance

 

Radcliffe Camera, the most iconic library in Oxford Radcliffe Camera, the most iconic library in Oxford

 

The Bridge of Sighs connects two parts of Hertford College The Bridge of Sighs connects two parts of Hertford College

 

Blackwell, one of the many bookstores in Oxford Blackwell, one of the many bookstores in Oxford

 

The towers of All Souls College – the richest of all colleges in Oxford The towers of All Souls College – the richest of all colleges in Oxford

 

The end of New College Lane. In 2012 it was named the 4th most picturesque street in Britain The end of New College Lane. In 2012 it was named the 4th most picturesque street in Britain
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Five Ways To Pack A Semester’s Worth of Stuff into One Suitecase

Time September 29th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

As someone who actually enjoys packing and overpacking, I could not even begin to fathom how I would pack for an entire term at Oxford with a single suitcase. I can pack that much for a week vacation; however, as I’m currently sitting at the airport having already checked my single piece of luggage (coming to 49.5 lbs), I am proof that what seems impossible can be done. Here are 5 tips for how I made it happen:

  1. Plan and Place: When I overpack it’s usually because I bring an article of clothing or a pair of shoes that I really like but never end up wearing because it didn’t coordinate with the rest of what I brought. To make sure that I made the most of my suitcase, I planned each one of my outfits and placed them on the ground. If a pair of shoes was only really fit for two outfits, I decided to leave them and go with a different option of footwear. Additionally, by folding them and placing them on the ground I created an estimate of how much space everything would need. This allowed me to make reductions earlier rather than later as it was much easier to take things from my floor back to my closet than from the bottom of my suitcase back to my closet.
  2. Mix and Match: Now this applies to clothes, but what I mean is to mix and match packing styles. There are a couple different packing styles: folding into neat squares, laying flat with minimal folding, rolling, etc (maybe you’re none of these and prefer to toss things into your suitcase and however they land is how it travels). I found to make the most of my suitcase, I had to do a little bit of everything. If you only use one method,  you have a lot of unused space. I rolled thing t-shirts to put inbetween and around larger sweaters that I folded. Doing this allowed me to fill every inch of the suitcase.
  3. Pack Weird Shapes First: For me this meant my shoes. Then follow tip 2 and add materials to fill in the gaps. It was much easier to pack around my shoes then to try and fit them in on top of everything else.
  4. Rule of 1: I have a lot of clothes and I have a lot of clothes that look alike but are slightly different enough that I will try justify why I need both. Having only one suitcase really knocked this habit out from me. My rule was that I could only bring one of something. One vest, one pair of gym shoes, one navy blouse, etc. However, I did make one exception to this rule. If I could see myself needing the item a couple times a week, I allowed myself two, so a few things that made this cut: leggings, plaid shirts, and jeans.
  5. Avoid Memorable Patterns/Pieces: Some of my favorite pieces of clothing are super unique and as a result pretty memorable. If you’re like me and you’re going to have to a Lizzie McGuire outfit repeater, you might have to leave some of your favorite pieces behind. A plain t-shirt can look entirely different if you throw on a scarf or a necklace; however, there is not much you can do to a brightly patterned shirt with distinct cutouts. I invested in some high-quality basic pieces. It was much easier to fit more necklaces than to fit more cardigans.

So with those five rules and some time spent sitting on my suitcase to flatten everything out, I managed to pack a semester’s worth of clothing into one suitcase. Stay tuned to hear about my adventures when I actually get to London.

 

Till then, happy packing!

 

xx

Zaya

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Casey Through Customs

Time September 15th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

This post is coming to you from the UK! London, to be exact! Yes, you read that correctly: London. I’m not in Cardiff yet! Let me explain; IFSA-Bulter (the program I am studying abroad through) has an orientation of their own for all 190 students studying on the island of Great Britain (Fun fact: out of the 190 students, I am the only one studying at Cardiff University!). So, here I am, staying in a nice hotel one street away from Oxford Street–one of the places I was told I had to see. Despite the minor jet lag I experienced, I’ve already had one heck of a trip, starting before I’d even left the country!

Having experienced the fastest check-in and security check in an airport ever, I had plenty of time to hang out before boarding my Icelandair plane. While waiting, I noticed a man who kept walking back and forth in front of me, occasionally stealing a glance my way, and then a woman doing the same thing. My red flags were flying higher than ever before when the man and woman, now together, approached me and asked if I knew a “fun woman” named Monica Hoel (Shout-out to Monica for being a fun woman!). Well, of course I know Monica, just like every other Emory & Henry College student and alum! The couple proceeded to explain their stalker-ish behavior–they were trying to read my t-shirt and tag on my bag to make sure they read “Emory & Henry College.” They had both graduated from Emory years ago! We chatted about the school, different people we knew, the study abroad programs, and much more! What a small world!! Read More »

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Adventures in London and Glasgow

Time April 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Something I didn’t consider before choosing where to study abroad was my proximity to an airport. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me, because it would seem that ability to be able to journey from your home base country to another would be extremely important, especially since I ultimately decided to study on an island. Thankfully, there’s an airport a taxi ride away from where I live, with 20 euro flights to places like London and Glasgow, just across the pond.

One of my friends is studying at Queen Mary University in London, so I took one of these very inexpensive flights for a weekend to visit him. I almost chose to study at QMU when applying for schools abroad, and I feared that visiting there may make me regret my choice of UCC instead. Being a laid-back travelers, we wandered from place to place via the Tube, enjoying the sights and sounds of people from everyone rushing from one place to the next. Being foodies, we took advantage of the diverse cultures and ate authentic sushi and Indian food (both of which are very hard to find in Ireland). Being huge nerds, we geeked out at Platform 9 3/4 (I’m a Ravenclaw by the way), and, being shopaholics, gaped in Harrod’s (a very expensive, very beautiful mall, in short). London had the glamour of New York with the diversity of Los Angeles and the sprawl of San Francisco. It delivered the dazzle promised by the media, with a healthy dose of lovely accents and delicious food.

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Visiting London, Part I

Time April 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

A few weeks ago, the University of Edinburgh had its half term break, so I didn’t have any classes. Technically, it was Innovative Learning Week, and we’re meant to stay around and participate in the events going on, but in practice a lot of students use this time to go home or travel. My friend Katie and I decided to spend a few days traveling to London. During orientation, we learned that the train is probably the best way to get from Edinburgh to London. You can even get a young person’s railcard, which will save you a third on all train fares!

I finished packing just in time and took the bus to Edinburgh Waverley, which is the station in the middle of the city, between New Town and Old Town. From there, we boarded our train to Kings Cross in London. The train ride is about four and a half hours long, which is obviously longer than a plane flight would take, but it takes you from the center of Edinburgh to the center of London so it’s a little easier than flying. Plus, you don’t have to deal with security and getting to flight early and everything. We left Edinburgh at 4:30 and arrived in London at 9:00. From there, we caught the tube to our hostel and then checked in.

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Preparing to Go Home

Time February 22nd, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Wow. Preparing to go home is crazy. For one, it’s coming up on the end of term, so you have all the last minute work from school. You also have to make sure that you collect all your things, if you’ve lent anyone anything, or left things at a friend’s house. Along with all that, you have to check your travel arrangements, make sure you have your travel papers, and everything arranged for getting home as well.

I think the most that I changed was in what I appreciate about home. There are a lot of things that are amazing about England and that I will miss, but at the same time, there are a lot things and conveniences of home that I really missed. What I most look forward to is my CAR. I want my car soooo bad. I am so ready to be able to move independently and not have to rely on public transportation.

I think the hardest thing for me, was having to say good bye to all my new friends. I made some really good friends when I was abroad and it was hard to say good bye to them for what is going to at least be a very long time. Not only that, but I know I will miss England in a way similar to how I missed home when I first got there.

Overall, it is such an amazing place. I love the history that is around every corner. Not only is it historic, but that history and tradition is cherished and preserved. I loved England, and I think one of my new bucket list items is to go back again. After spending 4 months there, there is still so much to see.

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Home Again

Time February 22nd, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The first thing that happened when I saw my family is lots of hugs, and a few tears. Coming home wasn’t as hard for me, because my parents actually came over to England a couple weeks before I came home so we could have a family vacation. I cried when I saw my boyfriend too.

It was so very nice to be able to DRIVE. I love my car so much and I realize how much I consider it a part of my independence. My friends who didn’t go were jealous and asked me lots of questions. It was a lot like when I got to England and they all asked me questions about guns and politics. And the pictures. Oh my gosh, the demands for pictures were crazy. Everyone wanted to see the pictures from my time over there. I actually think that school over here requires more effort for me, because there are several assignments, plus tests, and reading.

England was so amazing, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to spend a significant length of time there. I learned so much and I made some really good friends in the process. Studying abroad will definitely always remain a memorable highlight of my schooling experience. Everything that made me who I am, from being a first generation university student to my incredible family, helped me to have the courage to explore outside my comfort zone in another country. I will always be grateful to the programs and people who helped me be able to participate in such an amazing program and an amazing experience.

But it’s still really good to be home.

 

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Advice

Time November 30th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | 1 Comment by

Advice, such a wonderful concept, but there is always something left out, something that may be important to you but not to someone else.

Packing: pack light, I guarantee that you will see something you have to have and buy more clothes here (especially if you’re a girl who likes to shop). I brought 5 or 6 shirts with me, I have doubled that.

Shoes. Do NOT bring 50 million pairs of shoes. Bring shoes that are comfortable for walking in, because you will be doing a lot of walking. Also, make sure you have at least one pair that is water proof or you are going to have wet feet a lot. If you LIKE to hike and plan to do so here, then it’s good to bring hiking boots. I’ve barely worn mine even though they were recommended on the packing list. Hiking always seems to be optional, so the footwear is also optional.

Another one (which may or may not be weird) but if you are particular about your personal hygiene products, like deodorant, bring it. They have many things to offer here but they are NOT the same as what is available in the US.

Bring a raincoat. With a hood. Umbrellas are great, but I gave up carrying mine after the wind turned it inside out a couple times. Sometimes it just isn’t worth the fight. If you worry about your hair, believe me, everyone else will be just as windblown as you.

 

Shopping – be prepared to go to more than one store. They do have Asda, which is like Walmart, but with not quite as much variety. Other than that, groceries, medicine, and clothing/linens are not generally sold in the same place. Also, different stores have different varieties depending on how picky you are. However, the variety of stores are usually located geographically near each other, probable because they don’t threaten each other’s sales. Either way, shop around for the best deals and ask the locals for tips. Usually, the other college students can tell you the best places to shop for particular things for cheap.

 

Academics

I’m fairly independent to begin with, so I haven’t struggled as much as some others with the course load here. As a short-term student (only 1 semester, and Autumn term) all of my lecturers provided me with a longer or another essay for my course assessment. Be prepared to write.

Also, pace yourself. Don’t procrastinate until the last minute for your essays. The only other real homework I have received for my classes is reading and being prepared to discuss and critique the material assigned. Start the research part of your papers early or the amount of reading to find papers with usable material is evil. And if you do leave it, you have no one to blame but yourself for the workload. That research reading is what everyone else means when they tell you that you’re expected to research and read on your own.

Classes: whatever you do, do NOT miss seminars. Not all of your classes will take attendance and sometimes you want to go to lecture when you’re sick. But no matter how bad you feel, it isn’t worth missing seminar. Seminar is where you get to APPLY what you’re learning. The seminars are usually much smaller and allow you to interact more with the material.

 

I think the most important bit of advice, especially for those of you who are close to your family and friends, is to have fun! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You get to study in another country. Stay in touch with your family and talk to them as much as you need to keep homesickness as bay, but also immerse yourself. Canterbury, England in general, has so much to offer and explore. Take advantage of the opportunity you’ve been given. Do your schoolwork, but explore when you can. You never know what friends you’ll make and what amazing places you’ll see until you try.

Like visiting the White Cliffs of Dover with the friends I made here…

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Goals

Time November 30th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

One thing I think everyone who studies abroad shares is goals, from personal to professional. Mine were a bit of both, if I’m honest. I needed to prove to myself that I could do this, that I could leave my family, my friends, my country, my whole life behind and study somewhere else. Considering that I’m doing that, here, now, and well over half way done, I think I’ve at least accomplished that goal.

But my personal ability to not only survive, but thrive in an unfamiliar environment wasn’t what originally drove me to seek out study abroad. I wanted to build my resume. I wanted to add my exposure to another culture, another political climate, and another society to my list of assets. Coming here has allowed me to see how the students of one of our allied nations see things. How they look at psychology and criminal justice and how they look at the interplay between the two. I have gained a perspective from my exposure that, while being unique to me, also includes what I have been exposed to. I hope that I can draw on both my experience and my ability to succeed here in the future, in the course of my duties.

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Last Big Trip for Awhile — London and Brighton, UK

Time November 4th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Ok, so this will be my last jetsetting-across-Europe post for awhile (I’m exhausted and getting a bit tired of my weekly trip to the Dublin Airport). But what a weekend to end on! I got to London very early  in the morning on Friday and met up with a friend of mine who is studying there at Royal Halloway (not sure if that’s spelled correctly). She showed me some of the big sights of London, including Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, before bringing us to a really cool tea house called Sketch (definitely recommended! See the picture below of a room that looks like it’s full of giant eggs, that’s the bathroom). But the main part of my trip was visiting some family friends about an hour outside of London, or rather about 15 minutes from another big British city: Brighton. After getting my first good night’s sleep in weeks, we took a beautiful walk through the South Downs, a preserved area near where they live. I was able to get some great shots of the British countryside (as well as some of my new best friend, Otis the Water Dog!) Later that day we took the train to Brighton, which sits right along the English channel. Brighton is known for its artists and its proximity to the beach, so we made sure to see both before the sun went down. You can see some graffiti and some shots of the pier/beach below. All in all it was great to see my family friends, as well as see such a cool and different city in Europe.

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Other Students Studying Abroad

Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

There is such variety in the people who study abroad. You have students who are abroad for an entire program/degree, for a year, for a term, or for a few weeks. I’ve met people here of all but the last. And, just like at home, there are a wide variety of incomes included as well. Almost all of my housemates are, like me, on a rather tight budget. It’s like any other university back home, most of us are accustomed to living on the rather tight budget of a student, with a few thrown in who don’t really have to worry about that.

But, despite budgets, everyone finds room to fund going out. Below is a picture of my housemates, a couple friends, and myself before we went out for a Caving Society (club) social, which was essentially a roving party through town. A lot of the societies (clubs) throw themed socials where everyone in the society and their friends can get together and just hang out and have fun. Most of the pubs have a really causal atmosphere and reasonably priced food and drinks, perfect for students.

And we made most of the costumes from over sized t-shirts, towels, sheets, and finger paint – classic budget costumes and lots of fun to make together.

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