Dear [insert name of professor here],
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
I never really made a study abroad bucket list before I left for Belfast. My daily planner had a small list towards the back where I would jot down a few countries I was interested in every now and again, but nothing was set in stone. Ultimately, my plan was to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way while abroad. I knew going into the semester that I wouldn’t be able to visit every country in Europe and beyond, but I was open to get as many passport stamps as possible.
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 »
I hope you enjoy the deviation from the norm this time with a video! Associated photos are also posted. Cheers!
Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University
Hello my lovely followers! I hope this blog finds you in good spirits because the Welsh weather is not so nice. I am currently writing this entry on a gloomy day with a misty rain. 4 hours ago while I was in the city centre, it was beautifully warm with the sun out. Wow, look at me…complaining about the weather already. I’m just like a true Brit.
But besides my weather woes, I am doing quite well. School has nothing exciting to report, but I am soon going on some fun adventures once March rolls around. Here’s what’s coming up:
March 2-3 – I am going to London for the night, then onward to the second Butler excursion to Oxford and Blenheim Palace. I don’t know much about these places, but I’ll learn once I’m there.
March 9-11 – This is the big Butler weekend of the spring semester, aka Adventure Weekend. This weekend is taking place in Bangor at Snowdonia National Park in northwest Wales. It is a very mountainous area with similar terrain as northwest England. I plan on hiking, mountain biking, go karting, and socializing to name a few. Obviously, this one weekend will be a main topic of this blog in the future.
March 15-19 – I’ve booked my flight to visit my friends Norah and Taylor in Dublin, Ireland for St. Patty’s Day! This will be my first time outside Great Britain and the United Kingdom this semester, and it will be my first time in Ireland.
I am looking forward to these trips. On February 4, I went on Butler’s first excursion to Stonehenge and Winchester. This trip is a part of my study abroad program fee, and all I had to do was buy transportation from Cardiff to London. After spending Friday night at my cousin’s house, I made my way to the IFSA-Butler London office in Notting Hill where three coach buses were waiting to take 150 American students studying abroad in England, Wales, and Scotland to Stonehenge. I got a lot of much needed sleep on the bus ride out to Stonehenge.
So, what is Stonehenge? It’s basically a lot of stones in a circular layout. That’s about it. No one knows what it was used for exactly. Some reckon it was a place for worship and studying the stars, others believe it was a place for trading. It is an open field with a path around the stones that visitors walk on while listening to an audio tour. All of the IFSA-Butler students had audio tours, but only a handful used them. Embarrassingly, most of the American students were loud and obnoxious at this historic site. They really disrupted the peace at Stonehenge, and I felt sorry for the other visitors who were there to enjoy the historic atmosphere. A lot of students just cared about getting the best pictures, and were extremely rude in their big groups. One visitor even ran off the path, touched the stones, and ran back. Touching the stones is a big offense at Stonehenge, but I don’t know if he was an American in our study abroad group or not. Security obviously escorted him out, but how discourteous is that? Typical Americans I guess…
My not-so-obnoxious picture of Stonehenge and I
What Stonehenge might have looked like
Our trip out to Winchester was delayed. There were students returning back to the buses about 30 minutes late, ruining the experience for the rest of us who were on time. The only reason we didn’t leave without them was because there is no public transportation out of Stonehenge. I didn’t get to spend as much time in Winchester as I hoped, but I still enjoyed my time there. Winchester is about 45 minutes southeast of Stonehenge. It’s a small English town that houses The Great Hall and King Arthur’s Round Table, Winchester Cathedral (where Jane Austen is buried), and a cute city centre. Once again, the American students entered the town like a herd of wild animals. The 5 Cardiff students (including myself) left the massive group immediately and found a nice quiet Indian restaurant for lunch. We also figured that if all the students were going into the city centre, we wouldn’t find a place to eat without a wait. For small town Winchester, this Indian restaurant was surprisingly delicious. After lunch, we made our way to The Great Hall. I didn’t take any tours of The Great Hall so I don’t know much about it, besides it holds King Arthur’s Round Table, and had the king and queen’s thrones.
The main entrance to The Great Hall
More of The Great Hall
King Arthur’s Round Table
The king and queen’s thrones sat upon these stones
Once we left The Great Hall, we made our way to the city centre. It was very lively for being very small (only about 3 city blocks long). There were vendors selling pasties along with other treats, and there were stores on either side of the main street. A group of people gathered around to watch a civilian break dancing with music in the background. I made my way to a chocolate shop and bought two bars of organic chocolate: 34% cocoa smooth milk chocolate and 54% cocoa dark side milk chocolate & butterscotch. That was probably the best chocolate I’ve had in a long time; needless to say, it didn’t last long.
The very beginning of the city centre
A statue in the middle of the city centre
We left the city centre and quickly made our way to Winchester Cathedral. It was a gorgeous cathedral, but unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to take a tour. However, we met a wonderful tour guide who let us through the cathedral quickly so we could get a better look inside. She took us to Jane Austen’s resting place within the cathedral and told us why she was buried there because she wasn’t from Winchester. Apparently Jane Austen was very sick and was seeing a doctor in Winchester, but she passed away shortly after. She was buried here because she died here, and she was buried in the cathedral not because she was a well-known author, but because her father had powerful connections and pulled some strings so she had a proper resting site. It was extremely expensive to travel a dead person back to their hometown, so people were usually buried where they had died. It was only a coincidence that Jane Austen is a famous author, and it wasn’t until much later after she died when she gained her popularity.
Front/main entrance of Winchester Cathedral
Side view of Winchester Cathedral
A memorial for Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s resting place
After the cathedral we left for the buses and back to London. London was just starting a pretty nice snow storm which impacted my bus ride to Cardiff. Of course once we arrived back to Wales, the snow turned to rain and it was pretty foggy.
Hopefully the next excursion next weekend won’t be so hectic and chaotic (and embarrassing for me).
Word of the Entry: Aubergine. You know that purple vegetable I adore so much? Yeah, eggplant! Except they don’t call it eggplant; in the United Kingdom, it’s called aubergine. And zucchini is called courgette. If I said zucchini, people would probably not know what I’m talking about.
This last weekend I went on the IFSA organized day-trip to Stonehenge and Winchester. My morning started out bright and early at 3:30. Since the group was leaving from London and I’m in Leeds, we had to first travel there and arrive before the buses were departing. I caught a cab to the train station with two other IFSA study abroad students who are at the University of Leeds. We live far enough out of town that it’s not feasible to walk (especially at that time of the night) and the buses aren’t running at that time, so the cab was our only option. We had a 2 1/2 hour train ride to Kings Cross station in central London. We arrived in time to freshen-up a little and catch breakfast, then we had to catch another cab to the IFSA-England office in Notting Hill. From there, we hoped on a bus with the other students who were going on the trip–there were probably around 100 in total from university across England.
I think the trip to Stonehenge took about 2 hours, although I slept most of the time. Stonehenge is in the middle of the country west of London. When we got there, it was absolutely freezing! No snow was falling, which was fortunate since the forecast had called for “severe weather” all day. We actually didn’t end up getting any snow until we were back in London, so we were really lucky.
Stonehenge was beautiful! A lot of people were there, besides us, and the area around it was obviously catered towards tourists. You are able to walk along a path that winds around the circle, getting close at some points then stretching farther out at others. We snapped quite a few good pictures, but once we got what we wanted, it was back to the bus. Our hands were absolutely frozen! I did make a quick stop at the souvenir shop to buy a postcard, but sadly I lost it sometime during the day. I’ll have to go back and get me another one when the weather is a little warmer! :0)
Next we traveled about an hour south-east to Winchester. There, we were given free-reign to explore the city for about 3 hours. It was past 1:00 and we were starving, so our first goal was to find food. We ate at No. 11, which had great food but was really busy, so it took us quite a while. That gave us only about an hour and 1/2 to see everything we wanted to…and by-golly, we did it! :0)
First we went to Winchester Cathedral, where many famous people are buried and the cathedral itself holds a lot of historical items and is just gorgeous. A high school orchestra and choir were in the main area performing, which sounded amazing with the acoustics of the building. My favorite author, Jane Austen, is buried there, so it was really special to see the exhibit about her life and death. I was awe struck by the amazing architecture inside the building. The Cathedral itself and the various religious items it held were so artistically constructed. After we had spent about 45 minutes going throughout the building, we decided to book it to the Great Hall in time to see King Arthur’s Round table. To be honest, I don’t know much about King Arthur, but it was really awesome to see such an iconic part of history.
On our way back to the buses, we took the time to stop at a genuine “sweet shop” along the way. It was absolutely adorable and perfect! I couldn’t decide on one thing, so I ended up buying a grab-bag of mixed sweets. Some of the others bought fudge and chocolate goodies, which they said were delicious. On the way back to London, I passed out again. I think my little power naps were the only way I survived the day on such little sleep!
From Notting Hill Gate, we took the tube back to Kings Cross and thankfully had time to catch dinner before we headed back to Leeds. It was a long day, and once I got back to my room a quickly collapsed on my bed and was out. I was so grateful to IFSA for organizing everything for us. It has been wonderful to be part of an actual study abroad group instead of being completely independent. They really make transitions feel much smoother and plan so many events that make the whole experience easier!
If knowledge could be gained through osmosis, I would be infinitely smarter now that I have visited both Oxford and Cambridge during my time here. That isn’t to say that UCL doesn’t have an intelligent and academic environment, but I mean it’s Oxford and Cambridge (or Oxbridge as they’re collectively known). It’s been a couple months since I visited Oxford with a friend, but I have to say Cambridge is probably my favorite of the two just because the town itself seems just a bit quainter; there are bicycles everywhere and lots of little alleyways and cobbled streets which are just things that I love in a college town. Not to mention the fact that there’s a lot of green space and the river right on the college campuses. Being there for just a day made me wish I could live and go to school there. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s really plausible. Anyway I really enjoyed myself and it was nice to get out of London and explore a different area of England. I went on a walking tour of the town (my second tour of England this week, but more on that later) and really enjoyed learning about the history and being able to enjoy the scenery without worrying about where I was going (the streets and alleys were just a tad confusing.) All in all the tour was definitely worth the money and I got to see the campuses of King’s and St. Johns which both had lovely chapels and courtyards. I’ll try and upload some pictures so you can see. The chapel at King’s especially was just HUGE and really breathtaking to stand inside.
My other tour this week was a coach tour of Bath, Salisbury, and Stonehenge. I’ve wanted to see Stonehenge since I got here and I felt that I couldn’t leave without going. The only issue is that getting to Stonehenge can be kind of a pain, hence the tour. While I had visited Bath previously the tour I chose was the best price I could find that included the Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge. It was nice going back to Bath anyway. It’s really a nice town for walking around. I have to admit that I was a little nervous about going on a tour by myself, but there were a couple other students also traveling alone so it turned out to be fine and I had a great time. Despite the terrible weather the whole day (cloudy with sporadic showers) I had a lot of fun and learned a lot from both the tour guide and the venues themselves. The Cathedral was definitely one of my favorites of all the churches that I’ve seen during my time here. My only regret is that I didn’t have time to explore the town itself more because of the time restraints on the tour, but that just means I’ll have to come back. Stonehenge itself was a little underwhelming. The audio tour, while long, made that part of the visit worth it for me because of the huge amount of information about the history and myths surrounding the stones. I think without the audio I would have been a bit disappointed, but with it I was able to enjoy my time there (even if all I did was basically walk in a circle around some really old stones). I promise not to make you sit through all the photos I took of it (without the history it might get kinda boring looking at 15 pictures of the same circle of stones lol). So all in all I’m really glad I went on the tour. I’d say it’s one of my favorite day trips from London, but I’m really not sure I can rank my day trips—they’ve all been so fun!
Since I’ve been back from Cambridge I’ve been trying to keep busy in London and visit or revisit all the places I haven’t been or will really miss. My feet aren’t too happy and I keep getting caught in rainstorms, but I keep finding places that make me fall in love with the city all over again. On Wednesday I found an artist at Covent Garden who had beautiful watercolors of scenes in the city (I picked one up for myself) in addition to a couple bakeries and restaurants that looked delicious. If only I had more than one stomach to be able to try everything! Yesterday I finally made it to the Tate Modern. While I didn’t understand or fall in love with everything there, I kept finding paintings that I could have stood in front of for hours just thinking and enjoying them. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring any of my favorites home with me, not even in postcard form (Why must you torture me Tate Modern by not having my favorites as postcards?!). Despite this I did enjoy myself, though unlike the National Gallery I don’t have the desire to go back again and again. I mean I would go back, but I feel like I saw mostly everything whereas the National Gallery is so huge that I keep finding new paintings and rooms to explore. After the museum I went to see my first Shakespeare play at the Globe (first live performance I’d seen of Shakespeare). I could easily go back and see more plays there, though next time I’ll probably pay the 15 pounds and get seats not in the rain and well sitting down. That’s right, being the genius I am I bought a standing ticket (5 pounds) and didn’t think about the fact that it’s been raining on and off all week. It was worth it though. I was tired by the end, but it didn’t rain that much and I found some cover from it. Plus the performers were quite entertaining in their performance of All’s Well That Ends Well. I wasn’t familiar with the play before seeing it (despite reading it quickly the night before online), but it was really enjoyable and the actors were very funny. Not Shakespeare’s best play, but definitely an enjoyable comedy. Hamlet and Macbeth will probably still be my favorite plays by him though. I really wish I had been able to see them performed while I was here (Hamlet was playing at the Globe and Macbeth by the RSC), but I didn’t act soon enough and whenever I checked for performances they were sold out. Alas, I will have to see them another day.
Well I think this blog post has gotten long enough. I’ll probably be writing another one tonight or tomorrow about how I’m feeling now that I’ll be leaving in a week so look out for that one (it might even be published at the same time as this one. Who knows?)